May is National Mental Health Awareness month and that means it’s time to take a closer look at an area that has to deal with a lot of stigma, especially among older adults. The thing about mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety is that they can happen to anyone, regardless of age, background, gender, etc. And yes, that does include impacting seniors. Whether you live at home or at our Oceanside senior living community, it’s important to know how to tackle these issues.

Exercise isn’t a cure all or fix all for depression or other mental health concerns. However, countless studies have shown that it can actually help to curb some of the symptoms. Even basic exercises such as walking can help bolster brain health, encourage cellular regeneration, and keep our basic body functions working at their best conditions. Not only that, but it can even improve our self esteem and motivation! 

If you need a little help getting started, don’t worry! Keep reading to learn more about the five exercises you can try to help combat depression.

1.) Go For a Walk

You don’t have to be training for a triathlon to enjoy the benefits of going for a walk or light jog. Simply lacing up your sneakers and doing a bit of cardio can do wonders for your mental health, giving you a much needed boost of serotonin. Even 15-20 minutes a day of light aerobic exercise can dramatically improve heart and lung health. 

If you don’t feel comfortable walking alone or would prefer a group or a partner, check out our monthly event schedule! Several days a week, we offer various opportunities for group walking, including ‘walk for wellness’ or ‘fun walk Friday’. Joining in on either of these walks will be a great way to fight depression and stay active.

2.) Refocus with Yoga

Retirement is the perfect time to try something new! If you’ve thought about yoga but never have had the time or opportunity to join a class, know that it can be a great way to help your mental health. The primary point of yoga is to focus on breathing, stretching, and bringing one to the point of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the idea that you are well aware of your thoughts and actions, and through this awareness, you can gain better insight into yourself. 

So how does this help with depression? While depression has many contributing factors, one of the big ones is stress. Yes, even folks in retirement can feel stressed out, especially when faced with big changes. For those in memory care, it can be especially difficult due to some of the challenges they face due to their dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Yoga can help decrease this stress and refocus that energy into more positive areas.

3.) Try Out Tai-Chi 

Here is another great Eastern practice that has gained popularity: Tai-Chi. Don’t worry, despite how it might sound, it’s not really a form of martial arts. Instead, it is more of a traditional way to reduce stress, relieve depression symptoms, and yes, even improve mobility! Tai-Chi is versatile, and there are many moves that can be completed while seated or standing, so it’s perfect for just about anyone.

Tai-Chi focuses on a series of slow, graceful movements that are simple yet deliberate. If you take Tai-Chi as a class, you also get the added benefit of socialization and feeling connected to something bigger than yourself. You can make friends and even practice together in your spare time! 

4.) Start a Garden

While you might not initially think of gardening as a workout, just try planting one! Gardening is one the best examples of a non traditional form of exercise. After all, it doesn’t have to be a structured class to count! Anything that gets you moving, your heart racing, and your blood pumping certainly counts in our book. Weeding, raking, planting, and upkeep – these are all sure fire ways to get the exercise you need.

As an added benefit, gardening and caring for something is a great way to ease the symptoms of depression. Being responsible for the wellbeing of another living thing, whether it be a person, animal, or plant, can give you a renewed sense of purpose and an extra reason to wake up every morning. Many people even say that talking to their plants is great therapy, even if the plants don’t have much to say in return. 

A senior couple works together in their garden

5.) Daily Dose of Sunshine

Now that warmer weather is here, it’s the perfect time to get out and into the sunshine! Many people of all ages suffer from something called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or better known as ‘the winter blues’. Though despite its title, it can still be hard to shake this feeling even once the days get longer again. However, one of the quickest ways to get back on track is to go out into the sunshine.

For all the activities we’ve already mentioned, try doing them outdoors whenever you can. The Vitamin D from the sun is good for us and gives us an added boost of serotonin. Being out in nature and away from electronics and stuffy environments also does us quite a bit of good. Stroll through one of our walking trails, practice mindfulness or tai chi in one of the courtyards, start a garden with your friends – whatever you do, just make sure to spend ample time outside when you can! (Also, don’t forget to bring along some sunscreen!)

Oceanside Senior Living

These are just a few ideas that we have here at Heritage Hills. Our Oceanside senior living community is always looking for ways to help our residents feel their happiest and healthiest selves! That is why we have an active monthly calendar and a caring staff ready to meet those needs. 

If you are looking for a way to thrive in retirement, consider checking out Heritage Hills. We specialize in memory care as well as respite care for both short and long term. Contact us today to take a tour of our facility or to ask any questions that you may have.