What Is Emotional Health?
The terms emotional wellness, emotional health, and emotional well-being are often used interchangeably, but they all mean the same thing. It’s an awareness, understanding and acceptance of feelings, and the ability to manage effectively through challenges and change. It includes how you feel about yourself, how you cope with stress, and being able to express your feelings in healthy ways.
Why Does Emotional Wellness Matter for Seniors?
Authors of a study on seniors’ well-being found that “Aging itself is not inevitably associated with a decline in mood and quality of life. It is rather the case that psychosocial factors such as depression or anxiety impair subjective well-being.” In other words, age doesn’t mean a lesser quality of life, but poor emotional health does.
Aging, as with every stage of life, involves change. Your health, or that of a loved one, may take an unexpected turn. Retiring from your job may shrink your social circles or impact your sense of purpose. Adult children and grandchildren may move farther away. You can’t avoid the changes, but how you navigate them can make all the difference.
The mind-body connection is strong and can have some significant consequences for your physical health, as well as impacting other aspects of wellness.
- A Yale study on aging and retirement found that seniors with a positive view of their lives lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more negative views. Multiple studies out of Europe have also found that a positive attitude is correlated with longevity.
- Untreated depression in seniors with heart disease negatively affects the outcome of the disease.
- Chronic stress can lower your immunity; lead to musculoskeletal pain; exacerbate breathing problems; increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke; and negatively impact your gastric and nervous systems.
How Is Your Emotional Well-being?
This short quiz will help you evaluate how you’re doing. Rate each statement on a scale of 1 to 4:
4 = Almost Always True
3 = Sometimes True
2 = Rarely True
1 = Never True
___ I accept responsibility for my actions.
___ I see challenges as opportunities for growth.
___ I believe that I have considerable control over my life.
___ I feel good about myself.
___ I’m able to effectively cope with stress and tension.
___ I make time for hobbies or leisure pursuits.
___ I’m able to recognize my personal shortcomings and learn from my mistakes.
___ I’m able to recognize and express my feelings.
___ I express gratitude daily for the gifts I have.
___ I’m able to forgive people who distress me.
___ I’m able to develop and maintain close relationships
___ I enjoy life.
___ Total Score (out of a possible 48)
How Did You Do?
38 to 48 Points – Congratulations, you’re doing well.
25 to 37 Points – Not bad, but you have room for improvement. In which areas can you challenge yourself?
13 – 24 Points – It’s time to find more emotional balance. What changes can you make to improve your score?
1 to 12 Points – Your emotional health needs a lot of work. Challenge yourself to start making small steps toward growth.
Five Ways to Improve Your Emotional Health
Start Moving: Even moderate physical activity can reduce feelings of depression and stress, and significantly improve levels of emotional well-being. Walking, yoga, dancing or Tai Chi may be good places to start.
Stay Connected: Isolation and feelings of loneliness can lead to depression and some serious health issues. Be intentional about maintaining healthy relationships and developing new ones. Taking a class, volunteering, or joining a group focused on a shared hobby can introduce you to some interesting new friends.
Practice Positivity: Choosing forgiveness and gratitude about the past, mindfulness to appreciate the present, and optimism about the future can help you increase your positive emotions.
Learn Coping Skills: It’s possible to learn how to manage negative feelings and stress, navigate grief, and improve your resiliency during hard times. Talking with a professional such as a therapist or spiritual advisor can give you the tools you need.
Get Better Sleep: Not giving your body the rest it needs impacts your mood, as well as your ability to concentrate and make good decisions. Regular exercise, relaxing bedtime routines, and going to bed and waking up each day at the same time can help you improve your sleep.
How Senior Living Communities Support Emotional Wellness
Living in a senior living community can be beneficial for all aspects of your well-being, including emotional health. The Age Well Study from Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging found that residents of Life Plan Communities (also known as continuing care retirement communities) have high levels of emotional wellness. In fact, residents scored significantly better on many emotional outcomes than older adults in the community at large. They have higher levels of life satisfaction, positive mood, perceptions of aging, optimism, and lower levels of stress and feelings of hopelessness.
Residents of senior living communities have more time to pursue healthy emotional outlets via personal interests, and have more opportunities to develop relationships with fellow residents and staff. On-site fitness programs and nutritious dining make it easier to stay active and healthy. And having professional support through staff, geriatric psychologists, and support for spiritual wellness help with both everyday and long-term needs.
If you’d like to find out how a senior living community near you supports emotional well-being, you can find one by using this locator tool.