Alternative therapies and helps of all kinds are being researched and used on a trial basis all across the country in the care of our elderly citizens. Especially in the care of those with Alzheimer's and other types of dementias. In speaking with health care practitioners, we find a number of therapies that might seem logical, clinical and sterile. We will also find just as many that are difficult to explain, but seem to have very consistent and very promising results. One of these therapies is the use of animals with patients. But why would an animal be able to help an elderly person, especially one that is struggling greatly with memory problems?
Fulfill the Need for Companionship
We all have a need for companionship, and as we age that need is amplified by the circumstances around us. The older we are, the fewer friends and family might still be alive. We're many times bound by physical problems, keeping us closer to our home and neighborhood. We may not have the skills to communicate using some of the newer technology that many of the younger generation seem to use for all of their communication. (Have you posted your latest Tik-Tok?) Animals can help us bridge the companionship gap. They are obviously not able to fully fill the void left by healthy human companionship. But our animal friends make help immensely by making us feel comfortable and calm, completely lacking in judgment and criticism & for being loyal.
Increase our General Health
Studies have been done that show the effects of having an aquarium in elder care facilities. They can help lower blood pressure as well as anxiety levels of those who watch them. Having dogs, cats and birds around can also provide a similar benefit, provided they are generally calm animals.
Keep Speaking Skills Sharp
This one may seem silly, but caring for animals really can help with the upkeep of our communication skills. People generally talk to the animals that they live with. Some people tell them about their day, or comment on their surrounding for them. Having an animal around can help keep communication skills sharp. It can also aid in giving an elderly person something to communicate about to others. If a neighbor comes to visit, the animal can quickly become the subject of conversation that would help to span other potentially silent moments during the visit.
Children Love Animals, Children Benefit the Elderly
We all know that animals will draw and keep the attention of children. And there are definitely benefits to the elderly of having children around. Children add life and vitality to otherwise dull and slow days. Having an animal in the home or assisted living facility with elderly residents can make the place much more inviting and natural feeling for children to visit. If they feel as if it's inviting, they'll be more likely to come back for a visit.
Caring for a Pet (and Others) is Good for Us
We all know that animals require care, some more than others. Much of that care can be carried out by a responsible elderly person. There may be a bit that they need help with, especially if their memory issues are getting worsening. In these cases, it's especially important to have someone double check that the animals have been fed or watered. But, the care for an animal is a good way to keep us outward looking rather than inward looking all of the time. It can be a tendency for some aging individuals to only be focused upon what is going on within their world. At times neglecting anyone or anything around them. Caring for a pet helps to alleviate this tendency and helps us to remember that we are responsible for others, as well. Caring for plants or gardening helps in a similar manner.
Animals can benefit nearly everyone in some way, but especially the elderly. We do not need to understand all of the science behind why it works to enjoy those benefits. We are just glad that it DOES work!
Exercise for the Elderly
Exercise… Is it important? Or is it one of those things that only the extremely athletic and fit people should do? You know, the ones that run marathons or try out for the Olympics. That’s the view that a lot of people have about the word exercise. I’m not going to ever be an athlete, so why even try? Unfortunately, that kind of mindset can really harm your physical and emotional wellbeing and outlook on life, especially as you age. Exercise is extremely important for everyone, especially the elderly. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.
Improves Bone Density and Prevents Muscle Deterioration
As we age, our bone density and muscle mass decreases. This can cause us to become less mobile and also affects our balance. Exercise can help change that. It can help your muscles stay strong and flexible. And can help your balance be more stable as well. Falls are a big risk for the elderly. Nobody wants that! So, having a good exercise regimen can help prevent them. It can also help prevent diseases like osteoporosis.
Prevent or Delay Disease
Regular exercise is a good preventative for many chronic conditions. Studies show that people who have diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease would all benefit from exercise. It can prevent high cholesterol and stroke. And can also help with getting a good night’s sleep and regulating the bowels.
Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
Endorphins is the magical word here! When we exercise our body releases endorphins into the brain, which causes the feeling of happiness! The release of endorphins helps prevent depression, which is something that many people who transition into an assisted living or nursing home frequently struggle with. Exercise can help you feel accomplished and have a positive outlook on your day. And give your day some meaning. Overall, it can help improve your quality of life as you grow older! And don’t forget about also exercising the mind! Doing things like puzzles, sudoku, crosswords, participating in music and playing games are all ways to keep the mind sharp! This will better your focus and help prevent diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
So, how do we motivate ourselves to exercise as we get older?
