First, some good news – I firmly believe that our later years are the best years.
The truth is, you can have the time of your life when you reach your 60s and 70s.
Work, mortgage and worries about bringing up children will all be in the past, and you’ll have an abundance of the one thing younger people want but can’t buy – time to enjoy yourself.
These days, age really isn’t a barrier to doing anything – as long as you have your health and a mindset that means you are happy, relaxed and open to new experiences.
This is why looking after your mental health has never been more important.
Studies have shown that people in their later years are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, than younger people.
However, they are less likely to seek help.
In fact, one piece of research found 85% of older people suffering from depression don’t get the help they need.
This is why I’ve put together this exclusive two-part guide to looking after your mind and mental wellbeing.
It’s a practical how-to guide packed with simple tips and advice that’s designed to help you embrace life with enthusiasm and confidence.
Don’t forget, if you are struggling with low mood or anxiety, you should always consult your GP for advice and treatment.
Power of positive
If I were to choose one factor above all others to increase longevity, it would be optimism. It can give you real resilience as you
Research has shown that people with optimistic attitudes have fewer illnesses and recover more quickly than pessimists when they are unwell.
This is because pessimism weakens the immune system. Studies have even shown that people with negative or hopeless attitudes are at greater risk of developing heart disease.
Optimists are more likely to feel they can take charge of their health and not just passively slide into old age.
They tend to take better care of themselves too. They sleep better, don’t drink or smoke too much, exercise regularly and are freer from depression. They live longer and age more gently.
It’s worth cultivating an optimistic mindset, believe me.
Learn to stress less
You have probably heard that stress can be very ageing – and to a certain extent that’s true.
However it doesn’t have to be that way. There is good stress and bad stress, and you can learn how to turn the bad kind into the good.
By this I mean it’s possible to manage stress so that it increases our productivity rather than reduces it.
We all differ in how we react to stress. Some people thrive on challenges, while others react with fear, anxiety and worry. So how you feel depends on how you personally respond to stress in the first place.
If you react positively, there’s no problem. But people who don’t handle stress well live shorter lives. So dealing calmly with stress is a trick worth learning in order to ensure a longer and happier life.
Here are tried and tested techniques to help you cope with stress.
Smile, smile, smile
When we smile it acts as a trigger to the mind and body to release chemicals that induce pleasant emotions.
The same thing happens when someone smiles at you.
But did you know you can store this good feeling in your memory, and call up the good feelings whenever you want to?
Start by recalling the sensation of smiling in your mind, and visualise an image that makes you smile. Hold that image
in your mind and breathe slowly and calmly.
Now, smile back at that image. The change in your facial muscles may be very slight but you should feel a peaceful sensation.
Become fully aware of that sensation and embrace it. Next time you’re feeling stressed, smile inwardly to yourself to recall this happy feeling.
Make time to meditate
Meditation can sound complicated or intimidating, but it isn’t. It’s simply a way of quieting the mind.
When your mind is quiet, you will feel a sense of peace and absence of stressful feelings.
When we meditate, we empty our minds of thoughts and problems.
This allows us to be in the present moment, rather than being separated from it by our thoughts, feelings, plans and expectations.
Try this simple meditation exercise:
1 Sit comfortably with your spine straight. Focus your attention on your abdomen as you inhale and exhale in a natural way.
2 Take a few deep breaths without straining. Let the flow of your breath settle into its own natural rhythm, while keeping focused and aware during the whole process.
3 Allow your attention to focus on the changing rhythm of your breath.
When your attention
begins to wander, gently but firmly bring it back to your breathing.
4 Count your breaths: on exhalation count one, on the next exhalation count two, and so on until you reach 10. Then start over again.
Practising this technique will help with concentration. Your attention will improve and your mind will become clearer and calmer. You can do it anywhere and anytime, and just 10 minutes twice a day will reap benefits.