'Happy aging' essentially means living a happy, cheerful life which is free of worries problems and dignity. There are primarily two major dimensions to the happy aging for an elderly: keeping physically well and having an agile mind. Both are equally important.
Lucky are those elders who are blessed with both physical fitness and mental agility. As old age continues and throws its extended shadow, either of the two facets of life (physical or mental) or at least one of them fades causing problems in life’s journey.
Traits of Absence of Mental Wellness:
“I am not well”, “I feel isolated”, “Everyone seems to neglect me” are some of the negative feelings that elders often suffer from. These are not “mental illness”; these are symptoms of “lack of mental wellness”. This means that the ability of the elders to think and feel with rational analytical brain sometimes gets blocked with emotive clouds thus overcoming rational thought processes and developing unnecessary mental block.
Lack of mental wellness cause worries, sense of isolation, feeling of loneliness & depression and absence of basic emotional balance to deal with situations. Thus, elders feel uncomfortable in presence of others, feel irritation at slightest provocation and suffer from a sense of helplessness.
Prevention is Better Than Cure:
The only way out of this is to develop right mental set up and train the mind so that it remains fresh, free from worries, emotionally stable and balanced to take rational decisions. As they say, “prevention is better than cure”.
There are obviously some ways of life that one can follow so that mental wellness is nurtured. Some of the strategies in this regard include:
1. A mental resolve to keep the mind above worries and negative thoughts is the starting point: We often see that elders, as they grow old, lose the resolve to fight mental fatigue. At every point of life, we must make it a point to keep worries away from us. That’s the first step in fighting this battle against mental unwellness.
A positive mental make-up is imperative.
2. Keep the body fit: A weak and unfit body is often found to be the breeding ground for mental weakness. As people get physically tired, so does the mind. Therefore, all efforts should be made to keep the body fresh and agile.
A daily dose of physical exercises, walk, yoga, and other workouts will help the body in good condition and thereby keeping the mind fresh as well.
3. Keep the mind active: One of the main reasons of the absence of mental wellbeing is that the elders keep themselves idle and therefore, a passive mind. This idle mind is the main source of all types of negative thoughts & ill feelings rendering it weak and unstable.
Best way is to keep the mind active and busy; barring the sleeping and resting time, there should always be a defined routine so that the mind is kept busy.
New hobbies, moving around, gardening, listening to music, reading books, doing community service, are some of the ways to keep the mind busy. This will prevent any unwanted thoughts and emotional issues.
4. Remain socially connected: Man is a social animal and hence social connectivity is essential for a good life. We often see many elders withdrawing from active life including their friends / earlier colleagues and taking recluse in self-made retreat. This is not the ideal way of living.
Human being must enjoy the fun and energy of groups; humans are created to live in teams and groups. Family is one example of it. This is possibly the best way to keep mind engaged.
Elders must talk and talk to all people they know, or they may not even know. They should talk to all types of people of all ages. This will keep them engaged.
Becoming active members of senior citizen associations or like-minded groups like walking club is one of the best ways of collective living. This helps to keep away individual worries / problems at least for some time.
5. Be with positive aspects of life: As often seen, negative thoughts are the prime source of unhappiness and lack of mental wellness. Hence, the elders must make conscious efforts to be away from people who emanate negative energies. There is no point in arguing as that does not lead to anywhere. The best way is to be away from such people.
Similarly, elders must explore what gives them positive energy; human beings are unique and have different likings. They should remain in touch with those things / activities / aspects of life that give them positive energy and should stay away from those that radiate negative vibes.
Mental wellness is an important aspect of attitude. You may be fine still you may feel negative. Therefore, it is important to develop the right mental attitude to feel good and mentally stable.
The attitude of looking at everything with a positive mindset will improve the mental quotient and quality of life. All elders mut develop strong mental wellbeing as it is crucial to happy and healthy aging.
(By Dr A K Sen Gupta, Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). He may be contacted at email@example.com or 9821128103)
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