Seniors: Improve Mental Health, Improve Quality of Life

For many years, people thought the best way to deal with mental health problems was to simply sweep them under the rug. Many seniors hold onto this mindset, even though not addressing mental health issues can have serious consequences. Not treating mental illness worsens the existing problem, causes chronic physical health problems, aches, and pains, and puts people at risk for trauma.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 percent of adults ages 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder. Seniors face many risk factors for mental illness including reduced mobility, chronic pain, frailty, or other health problems and needing long-term care. When it comes to mental illness, seniors must be proactive in both prevention and treatment. Many lifestyle changes can help support a healthy mental state throughout the golden years.

Challenge Your Mind

Keeping your mind engaged helps promote feelings of confidence and positivity. Seniors in particular can benefit from mental exercises because they help prevent cognitive decline we often see in people as they grow older. Mental and social engagement protect our thinking skills because of the malleable state of the brain. You have the power to improve your brain’s processes, reduce your tendency to engage in bad habits, and improve your overall mental focus.

Easy ways to challenge your mind include:

* Try doing everyday activities such as brushing your teeth or digging in the garden with your non-dominant hand.

* Attend an unfamiliar concert or play.

* Learn a new sport or game. If competition isn’t your thing, try doing a puzzle.

* Enroll in a class at your local neighborhood center or at a nearby community college. * Practice tai chi — a meditation-meets-calisthenics exercise originally developed in China.

* Volunteer at a local charity where you can both offer your existing skills and learn something new.

* Join a book club.

* Travel to a place you’ve never been and visit historical sites and museums.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise already has a great reputation for what it can do for a senior’s physical well-being. What you may not realize is that by breaking a sweat, you are also doing something good for your mental health. Exercise helps maintain a strong and capable physique, which promotes confidence in seniors as they are less likely to need assistance. Furthermore, exercise is a great outlet for stress and anxiety. When you exercise, the mind releases neurochemicals that promote feelings of positivity and happiness.

Seniors need a combination of exercises to help enhance mobility and balance, improve mood, and reduce their chances of developing certain diseases and illnesses. However, seniors don’t need to go to extremes to get fit. There are simple indoor exercises that can provide all the benefits without being too strenuous on a senior’s body. These include:

* Indoor walking at a shopping mall, museum, school, conservatory, or other large public indoor space is low-impact cardio exercise that can be done no matter the weather. * At least two times a week, seniors need to take time to stretch their major muscle groups for at least 10 minutes.

* Cardio equipment like treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical trainers allow you to control the intensity of your workout while measuring your progress. * Swimming laps presents little risk of injury while offering many benefits for heart health, joints, flexibility, muscle strength, and stress reduction. * Balance exercises reduce the risk of senior falls — the leading cause of fatal injury in older Americans.

* Resistance exercises prevent age-related muscle loss, keep bones strong, prevent falls, and promote mobility as well as balance.

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When it comes to mental health disorders, seniors face various risk factors. The best ways to prevent mental health issues is through being proactive. Regularly challenging the mind by learning something new keeps your brain nimble for a healthier mindset. Exercise is good for the body, but it also promotes a positive way of thinking. However, if you are struggling with your mental health, difficult emotions, and dark thoughts, it’s best to talk to a loved one or a doctor about your concerns. They can give you the support you need to bounce back when you are struggling with your mental health.