Focused woman writing in journal, on sofa at home

How Journalling Improves Your Mental Health

While many people keep a diary in their teenage years, this is a habit that so many tend to lose as they progress into adulthood. Although this may be a habit that you have never thought twice about since, journalling can really make a huge difference to your mental health. 

What is Journalling?

Journalling has been going on since ancient times, with the first known journals dating back to Japan in the 10th century. 

To put it simply…

Journalling is the practice of recording your thoughts, emotions and reactions to different events and situations. It differs slightly to keeping a diary, in the sense that a diary is more of a record of daily occurrences, whereas a journal is more about reflecting on life in order to gain some clarity. 

The advantages of journalling have been recognized by many famous faces over the years, with everyone from Oscar Wilde to US presidents choosing to keep a journal. 

In the past couple of years, social media has brought journalling back into the spotlight. Everything from bullet journals and gratitude journals to digital journals and journalling apps (all of which will be discussed in more detail further on) are becoming more popular, but why exactly is this? 

The Mental Health Benefits of Journalling

When you take a look at all of the many mental health benefits that journalling can bring, it is easy to see why this practice is now becoming increasingly popular. 

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two mental health conditions that can really take their toll on a person’s overall health. 

Chronic stress, along with the anxiety that this causes, can lead to: 

  • High blood sugar and blood pressure 
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks 
  • Depression 
  • A weak immune system 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Fertility problems

People are constantly looking for ways in which they can manage their stress and anxiety levels, and journalling is a great place to start. 

How does journalling help with stress and anxiety?

Well, research has found that journalling enables people to release their worries and anxieties from their mind, rather than suppressing them or dwelling on them.

Not only does this reduce stress and anxiety, but it also frees up the mind and allows it to properly focus on the task at hand. 

This works for dealing with your thoughts and feelings about stressful events that have happened in the past, as well as for stressful situations that are coming up in the future. 

It is also a great way to help you to avoid particular stress triggers in the future. 

How? 

By writing them down, you will be able to better identify exactly what it is that is causing your stress, meaning that you can then take steps in the future to avoid those triggers. 

Reduces the Symptoms of Depression

Around 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lives, making this a very prevalent illness that needs to be dealt with as early on as possible. 

Wondering how journalling helps a person to deal with depression? 

In a number of ways, such as: 

  • Perspective and control – getting your thoughts on to paper is a great way to look at a situation from a different perspective. It is also quite empowering, and due to the way in which it will make your problems seem more manageable, you will then feel as though you have a better sense of control over your life 
  • Increases awareness – you may not realize at first what it is that is making you feel depressed, but journalling can help you to identify this, bringing subconscious thoughts and feelings to the surface. This then makes it easier to deal with your triggers 
  • Tracking depression triggers – if you take note of your symptoms each and every day in your journal, it won’t be long before you begin to notice a pattern in the triggers that exacerbate your depression symptoms. This then makes it easier to avoid them in the future and keep your symptoms at a low 
  • Gratitude – regularly reminding yourself of the things you are grateful for you in your life can help to keep depressive symptoms at bay

There have been a number of studies carried out on the connection between journalling and depression. 

What did they discover? 

That those who were suffering from depressive disorders experienced a significant decline in their symptoms after journalling for just a few days, with these effects continuing on for the four weeks in which the participants were required to keep a journal.

Improves Memory

As mentioned above, journalling is such an effective way to reduce stress and clear your mind of all of the negative thoughts and emotions that are running through it. 

How is this linked to your memory?

Because freeing your mind of all of that negative clutter enables your working memory to function much better. It means that your brain does not have to use its cognitive energy focusing on stress or worries, and can instead use this to create memories. 

The fact that writing your experiences down on paper also helps to improve the way in which your memory retention works is an added bonus! 

Combats Sleep Deprivation

The quality of your sleep and the state of your mental health are so closely related. 

Sleep deprivation not only has a negative effect on your mental health, but mental health issues can also lead to sleep deprivation, resulting in quite the vicious cycle.

How does journalling help with this? 

Research shows that those who spend just five minutes before bed journalling are able to relax and fall asleep much faster than those who do not.

Think this sounds like an easy way to tackle your sleep deprivation? 

