How to Enjoy the May Two-Four Weekend

It may be presumptuous to write about how to enjoy the May Two Four weekend.  This weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer in most of Canada.  Temperature-wise, it may not feel like summer but Canadians typically use this weekend to celebrate the  end of winter.

The May Two-Four weekend  comes early this year with the statutory holiday falling on May 19, 2015. The holiday, which honours Queen Victoria’s birthday, is celebrated on the Monday preceding her actual birthdate which is May 25.

Usually the statutory holiday happens around the date of May 24. Seemingly, this is why the weekend is called May Two-Four.  Informally, it is also known as May Two-Four because beer, the unofficial drink of the weekend, is commonly sold in cases of 24 bottles.  Many people buy several cases to get them through the festivities of the weekend!

Besides drinking beer, people find many ways to celebrate.  Most try to take part in activities that involve the outdoors regardless of weather.

Nearly every major city and town holds a parade or a display of fireworks.  Marching bands and clowns dominate the parades and charm onlookers. Children struggle to stay awake until late in the evening when skies are dark enough for all the vivid bursts of colour, noise, and smoke from professional pyrotechnic specialists.

Often families hold picnics and/or barbecues in backyards or public parks.  Sometimes these events include family reunions with special foods for potluck style eating that continues from lunch time into the evening.

May Two four is the time when many people open  seasonal cottages or ‘camps’.  Docks are dragged back into small lakes, boats are launched, pumps for well water are primed, outdoor furniture is cleaned and placed in sunny spots. Indoors, cupboards are cleaned, rooms are dusted and beds are made up with fresh linens. This is usually a weekend of back-breaking work accompanied by prayer that machinery works, hydro is not interrupted, and necessary tools are at the ready!

Whether it’s a rustic ‘back to the land’ style of camping in a tent with few amenities or getting away in a fancy recreational vehicle with all the comforts of home, camping is often chosen for May Two Four family activity. Ontario’s Provincial Parks reported that reservations had filled all serviced and non-serviced camp sites in Southern and Central Ontario by mid April.

Gardeners feel a tug to plant during the May Two Four weekend.  Dreams of bountiful summer vegetables and fantasies of brightly coloured flowers make digging, mulching and watering feel worthwhile whether it involves a large plot of land or small containers on an apartment balcony. Typically, this is the time of year when night-time temperatures no longer fall below zero so planting tender bedding plants can be done safely.

May Two Four is also a time when many choose to spend time with quieter forms of relaxation. The weekend is ideal for enjoying a long walk to do some bird watching, sitting in a hammock with a good book, hiking in a bushy area to forage for edible spring plants, or simply doing nothing.

For me, May Two Four means time at the cottage renewing friendships with people who I haven’t  seen since Labour Day 2014, preparing foods for my husband to experiment cooking on his new barbecue grill, and relaxing outdoors in the sunny spring weather.

Regardless of the choice,  enjoying the May Two Four weekend is a priority for every Canadian as the summer is so short in our country.  How the weekend is enjoyed depends on many factors.  Regardless of choice, I wish  all postworksavvy readers, a carefree, worry-free time enjoying the company of others — or enjoying solitary relaxation.

If you enjoyed this post, here’s a link to an older post on the same theme — May 2-4 , May Two Four, or Victoria Day! What are your essential May 2 − 4 Traditions?


Are busy people happier in retirement?

Are busy people happier in retirement? Does keeping busy create good feelings?  Does keeping busy give purpose and meaning to every day?

Most retired people are admonished to ‘take it easy’.  We are told to relax and ‘smell the roses’. Yet, for many, idleness creates boredom.

If you, like me, learned to regard busyness as a badge of honour during work years, you know it’s difficult to slow down.  After spending years where busyness was equated with importance, when multi-tasking was how you successfully managed a day and when over-scheduling was a status symbol, it is hard to retire to a slower lifestyle.

Through work, I created meaning in life and used it to define who I was, and how I was valued. Being a wife, mother, daughter, and community member often took second place.

After retirement, I re-created a busy schedule for myself.  My calendar included family events, volunteer activities, travelling, exercise routines, gardening, book clubs, knitting, bridge, cottaging, new friendships, cooking courses, and blogging.  Just as I did during my career, I rushed from task to task.

