10 Ways to Maintain Your Mental Health Wellness as You Age

Maintaining mental health wellness as you age is vital to achieving overall wellness and ensuring a high quality of life. Addressing and nurturing your emotional and psychological well-being is as important as physical health, forming a foundation for a fulfilling and balanced older adulthood.

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10 Ways to Maintain Your Mental Health Wellness as You Age
10 Min Read February 18th, 2024

Do you struggle with overwhelming feelings of stress or sadness often? Constantly striving to meet the demands and obligations of modern life can significantly impact our well-being. 

It's not uncommon for individuals to experience an increase in feelings of stress or sadness as they get older, which can begin to significantly impact overall health and well-being as they age. After age 50, life often brings about transitions and challenges, such as health issues, retirement, or the loss of loved ones, which can heighten emotional distress. 

Without proper support or coping mechanisms, these feelings can exacerbate existing health conditions or lead to new issues, affecting both mental and physical health. Recognizing and addressing these emotional changes is crucial for maintaining quality of life and ensuring a healthier, more fulfilling experience in later years.

Prioritizing Mental Health

But too often, we don't prioritize mental health in the same way as physical health - wrongly dismissing issues like anxiety, depression, and burnout as not being serious. Wellness isn't just about avoiding illness; it encompasses making holistic choices to enhance our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. 

Over 970 million people globally were diagnosed with a mental health disorder in 2019. In the United States, 57.8 million (in 2021) were diagnosed, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, with 15% of those diagnosed after age 50.

But the good news is that simple daily adjustments integrating mindfulness, sleep, nutrition, activity, and community can transform both mood and cultivate resilience. These ten ways can help you or a loved one maintain mental health and wellness.

1. Establish a Balanced Diet

What we choose to fuel our bodies directly impacts our thoughts and feelings. For example, research shows eating lots of processed foods and added sugars can actually increase the risk of anxiety and depression. On the flip side, foods that fight inflammation keep our brains happy and sharp. Fatty fish, walnuts, berries, and leafy greens - all rich in mood-friendly compounds called omega-3s and antioxidants. 

Like the classic Mediterranean or scientist-designed MIND diet, the healthiest diets stack your plate with these brain-boosting superfoods. They also emphasize staying hydrated because even being a little dehydrated tanks energy and mood quickly. Follow their lead. Skip the sugary cereals and sweets. Instead, nourish your body and mind with a mix of nutritious whole foods across food groups. Think of balanced snacks like yogurt with berries. Get creative with abundantly nutritious ingredients, and you'll feel focused, upbeat, and mentally powered up to take on the day.

2. Prioritize Regular Exercise

Well, it's true - staying active is critical for physical and mental health. Multiple studies show regular exercise reduces anxiety, depression, and everyday worries. How? Exercise releases feel-good chemicals and endorphins that lift moods naturally. It also cuts stress, boosts self-confidence, helps us sleep better, and gives us the energy to feel our best.

Interestingly, for those battling substance addictions like alcohol, smoking, stimulants, sedatives, and even opioids addiction, exercise can provide a much-needed healthy distraction while triggering similar reward pathways in the brain. The mental health boosts of working out serve as an uplifting replacement for destructive habits.

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging, five days a week. Or squeeze in 10-minute mini-workouts whenever possible. Even short activity spikes make a difference! You get to try fun new workouts to see what you vibe with. Kickboxing, cycling, dancing, and strength training - find what makes you feel strong, energized, and upbeat. Match your age and physical ability with the right type of activity/ Mixing it up keeps your body and mind challenged and agile. So lace up, get moving, and let the mood-boosting magic happen.

Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine, especially if you are over 50.

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3. Foster Strong Social Connections  

As social creatures, we yearn for supportive communities and close loved ones we can count on. Studies show that lacking meaningful connections takes a real toll on both physical and mental health. Loneliness can actually lead to more inflammation, a higher risk of serious diseases, and faster aging! The antidote? Make nurturing bonds a top priority. Set aside quality one-on-one time with those who matter most. 

Loneliness can have an even bigger detrimental effect on older adults, significantly impacting both their mental and physical health. The absence of social interaction can lead to depression and anxiety and even contribute to physical health issues such as heart disease and a weakened immune system. Conversely, social interaction plays a crucial role in enhancing the well-being of older adults, even those residing in long-term care facilities. 

Engaging in regular social activities and maintaining connections with others can improve cognitive function, elevate mood, and encourage a more active lifestyle. 

