3 Evidence-Based Ways for Seniors to Increase Their Happiness
Around a quarter of people over 65 suffer from depression. That’s a huge number of people who are not enjoying life. For some it’s because they are facing difficult medical treatment or are in constant pain or facing death (either their own or a loved one’s).
Some people feel distressed that they are coming to the end of their life. Many feel lonely or that they are no longer useful. Some feel they are invisible now they have reached a certain age.
Others have money worries, but some are just generally down and depressed for no specific reason. Are you one of those people? Here are some evidence-based ways to become happier.
Maybe You Need a Hearing Aid
Many seniors resist the idea of a hearing aid, even when it’s evident to everyone else that they would benefit from one. They make excuses or just refuse to talk about it, often because they see it as a marker of “being old.”
If that’s how you feel, then you should read about the 2019 research from the University of Michigan which found that older adults who get a hearing aid for a newly diagnosed hearing loss have a lower risk of being diagnosed with dementia, depression, or anxiety for the first time over the next three years.
They also have a lower risk of suffering fall-related injuries than those who leave their hearing loss uncorrected. This research definitely makes me want to get my hearing checked regularly. What about you?
Work Your Skeletal Muscles to Increase Your Happiness
Exercise has numerous benefits in helping you feel better about yourself. Here’s one you probably didn’t know about!
Research has shown that physical activity may help to ‘turn on’ genes within skeletal muscles. This can then influence the key metabolic pathways that ultimately promote mood-enhancing chemicals within the brain, which help you to feel happy.
Keeping our skeletal muscles strong helps to boost our levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, for example.
The problem is that as we get older our skeletal muscles tend to deteriorate. We feel more fragile and we can do less. This deterioration of our muscles influences those metabolic pathways, meaning that fewer happiness chemicals are produced. Fewer happiness chemicals mean less happiness.
But don’t give up. In 2019, researchers put some healthy men on an exercise regime. In this case, it was strength training and high-intensity workouts on a stationary bike. Researchers analysed blood samples and changes to muscle before and after three months of exercise.
They found that there was enhanced gene expression within the skeletal muscles, leading to more happiness chemicals produced in the brain.
Of course, you need to keep exercising to keep those muscles strong. And you need to work them hard – it’s not enough to go for a leisurely stroll, even if it’s a long one. You need to do load bearing exercises – weight lifting in the gym, resistance training.
Volunteer to Be Happy
Older people who volunteer are happier and healthier, so they are less likely to be depressed. It seems obvious when you think about it – volunteering means you are meeting new people, possibly learning new skills and feeling valued and needed.
A 2014 research project confirms all this. The researchers reviewed 73 studies published over the previous 45 years involving adults aged 50-plus who were in formal volunteering roles.
The review found that volunteering is associated with reductions in symptoms of depression and better overall health. Volunteers were also living longer than those who didn’t volunteer.
According to this research, you need to volunteer for 2–3 hours per week to feel the benefit. Volunteering for more hours didn’t increase these benefits but may still be what you want to do.
Moreover, this same research found that people with a chronic health condition benefitted the most from volunteering. So, there’s nothing stopping you.
For more evidence-based health tips, check out my Health, Happiness and Wellbeing website.
What do you do to keep yourself happy? Do you depend on others to do that for you or have you taken matters in your own hands? What things/activities bring you the most happiness? Please share your stories with our community!