After a few years I was overwhelmed. The joy in many of these activities was gone. I had no time to play the piano, read a book for pleasure, watch a movie, or just goof off.

As I took stock of retirement decisions, I decided that too much busyness was leading to the same feelings of stress that I  experienced while I worked. Just as career activities and accomplishments brought sweet feelings of achievement and many rewards, my retirement activities were satisfying but too much activity was taking a toll on overall well-being.  I was no longer the superwoman who could function on limited sleep and large quantities of caffeine.

I realized that being overly busy did not make me happy.  Many of the things I was busy with were no longer meaningful as my life changed and as I grew more comfortable with retirement.

I decided to limit volunteer activities which meant resigning from several volunteer boards and committees, especially those that involved hours of travel or overly long meetings.  I had spent enough hours in board rooms during my career.

When I remembered that in 2014,  I enjoyed summer immensely while doing practically no gardening at our house or cottage.  This happened by accident as I took a long spring vacation and was not able to do the usual gardening chores. The world didn’t end without an array of colourful blooms in July and August.  I purchased some patio pots of flowers and lots of Ontario grown veggies at the farmer’s market so the bounty of summer still came to our table and our home.

I also decided to live by the ‘Rule of Two’ which meant that I would not have more than two activities on any day.  This has worked fairly well except when called upon for unplanned child care with my grand daughter.

When a postworksavvy reader commented, after reading my last blog post,  that ‘Six in a Week’ worked when assessing activity levels, I’ve considered a further lifestyle evaluation. I don’t know that I will manage six events per week, but I will review the weekly calendar and think carefully about commitments keeping in mind the Rule of Two and the total number of commitments in a week. You can read the post and comments at this link Sometimes you’re forced to slow down,

My experiences have not changed my opinion that busy people are happier in retirement.  I will always opt for a certain level of busyness in preference to idleness.  However, when precious time and energy is spent in activities that no longer satisfy and inspire, it’s time to make changes.

Happiness comes only when we do things we love and when we have time to do these things at a somewhat leisurely pace. For me, this includes activities that bring a sense of accomplishment and achievement without feelings of guilt or obligation.  It includes activities that are  linked with productivity and that give meaning in your life. It’s your choice!

I’m interested in hearing about your experiences of busyness in retirement.  Are you too busy?  Not busy enough? Please send your comments in response to this post.

Sometimes you’re forced to slow down

Sometimes you’re forced to slow down. Sometimes it’s necessary to retreat from the world — to stop completely. No appointments.  No activities. No gym time.  No cooking.  No errands.  Nothing..

I’ve had over a week of slow time suffering from a severe flu. I could whine and complain about the unfairness of such an illness as I’ve dutifully had a flu shot every year. Moreover, I already had a bout of the flu during the Christmas season.

Last Monday afternoon as I drove home from a meeting, fever, chills and aching muscles hit.  I spent the evening in front of the gas fireplace trying to stay warm.  The thermostat read 28 degrees Celsius yet my teeth chattered and my feet felt like icicles. After a restless night I awoke  with the realization that this was more than a low energy day. I was sick.

I stayed in bed for several days growing more frustrated as time  passed especially when I missed my grand daughter’s second birthday party on the weekend.

After coffee and a shower this morning, I dressed in a comfy track suit only to climb back into bed to snuggle under the duvet to write a post.

Sickness is foreign to me.  During my career, I prided myself for not using sick days.  Except for a couple of surgeries, I’ve never spent time in bed or recovering from illness.

How/Why did this hit?

It’s natural to wonder where I contracted the virus that caused this flu. I don’t recall contact with anyone who was ill.  I’m fanatic about hand washing and using hand sanitizer.

When I think about the past few weeks, I realize that I’ve been far too busy.  Although sticking, for the most part, with my rule of no more than two commitments per day, the time around those commitments has been filled with other things that build stress.  Preparations for annual tax filing, writing, bridge lessons and bridge games, along with a couple of late night events had a cumulative effect.

I’m annoyed that my brain wasn’t smart enough to recognize overload without having my body collapse.  I’m well aware of how stress can weaken the immune system.

Did stress create a vulnerability to the viruses that thrive with the warm/cold temperature variability recently experienced in Ontario?

