Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The secret to happiness - live like a senior (even if you're not)


You know who has life figured out?
Seniors.

I should know, because not only do I work with them and live in a de facto retirement community, but I’m also married to one. At 63, my husband is more or less retired, and our life together has never been better.
There is only one problem: I’m still far, far away from retirement. I’m only 37, and I estimate that I have roughly another 25 years of work life ahead of me. Boo!

While this news could be depressing, I have decided on a different approach: Learning from the life philosophy of the seniors around me, and adapting it to my non-retirement lifestyle. And I have to tell you: Ever since I have done that, life feels like a never-ending vacation! Well, almost.

Here are 10 tips how to live a happier, easier, more fulfilled life as seen by retirees:


1. Give your life purpose.

That one is a big one. The happiest retirees are the ones who have a purpose in life. The thing about retirement is, if you’re not prepared for it, leaving your job for good can be a huge shock to the system. Many people identify themselves over their work, maybe without realizing it, and when the work is gone, they are plunged into an identity crisis. Who are they outside of work? What are they supposed to do now?

The trick is to find a reason to get up in the morning. It could be volunteer work, babysitting the grandkids, a treasured hobby, joining a club, having a garden, pets, or going shopping for a neighbour who can’t do it themselves. Every person needs to feel needed in order to be fulfilled, and while it may be an adjustment to go from working full-time to being at home full-time, there is another big, exciting world of opportunity out there for life after work!

Taking a cue from that, I treat my job as something I choose to do, instead of something I have to do.  (Even though, like everyone else, I do have to make a living.) With this little mind trick, I feel oddly more at peace with the fact that my “freedom – 63?” is still far off in the future.


2. Every day is a gift.
People say that the older they get, the faster time flies. I’m sure you still remember how long it seemed to take for Christmas to finally arrive when you were a child! These days? There don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done we have on our to-do lists.

Fact is, the older we get, the less time we have left in our lifespan.
This is a scary though for many of us, and one most young people refuse to think about. “I’ll worry about it when I get older,” is the common attitude, one I’m quite familiar with.
Well, for seniors the time to worry about it has arrived. Or, at least that’s what we think. The secret is, once you start to deal with your mortality and accept that it’s a normal part of life, it loses its scariness. In exchange for the vague fear you had all your life about death, you come to appreciate life much more. Coming from a place of gratitude instead of fear, life becomes this precious, wonderful gift.

3. A body in motion stays in motion.
Years ago, after a predictable (and unsuccessful) New Year’s resolution to get fit, I joined a one-month boot camp challenge. It involved rigorous outdoor workouts three times a week, either at 6am or 6 pm. It was cold, dark, and awful, and I didn’t last more than two weeks. While I learnt that boot camp-style workouts were not my style (I’m a yogi these days), I also caught a glimpse into a world I didn’t know existed: Senior workouts.
We met at the parking lot of a community centre, and I was amazed to find that the place was hopping at 6 in the morning. A group of cheerful and scarily wide-awake seniors met there every morning to go swimming together. I was so impressed by this amazing subculture I hadn’t known existed, I have never forgotten it.

Most people in my neighbourhood are 60 years and older. Many of them are extremely fit.
One neighbour in his eighties rides his horse every day; another in his eighties hikes the surrounding hills regularly. There are passionate walkers, cross-country skiers, gardeners, pickle ball-players and dancers amongst the seniors, and they all have a sparkle in their eye and a spring in their arthritic steps. Moving is the secret to staying fit and healthy! No gym membership required.



4. Maintain friendships.
Friends make good times better and bad times easier. They lift us up and make us feel understood. There are few things in life better than laughing with friends, and talking about all the big and little things that are going on in our lives. Humans are social creatures, and we function better and are happier when we have a support system around us.  