There’s one thing that you need to know if you want to use journalling to help with this…

Rather than journalling about what went on during the day, the improvements in your sleep patterns will only really come about if you journal about tasks that you still need to accomplish. In other words, writing a to-do list for the next day will bring about better results than writing about tasks you have already completed. 

Why? 

Because all of your to-do tasks are the ones that will keep your brain active in the evenings. Writing these down, and therefore offloading them, will then put your mind at ease, enabling your brain and body to fall asleep so much easier. 

The Different Methods of Journalling

Ready to give journalling a try? 

As mentioned earlier, there are now so many different ways in which you can do this, whether you prefer to go old school with pen and paper, or opt for something more high-tech and digital. 

It goes without saying that a blank notebook and a pen is all you really need to start journalling. 

However, if you need some extra help getting started, then you may want to look into some of the other journal types out there that provide all of the inspiration you need to really get your thoughts on paper. 

There are many journals out there that already contain journalling prompts, and these can sometimes make it easier to get started in terms of actually writing something down. 

Want something more high tech than pen and paper? 

There are several digital journalling tools and apps out there to choose from. 

Here are a few of the most popular: 

  • Ohlife – this free service will send you an email each day, asking how your day went. All you need to do is hit the reply button and type out a reply, which can be as short or long as you want. Send your email and then log on to your account to see all of your past replies 
  • Grid Diary – this program will send you eight question prompts a day, laying out your answers in an easy-to-view grid-like format 
  • Five Minute Journal – this app will send you timed prompts, asking you to list different things, whether this may be three things that you are appreciative of or five things that happened that day. This app was developed around psychology research, and is a great one for reflection 
  • Day One – offers a wide variety of features, from being able to add metadata and music information to the way in which you can customize it to send multiple prompts at certain times of each day 
  • Momento – Momento not only gives you the opportunity to jot down your thoughts and memories, but it also draws together all of the information you have posted each day on each of your social networks

What Should You Write About?

If you go for a journal or app that offers up writing prompts each day, then this makes it easy to know exactly what you should be writing about. 

However, going with just a blank notebook and a pen, or even a blank page on your computer, can sometimes leave you with writer’s block. 

So, how do you decide what to actually write about? 

Well, as mentioned earlier, if you want to use journalling as a way to help improve your sleep, then try to jot down a quick to-do list of your upcoming tasks the next day. 

However, in order to gain all of the other mental health benefits mentioned above, you need to delve a little deeper when journalling…

Here are some ideas of what to write about: 

  • Your accomplishments, no matter how small these may seem 
  • Five things that you are grateful for 
  • A recollection of the events that occurred that day 
  • Reflections, meaning sentences that begin with “I want”, “I think” and “I feel”
  • How things are going at work and in your personal life 
  • A bucket list 

Don’t worry about your spelling, grammar or punctuation when journalling. You need to be able to write freely from your mind, without having to worry about any of those things. 

If you don’t really enjoy writing, a bullet journal may be a better option for you. 

What is a bullet journal? 

If you do an online search for this, you are likely to feel a little overwhelmed. So, to put it simply, a bullet journal is basically just like a normal journal, except that you write things down in bullet points and lists rather than sentences and paragraphs.

This is referred to as rapid logging, and you would make use of different symbols to categorize your notes. 

It may seem complicated, but this method of journalling can actually be extremely helpful when it comes to improving your mental health. 

Making Journalling a Habit

Many people make the decision to start journalling, and go out and buy themselves an inspiring new notebook or journal, as well as some new pens, to get them started. 

While it may go well for the first day or so, turning journalling into an actual habit can be tricky. 

One of the best ways to do this is by keeping your journal near your bed. Set aside just five minutes each night before you go to bed for journalling. Doing this first thing in the morning can also be a great way to start your day. 

Alternatively, if you would like to let loose and freely write for longer, set aside 20 minutes of journalling time three times a week. If you consciously set days and times for journalling, this will make it much easier to incorporate the habit into your existing lifestyle. 

Keep doing this for a while and it won’t be long before journalling becomes a natural habit! 

As you can see, not only can journalling be so useful when it comes to improving your mental health, but it is also such a fun and creative practice to make use of. Even if you think that journalling may not be for you, give it a try for a week or two, as you will likely witness its benefits for yourself by then.  