Slowing down without getting sick

As a child, my mother used to say, “If your brain isn’t smart enough to slow down once in a while, your body will do it for you!”  Her admonitions came when I was ‘pushing the river’ and taking on more than I could handle even when in superwoman mode.

As I approach another decade birthday, I’m realizing that I don’t have the same capacity to push myself as I did in younger years.  When my body sends the message to rest or slow down, I can’t ignore it.

It’s time to take stock (again) of how I spend my time. What commitments should I give up? What routine tasks can I pay someone to do? How do I incorporate rest into the daily/weekly schedule?

I’m not prepared to compromise on gym time or exercise.  There’s an amount of house and yard work that needs to be done regardless of what gets hired out as I’m not in a position to afford a flotilla of servants.

My challenge is to slow down without neglecting social or family activities that I enjoy.

The change I can make for the next few months is to move from the ‘Rule of Two’ to a ‘Rule of One’ for at least four days of the week. For readers new to Postworksavvy, my ‘Rule of Two’ is that I will not  undertake more than two activities outside of the house in one day.  That means, for the days when I go to the gym, that I won’t add more than one appointment, or activity, or social event.

I started on my ‘Rule of Two’ mantra earlier this year when I was looking for easy time management strategies to carve out more time for writing and for hanging out with myself. After four months, I’ve had some success with the ‘Rule of Two’.  It gives a structure to my calendar.

Using a ‘Rule of One’ in a similar way will mean careful thought before making any commitments.

Another small change I plan to make is scheduling bed time.  I’ve always been a night owl with an uncanny ability to stay awake to finish projects.  it was my secret strategy for meeting deadlines — a hangover from student days when late nights were used to cram for exams.  But why keep crazy hours in retirement when there are no deadlines except for those I create myself?

i’m interested in hearing thoughts my readers have.  What strategies have you used to slow down without bringing life to a stop?



7 Reasons Why Smart People Struggle with Retirement

Why do smart people struggle with retirement?

After decades of work, many take a hard look at their finances including pensions and government benefits.  Next comes the decision to retire.

After the hoopla of retirement celebrations, many question this decision.  There are a few weeks — or months — of feeling that life is an endless vacation filled with gardening, golfing, sleeping in and travelling. But, reality hits and retirement turns sour.

Struggles often arise when the psychological and emotional preparations are incomplete. The financials indicate that retirement should be easy but there is a nagging feeling that the spark of life is missing. Feelings of irritability, anxiety and displacement nag at the heart.  Stress sky-rockets.

It’s not uncommon to re-think the decision to retire.  Why does this happen?

The timing may have be wrong.  Retirement may have come too early.  If so,  a return to work — perhaps on a part-time basis — might be the solution.  Unfortunately, sometimes retirement happens too late, and poor health limits enjoyment of retirement years.

Work provides structure to life and when that structure is gone, boredom arises. The phrase ‘boredom in retirement’ ranks high for internet search engines. This is a common concern.

Everyone gets bored from time to time whether retired or not and everyone has found a way through such times.

With so  many choices about how to spend precious retirement days, it’s hard to imagine boredom lasting too long. A review of the bucket list might spark new ideas to help make a purposeful plan for retirement years. Saying ‘yes’ more often when family and friends issue invitations to take part in events is another strategy. Adding structure by calendaring daily and weekly events also helps to plan for free time.

Some people have few or no interests.  Many jobs are all-encompassing.  Coupled with the demands of raising a family, the work years left no time or energy to develop hobbies, skills, friendships, other pursuits.

When people with an over-busy career history leave work, a huge gap appears. Taking courses in areas that have always held interest or re-kindling past hobbies may  be a solution.  This process may involve missteps.  It may take months to find something enjoyable.

A loss of identity is not uncommon as many people over-identify with their jobs. Their title and status in the workforce define who they are.

Job identity stops at retirement leaving  the person to struggle with redefinition of the self. Answering the question “who am I?’ is difficult until a new identity emerges. The  retirement identity evolves slowly developing simultaneously with pursuit of new interests and new relationships.

Even smart people have difficulty letting go of the past.  Grieving is part of the transition to retirement. Workplace friends and peers are lost. Emotional readjustment happens when work ends.  Self-definition changes. Keeping perspective allows consideration of new and challenging opportunities during retirement instead of re-playing the good old days.

