Exercising your mental health is just as important as exercising your body – it’s crucial to engage in brain-stimulating activities at every age.
Whether you’re in your twenties or in your sixties, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure a healthy mindset and maintain it in both the present and the future.
Not sure where to start? Read below for expert advice on the best mental health exercises for every stage of life.
In your 20s
One of the best exercises for your mental health is to make time for daydreaming and let your mind wander. “In our world today, many of us are bombarded by readily available stimuli,” says cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf. “You may be so connected that you’ve forgotten how to spend time alone with your thoughts, and this constant stimulation can actually cause brain damage, leading to feelings of depression and anxiety [by] increasing our cynicism and loneliness.” Dr. Leaf suggests allocating at least sixteen minutes a day to just thinking freely and allow your mind to wander.
In your 30s
Many people are fully immersed in their careers or learning how to be parents in their 30s. “This often results in a family-work balance that is difficult to maintain and can lead to damaging levels of toxic stress,” says Dr. Leaf. “This, in turn, can lead to neurochemical chaos, brain fog, cardiovascular diseases, strokes, and adrenal burnout. [So] do the following mind-brain exercise: choose to see stress as something that enhances, rather than diminishes, your performance. Visualize those blood vessels around your heart dilating and pumping blood and oxygen into your brain. Visualize neurotransmitters being released and see it all working together to help you focus and think with clarity to react in the best way. By doing this, you’ll make your brain and body work for you and not against you, helping you deal with the task at hand.”
In your 40s
“One of the best [mental health] exercises you can do at this stage of life is to develop what I call a controlled emotions mindset,” says Dr. Leaf. “First, recognize that you control your emotions. Second, recognize that although you may not be responsible for the cause of your emotions, you are responsible for the management of your emotions. Third, acknowledge your emotions — never suppress or ignore it. Lastly, write it down. [This] helps the brain sort out chaotic thoughts and emotions, find its cause, and helps find solutions by allowing you to think clearly.”
In your 50s
According to Dr. Leaf, you can make this stage of your life more mentally productive by channeling the negative “could have,” “should have,” and “why did I ever do that” thoughts into positive, life-giving energy. “This is incredibly healthy for [mental health] because it activates our neurons and neurochemicals, bringing healing because the brain is neuroplastic (meaning it can change, no matter how old you are),” says Dr. Leaf. Practice embracing the changes you need to make in your life by explaining those changes you’ve made in your thinking about the past to the relevant people affected and apologize for any wrongdoing.
In your 60s
Your 60s are about cultivating community, which can influence the health of your mind and body. “Community involvement has been associated with improved mental health, cognitive resilience, reduction of chronic pain, lower blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Leaf. “Developing a community mindset is an essential mind-brain exercise and can be done by thinking about how to get out of the house and foster community in your area, especially in the 60s when many of your friends and family members have either moved away or passed on. This could be as simple as starting a book club, reading to children in a local school, or volunteering at a local nonprofit organization.”
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xx, The FabFitFun Team