I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Maintaining mental acuity

Rose from Cornwall Rose Garden

It turns out that tomorrow is World Mental Health Day. I didn't know this before trying to decide what to write about today, and when I asked SG what's on his mind, we discussed the need to keep ourselves mentally healthy. And a quick search on Google led me to find out that this has been an annually recognized day to bring attention to mental illness since 1992.
This day, each October, thousands of supporters come to celebrate this annual awareness program to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on people's lives worldwide. In some countries this day is part of an awareness week, such as Mental Health Week in Australia.

There are many websites that discuss how best we can maintain our mental health, which is just as important as physical health in our quest to have a good life. And, of course, as we age, many of us wonder if we will be able to keep our mental faculties all humming along happily until we no longer need them.

 It turns out that there are several places that will give you a list of what types of activities are necessary in order to keep our mental health in tiptop shape. Here's one of my favorites.

Make social connections a priority

After the Covid pandemic and all the ways it's changed my life, I realize that my family connections, especially my dear partner, are more important to me than ever. I've lost my exercise buddies, since the YMCA closed its doors for more than a year and don't offer any my old favorite classes any more. I've continued my daily visit to the coffee shop for more than just coffee. I would truly miss my dear friend John, who I see and interact with every day. And I have my hiking buddy Melanie, who is a lifeline to me in many ways.

Stay active

I am very grateful that I live in a place where I can get outdoors almost every day to enjoy the beautiful trails and parks in my neighborhood. Once a week I get a longer hike (on Thursdays) that I used to spend with the Senior Trailblazers. I might one day join them again, but for now I'm happy to have a friend who makes our time together a priority, and we always get a good workout together. I realized when I had my bloodwork done recently that I've lost some "good" cholesterol, but my numbers are still good. You get those when you exercise, and it also contributes to a lower incidence of heart disease.

Talk to someone

This is where having a spouse comes in really handy. He's available for any heart-to-heart talks that I feel it necessary to have. But if I didn't have him, I would look for someone who might like to hang out with me and spend some time together. Just getting together for coffee is essential social activity for me. The pandemic cost me my good friend Judy, since I don't go out to movies any more, but I might start again one of these days. I don't miss the movies, but I do miss her companionship.

Appeal to your senses

Just like the pretty rose at the beginning of this post, walking outdoors and seeing my surroundings makes me happy. My eyesight is diminished because of AMD, but I still can see everything and know that this is one sense I truly appreciate and hope will last for as long as possible. Smell is also not what it once was, but I could smell the rose and it brought back memories of other flowers I've enjoyed in the past. The sound of birds calling, the distant sound of a train, these are all sounds I hear every day. And of course, a delightful meal brings me joy.

Take up a relaxation practice

Recently I have started a meditation practice every day, and I'm surprised at how much it gives me. Although those few minutes in the morning sitting on my meditation bench and following my breath seems trivial, I feel the effects of it for the entire day. I don't get quite as rattled as I once did when things get weird. Maybe it will keep growing and spreading through my days. I will continue to make leisure and contemplation practices a priority.

Don't skimp on sleep

I usually try to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Last night I didn't, but most nights I do, and it makes a huge difference in the quality of my day. It seems important to me that we regenerate and the older I get, the more sleep I seem to need. I remember when I loved to stay up late, but I don't do that anymore and actually look forward to bedtime. For me, mornings are the best time of the day.

Eat a brain-healthy diet to support good mental health

Getting lots of omega-3 foods in your diet are important. These are things like walnuts, beans, leafy greens like kale, spinach, or brussel sprouts. They are way better for you than processed foods, even energy bars and other overprocessed items. They don't help your brain health. The more natural, the better.

Practice gratitude

There are, of course, many activities and other things we can do to help our mental health, but if you are really having a problem, please consider getting professional help. I am grateful that I have good health care and could find a pathway to a good doctor that could help me sort out any difficulties. But there are so many ways to practice gratitude, and I've been trying them all out myself. Feeling grateful for the blessings we have is paramount to a good quality of life.

* * *

And one thing that I have only skirted around the subject of is that of my virtual family. That's become a real benefit in my daily life. I would really miss it if I didn't know how my friends in other parts of the country, and the world, are doing. Some of you I don't even know your real name, or where you live, but it doesn't matter at all. You are still precious and valuable to me. Thank you for being my friend.

