Senior woman laying down on a hammock

The Importance of Emotional Wellness For Seniors

Do you know anyone who’s happy 100% of the time? Neither do we. It’s normal to feel stress, anger and sadness. The key is to not let difficult situations get you down for long. How you deal with difficult situations is what determines your emotional wellness.

Seniors on the whole exhibit better emotional wellness than younger adults. By the time they’ve reached their 60s and 70s, they’ve been through some stuff and learned how to manage their emotions. Of course, older adults still experience sadness, anxiety, anger and distress. But they’re generally able to keep problems in perspective and rebound from setbacks.

So what, you may ask, is their secret to achieving emotional wellness? Before we answer the question, it’s important to know why you should take steps to improve your emotional health.

Poor emotional wellness can harm your health.

Negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can create chronic stress, which can lead to a slew of health problems. Chronic stress upsets the body’s hormone balance, depletes the brain chemicals required for happiness, and damages the immune system. It may even shorten your life span. Poorly managed stress is also related to a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes, depression and anxiety.

Emotional well-being can boost your health.

As much as poor emotional wellness can harm your health, having strong emotional wellness can help you thrive. By working on your emotional health, you can:

  • Be more resilient to stress
  • Connect with others more easily and improve relationships
  • Have higher self-esteem
  • Feel more energized with a positive outlook
  • Lower your risk for hypertension and heart disease

In addition to making life healthier and happier, strengthening emotional wellness may extend your life. A Yale study on aging and retirement found that seniors with a positive view of their lives lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more negative views. In another Yale study, older adults with positive beliefs about old age were less likely to develop dementia, even when they carried a genetic risk factor for the condition.

6 ways to improve your emotional health

Follow these tips for a healthier, happier you.

  1. Brighten your outlook. One sign of emotional wellness for seniors is being able to hold onto positive emotions longer and appreciate the good times. To develop a more positive mindset, give yourself credit for the good things you do for others. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes. Don’t dwell on them; learn from what went wrong. Surround yourself with positive people. And think about how to guide your life by the principles that are important to you.
  1. Stay active. Exercise can help manage stress, anxiety and depression. As an added bonus, whenever you exercise, you’re rewarded with a quick mood boost. Exercise regularly and you’ll gain self-confidence, improve brain function, and help prevent memory loss. The more you can incorporate aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises into your weekly routine, the better you’re likely to feel both physically and mentally.
  1. Strengthen connections. Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation — risks that can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. To strengthen your social connections, nourish them. Build strong relationships with family and friends. Join a group focused on a favorite hobby. Take a class to learn something new. Volunteer for things you care about in your community.
  1. Sleep well. Make getting enough sleep a priority. Most adults need eight hours of sleep a day to function at their best. A good night’s sleep boosts memory and creativity, and gets your day off to a great start. To improve sleep, maintain a regular sleep schedule, exercise daily, and limit the use of electronics before bedtime. You should also avoid large meals late at night. Getting outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day will also help regulate your sleep patterns.
  1. Keep a diary. This can help you keep track of your emotions and how you relate to others. If you’ve had a bad day, putting your thoughts down on paper can help you gain perspective and release tension. You may want to keep a gratitude journal by writing down all the things you’re thankful for every day. Taking a few minutes to write down all the good things that could happen to you in the future is another way to foster a positive outlook — especially if you put a plan in place to work toward a better future.
  1. Be mindful. Mindfulness is about being completely aware of what’s happening in the present. It means not living your life on autopilot. To be more mindful, simply take some deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose to a count of four, hold it for a second, then exhale through your mouth to a count of five. When you’re out for a walk, notice your breath and the sights and sounds around you. As thoughts and worries enter your mind, note them but then return to the present. Yoga and meditation classes can also help you be more mindful. Popular apps, such as Headspace, Ten Percent Happier, and Calm, are available online.

Wellness is a way of life at Canterbury Court.

Supporting the health of our residents is our top priority. Not that they need much encouragement. They know that taking care of their health helps them maintain a high quality of life. We simply provide opportunities to improve their health with activities and programs designed to engage mind, body and spirit. For example, fitness professionals at our Wellness Center can develop a personalized exercise program to help residents reach their goals. In addition, there are group fitness classes including tai chi, yoga, pool walking, aerobics and strength training that bring added motivation and laughter to every workout.Beyond physical wellness, there are opportunities that support all dimensions of wellness, including social, intellectual and spiritual wellness. To learn more about our approach to living a happier, healthier life, get in touch. It could be the first step to a happier new year.