5 Ways to Stay Mentally Healthy as You Age
“It’s all in your mind.” No really, it may be. A MacArthur Foundation study found that approximately 50 percent of mental aging is determined by our everyday lifestyle choices. Whether its depression, loneliness, mild cognitive impairment or even Alzheimer’s disease, what affects your mind affects your overall wellbeing. What can you do? Make up your mind to stay as mentally healthy as possible with these five tips.
1. All Things in Moderation
Well, except for smoking which is a no under any circumstance! Do keep your alcohol intake moderate and avoid overeating to help in maintaining a healthy weight. But good nutrition in general is key; the National Institute on Aging recommends these daily servings for seniors:
Give your brain an extra boost with around 1.3 servings of leafy green vegetables per day – a Rush University Medical Center study found the brains of participants who did that were about 11 years younger. And don’t forget the water (generally about 64 ounces of fluid daily through beverages or food).
2. Exercise Your Body
A U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 67 percent of seniors are sedentary for at least 8.5 hours a day which increases risk for many conditions including cognitive decline. Recommendations from the National Institute on Aging can help you get moving with at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week in sessions of at least 10 minutes duration across four categories of exercise: endurance, strength training, balance and flexibility. Bonus, it’s great for physical health too!
3. Exercise Your Mind
According to the Alzheimer’s Association someone in the United States develops the disease every 65 seconds. While no cure has been found yet, research has shown the brain does benefit from staying active. Ideas include brain games like chess, bridge, crossword or jigsaw puzzles as well as reading regularly and learning something new – you always wanted to learn another language right?
4. Stay Social
Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers have found evidence that seniors in the United States with an active social life may have a slower rate of memory decline. In fact, memory decline among the most sociable seniors was less than half the rate among the least sociable. While it can be harder to maintain close connections as you age, it certainly is possible. To overcome barriers such as distance, mobility and transportation, you can use technology such as FaceTime or Skype on your smartphone or tablet to stay connected with friends and family. If you don’t already have a pet that can also be a great way to make new friendships as there’s nothing animal lovers love more than other animal lovers! There are also proven mental health benefits from the human-pet connection too.
5. Find Your Purpose
A study by Rush University Medical Center found that people who have a lower sense of purpose in their lives could be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to people who have a greater sense of purpose. Start by thinking about things you already enjoy such as hobbies or causes important to you. Think back to what you were passionate about in your youth that maybe you never got around to doing. Or, this could be a great time to simply start fresh. Approach a task in a different way, join a club, take a class, you never know what you’ll discover!
Mental Health Made Easier
Perhaps the biggest lifestyle choice you can make, and we’d argue the most beneficial, is to change your environment altogether with a move to senior living. Accomplishing all these tips on your own is certainly doable, but it’s much easier with opportunities in each of these areas right outside your door.
At Richfield for example, our monthly calendar offers you a range of educational and enrichment programs as well as organized activities and outings. There’re also amenities such as a pool, fitness center, library and onsite beauty and barber salon. And you have more time to enjoy it all with the chores taken care of thanks to restaurant-style dining, housekeeping and laundry services.
What’s more, you’ll have a constellation of care – retirement living, assisted living, memory care and nursing care – to support any future needs. Yet another way to protect your mental health, with extra peace of mind.