Looking after your mental wellbeing
Mental wellbeing describes how you feel and how you cope with your day-to-day life. Studies show a link between depression in mid-life and dementia5, however, it is not clear the extent to which depression is an early sign of dementia12, or por whether long-term depression causes changes in the brain that increase the risk of dementia13. Nevertheless, anxiety and depression can have serious negative impacts on our quality of life5.
Stress may also play a role in developing dementia5 in a number of ways. Firstly, it triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol. Persistent high levels of cortisol increase the risk of heart disease and depression14 15 and may directly affect the brain's structure.5 Secondly, stress is also associated with unhealthy behaviours like smoking, drinking and unhealthy eating16. Such behaviours, in turn, have been associated with heightened risk of developing dementia independently of genetic predispositionREF1.
Sleep is very important for mental wellbeing, as disrupted sleep or sleep deprivation, are linked to poor memory and thinking skills5. This may be because dementia disturbs the sleep-wake cycle, which would explain why people with dementia often experience sleeping difficulties17. On the other hand, sleep problems themselves might be a risk for poorer thinking and memory skills18 as research suggests that poor sleep might affect a protein in the brain, which plays a significant role in Alzheimer’s disease19.
There are many different ways to boost your mental wellbeing.
Be active – Exercise helps to lift your mood and self-esteem and self-control. See 'exercise regularly' for things you can do.
Keep learning – Learning new skills improves your sense of achievement and builds confidence. New challenges are good for your brain.
Be social – Connecting with people is important for your mental wellbeing.
Look after yourself – Eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise, sleep and avoid tobacco and alcohol can improve your mental wellbeing.
Get enough sleep – If you have difficulties falling asleep try a regular bedtime routine. Wind down before bed, keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool (8oC - 24oC).
Manage stress – Stress is a natural part of life, so it is important to deal with it effectively. Work out what helps you relax – exercise, a walk in nature, music, friends, or your pet. Relaxation exercises or mindfulness can also help you to recharge.
Ask for help if you need it – If you find it difficult to cope on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your GP can tell you about services in your area to get you the support you need.
The NHS has published some actions you can take to improve your mental wellbeing and to reduce the likelihood of depression, anxiety and stress