Sad woman beside wall

Debunking Myths About Depression

What is depression? There are no outward physical symptoms, there; isn’t even a biological test to properly diagnose it. Is it just an excuse to get a license to use medical marijuana or a support pet? Is it an excuse to collect disability? Depression may be hard to prove, but its effects certainly seem quite evident. Suicides and attempted suicides are the most commonly discussed, but depression can also play a big part in quality of life and forming relationships. For those who are still unsure about the reality of depression, here are a few common myths about the condition, and the reality behind them.

Depression is a Sign of Mental Weakness
In order to fully understand depression, we need to accept that no one wants to be depressed. It is a result of a mental disorder and, if anything, it takes great mental strength to work through daily.

Depression is Brought On My Traumatic Events
While certain circumstances can trigger episodes of depression, the events do not cause depression. While it is true that upsetting experiences can make a person sad, a negative emotional reaction is normal, and does not necessarily point to any abnormality. However, when symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, and reoccur frequently, it may be cause for a depression diagnosis.

Depression is Not a Real Illness
While there are no outward physical signs of depression, it is very real and does have a scientific explanation. According to the Mayo clinic, depressed people have differences in their brains and hormone and neurotransmitter imbalance that determine both their condition and its severity.

sad woman on outdoor steps

Depression is a Figment of Your Imagination.
Even though depression is a condition widely associated with a person’s mental state, it may go deeper than that. The National Institute of Health points to severe cases in which sufferers may experience insomnia, fatigue, muscle aches, and chest pain. Promoting the idea that depressions only a mental illness is simply downgrading its severity.

Men Don’t Suffer Depression
According to statistics, women are two times as likely to develop depressive symptoms than their male counterparts. However, this does not in any way exclude men from the illness. Middle aged white men have shown the greatest increase in numbers of suicides committed annually. The reason for the misconception is the tendency for men to express their depression differently from females, which make it easier to overlook. Male stereotypes about strength and stability cause men to feel less comfortable about calling attention to their depressive states.Depression can actually be more dangerous for men, because they tend to engage in substance abuse as a form of self-medication and avoid seeking treatment.

Antidepressants Will Cure Depression
Depression is not a “one size fits all” condition, and does not have a “one size fits all” cure. Antidepressants may be a common treatment option prescribed by doctors, but not every depressed person responds the same way to the same pills. Some people opt for psychotherapy, in combination with or independent of medication to alleviate depression. Many people have to try different methods of treatment before arriving at the one which works best for them.

Do you or a loved one struggle with depression? If so, tell us what challenges you face and how you overcome them.

Anti-Depressants Dampening Your Sex Drive?

Anti-Depressants Dampening Your Sex Drive?

These days, it seems like there’s a pill for everything. Weight lose? There’s a pill for that. Aches and pains? There are pills for those. Better health? Vitamins are pills too. There are pills that make you well, and pills that make you sick, and with the latter lies the problem. While most medications are designed to improve mental and physical well being, they often come with a long list of side effects, that can be equally, if not more, detrimental than the condition they made to treat. When it comes to combatting depression, pills can be very uplifting, but not for all parts of the body. Here is some information on some of the side effects of antidepressants, and what you might want to consider before taking them.

Antidepressants and Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual side effects are probably the leading complaint about antidepressants. Most antidepressants are members of a classification of drugs called SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These work to raise levels of serotonin in the body, causing the person taking the drug to experience less anxiety. Unfortunately, this sense of relaxation can have a calming effect on the libido as well. SSRIs prevent hormones in the body from transmitting sexual messages to our brain, dialing down sex drives in the person taking them.

Side Effects of Antidepressants

Women taking SSRIs may experience blocked orgasms, delayed lubrication, and lack of desire for sex. Men who are affected by the serotonin stimulation from antidepressants may have trouble getting and maintaining erections, and will also show a decrease in libido. Males taking antidepressants may report blocked or delayed orgasms, and some drugs, such as Celexa, can cause sperm count to drop to nearly zero.

