Here’s the final – and my favourite part – of the series of blogs about mental health in later life. This one is all about enjoying yourself. In life we can become so fixated on doing the right thing, keeping fit, losing weight, working hard, helping others that we forget how to have fun. It sounds obvious I know but we must never lose sight of the fact one of the keys to a happy life is to do those things in life that make you happy.
Do things that you enjoy
Doing things that we enjoy makes us feel good about ourselves and about life plus it can keep our mind and body active. Whatever we call them, interests, hobbies and pastimes can provide a chance to socialise or to find time for ourselves.
Some people enjoy their work so much that they don’t want to retire. Explore the options with your employer. As there is no longer a default retirement age, there are a number of ways you can carry on working.
If work has taken up most of your life, it may be time to look around for a new interest to immerse yourself in. Meaningful activity is vital for good emotional health, so try to start new activities before you retire. Don’t be scared to try a few things before settling on the ones that you enjoy. You may have skills to share with others. Look at local volunteering options or join a specialist interest group. Time Bank is a skill-share scheme where you benefit from other people’s skills in exchange for your own. Or you may want to learn new skills or develop an old one. Local councils and universities run a range of education and learning opportunities, often at lower rates for older people.
Pets make wonderful companions and can bring social benefits, too. Walking the dog gives you daily exercise, is a reason to go out, and is a way of meeting people. House rabbits love to play, and cats crave a warm lap to curl up on. Your local vet or the RSPCA can advise about the best type of pet for you.
Always make time for your own hobbies and interests. If you are a busy carer, you must still find time for your own interests in order to look after your own wellbeing.
Relax and have a break
While being retired or semi-retired may appear to others to be a permanent holiday, the reality is different. There are still jobs that need doing like cleaning, car repairs, financial paperwork, and shopping. Plus, we may have new responsibilities as a carer.
Break from routine
Creating a routine for your day or week can give life a structure or rhythm. However, a break from this refreshes the mental batteries.
Plan free time in your weekly routines for things you enjoy, whether it’s time in the park or in the art gallery. A break needn’t be long: just time for what you enjoy and for letting your mind recharge. Look at how you spend your time. Can you find half an hour each day to pick up a book or sit with a crossword? What about every week? Is there time for an afternoon out?
Taking a break can be:
- A couple of hours away one afternoon
- An evening at the theatre
- A day trip
- A midweek venture
- A two-week cruise
It’s whatever relaxes you and helps you take a break.
Learn to relax
You may find it hard to relax if you feel under pressure to be doing something else. This can be because you feel guilty about not caring for others or because you aren’t used to having time to spend on yourself.
Right for you
Relaxing doesn’t have to be about sitting down or physically relaxing. It’s about doing something you enjoy. Having a hectic life may mean you want time alone when you have a break. Or do you want the company of others to stimulate your mind and make you think of things other than the stresses of life? Having a break can be a chance to meet new people and explore interests. It can be as active or as restful as you want – from a pottery course or learning first aid, to a walking weekend or trying paragliding!
Support and information
- Age UK www.ageuk.org.uk
Caring and carers
Confidential help and support
Legal, financial and public services
- Alzheimer’s Society: www.alzheimers.org.uk
- Dementia UK: www.dementiauk.org
- Depression Alliance www.depressionalliance.org
- Mental Health Foundation: www.mentalhealth.org.uk
- Mind: www.mind.org.uk
- NHS Choices: www.nhs.uk
- The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy: www.bacp.co.uk
- UK Council for Psychotherapy: www.psychotherapy.org.uk
Food, nutrition and healthy eating
You can also contact an organisation directly – for example, The National Trust, St John Ambulance, The Girls’ Brigade or Volunteer Reading Help – to offer your time.