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Improving self-esteem in later life

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As we get older, it’s quite common to have feelings of low self-esteem. Whether brought on by declining physical health, mobility issues or generally not feeling as youthful as you once were, having a negative outlook can impact greatly on daily life.

Life is always full of ups and downs. Those with high self-esteem and a usually positive outlook may find it easier to deal with the good and bad moments. However, experiencing a lower sense of self-esteem can make the days feel more difficult.

Constant feelings of negativity can become overwhelming and lead to a person developing anxiety and depression. If left unchecked, this can have a tremendous effect on day-to-day living, making even the simplest of tasks feel like a horrible chore.

If you or a loved one notices a significant dip in your self-esteem, there are a few things you can do to help adjust your outlook and rebuild a sense of positivity.

Firstly, do something fun

It may sound blindingly obvious, but it’s oh so easy to neglect our own enjoyment from time to time. Putting others first and taking care of their happiness is common, even though it sometimes means we don’t necessarily look after ourselves.

That’s why it’s important to regularly take time for yourself and do something you enjoy. Whether it’s a familiar activity at home, taking up a new hobby or volunteering in the community, getting a bit more active can help to boost your confidence and self-worth. This in turn will dial up your positivity and ultimately improve your outlook.

Set small goals

When you experience low self-esteem and even a sense of depression, even the smallest of tasks can feel as daunting as climbing a mountain. You may have heard about how having a list of tasks and crossing things off can improve your happiness. Well, it’s true!

Every time you check off a completed task from a list, your brain releases dopamine, which is the hormone responsible for feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction. By starting with a list of small, manageable tasks, you can give yourself a little confidence boost with every item you achieve.

From getting up and dressed, to washing that small pile of dishes, and even taking a 20 minute walk, each completed task doesn’t just make you feel good. Each dopamine burst compels you to move on to the next task, and the next, and the next. You’ll develop a much brighter outlook before you know it.

Focus on yourself physically

What’s going on in our minds can also affect how we feel physically, and vice versa. If you’re not eating well or keeping active, this can be reflected in your mental health. To make matters worse, it becomes a struggle to get out for a walk or prepare a healthy meal when your mood is low. This creates a vicious cycle that’s hard to break out of.

Using the small goals advice, you can work your way up to properly looking after yourself physically. The ultimate goal will be to do some frequent light exercises each day to help release those endorphins and eat healthily. Not only will your mental health feel the benefit, but improvements to your physical fitness and overall appearance can also boost your self-esteem.

Acknowledge the negativity

It’s often difficult to recognise having low self-esteem and confidence issues. Many of us talk ourselves down or think negatively without really realising it. But it’s important to take notice of our bad habits if we’re going to challenge and change them. This can be particularly difficult for negative thoughts that are deeply engrained in your mind.

You may often tell yourself that you “can’t” do something, or there’s “no point”. It will certainly take some getting used to and won’t happen straight away, but try to actively acknowledge a negative word or phrase when it crosses your mind. Eventually, you’ll be able to replacing them with more optimistic thoughts like “I can do it” or “let’s have a go”. Over time, this will help your mood improve and make a considerable difference to your outlook on life.

While we’ve tried to give you some general tips here for boosting your self-esteem, this is not a definitive list for addressing feelings of low motivation and thoughts of depression. If you continue to have low self-esteem that impacts on your mental health, you can always seek professional help from the NHS.

You can quickly assess whether you or a loved one is experiencing depression using this online tool, as well as reading about the condition and getting in touch with a mental health professional.