Keeping track of and maintaining your mental wellness plays as critical a role in healthy aging as staying physically active. There are many steps seniors can take to improve and promote their mental wellness, which encompasses everything from staving off anxiety and depression to staying mentally active and sharp.
- Written by Christian Simmons
Christian Simmons is a writer for RetireGuide and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®). He covers Medicare and important retirement topics. Christian is a former winner of a Florida Society of News Editors journalism contest and has written professionally since 2016.Read More
- Edited BySavannah Pittle
Senior Financial Editor
Savannah Pittle is a professional writer and content editor with over 16 years of professional experience across multiple industries. She has ghostwritten for entrepreneurs and industry leaders and been published in mediums such as The Huffington Post, Southern Living and Interior Appeal Magazine.Read More
- Reviewed By Bart Astor
- Published: June 21, 2022
- Updated: May 23, 2023
- 8 min read time
- This page features 5 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
What is Mental Wellness?
Mental wellness is an all-encompassing term for your general mental state and wellbeing. Since mental wellness is a broad concept, it can include anything from your general mood and emotional state to how strong your mental capacity is and whether you are battling mental health issues like anxiety or depression.
This area can be especially important to monitor as you age. Retirement is a major life change, and such dramatic changes to your daily routines can quickly lead to fluctuations in your mental wellness.
- Your general mood
- Your mental health
- Your thoughts and feelings
- Your mental capacity and sharpness
You know you are mentally healthy and in a good spot if you are generally in a good mood, remain mentally engaged and tend not to be regularly plagued by worries or depression.
Your mental wellness may need improvement if you are struggling to stay happy or are struggling with mental health issues. If your mental wellness is affecting your quality of life, there are steps you can take to start improving your mental state in retirement.
Why is Mental Wellness Important?
Mental wellness is critical to remaining healthy overall, a fact that’s especially true as you age. While there is always much attention on physical health for seniors — and rightfully so — mental health is an equally important issue to monitor.
It’s crucial to not underplay the importance of mental wellness to overall health. Poor mental health can penetrate your life, affecting everything from your appetite to your ability to sleep.
In this way, mental health is deeply intertwined with physical health. Mental wellness issues can lead to issues with your physical health, and diseases and chronic conditions can further worsen your mental state.
What Factors Impact Your Mental Wellness?
There are a wide range of issues that can affect your mental wellness. These include both situational and genetic causes. For example, some people are simply predisposed to have mental health issues.
According to the National Library of Medicine, biological factors like your genetic makeup or having a family history of mental illness can impact your own mental wellness. Situational factors, like your lifestyle or diet, may also play a part.
How you feel each day naturally has a major impact on your mental wellness. It’s especially important to remember that it’s not normal nor should it be acceptable to feel down all the time.
Seniors often experience anxiety and depression — commonly stemming from new feelings of social isolation, reduced mobility and chronic pain — which are serious issues that can make your retirement life much more difficult than it needs to be.
If you are regularly down or being plagued by negative emotions, there are ways of getting help. Things as simple as changing your diet or getting more exercise can ease some of these issues, while other issues may be more involved and are best addressed by speaking to your doctor or a therapist.
Financial issues play a key role in mental wellness for many Americans. Being in debt or otherwise struggling to make your money go as far as it needs to in retirement are major forms of stress felt by seniors, negatively affecting your overall mental wellness.
Forbes reports that understanding money management can help you prevent difficult financial situations and stave off some of the mental wellness issues that stem from failing to understand money matters or finding yourself in a bad spot financially.
Experiencing changes to physical health is to be expected as you age, but the impact those changes have on your mental health may be surprising. Chronic conditions, in particular, can lead to mental health issues in seniors — especially if the condition is heavily altering how you live your life or what you are capable of physically and mentally.
Conversely, mental wellness issues can also lead to physical health issues. If your mental health is poor, you may be more susceptible to certain diseases and conditions.
Consider that adults with heart disease are two to three times more likely to be depressed than those without. Compounding that fact, research shows that depression dramatically worsens the prognosis. The link between mental and physical wellness is clear.
The health of your social connections is another determining factor for your overall mental wellness. Maintaining connections is important for seniors who often experience difficulty keeping up with friends and former coworkers after retirement.
