5 Keys to Happiness After 60

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln

I believe happiness is a state of being. Sure, things are going to happen that make us unhappy, but once we have the skills, we can come back to that state of happiness which often leads to a longer, more satisfying life. People who feel positively about getting older tend to live longer than those who feel more negatively.

 

1 Savor the moment – It is important to be present in the moment. It is so easy to get caught up in something bad that happened yesterday or to worry about what might happen tomorrow and then we lose the precious present moment. If you catch your mind flying off in all directions, take a deep breath and come back to the present moment. Meditating, even for a few minutes, can also bring you back to the present moment.

2 Practice gratitude – Regardless of what is going on around us, we can find things to be grateful for if we try. And they don’t have to be big things. How about that hot shower you took this morning, or that first cup of coffee or the compliment someone gave you? I am starting to hear birds singing again in the morning which is a sign that spring is coming and I am so grateful for that. It can be helpful to keep a gratitude journal and write down three things you are grateful for every day. Looking for things to be grateful for increase the feel good chemicals in the brain.

3 Have a sense of purpose – Having a sense of purpose gives meaning to life. Certainly our purpose can change over the course of a lifetime but I believe there are some consistent core aspects – the things you are most passionate about. Maybe it’s art or music or creating or teaching or helping others. The form that our purpose takes may change, but I believe it is driven by our passions.

4 Take care of your health – So much has already been written about this but I had to include it here. Regular exercise can keep your cells healthy and your brain happy (see my post on Your Ageless Brain.) Also, check out my post on 14 Things That May Extend Your Life.

5 Build strong social relationships – Studies show that people with a strong social network tend to live longer than those with fewer friends. This is more of a challenge now due to the pandemic, but it always helps to call a friend or have a meeting on zoom. Pets can help here, too. When you can’t hug your friend, hug your pet! I am definitely grateful for my very affectionate kitty!

Do you have other practices that enhance your happiness? If so, I’d love to hear them. I know there are challenges to maintaining this happiness mindset and I will deal with some of those in my next post.

10 Ways to Connect with The Divine

I believe connecting with the Divine is essential to experiencing true joy and happiness. I know the more I nurture my connection to the Divine, the more fulfilled I feel. Life is crazy though and it can be easy to lose touch. Especially right now while the whole world seems to be focused on the pandemic. Whether you call it the Divine, God, Source Energy, the Universe, or something else, recognizing that there is a greater power gives new meaning and perspective to life. I have listed here my favorite ways to connect with the Divine – if you have another favorite, let me know!

 

1 Let go of expectations – It is easy to create a story or a visual image about what it “should” be like to connect with the Divine. Maybe a friend has told you about their experience or you have read about it in a book. That can color our own expectations about the nature of the Divine so it is important to let go of any expectations and let your experience be your experience.

2 Be present in the moment – Life is full of distractions and demands. Whether it is work, family, friends or even the news, there is always something to capture our attention. It is important to take a minute to clear your mind so you can fully experience the present moment.

3 Release attachments to the way we think things should be – If there are things going on in your life that you want to change or things you want to create, it is easy to get fixated on what you think the outcome of experiencing the Divine should be like. It is important to let go of expectations and trust the Universe will work things out.

4 Quieting the voice of the ego so we can hear the voice of inner wisdom – This one can be a major challenge for me! There seems to always be a conversation going on in my head about something, and the more I try to be quiet, the louder it gets! It is very helpful to detach from this chatter and recognize they are just thoughts and not who we really are. The more we are able to detach from this chatter, the easier it is to hear the inner voice of wisdom.

5 Set our intention – This. is the act of stating what you want to accomplish. When you are intentional about something, you are focused on the present moment.

6 Meditate – There is plenty of information about meditation – how to do it, how long to do it and when to do it. I think what is most important is finding what’s right for you. Probably, the most common recommendation is to meditate for 15-20 minutes. It can be a guided mediation, meditation with music or just clearing your mind. Different meditations work best at different times. Right now, my favorite way is to just clear my mind and be the observer. I also believe that even 5 minutes of meditation can be very helpful.

7 Journaling – Journaling can be a great way to get in touch with your feelings and also to receive guidance from the Divine. It can be especially helpful to meditate first and then journal. It is important to just let the thoughts flow.

8 Be out in nature – This is a wonderful way to connect with the Divine and take in the beauty that surrounds you – whether you just sit peacefully under a tree, take a walk or even a run, you are surrounded by the Divine.

