Shot of Happiness

What is a shot of happiness?  Other than a recipe for what seemed a very sweet drink with liqueurs and pineapple juice, I found no answers from a Google search. I found a couple of Facebook business pages, a blog with this title, but no definitions.

I believe in shots of happiness.  They serve as little pick-me-ups through the day so I wrote a definition.

A shot of happiness is an event, an activity, a thought, or a feeling that brings a smile, a state of contentment, a moment of pleasure, or a sense of satisfaction.  A shot of happiness is usually self-initiated but it may other-initiated. It results in feelings of well-being, serenity, and happiness.

 There is no single method for finding a shot of happiness. Each of us can engineer shots of happiness by understanding what things make us happy, what thoughts bring on a smile, and what activities bring mental sparks.

When we choose happiness, we know that it’s an attitude, a way of thinking, and an expectation of how to face the world.  I don’t think happiness is all-encompassing; rather happiness comes from little shots of happiness peppered through the day.

The First Shot of Happiness

Morning routines provide the first shot of happiness to shape the day.  Many bloggers have written excellent posts with ideas for morning routines.  Most involve getting an early start, exercising, meditating, and eating breakfast.  Happiness gurus like Gretchen Rubin recommend making your bed as an essential morning routine that increases happiness.

There’s no question that routines help to provide a shot of happiness that sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. The happiness may come from an acknowledgement of gratitude — gratitude for waking up, for a good sleep, for the gift of another day.  It may come from movement — a deep stretch, a few ankle rotations, or a back bend.  It might come from a smile from your spouse/partner or a nuzzle from a beloved household pet. It might come from a caffeine jolt or a hot shower.

Getting up every day with  feelings of happiness about the prospects for the day is a gift each of us can give ourselves. Whatever works for you should be part of a morning routine that nurtures feelings of happiness.

My own morning habits include savouring a good cup of coffee, taking a walk, playing with my cats, doing some yoga stretches, and enjoying conversation with my husband. Re-connecting in the morning is a great relationship tool as it helps each of us to stay present in our relationship. This is a relaxed time for planning the day ahead and confirming individual and mutual priorities for the day.

Productivity gives a shot of happiness

Mark Twain wrote that eating the frog early — or getting the worst task completed first — means that nothing worse will happen.  A shot of happiness comes from feelings of  productivity once a difficult task is accomplished or, in Twain-speak, the frog is eaten for the day. Twain’s idea has encouraged many to tackle a daunting task and complete it when energy levels are high.

Staying productive is a challenge for many retired people. A change of perspective is necessary when feelings of accomplishment become illusive.  Making progress on something that is important to your life leads to a feelings of satisfaction or shots of happiness. Completing certain personal chores may lead to feelings of productivity for some; for others, it’s playing a hard game of tennis, spending time as a volunteer, visiting a sick friend, or mastering a new skill.

After every  exercise class a gym friends says, “It’s done and now I can feel self-righteous for the rest of the day”.  For him, the exercise class is the equivalent of eating a frog. The feeling of accomplishment from exercise gives him a shot of happiness.

Goofing off

Goof-off time is just as important as productivity. In retirement we no longer need to experience or measure success in terms of goal achievement, profitability or key performance measures. Instead, we can have some fun every day.

Retirement means not having to make an excuse when doing nothing or when wasting time on frivolous pursuits.  With no deadlines to meet we can give ourselves a shot of happiness when we take time for playful activities, for napping, or for day-dreaming.

North Americans are notorious for treating rest and relaxation as a privilege and not a necessity. This may be a throw back to childhood when good behaviour meant getting a reward. We’ve absorbed a cultural norm that having fun or simply resting is a form of goofing off or wasting precious time. But, why should the need for fun or rest be earned?

Taking time for fun or day-dreaming or simply doing nothing can give a shot of happiness.

Bedtime Habits

At the end of the day, good habits and routines for bedtime set the stage for the next day’s happiness.

Morning shots of happiness are easier and more plentiful if I cultivate good habits before going to bed.  By spending a few minutes tidying up my workspace (usually my desk — sometimes the kitchen)  and setting priorities for the day ahead, I wake up knowing what should happen next. My husband sets up the coffee before bed so whoever gets up first just needs to push a button. Other routines include time to brush and floss while watching the late news followed by a few minutes of reading.

For some lucky people, restful sleep comes easily.  Others need to relax with a hot bath, meditation, stretching, or soft music.  Some people need a special pillow, absolute darkness, and carefully controlled temperatures.  Whatever the unique rituals you develop, winding down at the end of the day promotes healthy sleep thereby setting the stage for the next day.

