It\u2019s not uncommon for depression to develop (or recur if you have a history) later in life. This can be due to a variety of reasons \u2013 both psychological (e.g. suddenly coping with an empty nest) and physiological (e.g. age-related health issues, menopause). Symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe. They may include low energy, changes in sleep and appetite, feelings of sadness and hopelessness, irritability, difficulties concentrating and making decisions, social withdrawal, and having difficulties finding pleasure in things you once enjoyed. In some cases, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Not everyone who struggles with a low mood meets the clinical criteria for depression. Treatment for those who do may involve psychotherapy and or medication. Regardless of where you fit on the continuum \u2013 mild to moderate blues to full-blown major depression, there are things you can do to help boost your mood. In fact, it\u2019s always best to make beneficial lifestyle changes even if you\u2019re in therapy. Following are some helpful mood boosters that are great if you\u2019re middle-aged or older (although they can be great for younger individuals as well). If you\u2019re feeling depressed or blue, consider adding these to your life. Laugh Often It may sound trite or overly simplistic, but laughter truly is one of the best medicines known to man. Studies have even shown the health benefits of laughter. If possible, spend time with friends and family members who are fun and make you laugh. When you\u2019re feeling down it\u2019s tempting to avoid happy people, but the reality is that their upbeat spirit can help boost yours if you let it. You can also boost your mood by reading funny stories, watching a comedy, fun animal videos (check out YouTube \u2013 they have thousands of cute cat, dog, and other pet videos), or watching an upbeat talk show (e.g. Ellen DeGeneres is well-known for her light-hearted and good-natured humor). Spending time with children will almost always make you laugh \u2013 their laughter is infectious! You might also try laughter yoga \u2013 it sounds silly but those who have tried do it rave about its mood-boosting benefits. Get Moving If you\u2019re like a lot of older adults, you\u2019ve stopped being as physically active as you once were. You may have good intentions of working out, but never seem to find the time or motivation. And if you\u2019re depressed, it can be especially hard to find the energy. But here\u2019s the deal. If you keep waiting to exercise until you \u201cfeel\u201d like it, you\u2019ll probably never do it. But if you choose to do it \u2013 regardless of whether or not you feel like it \u2013 you\u2019ll likely yourself being very glad you did. Getting up off the couch is the first step. It\u2019ll be even easier if you 1) have a workout buddy who\u2019ll keep you accountable and 2) if you choose a type of exercise that you enjoy. Here\u2019s another great benefit of regular aerobic types of exercise (e.g. brisk walking, swimming laps, jogging, biking, etc.): research has shown that it\u2019s just as beneficial for depression as taking an antidepressant \u2013 and minus the cost and unpleasant side effects. And, it will also help you sleep better and boost your self-confidence! (Just be sure to get your doctor\u2019s OK before starting an exercise program.) Help Others Volunteer work has amazing mood-boosting benefits. You see, when you focus on helping others who are less fortunate, it takes your mind off the things troubling you. Not only that, but it can help you put your own situation in perspective. For example, your recent divorce may have been very painful, but serving food to homeless people will help you realize how much you have to be grateful for. Volunteer work also gets you involved with other people. This is a good thing, especially if you\u2019ve been isolating due to your depression. If you\u2019re retired, doing a volunteer work is also a great way to spend your time and feel useful and needed again. You\u2019ll gain the most fulfillment and joy if you volunteer for a charity or cause that is especially meaningful to you. Make Amends Damaged relationships and unresolved hurts and conflicts can make anyone more vulnerable to depression. Sigmund Freud asserted that depression is really \u201canger turned inward.\u201d Forgiving others \u2013 as well as yourself \u2013 is very powerful in terms of lifting your spirits. True forgiveness is like having a huge burden lifted from your life. Although you have no control over others, you do have control over your own choices. Make it a point to start making amends and doing what you can to repair damaged relationships. For those who aren\u2019t receptive, you can rest knowing that you made the effort to heal the past. And for those who are, you can take joy in the fact that healing is finally taking place for both of you. And that\u2019s almost certain to put a smile on your face and make your step a bit lighter! Get a Furry Friend Or feathered. Or scaled. Whatever your preference. Animals bring great joy into people\u2019s lives. Not only do they never judge you or talk back, they love you unconditionally. They can also be incredibly loyal. Pets are especially good mood boosters because they ease the loneliness and make you feel needed. They make few, if any, demands, and give so much joy in return. If you can\u2019t have a pet due to allergies, your living situation, or some other reason, you can always find other ways to spend time with animals. Volunteer at the zoo or local animal shelter, or offer to walk your neighbor\u2019s dog or pet sit for them when they\u2019re out of town. Any time you can spend time with these little angels in fur coats, the more your mood will benefit. Stay Connected Depression often makes people want to isolate \u2013 and, conversely, loneliness contributes to depression. If you\u2019re spending a lot of time alone, or feel your support system has dwindled, make it a point to get and stay connected with others. Pick up the phone or send an email to reconnect with family members or old friends \u2013 perhaps they\u2019ve been waiting to hear from you. You can also make it a point to make new connections. Join a few local Meet Up groups that appeal to your interests, take a class, or join a book club. Like exercise, you often have to decide to be social rather than wait until you feel like it. Isolation tends to feed depressive thoughts and feelings, while spending time with others can help pull you out of your slump. A caveat about connecting with others \u2013 while it\u2019s true, to some degree, that \u201cmisery loves company,\u201d choose to surround yourself with people who are upbeat and positive, not negative and gloomy. The mood of those around you can impact yours \u2013 choose to spend time with those who uplift you rather than pull you down even further. Find or Rekindle Your Passion Everyone has something that makes them feel excited \u2013 that causes their eyes to light up when they talk about it or think about it. It may be a hobby or unfulfilled goal or dream. Finding something you\u2019re passionate about can make you feel alive and enthusiastic \u2013 and feel happier and more excited about life and your future. If you\u2019re not sure how to tap into your passion, think back on your life and remember the times when you felt the most alive. Perhaps you were helping a child learn something new, playing an instrument, or spending time in nature. Those moments are a clue to your passion. Consider ways you can reconnect with those feelings, such as teaching a class or coaching a Little League team. If it excites you and give you joy, you\u2019re on the right track! Treatment None of the things listed above are meant to take the place of professional help if you are clinically depressed. If your depression is interfering with your life, and you aren\u2019t currently in treatment, don\u2019t hesitate to reach out for help. Don\u2019t let pride get in your way. Seeking and needing help from others doesn\u2019t mean you are weak or deficient. It just means you are human. Pick up the phone and contact a mental health professional today. Depression is a serious disorder that impacts millions of older adults. It is treatable. Proper treatment combined with lifestyle changes is the best recipe for bringing joy back into your life!