I just ran across this newly-published set of guidelines for helping seniors succeed in retaining their mental function and well-being as they age. As a senior myself who has a family with a history of Alzheimer’s and dementia I found it to be on point with my own situation.
The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars, and policy experts from around the world who are working in areas of brain health related to human cognition. The GCBH focuses on brain health relating to people’s ability to think and reason as they age, including aspects of memory, perception and judgment.
We believe the following suggestions will increase the chances for people to experience or optimize mental well-being. If you are already engaging in these healthy activities, continue to do so, and consider trying something new as well.
1. Take the time to develop and strengthen relationships with family and friends. For more about the brain health benefits of strong social ties, see the GCBH report, The Brain and Social Connectedness: GCBH Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health.
2. Spend time outdoors to regularly appreciate and enjoy nature.
3. Develop or strengthen your feeling of having a purpose in life.
4. Honor your feelings. Acknowledging and accepting positive and negative emotions is vital to mental well- being.
5. Identify enjoyable activities (e.g., hobbies, exercise) that can lift your mood even when you are down.
6. Come to peace with your past decisions and acknowledge what you cannot change.
7. Accentuate the positive, even during illness, distress, or frustration.
8. Engage in regular exercise to benefit the body and mind. If you don’t currently exercise, start with walking or water aerobics, but also consider playing sports, lifting weights, hiking, and swimming. For more information about the brain-health benefits of exercise, see The Brain- Body Connection: GCBH Recommendations on Physical Activity and Brain Health.
9. Avoid repetitively going over the same issues or problems (harmful rumination) by learning to quiet negative excessive thoughts. Distract yourself with music or reading, confide in friends, set time limits, challenge the repetitive thought, see recommendation 10,
10. Try a mindful movement practice such as yoga or tai chi and/or start a meditation practice, such as deep breathing alone or with others.
11. If you are under chronic stress, look for ways—through exercise, meditation, yoga and/or therapy—to relieve the mental and physical effects of stress.
12. Get seven to eight hours of sleep at night, and optimize the quality of your sleep. For more practical tips on getting good quality sleep, see The Brain-Sleep Connection: GCBH Recommendations on Sleep and Brain Health.
13. Beware of medications that are linked to an increased risk in anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping. Regularly review all your medications—including vitamins and supplements—with your doctor or health care provider.
14. Consult a doctor or mental health professional if you think you may suffer from anxiety or depression.
15. Work with a doctor to manage conditions such as diabetes and heart disease that can be detrimental to brain and overall physical health.
16. Avoid excessive alcohol. If you do drink, drink in moderation.