Wellness for Aging: How to Maintain Mental and Emotional Health With Age
Aging often brings invaluable knowledge and wisdom, and hopefully, many memories to treasure for a lifetime. However, previous trauma, loss, and decreasing cognitive or physical abilities can simultaneously take their toll. Experts say that by being proactive, you can maintain your mental and emotional health, enhance your overall wellness, and enjoy life to its fullest potential.
Stay connected and stimulated, says Gina Della Penna, L.M.H.C., L.P.C., a provider of teletherapy in New York and New Jersey. Keep in touch with family and friends with a phone call, letter or a visit. “If possible, get involved with interest groups and hobbies to make new friendships and combat feelings of loneliness or boredom,” she says. “Keeping your mind active and engaged will help to keep it sharp,” she notes. She suggests playing games, doing puzzles, volunteering or trying a new activity to maintain cognitive abilities.
Get a good night’s sleep, too, advises Penna. “Humans need sleep for optimal mental and emotional health. Try to stick to a regular sleep routine,” she adds.
Keep moving, says Scott Silverman Ed.D., therapist at Melville-based Therapy Long Island. “Exercise and physical activity can benefit both the mind and body by boosting confidence, reducing the risk of falls, and maintaining flexibility. These can all lead to enhanced mood and decreases in depression and anxiety,” he says. Silverman recommends water aerobics, chair yoga, walking and weight training for seniors. Workouts can also be found on YouTube or at a local YMCA, he suggests.
Discover health and joy in laughter. Having a good sense of humor “is a great stress reliever, helps improve your mood, releases pleasure-producing endorphins in your brain, and can improve your all-important social life,” says Linda Ganzenmuller, Psy.D., president and New York State licensed psychologist at Commack-based Supportive Psychological Services of Long Island. However, happiness may take work, she notes. “Fill your day with activities that use your skills, strengths, and passions,” she says.
Seek support. “It’s important to find people who meet the ‘Big Three’ qualities of a great helper,” says Ganzenmuller. Find someone who is nonjudgmental, encouraging, and who is capable of listening to and supporting you without falling apart themselves, she advises.
“Relying on an outside support group can often give you the opportunity to speak freely and feel understood by people sharing a similar experience. In turn, they can often offer advice that others might never think of,” she says.
Life can be beautiful at any age, especially if you are proactive and utilize your age as your strength. “Our intuition and our grasp of ‘big picture’ issues really blossom as we piece together all of the knowledge that we gathered during our time here on Earth,” says Ganzenmuller.