9 Exercise – There are some exercises, like yoga, that can have a very calming and meditative effect. Even more vigorous exercise, if done mindfully, can be a way to connect to the Divine.

10 Music – Music is a language all it’s own. I know there have been times when I have been so touched by a piece of music that I have started crying. Music touches our souls in a way that nothing else does. There are lots of meditative instrumental tracks. on You Tube – check them out if you haven’t already.

 

You may have your own favorite way to connect with the Divine that isn’t listed here – if so, please feel free to share!

14 Things That May Extend Your Life

“You don’t have to hit them all, but when it comes to health, the little things add up.”  Mandy Oaklander

 

I came across this wonderful article in a special edition of TIME called “The Science of Living Longer.” If you are interested, you can find it on Amazon. The article is about surprising ways to live longer and this blog is a shortened review of that (the actual article lists 23 ways to live longer.) Our life expectancy has improved a lot over the last several decades and with the advancements in science and a little self care, it can continue to improve.

  1. Steam in the sauna – I wouldn’t have thought of this one but evidently, sitting in basically a hot closet does more than help you relax. Some studies show that sitting in a sauna regularly reduces the risk of heart failure and coronary artery disease.It seems that sweating and heat get your heart rate up like light exercise.
  2. Meditate – Ok, so you had to know this would be on the list! Just closing your eyes and clearing your mind for a few minutes can lengthen your life. “And that just might happen by lengthening the telomeres, the protective caps on the end of chromosomes  that have been linked to longevity.”
  3. Don’t get “steaming mad” – It is important to deal with anger appropriately, but if frequent outbursts are an issue for you, it is not good for your heart.
  4. Call a friend – “Having a vibrant social life is as healthy for you as quitting smoking, a review of 148 studies found. Not being socially connected was a stronger risk factor for death than not exercising and obesity.” A strong social network supports mental health and improves immune function. This is especially true for seniors.
  5. Hug more often – Science shows that hugs boost your immunity. Just one hug per day will do it – although more is even better!
  6. Drink coffee – Coffee is a major source of antioxidants. Coffee may help prevent some types of cancers, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Even with the controversy about caffeine, science indicates that coffee is good for you as long as you don’t overindulge – don’t go over 4 cups/day.
  7. Drink tea –  Tea is also a powerful source of antioxidants and can also protect the heart. Green tea can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke as well as lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  8. Eat nuts – Nuts have lots of protein, vitamins and good fats and might help you live longer. One example is walnuts and they may even help you relax.
  9. Eat more vegetables and fruit – Of course! Seven servings of vegetables and fruits per day is recommended. I have some work to do on this one!
  10. Don’t stop learning – Challenging your brain to learn new things helps to keep your brain healthy and may help you live longer.
  11. Stop smoking – Of course!
  12. Exercise – You may not have to exercise as long as you think. “An analysis of 250,000 older adults found that getting less than an hour of moderate physical exercise per week was associated with a 15% lower risk of death. Weight bearing exercise also helps strengthen your bones.
  13. Adopt a pet – Pets make us feel loved which also helps with loneliness.
  14. Stand up – Take more walks – even short ones. My Fitbit lets me know I need to walk at least 250 steps per hour – even if that means walking in circles in my apartment!

A lot of these may seem obvious but how many are you doing? I know I have some work to do! If you want to extend your life, try doing one or two more than you are already doing.

The Pandemic and Ambiguous Loss

Life On Hold

“Stress in the face of a pandemic can take the shape of frozen grief.” Sarah B Woods, PhD, LMFT

I came across several articles about the pandemic and ambiguous loss and I found them to be very helpful in understanding and putting into perspective some of my feelings. Ambiguous loss is a theory developed by Pauline Boss in the 70’s when she was researching fathers who were detached from their families due to work or military deployment. She later expanded her research to include all losses involving unresolved circumstances.

The pandemic has dramatically changed our lives in so many ways and there is no end in sight. Many are grieving the loss of a loved one which is made even more challenging due to the inability to say goodbye. There is an overall sense of loss and grief that is affecting the whole country – the whole world. We’re grieving the loss of normalcy and recognizing that can begin to put things in perspective. Our daily routines have been dramatically altered. It is unsafe to go out into public without a mask. Social distancing is an ever present reality. Many businesses have closed or have had to alter their hours. People have lost jobs. Those who are still working may be doing so from home. We are physically separated from family and friends and as a result, can feel very isolated. We are missing out on holiday gatherings, birthday celebrations and so much more. These are all huge losses an it is important to recognize that there is a lot of grief associated with that.

