Mental Health: 7 tips to help you thrive as you grow older
Whilst there is no test or exam to diagnose ‘good mental health’, we know that having good mental health means we feel good most of the time.
To feel good most of the time is to able to function well in the world and cope with the regular ups and downs and stresses of life.
Not only that but also to feel, express, and manage our own emotions in addition to forming and maintaining relationships and having a sense of purpose as well.
The peculiarities of getting older
As we get older, we face new stresses that can challenge our well-being and mental health.
Ageing can bring with it health problems and a decline in our physical abilities.
In the same vein, retirement can mean reduced income and loss of social standing; an empty nest can mean a loss of purpose.
Consequently, all these life changes can result in isolation, loneliness, and increased stress.
Therefore, to build and maintain good mental health as we get older, it’s important to know that there is no division between the mind and the body.
Seven helpful tips to help you maintain good mental health as you get older
Physical and mental health are inextricably linked.
You cannot have one without the other hence the number one tip to maintaining your mental health as you get older is to look after your body.
# 1 Look after your physical well-being
A poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, overwork and underwork, cigarette smoking, and alcohol and drug misuse will reduce physical well-being, which strongly correlates with poor mental health.
Conversely, a healthy lifestyle with nutritious brain food such as fruit and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acid foods (salmon), nuts and seeds will work to improve your physical and mental health.
Physical activity, be it a walk, run, swim, skip, hop, or jump, is essential to our mental well-being.
There is no good reason not to move.
# 2 Connect with people
We’re social creatures with emotional needs for relationships and positive connections with others.
We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation.
Our social brains crave companionship—even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.
While phone and social networks have their place, nothing is as good to reduce stress and improve your mood as quality face to face time with another person.
Even when you don’t feel like socialising, make an effort to do so.
It can be something as simple as going to the local shop and passing the time of day.
# 3 Look for gratitude
Reflecting on what you are grateful for can help relieve the day-to-day stresses of life.
Take a few moments each day to consider the little things you are grateful for.
Choosing to be grateful for the good things, no matter how small, brings your focus away from the negative emotions, boosts mood and increases resilience.
It can also be contagious; saying thank you or complimenting someone who doesn’t expect it can cause a ripple effect.
Practising gratitude takes practice – do it every day, even when you don’t feel like it!
# 4 Do something you enjoy
Do something that allows you to lose track of time.
Positive psychologists call this ‘creating flow’, and it happens when you are completely involved and focused on what you are doing.
You can create flow when working, engaging in a hobby, exercising, reading.
The list is endless.
The benefits of getting engrossed in an activity include personal fulfilment and enjoyment as well as working to regulate your emotions.
# 5 Contribute to your community
Getting involved and contributing to your local community has benefits to you and the community.
It can be volunteering regularly or simply doing an act of kindness for a neighbour.
Contributing to our community increases our social well-being.
Our social well-being is our ability to make and maintain positive relationships with the people around us.
Reaching out to those around us provides us with a sense of belonging and allows us to feel supported in the community.
Positive interactions with others lead to positive emotions that help to distract us from negative emotions.
# 6 Embrace Spirituality
For some of us, being involved in a spiritual or religious practice can help to reduce stress and increase our well-being.
Having a faith can bring solace and peace of mind in both good times and bad.
Spirituality can extend beyond the traditional church membership and involve practices such as yoga, meditation and getting out to appreciate nature.
# 7 Ask for Help
It is not reasonable to imagine that all mental distress can be resolved by taking a walk, meditating, or meeting up with a friend. Sometimes more support is needed.
If you are experiencing emotional pain that seems overwhelming, have feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, persistent loneliness, or constant negative thoughts, please, ask for help.
Brenda O’Keeffe is a Counsellor & Psychotherapist and Graduate Member Irish Association Counsellors & Psychotherapists.
You can contact her via the following:
Mobile: 086 3451245
Website: Horizon Mental Health Clinic. ie
In-person: Horizon Mental Health Clinic