How cool would it be to know that the efforts we make to improve our mental and physical health and well-being may ALSO boost our brain health? Recent research from AARP's Global Council on Brain Health asserts just that! Not only does our mood potentially impact cognitive functions like memory or decision-making, but our very outlook on life and our feelings of purpose in this world also serve protective brain functions, including our capacity to reason, reduced risk of dementia and our coping abilities. Awesome! So, when and how do we start?
Well, for starters, there is copious research that Animal Assisted Interventions and therapies or owning your own pet can improve psychological, physiological, and neurocognitive health. The comfort of physical contact with a companion animal can result in relaxation and stress buffering effects. Let's call that Tip #1....But sometimes the care of a pet can be more than manageable, pets aren't allowed in one's residence, or there is just limited access to Animal Assisted Interventions. Let's go ahead and look at the other tips for improving mood and outlook, as suggested by the AARP Council:
TIPS FOR IMPROVING MENTAL WELL-BEING AND BRAIN HEALTH:
- Look for and participate in activities YOU enjoy and make you feel good, TODAY! Perhaps join a sewing club or choir, go for a walk, purchase some art supplies and start that project you've been considering
- Seek meaningful relationships. Meet your neighbors, or introduce yourself to the person next to you at church or the post office
- Start volunteering. Volunteering has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, and loneliness, as well as increase purpose. Not sure where to begin? Volunteer Match offers a search engine based on your geography, interests, and skills.
- Get some sleep. Try to keep a regular sleep/wake schedule, avoid screen time (TV, tablet, smartphone) within a period before going to and getting into bed. If you tend to struggle with quality sleep, getting to sleep, or waking up regularly, speak with your physician or a good therapist to see if there's something physically or emotionally keeping you up at night.
- Eat foods that energize you. The more colorful and greater variety of foods you choose, including lots of fruits and veggies, solid proteins, and healthy fats, the greater your chances of better mental health and well-being. If you have difficulty accessing nutritious foods, your local Meals on Wheels might be able to help!
- Get going with some joyful movement. No need to adhere to a rigorous routine or set number of minutes or steps. Do something that you love and can be present and in the moment while enjoying. Any activities from gardening to yoga to a walk in a local green space can relieve stress and improve your mental health.
I don't know about you, but just writing this segment gave me some great ideas for this weekend! And if my mental well-being and brain health improve in the process? All the better! If you're seeking opportunities to bring greater purpose and meaning to your days, don't hesitate to reach out to Fresh Air Counseling. We love collaborating with adults of all ages, especially older adults, to find new and exciting ways to bring vitality and meaning to the life you deserve. Contact us today! And be well!