Switching things up can be one way. Going on walks, stretching, and doing a water aerobics class are all ways that help seniors stay fit, but are also easy on the joints. If you are living in an assisted living home or nursing home, participate in the activities! Joining in with others who are in the same stage of life as you can really motivate you. Activities in the homes can also bring out your inner competition. I didn’t realize that my grandma had a competitive streak until she started participating in the activities in the nursing home. And if the assisted living or nursing home that you live in has therapy, I would like to encourage you to go to it. The therapy workers can help you build/maintain your strength in a safe and healthy way. Overall, just remember that staying active can help provide you with a better quality of life. And I think that is something that deep down everybody wants.
For many people, the holiday season is filled with amazing wonder and happy thoughts. They seem to dance around in perpetual joy, filled with good thoughts and smiles while “visions of sugar plums dance in their heads.” For the rest of us, it can be a struggle to figure out how we're going to shoehorn even more activities into our already crammed schedules while squeezing more from our screaming budgets. The holidays can be so filled with added stress, in fact, that it is quite common for it to be a season full of suicide and heart attacks. It is unfortunate, indeed, that a season that was once synonymous with gratitude and giving has become one of stress and strife.
What has made us think that we need to keep upping the ante when it comes to the holidays? Is it really that we are so discontent with the way our life is going that we need 12 more gadgets to distract us? Or is it perhaps that it has become a habit that we're unsure how to break? I would propose that it is, and that it is a habit that needs to be broken deliberately and with clear intention.
I am not advocating that we stop exchanging Christmas gifts, following holiday traditions, or eating together, but I am advocating that we give gifts and celebrate traditions with more attentiveness. Being intentional and attentive about what we are doing will bring more meaning to the traditions that we hold with.
You may not be able to implement all of these ideas this year, and that is okay, perhaps preferable. Maybe make small changes over a course of years. Wise advice was given to me by a good friend many years ago. She said, “keep cutting back until there is peace in your house.” This advice can be applied to many things, but the first aspect of the holiday season that can benefit from it is your schedule. Schedules can, understandably, become somewhat unmanageable during this season. So discuss with your family the things that make the season what they want it to be. If they can't imagine it without going to the “Nutcracker” ballet, then put that as a priority. If they can't imagine it without a certain candlelight service, put that in first place. Whittle your holiday activities down to the things that are most important to your family, and then stop. Breathe. Do you notice how free your calendar is? Enjoy it. This gives you room to wiggle. If you want to add a spontaneous activity, you now have the room to do so, but be careful. Our culture is so used to being distracted, that we have forgotten how to wait in anticipation. Looking forward to something is a large part of what makes any holiday special. If you are so distracted by doing other things, the anticipation quickly dissipates.
Another way we can cut back is in material items. Give gifts, to be sure, but cut back on the amount. Does every child really need 10 gifts? Or even 7? Think about the number of gifts that are given during the season and reduce it, if possible. Think about giving experiences or lessons instead of material items. Some material gifts are fine, just do not make it the central focus of the holiday. If it is, then more pressure is created each year to outdo last year's gift.
Find ways to make giving more central to your celebration. Giving can actually be a very fun part of the season. Give to charities you love, give to people in need, give to someone that you think deserves a little extra, give to a cause you've never given to. It doesn't have to be monetary giving, either. Many places are looking for donations of time (soup kitchens or meals on wheels), strength (elderly people needing help), material items for re-sale (veteran's thrift stores), warm clothing (salvation army), food (food pantries) or craft supplies (local pre-schools or daycare centers).
Create traditions that have nothing to do with gifts. Who knows if there will be seasons when gift giving won't be a possibility. With debt rising as it is in the US, it could happen. Do you have any other traditions that will set apart the season as special? Many people do advent calendars and readings. Some people read aloud a special book like, “The Christmas Carol” during the season. Some folks go out to cut and hang up balsam branches around their homes. Make sure that you have traditions that are not centered on material items so that you'll always be able to celebrate, no matter the financial situation that you find yourself in.
Finally, be sure that you leave blank, open space in your life. Whether it's your calendar, your gift budget, or in your heart. Look around you as you go about your days during this season especially. Seek to alleviate the suffering of someone else with a kind word. Because you've left white space, you'll have time. Because you've been careful, you won't have compassion fatigue. You'll have plenty of energy to genuinely help someone who could use encouragement to remember the important things. And your friends, your family, your neighbors? They'll feel grateful because you're giving them permission to leave white space too!
The Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences On the Aging Population
When people age, we sometimes see things that we are not expecting. One of the things that we don't expect to see is just how much their childhood experiences affect who they are as a senior adult. Despite people saying things like, “oh, well, children are resilient” or “they'll bounce back”, mounting evidence suggests that it is simply not true. Children may appear to 'bounce back', but psychological studies are now discovering that childhood experiences play a large role in the health of aging adults.
First, what are some of the things that are considered “Adverse Childhood Experiences” according to psychologists? The list below is not complete. The more of these experiences that a child has, the more prevalent mental and physical health risks become, even as they age. If many of these are present in a child's life, their risk levels are compounded for a number of illnesses. Some of the most common adverse childhood experiences are:
-low socioeconomic status
-substance use within household
-mental illness within household
-incarceration of parent
The problems created by these experiences are two-fold. There is the experience itself that the person must deal with. They have to find a way out of the situation, if it's possible to do so, but then throughout the rest of their lives, even into elderly adulthood, they must deal with the memories, emotions, behaviors and physical damage that those incidents have forced them to live with. All of that has a cumulative effect on their mental, emotional & even physical health. Studies from New Zealand indicate that the government there is looking into the long-term health effects of these experiences in hopes of helping to lower the economic consequences on their health care system. (1) In America it is being studied as they follow people who are leaving the foster care system & watch them age in order to find out how these experiences help determine the outcomes of their lives. (2)
Some of the most common physical risks that have been found in the studies of aging adults with ACE's include: depression, inflammation (which can affect a large number systems in the body, including cardio-vascular system), obesity, hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, neurodegeneration, etc. In general, according to the studies done so far, the larger number of ACE's that a person has, the more physical risks the person will have & those risks are amplified by the aging process rather than diminished.
The important thing for those who work with aging adults to know is that there are genuine, long-term health effects because of these types of experiences, no matter the length of time that has lapsed since their occurrence. Mental health intervention may be very necessary in order to help overcome some of the adverse risks. At the least, a deep sense of caring & understanding will be necessary to work with people who have experienced this kind of trauma in early life, even if they are currently in their waning years. Finding the help that they need can be critical for their health. The psychological effect of these experiences may be contributing to the physiological problems that they are fighting. Dealing with the psychological side of the problem may also help to improve they physical condition. Err on the side of compassion, though it can be difficult to see the link between their past & present. We never know the paths that others have been forced to walk.
Think about how many hours that you've spent working at your job during your life. Now think about all of those hours being free...free to do whatever you want! That's how most people envision retirement. While these daydreams about endless hours of rest & relaxation can be enough motivation for us to put money into a retirement account, when they actually arrive, they can be daunting. 8-10 extra hours without a plan or anything to do can become boring at least & unhealthy at most. But many people are not interested in gardening or knitting or woodworking. So, what are some of the other options out there to keep us actively engaged in life & loving every minute? Here are a few ideas to get your mind turning.
Animal breeding. Aside from being a great hobby, this could also prove to create a little extra income. Many people are looking for specific breeds of chickens or rabbits for specific purposes. If you have any experience with raising animals & have found enjoyment from it, this might be a perfect hobby for you.
Amateur HAM radio. Communicating with others is a great benefit for people who engage in this activity. Another great benefit is that you'll be prepared to be a communication link in case of an emergency or natural disaster.
Movie reviews. If you are a movie buff, reviewing movies might be an enjoyable past-time. Whether you review them for friends & family or start your own blog with reviews for a certain type of viewer, your work will be appreciated by those who do not have lots of time on their hands to sift through sub-par movie content.
Flipping flea market finds. If you like to shop, but cannot keep all of the items that you buy, this could be perfect for you. Sticking to one area of collection can also be quite lucrative. If you become the expert in that area, you could make a bit of extra spending cash. For instance, if you research a certain type of book collection & then comb the shops for that specifically, you'll already know the prices that are being asked online & can flip them for profit with ease. Profitable niches include wooden toys, educational books, old farm implements, etc.
Online gaming. Keeping your mind engaged & helping you to interact with others in a team game can be beneficial for older people.
Drama. Engaging in a community theater or improv comedy club can be extremely rewarding & give great joy to others at the same time!
Reading stories online. Start a you tube channel on which you read your favorite children's stories to others! You could start by reading them to grand or great-grandchildren. Later expand, try out different props or voices & open the channel up to others to view!
Begin learning an instrument, a new language or an ancient handicraft.