Some people suffer from loneliness when they leave the camaraderie of work friends. The buzz of work, even the stress, is missed. Emptiness, isolation and feelings of personal insignificance accompany the loneliness.  These feelings will gradually subside as new friendships develop. A retirement network evolves to replace the social connections of the workplace.

Many people miss the ‘achievement factor’ after retirement.  The awards, accolades, respect, and promotions provided a sense of achievement that is gone after retirement. Too often, achievement equalled happiness.

In retirement, the ‘projects-to-complete’ and ‘goals-to-attain’ involve  achieving deeper insight and self actualization. Reframing the measurement of achievement and learning how to reward oneself for retirement accomplishments will fill the achievement vacuum.

Smart people will struggle with retirement.  For some, this will happen in weeks or months.  For others, it may take years before reaching a level of comfort.

FOGO and The Art of Aging

What is FOGO and how does it relate to the art of aging?

Let’s begin with the easy part.  FOGO is the short form for Fear of Getting Old.

Getting old is inevitable. For many, FOGO begins in teenage years, accelerates with every decade, and becomes more of a pre-occupation if you are fortunate to live into later years — 60s, 70s, and beyond.

Fear of getting old (FOGO) is well documented.  It is often associated with fear of death.  Elizabeth Lesser, speaking to Oprah, famously said that aging is the younger cousin of dying.

Seeing old people often provokes FOGO as it serves as a reminder of our own mortality. Shunning and/or avoid old people relates to FOGO.

For some, FOGO is severe enough that it becomes a phobia.  There’s a clinical term for it — ‘gerascophobia’.  Wikipedia describes  gerascophobia “as an abnormal or persistent fear of growing old.”

FOGO is often associated with dysfunction. Common fears revolve around loss of health, loss of memory, and financial fears.  Fear of dependency and fear of pain loom high on the list.  Nobody wants to become a burden to family members or suffer pain.

Some level of FOGO is natural.  Anxiety about aging accelerates as skin begins to sag, and energy levels decrease. We know that aging brings us closer to dying.

Enjoying Retirement
The Art of Aging

The Art of Aging

Fear of growing old does not need to cripple us nor should it dampen the enthusiasm and excitement of living.  Aging brings many benefits including increased wisdom, better judgement, and greater emotional stability.

Aging begins at the onset of life which means that we’ve had a lifetime to accumulate experiences that strengthen character and give perspective.

The art of aging is a useful concept as it focuses on positive ways to grow old. It nullifies media stereotypes of old people that feed the fears of growing old.

We can use various strategies to practice the art of aging.

1.  Look for role models.  There are many good examples of people who have mastered aging with grace and style. Actress Judi Dench, environmental activist David Suzuki, and feminist Gloria Steinem come to mind as people who have accepted their age.  All of us have parents, grandparents, neighbours and friends who have demonstrated aspects of aging — both positive and negative — to emulate.

2. Focus on the freedom of aging. Physical beauty changes with age but there is less worry about appearances. While there are changes in the structure and function of the aging brain, loss of mental capacity is not a given.  Aspects of memory and processing speed decline,  yet older people demonstrate excellent problem solving skills, better emotional control and good decision-making by making effective connections from brain inputs.  They have more patience and tolerance.  Perhaps that is why wisdom is often associated with aging.

3. Plan for your future.  As much as possible, take control of financial, health, and living arrangements to find a comfortable lifestyle that fits your means and your capacity. Make plans to live the remaining years as well as you can.  Practice self-care. Learn to pace yourself to deal with changes of energy level and stamina.

4. Maintain connections with people.   As well as fostering positive family relationships and maintaining long-standing friendships, it’s important to develop a social network and  that fits your postworksavvy lifestyle. This is no time to withdraw or pull back from the world. Initiate activities, join clubs, take courses, accept invitations and savour social events.

5. Stay hopeful and optimistic. Life adventures don’t belong only to the young.  The novelty of living continues when you when you stay excited and enthusiastic.  Believing in yourself, setting goals, and working to accomplish something you’ve always dreamed about provides meaning and purpose.

