Autumn Wellness – is your mood falling like the autumn leaves?

Autumn is here, and for some of us the leaves aren’t the only thing that’s falling, our mood is too.

You may have noticed a decline in your energy levels, or be feeling, as the young like to put it, “meh“.

If you’ve found your mood has dialled back since the clocks wound back, read on. We provide some simple insights on emotional well-being during the cold, winter months.

Lower your expectations when it comes to exercise

When you’re low on energy, everything feels – so – much – harder.

Finding the strength and willpower to get up and out is challenging. I think we all know how important exercise is for mental and physical health. But it’s a mission to get motivated when you’re feeling low.

You might find that if you set yourself a goal to walk 5 minutes, instead of a 30, that moves the psychological barrier.

Let’s face it, getting out the door is half the battle, and once you start walking you’ll probably find 5-minute leads to 10, and 10 leads to 20, which some say is the magic number!

20 minutes is the magic number

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Depending on what study you read, twenty minutes of exercise 5 times a week can lower depression risk for older adults. Others say 30 minutes three times a week.

Either way, movement matters, and it doesn’t have to be a lot to make a difference – which is encouraging.

Source: https://www.health.com/daily-exercise-lower-depression-older-adults-7562240

Of course, it helps if you have a nice place to walk, somewhere safe, pretty and easy to get around.

Residents of Settlers Lifestyle Village admit they are lucky that way. Enjoying the lush tropical gardens, breathing in fresh air, and coming across like-minded people as they stroll is definitely a plus.

But it’s not just movement that makes a difference, daylight does too.

Wintertime can leave us starved for light, which can negatively impact our energy levels, alertness, mood, and cognitive function.

Natural daylight has a powerful impact on our mood and well-being. Research has shown that serotonin levels in the brain are lowest in winter, which can lead to feelings of depression.

That’s why it’s so important to get as much natural light as you can during winter.

Try forest bathing

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Some interesting images come to mind when you think of forest bathing.

Firstly, you don’t actually ‘bathe’, which is reassuring given the temperature. Bask is probably a better way of describing it.

And you don’t need a forest, any natural environment will do. Although, for the record, we do have stunning bush surroundings in our Village!

So why is it so important to ‘forest bathe’.

Forest bathing is about being in nature and consciously connecting with what’s around you. It’s quite magical what you can observe.

“Autumn is such a miraculous time of year. I always take some moments to still myself and just be with the trees as they release their foliage.

It occurred to me one day that I was the only person in the history of this universe who had witnessed that particular leaf fall at that particular moment in that particular place!

Now that’s a miracle – and a perfect reminder that change is the most natural thing in the world”.
June, aged 78.

Visit a public open space

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Open spaces bring people together

According to one study, having large public open spaces is essential for supporting wellbeing as we age. This is because they promote social cohesion, create a sense of belonging, and help to:

  • Mitigate unpleasant urban environments
  • Encourage social mingling
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Enable autonomy

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9737378/

Settlers Lifestyle Village has designed its facility to encourage connectivity. There are many public open spaces for residents and their families to come together.

It’s also really spacious. You may ask how space affects mood; well, there are a few ways.

Space provides a feeling of openness and facilitates ease of movement.

Not all villages offer this feature. In fact, some can feel quite claustrophobic. High-rise buildings loom over the grounds, casting shadows and creating an overbearing atmosphere that can feel intimidating. Corridors that are too narrow only add to the feeling of constriction – some you can barely get a wheelchair through.

A spacious village on the other hand has wide corridors, high ceilings and large dining areas for family and friends to come together. This naturally allows for more sunlight to shine through, and, importantly encourages social connections. Which brings me to my next point.

Stay connected

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Strong social connections contribute to better physical and mental health, protecting against loneliness and depression. Study after study has found that health and psychological well-being improve for seniors when they:

  • Like and care about other people
  • Have fun together
  • Feel comfortable confiding in each other
  • Remind each other to stay healthy (Blieszner & Adams, 1992).

To put it another way – when they have good friends! This reminds me of the classic sitcom The Golden Girls. They had a special bond that represented all of these things… and more!

You may think this is fiction and would be difficult to replicate in real life. But some villages just have that ‘vibe’. They are fun, welcoming and genuine.

We often say ‘What would we be doing if we weren’t here’. I don’t think we would be as happy. We wouldn’t have the friends we have here.
Mary

“This is a happy village and it’s a homely village. It’s not clinical, it’s a community”.
Bev

One of the reasons why lifestyle villages can foster authentic connections is because they are very ‘leveling’ as one resident put it.

“You’re of the same mindset – so much in common – it’s very leveling. It doesn’t matter how much wealth anyone has, you’re all living in the same place. No one is going to put themselves above you. There’s no bragging to the Jones about doing better. What’s the point – your house is no different to ours!”
John

It’s certainly easier to stay connected when you live in a lifestyle village. The closer you are to each other, the easier it is to meet up.

“Last night we looked at the menu, and said let’s eat at the lodge. We made a couple of phone calls, and other residents joined us. That would never happen in the past. We could call people to come with us to a restaurant, but it hardly ever happened before. It was all too hard”.
June

Plus there are lots of activities and hobbies to enjoy, so doing things together is a breeze. The cafe and restaurant is a great place to catch up with friends. There are also many special events that are arranged, to bring people together alongside the weekly happy hours.

Which brings me to my next point – interests, activities and hobbies.

Keep your hobbies going, or take up a new one

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It’s easy to press pause on activities during the winter months.

Some seniors limit pursuits to just the basics because it’s easier than getting out. Budgetary concerns can also weigh heavily on their decision to pursue hobbies and activities – especially when power bills are higher.

But it’s really important to keep them going, for the sake of your well-being.

This is where a lifestyle village can really help. It’s so much easier to stay active and pursue interests when they are literally on your doorstep and they don’t cost anything. There are many activities each day in our village – check them out here.

Winter wellness wrap-up

Colder months challenge us with shorter days and less sunlight, which can lead to less energy. The temptation to hibernate can be high.

But it’s so important to stay connected and get out and about – even if it’s just for a short time.

Living in a supportive, beautiful community helps to ensure that even as the leaves fall and the temperatures drop, spirits remain buoyant, and well-being is preserved.

Your senior years, after all, should be just that – filled with warmth, sunshine and vibrant health, regardless of the season.

If you haven’t visited our village yet, please do. We’d love to welcome you to one of our Open Days. Take a stroll around the gardens, view one of our homes, visit our Butterfly House and chat to the residents.

A move to a village like ours could be just the tonic you need this winter.

*Please note that this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you’re experiencing feelings of sadness, difficulty sleeping, low concentration, energy and depression; seek help from your healthcare provider. If you are a resident of Settlers Lifestyle Village, you can also have a discreet chat with one of our nurses.