Depression is a serious mental health disorder. However, people may experience the sad emotions associated with depression for reasons that can be prevented and corrected. No matter what your age, you can learn from these ten simple tips. Like many lists, these tips to get happy are easy to read. The real test is whether you will implement these changes in your life to gain their benefits!
1. Floss your teeth. There are clear and consistent relationships between tooth loss and depression. It's not only that you look better when your teeth are in reasonably good shape but that you feel better emotionally and will have better health. My dentist, in reacting to this news, noted that most people don't think about their teeth as part of their bodies, so they don't fret when their teeth need to be removed the way they would if, Jack Bauer-style, someone tried to remove part of their fingers. They figure when it's time for them to go, then out they should go. Your teeth do matter, however, and as you get older they will matter even more to your overall health.
2. Exercise. It seems that every week I have reason to extol the virtues of exercise. Here's a new twist on a familiar topic in this blog. A large scale investigation of studies conducted on a total of almost 650 older adults showed beneficial effects of exercise treatment; this effect is found repeatedly in studies of young adults. Exercise gets the endorphins to kick in, raising your mood, and also helps you to feel better about your physical abilities. Ultimately the more physically competent you feel, the better your mood, and a positive cycle gets going. As I've also shown repeatedly on this blog, exercise keeps your brain working more efficiently, improving your cognitive functioning and making you a better thinker.
3. Control your diet. Lowering your intake of high calorie, high sodium, and high sugar foods (a.k.a. junk food) will reduce your chances of experiencing depressive symptoms no matter what your age. Over time, the benefits will continue to accumulate. Older adults with the condition known as "metabolic syndrome," essentially a combination of pre-diabetes, overweight, and high cholesterol, have higher rates of depressive symptoms. Not only does your body work more effectively on healthier fuel, but you will also be less likely to experience such depression-generating conditions as chronic lower back pain and arthritis. A recent study suggested that depressed people eat more chocolate perhaps as an effort to self-medicate. Keep reading to find out better ways to treat your mood that don't compromise your diet.
4. Get enough sleep. We all know the frayed nerves and fatigue that go along with being sleep-deprived. Sleep disorders can certainly be a symptom of depression but depression can also emerge from chronic failure to put in a solid night of z-time.Researchers have found that treatment of insomnia can reduce and even prevent depression in adults of all ages. Proper sleep habits will also reduce other problems associated with depression, including many chronic health problems. Try to get 7 hours of sleep a night, at least.
5. Maintain sufficient vitamin levels. Researchers have found that many older people are vitamin-D deprived. According to one study, vitamin D protects the brain from vascular injury and improves overall metabolic and cardiovascular functioning. In other words, even if you follow Jack LaLanne's advice and stay away from dairy products, you should at least find some way to provide this vital dietary supplement.
6. Work on your relationships. Study after study shows that social support in the form of marital closeness, and good relations with children, friends, and grandchildren are important ways to protect yourself from depression. It's not only what you get from these relationships but also what you give. Being a mentor or support for someone else, as I've discussed elsewhere in this blog, is a surefire route to fulfillment.
7. Turn down your iPod. Hearing loss and depression have a long history of association. People with sensory impairments of all kinds are more likely to have less positive moods. Though some sensory losses are not preventable, hearing loss (for the most part) is. Turning up the volume of what goes into your headphones, or even wearing headphones at all, is a good way to kill off the tiny hair cells in your cochlea- the part of your ear containing the sensory receptors. So don't. Keep the volume low and minimize the time you do spend with the music piped into your eardrums.
8. Don't let aging get to you. My former doctoral student, Mark Weinberger, and I just completed a study in which we report on the relationship between people's views about aging and the experience of depressive symptoms. People who become preoccupied with their own physical symptoms are more likely to report a sad mood. It's true that depression can color your world negatively but it works both ways. Don't think too much about aging other than to take the steps to prevent what's preventable.
9. Watch out for falls. One of the great sources of depression if not death is hip fracture resulting from a fall. As we get older, our balance suffers unless we take active steps to maintain it. Practice simple exercises -such as standing on one leg- and although you may not become a trapeze artist as a result you will be more likely to stay on your feet if you trip over a stair, broken sidewalk, or some other obstruction. Maintaining your flexibility and keeping your muscles taut through such exercises as yoga, stretching, and resistance training are additional ways to avoid falling. You can start this no matter what your age and you'll start to see results right away.
10. Get treatment when you need it. Depression is a treatable condition that responds not only to medication but tonewer forms of psychotherapy that have now become the staple of the psychologist's toolkit. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which works on fixing your thoughts and your behaviors (as the term implies) is highly effective as is interpersonal therapy, which adds social skill training into the mix. Older adults tend to be reluctant to seek psychotherapy. Many prefer to complain to a physician about their bodily complaints rather than to admit to feeling sad or anxious. If you're feeling the characteristic signs and symptoms, some of which you can read about here, seek help. No matter what your age, you can benefit from psychological treatment.
With an improved outlook on life you'll be better able to take advantage of the other 9 tips you've just read about. Not only will you feel better but you'll live longer and get more out of the years you have.
About the Author:
Susan Krauss Whitbourne is a professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of 15 books; her most recent is The Search for Fulfillment.