According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Mental wellness is crucial to how people function in their daily lives. Not only does our mental state establish how we cope with stress or operate while we’re working or participating in an activity, but it also controls how we interact with others, how we make choices, and how we generally feel.
When we’re younger, for example, in our teenage years or early twenties, our mental health impacts the foundation for our ideas about ourselves and the world around us. As we start our careers and families, it relates to how we interact with loved ones and coworkers. And as we grow older, our mental health impacts our longevity and cognitive health.
It’s important to understand the role that good mental health plays in our well-being, and since October 10th is World Mental Health Day, Astral at Franklin wants to give you the tips you need to keep your brain happy and healthy!
Our cognitive function can change with age. These changes most commonly manifest in slower thinking, sustaining attention, multitasking, holding information in mind or finding the right words in conversations. While this can occur the older we get, it should be noted that a person’s mental health can accelerate many of these problems.
Mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, can impair mental health at any point in life, but these mood disorders can accelerate other physical and mental impairments in older adults. Studies have shown the direct association between mood disorders and cognitive impairment. Essentially, these mental health issues that can develop later in life lead to a higher risk of other health problems, like a greater risk of dementia and even stroke and heart disease.
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.
Unfortunately, out of the population of adults over the age of 60, 20% are facing mental health issues, ranging from depression and anxiety to cognitive disorders.
Many of these problems can often be overlooked by healthcare providers. This doesn’t just go for older adults but people of all ages, and the stigma associated with mental health issues can create a reluctance to speak up and ask for help. If you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health crisis, it’s important to disregard these stigmas. Instead, talk to a healthcare provider about how you’ve been feeling, how it’s been affecting your day-to-day life, and discuss different types of treatment options. Whether these options include therapy, medication, or simply engaging in a more active lifestyle, it’s never too late to receive the help you need.
At Astral at Franklin, 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 happy and healthy mindset.
Our brains need to be regularly exercised to reap all of the wellness benefits. Thankfully, exercising your brain isn’t challenging or strenuous! Many of the exercises that can benefit your mental health are probably activities you’ve already incorporated into your daily routine.
Here are some examples:
According to scientists at the Duke University Medical Center, mental and physical health are directly linked to one another. 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. In addition, these BDNFs enhance cell growth in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is often smaller in people with mood disorders.
Humans are social creatures by nature, and socialization is an amazing way to increase mental wellness. But unfortunately, about 40% of people over the age of 60 have reported feelings of isolation and loneliness, according to a recent study.
Loneliness is a common form of distress for older adults and has been medically linked to functional decline. In fact, it can put us at higher risk for memory loss and even immune diseases. When we socialize with others, our brains are continuously improving cognitive skills, mainly memory and focus.
Research has shown that people who engage in their hobbies regularly are less likely to suffer from stress and anxiety, as our interests instantly comfort and soothe our minds, keeping us relaxed. In terms of picking up new hobbies, the benefits are even more significant. When we teach ourselves a new activity, like playing an instrument, we’re triggering our cognitive functions of memory and focus so that we can learn and memorize each new task.
Are you the kind of person who looks forward to the weekly crossword puzzle in your newspaper? Do you enjoy solving sudoku puzzles or playing other number games? Good news, you’re already on your way to good mental health! Mind games, specifically number and word-based puzzles, contain many memory methods that consistently exercise our cognitive function. When we solve or finish a puzzle, our minds increase the production of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which regulates stress, mood, memory and concentration.
For more resources and guides to increasing mental wellness, visit our website and discover how purposeful living at Astral at Franklin can create a healthy and happy environment for you or someone you love!