Everyone deserves several shots of happiness in their day.  Shots of happiness may come from good habits, from exercise, from a sense of purpose for the day, from goofing off, or from something to anticipate. Developing effective routines for giving yourself shots of happiness takes some self-knowledge.

Shots of happiness won’t always come from the same things nor will  they come in familiar ways. When we learn to recognize fleeting moments of happiness we can savour these moments.  We can give ourselves a shot of happiness as we appreciate that simple pleasures  can delight us as much as those infrequent moments of ecstasy.

Retirement Happiness — Learning to Goof Off

For a happy retirement, some of us need to learn how to goof off. After a lifetime of measuring each day in terms of productivity are you sometimes too busy with things on the ‘to do’ list to lighten up and take some time to simply enjoy the day?

During our working lives we evaluated ourselves in terms of achievements.  We strived to attain educational goals and career goals.  We tended our relationships carefully to ensure that family life flourished.  We sacrificed leisure time to cut the grass, clean the house, or do errands. We saved money to assure financial independence in retirement. After retirement it’s difficult to shed habits related to measuring self-worth in terms of productivity.

If you, like me, were raised to regard idleness as slothful, you learned to feel guilty when goofing off.  Wasting time infuriated my single parent mother who lived by a strict work ethic. As a young widow, her need to work for income, raise two teenage children, cook, clean, and manage a household consumed all her time.  Goofing off was a luxury that she did not allow herself, nor my brother, nor me. Such modelling left its mark. I have difficulty with any type of idleness.

In the past few months, preparations to down-size, sell a house, move, and settle in a new home have created endless ‘to do’ lists, expectations, and deadlines. There’s been little time for contemplation,  socialization, or hobbies.  Such pursuits have been relegated to the category of indulgences. Getting things done on schedule took precedence over almost all activities.

Most of the immediate demands related to moving are over.  Yes, there is still unpacking to finish. There are pictures to hang, closets and cupboards to organize for efficiency. It’s also necessary to find new services for medical, dental and personal needs.

But, it’s also summer in Ontario. The last phase of moving can wait. It’s time for a summer break. This is the time to goof off without feeling guilty.

Why goof off?

When we simply can’t think of a solution, or when stimulation overloads the mind,  it’s time for a rest. Just as sleep restores physical energy, play can replenish mental energy. Our brains need rest just as our bodies need rest. Playful activities serve to refresh and nurture positive emotions. Day dreaming has a similar effect and requires no skill.

Relaxation is a benefit of play.  Play inspires creativity as well as enhancing problem solving skills. When our bodies and minds relax, creative thoughts and ideas flow naturally.  Energy and well-being increases. Stress is reduced.

Athletes are well aware of the euphoric effects of physical exercise. Fun activities that involve exercise promote more restful sleep, stimulate appetite, and enhance the right brain activity that influences creativity. Intensive workouts may be impossible for many older people but even low impact physical exercise such as walking offers similar benefits.

The expression, ‘if not now, when?’ frequently crosses my mind especially as I’ve recently watched my cottage neighbor go to hospital after a fall and never return home.  The ‘celebration’ of her life happened yesterday. It made me realize, again, that life is short. In the busyness of each day, we forget that life is fragile and take for granted that goofing off can happen in the future.

Play is fun.  Too frequently adults just don’ t indulge in pure fun.  I’m reminded of this each time I watch my grand-daughter finger paint or play a game of ‘pretend’. She is totally absorbed.  She sings.  She performs dance steps. Her activities engage and delight everyone  who is around her. Such pure fun happens  infrequently for adults.  We worry about how we look to others. Perhaps all of us need the sensory  experience of smearing paint colours on paper and admiring  the result. We need to goof off, sing, dance, and lighten up.

Goofing off is a privilege; therefore, give yourself a pinch and goof off just because you can. 90% of people in this world can’t abandon themselves to pure pleasure. Doing nothing, taking a walk without purpose, meditating, or playing a game are pleasures that are often taken for granted  in Western society as it takes little effort to meet our basic needs. Most of the world doesn’t enjoy our privileges.

It’s hard to let go of the ‘measurement’ head space and to realize that self-worth is more than accomplishments. Ending achievement addiction is an accomplishment in retirement.  Summer is a perfect time to start by enjoying the easy living of long days, warm weather, and late sunsets. Whether you call it goofing off, enjoying yourself, wasting time, or day-dreaming, it’s time for you.

If you like this post, you may also like an earlier post on this topic.  Wasting time? Spending time?  I’m interested in reader’s experiences with learning how to goof off without feeling guilty.  Please send your comments.

