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As we get older, it’s only natural for things to get a little foggy from a mental standpoint. We may also start to feel like we’re losing part of our competitive edge. When we’re young, we feel like nothing can bring us down. However, as we age, we tend to lose some of our mental acuity, and that’s why looking out for our mental health is so important.
However, the good news is that there are steps we can take to stay sharp and tackle the new curveballs that come at us in our senior years. Here’s some advice and tips to maintain your mental health now and in the future.
Why We Must Focus on Mental Health as We Age
It’s sad to think about, but it’s a fact that we will deal with more mental health struggles as we age. The Centers for Disease Control report that 20% of people age 55 or older will experience some mental health concerns. Sometimes, that can be issues with memory and cognition, or it can include major mood disorders, like bipolar disorder and depression. The same study shows that many folks over 65 often reported that they rarely or never receive the support they need to deal with these issues.
One of the issues that can cause poor mental health for many seniors is the possibility of simultaneously dealing with physical conditions. It’s common for the idea of physical pain to weigh heavily on our minds and affect our well-being. Sometimes, it can be the side effects from medication that causes the disruption. In many cases, it can be that we retire or have another change in our lifestyle that can leave us confused and unsure of what comes next.
It’s Important To Stay Social
One of the other leading reasons for poor mental health is the potential isolation that seems to accompany us in our later years. In the United States, 27% of adults over 60 live alone. This can be an issue because when we are alone, we don’t have anyone to keep us engaged. We may also have fewer people to lean on when times get tough or we get sad and depressed. When we’re alone, we’re often left to our own devices, which can make us upset and have a general distrust of others.
You may also be more likely to experience physical symptoms compared to people that are socially active. That’s often because when we don’t have people to engage with, we are less likely to get out of the house and enjoy life. That lack of exercise can lead to bigger problems down the road, including:
- Poor or weakened immune system;
- Heart disease;
- Type 2 diabetes.
While it’s only natural to lose friends and loved ones as we grow older, there are ways that we can maintain a social life during our senior years. One way is to make it a point to meet new people by starting hobbies and joining groups like knitting and book clubs. We can also find ways to volunteer in your community. In addition to serving the common good, we can meet people with similar interests.
Healthy Habits Keep Your Mental Health Intact
Pair your socialization and fun hobbies with healthy habits that keep your brain young even as you age. Start with a solid diet. Elevated blood sugar is often a trigger for diabetes, which, in turn, is a risk factor for dementia. Stop that harmful chain of events before it starts by eating a good diet free of fast food and low in carbs. A priority needs to be consuming more fiber by eating foods such as broccoli, lentils, and a variety of whole grains, which will regulate your blood sugar.
You can also spend more time outside, which is a great way to stay physically active and be creative at the same time. For example, you could start a garden in your backyard, or take up nature photography. Taking walks with your family in a nearby park or having a picnic are also good ways to spend time outside. When we’re out in nature, we naturally feel calmer and joyful as our stress melts away. That’s because time outside gives us a chance to think and put things into perspective so we can return to our daily routine feeling mentally refreshed.
Finally, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep every night, and this is non-negotiable. When you’re sleep deprived, your brain and body can’t rest and repair from the work of the day, which can lead to serious physical and mental health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and depression. Some seniors may have trouble falling asleep once they lie their heads down on their pillows. If that describes your evenings, you may need to reset your circadian rhythm. Start a routine where you hit the sheets and wake up at the same time every day so you can get the quality rest that you need.
You must implement these steps into your life today before you get too up there in age and your mental health starts to take a hit. They say, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” so work on making yours the best it can be.