Looking after our mental health

By March 18, 2019 March 19th, 2019 Archive News, General, Older Irish People

One in four people will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives, this is a stark reality and there is no doubt that as we get older, loneliness and isolation can feel a constant in our lives. Long winter nights, bad weather, ill health and/or poor mobility can prevent many people from leaving their homes and become the key elements to feelings of isolation and depression. As we grow old, we will have seen many of our close friends and family pass away and we may even find that we are the last surviving member of our generation or family, no doubt this brings with it a great sense of loss which can lead to bouts of anxiety and depression.

Yet, growing old brings with it the benefit of life experience – where we have learned through various life encounters how to cope and deal with a host of issues which life has thrown at us. However, nothing prepares us for old age itself. One of the greatest challenges as we reach old age is to keep a positive perspective to our lives, especially when we find we cannot do things we use to do, we don’t have the energy or mobility we used to have and people around us, especially the young do not appreciate our strife, we can become almost invisible.

It is important, although hard as it may seem, to not let negative thoughts penetrate our minds and take over our thinking making us feel down, annoyed or even angry. When we have negative thoughts about friends, family, or acquaintances it is important not to give in to them, don’t dwell on them, as they have no real purpose in our lives and only make us feel bitter and angry. It is best to turn our minds to positive things so that we simply just let go of the negatives. You will find that you feel much better for doing so.

We are in control of most situations in our everyday life no matter what our circumstances. It is important therefore that we all have strategies to help us cope with whatever our situation or what life throws at us.
If you are housebound and cannot leave your home, try to plan your day and how you will spend it. If your day is centred around watching TV, listening to the radio or music, then plan what you will watch or listen to. If you can phone a relative or friend look forward to making that call and beforehand make a list of the things you want to talk about. Make an effort to keeping your conversations as positive as you can so that you both enjoy talking to each other. You will find that you can share experiences and laugh together, all of which will leave you feeling happier at the end of the call. Similarly, if you are expecting visitors to come to see you, look forward to their visit and hearing the news they bring – welcome them to your home and again try to be positive in your conversations. This will take you away, even for that short time, from the pain and suffering in your own life.

It is good to talk to others about how we feel, there is no doubt it can bring some comfort but be mindful that others too have their issues and are maybe looking to the time with you as their release from their own worries and strife, even for a short time. It is important that we balance the negatives in our lives with the positives and in that way we will get more from our relationships.

If you are able to leave your home try to involve yourself with activities that mean meeting others, for example getting involved in your local church or in voluntary work, if you can, these things can give you a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. It is up to each of us to make the effort and take steps to enhance and fulfil our lives, no matter how small they may be.
The University of the 3rd Age (U3A) is an organisation set up for people in their later years to come together and get involved in a range of activities such as art, book clubs, social events such as playing cards or board games, having a cup of tea and cake and outings etc. There will definitely be a U3A group in your area, contact your local library or search the internet to find information on the U3A group near you and don’t be afraid to sign up, there will be something of interest for you.

Here are a few useful quotes about life which are food for thought:
‘In the end it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years’. Abraham Lincoln

‘Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more’. Mother Teresa

‘Make the most of every moment, we are not evolving, we are not going anywhere’. David Bowie


Good mental health can be achieved by living each day as it comes and trying to enjoy every moment. Don’t make the mistake of comparing your situation or life to that of others, it will only bring you down and remember, they too have their own stresses, worries and issues. So whatever you see on the outside may not be the whole story. We shouldn’t expect too much of life and then we won’t be disappointed. But most importantly, try to be happy, whatever your circumstances.

Written by Bernadette Hennigan – A mental Health professional and a volunteer with the Irish Seniors Project at the Irish Chaplaincy

Irish Chaplaincy

Author Irish Chaplaincy

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