Importance of Mental Wellness: Benefits of Keeping Your Mind Healthy

October 1, 2022 | Senior Health
Close up of older adults completing Sudoku puzzles

Mental health comprises our emotional, social and psychological well-being and affects many aspects of our day-to-day lives. When we’re feeling stressed, making decisions and even spending time with friends and family, our mental health coordinates the way our minds think, feel and act.

At any age, mental wellness is vital to a healthy lifestyle, but as we grow older, we can become more susceptible to mental health issues. 

It’s important to understand the role that good mental health plays, and since October 10th is World Mental Health Day, Astral at Auburn wants to give you the tips you need to know to keep your brain happy and healthy.

Basics of Mental Wellness for Older Adults

According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s been estimated that about 20% of older adults above the age of 55 are facing mental health issues. Most commonly, issues such as anxiety, mood disorders (like depression), and severe cognitive impairment. 

Anxiety and depression can impair mental health at any age, but these mood disorders can accelerate other physical and mental impairments in older adults.

Self-Care for Mental Wellness

Our minds are our most vital organ; just like other body parts, we must keep our brains exercised and taken care of to ensure a positive mindset.

Here’s the good news: exercising your brain isn’t difficult! In fact, you probably have already incorporated some form of mental care into your daily or weekly routine. 

  • Get Physical: Mental and physical health are directly linked to one another, according to scientists at the Duke University Medical Center. When we participate in a workout of any kind, whether it’s a yoga class or a walk in the park, brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) are released, which encourage the growth of new brain cells. This is why we always feel accomplished and happy after physical exercise. These BDNFs enhance cell growth in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is often smaller in people with mood disorders. 
  • Spend Time With Friends and Family: Humans are social creatures by nature, and socialization is a key component of mental wellness. Unfortunately, about 40% of people over the age of 60 have reported feelings of isolation and loneliness, according to a recent study. For some, it can be challenging to keep up with the vibrant social life. Loneliness is a common form of distress for older adults and has been medically linked to functional decline. It can put us at higher risk for memory loss and even immune diseases. When we socialize with others, our brains continuously improve cognitive skills, mainly memory and focus.
  • Enjoy Your Passions and Hobbies: Having a hobby is a great way to tune yourself into your passions, and it’s a fun way to spend free time. Research has also shown that those who participate in hobbies regularly are less likely to experience stress and anxiety, as our passions and interests soothe our minds and keep us relaxed. This also goes for new hobbies! When we teach ourselves a new activity, like knitting or playing an instrument, for instance, we’re triggering our cognitive functions of memory and focus on learning and memorizing each new task. 
  • Mind Games: If you look forward to the weekly crossword puzzle in your local newspaper or enjoy number puzzles like sudoku, you’re already on your way to good mental health! Mind games contain many memory methods that consistently exercise our cognitive function. When we solve a puzzle or win a game, our minds increase the production of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which regulates stress, mood, memory and concentration.  

The world’s population is rapidly aging, and the World Health Organization estimates that between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double, from 12% to 22% – this is an increase of 900 million to 2 billion people over the age of 60.

However, 20% of the senior population is facing mental health issues, ranging from depression and anxiety to cognitive disorders. 

Unfortunately, many of these mental health problems can often be overlooked by healthcare providers at any age. The stigmas associated with mental health complications also create a reluctance to speak up and ask for proper help. If you or a loved one are dealing with a mental health crisis, talk to your healthcare provider about how you’ve been feeling, how it’s been affecting your day-to-day life, and discuss treatment options. Whether it’s therapy, medication, or simply engaging in a more active lifestyle, it’s never too late to receive the help you need! 

At Astral at Auburn, we understand that mental wellness is vital for maintaining a life of purpose and meaning, and we want to help residents take care of their mental health and create a healthier mindset. 
For more resources and guides to increasing mental wellness, visit our website and discover how purposeful living at Astral at Auburn can create a healthy and happy environment for you or someone you love.

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