Human beings naturally crave being around other people. Social isolation, a common experience for seniors, is a serious concern that can lead to a variety of mental health concerns.
How Can You Improve Your Mental Wellness?
There are many avenues you can try when looking to improve your mental wellness. Being proactive can stave off serious issues like anxiety and depression while making a positive impact on your overall health and daily happiness.
Diet and Exercise
Looking for ways to improve your diet and to get more exercise can be a simple and effective strategy for improving your mental wellness.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, regular exercise can alleviate serious mental health concerns like anxiety and depression while helping to improve your overall mood.
- Improved sleep quality
- Better endurance
- Stress relief
- Improved mood
- Increased energy
- Increased mental alertness
- Reduced weight and better body image
Eating the right food in the right amounts can help as well, keeping you more healthy overall. In fact, eating right and improved gut health can send signals to your brain that actually help improve your mood and level of satisfaction with your life.
Maintain Social Connections
After you retire, it’s easy to stop keeping up with your relationships. You no longer have that set daily routine that builds in regular social interaction, and you may subconsciously withdraw from many of the social contacts you formerly relied on.
Pushing back on this and keeping up with and maintaining social connections — whether that means making a concerted effort to see friends regularly or joining hobby clubs and groups to meet like-minded people — can deeply improve your mental wellness.
It helps to be proactive when making plans with loved ones, and don’t be afraid to look for fresh groups to join or hobbies to pick up.
You can even do research online to find the right local groups or clubs for your interests.
Taking part in mindfulness activities can help you remain engaged in your day-to-day life and prevent any mental health struggles from growing out of control.
A common form of mindfulness that seniors can try out is practicing meditation, helping you learn to calm your mind and stay present in the moment.
Doing puzzles or other games that require critical thinking can also be helpful for retaining cognition and mental sharpness. Some retirees find writing in a journal to be therapeutic. Simply staying involved with the regular activities that you enjoy, like gardening or cooking, can help to keep your mind sharp and occupied.
Mental Wellness Resources
Many resources exist to help you improve your mental health and wellness. These range from hotlines and informational resources to smartphone apps.
There are several websites with information that can help you find and access condition-specific resources. MentalHealth.gov is a government website offering a wide range of information on mental health, including resources specific to seniors.
For resources specifically targeted to older adults, visit the National Council on Aging website which offers a wealth of information to help Americans age with dignity.
If you or a loved one have mental wellness concerns stemming from Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia, Alzheimers.gov can provide you with the most relevant information for your needs.
If you need immediate help with mental health crisis, here are hotlines available to you.
You can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. The hotline is active all day, every day, and you can dial any time to speak with a qualified mental health professional.
To reach the Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741741 and a counselor will reach out — generally within minutes. You can then speak to a live counselor via text or phone call.
You can also always call 911 during a mental health emergency.
Mindfulness apps have grown in popularity in recent years, offering users an easy way to practice mindfulness at any moment from their phones or devices.
These apps typically offer mindfulness practices and short videos to guide you through meditation and can be valuable resources for staying calm and staying in the moment.
Therapy and counseling can be very beneficial for seniors. These services are essentially like any other doctor’s checkup, but for the health of your mind and overall mental well-being.
If you’re interested in therapy, look for qualified therapists available near you. You can ask your doctor for a recommendation or use the doctor finder tool available through your health insurance. Remote therapy has rapidly grown as telehealth has become more prevalent, so you may also have online therapy options.
No matter which avenue you choose, therapy services are an invaluable resource for improving mental wellness.
5 Cited Research Articles
- Frazier, L. (2022, January 19). Financial Wellness is Critical to Your Overall Health – And Financial Literacy is the Key. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfrazierpeck/2022/01/19/financial-wellness-is-critical-to-your-overall-healthand-financial-literacy-is-the-key/?sh=4e3be8c2cdcf
- New York Times. (2021, May 6). How Food May Improve Your Mood. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/06/well/eat/mental-health-food.html
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020, May 5). Mental Health. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/mentalhealth.html
- World Health Organization. (2017, December 12). Mental health of older adults. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-of-older-adults
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/