Retirement Happiness — Life Intermissions

Intermissions in life usually accompany a major life change. The life change might be a marriage, the birth of a child, a promotion at work, or achievement of a milestone such as running a marathon. The life change may also result from the death of a loved one, a health crisis, a financial set back, a divorce, or the loss of a friendship.

Regardless of whether a life change is positive or negative, an internal transition occurs.  It may result in unexpected emotions ranging from joy, giddiness, euphoria,  and anticipation to grief, loss, and sadness.

You can anticipate many life changes such as graduation, moving, or retirement, and plan for the change by visualizing  the results. Nonetheless, living through any change can be intense and difficult.

Major Change as Intermission

Over the years I’ve learned to consider the transition that accompanies a major change as an intermission. It’s a time to pause, a time to consider options, and a time to rest.

There is often a feeling of hollowness and emptiness.  It seems that life is on hold. Days drift past.  Everything seems in a state of flux.  What provided stability and predictability seems lost. Unexpected bouts of tiredness, anxiety, and pessimism about the future occur.

Encountering a traffic intersection when taking a drive provides a good comparison.  At an intersection, it’s natural to slow down, review the route, and consider whether to make a turn. A life intermission is also a time to take stock, review possibilities, and consider new options.

In his book, Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change, William Bridges describes three steps for adapting to a new situation.  Bridges describes the loss and sadness associated with an ending.  Then comes a messy ‘neutral’ phase; and finally, the capacity to embrace a new beginning.

Bridges contemplates the neutral zone as a time of limbo when fears and ambiguities need processing before a successful transition to a new situation.  In the neutral phase there is distress and loss as a person struggles to find a new identity. I like to think of this time as a life intermission or a timeout for psychological growth and renewal.

Managing a Life Intermission

Here are seven considerations to help you successfully manage a life intermission.

  1. Take time for self-reflection.  A life transition is an opportunity to rest and think.   Journal writing and meditation are outlets that allow you to express emotions and let go of the past.  Writing prepares you  for the personal growth that comes from successfully dealing with a life transition.
  2. Allow time wasters. When you let go of productivity aspirations and take time to relax, you give your mind the flexibility to restore itself.  There is no point in grinding away when your brain needs to run on idle.
  3. Focus on self-care.  A life intermission  is a time when you can focus on wellness and being kind to yourself. By keeping exercise routines, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and enjoying soothing rituals you nurture your body, mind, and spirit in preparation for the energy needed to make a new beginning.
  4. Experience the range of emotions that go with a life transition.  Transitions, even those that come from positive changes, are stressful.  Frightening feelings including feelings of loss, sadness, anger, fear, regret, exuberance, anticipation, and happiness are normal reactions.
  5. Remember earlier life changes. How did you manage yourself during other transitions? Coping skills learned when navigating previous transitions will carryover to help you move from vulnerability to a new normal.
  6. Make plans for the future especially when feeling lost or alone. Life transitions are times when new routines and habits are easily formed. With planning and a positive attitude new experiences that promote personal growth and learning will occur.
  7. Allow time to incorporate the effects of the change into your life. At the theatre, intermission is prescribed.  It happens in 20 or 25 minutes — enough time for a stretch and a biology break.  When dealing with a major disruption, it’s difficult to forecast the time needed to shape a new identity. The time required will be unique to each of us and unique for the type of change. It will not happen in an orderly linear progression but in multi-dimensional fits and starts.

Treating a life transition like an intermission can lead to re-invention.  In the aftermath of moving, I’m acutely aware of the mix of reactions and feelings I experience every week.  Sometimes I have bursts of energy; on other days, I can’t focus, can’t remember important information, and can’t concentrate on complex tasks.

I’m using this time to re-assess where my life is going.  It’s an excellent time to take stock and to re-create in preparation for a new beginning. This life intermission is a time to re-engineer, to understand the reality of living in a changed environment, and to prepare for another chapter of retirement. I’m in no hurry to move to the next phase. In fact, I plan to luxuriate in the limbo of this life intermission and let the world go by — at least for a little while as I need some time to replenish my energy bank!

Moving — A Recipe for Upheaval

Moving from one house to another is a recipe for weeks of upheaval. The disruption, confusion, and life-changing chaos that comes with moving from a beloved house, from a group of friends, and from a community with an established network of services is unbelievable.

This post contains a potpourri of reflections about moving from one house to another.

Regular postworksavvy readers know that my husband and I have purged, organized, and packed our belongings in preparation for a move after deciding, about a year ago, to sell our too-big house and down-size.  We also decided to move to a smaller South Western Ontario city that is near to family and near to our cottage at Lake Huron. We wanted a smaller house, smaller yard, and less commuting as a way to ensuring an independent lifestyle as we grow older.