Both men and women often experience nausea, dizziness, sluggishness, and weight gain as a result of taking antidepressants. All of these can contribute to making the idea of sex less appealing. Weight gain, in particular, can cause self-consciousness that can lead to decreased sexual desire. Sometimes, weight management or the addition of an exercise routine can give you more energy and increase sexual appetite.

Ways Of Coping

Adjust Dosage

While no serious steps should be taken without first consulting a doctor, switching to a smaller does my help to decrease your risk of side effects. However, if you decide on this course of action, you will probably need to be monitored by a professional for several weeks, to ensure that its benefits outweigh its detriments.

Timing

You may be able to solve your sexual intercourse problems by taking your medication after your daily tryst. It may make sex less spontaneous, but it is an available option.

Rethink Your Prescription

If changing the timing and dosage does not help, you may want to consider changing your brand of antidepressant. Your doctor may be able to suggest a brand less likely to affect you sexually. Men may want to try using erectile dysfunction medications to maintain erections, while women may want to try an antidepressant aid called bupropion to increase libido.

Give It A While

One of the easiest ways to solve sexual dysfunction is to let it solve itself. Sometimes it takes the body time to adjust to antidepressants. Be patient, and discuss setting a timeline with your doctor to see if the side effects work themselves out on their own before taking alternate action.

Let us know how you cope with the side effects of your medications. More medicine or less?

Woman with dog at beach

Go Outside To Relieve Anxiety

Technology seems to be determined to deliver everything to us at the push of a button. We can shop, watch movies, eat, date, and even go on roller coasters all within the comfort of our own home. However, if life has become so easy, why do one in five women claim they suffer from anxiety all or most of the time, a figure almost double what it was two years ago? Perhaps it is because they don’t get outside often enough. Coinciding with the advent of Mental Health Awareness Week, ending on May 16, British Military Fitness has released research findings showing a direct link between outdoor exercise and the prevention of anxiety and depression. Could it be that the very technologies designed to lessen stress are really exacerbating it?

The Stats
Not only has the number of women suffering from anxiety been on the rise in the last five years, 22 percent admit being caught up in money worries and concern over the welfare of those close to them. This number has soared since 2009 when a survey by the Mental Health Foundation reported only 12 percent admitting to feelings of stress. In addition to the ladies, the charity Living with Anxiety found that over 50% of all people say they get more anxious now than they did in the past., and in a poll of 2,300 people by YouGov, almost a fifth reported feelings of anxiety about money, debt, and finance.

Anxiety
While anxiety can be a positive and even motivating emotion, constant unease can lead to panic, obsessive behaviors, and social phobias. Some sufferers resort to self-medication, including drugs, alcohol, and overeating, however, there are more healthful ways of coping.

Friends cycling

Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
Research by British Military Fitness shows a direct correlation between outdoor exercise and decreased stress levels. Of 1,000 people surveyed, 53.3 anxiety sufferers reported feeling better after spending time outdoors. Thirty-five percent said exercise boosted their moods, eased nervous feelings and lowered built up angst. According to Rob Love, managing director of BMF, “Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their lives, whether it’s preparing for a job interview or managing a household. The research is encouraging, as it shows there is a recognition that being outdoors and participating in physical activity does help with both anxiety and depression.”

Get Moving
If you’re finding life becoming overwhelming, exercise may be a good way to help you unwind. Exercise releases invigorating chemicals in the body that can have a positive effect on your mood and leave you feeling more relaxed. Added bonuses include a more toned body, higher levels of energy and better sleep. Exercising to reduce stress does not have to be stressful! You don’t have to commit to hours at the gym or high impact activities. A quick stroll or just walk upstairs instead of taking the elevator are both easy ways of sneaking a little movement into your day. Leisure activities can also be a fun way to get your heart rate up. Consider taking a dance class, or playing some golf or tennis.

Are you exercising to stave off depression? Let us know how you lighten up when things get heavy. We love to hear from you!

Happy mother and daughter

Help The Girls In Your Life Glow With Confidence

You’ve had your highs and lows. Your walks of fame and your walks of shame. And if there’s one thing you’ve learned from your experiences, its that confidence is the key. There is no situation that cannot be handled by holding your head high and shaking what your mama gave you. And now, its time for you to pass the torch. You’ve got a niece or a daughter and, if you teach her anything in this life, you’re determined that it will be the power of confidence. But, how can you do it? How can you show this shy acne plagued girl that she has so much untapped power at her command? Here are a few ideas.

