Americans are living longer lives, and while physical fitness is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle into our later years, mental health and well-being is just as important. Research suggests that by 2050, 20 percent of the U.S. population will be made up of seniors 65 and older, so it’s important that this group—as well as the rest of us—learn to take care of our minds and our bodies to ensure our longer lives are not only healthier, but happier too. Below are some simple tips to help boost your mental well-being that you can use at any age.
Break the routine. You take the same route to work every morning, your meals are planned out by night, and you watch the same shows on the same couch before heading to bed at the same time. While routine may help keep you organized, it also limits brain stimulation and can leave you feeling as though you’re stuck in a rut. Shake things up by adding new activities or altering parts of your routine to keep things feeling fresh in your mind. Try a new restaurant or food on a random night of the week, or find a shortcut to get to work. Check out the new grocery store in town and change up your usual list by including an exotic fruit or vegetable that you’ve always wanted to try. Little changes like these can make a big impact, keeping your brain happy and engaged and breaking up the monotony of routine.
Volunteer. Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new people and create new friendships. Socializing is important for your mental well-being, especially as you age, because it is far too easy to withdraw and become isolated. Volunteer at the local animal shelter and meet others who share your passion for pets. You will find it easier to bond with individuals who share the same interests as you, and studies have shown that socializing and nurturing can help release hormones that suppress feelings of stress and anxiety.
Sleep. A good night’s sleep is an integral part of leading a healthy lifestyle, as it benefits both the body and mind. As you sleep, your body recovers from the day, allowing muscle and joints to rest and repair. At the same time, quality sleep also rests your brain and provides much needed downtime that is necessary for good mental health.
Slow down. Rushing around and trying to meet deadlines increases stress and anxiety and is taxing on your well-being. If there are certain tasks you need to accomplish by a specific time, get started on them as early as possible to allow yourself time to approach the project in a relaxed manner. Planning ahead allows you to take your time and prevents the buildup of stress and anxiety that can be harmful for both your physical and mental health.
Laugh. It may sound obvious, but those who laugh more have a better mental well-being than those who don’t. Laughing releases endorphins and dopamine, increasing our sense of pleasure much in the same way that jogging can. Laughing can also aid in memory function, so go ahead and have a giggle at a silly television show—it’s good for your health.
While there are plenty of recommendations that tout the importance of physical health as you age, mental health is just as important. Keeping physically fit is only half the battle when it comes to aging in a healthy manner, so why not try some of these tips to boost your mental well-being? Shake up your routine, volunteer to build more social relationships, and don’t forget to laugh—happiness really can be this simple.