Small engine repair. If you like to get your hands dirty, try out repairing lawn mowers, weed eaters, snow blowers, etc. for entertainment. You could also repair chainsaws, learning how to re-build carburetors & sharpen blades for all of those implements. Your neighbors will be grateful & you might just learn a valuable skill!
Plant propagation. Beyond gardening, this hobby can help you to learn all the ways that plants spread & give you a nearly unlimited landscape in your yard! If you end up growing too many, you can sell the extra plants for cash!
Old card games, new era. Try your hand at cribbage or bridge or some of the older group card games. Look up rules if you are unfamiliar with them, then invite others over to play & have some refreshments. It could become the hot, new, social engagement of the season!
Volunteer. This is always a great way to pass the time & enrich the lives of others!
There are as many ways to find pleasure & fulfillment during retirement as there are people, finding your niche might take a while, or change over time, but don't give up! It's worth every effort!
Lightheartedness Is Great Medicine!
We've all heard the phrase, “laughter is good medicine”. Good, pure laughter is so incredibly good for us that people from almost every culture in the world recognize it & are thankful when it happens. In the 1980's it became so popular that there were laughter groups & classes that people could take in order to improve their health. I won't comment on the merit of a class that offers “how to” tips on laughing (it may work) but we can all attest to feelings of well-being after a stint of genuine, hearty chuckles or giggles.
Laughing releases endorphins into your body. Endorphins are natural pain killers. So, laughter can relieve symptoms of chronic pain, while simultaneously improving your immune system by increasing T-cells. It can give you a big boost for up to 45 minutes after a good bout of laughing. While it is releasing all of those good things, it also arrests the production of stress hormones, like cortisol. Suffice it to say that all of these things have positive effects on your health, your blood pressure & your general state of mind. But how do we make natural laughter a bigger portion of our lives?
-Start by reducing the amount of pressure that you place on yourself. While it's true that we can laugh at the most stressful times in our lives, we can also crack at those times! Reducing stress is an important first step in bringing lightheartedness & laughter back into our lives. This can begin with something as simple as saying no to commitments that we are feeling obligated to do. When our schedule becomes too full, we are not able to fulfill commitments with the joy & energy that we normally would approach them with. Saying no to several things & freeing up space on your calendar can bring a lightness of heart that is unexpected.
-Saying what you really believe can also be an avenue to bring about lightheartedness & even laughter. There are far too many situations in life when we feel that we can't be open & honest about how we're feeling or what we're thinking. Feeling the need to constantly edit our feelings or thoughts can cause a myriad of problems, but one of them is the inability to laugh. You can't shut down your emotions in one area of life & expect them to be normal in other areas. It just doesn't work that way.
-Hang out with lighthearted, happy kids. Observe how they approach their world. They do not plan too far in advance. They take genuine delight in the things happening right now. They do let others know if they're overstepping their bounds. They do become absorbed in what they're working on, to the point of not hearing other people. They also laugh OFTEN about many things! Watch them & learn from them.
-Own up & let go. Work on letting go of things that you do not have control over. If there are circumstances that you're avoiding dealing with that you really have a bit of control over, take care of them, beginning with the most daunting. For the rest that you cannot control, let go.
-Take time to do the things you love. If you enjoy reading. Set aside time to do so...a few times a day. If you enjoy action movies, make time to watch one this week. If it is painting, paint. Playing music, do it! If you've been overwhelmed by too much going on recently, you may feel guilty doing these things, but there is no replacement for the relief that comes from inactivity.
-Turn off the news. Yes, you may end up being a bit less informed (I promise you that you will not be able to escape hearing about the major issues going on in the world). The benefits are that you can forget about all of the bad in the world & start looking at the good in your neighbor. As you see the good in others, it can begin to give you hope again that things are not quite as bad as what you hear or read.
-Take time to be with those you're close with. Laughter comes more naturally with those we feel close to, especially if we've spent some eventful years with them. We can look back and laugh at things that were absolutely NOT funny at the time!
All of these tips may not make you laugh constantly, but they can help lighten your load & the load of others. Emotions are often contagious. If you are lighter, chances are, those around you will feel more at ease in your presence. If you are laughing, those around you will probably start to laugh, too. The benefits to your health & the health of your loved ones could be greatly affected by your choice to approach life in a lighter way.
Adaptations For Aging
The natural process of growing older can creep up on us in a number of very subtle ways. I'm so thankful it's a long, slow process, & that as we age we can learn to adapt to all the new ways that things need to be done. Sometimes we are faced with arthritis, sometimes with bad knees, sometimes with a less than stellar memory. It's important that we carry on with our normal activities so that we maintain our range of motion, mental clarity & normalcy of life. Fortunately for us, modern technology has come out with a number of products that can help us adapt to our changing needs.