We anticipated a certain amount of disruption in our lives but experiencing it has been another matter!  Moving at a later stage of life is a recipe for upheaval.  Neither of us expected to spend so much time with lawyers, realtors, painters, carpenters, movers, and decorators. Who could imagine that making an address change would take over one hour of phone time? Some of these encounters were easy; many have been an exercise in frustration.

Panicked Preparations

As moving day approached, I greeted friends and neighbours who came to pick up furniture, beds, bookcases, couches, and appliances. Some were excess  belongings; others we decided to replace and not take with us. As Marie Kondo advises in her book, The Life-Saving Magic of Tidying Up, I said a silent thank you and a good-bye as each of these things left my life.

Because moving costs double if the moving company packs the contents of a house, we chose to pack for ourselves. For two weeks before moving day, we packed.  Thank goodness for U Tube videos that show proper packing procedures for dishes, lamps, clothes, tools, computers, and stereo equipment.

I learned new terminology about 2, 4, and 6 foot cubic boxes, mirror/picture boxes, and wardrobe boxes. Whoever manufactures moving boxes must be extremely wealthy as the cost to purchase standard boxes ranged from $4 to $26 dollars per box not to mention the exorbitant cost of $60 for flat screen TV packing cases! Although I was tempted to use boxes from the grocery store or liquor store, I was dissuaded from this due to possible vermin contaminants, especially in boxes previously used for food items. Our moving company helped us by giving us some boxes and also by allowing us to buy clean used boxes that were surplus from office relocations.

Other packing accoutrements included tape and tape holders to properly seal each box, reams of white packing paper, rolls of bubble wrap, and labels. Fighting with rolls of tape that seemed to stick to itself as much as sticking to the boxes caused aching hands and swollen fingers. Fatigue in under-used arm and back muscles meant early bed times.

Project Management Approach

I used a project management/room-by-room approach.  Guest bedrooms and extra bathrooms were first on the list.  Once packed, boxes stayed in assigned rooms.

Items from one room were not mixed with items from other rooms as I didn’t want bedroom linens mixed with books or kitchen towels.

When  packing  sundry items from the basement and the garage took twice the allotted time that I had scheduled, panic reigned. My project management approach had not included time for packing many odd-sized articles. U Tube did not mention angst about packing sundry items like watering cans, hoses, measuring sticks, or long brooms and mops.

Although we had purged most areas of the house, the ‘donation’ and garbage piles grew quickly. We made repeated runs to the re-cycling depot and the dump during the week before the move.

Moving Day 

June 17, our moving day, dawned sunny, bright, and hot. To contain and protect our skittish cats from the mayhem, my husband crated them in their cages and left for the cottage.  I was ‘on deck’ to manage the moving process.

There was no air conditioning as every door was open for the team of 5 sturdy people who arrived precisely at 8 am. The house heated up as furniture was wrapped in 5 foot rolls of padded bubble wrap and quilted padding. My apprehension subsided as load after load of movers dollies heaped with 3 or 4 large packing boxes moved into the humongous truck. Wardrobe boxes filled with heavy clothing were heaved onto shoulders and backs — then carried sherpa-style into the truck Three men effortlessly maneuvered our piano down a ramp and belted it to the wall of the truck.

Seven hours later, the truck filled with our worldly possessions rolled down the street for weekend storage in a Toronto warehouse. I said a silent prayer of thanks.

As my next door neighbour watched the truck disappear, she cried. There were no tears for me, just a feeling of emptiness accompanied with relief.  I vacuumed the house, cleaned the bathrooms, and washed the fridge interior in preparation for new owners.  I walked through every room, then stood in the foyer and thought, with gratitude, about the shelter this house provided to our family over the years, about many parties hosted in these walls, and about the safety we experienced inside each room when bad things happened. I locked the door for the last time, and drove away.

Aftermath and Unloading

During the weekend, as we waited for arrival of our belongings and unloading day, we relaxed. Sitting on the deck at the cottage was a welcome break from lack of sleep, stress, and heavy lifting, The quiet of woods around us, the sounds from the lake, and the fact that cottage possessions were not in a state of disruption brought calm to frayed nerves.

Unloading day was, in many ways, a reverse of the loading experience.  We marvelled as heavy crates and bulky items were lifted effortlessly and placed in our new home.  Thank goodness for labels on all boxes that allowed placement in proper rooms of the new house!

We are in no hurry to unpack as we are living at the cottage and commuting to the new house.  The painter has finished painting the rooms and the front doors. I’ve cleaned the kitchen cupboards and bathroom fixtures.  We have internet, phone, security, and cable service. We’ve hired landscapers to cut the grass and trim the shrubs.