Manage Your Inner Critic
Your girl is probably pretty hard on herself. Teach her to take notice of her inner voice. Would her best friend talk to her like that? Teach her to work on changing negative thoughts into helpful feedback.

Focus On the Good Things
A lot of teens focus so much on their problems, that its hard for them to see all the things that are going well for them. Suggest that she write down three good things about herself everyday or three ways she’s able to bring about a positive change in her life daily.

Mother and daughter

Don’t Aim For Perfection
Teach her that any achievements are valid. Even if she doesn’t get a perfect mark on a test, it doesn’t mean that she didn’t do well. Encourage her to always put in her best effort.

Mistakes Are Learning Opportunities
Remind your teenager that if she can fix her mistakes, they are not mistakes at all, but victories. Don’t let her get down on herself for messing up and remind her to focus on what she can do better next time.

Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
Teach your girl that her own accomplishments are the only ones that matter. Trying to get ahead of other people will only leave her further behind them.

Accept Compliments
She’s great and needs to get used to people telling her so. Advise her to give herself time to absorb a compliment and take it seriously, and pass it on! Complements should be given and received.

Happy teenage girl

Exercise
Staying physically active always helps to improve self-esteem. She’ll look better and feel less stressed while staying healthy.

Take Pride In Your Thoughts
If she’s a chip off the old block, your girl probably has a lot of good ideas to offer. Tell her to be bold about them. If someone disagrees, it just means that they see things differently than she does.

Accept What You Can’t Change
Sure, there are going to be things about herself that she’s not completely happy with. If its something she can change, like reaching a healthy weight, she should start today. If its something she can’t change, she probably notices it more than anyone else, and its probably not worth obsessing over.

Contribute
Nothing builds self esteem like helping to make a positive change. When she sees how much she can accomplish, her self esteem will sky rocket.

if you have a girl in you’re life that you want to see flourish, tell us about her. Let us know what she’s doing to build confidence and how you’re helping her do it. We want to hear all about it.

Sad woman with cup of tea

Causes of Adult Malnutrition

Malnutrition. It is defined as an excess or deficiency in intake of nutrients It refers to both the overweight and the underweight and, for the first time in centuries, the numbers are getting close. While feeding the hungry has always been always a priority, it is increasingly becoming the case that hunger is merely being traded for obesity, with one form of malnutrition simply being replaced by another, resulting in heart disease, cancer, chronic illness and shorter life expectancies. Ironically, at time when out nation has the most potential to eliminate the epidemic, it has boosted to record levels. Here are some of the most common causes of adult malnutrition.

Poor Diet
One of the leading causes of malnutrition is a poor diet. When an individual does not eat enough food, or if the food they do eat does not provide them with the nutrients required for good health, malnutrition may occur. Improper diet my be cause by several factors, including dysphagia, which is a difficulty swallowing due to an illness.

Sad woman

Mental Health Disorders
Poor mental health is often linked to a malnutrition. Depression may interfere with healthy eating habits and patients with eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, may also suffer from malnutrition.

Limited Mobility
Individuals who have a hard time getting around may become victims of malnutrition because of difficulty getting out to go shopping or simply finding food preparation difficult.

Digestive disorders
Despite eating properly, certain people have health conditions which prevent their bodies from absorbing the nutrients necessary for good health. Examples include individuals with ulcerative colitis of Crohn’s Disease.
Patients with Celiac disease have genetic disorders that make them gluten intolerant. This results in an increased risk of damage to the lining of their intestines. This condition also results in poor food absorption.

Woman drinking

Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a long-term disease that can result in gastritis or pancreatic damage. These conditions interfere with the body’s digestion and prevent the body from absorbing vitamins and producing hormones necessary for the regulation of metabolism. In addition, the calories supplied by the alcohol may reduce food cravings, and result in the person’s lack of desire for food. Consequently, the person’s meager diet may not supply him or her with essential nutrients.

Food Shortages
Poor and developing nations often suffer food shortages due to lack of agricultural technology, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and advanced methods of irrigation.

