A little bit of fresh air and sunshine can go a long way. Spending time in the great outdoors has so many benefits for our health, including our mood. Studies suggest that people who live close to nature not only may have reduced blood pressure and heart rate — they also may experience reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
But you don’t have to live in a rural setting to get your dose of nature. Just taking a long stroll in a garden or park can help your mental health. One research study showed that participants who spent 90 minutes walking in a natural setting reported reduced levels of what psychologists call rumination, meaning repetitive negative thoughts.
Humans are social creatures by nature, so it only makes sense that spending time with friends and family can have a positive impact on our mental health. In fact, a simple high-five or handshake is enough contact for the brain to release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that lowers cortisol and stress levels. Studies suggest that having close friends later in life may even help prevent mental decline.
Since seniors are especially at risk for social isolation, keeping close with friends and family is crucial as we age. But there are times when making physical and social contact is difficult. When you can’t make face-to-face contact, social media can be a great way to stay in touch. A U.S. study suggests that social media may even lower the risk for depression for older adults with chronic pain.
Staying fit isn’t just good for your body — it’s also good for your mental health. Sometimes known as “runner’s high,” aerobic exercise causes our brain to release endorphins, our body’s natural feel-good hormone. But you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy the mental health benefits of exercise. Whether you enjoy swimming, walking, jogging, dancing, yoga or even gardening, research shows that physical activity can help reduce anxiety and depression. Exercise has also been shown to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.
The intensity of the exercise matters too. The more challenging an activity is, the more endorphins our bodies release. So choose an exercise that gets your blood pumping, and for some bonus mood-boosting points, do your physical activity outside or with friends when you can (at a comfortable six-foot distance).
What does drinking water have to do with mental health? Apparently, a lot. Staying hydrated helps our bodies stay regulated and do their jobs — and the same goes for our brains. Not only does dehydration cause headaches, it can also impair our mood. One study showed that drinking fewer than two glasses of water per day increases the risk of depression by 73% in men and 54% in women.
Ask for Help
An estimated twenty percent of adults age 55 years and older experience some sort of mental health concern, and yet, seniors are the least likely of any age group to seek treatment for their mental health. This is likely due to stigmas and shame surrounding mental health issues. In reality, mental health concerns are quite common and nothing to be ashamed of — an estimated 26% of all adults in the U.S. experience a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. That’s one in every four people in a room, so if you’re struggling, you’re not alone.
If you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, loneliness or even just need someone to turn to for advice, talking to a doctor or therapist may provide much-needed relief and support. Just like visiting a regular physician, everything you talk about with a mental health professional should be confidential, and they should have special tools and techniques that can help you manage difficulties.
More Mood-Boosting Tips
Looking for other ways to improve your mental health? Check out these Five Mood Boosters to Make Your Home a Happy Place.
The above content is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you have a medical condition. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.
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