Another phase of moving is over. In the fullness of time, we’ll unpack, and begin sleeping/living in our home.  Meanwhile, it’s summer.  We don’t want to miss precious days of cottage time.

Soon enough we will engage with a new community, meet neighbours, and face the day-to-day challenges of living.

Retirement Happiness — Good Endings

In the final days before moving I’m aware that good endings are important.  Good endings involve letting go of people, places and traditions.

Endings mean difficult good-byes. As we say good-bye, we worry that inevitable life changes will alter relationships. We know the future won’t be the same.

We resist good-byes because we don’t want to lose people or things that give meaning to our lives. The natural tendency is to hold on and deny the inevitable.

Moving is one of life’s big stressors.  In stress terms, it’s rated as equal to losing a job, retiring, death of a family member, or divorce. Handling a move effectively means ending relationships; it means saying many good-byes.

Dealing with such endings is  much like the grieving process. Periods of confusion, uncertainty, and fear cloud thinking. Anxiety and doubt creep into decision-making.

When everything about your life, your home, and your living arrangement changes rapidly, it’s difficult, yet important, to stay focused and to manage endings as well as possible.

During my career I learned to bring things to an ordered close before moving from one job to another.  As a manager I faced endings as people who made substantial contributions moved to new roles. I also faced endings when I left various positions for new opportunities.

Getting things in order for a smooth transition at work meant finishing projects, preparing reports for those who would replace me, and briefing team members who would carry on until a successor was named. A project management approach enabled the transition. The skills of project management can also be applied to achieving good endings before moving.

Good Endings with People

Relationships with people will change once gatherings become infrequent. I’ll miss the daily exchanges with neighbours, locker room conversations with gym buddies, weekly bridge games with friends, and animated  book club discussions.

I know that people maintain friendships despite distance as this has happened in past moves to various cities and provinces.  The friendships will change. Many friendships will have less closeness. Some friendships will dwindle to the point of no contact.

I’m grateful to friends and neighbours who have arranged lunches and dinners to offer opportunities to say good-bye.  During these events we’ve recounted the good times and the activities we shared. We thanked each other for the fellowship we enjoyed with each other.

I’m sad about missing good-byes to church friends as we have lived at our cottage on most weekends.  I regret not saying a personal good-bye to colleagues on the library board as I could not attend the last meeting due to illness. I  can’t say good-bye to some of my gym buddies as they are away on vacation.  Without good-byes, these endings feel incomplete.

Good Endings with Places

How does one effect a good ending with a place?

My favourite spots in our community include a couple of ethnic grocery shops, our local library, the walking trail in a nearby park, and the salt water pool at my gym. I’ll miss the services I receive from our pharmacy  and the car shop that keeps my car running. Most of all, I’ll miss my back garden, the herbs outside the side door, and the plentiful yield of organic veggies from my kitchen garden.

I know that I won’t visit most of these places again and, if I do, the feelings will be those of a visitor and not feelings of belonging to those places.

Good Endings with Traditions

Some endings are linked with traditions.  Leaving our home, our community, and our friends means that many routines and traditions will change. We’ll find new ways to carry on the traditions that are meaningful but until those changes become part of daily, weekly, and seasonal patterns, we’ll feel that something is missing.

Rituals help when going through scary changes. Rituals also bring order and strength to life.  In the past few weeks, the ritualized traditions around saying good-bye have helped us make good endings as we’ve thanked those who gave meaning to our lives during our time here.

Endings and beginnings aren’t always smooth; nor are they black or white.  I’m sure there will be a hiatus before I can embrace the learning and growth opportunities that will come from living in a different place.

It’s my strong belief that good endings pave the way to new beginnings.  Giving closure to the phase of life that is over helps build capacity for a new start.  Emotional readiness is a key factor for a successful new beginning. By expressing appreciation to people, places and traditions that held meaning the foundation for what comes next emerges.

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Retirement Happiness — Celebrations

It’s the May long weekend in Canada — sometimes called  May two-four, or Victoria Day weekend.  We’re at the cottage with our son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter.

The weather forecasts call for sunny days; trees and plants have begun to show their summer finery; people are celebrating on the beach.

The challenges of preparing to move from our house have consumed most waking hours during the past few days leaving little time to write blog posts. Instead, I’m goofing off, taking much-needed time off.

Most Canadian readers are celebrating this weekend enjoying warm outdoor weather in their gardens, at festivals or at their cottages.  For readers from abroad, please enjoy this time vicariously.

To read posts written in earlier years about this celebration weekend, please click on these links:  How to Enjoy the May Two-Four Weekend

What are your essential May 2-4 traditions?