6.  Make your life about experiences.  Most people, especially as they grow older enjoy experiences more than possessions.  Perhaps that’s why many find travel so pleasurable and satisfying.  Learning new skills, taking courses, meeting new people, and giving back through volunteer work are other experiences that contribute to aging well.  As we take responsibility to avoid being sidelined, we prevent complacency from setting in.  Experiences make our lives interesting.

Perhaps FOGO should be re-labelled ‘fear of living’. When we embrace the process of growing older, we can stop fighting natural fears of growing older and begin to appreciate the benefits. When we learn to love and to value our older selves, we will have mastered the art of growing older.

Thanks for reading my blog.  I’m interested in your comments about FOGO and the art of aging.

Image courtesy of hyden2012

Coping with Fear of the Future

How can we cope with fear of the future? Why does fear of the future become a preoccupation as we grow older?

Older people have many fears in common including fear of dying, fear of living in pain, fear of losing independence, and, of course, fear of getting old.

Most days, some worry about getting older crosses my mind.  I know this is true for others as aging is a frequent topic at bridge tables, at my gym, and in conversations with friends and relatives.

Growing older brings all kinds of worries that cropped up infrequently in younger years. We worry about the effects of aging.  We worry about losing health.   We worry about money.  We worry about losing a spouse, losing loved family members, losing friends, and, even, losing pets.

Much of the worry revolves around loss, especially loss of physical and/or mental capacity.  How would we cope without capacity to walk, or climb stairs or capacity to care for our bodies?  How would we feel if we could not feed or toilet ourselves? Most of us dread the thought of being cared for by a stranger, a spouse, or worse, a child.

Loosing mental capacity also ranks high on the list of fears. With increasing age comes the possibility of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.  Each time keys are misplaced, a name is forgotten or a thought is lost in mid-sentence, there is concern that mental capacity is in jeopardy.

Perhaps the fear of the future comes because, as we grow older, we experience losses more often.  Coping with these losses becomes part of daily living.  Friends and family members die and we grieve.  Changes in lifestyle cause many to uproot from houses and communities, even countries, where most of life was lived. Careers are left behind, as well as professional networks, workplace friends, and the status of former job titles.

We are often faced with worries of loneliness and loss.  Learning to cope with loss, to put things into perspective and to deal with the effects of growing older is part of a life transformation.  It’s natural that there are feelings of anxiety and some fearfulness.

Coping with Fear of the Future

There’s no turning back the clock on aging but we can stop fear of the future from overtaking the happiness of present moments.  By applying some common sense coping strategies we can stop fearfulness — regardless of age.

1.  Focus on what you can control.  You have control over your thoughts and your behaviour.  You can think positive thoughts, keep a daily gratitude list, pray, and meditate.  You can also practice kindness, especially kindness to yourself.

You can’t control what may happen to your health but you can try to protect the health you do enjoy.  Although it’s sometimes inconvenient to exercise regularly, to sleep enough hours for rejuvenation, and to eat nutritious food, these simple things do help to protect physical health. If physician has recommended medications or other treatments for various ailments, it makes sense to follow advice rather than self-medicating or ignoring professional help.

2.  Keep legal and financial affairs in order.  After my mother turned ninety, she made it a practice, to tell me and my siblings of where she kept legal and financial documents.  She did this each time we visited her. We knew who she used as a lawyer and who was responsible for her tax filings.  We also knew where she stashed her treasures!

Each of us can act to make sure that wills are prepared and updated, that investment, credit and banking information is properly filed and safely stored, and that power of attorney for health and legal decisions is given to someone who is trustworthy.

3.  Make peace with the past.  Deal with unfinished family business and other regrets that add worry to your life.  Let go of old grudges, feelings of failure and past disappointments.

Anger leaves scares in the brain! By reducing emotional baggage we cut worries about past events.  The brain is freed up for positive experiences and pleasant thoughts.

4.  Live for today.  The immediate present is all we have.  Maintaining intellectual curiosity and staying interested in big things that happen in the world will also help us find happiness in the small things that happen around us.

By enlarging your life and not allowing it to shrink, by daring to keep learning new things, by focusing on the good rather than the bad, we can enjoy every day and make it count as part of a life well-lived.