When it comes to aging, many people find that gardening becomes a bit more difficult. The constant bending and kneeling can be a great workout, but it is also hard on your back, knees & hands. Many people have found relief by having raised bed gardens installed. By using raised beds, one can sit on the edge of the garden bed & weed, plant & harvest without having to bend over. You could even use a kneeling pad on which to be seated. You'll still be able to harvest your own healthful food & take care of flowers, just without the pain. If you find that weeding or pruning is difficult for arthritic hands, you can buy ergonomically correct hand tools that should help. Garden in shorter segments of time so that you are not over-using your joints & muscles. Be sure to keep the sun off of your skin if you are out in the heat of the day, as aging skin is thin & can be harmed more easily by the sun. Also, remember to wear gloves to protect your hands, especially if you're doing harder work. Skin heals at a much slower rate as we age.
Rising from the floor, from bed, from a chair, almost anywhere can prove to be more difficult as we age, as well. First it should be noted that there are exercises called “natural movement” exercises that can be incredibly helpful for aging individuals. They are not high impact, but help you maintain & even build up your range of motion. They help with some of the daily activities so that they become easier & so that we build strength to continue to do the things that we currently enjoy doing. If you find that these exercises are not helping, or that your body needs further assistance, consider motorized beds & chairs that will rise & bend for you to get you started.
If you find walking to be difficult in any way, discuss this with your doctor. There may be shoes that will correct the pain that you are having. Sometimes it is just a matter of a little more arch support or wider shoes. Sometimes you may require a bit of physical therapy or a cane to use temporarily. No one should just put up with pain when there are simple things that could help. If your walking is adversely affected by vein problems, a doctor can recommend which weight of therapeutic hose or socks to wear to improve circulation & relieve the extreme tiredness of your legs & feet. If your back is hurting during walking, physical therapy, braces or other interventions could help greatly.
I have known a number of older folks throughout the years. Those who have had the best quality of life were not the ones who ignored their pain & tried to push forward, but rather the ones who admitted when things were starting to bother them & went about trying to fix the problem. Long periods of time in pain do nothing except put long term stress on the body & the mind. It makes a person, understandably, less patient, less understanding & also less tolerable to be around. So, let's do ourselves & everyone around us a favor & admit when we need to think about making some changes so that our quality of life can continue into our 90's and later!
Aging Skin Care
As we age, our skin changes. We notice little things at first. Perhaps it becomes drier, or we notice that it’s a bit more like crepe than it used to be. Wrinkles can be an issue & so can age spots. Skin grows thinner, especially on the hands and face because of a slowing in collagen production as we age. It’s a natural process, but there are certain things that we can do to slow the process down.
Hydration is extremely important when it comes to skin care. It’s one of the most important aspects of skin care, if not the most important, no matter your age. Our skin is comprised of almost 64% water. The problem is that we lose water out of our bodies at different rates throughout the course of a day. The most common advice when it comes to water consumption is 6-8 glasses of water per day. You must, however, not be bound to that number. If you are exerting a large amount of energy, or if the temperatures are higher, you must take that into consideration. Also, take into consideration whether you’ve been drinking caffeinated beverages. These are diuretics & can deplete your body of the water that it needs. The water helps our skin to stay supple and elastic, but it is not all that we need.
Collagen is produced in our bodies naturally. As we age, that production slows, but there are ways that we can increase that production so that our skin does less drying & wrinkling. Certain foods will help to improve your collagen production. Carrots, blueberries, sweet potatoes and dark, leafy greens are among a few, but it would be prudent to look up a full list & be sure to incorporate those foods into your diet. Also pay attention to those things which can deplete collagen in your body, like nicotine.
If you live in states that are notoriously dry, consider a humidifier. Dry air can be good for several ailments, but it can be very hard on the skin. In very northern states during the winter, the dry air can cause dryness, & even chapping to the point of bleeding. In these cases, it is probably best to consider a moisturizer that is suitable for your skin type. Remember, though, to also increase your water intake. You may not realize how much water you’re losing during a day when the air is terribly dry.
Lastly, consider the sun. Caring for your skin includes making sure it doesn’t get burnt. If you enjoy being out in the sun, wear a hat that covers your face, & also light cotton clothing that allows your skin to breathe. Be sure to go into the shade to cool off periodically, and, as always, re-hydrate!
