Many of us fear the process of aging. Maybe we have seen our parents or grandparents encounter struggles as they grew older and we are worried about going through similar challenges. Whatever the case may be, hanging onto our health for as long as possible can be difficult.
Our bodies naturally begin to decline in middle age, and both our physical and mental health will be affected. The World Health Organization found that at least 20% of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a mental disorder. That is an astonishing number from 2017, and it had been continually increasing up until that year, meaning the number now is likely higher.
Aging can be a time of ongoing success and advancement. When we reach the age of 65, we continue to learn. There’s no reason to expect mental health changes as we age; growing old and unhappy isn’t something that happens naturally. At any age, we can make lifestyle changes that have a substantial impact on our mental health. It’s natural to endure some mental decline as you become older, but there are strategies to avoid memory lapses and, more gravely, dementia. Experts say that controlling health problems, moving every day, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, learning new things, and keeping socially involved can all help older persons keep a healthy mind.
Mental health is a topic that people were less open about years ago, but conversations about it have become far more transparent and frequent now. The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated this crisis with isolation and widespread fear. So what can you do now to increase your chances of maintaining mental health well into old age?
Physical health makes a difference
There is plenty of evidence out there that taking care of your body can improve your mental health as well. Living an active lifestyle helps to release certain endorphins that vastly help your mindset and give you positive feelings. Additionally, a healthy and balanced diet will give your body more energy which can also improve your state of mind. Not only will regular exercise help with your long-term mental health, but it will also give your body a better chance to fight off diseases and decay as you age.
Invest in positive relationships
The people that you surround yourself with have a big impact on your overall well-being. It is important to cut out toxic relationships that are bad for your mental health and to pour into the ones that are encouraging and bring you happiness. Whether that means more time with close family members or less time in certain social situations that make you uncomfortable, investing in the right relationships will improve your state of mind and give you a better chance of avoiding certain mental disorders down the road.
Train yourself to move past negative thoughts
Listening to the negative voices in your head is a recipe for declining mental health. All of us have been caught in a downward spiral of negativity at some point in our lives, whether it is a result of failing at something, worrying about everything, or just feeling stuck. While becoming a more positive person is not just a switch that you can flip, there are some helpful methods for moving past negative thoughts. Learning these strategies will help guard your long-term mental health as you grow older, but it is important to begin practicing them now. Health today affects health tomorrow.
Find ways to apply yourself
This could cover a lot of different activities, some of which include volunteering or finding a creative outlet/hobby. Serving others is a great way to positively influence your mood, as the chemistry in our brain will inject beneficial endorphins when we help others. Additionally, engaging your mind with a hobby or creative outlet can be a distraction from the negative thoughts that you have, while also giving you something to accomplish and be proud of.
When you are struggling, seek help
One of the best lessons you can learn is to not withhold the fact that your mental health is suffering. Keeping it in is a surefire way to increase the issue as you get older, drastically affecting your health in old age. Many who struggle with mental health disorders as they age end up in nursing homes, which are not always the safest environments for the elderly, as pointed out by the stats on NursingHomeLawCenter. Seek professional help when you know that you are struggling with your mental health, as there are many resources available that can help you. You don’t have to disclose your feelings or be entirely open about how you’re feeling just because you’re speaking about your difficulties and concerns. Some people may find this useful, while others would rather keep discussions on a pragmatic level. It’s not a sign of weakness to talk about how you’re feeling or your feelings: it’s about taking control of your health.
Know that you are not alone
As stated before, mental health is a huge issue in this country, and it continues to grow in most demographics. There are plenty of others who are going through similar challenges, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Even some of these strategies are not automatic recipes for success. You will have to put in the work to make these a part of your routine so that they can lead to real change.
If you care about being the healthiest version of yourself and want to maintain your independence as you age, let someone that you trust know about your struggles and start incorporating these practices. If nothing else, at least you will have someone to encourage you during the journey.
Growing older is a natural stage of life that can be as enjoyable as any other. Accepting the change of seasons opens the door to new experiences. Mental illnesses are frequently curable and always controllable. Staying active, maintaining social relationships, and being honest with your doctor and loved ones does not have to be frightening as you become older.