Letting Go of the Place Called Home

Our house sold a few weeks ago.  Now it’s time for another stage of letting go of the place called home.

Letting go of our home is a process just like letting go of work, or friends, or a pet.  Letting go began with the decision, many months ago, to down-size and move to a smaller house.

The next stage was de-cluttering and purging ‘stuff’ that had accumulated during 25 years of living here.  It involved a basement bootcamp that took weeks as we cleared bookshelves that contained a small library of text books, professional books, and best sellers. It involved sorting sports equipment, trophies, sports clothes, books, toys, and other memorabilia belonging to our son but never taken out of the house.  It involved looking through gifts, and mementos from family and friends that had been stored and forgotten.

Sorting photos as well as framed pictures of awards, degrees, certificates and other career highlights that both my husband and I saved took days.

There were moments of euphoria. There were moments of despair.  Almost every item we touched brought vivid memories — sometimes happy, sometimes sad. There was frustration. What should be kept? If this item is tossed, will it be missed? There were tears. It felt like excavating 25 years of life.

We felt less encumbered as stuff disappeared. Rooms were bigger. There was an emptiness in some of the space.  Once the SOLD sign was in the front yard, it also began to feel as though our house belonged to someone else.

Closure, sort of…..

Now that the house is sold, its time for beginning the final ‘letting go’. It’s not quite the final closure as we won’t ‘close’ the Agreement for Sale until June 20 but we have entered another phase of the letting go process.

We need rituals as we say good-bye to the feelings and emotions contained in our house, to remember key life  events including birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, career successes, and life passages. We need to find ways to honour rooms where we took refuge when grief, loss, and disappointment came our way. My husband and I have told the stories of these times as we begin packing the things that will move with us.

Since last fall, I’ve taken photos of favourite spaces in the house, our back garden and our street.  I need these digital memories — at least in the short-term.

letting go -- my spring garden
letting go — my spring garden

Now we need good-bye rituals as we prepare for the last departure.  Indigenous people often use tobacco or cleansing ceremonies when something new is acquired. Good-bye rituals are also common but these often involve death.

Perhaps some type of ceremony to mark this ending is needed, as emotionally, we will carry parts of this house with us in our memories. We haven’t decided how to say good-bye to our house.  It might be a final dinner with time for stories. It might be a walk-through of each empty room after the moving truck is loaded, holding hands, and looking around. It might just be a final lock-up of the 3 exit doors and the garage.

Leaving is a process. The ties to a place are strong.  A significant good-bye marking this separation with loving-kindness recognizes how much we loved the life that we lived here. We use deliberate, kind good-byes with people we love, why not with places we love?

Once we move to a another house and a different community, we’ll change.  Letting go to launch new opportunities and new adventures means giving a heart-felt farewell.  It hurts but honouring the memories allows the transition that awaits.

 

The Distraction Enemy in Retirement

As too many tech devices compete for attention, I’m determined to deal with the distraction enemy in retirement.

Who would have thought that technology would create angst after we’ve left the office? Whether from text messages, emails, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or old-fashioned voice mail, on most days digital demands rob every one of precious time.

There’s no question that digital distraction is fun nor is the internet’s usefulness questioned. Many older people find online activities ease isolation and loneliness. And who,  regardless of age, hasn’t watched funny cat videos, serious Ted talks, spent hours researching consumer information, or enjoyed the convenience of booking a vacation?

But, too often technology becomes a distraction or even an addiction. Most of us are guilty of checking something online as a form of procrastination. Few people have in boxes without hundreds, even thousands of messages, notifications, and alerts.

A couple of years ago I had an email problem and years of data got erased.  I panicked but soon realized that I didn’t need the archived material that had been lost. Nonetheless, my inbox has again multiplied sufficiently that I despair of ever seeing the coveted empty inbox.

What is Digital Distraction?

Quite simply, digital distraction  is scattered attention.  This increases exponentially when our minds are cluttered with too much information.

Most digital  messages and alerts expect an immediate response as a form of social reciprocity. Sometimes immediate action is required.  A sense of vulnerability is created if the response/action gets delayed, or worse, if it’s impossible to respond.

I can’t imagine how much information I would manage if I were still in my career or how much anxiety I would feel if I didn’t respond in a timely fashion.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and FOBO (Fear of Being Offline) create anxiety and worry regardless of age or workforce status.  Relationships suffer when the false urgency of a notification or a pointless email grabs attention.  People interrupt a conversation with a spouse, a child, or a friend to read and/or respond.

Everyone who has a social media presence suffers some degree of digital distraction. We get pulled away from priorities and use precious time and energy attending to unimportant information.  Focus on relationships or work that needs to be done is compromised by the need to check a screen on a smart phone or tablet to which we are constantly connected.