As a single older woman now working from home all day on a computer, I am realizing how isolated I feel. I have an adult son who I see every couple of weeks and some friends I stay in touch with by phone but I can go several days without leaving my apartment or seeing or talking to anyone I know. Even though I am an introvert by nature, this all feels pretty lonely. I have moments of feeling detached from things that are important to me and there is not much I really want to do. I was really wondering what was wrong with me until I read these articles about ambiguous loss. And while knowing this now doesn’t magically change everything, it does put things in perspective. I can separate myself from all this loss and know it’s not who I am as a person. To reference the exercise in my blog on resistance, I can say I accept that I am experiencing lonely and that’s ok. I accept that I am feeling detached and that’s ok.

Experiencing the pandemic and ambiguous loss is different for everyone. Whatever you are experiencing, I hope finally having a label for it helps in some way and lets it take some of the pressure off of you. Self care is more important than ever now along with recognizing you are not what you are experiencing.

Three Questions for the New Year

“It’s resolution time and you’re probably asking yourself, “Have I made them? Have I started them? Have I already messed them up?”  Ariane de Bonvoisin

2020 has definitely been a challenging year and I think we are all ready to let it go and focus on the New Year. It’s the time many of us make resolutions only to find they have been broken by the end of January. Given all the heartache, drama and chaos of 2020, I would like to suggest a gentler approach. I received a great article from Oprah suggesting we try some questions for the New Year instead of resolutions. This seems to me to be a more flexible approach. The full article can be found here:

What Do I Most Want to Feel This Year?

To me, this is a much softer approach than a resolution which usually feels like a rule. When you decide how you want to feel, life can take shape around that. What we create in our lives flows from how we feel – all the moments, hours, days, weeks and years of our lives. When we start with a resolution, we start with a rule and if we don’t follow it, we feel bad which is self-defeating. According to Abraham-Hicks, everything we want is because of how we think we will feel when we have it. What you want to feel can even be a mantra for the New Year. What I want to feel is more joy. I have a painting on my wall that says, “Today I choose Joy.” This will be my mantra for the New Year. I do believe we can learn to choose how we feel. If you are in a negative place right now, that might seem crazy, but you don’t have to “leap” to your good feeling all at once. Focus on a thought that feels better, then another and work your way up. The emotional guidance scale available in the post on Resistance is a great tool to help with that.

How Am I Going to Get Back on Track When Life Gets Hard?

This is a great question because it allows us to be human. There probably will be difficult moments and bad days this year. This question allows for refocusing and readjusting. What helps you get back on track when things get rough? One of my favorites is to recognize the negative chatter in my mind, remember they are just thoughts, not from my true self and let them go. Focusing on a mantra can be helpful, too. Or, taking a walk, talking to a friend, listening to music, meditating – what works for you?

Whom Am I Going to Choose to Love Unconditionally This Year?

The easy choice would be your spouse or a child or friend. Instead, choose a relationship that needs some attention. For me, it would be two of. my co-workers. They are both very nice people and committed to their work, but for some reason, they annoy me. I realize I allow that to happen. So, my intention is to accept them for who they are.

I hope these questions for the New Year maybe help you shift your perspective a little. How we think and feel is at the core of who we are and directly influences what we attract into out lives. Make this a year that you choose how you want to feel and allow things to unfold from there!

Your Ageless Brain

“Neuroplasticity… the capacity of the brain to develop and change throughout life, something Western science once thought impossible.” Merriam-Webster.com

Neuroplasticity

As we get older, we have come to expect some minor lapses in memory and some cognitive decline. We can’t find our keys – or our cell phone – or we walk into a room and can’t remember why. We tend to shrug these off as “senior moments,” a not very complimentary approach.

But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if, with a little “exercise,” we could maintain all of our cognitive functioning? There are many studies now regarding the brain’s neuroplasticity and the ability of the brain to change and rewire itself over our lifetimes. I found a wonderful little video on you tube. It is presented by Booming Encore and is an interview with Barbara Arrowsmith Young, an expert in this area. There is a link to the video at the end of this blog. She states that the brain is capable of change across our lifetime and that change can be negative or positive, depending on our mindset. If directed positively, it can enhance cognitive function.