Food Prices and Distribution
Shockingly, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 80% of malnourished children live in nations that actually produce a surplus of food. In these cases, economist blame high food prices and problems with distribution of food to the needy.

Lack of Breastfeeding
Certain experts believe that much of the world’s malnutrition in children and infants is due to lack of breastfeeding. Some women are of the belief that bottle feeding is better, while other mothers, usually in the developing countries, abandon breastfeeding because their babies do not latch on properly, or the mothers find breastfeeding to be painful and uncomfortable.

Do you have any ideas for combatting malnutrition? Let us know how you believe this worldwide epidemic can be addressed. We’d love to start the conversation.

Woman exercising in gym

Optimal Brain Function Is The Key to Long Life

When songstress Grace Slick debuted her 1967 psychedelic rock masterpiece, “White Rabbit,” there was little doubt in the minds of her intended audience as to what she meant when she belted the infamous lyric: “feed your head.” Some 50 years later, things have certainly come full circle. Although to say many things have changed in the past 50 years is a bit of an understatement, we are still focused on expanding the mind, albeit with a healthier goal: longevity. Perhaps, we should take a closer look at the newer ways to “feed your head,” optimize brain function, and prolong your life.

Exercise
There’s nothing like a good walk for generating new ideas. Exercise gets your brain working at maximum capacity by increasing the level of nerve cells in your brain and protecting them from damage. Exercising also increases blood flow to the brain and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. A 2010 Neuroscience study showed that monkeys who exercised learned tasks two times as quickly as those who did not. Those are some smart chimps!

Omega-3 Fats
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fat which makes up 25% of the portion of the brain that is made up of fats and is a crucial component of your retina. It is also a structural ingredient in breast milk, which is thought to be the reason breast-fed babies score tend to score higher on IQ tests than those fed on formula. One study found that by taking 800 mgs of DHA a day for four months resulted in increased verbal fluency and can help reduce psychiatric illness and brain disorders.

Coconut Oil
Ketone bodies or ketoacids are substances which can renew and restore your brain’s nerve function after it has been damaged. Coconut oil has been shown to contain about 66% of the primary source of ketone bodies. According to research, just over 2 tablespoons of coconut oil could prevent neurological diseases and treat those that are already established.

Woman sleeping

Sleep
Sleep helps the brain to remove mind blocks, help you get a new perspective on problems, and enhance creativity. Harvard research shows that directly after sleeping, people are 33% more likely to make connections between ideas than before sleep. Sleep has also been shown to enhance memory and improve skill performance. In fact, as little as four to six hours of sleep can have a big impact on your clear thinking ability the following day, and we all could use that.

Gut Flora
Neurons in your gut produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which are also found in the brain and influence mood. Therefore, gut health can have an impact on your psyche, behavior and brain function.Healthy gut bacteria depends on your diet. If your diet consists of processed foods, your gut flora bacteria are likely not to perform as well. The best way to keep your gut flora at an optimal level is to limit processed food and sugar and take probiotic supplements.

It just goes to show, the more things change the more they stay the same. Let us know what you think. We love to hear from you! Really!

Woman holding her neck and forehead

The Emotional Aspects of Aging

People are living longer than ever, in fact according to the American Psychological Association, “people 65 years of age and older are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population.” The increasing number of older individuals is not limited to the United States; the Baylor College of Medicine Huffington Center on Aging states that “…by the year 2025, Japan is expected to have twice as many old persons as children.” Further, Baylor says that by 2025, there will be a global population of old people that exceeds one billion. Aging is not only a physical process, it is also emotional for both those who are aging and those who love an aging individual. Learn more about emotional aspects of aging below.

Emotions Due to an Uncertain Future
One of the most commonly experienced emotions in aging adults is fear. During the aging process, the inevitability of death becomes increasingly real and this realization can be a major source of uncertainty and dread. Death stirs up a myriad of feelings and some of the most frequent anxieties older adults face are:

  • Will I lose my memory and brain function?
  • How long will I be able to remain independence?
  • Will I be able to stay in the comfort of my home?
  • Will my life still have meaning if I am no longer able to take care of myself?
  • What will happen to my family if/when I die?
  • For many, financial concerns are a source of stress for their entire lives, but these worries only increase among aging adults. Many adults live on a fixed income and the thought of increasing medical costs can be scary and stressful.