Join groups focused on causes or hobbies you're passionate about to uplift others as well. While online friendships have a place, try balancing digital interactions with in-person activities as much as possible for full benefits. Approach all relationships as a two-way street built on understanding and compassion. When we feel secure with others, and within ourselves, that inner light shines out to positively impact everything we do. So reach out. Share laughs, ideas, goals, and vulnerabilities. The magic of human connection awaits.

4. Develop a Mindfulness Practice

Cultivating mindfulness is a research-backed way to enhance mental health and resilience. This practice simply involves intentionally directing attention to the present moment – to our breath, physical senses, thoughts, and emotions – without judgment. Even brief 5-10 minute daily mindfulness sessions can engage the relaxation response to counter the mind and body's stressful "fight or flight" activation.

Building this awareness of the present without self-criticism strengthens our ability to manage challenges with wisdom and balance. A regular mindfulness routine has been scientifically demonstrated to ease anxiety, depression, and emotional reactivity. Leading applications offer guided meditations and movement sequences that are accessible even to beginners. Though developing presence and insight requires patience, the rewards permeate many facets of life. 

Ultimately, by repeatedly anchoring our focus to the now, we condition ourselves to extract more fulfillment from each moment. A consistent mindfulness practice thus cultivates the clarity and coping tools to thrive amidst the turbulence of modern life.

5. Ensure Adequate Sleep  

Sound sleep is essential for mental health, yet sleep deprivation is becoming increasingly common! 

The recommended hours of sleep vary significantly across different age groups, reflecting the changing needs of the human body throughout its development. Teenagers 8-10 hours per night to support their hormonal changes and growth spurts. Adults, including those up to 64 years old, benefit from 7-9 hours of sleep to maintain optimal health and cognitive function. For older adults aged 65 and above, 7-8 hours are generally sufficient, although individual needs can vary. These guidelines, provided by sleep experts and health organizations, aim to ensure each age group gets the restorative sleep needed for health, well-being, and daily functioning.

Poor or disrupted sleep, unfortunately, fuels anxiety, irritability, and low mood in a vicious cycle. How do I break free? Follow basic "sleep hygiene" rules like consistent bedtimes, avoiding digital screens at night, limiting light and noise exposure, and setting yourself up for relaxation pre-bedtime. 

Consider consulting a sleep specialist if problems persist. Restful rest allows minds and emotions to process and recharge, consolidates learning, and optimizes mood. Treat sleep as a precious resource for fortifying mental health rather than an afterthought. Prioritizing these nightly "resets" pays exponential dividends across both psychological and physical realms.

6. Seek Professional Help When Necessary

Asking for assistance when facing mental health challenges requires courage. Consulting professionals trained in evidence-based modalities - psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed therapists - is not a sign of weakness. It shows self-awareness and strength. Counselors objectively evaluate individual struggles with issues like anxiety, depression, trauma, and life transitions and determine suitable treatment plans. 

These may incorporate talk therapy approaches, mindfulness practices, medication, or lifestyle adjustments as appropriate. Online platforms now have further access to quality support. But the essential first step remains acknowledging obstacles to emotional wellness and then securing the necessary reinforcements to overcome them - whether everyday stresses or more clinically significant symptoms. You deserve contentment; seeking help builds the path.

7. Engage in Hobbies and Interests

Our hobbies and interests act as nourishment for the spirit. Engaging in creative outlets offers a respite from daily stressors while nurturing your identity, purpose, and personal growth. The key? Balance productive pursuits with those purely designed for enjoyment and leisure - make time for both. Experiment to find those sparks that spark your curiosity and passion. Then, fully immerse yourself in the challenge at hand without self-judgment. 

Studies reveal this mental state of effortless "flow" actually boosts lasting happiness. Join groups of like-minded individuals to surround yourself with uplifting support and inspiration from those who share your passions. By discovering and investing in what captivates our hearts and minds, we cultivate lasting reservoirs of strength, insight, and contentment.

Encouraging hobbies and interests among older family members, especially those receiving in-home or facility-based long-term care, can greatly enhance their quality of life. Engaging in activities that spark joy and interest provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment and stimulates cognitive function and emotional well-being. 

Whether it's painting, gardening, reading, or any other hobby, these activities can break the monotony of daily routines, fostering a sense of achievement and independence. For those in long-term care settings, hobbies can also offer valuable opportunities for social interaction and connection, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Ultimately, maintaining an active interest in hobbies supports a more vibrant, engaged, and happier existence for older adults, contributing significantly to their overall well-being.

8. Limit Screen Time and Practice Digital Wellness

The overuse of screens can hurt our mental health and well-being. Too much time spent looking at devices is linked to more anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, and low self-worth. To maintain healthy boundaries, turn off notifications that sidetrack you. Take normal screen breaks and power down before meals and bedtime. 