5. Maintain a positive and optimistic outlook about the future. Instead of feeling fearful about the future, consider that growing old allows a new you to emerge.  Age can’t prevent you from having a socially rich and enjoyable future full of new discoveries — but a negative mindset and a fearful perspective can ruin every day.

While growing older is inevitable, fear of the future is manageable.  Throughout life, all of us have learned problem solving skills.  We can use these skills  to face aging with confidence and not fear.

Now where did I leave my glasses?

Thanks for reading my post. I welcome your comments with your thoughts about fear of the future and fear of growing old.  If you enjoy my blog please consider becoming a subscriber to receive regular updates by email.

Retirement Happiness and Positive Psychology

In recent weeks I’ve been researching positive psychology for guest posts that I write for a UK newsletter.  I’ve been considering how the principles of positive psychology can  increase retirement happiness.

The field of positive psychology is largely attributed to the work of Martin Seligman.  Positive psychology seeks to understand the nature of happiness and well-being.

The basics of positive psychology relate to positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and life achievement. These key elements are considered necessary for a flourishing life.

Positive psychology principles have been applied to leadership development, organizational behaviour, child development, education, family and marital therapy, and wellness. Life coaches and athletic coaches  use positive psychology in their work.

Positive Psychology and Aging

Very little research has been conducted to determine how positive psychology affects aging. Barbara Frederickson in her book, Positivityasserts that there is a correlation between expressing more positive emotions and living longer.

Because emotions tend to be fleeting, it’s important to increase the number of positive emotions in any day to flourish and feel satisfied with life.

One’s daily affairs of life need to be regarded as satisfying.  That morning walk, the aroma of fresh coffee, the colour of a new bloom — these ordinary things must be positively perceived to bring feelings of optimism, energy and inspiration.  Attitudes about life, the approach to routine chores, acceptance of life circumstances, both good and bad, enhance positive emotions.

Frederickson advocates mindfulness, paying attention to human kindness, going outdoors in good weather, and using strengths and skills learned through experience as methods of increasing positivity.

Her advice can easily be applied to happiness and to successful aging. Adopting a positive attitude, using the extra time in retirement for meaningful activities, and continually adapting to life as changes occur are simple techniques that all of us can practice. They make common sense.

Retirement happiness is about attitude and mindset.  Positive psychology techniques are simple to understand.  They are available to everyone.  By employing these techniques we can all enjoy a flourishing and happy retirement.

Thanks for reading my post. I appreciate comments on my retirement musings. If you enjoy my writing, please consider becoming a subscriber. If you want to read my guest posts and other writing on retirement at the Exploring Retirement newsletter, please follow this link


Retirement Happiness — Staying Relevant

Staying relevant is important for retirement happiness.

The world changes everyday.  Most often we attribute the pace of change to technology.  But there are also legal changes, economic changes, language changes, style changes.

When there is no need to prove professional competence in the workplace, staying relevant and abreast of changes is challenging.  Without interaction with others in the workplace  everyday, it’s easy to limit oneself.  We start to think we’re too old.

How does one keep up  — or, better, stay ahead?

I’m not always ahead of the change curve, but I do aim to keep up with major changes. I don’t want my relevance to diminish because I’ve stuck my head in the sand and tried to hold on to traditions that are defunct. I’m not ready to be set aside as a ‘has been’.

I try to keep learning about technology.  Technological progress creates many of the changes that affect us. I’m not a wizard, nor am I a Luddite.  It’s impossible to function in 2015 without embracing some level of technology.  I use social media. I’m on my computer and on my smart phone regularly. I know that I can’t force the world to stop changing but I can keep learning about it. I can maximize the benefits of technology to stay in touch with people, for banking, for shopping, and as a quick information resource.

I keep working at general life improvements.  I take courses. I read. I seek new knowledge.  I experiment.  I take risks.  Staying relevant is about constant renewal and self-development. Engagement doesn’t stop at age 65 or at retirement.

I keep up with what’s happening in the world by staying informed about key events — in politics, government, the economy, the environment, and in my community.  I try to stay tuned into the bigger picture using newspapers, the internet, and twitter. I don’t want to bore people by limiting my conversation to health troubles, grand children, or my latest trip.

