My Mental Health

Key Concept

Watching television 5 hours a day dumbs us down, but so often it is used to push away loneliness. It feels like we’ve got Friends, that we are part of the conversation, involved in the action – but we are not. Social Media is the same – lots of Friends but no friends who really care about us. Earlier in the programme we introduced the concept of Eldering – there is a critical role you could be playing! To play that role you need to stay mentally sharp – and that takes courage – you have to put yourself “out there” and you have to challenge yourself.


This module looks at activities and exercises you can use to maintain your mental health – and it looks at one of our biggest fears – Alzheimer’s. It also looks at the Depression that sometimes arrives with retirement – and introduces The Dark Night of the Soul.

Mental Health

Mentally - use it or lose it!

  • Stay active socially; don’t get lonely
  • Read, debate, do crosswords, puzzles, brain teasers
  • Paint or draw,
  • Learn a language
  • Learn to play a musical instrument.
  • Undertake a course at College / University. There are full time courses, Summer and Winter programmes, Correspondence courses.
  • Become a member of U3A – the University of the 3rd Age
  • Do fun stuff – go eccentric
  • Offer your expertise to your community (with or without payment)

Crosswords and Sudoku are great for keeping the juice flowing, but if you really want to challenge yourself, become a member of Lumosity.

Lumosity: Brain Games & Brain Training

Challenge your brain with games designed by neuroscientists to exercise memory and attention. Customize your personalized brain training programme today.


Let’s face the Beast – Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is spoken about as if it were a given of old age. However we all know old people who are still mentally sharp and are making a difference in the world.

So let’s get it out of the way - 10 Symptoms of Alzheimer. We are all forgetful to some degree, so it’s important to know the difference between forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s.

Retirement Depression

It may seem strange to consider such “negatives” as Depression and the Dark Night of the Soul at a time that some people dream of for their whole working life. This should be a time of relaxation, of good times, of sun-filled days doing the things you’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t have the time.

But Retirement Depression is real and happens to many people. Yesterday you had a responsible job, people relied on you, looked up to you. You had your retirement party and you woke up the next day – a pensioner!

For many (men particularly), they vest their life in their careers, it defines their status and it determines their social circle. So when it suddenly ends, it is a shock and for some, the onset of depression.

Symptoms of Retirement Depression

  • Loss in weight
  • Low energy
  • Feeling unhappy and sadness
  • Losing interest in any activity
  • Inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Lack of self motivation
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Disappointment
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Emptiness
  • Worthlessness
  • Self-blame
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Complaining of minor aches and pains
  • Constant complaining
  • Problems concentrating
  • Sleeping excessively


Animated video of Depression (Black Dog)



The Dark Night of the Soul


A Dark Night of the Soul is a time of enforced retreat. Perhaps what we call depression isn’t really a disorder, but like physical pain, an alarm of sorts, alerting us that something is wrong, that it’s time to stop, to take stock and take as long as it takes to attend to the unaddressed business of our soul.

A Dark Night is an opportunity for change; a time to consider alternatives and a time to give our self care – not to look for a cure in anti-depressants, alcohol and recreational drugs.

An opportunity to give our self time to talk, reflect and think. To limit our activity and concentrate on what is happening at the moment – to be in the NOW. It requires a quiet place, a place in nature – near water to wash away and dissolve ideas, habits and images. A place where we can lose track of time and place.

We need to surrender control – and listen for signals of wisdom - where we rely on something beyond human capacity. A Dark Night is an inner urge, a pruning of our tree of life. It calls for a spiritual response, a spiritual point of view. We need to spend time with it before we discover how to give it creative place in our life. Life has its ebb and flow – let it be. It is an opportunity to discover what our soul wants.

We can't "deal with" a Dark Night; it's not a "head trip". We need to sink into our inner wisdom, and we can do that by finding a peaceful place where the monkeys in our head are quiet. Such a place we can find in Contemplation.

Medication has its place, but consider that the symptoms are a call to review where you are in your life. The exercises you have already completed are a start, but read Dark Night of the Soul by Thomas Moore (ISBN 978-0-7499-2557-4). Our "hurry-up" world sees depression as "bad" - to be cured quickly rather than an opportunity to go within, to reconsider and redefine our lives. We are afraid to accept depression as a learning phase in our life. We need to snap out of it, man-up and get on with life.

How would it be, if instead, we accepted that enforced retreat? If we have a heart attack or a stroke, we, and our families, take care of us and give us time to recover. Why then, do we dismiss depression as something we need to "get over" as quickly as possible? It is in the depths of our dark night that new possibilities are born.

Is it perhaps, that others fear a change in us - and by dismissing our dark night are they saying that they don't want us to change? Our dark night is a flexing and a growth of our soul - and in denying that change we constrain ourselves within the straight-jacket of our former life. That constraint is what kills us, brings on the heart attack, causes the stroke.

So, speak to a Counsellor and be guided through the insights that your depression may bring.

If that doesn’t work – bring on the funky chemicals!


Does this sound familiar?


Rising from the Ashes

You are looking at your life and you have reached a “now what” moment. It is your opportunity to rise from the ashes - to recreate yourself. In the past, life was simple; when people retired they looked after the grand-kids, played golf and moved to a retirement home, where all their needs were catered for.

Now it is all about choice.

In your 20s you made choices about career, marriage, children and lifestyle. Mid-life was your opportunity to stop for a moment and look at those choices. Were they still appropriate, are they still working for you? This is not to say that you chuck up everything and go and live on a mountain top, but are there things that you want to do that you've not been able to?

It’s an opportunity to re-fashion the choices you made – to consider with the mind of an older, wiser adult, the decisions you made as a teenager and a younger adult. What freedom!

Use the questions  in the Rising from the Ashes Worksheet to think about your life. Ideally answer each question in a Journal – that gives you space to let the thoughts flow. You might be surprised by some of your answers.

Discussion Assignment – My Mental Health

What fears do I have around my mental health – what action am I taking to remain mentally active?

Discussion Forum

Next module : My Sexual Health

As we age we remain sexual beings – but how we express it may have to change - and there are lifestyle choices we may have to make.

Next Module