Perhaps one benefit
of being a boomer is longevity! We tend to live longer and healthier lives than
our grandparents, and in many cases even our parents, did.
to having more years to enjoy those things that bring bliss to our lives, we
are usually able to maintain our independence well into our 80s and beyond.
For the most
part, this is wonderful news. But longer, more independent living also means
that many of us are living alone – often for the first time in many years – with
friends and family not always nearby.
isolation, along with such things as the loss of a partner or the management of
a chronic illness, can put us at high risk for depression, which is more common
than you may think.
According to Mental Health America, more than two million, or roughly six percent, of us will suffer from depression at some point. And, our depression symptoms may go beyond feeling sad and include being exhausted, having trouble concentrating and irritability.
Games May Provide an Effective Depression Prevention or Management Tool
There are many
things you can do, starting today, to help with depression. And as it turns
out, one activity which may help with depression is playing games.
A good amount
of research has come out recently on what benefit, if any, playing games such
as Mahjong, Scrabble and Bingo, or doing crosswords, Sudoku or jigsaw puzzles,
could have on boomer mental health. The answer is, “A lot!”
Mahjong, Board and Card Games
One recent study done by the University of Georgia suggested that
urban residents in China who play Mahjong (a tile-based strategy game) were
less likely to report feeling depressed.
was the game itself, or the social interaction it provides, that helped
alleviate depression is unclear, but it most likely was a combination of both.
The benefits of social interaction for boomer
mental health is well known, and the type of strategic thinking
required to play Mahjong has been shown to help keep cognitive skills sharp.
The fun of
playing can also trigger the release of endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals,
in our brains which, in turn, can lift our mood.
Give your brain a boost with our FREE Sixty and Me games! With Sudoku, Mahjong, Crosswords and so much more, there’s something for everyone! Let’s have some fun!
that score high on helping with mental health – both from a social aspect as
well as exercising our brains – are chess, card games (think Bridge, Rummy,
Crazy Eights and Solitaire), checkers and Backgammon.
classics as Monopoly, Clue, word search and Wheel of Fortune can help ward off
depression and improve your cognitive skills.
What I really
found fascinating is that playing video games may also help reduce depression
and give an overall boost to our mental health even when antidepressants
In one report, for example, researchers suggested that
playing certain computer games was just as effective as the well-known
antidepressant Lexapro at reducing depression symptoms.
surprising was the finding that participants in this study started to
experience positive results in just four weeks rather than the 12 it usually
takes for medication to work.
benefit of playing video games was that participants also showed improvement in
cognitive skills and, specifically, executive functions. So, the next time your
grandkids are playing video games at your place, instead of telling them to
stop, you may want to join them in the fun!
How to Make the Most of Playing Games
Here are a few
tips on how to maximize the value of games for managing or preventing
depression and mental health in general.
Choose Your Favorites
Pick a game
you like and enjoy playing since that will increase the probability you will
stick with it. If you really hate word games, don’t play them.
Diversify Your Choices
Pick a variety
of games – some that you can play alone and some that you can play with others,
either face-to-face or online, to expand your social network.
Try Games You Can Grow with
Look for games that offer different difficulty levels so that you can start out on an easier level and progress to harder ones as you get better at the game.
Make Use of All Game Options
in mind that many games have online versions that you can play on your computer
as well as “app” versions that you can play on your smart phone or tablet. With
all the options today, your choices are almost limitless.
Don’t Forget About Nutrition
games is only one part of what you can do to prevent or better manage
depression. The other is to make sure that your brain is getting all the nutrients
it needs, and in the right amounts, to reduce your risk of developing
already have depression, a good balance of nutrients may reduce the likelihood
of it getting more serious. In fact, scientists have come up with a scale that
may help you choose which foods to eat for improving
is a short list of brain-essential nutrients for preventing and treating
depression, and foods that are great sources for them:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, kale, brussels sprouts
- Magnesium: dark leafy greens, nuts (cashews, peanuts, almonds), brown rice
- Calcium: dairy products, dark leafy greens, chia seeds, sardines, tofu
- Fiber: raspberries, pears, whole-wheat pasta, lentils, artichokes, green peas
- Vitamins B1, B9, B12:
- B1: beef, liver, oranges, oats, legumes
- B9: legumes, citrus fruits, bananas, grain products
- B12: beef, chicken, eggs, fish and dairy.
- Vitamin D: sun exposure, fortified cereals and fortified OJ, egg yolks, mushrooms
- Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, safflower oil
evidence that, as women, we may need a larger spectrum of
nutrients to support mood, compared to men. For boomer women, it’s especially
important to focus on nutrient-dense foods that will help ensure our brains are
getting the right nutrients in the right amounts.
Of course, if
you have been diagnosed with depression, you should not make any changes to
your current treatment program without first talking with your healthcare
What are you currently doing to avoid isolation,
depression and to keep mentally sharp? Are you concerned about developing
depression and, if so, have you spoken with your healthcare provider about it? Please
join the conversation.