I engage with a variety of people. People from different cultures, different educational levels, and different ages provide new perspectives. Engaging with younger people who tune into the world through digital experiences exposes me to new problem-solving approaches. I love hearing their opinions and understanding their value systems. I’m intrigued that they seek me out for the wisdom that comes from longer life experience.

I stay aware of trends.  I pay attention to new products and services that come on the market. I especially love labour-saving devices that make retirement easier. I like new ideas.  I’m conscious about fashion but try to avoid fashion trends in favour of enduring style.  After all, we are still judged on outward appearance regardless of age.

I try to understand language changes. Although I love grammar and syntax, I know that it changes quickly.  Words used for SMS are continuously evolving and new words are introduced.  I’m determined that I will be able to communicate with my grand-daughter in language she understands as she grows.

I stay focused on the present and the future. Too many older people get stuck in the past and fall on the sword of past success.  I realize that what I did five or ten years ago was interesting and relevant but such accomplishments count for little in 2015.  Life changes.  People change.  Every day I try to incorporate something new into my thinking.

I face limitations that I place on myself.  When confronted with new opportunities, and I find myself thinking that I’m too old, I ask myself ‘why’.  Am I really too old or am I fearful of a new experience?

Relevance isn’t something that lasts.  It has a ‘best before’ date and must be constantly refreshed. There is no magic formula for staying relevant in a youth-focused world that changes rapidly.

Making relevance a priority brings the reward of a retirement lifestyle that is  happy and fulfilling — and what could be better than that?

I’m interested in your comments about how you stay relevant when faced with never-ending changes.

Thanks for reading my post. If you like my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive new posts by email.

Does the way we think matter?

Paying attention to the way we think matters. Thoughts create reality through memories, observations, judgements, perceptions and intentions.

People flourish with a healthy mindset that is focused on positive, worthwhile things. When we think positive and not negative thoughts, when we are careful with self-criticism, and when we treat others with respect, we cultivate the basics for happiness.

One of my yoga teachers repeatedly advises monitoring thoughts carefully. She talks about ‘stinking thinking’ as patterns when thoughts, about ourselves or about others, are judgemental or critical.  She urges us to adopt a loving, accepting mindset to support healthy living and fitness.

We can take a ‘thought break’ from time to time during the day to check thought patterns and not allow thoughts to drift aimlessly. Are thinking habits creating stress?  Are thoughts judgemental? Are we re-playing old, hurtful memories?

The way you think matters — photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons
The way you think matters — photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons

It’s possible to discipline ourselves to consciously pay attention to how we think.

Our mindset determines whether a life situation is perceived as  opportunity or danger.  The way we feel, the way we react, and the way we look at the world is often described as’ a glass half full versus a glass half empty’.

Whether we think positively (glass half full) or negatively (glass half empty) affects our outlook on life. Regardless of what happens, our interpretation of the event can make it better for ourselves — and better for those around us.

Positive Thinking

Thinking patterns are habitual. We all know people who have an uncanny capacity to see the good in others.  As well,  they can find potential or learning in most situations. Such positive thinking leads to optimism and self-affirming behaviour.

Optimism creates capacity for resilience and perseverance. It leads to loving acceptance of oneself and others.

Looking for and finding the ‘silver lining’ in situations attracts others and leads happiness in life.

Negative thinking

Negative thinking sets up a world view where life circumstances  seem perilous.  It leads to a pessimistic outlook, to fearfulness, and to self-defeating behaviour.

All of us have experienced situations where a person who is always complaining depletes energy.  No matter the situation, something is always wrong. Their negativity may come from anger, fear, sadness or jealousy. Nonetheless, it dampens spirits.

Negative thinkers fill their days with unnecessary worries. People shy away when faced with constant negativity and criticism.

Bouts of negativity and discouragement can affect everybody.  The trick is to recognize negative thought patterns and shift into a more positive mindset.

Become Aware of Thinking

Awareness of thought habits can be learned with practise.

Meditation is an effective way to learn how to focus attention and notice thoughts. Meditation is a skill. It begins with breath awareness. By slowing and deepening breathing,  thoughts are released. The mind is calmer. Eventually the brain develops the habit of controlling attention.

When practising meditation, simple mantras help to keep tangential thoughts from racing through my head. When thoughts come, I try to them go by continuing to focus on breathing in and breathing out.

