Healthy Routines To Keep Mental Wellness On Track As You Age
Active Aging Presented by Public Health Seattle-King County
Aging comes with many opportunities and challenges. We’re used to addressing physical concerns, such as reduced mobility or chronic illness, but we often overlook mental health since the effects aren’t always as apparent. The World Health Organization notes that “mental health has an impact on physical health and vice versa.” Mental wellness becomes even more critical for older adults already at higher risk of physical challenges. For seniors, paying attention to mental health should be a priority.
Create a Routine at Home
Just as staying consistent with an exercise routine is essential, committing to a mental health routine is all about steady progress. If you leave mental health on the back burner until you feel there’s an issue, addressing your concerns may feel more challenging. To actively cultivate mental health at home, try these tips.
Begin and end with meditation
Meditation can mean different things to different people. Still, at the core, it’s about making space for your mind to be focused and calm. Start and end your days with 5-30 minutes dedicated to an intentional period of meditation to bookend your waking hours with a peaceful strength. This meditation time can be a guided meditation that you listen to on your phone or computer, or it can be self-directed and focused on your breath and the environment around you.
Take a daily inventory
Mental wellness isn’t only about cultivating “positive” feelings. Holding space for frustrations and concerns is just as necessary, so these feelings don’t stay bottled up. Try including a daily “feelings inventory” into your routine. You can write in a journal or record a voice memo on your phone. List your feelings that day and any associated events or triggers—big or small, happy or sad, everything matters. Sometimes knowing that you’ll have a space to name and acknowledge an event or feeling is all you need to move past it. Similarly, seeing how many joyous occasions you’ve had lately can immediately improve your mood.
Set a small, daily goal
Our mental health often suffers when things feel overwhelming, too busy, or out of control. A great way to preemptively combat some of these feelings is to set a small, manageable daily goal. When you inevitably reach this goal, you’ll feel a sense of pride, control, and happiness. The goal should be commensurate with the day ahead.
- Are you very busy? Goal: Wear your favorite color today.
- Is the weather dreadful? Goal: Drink a cup of that new tea.
- Do you have lots of energy? Goal: Walk to lunch instead of driving.
The size or content of your goal doesn’t matter. Setting one and succeeding is what’s crucial.
Staying social and maintaining relationships with others is one of the best ways to stay mentally fit as you age. The Mayo Clinic points out that friendships and close social circles can help boost positive behaviors and feelings while also helping you avoid unhealthy habits. These tips make it easy to add community involvement to your mental wellness routine.
Socialize with a purpose
While getting together just to chat is fun, pairing your socializing with another activity can boost your mental wellness even more. Try starting an exercise routine with friends to combine mental and physical wellness. Regularly scheduled events increase your likelihood of follow-through while giving you something positive to anticipate in the days ahead. Your mind knows precisely when and what to look forward to.
Make time for giving back
Volunteering your time is one of the best ways to weave mental wellness into your routine. Research suggests that older adults who volunteer through organized activities reap both physical and mental benefits. When you share your expertise with others, you may find a renewed sense of purpose and connection that often declines as you retire from work or your children leave home. Committing to volunteering can restore confidence and value that will help bolster your overall mental well-being.
Try new technologies
While new technology may seem daunting, some tools can make staying connected with friends and family much more accessible. Video calling and text messaging are popular on multiple devices and can make communication simple. Having an easy way to stay in touch makes you more likely to check in with loved ones who live far away. If you’re worried about trying a new program or device for the first time, just reach out. Many community centers offer tech help sessions regularly!
Try incorporating these tips into your day over the next several weeks to work towards a solid mental wellness routine.
Active Aging is presented by Public Health- Seattle & King County. Public Health- Seattle & King County recognizes the important and untold stories of innovation, service, and sacrifice by the Black community and supports efforts to improve equity and achieve social justice. We want everyone to get health insurance and access health care. Visit www.kingcounty.gov/health for health insurance, flu and COVID-19 testing locations.