None of these suggestions are akin with finding the fountain of youth, but they are sound, practical ways that you can improve your skin so that it can do its job of protecting you. We should show our thankfulness to this important organ of our bodies by caring for it in the best way that we know how!
Therapy Animals For Seniors
Have you noticed how prevalent it is to see animals inside of stores & other venues where they wouldn't have been allowed before? Young and old, disabled & seemingly healthy people have these companions with them these days for both physical help, as well as emotional support.
Spending time with animals has been shown to have health benefits for those people who are able to have them in their lives. Dogs are the animals that are most often studied, but many other animals can be used for emergency service animals.
In most states in the U.S., you'll need to get a special license to have the animals with you at all times if it's deemed necessary. But for the elderly, most of the benefits can be reaped without going through a licensing process. Seniors and elderly can find great solace in having a pet around to talk to. This alone can be enough to ward off depression & loneliness that can be common in the aging. Companionship with an animal can decrease stress and increase serotonin levels in the brain, making you feel calmer & happier.
Taking Fido for a regular walk can also help seniors to stay active & keep their heart healthy. A simple, but regular routine of light exercise like this can be greatly beneficial to the caregiver of the animal, as well as increasing the likelihood of engagement in the community and in nature which will also decrease stress & possibly broaden their support network as they meet new people.
If the person is traumatized by some event in the past, or if they are full of anxiety, as is often the case with Alzheimer's disease, the animal can be a consistent aid in calming them down.
Lastly, if the animal is needed for a specific purpose, like help with vision, the animal can be a life-saving choice. Many people use animals in this way so that they can function more normally with greater independence and safety than would otherwise be possible.
It doesn't matter how you look at it, the animals that become companions to the elderly may be a bit of work, but their value far outweighs the trouble of keeping them when one sees the emotional and physical benefits. Some animals are more suited to particular tasks than others, so be sure to do your research before jumping in with both feet, but consider the improvements that you may see with the small lifestyle change of adding an animal into their lives. All the small things can add up to a much longer, happier & healthier life for the loved ones we care for!
Finding Joy in Every Day Life
As we age, there is a definite sameness that begins to take over life. Same routine, same feelings, same people coming around each day. Once we've made the transition into an assisted living facility, that sameness can continue & even become crushing, if we allow it. It does not have to. Even if our life & routine are very similar from day to day, there are ways to look at that life with a new perspective.
Consider thankfulness. When you are faced with the mundane, and wonder why you should even bother to get out of bed to face it, consider starting to be thankful for the things that ARE mundane. The bed, for one, & that you have one. Perhaps the roof kept you dry last night, there's two. The heater is working, that's three. You can breathe, four. Go through the little things that surround you before you even sit up & soon you will find yourself thankful to be able to sit up & then stand. It's not guaranteed that you'll be able to do those things for your entire life, so while you can, be thankful & when you can't, find other things to be thankful for. It really does put a whole new spin on your outlook & on your day. Our lives are, after all, made up of many consecutive, seemingly mundane days.
Show that you care. I know, it's not popular in some households & frowned upon by people from some backgrounds, but it's important. If you can spend even 15 minutes out of every day intentionally letting those around you know that you care for them, in word or deed, it will improve your life, bring you joy & bring joy to them. If you have 10 more minutes, drop letters to those who are further away from you. If you have 30 extra minutes, call someone you care about. The sense of connectedness is important to all of us.
Make a few lists. In the back of my journal I have lists of my favorite sounds, smells, sights, etc. Spend some time thinking about the things that you really love. Then, when your day is especially difficult, try your best to incorporate some of those things into your day. If you love walking in the woods, but never get a chance to do that, make it a point to do that when you're feeling down. If you love reading, but haven't been able to make time to do it, eek out some time to spend with a good book. You're a uniquely made person, and as such, you need to pay attention to the things that bring you joy. They won't necessarily coincide with the things that bring joy to others & that's okay. It's good to be different & it's good to pay attention to what makes you different. Feed what brings you joy, starve what brings you anxiety.
Turn your words. Sometimes when life is incredibly difficult, negativity can set in. It's not bad to say things are tough...it is bad when that is the only lens we see things through. It is bad when it becomes such a habit that we find only negative words coming from our mouths. Our words can influence our own thoughts & the thoughts of those around us. Instead of dwelling on the fact that you can't afford XYZ, talk about all the great things in life that are free to you. Instead of focusing on your waning eyesight, talk about the smell of the rose bush outside your window. Life is hard, there is no denying it. How we interact with it can determine whether it has any joy, or whether we'll just endure it. I choose joy!