Handling Digital Distraction

A quick Google search found an excellent Harvard Business Review article “Conquering Digital Distraction” by Larry Rosen and Alexandra Samuel at https://hbr.org/2015/06/conquering-digital-distraction.  This gives a comprehensive review of digital distraction as well as suggestions for conquering it.

An escape from digital distraction is unlikely so learning to manage technology is essential.

Some of my favourite techniques when I’m overwhelmed with digital devices include a technology withdrawal. When 24/7 connectivity robs me of precious thinking time, I take time off. I remind myself that I’m retired and don’t need constant connectivity. Stress from over-vigilance and from expectations of a quick response or a quick reaction, gets a break with time off.

I also set aside time for uninterrupted work. I remember when my mother needed time to read or write letters, she turned off her radio so she could concentrate without chatter or music.  A simple timer to stop digital disruption when writing or researching a blog post give me uninterrupted time for thinking and writing.

I also set digital boundaries for how often and when to check my computer and smart phone for messages.  Usually this is twice a day unless I’m expecting something important.  I try to keep my phone in my pocket or my purse when I visit with friends as I value face time with them over screen time.

I’ve experimented with email filters and automation tools to block emails and to re-direct emails to folders.  These tools have given only limited success.Perhaps I’ve not taken enough time  to learn how to use such tools effectively. If I were in the workforce, I would likely need automated responses to survive, but, for me, using  Unsubscribe or Delete  remain the primary method of managing unwanted messages.

For a pleasant retirement, learning how to make life choices and not tech choices or app choices is necessary.  We can’t isolate ourselves from the advantages of social media. We can, however, learn how to manage how we attend to the demands of digital distraction and, thus, restrain its influence on daily life.

I’m wondering how readers are affected by information overload.  What techniques have you found to be effective for managing digital distraction and keeping the distraction enemy under control?

Thanks for reading this post.  You may also like a previous post on FOMO that you can read by clicking this link Are you suffering from FOMO?

I look forward to your comments!

 

 

The Person I’ve Become

Since retiring in 2010, I marvel at the person I’ve become.  I look back at my younger self and realize how much I’ve changed and evolved.

I’m gradually feeling calmer, kinder, even happier as I grow older.

Calmness

The sense of calm comes from good health habits.  I cook and eat nutritious whole foods, get regular exercise, and sleep 7 or 8 hours at night.

I try to live gently with others by listening  to what they say and not interrupting their conversation to add my thoughts. I also try to listen to the birds in my garden and to the cat’s delightful purr.

I admit that I’m not calm about ageism, unfairness, or deception. On these fronts, I try to control my reactions.

I worry less. Most of what I’ve worried about over the years hasn’t happened.  If worry comes from lack of planning, I take action.

Stuff is not as important as it used to be — especially after three months of de-cluttering and purging.  I still love my clothes, my shoe collection, my fun jewelry, and the multitude of scarves acquired over the years.  However, a peaceful state of mind, playful friends, and a loving family give more contentment than I ever received from ‘stuff’. It’s easier to let go of things that hold little meaning and to let go of people who rob me of precious energy without giving back.

I’ve had more experience with loss and grief. I know that there are low, crazy times when everything about the world feels unfair.  I also know that these times pass and equanimity returns.

Kindness

I don’t think that I was unkind before retirement but I was often abrupt. I lived a ‘too busy’ life in a fast-paced work environment.  I multi-tasked to save time.  I had little patience for those who were less productive than I perceived myself to be!

Having time for reflection, time for hobbies, and time for solitude has allowed my mind to relax.    I try to focus fully on what is happening. With a mindset of acceptance and respect I appreciate acts of kindness that others show in daily interactions with me and with each other.

Most importantly, I’m kinder with myself. Workplace critics who fuelled insecurities are history.  Yoga and mindfulness have helped me connect with my strengths. With positivity and acceptance, negative and painful feelings that plagued me for years are slowly melting away and, thus, taking less of my attention. self-respect, and confidence.

Happiness 

As we grow older, we become happier; I feel this happening for me as the years pass.

Researchers in the US, UK and Australia with backgrounds in economics, psychology, and sociology have shown a U curve of happiness and well-being. This U curve shows lowest levels of happiness around age 45 followed by a steady up curve.   Happiness and contentment increase in later decades of life. The correlation between happiness and ageing happens despite declines in health, increases in dependence, and less social interaction.

My happiness has increased because I’ve learned to respond differently when I don’t live up to my expectations.  I’m also more resilient and less affected by opinions of others. I feel younger on the inside than I look on the outside.

