The National Institute for Mental Health estimates that five million seniors in the United States alone suffer from depression, although depression is often severely underdiagnosed. There is no single cause of depression in any age group; research indicates that genetic, biological, social, and psychological factors all play a role in depression. A family history of depression and traumatic life events can also be major contributors, as well as complications associated with aging such as limited mobility or chronic health conditions.
While there are prescription medications that can alleviate symptoms of depression, lifestyle changes are a positive way to promote happiness and healthy longevity. Exercising, finding a new hobby, visiting friends or family members, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet are all ways to boost mood. Developing these healthy habits into routines is known to reduce the likelihood of long-term depression.
Find your passion – what invigorates your zest for life? Here are 8 lifestyle habits that will help increase your happiness. Find the one that works best for you!
- Join a Gym. At a local gym, you will be able to get in your recommended amount of daily activity while meeting new people and making friends. A 2011 survey found that exercising at any level is associated with better physical and mental health, especially for older men and women.
- Keep Up Your Hobbies. What were your favorite pastimes before you retired – crocheting, gardening, dancing, or golf? There’s no reason to stop now. You may need to alter your hobbies to fit your physical abilities, but you can and should still do the things you enjoy most.
- Try Something New. Retirement doesn’t mean you retire from life. This is an opportunity to try something new – maybe learn a new language or travel somewhere you’ve never been. Redirect your purpose once you retire to redefine how you spend your time.
- Go Back to School. A number of colleges and universities, including Ivy League schools, allow seniors to audit courses at no charge. If you’re homebound, there are a multitude of courses available online.
- Volunteer in the Community. Give back to your local food pantry or library by donating your time – best of all, you will get to see the size of your impact. Volunteering is also a great opportunity to socialize with people of all ages.
- Immerse Yourself in Culture. Keeping active intellectually is as important as keeping active physically. Plan trips to local art galleries, museums, and science centers to learn new things and see what you can recall. Most institutions are wheelchair accessible, but if you feel more comfortable at home, many have online portals that you can take advantage of.
- Play Games. Look for neighbors or members of your church or senior center who are interested in bridge, poker, or similar pursuits, and form a group that meets regularly to play. Can’t get together? Play chess or other games online.
- Babysit. Another way to help out your community is to babysit for local families with childcare needs, or help out loved ones by watching their children. Families benefit from the extra support, and the children benefit from intergenerational bonding.
Most importantly, be proactive about living a healthy, active life. Whether you are volunteering, exercising, or traveling the world, be sure to live in the present moment – enjoy your surroundings and the company you are with. Cheers to your health and well-being!
Krans, Brian, “Geriatric Depression,” Healthline, September 4, 2012
Orenstein, Beth, “How to Live a Purposeful Life After Retirement,” Everyday Health, December 15, 2015
Porter, Rin, “Creating Good Routines in Retirement,” Things Could Be Worse, July 17, 2015.