Positive Mental Health

By Barb Riordan

The Beacon of Hope’s Wellness Committee has written a series of articles on common mental health issues we, or our family and friends, may face at some point in our lives. Well, now it’s time to be positive. Getting older can put some strain on our physical health, but it’s less commonly understood that it can also impact mental health. In fact, around 10-15% of older people living in the community suffer from anxiety or depression. So, here are some thoughts on things we can all do to keep a good positive attitude for our mental and emotional wellbeing.  Remember that what makes us happy will be different for everyone, so we have to find our own path to what is satisfying. Here are some helpful hints…


  • Spend quality time with close friends and family. They can offer comfort, support and reassurance Don’t wait for people to invite you but invite them over. (Chips and store-bought dips are fine. No one cares how clean your house is. Dim the lights!)
  • Find an activity that is meaningful, which can provide a sense of purpose. Check out the local organizations who offer activities. Maybe the Beacon of Hope’s Beacon Bites (or Wellness Committee!), SJCCA with all their groups such as card playing or painters, Matlacha Hookers with an infinite of options or learn about gardening with the Pine Island Garden Cub. Even the Chamber of Commerce has plenty of things you can do that fit with your interests. Check the Pine Island Eagle for ideas.
  • Physical activity is great, even in small doses. It’s amazing how many people walk dogs during the day. We may not remember the walker’s name but we sure all remember the dogs’ names. Do it on a regular basis and you’ll see the same dogs and eventually get to know the walkers. Try out the community pool at the center. It’s affordable and fun to do your own thing yet watch all the activity.
  • Remember we have so many social organizations on the island. If you’re a vet, there is the VFW and American Legion. Or check out the Moose Lodge or Elks Club not to mention all the faith-based organizations. The island organizations are all listed in the Eagle each week.
  • Relax and do things you enjoy
  • Too many of us watch TV to just have background noise. Try listening to quiet music or even classic rock and roll and dance to your own beat. You can even read an engaging book (check out the Pine Island Library for both physical and electronic books, their staff is happy to help) at the same time.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or tai-chi and other mindfulness techniques that can help manage anxiety and negative or intrusive thoughts. See who is offering free or low-cost classes on the island such as the SJCCA and Beacon of Hope.
  • Think about volunteering. Check out Helping Paws, our local no kill cat shelter, up in Doug Taylor Circle. Better yet, adopt a feline for an easy source of unconditional love! Or, check out the Food Pantry, Beacon of Hope, or FISH for ways to help your neighbors.
  • Talk a walk or ride your bike up our multi use path that runs from Bokeelia to St James City. No motorized vehicles allowed but your feet, bikes and skateboard are. Remember share the path!

Take Care of your Physical Needs

We may be talking about the health of your mind, but mental health and your body are interconnected. ‘Healthy mind, healthy body’ goes the old Roman adage, and in many ways, this is absolutely true. It’s very difficult to feel mentally on point if you’re not taking care of yourself. Eat nutritious meals that include all the main food groups: proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and fats and sleep well.

  • So many of us don’t sleep well. We all know what we’re supposed to do so figure out what works for you. When you have a good night’s sleep, what did you do the day before? Then, emulate it for the next day. Drink tea, walk the dog, whatever!!!
  • Make sure you wash yourself and your clothes and clean your living space regularly. Get help if you need it.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water to avoid dehydration. Bring water to bed with you so you can sip at night.
  • We also know we’re supposed to minimize the bad stuff that we all succumb to every now and again. Just remember to compensate as best as possible. Hot water with lemon is my nighttime beverage of choice.

There are so many things we can all do to foster better mental health, which can help our physical health. Just remember, don’t be shy about reaching out to people, maybe in small ways at first, and the rest will follow. The Beacon of Hope is always here to help and has a mental health counselor that you can visit by appointment.