Another source of fear for aging adults is that they will not receive fair medical care, and unfortunately, age discrimination in modern healthcare happens frequently. Older adults may be interested in trying alternative therapies or proactive and preventive health treatments, but doctors or other health professionals may resist because “that’s just how aging goes,” or “old people are supposed to be sick.” Proper medical care, including mental health treatment, may not extend a loved one’s life forever, but it will make the emotional and physical aspects of aging a bit easier to deal with.

How to Positively Approach Aging for Better Mental Health
Many fear the aging process; fine lines are wrinkles become the least concerning of all as women and men age. To approach aging with a positive attitude may seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. The Baylor College of Medicine suggests envisioning the future can help prepare one emotionally and physically for the aging process. They suggest engaging in prospective aging, which is accomplished through looking forward 40 to 50 years in the future and reflecting on healthy habits for healthy aging such as:

  • Exercising three to five times every week
  • Following a nutritionally sound diet
  • Coping with stress and illness effectively
  • Engaging in healthy lifestyle choices such as not smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation

Prospective aging aims to bring to light changes that can be made immediately to better help people prepare for aging. The most effective way to handle the aging process is to plan for the future while living the present. In order to do this, the Mayo Clinic suggests that people participate in the following steps to approach aging with more positive associations:

  • Stay mentally active – crosswords, sudoku and puzzles are all great ways for the elderly to improve mental function
  • Socialize regularly – having a circle of support adds emotional feelings of security and contentment
  • Eat a healthy diet – a diet that is nutritionally valuable arms the body with essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for a more graceful and healthy aging process
  • Manage chronic illness – be proactive and manage any illness to the fullest extent possible to avoid further complications or subsequent illness

Aging is often associated with a hint of negativity, and that increases emotional responses that focus on fear, stress and depression. Try prospective aging by imagining the future 50 years from now and reflecting on those positive steps to aging from the Mayo Clinic. Taking care of health today leads to a better, healthier and more joyous tomorrow.

Two women enjoying martinis

Girl's Nights – What They Really Do for Mental Health

You are busy, it’s as simple as that. Career obligations, social calendars and personal commitments are all vying for your attention and it can become overwhelming quickly. One way to fight back against the constant demands is to set aside time where you focus on you and what you need:  to relax and have a bit of fun. However, saying you need to take time for yourself and actually doing it are completely different. You may feel that you don’t have time to just go out with the girls for a fun night, or you may feel guilty leaving your significant other and/or children behind. It’s time you stop feeling guilty about making time for yourself with your girls. Not only do you finally get time to just enjoy yourself, you are also engaging in an activity that has some pretty awesome mental health benefits.

Why Your Mental Health Matters
With the long list of things to do each day come people that depend on your. Your boss depends on quality work, your kids depend on you for a healthy meal and your significant other depends on you for support. It seems counterintuitive to say that you need to take time for yourself when you have so many people relying on you each day but in reality it’s incredibly important and beneficial. Without taking time to take care of yourself, how are you going to effectively take care of those who make up the important parts of your life?

The Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services very plainly states the benefits of giving yourself some time saying, “[g]ood mental health helps you enjoy life and cope with problems. Just as you take care of your body by eating right and exercising, you can do things to protect your mental health.”

How a Girls Night Out Helps
Spending some time with your girls can:

  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Encourage you to avoid or change unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as lack of exercise or excessive drinking
  • Improve your self-worth and confidence
  • Help you cope with traumas, such as serious illness, divorce, the death of a loved one or job loss
  • Increase your sense of purpose and belonging

Spending a night out with the girls decreases feelings of depression, stress and anxiety, increase beneficial hormones and can also give your immune system a boost. Research suggests that socializing with people of your gender plays a role in improving mental health. The reason is as yet unknown but there is a theory that bonding occurs due to biological hormone differences between genders and because you may find it easier to relate to the life experiences of members of your gender.

We know it may be difficult to schedule time with friends or that you might feel guilty about doing so, but you shouldn’t. Hanging out with your girls not only gives you a bit of time to relax, it also does provide serious mental (and physical) health benefits. Take care of yourself so you can take care of the people and things that are most important to you.