How Seniors Can Elevate Their Mood
You know the old saying, “We are what we eat.”
We all know that doesn’t literally mean we could turn into jelly donuts after we eat them. It does mean our middles can look like a donut and jiggle like jelly if we overindulge too often. And that doesn’t make anyone feel physically and mentally healthy, especially older adults.
So if seniors eat lots of carrot and celery sticks, they’ll stay skinny and chipper? Well, sort of. But physical and mental health are tied together for sure.
Certain foods can improve seniors’ overall mood; a positive mood equates to a lower risk of depression and anxiety. Happier, healthier older adults are more inclined to have more energy to do things like exercise. And when they feel better, they’re incentivized to keep eating better.
Here are some activities and tips for seniors to boost their mood, along with ways nutrition can help seniors boost their mood and energy.
Activities to boost seniors’ mood
- Exercising regularly. We have to lead with the most obvious first, but it’s true. Regular, low-impact exercise like walking, biking, yoga and tai chi is great for older adults’ health, especially when done with friends. If seniors can get in 20-30 minutes of exercise every day, mind and body both benefit.
- Maintaining social connections. People who have strong social ties have lower rates of stress, depression and anxiety, and studies have shown friends can also help seniors live longer.
- Playing games. Board games, online games, card games — it doesn’t matter. Games of all kinds activate key parts of the brain, the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which stimulates memory and helps ward off the effects of dementia. Game-playing can also boost seniors’ immune systems, improve hand-eye coordination and dexterity, and reduce stress. Who knew a competitive game of Scrabble or a crossword puzzle could do all that?
- Learning something new. Learn how to play a musical instrument, or learn how to speak a foreign language (Icelandic, anyone?). Acquiring new skills sharpens seniors’ brains and improves memory.
- Adopting a pet. Pets can improve an older adult’s mood by offering vital social interaction and enhancing overall quality of life. Dogs in particular can be a great pet if an aging adult wants to get more exercise: After all, dogs love walking. Pets also help older adults find a new purpose, because all pets need regular care.
- Getting outside. Nature can be an incredible mood-booster. There’s even a word for it: forest bathing. It’s proven to reduce stress hormone production, lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system, and improve feelings of happiness.
Ways nutrition helps seniors boost mood and energy
Let’s revisit that jelly donut analogy. Who would feel great eating the same unhealthy item day after day? For one answer, see the movie Super Size Me, in which Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but fast food for every meal for one month.
For older adults who want to boost their mood through foods, the key is to eat a balanced diet that integrates a variety of these types of foods.
- Dark chocolate: One study found that eating a little dark chocolate can reduce cortisol levels and other stress hormones. Researchers think it could be because of antioxidants found in dark chocolate.
- Leafy greens: The mineral magnesium helps reduce anxiety. Dark leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard are loaded with it; so are almonds and avocados. So make a salad and get lots of magnesium in every bite.
- Berries: Berries of all kinds pack a wide range of antioxidants and phenolic compounds, which play a key role in combating an imbalance of harmful compounds in your body. They’re particularly high in anthocyanins, a pigment that gives certain berries their bluish-purple color. One study associated a diet rich in anthocyanins with a 39% lower risk of depression symptoms.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds provide tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin.
- Fatty fish: Though it’s an essential fat needed to survive, the body doesn’t produce Omega-3 fatty acids on its own. It only comes from eating fatty fish like salmon and albacore tuna. People who aren’t fans of fish can get omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts and canola oil.
Staying active and eating nutritious foods at every meal can be tough for some aging adults. It’s much easier when they’re constantly surrounded by health and wellness opportunities — like at an Independent Living community such as Eagle Senior Living.