Practising gratitude is another technique for monitoring thinking.  It gives perspective. Many experts recommend starting the day by naming 3 things for which to be thankful. Practising gratitude is a simple way to focus on what is good in your life.

A gratitude  might be as simple as sunshine streaming through the window or the sound of a cat’s purr.  It might consist of thankfulness for food in the fridge or a kind word from a stranger. Practising gratitude teaches awareness and helps to change thought patterns.

Learn to turn negative thoughts to positive thoughts.  When you catch yourself doing ‘stinking thinking’, try to shift to thoughts that encourage you.

By remembering that your thoughts create your reality you can re-frame perceptions and keep yourself from drifting into a negative frame of mind.

Changing outlook also influences our thinking.

‘What you think about, you bring about’ was one of my mother’s favourite sayings. When we expect the worst, it often happens.

There is no question that life throws curve balls to all of us.  By choosing our attitude toward the unexpected, we can shape a better outcome.  For example, when encountering rudeness or disrespect from others, a kind response often changes the way the other person is treating you.

We can become aware of thoughts by periodically taking a few seconds throughout each day to take note of the assumptions, judgements, and expectations in our minds.  As well, we can observe the feelings that arise from our thoughts.

Our thoughts matter. By paying attention to thinking, focusing on positive thoughts and adopting an optimistic attitude, we can increase happiness in our precious retirement days.

Thanks for reading this post.  You may also like How Your Face Reflects Your Thinking, a post published in 2011.

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A busy life is not a happy life

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” — Socrates

 A busy life is too often seen as a badge of honour.  Everyone is constantly busy.  Schedules are overloaded. People rush from one thing to another while often accomplishing little or nothing during a day. Life is busy yet it feels empty and unproductive.

My threshold for busyness has changed since I’ve retired.  Since I’m living the last third, perhaps the last quarter,  of my life, I am hyperaware of how I use my time. I refuse to be ‘busy’ with a predictable schedule of too many exhausting activities. What’s the meaning of “I’m too busy”

Every day I want time to read, to exercise, to write, to spend time on hobbies, and just to relax. Additionally, I like to go to see my grand-daughter, play bridge, attend the occasional concert, visit galleries, play with my cats and go to movies.  Living in both the city and at our Lake Huron cottage means taking care of two houses and two yards.

With these expectations and responsibilities, every minute is precious! Thus, I have to prioritize and set boundaries.  Unless I  limit the number of things I do, I get distracted, cranky, anxious, irritable,  and stressed out.

When I did my last life review a few weeks ago,  I took a hard look at my overloaded schedule to see what I could drop.  I reduced volunteer commitments to limit how much time I spend in meetings. To make life less insane, I’ve resigned from boards that require 2 −3 hours travel time to get to and from meetings in downtown Toronto.

To further protect my schedule, I’ve refrained from making new commitments. I’ve refused invitations, favours and requests. I decided that missing some activities would be preferable to attending but not enjoying the event. Are you suffering from FOMO?

I’ve also realized that I need a couple of afternoons or evenings with no activities. This allows me to absorb emergencies, surprises and setbacks such as needing extra time to finish writing a blog post.

Having a margin of time during the week also protects an amount of personal space.  It keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. It gives time for silence and for reflection as well as time for goofing off.  Idle moments were too rare before retirement!

I’ve also tried to add a margin of 30 minutes to every appointment to avoid rushing. This simple technique helps me to cope with unexpected delays and surprises.

Another technique I’ve been using to add space in my retirement schedule is what I’ve referred to as the ‘Rule of Two’. I plan for no more than two activities or appointments each day including gym time.  On most days, that means only one commitment as I go to the gym four or five times per week for exercise, yoga class or swimming.

Making conscious choices not to rush through precious retirement days has meant taking a hard look at life priorities, deciding what really matters, and scaling down commitments.

Hopefully these strategies will shield my Postworksavvy lifestyle from Socrates’ warning of the ‘barrenness of a busy life’. If you seek enjoyment and happiness from your hectic lifestyle, the best investment you can make is to take deliberate steps to use time effectively.

Thanks for reading my post.  If you like my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive regular email updates.  I’m also interest in your comments about how you manage you own ‘busy life’.

Inspiration for a Happier Retirement

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