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Mind your mind

Mind your mind. 

It’s a topic Australia is still not good at talking about, but keeping an eye on your mental health is a key to positive aging.

Dementia may get the headlines when it comes to the mental health of seniors, but there are other things to look out for as well. Things like depression, anxiety or an increase in worry or grief can all affect seniors as they get older.

Mental health is important for everyone, not just the elderly. A positive outlook on life makes things easier, but it is not always easy to achieve. The World Health Organisation estimates that approximately 15 per cent of those aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder, so it is more common than you think.

But there are plenty of things you can do to ensure you have the best shot at a positive outlook on life. Try these simple measures including:

1. Get some zzzs

One of the simplest, yet most effective ways to help your mental health is to get a good nights rest. Most adults need about eight hours of sleep per night, and if you do not get it you can be on edge. Keep screens out of the bedroom, go to bed at a regular time and ensure you are comfortable in your bedroom with the right pillow, the right temperature and you will be on your way to a good rest.

2. Exercise regularly

It is well documented that regular exercise can assist with depression and low mood. You won’t feel like going out for that walk, but you will feel better when you have got some decent exercise, something that raises your heart rate. Exercise makes you feel good because it releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that lift your mood.

3. Catch up with people

Depression and anxiety can be exacerbated by a sense of isolation and loneliness, so one of the best things you can do to feel better is visit family and friends. These relationships help us feel connected and can be a key factor in keeping the demons of mental illness at bay. Stay connected, even when you find it hard to be around others.

4. Tell people how you feel

Older generations are not as comfortable talking about feeling mentally unwell. It can be seen as a sign of weakness; you can worry about being stigmatised or rejected. However, times are changing, and many people now recognise that sharing your worries can help you get through them. A problem shared is truly a problem halved.

5. Talk to a professional

If you are worried about more serious mental health issues like substance abuse or psychosis, see your GP for a diagnosis. Your doctor can also get you a mental health plan to provide subsidised visits to a counsellor or psychologist who can help you with some simple steps to getting on top of any mental health issues.

Also check out the wealth of online information from Beyond Blue, the Mental Health Charity, on depression and other conditions. Beyond Blue’s “R U OK?” initiative is a simple way to start people talking about mental illness. It encourages people to check in on their friends with this one simple phrase, to give them a chance to share how they are really feeling.

As we age, this can not only be an easy way to check on friends, but also a question that we ask ourselves. And if the answer is “no”, do not feel bad about seeking help.