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6 Ways Seniors Can Avoid the Holiday Blues

Posted: 11/15/2018 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare
By Jennifer L. Cook
 
The holiday season is supposed to be a time of celebration with family and friends. But for many seniors who are less mobile than they used to be, who live alone or whose social circles have shrunk, it can be a challenging period. Make it brighter by thinking ahead and putting plans in place to add more joy to those tricky weeks and prevent a case of the holiday blues. Here are six ways to do just that.
 
Stay connected. Even if your family is absent because of distance or death, you needn’t spend the holidays all alone. Schedule phone calls or video calls with loved ones, whether relatives or old friends. Contact your local senior center to see if there are planned activities you can join. Ask a friend or neighbor to volunteer with you in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, or volunteer through your place of worship if you have one. Giving to others and putting a smile on their faces can do wonders for your spirits. If you can’t get out, invite a few friends or neighbors in for a visit over hot cocoa and cookies.
 
Count your blessings. Listing things you’re grateful for can help you shift your focus from sad or negative thoughts to happier, positive ones, according to psychiatrist Daniel Amen, M.D., author of “Feel Better Fast and Make It Last.” For seniors, practicing gratitude has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression and increase life satisfaction and happiness. To develop a daily practice, Dr. Amen suggests writing down three things, big or small, that you are grateful for every day. At bedtime, note as many things as you can think of that went well that day. Engaging in these practices can help you look on the bright side and feel better.
 
Maintain healthy habits. Overindulgence is a common pitfall during the holidays, whether it’s eating too much, drinking too much or spending too much. Try to stick to a healthy diet, getting plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein and keeping the sweets and fatty treats to the absolute must-haves. Keep in mind, too, that alcohol won’t lessen any sorrows and can depress your mood. Also, make a point of getting adequate sleep. Research suggests that people are less inclined to be sociable and may feel lonelier when they are sleep deprived.
 
Be active. Exercise is a great antidote for anxiety and depression. If you can, go outdoors for a daily walk. If your health or the weather makes that impossible, try some easy, at-home exercises like walking in place. Or, if you’re up to it, ask a friend or your caregiver, if you have one, to join you at the local mall for a walk. You’ll get to enjoy the holiday decorations and do a little window-shopping or actual shopping, too.
 
Let the sun shine in. At this time of year, daylight is in short supply, which can add to a person’s gloomy feelings, even if they haven’t been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the blues that often crop up in winter. To help stave off low moods, try sitting in a sunny window every morning and periodically throughout the day. You might also speak with your doctor about using a special light box, aka sun lamp.
 
Find your own way to honor loved ones. The holidays often bring to mind those who are no longer with us. Try not to dwell on your sadness but instead honor their memory by setting a place at the table for them, donating money in their name to a cause they cherished, lighting a candle in church for them or continuing a shared tradition.
 
This is the time of year to give thanks and to be kind and loving to others. Be sure to express your gratitude for all that you have, and treat yourself with kindness too.
 
 
Jennifer L. Cook, an award-winning journalist based in New York’s Hudson Valley, is dedicated to helping improve readers’ health and well-being.

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