And with that, I have finished another Sunday contemplation. My tea is gone, my dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, and John will be here in a short hour to take me out for our now-essential Sunday morning breakfast. Until we meet again next week, please be well and I wish you all good things.


Marie Smith said...

Great compilation of suggestions, Jan. The blogging family helps with a few of these as you suggest. It’s helped me through the pandemic for sure. Have a great week, my friend.

Linda Reeder said...

I'm up earlier than usual for a Sunday morning because when I woke up I started to hurt. The older I get the less sleep I get. Good sleep can be hard to come by some nights, but at least I slept well most of the night this time.
I have a busy day ahead of me, with plenty of activity, some social contact, perhaps not the best of food, plenty of brain activity, and by the time I lay my head down tonight I will be on Whidbey Island.
Thanks for the interesting post. Have a good week, enjoying all your good life has to offer.

ApacheDug said...

Wow--this was certainly an enlightening read, and couldn't have come along at a better time. I try not to take my own mental faculties for granted, and given my own lifestyle (which can be a little too solitary at times) I worry about losing who I am as I get older. This is ironic, just this morning I got up around 4:30am and thought "I only slept 5 hours but oh well.." After a couple hours watching one awful news story after another, I forced myself to go back to bed and wound up sleeping another 90 minutes, got up feeling so much better! Anyway, good piece DJan. :^)

Tabor said...

I envy your ability to search out, make and keep friends. I do not have that skill and think I am not the best company, so why would anyone, except my husband, want to hang out with me? I really really need to work on that, but not sure where to start.

John's Island said...

I’m seeing the activities you mentioned to stay mentally active, discussed more frequently and in more places. It was a joy this morning to read how you are applying these activities in your own life. I always appreciate your spin on things. The pandemic has changed so much of our culture and the mental aspects of that are affecting everyone. I am grateful for any helpful suggestions, so, thank you DJan, for today’s post.

Elephant's Child said...

I love your focus on maintaining health - physical and mental. You inspire me. Often.
Huge hugs.

Far Side of Fifty said...

There are so many crazies in this world that need some mental health...I believe it is a crisis...along with Opioids.
I hope you have a wonderful week full of marvelous things!

Arkansas Patti said...

I do envy you your 8 hours sleep as 5 hours plus a nap are usually all I manage but this is a bit of my own fault. You stay active and exercise. I need to work on getting physically tired.
Staying socially connected is great for our mental health. Since the pandemic, most of my socializing has been over the phone or email. Miss those face to face encounters but am grateful for what I have. And yes, blogging has been a great help. We are starting to loosen up here and I have a luncheon with some friends this week. Ahhh.

Galen Pearl said...

All good suggestions! You are indeed fortunate to live in a location and in a community that fosters good companionship as well as good exercise and time in nature. Easier to practice gratitude then! I also enjoy mental games like Wordle, Sudoku, and the like.

Gigi said...

All excellent points; and I should pay more attention to several! I count blogging as a social connection; that counts, right?! Have a great week, DJan.

Linda Myers said...

I wish I could get more exercise - right now I'm somewhat limited by a knee that will be replaced next spring. Still, yesterday I walked a mile with a friend without stopping to sit a single time. We've been walking for four months every Saturday, and I'm seeing slow improvement in my stamina. That is a gift! I'm lucky to have good friends both in Washington and in Arizona, and we stay in touch. I've done enough Zoom that I feel connected and stimulated and supported. I feel very lucky.

Red said...

I really like the practice gratitude suggestion. After that there are many things that people can do to improve their aging. I do alright socially and like mixing with people. However, I do like to spend time alone.

Anvilcloud said...

That is crazy good advice. 😜
(See what I did there?)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you for this posting, which pinpoints some of the concerns I've recognized in the last three months in my lifestyle. I won't go into chapter and verse here. Perhaps I'll be able to post on my blog about all this, once I've grappled with the emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual slough I seem to be in. But your posting helps me realize that I am not alone. Peace.

Glenda Beall said...

DJan, I agree with all those suggestions for good mental health. I can't seem to sleep more than four hours a night and it is telling on me. I am tired during the day and feel lethargic. I am glad you practice all of those things you mentioned. You should have a long and healthy life. Good! I do profess my gratitude every single day and I think it is helpful.

Rita said...

You are on the right track for sure! Doing all the things they say to do. Isn't that wonderful! :)