There are many negative consequences of loneliness and isolation and one of these can be deterioration in our mental health and mental processes. A lack of social interaction and activity, and not taking an interest in our diet, can mean a decline in mood and mental wellness. Sometimes it can be the things we think will pick us up, which actually bring us down!
Foods which negatively affect mood and can increase feelings of anxiety include sugar, caffeine, alcohol and chocolate, while drinking water, eating vegetables, fruit and oil-rich fish can reduce stressful feelings and increase positive mood. I get it, we enjoy some of the things that aren’t good for us, but for how long? Alcohol is a depressant and the morning after we feel it, chocolate is great for the first hit, but how often do you wish you hadn’t finished the whole bar, layer, box? Getting more of the good stuff in your diet makes you feel good.
In addition to eating the right things, there is more and more research showing how exercise improves mental health and cognition. Exercise makes you feel better; you get a sense of achievement over getting started and proving you have the will power. And for most people exercise releases some nice helpful hormones which make you happy. It also increases blood flow to the brain, helping mental functioning. With some types of exercise you can also get to meet others and build relationships. Physical exercise has been found to ease depression, slow age-related memory loss and prevent Parkinson-like symptoms.
Anyone can do some form of exercise and feel the benefits. Actor Christopher Reeve made sure he exercised whenever he could even though he was a paraplegic. Twelve years after his fight with Chris Eubank resulting in six brain operations, boxer Michael Watson completed the London Marathon in 6 days, 2 hours, 27 minutes and 17 seconds. No one thought he would walk, write or talk again but he defied those expectations.
You don’t need to run a marathon to feel the benefits – there are plenty of at home, chair activities to get started: http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/fitness/Pages/sitting-exercises-for-older-people.aspx