Mental health can be a sensitive topic to tackle at any age—especially when it’s framed as the antithesis of mental illness. But mental wellness goes beyond addressing health problems like depression or anxiety. It is an overall state of wellbeing that encompasses self-perception, purpose, your outlook on life, how well you manage your emotions, and your ability to build lasting relationships.
For seniors, positive mental health can help promote independence.
Mental wellness offers you more control over your life. When you have confidence and a sense of purpose and self-worth, you’re better equipped to overcome any challenges that may arise in senior life like limited mobility or other restrictive health problems.
But just like any other aspect of senior wellness, positive mental health takes work.
Mental Wellness and Senior Life
General healthy practices like getting enough rest, eating well, and exercising regularly can help promote overall wellbeing, but you can target mental wellness in your life with these health tips for seniors.
- Do things for people. Little things and big things. Something as small as a note of encouragement can have a big impact—for both you and the recipient. Being kind to others is one of the best ways to bring a little joy into your own life.
- Don’t Worry. Be Happy. Or that’s how the song goes, and medical studies have shown that it’s not wrong. Anxiety is a major health issue for older adults. According to the National Institutes of Health, 3 to 14 percent of seniors in America are affected by an anxiety disorder each year. Severe cases can require medical intervention, but you can start working toward positive mental health at home with techniques like meditation or breathing exercises.
- Be a lifelong learner. What better way is there to find meaning and enrichment in senior life than to keep trying new things? The emotional benefit of that accomplishment you feel when you master a new skill or enjoy a new experience is not to be underestimated. Plus, the more time you spend engaging your mind in intellectual pursuits—whether that’s studying a new subject, perusing a museum, reading a book, or pursuing a new activity— the less time you have to worry.
- Discover the beauty in the world around you. Senior life is sweeter when you take the time to stop and smell the roses. You can help reduce stress (and lower your blood pressure, too) by taking a leisurely stroll through a garden or art gallery. There’s beauty in music, too. Listening to a favorite song or going to a concert or the opera can be inspiring and have a powerful impact on your outlook on life.
- Engage in meaningful, creative work. Enjoying art is a mood-lifter, but creating it can be an even greater step toward positive mental health. Any activity that engages your creativity—making music, painting, writing, even gardening or building things—can give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment, especially when it has a tangible result.
- Find companionship. Whether it’s a close friend or man’s best friend—good company brings warmth and joy into senior life. Friends provide a shoulder to lean on when things get tough, the mental stimulation of good conversation, and countless laughs. As for pets, yes, they take time and commitment, but few things beat the steadfast love of a faithful companion.
- Make time for yourself. Do things that make you happy. Doing things for yourself, for no other reason than you find them enjoyable, is like taking a mini mental health holiday. Watch a movie that makes you laugh, reread your favorite book, or listen to music. Leisure time is a restorative necessity in mental wellness.