Your physical health becomes an even bigger priority as you age because your body is going through many changes once again. However, many older adults neglect their mental health.
This phase of life comes with many changes — retirement, the transition from parenthood to grandparenthood, concerns about the future and so on. Some adjustments will feel great, while others will be difficult to manage.
Rather than continue business as usual and hope your mental health improves, make changes now to make these years the best yet. These tips will help you to more than simply survive. You can thrive!
1. Drink Lots of Water
Your body needs water to function properly — every system relies on it. When you’re running on all cylinders, you’ll feel much better, thus improving your mood. Research also shows a connection between water intake and overall happiness, meaning your mental health could improve by drinking more plain water.
If you find the taste a little boring, try infusing it with different combinations of fruit or herbs for some extra flavor. You can even try sweetening it with a small amount of natural honey. Depending on your preferences, you may also want to add ice or warm your water before drinking.
2. Take Daily Walks
Walking can be great for both your physical and mental health. If possible, take your daily walking habit outside since being in nature and soaking up some sunshine are known mood boosters. When you aren’t used to walking, you may want to start with just five minutes a day and work your way up to longer sessions.
This is a low-intensity activity almost anyone can do without a problem, so it’s a great entry into staying physically active. Use your walk to socialize with a friend, listen to a podcast or book, call your family or simply enjoy the peace and let your mind wander.
3. Volunteer Your Time
For some people, the last thing they want to do is stay home all the time — you may need to find activities you love to keep you busy. Helping others by volunteering your time can help you feel like you’re making a positive change in your community.
You could read to children at the local library or serve at a food pantry. There’s an opportunity for almost any interest, so take a look around your town.
4. Make Plans With Loved Ones
Socializing with friends and family is essential at any stage of life. Unfortunately, nearly one-quarter of adults over 65 are considered socially isolated. Living alone or far away from family is a leading contributor.
Instead of sitting alone with these negative feelings, get out and talk to someone — being more social could help you feel more connected to the people around you. Invite a friend out for a morning coffee or a walk. Make plans with your family to share a meal. Try making plans with someone at least once a week.
5. Meditate or Journal
Meditation is a handy mental health tool since you don’t need any equipment and can do it practically anywhere. Practicing it can help you focus and clear your mind, encouraging a deep state of relaxation. A regular meditation habit might be worth trying out if you’ve been feeling stressed or depressed.
Another method of relieving those feelings is to journal — getting your thoughts and emotions down on paper can be quite therapeutic. As an extension of your writing, you could document what you’re thankful for each day. Thinking of the positive aspects of your life could help improve your mood.
6. Get Regular Wellness Checks
Regular appointments with your primary care doctor are a good idea for anyone, but especially for older adults. They allow you to ask questions about your health and check in with a professional about your physical and mental state. Staying on top of your body’s well being can help you catch anything troubling before it worsens.
7. Get Plenty of Sleep
When you sleep, your brain gets a chance to recover from the day and store memories. Your mood and ability to perform daily functions will begin to suffer without adequate rest each night. You could grow irritable and prone to stress — or even develop anxiety or depression.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to avoid these side effects. Older adults have a high likelihood of insomnia, so if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, try developing a nighttime routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and steer clear of electronics for at least an hour before lying down.
8. Do Something New
Getting older doesn’t mean you need to feel stuck in your ways. In fact, it’s the perfect time to do many things you perhaps didn’t have time for before.
Trying new things gives your brain a boost of dopamine and creates new neural pathways which improve brain health. So get out there — taste new foods, travel and make friends.
9. Hire a Financial Planner
Finances can be a significant source of stress for older adults. If you find yourself constantly anxious or depressed about your economic situation, hiring a financial planner might be money well spent.
A professional can help you review your budget, current bank accounts and investments. They may also suggest some changes that will help your money last as long as you need it to. If you want to provide for future generations, a financial planner can also help you set up the appropriate savings accounts.
10. Adopt a Pet
Pets are an excellent solution for older adults who are feeling isolated. Fuzzy friends provide a steady stream of companionship, especially dogs and cats. You’ll likely also get more activity in by fulfilling their needs.
However, consider if you’re financially and physically ready before you rush out and adopt a companion. You should be able to provide for your pet’s needs — vet bills, pet food and supplies aren’t cheap. Also, you’ll need a decent range of motion so you can feed, walk and play with your new family member. Older pets tend to make great companions for older adults, since they tend to have lower levels of energy and excitability.
Taking Care of Your Mental Health as You Age
While staying active and social is essential, you still need to make time for yourself. Achieving good mental health is a balancing act — it takes work and experimentation. Try out a few of these tips and see which ones resonate with you the most.