I hope my wisdom is increasing but it’s sometimes as imperfect ever. I do and say things that I regret but I try to repair damage done. I fall short of goals but I keep trying to improve.  I am learning to live with gratitude for what I have and not continuously striving for more or better or faster.

There’s an old saying that you start where you are to get your life to where you want it to be.  Some of the changes since retirement happened because of conscious choices.  Many changes were serendipitous.

I like the person I’ve become.  I’m sure that in a few years, who I am today will have changed again as I take risks, learn from daily life experiences, meet new people, and seek new adventures.  There will be more lessons as I savour this stage of my life.  In the famous words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

I’m interested to hear reader thoughts on how life has changed for you since retiring. Has retirement brought contentment, well-being and happiness? What other changes have you experienced?  I promise to respond to all comments!

 

 

Manage Time — Manage Choices

In recent months, as I’ve struggled with managing time in retirement, I’ve realized that it’s not so much about how I manage time as it is about how I manage choices.

In 2010, when newly retired, I felt like a kid in a candy store.  There were so many options for retirement happiness. I was free from routines, obligations, and schedules.  With an empty calendar I said ‘yes’ to almost any interesting activity, challenge, and hobby.

Staying involved with the world, caring for my health, and  keeping my mind active guided decisions.

I started this blog and learned the basics of Word Press. I accepted numerous invitations for membership on not-for-profit boards. I got involved with committees in my church. I joined not one, but two, book clubs. I began to play bridge with a small group, first as a substitute, and soon as a regular player. I attended a weekly knitting group to re-learn knitting skills. I made time for regular exercise at my club and began to meet gym, yoga and pool friends for lunch at the club’s restaurant after exercise. I dedicated myself to cooking and eating nutritious meals.  I spent hours developing a shade garden at our cottage and maintaining our perennial and veggie garden at home. Interspersed with all of this was time for travel, time for entertaining, and time for our grand-daughter after her birth three years ago.

Writing this list confirms how the collateral damage of trying to do too much eventually discouraged and overwhelmed me.  I needed to re-assess how I was spending precious retirement years.

It took months to realize that many of the activities and hobbies that I had chosen in the early phase of retirement were not as fulfilling as I hoped.  Attending meetings and spending hours in various board rooms had filled my days when working.  Why was I repeating this in retirement?

To find retirement happiness, I needed to take responsibility for the choices that filled my time. I also needed more free time. I had to re-organize my schedule to maximize happiness from each chosen activity.

Sorting out which activities to keep created a dilemma. Since I have only one life and one retirement, identifying priorities took serious thought. I began by resigning from most boards and  committees. Shelving those obligations freed up meeting and travel time as well as time spent reading binders full of information in preparation for meetings.

The next choice entailed a mantra that I called the ‘rule of 2’.  I would not participate in more than two activities or appointments outside of the house on any day.  Going to the gym counted as one activity; attending bridge counted one activity; meeting a friend for lunch counted as an appointment.  The ‘rule of 2’ resulted in a more manageable schedule.  It also caused me to become discerning about commitments.

Since January 2016 I’ve augmented the ‘rule of 2’ with weekly and monthly planning.  A weekly overview, usually on Sunday evening, helps me to figure out how to better achieve both short-term and longer term priorities. At the beginning of each month I review and celebrate the highlights of the previous month. I consider what was not finished and why. This helps me to understand my productivity and my successes. When I accomplish very little, I’m able to assess why and self-correct.

I’ve tried not to become maniacal about the schedule nor too focused on productivity. Rather, I try to spend time on current life priorities. For example, because making time for de-cluttering, purging, and moving to a smaller house is a key 2016 priority for my husband and me, I commit several hours each week to take me closer to achieving this important outcome.

I understand that I won’t finish everything on the schedule. I’m also realizing that everything takes longer than planned.

Making better time management choices for a fulfilling and happy retirement remains a challenge.  I struggle with time stealers like spending too many hours on email or social media. I feel guilty when I goof off too often. A mindset focused on productivity sometimes prevents me from engaging in activities of pure fun.

With this awareness, I try to cut myself some slack. I have only one retirement.  I’m determined to fill each day with inspirational, satisfying and interesting choices. I’ll use every helpful technique to manage choices of how I spend precious retirement time.

You can see what I wrote about coping with time constraints and over-commitment in earlier posts by clicking these links.http://postworksavvy.com/respect-speed-limits-in-life/http://postworksavvy.com/respect-the-speed-limits-of-life-part-2/;http://postworksavvy.com/managing-the-speed-limits-of-life-interim-assessment/

I know that postworksavvy readers are involved in many retirement activities. What have you learned to about how to manage time and manage choices?

 

Inspirations for a Happier Retirement

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