Feeling well is not just about being physically fit and healthy – it’s equally important to your overall health that you feel good mentally.
There’s no need to feel embarrassed about struggling with your feelings. There are several things you can do to look after your mental wellbeing, as well as steps you can take if you think you need some help. It’s never too early or too late to seek help.
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We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 055 6112. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 140 local Age UKs.
What is mental health?
Some people call mental health ‘mental wellbeing’, ‘emotional health’, or ‘emotional wellbeing’. Our mental health affects how we think and feel, and how we cope with life’s ups and downs. As we move through different stages of life and our circumstances change, our mental health can change too.
Mental health problems are more common than many people think. Because there are often no outward signs, you may not realise anything is wrong. Two of the most common mental health problems are depression and anxiety.
What can affect my mental wellbeing?
There are lots of reasons why your mental wellbeing can change. There may be a trigger point, usually a significant or distressing event, such as:
- relationship or family problems
- money worries
- disability or poor health, including sight and hearing loss
- being a carer
- being on your own
- the time of year.
What can I do if I’m feeling down?
If you’re feeling out of sorts and have any of these symptoms for two weeks or more, you may be experiencing depression:
- loss of self-confidence and feeling down
- feeling anxious
- not being able to enjoy the things you usually enjoy
- unexplained aches and pains
- avoiding people, even those close to you.
If you have any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor and explain how you’re feeling. Together you can agree on what next steps may be best for you.
The sooner you can address your problems, the less likely they are to develop further. Although it can be difficult, speaking to your friends and family about how you feel can help you see things from a different perspective. If you would rather speak to someone you’re not close to, you may find it helpful to talk to a counsellor or visit a support group.
What can I do to improve my mental wellbeing?
Just as you can look after your physical health to reduce your risk of becoming ill, you can take care of your mental health too.
Try doing the following things to boost your mental wellbeing:
Eat and drink sensibly
What we eat and drink affects how we feel. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables – try not to fill up on sugary and fatty foods.
Many of us enjoy having a drink now and again and it’s easy to try to convince ourselves that alcohol will make us feel better, but remember that alcohol is actually a depressant and can affect your mood. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and keep at least two days per week alcohol-free.
Research has shown that regular physical activity improves mood and increases the production of brain chemicals that make you feel happy. It’s never too late to get active.
Stay in touch and meet people
Stay in touch with friends. If you don’t have anyone nearby, there may be a local social group – in many areas you can find Friendship Centres which organise regular outings and activities. Contact the Elderly hold monthly afternoon tea parties for people over 75 and a volunteer driver can pick you up.
You could also get online to stay in touch with family and friends, make new friends, look at photos, find out about events and more.
If you find it hard to get out, you may be able to join Age UK’s telephone friendship calling service, Call in Time.
Research an interest or learn something new
Many local organisations have classes specifically for older people – check your local library, University of the Third Age (U3A), local council or nearest Age UK for more details. Volunteering is also a chance to use your experience to help others.
Create structure to your day and set yourself goals
No matter how small, goals can give you a sense of achievement and motivation. Your goal could be anything from finishing a crossword puzzle, or reading a chapter of a book, to doing some gardening. Planning days out or activities will give you something to look forward to and keep you feeling positive.
What should I do next?
Your mind matters
Read our free guide for more information on what can affect your mental wellbeing and more tips on staying well.