Our brains are capable of growing new neurons and increasing dendrites, which presents an incredible area of opportunity and growth for the aging brain. Scientists used to believe that around age 12, the window of neuroplasticity closes and the brain you have then is the brain you will have for the rest of your life. They now know that is not the case and have in fact, seen the same degree of neuroplasticity in as 80 year old as a 12 year old.

 

The way to keep the brain “young” is to keep it active and stimulated. Barbara Arrowsmith Young has some suggestions. 1) Pick something you enjoy, an activity that you will do over time for about 20 minutes a day. It could be learning a new language, learning to dance, a new hobby or many other things. The activity should be a strain but an attainable strain. As it becomes easy, then increase the level of difficulty and make it more complex. 2) Get enough restful sleep – it is so important. 3) Physical exercise – if it’s good for the heart, it is good for the brain as that means more blood circulating to the brain. 4) Reduce stress – stress increases the production of cortisol which is like an acid bath for the brain (definitely not a pleasant thought!) 5. Practice gratitude – keep a journal. 6 Meditate (you had to know that one was coming!) These activities are like cross fit training for your brain.

If you aren’t doing any of these activities, pick one and start. If you are doing some, add another. If you are doing all of them – YAY for you! Your brain loves you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPTkdek3HOY

NO!!!

I don’t want to…….!!! Every two year old since the beginning of time.

I don't want to

If you have children, know someone who has children or have ever been a child yourself, you have probably heard or said “I don’t want to!!” I don’t want to take a bath; I don’t want to go to bed; I don’t want to eat my vegetables; I don’t want to put my toys away….. The list is endless.

But, what if the “I don’t want to!” is in your own mind? Most folks have some degree of chatter going on in their minds a lot of the time. Sometimes it is helpful to identify that voice or those voices as different characters. I know over the years, I have done a lot of work with my inner child, the critical parent and a variety of other authority figures from teachers at school to the pastor at church to God, Himself. All that work has helped a lot. But now there is a new voice – “I don’t want to.” I don’t want to go to work; I don’t want to work on that project; I don’t want to clean – do laundry – cook – go to bed…..

This has been going on a couple of months. At first, I thought that if I just ignored it, it would go away – that didn’t work. Then I tried to reason with it – that certainly didn’t work! Then I tried acknowledging its feelings – that helped a little but it still didn’t go away. Then, I got this visual image of myself with a two year old sitting on the floor beside me with her arms wrapped around my leg complaining loudly – “I don’t want to!” Again, I tried reasoning, soothing, even ignoring. But it is a little hard to ignore a child attached to your leg that you have to drag everywhere you go! Talk about resistance!! I was at a loss because this didn’t seem like the little Pam I had done so much work with in the past. She was quiet, shy and in desperate need of approval. This child was loud – I mean very loud – and I was exhausted from dragging her around with me everywhere I went!

Then it occurred to me – if I could re-parent quiet, shy little Pam, maybe I could re-parent this child – her opposite, rebellious little Pam. It is a challenge though because some of the things she doesn’t want to do, I don’t want to do either so I end up feeling like I am spinning my wheels. So, I decided to try talking to her about what we want to create in this life now and what it will take to do that. I am working to make her an ally so we can create together instead of struggle against each other. I’ve just started this but it seems to be helping…. update to come!

Do you have a message running on an endless loop in your mind? I can’t – I should – I shouldn’t – it’s too late – I’m too old. Where do you think that message is coming from and what is it trying to teach you?

The Truth

“I write to tell myself the truth” – Julia Cameron

old

I have been an avid journal keeper since my mid-twenties. I have written hundreds – thousands of pages – processing everything from everyday events to the meaning and purpose of life. Writing helped me understand myself and the world around me. Then, about a year ago, it stopped. I couldn’t make myself write anymore. Oh, I might write a sentence or two once or twice a month but nothing like my previous lengthy daily writing.

In retrospect, I realize I didn’t want to tell myself the truth anymore. It was maybe the scariest time of my life. I felt lost – my sense of direction and purpose were gone. I was just plodding through the work week – waiting for the weekend so I could do something exciting – like clean my apartment. I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and to write about it only made it worse. (I’m sure I will write more about this later.) I had been doing a pretty good job of ignoring my age until this happened.

