Tackling Mental Health
Tackling Mental Health
Healthy habits are not just limited to staying fit and eating right. You need to take care of your mental health, just as much as you do your physical health. It’s even more important to remember to take care of your mental health as you deal with situations where you’re managing fear and emotions during uncertain times like we’ve been going through lately.
We at Greystone Health think it is the perfect opportunity to take time to share some insight regarding ways you can maintain your mental health and well-being. Indicators that you are mentally and emotionally healthy include being content, the ability to laugh and have fun and the capacity to deal with stress. You should have a sense of meaning and purpose in your daily activities, while also being able to build and maintain fulfilling personal relationships. It doesn’t mean you’re never disappointed or sad, but it does mean you’re resilient and bounce back from adversity, trauma or stress.
So often, older adults tend to think that loss of energy to complete everyday tasks, feeling more anxious or being sad for extended periods of time are just another part of getting older. The truth is, these feelings are not just part of the package at all. In actuality, these are generally tell-tale signs of anxiety or depression. When these types of feelings are having an impact on your everyday life, you should contact your healthcare provider to get a screening and treatment.
If you find that you are suffering from extended periods of sadness, lose pleasure in everyday activities you used to enjoy, have trouble sleeping or have feelings of worthlessness or guilt, you’re probably experiencing symptoms of depression. Maybe you feel like you have excessive nervousness, unrelenting fear or persistent worry, you may have an anxiety disorder.
We’ve put together a few ideas that can promote happiness, improve your mental health and enhance your quality of life. Try some of these practices to elevate your mood, become more resilient and enjoy life even more.
Physical Activity: Known for numerous physical and physiological benefits, exercise is one of the easiest ways to turn that frown upside-down. Regular physical activity cannot only keep you moving and in shape, it also decreases cortisol (stress hormone) while increasing your feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins (such as serotonin). In addition, exercise helps ward off feelings of depression and/or anxiety, reduces overall stress and improves sleep. It’s as simple as taking a walk in your neighborhood or the air-conditioned mall (while doing a little window shopping). Aim for 30 minutes of activity most days of the week, even if it’s three 10-minute sessions.
While you’re exercising, make sure to pay attention to the rhythm of your breathing, the sensation of your feet hitting the ground and the wind wafting over your skin. By including an element of mindfulness, you can help break the pattern of worries or negative thoughts. No matter what exercise you choose, it can be a powerful tool to help you feel better physically and mentally.
Face-to-Face Social Connection: To function at full capacity and feel your best, nothing beats face-to-face human interaction. As social creatures, we need to have positive connections and relationships with others. Ideally you can interact with someone who is a good listener and who you can talk to regularly. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, try having positive interactions with neighbors, people you meet along the way while shopping or even the person who gives you your prescriptions. When interacting with others, smile, make eye contact and provide a friendly greeting or small talk. These connections can make a world of difference.
Meditation: Dating back to 5000 BC, meditation is an age-old technique that has numerous physical and psychological benefits. Simply put, meditation allows you to observe and accept thoughts with making judgement or dwelling on those thoughts. Take at least 10 minutes a day to tune into your brain by focusing all of your attention on your own mantra, while relaxing and breathing deeply.
Make an effort to totally clear your mind and ward off random thoughts. Take a moment to congratulate yourself for taking time out for you and give thanks to the body and mind you have. When you meditate, your breathing slows down, and your heart rate, blood pressure and stress level decreases. Some studies suggest that meditation can even offset age-related decline of cognitive function and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dance Therapy: Known for being both physically and emotionally beneficial, dance therapy comes in many forms. From putting on your favorite tunes and dancing around your room to going to formal dance classes, dancing is a great way to improve your overall health and mood. People who have Parkinson’s disease have even seen a positive impact from doing dances like the tango. Add dancing as part of your regular exercise routine. Even chair dancing counts.
Gardening: Whether you grow plants on your windowsill, use container gardening techniques or cultivate a section of your yard, gardening offers a variety of benefits. Planting a garden, and giving it the proper care and maintenance, such as watering, fertilizing, weeding and pruning requires bending, twisting, and walking around that can use muscle groups you don’t usually work out. If mobility is limited, you may want to try raised garden beds or vertical planters, so this activity will physically be easier.
Much like other forms of activity, gardening can improve your mood, help maintain cognitive function, promote relaxation and decrease stress. It can also provide a sense of purpose and be a fun hobby that may even provide some welcome food or a beautiful bouquet, depending upon what you decide to grow.
Pet Therapy: For years, service dogs have proven to be beneficial companions for the blind, diabetic, epileptic or other special needs. However, pets can have a positive physiological and psychological impact just by being present. In as little as 15 minutes, petting and bonding with an animal can reduce cortisol while at the same time increasing serotonin. Just simply caring for a pet is known to reduce depression.
Try out new activities that are appropriate for your fitness level and physical limitations. Be sure to mix things up a bit and change up your schedule so you don’t get bored with just one exercise or routine. As always, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program and take the proper safety precautions for each activity.