5. Less screen time, more real time.
I live in the unique position of being surrounded by people without social media. When we meet, there are no cellphones in sight. No selfies are taken to be posted online later, and nobody is staring at their phone while distractedly nodding along to whatever you are saying. I would feel rude to have my phone out when nobody else does, so it’s happened a few times now where I just leave it at home.
Being disconnected in a world where everybody is connected 24/7 feels almost rebellious – and so relaxing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Instagram, and as a blogger, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer. But those regular times off social media have become a much-needed break that I’m now craving, and it would never have happened without my seniors.



6. Stuff is just stuff.
If you have ever tried to shop for grandma, you probably know how hard that is. Why? Because she says she doesn’t need anything. The older people get, the more they seem to realize that the important things in life aren’t found in a store. She’s probably happiest when you come for a visit and a chat, instead of buying something she doesn’t want.
I find that the need to go shopping “to treat myself” is decreasing all the time, and it feels so liberating! It got me out of the vicious cycle of being stressed about money/needing to relax by going shopping/spending money/being stressed about money. More money, less clutter = more freedom, less stress! It’s a win/win.     


7. Stress less.
Your house needs cleaning, the lawn needs mowing, and you have roots a mile long?
You could stress about it, or you could say: So what?
So much stress in our lives is made by us, by putting too many expectations and pressure on ourselves.
Stop that.
Once we let go of the myth of perfection, life becomes a lot easier. Add to that the resolve to be kind and forgiving to yourself and others, and most of the stress from your life is magically gone!



8. Most problems are in our heads.
Have you ever heard the saying: “I have 99 problems, and most of them haven’t happened”?
Many of us have the tendency to worry about things that will never happen. Not only is it pointless, but it will also take the joy out of today. My husband always says that “90% of all problems solve themselves”, and while that number is pretty random, the statement is not. Think about it: How many of the things you lost sleep over have actually happened? Very few.
Wise people know that worrying doesn’t help anybody, and they only tackle a problem when it presents itself.

9. Appreciate the little things.
Sunsets. Bird song.  Great food. Sunshine. Flowers.  A good book. Time spent with friends. Laughter. Holding hands. Snuggling. A cool drink on a hot day. Bear hugs. Dog licks. Doing absolutely nothing. Having endless energy and doing everything. Chocolate. The warm wind in your face. Feeling free. Feeling loved.   
The little things in life are really the big things. Appreciate them, and don’t take them for granted. 



10. Enjoy life!
When we are young, we think that life will stretch on forever. Picturing ourselves being middle-aged, or – even worse – old, seems impossible.  But any person over the age of 60 can testify that life is over in the blink of an eye. None of us are getting out alive, so we might as well make the best of it!

xoxo Miriam



I send out weekly tips of how to love yourself and live your best life. You should totally check it out right here!




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6 comments

  1. Great tips!! I've still got a whole lotta working life ahead of me, but it will be what I make it, right?? And it can be good and fulfilling as well as necessary.

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    1. Not having a purpose is soul-destroying. I always thought being retired would be the best thing in the world - but it only is if you have lots of stuff to do. If not, life loses its sparkle. Telling myself that working is a privilege and not a chore has made a big difference! My mind is easily tricked ;-)

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  2. My parents are both in their 60's and retired and they always have way more fun than me! They're living life right.

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    1. Right?! I find the seniors around me so motivating. Some of them do a lot more than I do. It's awesome!

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  3. I agree with every single one of these tips. And I have to remember the quote about the 99 problems in your head.... this is my husband 100%. If this thoughts came true, we would have been sued a few times, homeless and worse, jailed. All completely irrational thoughts to something as simple as say... not paying the car insurance on time. Or getting fired.
    The pictures you chose here are great! Love it!

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    Replies
    1. Aren't these guys the cutest? Total life goals right there!
      I'm a worrier too, but with a lot of practice you can actually get over it (sort of). I try really hard to live in the now, and not worry about the future. Whatever happens, happens- we can deal with it when - and if -
      problems arise.
      I like the saying: Everything will be ok in the end. If it's not ok, it's not the end.

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