While I had always been guessed for 5-10 years younger than my actual age, all of a sudden, I felt “old.” When I saw myself in the mirror, I looked “old.” I started having aches and pains I had never had before. The haunting question in the back of my mind was “what do I do now?” As I slowly worked my way through all of that, I realized it is time to tell myself the truth again.

I’m 68. I don’t like the terms “years old” or “years young.” I also don’t like the terms “senior citizen, aging, elder, second half or third act.” I believe we need a new vocabulary about this phase of life. I recently heard years describe as “how many times the earth has traveled around the sun.” So, I am 68 tats (trips around the sun.) Think that will catch on?

Anyway, since our ageless spirits flow seamlessly from one lifetime to the next, why can’t we flow seamlessly through this life? As I start processing the meaning and purpose of life again, it is my hope that you will find something helpful here. Is there anything you are not telling yourself the truth about? What might happen if you did?

It’s Ok

“I am where I am and it’s ok.” – Abraham-Hicks

impatient

I got home from work the other day and was in a little bit of a tiz because some things aren’t getting resolved as quickly as I think they should. It was a beautiful, sunny fall afternoon so I decided to take a walk. I thought if I relaxed and focused on my breath and enjoying the gorgeous fall colors, it might help. As I was walking, this quote kept running through my mind – “I am where I am and it’s ok,” As it kept repeating, I started to calm down. And, I realized again, I can’t be anywhere other than where I am right now so I might as well accept it. To struggle against it just gets me in more of a tiz and creates resistance that could potentially block what I want. So, I relaxed even more and enjoyed the beauty of the present moment which I would have missed otherwise.

Later, I realized the tiz was really about being impatient, so I could also use my phrase from the previous post – I accept that I am feeling impatient and that’s ok. Resistance comes in so many forms but the key seems to be to release it so we can allow what we really want into our lives.

What do you think?

Resistance

What you resist, persists – Carl Jung

Resistance

I have heard this quote many times from many different places but didn’t know who said it first, so I looked it up. Actually, the whole quote is “what you resist not only persists but grows in size.” (That can be a little alarming!)

The complimentary opposite of this quote is “to get what you want, want what you get.” (I’m not sure who said this but it comes close to the lyrics of a Rolling Stones song.)

So, let’s put these two together – what you resist not only persists but grows in size and in order to get what you want, you have to want what you get. So, am I saying if someone hurts you or makes you angry, you have to want that in order to get someone who doesn’t? Absolutely not!! I think the bottom line here is accepting what is in order to allow it to change. “When you are resisting what constitutes your reality…. you’re shying away from it, complaining about it, resenting it or protecting against it or doing battle with it… your energy, your focus is concentrated on not moving beyond what opposes you, not coming to terms with it.” (Psychology Today 6/15/16) Basically, you are giving your power to what you don’t want.

Perhaps I can best illustrate with a personal example. A few years ago, I came across a little exercise from the work of Doreen Banaszak, author and life coach. The idea is when you find yourself experiencing a negative emotion and are saying things like – I am so sad – depressed – angry – anxious – that you accept the feeling in order to release it. If you are familiar with the emotional scale, acceptance is much higher than any of the negative emotions. So, here is the phrase – I accept that I am experiencing…… and that’s ok. That allows you to dis-identify with the emotion. After all, you are not sadness, you are experiencing sadness. Now, for my example. A while back, I was extremely unhappy with my job and could barely make myself go in every day. In fact, I was to the point of hating it which is uncharacteristic for me. I was sitting in bed one night and said – I accept that I am experiencing hate and that’s ok. Like magic, the feeling lifted! This is the most profound experience I have had with this exercise. I won’t say everything was hunky dory after that, but that horrible feeling never came back. I still wasn’t exactly excited about going to work, so I switched to – I accept that I am experiencing dread and that’s ok which was always helpful and allowed me to refocus. Things have changed a lot with my job and I have cut back on my hours so I can focus on things that are more meaningful to me – like this blog.

Give the exercise a try and let me know what you think. By accepting the negative emotion, it frees up that energy. Acceptance is a lot more positive and gives you your power back.

I have found, with the exercise about negative emotions, that it helps to be as specific as possible about the emotion you are experiencing. There were times when I had to really search for the right emotion for the exercise to be effective. So, I created a list of negative emotions for reference and I have attached it here. Also, I have attached here the Emotional Guidance Scale from the book, Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks.