According to Mind, around 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year. Worryingly, 1 in 6 people experience anxiety or depression in any given week.
Several studies show that teenagers who visit social media the most have a higher rate of depression than those who don’t. This appears to be even more prevalent in girls and, alarmingly, almost 40% who spend more than five hours a day on social media show symptoms of depression.
But you’re never too old to feel anxious.
YouGov research for Age UK showed that nearly half of adults (7.7million) aged 55+ have experienced depression. Furthermore, 7.3 million have suffered with anxiety.
So, what are the best ways to help look after your mental health?
Keep your mind active
It’s no secret that keeping your mind active is a great way to give yourself a mental boost. But in retirement – or if you’re facing physical limitations – it can become harder to keep your brain sharp in later life.
The simple things can make a huge difference. Reading a book for an hour or so a day can be enjoyable and stimulating. Alternatively, try a crossword, word search or one of the many useful apps – like Lumosity – that are designed to keep your brain active.
If you can, taking up a hobby – or learning a new skill – can be an incredibly rewarding experience. If you want to learn something new, but are worried about leaving the house, there are plenty of free courses online. However, the social aspect of enrolling on a course can be just as enriching as the course material itself. With that in mind, lifeline support could help offer the reassurance you need, whilst enabling you to try new things that keep your brain active.
Relax and stay mindful
There are many relaxation techniques that are known to help improve mental wellbeing. These include:
- Taking a break: read a book, take a bath or watch a film to distract yourself.
- Focus on your breathing: taking deep breaths can make you feel calmer.
- Listen to music: dance, sing or put headphones in and close your eyes.
- Picture a place: make sure it’s relaxing and peaceful – and escape reality.
- Try yoga: or other forms of gentle exercise like walking or pilates.
- Use guided meditation techniques: there are lots of free apps and sites.
- Be creative: try art, cooking, music or crafts – these are all therapeutic.
Mindfulness is also a great way to calm yourself and reduce those anxious feelings. Basically, it’s the practice of bringing yourself back to the present moment – and forgetting everything else.
When stressed, our minds can begin to wander, causing anxiety about what might happen. During stressful situations, it can be helpful to concentrate on the present moment. Notice all the things around you – how they smell, look and feel. If you think you’ll struggle to remember to do this, set aside a specific time each day.
Spend some time outside
If you are feeling able, getting outside has been proven to boost mental health. Alongside the benefits that exercise has on mood, sunlight will increase your vitamin D levels. On top of the physical advantages, such as increased bone strength, vitamin D has also been proven to decrease the symptoms of depression.
On an emotional level, if you don’t often get out of the house – or have much human interaction – it gives you the opportunity to socialise with others. Why not ask a friendly neighbour if they would mind you taking their dog out for a walk? Or, alternatively, try a site like borrow my doggy. This is a great way to find some companionship – as and when you need it.
Reach out for help
But above all else, don’t be afraid to reach out. If you don’t have someone to talk to, there are plenty of organisations that can help.
Samaritans has a free helpline that’s available 24/7: 116 123
Independent Age offer befriending services: 0800 319 6789
The Silver Line team are available for a chat 24/7: 0800 470 80 90
Friends of the Elderly offer year round support: 0330 332 1110
Contact the Elderly help tackle loneliness and social isolation: 0800 716543