Feeling JOY, experiencing WELLNESS, and finding MEANING in your third chapter is essential if you want to live through these years with a sense of peace and purpose, and into your 80’s and beyond.
Although research has found that older people do tend to feel happier and less stressed in their retirement years than younger folk, it appears that this changes in their geriatric years when they can become very miserable. I propose that we can greatly improve our chances of feeling HAPPIER in our later years by taking care of the transition ones in our 50’s to 70’s. As one who knows, I offer the following tips.
And if you feel STUCK in any area, don’t know the HOW to, or need SUPPORT to resolve the past, then please ask for help. You’re never too old to hire a coach to get some tips, or talk with an empathic therapist if there are things from your past to let go of, like healing family wounds or unresolved grief.
Finding MEANING makes all the difference to my life. Meaning to me is about being involved in work I love to do, having soulful contact with my family, engaging in creative projects like blogging, and connecting regularly with my women friends. For others it could be volunteering or grandparenting, making art, etc.
EXERCISING our minds and bodies follows next. There are countless ways we can MOVE our body and exercise our MIND. We need to fully inhabit our body — really feeling into Her, moving and stretching our limbs, feeling our heart racing faster than normal (you can get this feeling with sex!). Exercise is vital to our brain and mature minds, and of course our heart! It is calming. It stimulates the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus which is vulnerable to the effects of cortisol. It enhances capillary health and blood supply, and people are less likely to experience small strokes as they age. Please do not COMPARE yourself to how you were years ago. Try to accept the changes to how you feel. Instead of berating your body for not being as strong, see it as a time to adjust your expectations. You’re just moving differently.
Keeping our SOCIAL networks alive to include more like-hearted people is essential. Since social media entered our homes, I have found life a little isolating at times, and lonely (as a single person). Have you? So if people have not phoned as regularly as they used to, I use the very thing that dramatically changed our lives, to keep my daily connections happening, even if it is only virtual.
CREATIVITY. This is a JUICY one. Are you an artist of your life? Creating a meal, a beautiful home, a luscious garden, writing — these are all creative activities. It doesn’t have to be a work of art! As long as we are engaged in an activity that activates our right brain, that’s the key. And it keeps our mature mind healthy.
SPIRITUALITY and preparing for DEATH. This is very individual. For me the sacred is a sustaining presence in these years. I fully believe that if we reach these years without having some feeling of the sacred in our lives, then we might be forced into contemplating about it through an illness, or that of a family member. I have been reading about and reflecting on preparing for my death for a few years, in line with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and have found their teachings very comforting. It is NOT a scary thing. It’s being practical as well as intentional — living a settled and harmonious life as much as I can will help me pass over when the time comes.
Photo courtesy Stephanie Berghaeuser.