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October 5th, 2021
As we grow older, naturally, our minds do too. And while older age comes with more wisdom and knowledge, it also becomes easier to forget that we have to nourish ourselves in order to maintain our overall well-being. Because although it’s often less visible on the surface, our mental health is just as important as that of our physical.
Putting a focus on our mental health is one of many keys to living a life that’s as joyful as it is productive. And while these last two years have been anything but normal, there is no mask that protects your brain from the harm that may have come as a result. It’s up to you to make it a priority. So on that note, here are a few changes you can make to your daily routine in order to improve your mental health:
Get The Proper Amount of Sleep
Though it may seem obvious, maintaining a proper sleep schedule is key to your mental health. The National Sleep Foundation says that seniors aged 65 or older should look to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
Unfortunately, getting a good night’s rest also becomes harder for seniors. Here’s why:
Our bodies run on a 24-hour cycle (known as a circadian rhythm), which has a direct influence on the way our body releases hormones throughout the day. So, for example, when it’s dark outside, our body normally releases melatonin to tell us that it’s probably time for bed, making us tired. This is also true for things like hunger, or simply being more alert during the day.
However, as we age, the part of our brain responsible for running this internal clock begins to deteriorate, which in turn disrupts our circadian rhythm. Our body releases less melatonin around bedtime, making it harder to fall asleep at night.
This change in our sleeping pattern is the reason why most older adults find themselves going to bed sooner and waking up earlier. It’s also why waking up in the middle of the night becomes a more prevalent problem – our body questions the timing of our sleep and stops us from falling into a deeper state of rest.
To help correct these types of sleep issues, here are some things you can try doing:
- Remove distractions from the bedroom: According to Nielsen, a household has an average of 2.8 televisions, meaning many adults have a TV in their bedroom. That doesn’t even mention the smartphones that most people have by their bedside at night. Removing electronics and other sources of distraction out of the bedroom allows that space to be a source of relaxation and deeper rest.
- Avoid substances that disrupt sleep: Alcoholic beverages, caffeine, tobacco – all of these make falling asleep more challenging, as each stimulates the brain in some way or another. Try to limit these types of substances leading up to bedtime.
- Find your bedtime routine: Whether it’s reading a book or taking a bath, find some time to settle down before you lay your head on that pillow at night.
All of these can help you get a better night’s rest, which in turn will benefit your mental health as an older adult.
Maintain Your Social Life
One of the biggest problems that many seniors suffer from is a diminished social life, which often leads to a lack of connection with others. As a result, older adults find themselves dealing with isolation and higher levels of depression, which can cause physical health problems like high blood pressure and higher rates of illness.
A study done by AARP showed that even the most minor social interaction keeps our brains healthy and more alert. That’s because simple conversational exchanges with others forces our brains to work. We have to think about how to respond, what to say, how to say it, what to talk about next — all of which stimulates the mind.
When it comes to mental health, some of the most important reasons to focus on social activities are:
- A boost to emotional well-being
- An increase in self-confidence
- A chance to develop closer relationships
- An opportunity to try new things
Each of these can not only boost your mental health, but can help create a better, healthier version of you overall.
Being socially healthy doesn’t have to mean making new friends or seeing family either. There are plenty of ways to get socially active, both with your neighbors as well as the community at large. If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas, here are some of the easiest ways to stay socially engaged:
- Volunteer: Find a cause you care about and join the movement. If you have a passion for animals, offer your help at an animal refuge. If giving back is important to you, consider volunteering at a food bank or homeless shelter. You’d be surprised how many non-profit organizations are running events and functions in your township.
- Join a club: Whether you’re an avid reader, or someone with a green thumb, a quick Google search can assist you in finding a club in your area that speaks to your interests. Participating in something you’re interested in with others is an easy way to cultivate new friendships and also add something new and fun to your schedule. Even setting up friendly poker games once a week can go a long way in keeping your brain active.
Give Your Mind a Workout
We use physical activity to keep our bodies fit and healthy. Similarly, we should use mental activity to keep our brains healthy and active as well. And in this day in age, it’s easier than ever to get your hands on a game or puzzle that interests you.
From classic board games to new, technology-based games that are played online, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re looking for some fresh ideas, look no further:
- Memory/Mind Games: With a focus on recalling information, memory or mind games are perfect for someone trying to galvanize their brains into action. Some games that fall into this category include Bop-It, Where’s Waldo, Sudoku, and any card-matching games, all of which can be found at your local retail store.
- Word Games: These types of games encourage players to use their knowledge of both trivia and their personal vocabulary to solve simple conundrums. It’s a great way to expand your lexicon while also getting a chance to show off your cleverness. Popular games in this category include Scrabble, Hangman, word searches, and more.
- Electronic/App-Based: Many of these games require players to use problem solving and trivia knowledge to win, which are great attributes for stimulating your brain. From Jeopardy, to Wheel of Fortune, to Family Feud and more, there are countless app-based versions of your favorite quiz shows that can be downloaded directly to your phone. Additionally, having these games on your phone or tablet means they’re perfect for a doctor’s waiting room or your living room couch.
While each of these games has their own advantage for giving your brain a workout, they all do the same thing: force you to problem solve in some way.
And this is important — exercising your brain to come up with solutions to minor problems is the perfect way to create engagement and stimulation. Research has shown that challenging yourself mentally can be incredibly beneficial to your overall health, especially as a senior.
Let’s Get Started
We all take time to see our doctors and get information on staying physically healthy, but mental health is often overlooked. For us at eliseo, it’s a major part of enjoying your best years in retirement.
For more tips and tools on how to keep yourself and your health a priority, be sure to check out the rest of our blogs here. And while you’re at it, take a look at our senior living community to see if it’s the right fit for you. Feel free to contact a member of our team by email at email@example.com or by phone at 253.319.3947.