6 springtime tips to build resilience and ease depression

Excerpt: Older adults show greater resilience in coping with pandemic isolation than young people, but are still experiencing increased levels of depression. Spring offers fresh opportunities to tap into that resilience and prevent or ease depression by getting a healthy dose of nature and doing group outdoor activities in your community. You can also brighten your mood by planting a spring garden and practicing tai chi in the fresh air.

Older adults are coping better than young people with pandemic isolation,* according to a 2022 University of Toronto study. Although seniors experienced increased levels of depression the longer that they remained isolated, younger adults reported being twice as lonely.* The key to older adults coping better with the pandemic’s social isolation and other negative consequences is their resilience, drawing on a lifetime of experiences and putting events into perspective.*

Tapping into that resilience to make daily life better can help to prevent or ease depression. A 2021 Trends in Psychology study found that cultivating resilience is an adaptive and effective strategy to cope with stress and reduce depression among older adults.*

The arrival of spring offers plenty of opportunities to break free of prolonged isolation by socializing with family and friends safely, and to enjoy stimulating outdoor social and physical activities to revitalize your mind, body, and spirit.

Here are some ways to nourish resilience and lift your mood:

  1. Take a nature pill. Licensed healthcare professionals in British Columbia, Ontario and other provinces can now prescribe spending time in nature by giving patients a free Parks Canada Discovery Pass.* The program recommends spending about two hours a week in nature to help anxiety, depression and improve mental and physical health, based on research,* including a Scientific Reports study.

  2. Get involved in your community. A sense of community and maintaining interpersonal connections helped older adults build resilience and focus on positive experiences, while reducing stress and other mental health problems,* according to an Oregon State University study. The researchers emphasize resilience is a skill that can be strengthened rather than a fixed trait.* Retirement communities offer seniors built-in opportunities to increase resilience by enjoying group outdoor activities, socializing while dining, and feeling a sense of belonging.

  3. Do tai chi in the fresh air. A Harvard University study reported older adults who practiced tai chi for 12 weeks lowered their depression symptoms.* Doing tai chi, yoga, or meditation outdoors offers enhanced mood benefits. A Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry study reported that exercising in natural environments had greater mental health benefits than indoors,* revitalizing participants and reducing tension, anger, and depression.

  4. Go for a quick stroll. A Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy study found that six minutes of brisk walking was enough to improve the mood of older adults.* After doing short walks, people become motivated to exercise for longer periods and enjoyed greater physical and mental health benefits.*

  5. Plant a spring garden. People with clinical depression improved their mood significantly during and three months after taking part in a 12-week therapeutic horticulture program,* reported an International Journal of Mental Health Nursing study.

  6. Brighten your mood with sunshine. Increased exposure to sunlight alleviated symptoms of depression among older women,* according to a PLOS ONE study. Sunshine helps ease depression by lowering inflammation, boosting low levels of vitamin D, helping regulate circadian rhythms, and lifting mood.*