Excessive screen time for older adults can also have detrimental effects on their mental health, potentially leading to increased feelings of depression and anxiety. Extended periods spent in front of screens, whether it be televisions, computers, or smartphones, can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, reducing opportunities for physical activity and social interactions that are crucial for maintaining mental health in older age. 

Moreover, the blue light emitted by screens can disrupt sleep patterns, further exacerbating feelings of depression and anxiety. The isolation that often comes with too much screen time can also deepen feelings of loneliness, disconnecting older adults from their communities and loved ones. Balancing screen time with more enriching activities, such as engaging in hobbies, spending time outdoors, or interacting with others, is essential to promoting a healthier, more fulfilling life for older adults.

Replace aimless scrolling with purposeful activities. Watch how certain sites make you feel - limit time on ones causing jealousy or fixation. The key is balance and moderation with technology. Use screens intentionally, not excessively. Maintain digital wellness through smart habits.

9. Practice Gratitude and Positive Thinking

Intentionally focusing your mind on the positive can gradually create more uplifting thinking patterns. Maintaining a gratitude journal where you document things you feel thankful for daily has been proven to markedly improve mood and life contentment while decreasing depression and anxiety. 

Reflecting on individuals who have positively influenced you, relishing meaningful moments, practicing self-kindness, and identifying your personal strengths also promote gratitude and positivity. Affirming thoughts and words can counter pessimistic biases and strengthen psychological resilience. Consciously cultivating optimism through gratitude journals, reflection, and affirmations breeds lasting positivity.

10. Establish Routine and Structure 

Our minds love routines - they make us feel more in control and less worried. Setting consistent times every day for sleep, meals, work, and chill time gives us mental clarity. But leave room for spontaneity and new stuff that pops up. Use calendars, lists, reminders, and alarms to keep up healthy routines like waking up, working out, making good food, being productive, and relaxing before bed. Structure means we can focus fully on each activity. Establishing routines may be challenging initially, but they eventually become habits. These regular routines satisfy our brain's innate need for structure.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is mental health crucial for overall well-being?

Mental health is a huge part of overall wellness. When our minds are balanced and resilient, we're able to handle life's ups and downs with more ease, find meaning in what we do, and sustain healthier relationships. Making mental health a priority benefits every area of our lives.

2. What are small ways I can practice self-care for mental health each day?

Small daily self-care routines, such as taking five mindful breaths, journaling gratitude, short walks, using a meditation app, or doing light stretches, are simple yet powerful ways to nurture your mental well-being each day.

3. How can I support a loved one grappling with mental health challenges?

Provide compassionate listening and support without passing judgment. Provide encouragement to seek professional help when needed. Educate yourself on their condition. Remind them of their strengths and that you're there for them. Even small acts of kindness can make a significant impact.

4. Should I be concerned about mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, affecting an older loved one?

Yes, it's crucial to recognize that mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, significantly impact older adults due to life changes like health decline and loss of independence. These are not inevitable aspects of aging but can profoundly affect their well-being and daily life. Spotting signs of these conditions, offering support, and promoting access to professional help are key steps in safeguarding the mental health and quality of life of older loved ones.

5. How can I ensure that my older loved ones are receiving appropriate mental health care from in-home caregivers and long-term care facility staff?

To ensure your older loved one gets the right mental health care from caregivers and facility staff, actively communicate and engage with them. Discuss care plans, focusing on mental health, observe any mood or behavior changes in your loved one, and share these with the caregiving team. Also, check the caregivers' training in mental health and advocate for regular mental health assessments. Building a collaborative relationship with the care team is key to providing your loved one with the necessary support and care.

Online Resources for Older Adults and Mental Health

General Mental Health:

Resources for Older Adults:


Remember: These resources are a starting point. It's crucial to consult with a health professional for diagnosis, treatment, and personalized support.

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About the Author

Marcus Howard is a writer with years of experience in the field of alternative health. He has written extensively on a variety of topics, including CBD, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and the use of alternative health options for older adults.

LTC News Contributor Marcus Howard

Marcus Howard

Contributor since July 5th, 2023

Editor's Note

As you age, experiencing depression and anxiety can significantly complicate existing chronic illnesses, potentially worsening your health conditions and increasing the need for long-term care. These mental health issues not only affect your emotional well-being but can also have a profound impact on your physical health, making it harder to manage chronic conditions and adhere to treatment plans. 

The interplay between depression, anxiety, and chronic illnesses can lead to a cycle where each condition exacerbates the others, further elevating the need for comprehensive care.

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