10 Ways to Combat Isolation and Depression in Older Adults
If you find that you’re struggling to maintain a spirit of connection and joy don’t despair. It’s normal to experience feelings of loss or loneliness. If you are feeling down, here are some simple ways to get yourself through the season.
Know that you’re not alone. Feelings of sadness are common. Acknowledge your feelings and remember that it’s OK to feel this way.
Plan for positive growth. Make a list of your personal priorities for the year, no matter how small or large. Consider what areas of your life you’d like to develop more – perhaps learning a language or trying out a new art or craft. If you’re feeling lonely, put special emphasis on growing friendships and expanding your social circle. By articulating this as a priority, it will motivate you to make progress.
Give back. If you’re feeling lonely or down about your own life circumstances, consider finding ways to give back to those around you who are in need. Visit elders at a senior community, help out at a local soup kitchen or clothing drive, or read to children at your library. More of an animal lover? Consider volunteering at a humane society or fostering homeless animals.
Maintain healthy routines. The holidays often disrupt our usual schedules, and it’s easy to forget to get back to the healthy activities that can help manage stress and sadness. Make sure to include physical activities on your calendar, like going for walks and visiting the gym.
Create a buddy system. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, it can seem intimidating to attend social gatherings or cultural events by yourself. Rather than skipping them, consider who among your friends or acquaintances might like to attend with you. You might help yourself and someone else by extending an invitation.
Eat nutritious meals. Food is fuel. You won’t be able to succeed in your goals and maintain your health without proper nutrition. Make sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Drink plenty of fresh water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Be open to new experiences. You might be tempted to think that because you haven’t tried something before that you won’t be good at it. Don’t count yourself out too quickly. Try to challenge yourself more than you’re naturally inclined. Who knows: You might enjoy yourself and even find a new passion.
Be proactive about invitations. Rather than waiting for people to invite you to socialize, reach out to friends and neighbors who you haven’t talked to in awhile and invite them to get together. Whether it’s meeting for a cup of coffee or planning to check out a local museum together, the first step is to set plans in motion.
Get plenty of rest. Most people need between six and eight hours of sleep each night to function effectively and regulate mood. While it’s important to be active and social, make sure to give yourself plenty of downtime to avoid burnout.
Express gratitude. Take time every day to make note of specific, positive things in your life. Maybe you received a phone call from a friend, saw an adorable dog, or witnessed a lovely sunbeam break through a cloud. No matter how small, taking stock of moments of happiness and expressing gratitude for them can help you to focus on the positive elements of your life.