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.

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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’.

How to motivate yourself

Do you know how to motivate yourself?

Are there aspects of your lifestyle, habits, or health that you want to change but you find yourself stuck in old routines? Do you find yourself in a holding pattern that needs invigoration?

After almost five years of retirement, I find myself repeating patterns that satisfy me.  Unfortunately, I also repeat patterns that leave me frustrated and wanting to change.

I have periods of productivity when I complete  writing projects, finish hobby projects, and make things grow in the garden of my life. I spend quality time with my husband, go to the gym for exercise, and have lots of energy. These are the times when I am happiest.

How to Motivate Yourself to Change
How to Motivate Yourself

There are also times when motivation lags. I get stuck in old ruts — reading until the wee hours of the morning, sleeping in,  missing gym classes, and resorting to take out foods instead of cooking nutritious meals at home.

I get lazy.  I procrastinate.

I don’t like spending the day doing a whole bunch of nothing. It’s a waste of precious retirement time. That’s when I know that I have to motivate myself and get out of a slump. 

I need to make the effort to get started.

Sometimes just sitting in front of the computer and starting to write makes the ideas and the words begin to flow.  The same happens when I pack my gym bag and set out to attend a yoga class or  exercise on the cardio machines or exert myself in the pool.

Once I get started, things happen. By just doing something, I begin to motivate myself. Taking even a small action can motivate.

I need to protect my sleep.

When I don’t have enough sleep,I lose energy during the day. The energy drop often causes me to take a nap instead of writing.  It also leads to nutritional short cuts and high carb/high sugar snacks.

Having a set sleep/wake cycle helps. I naturally wake up at 7:30 am regardless of when I go to bed.  My challenge is to get to bed at a reasonable time so that I sleep 7 or 8 hours before my internal clock wakes me.

I need organized workspace. 

By keeping the house reasonably organized, my desk reasonably clear, and my inbox reasonably empty, tackling various projects is easier.

When I’m not organized I waste time looking for things or putting things into place  or making lists and not accomplishing what I’ve set out to do. I’m not obsessed about cleaning but I don’t function optimally when things around me are untidy.

I need determination.

Sometimes what I’m doing is difficult. I may be unsure of next steps or overwhelmed with the size or complexity of a project I’m trying to accomplish. I get confused. I worry about failing,

When obstacles cause motivation to wane, grit and determination are needed.  It’s tempting to quit or to spend my time doing an easier task. Suddenly doing the laundry seems easier than finishing research for a blog post or struggling to use new technology.

Sometimes I need a change of pace.

While persistence helps when feeling stumped,  sometimes a change of pace will get you back on track.

Going outdoors, making a cup of coffee, or taking an exercise break help me to re-focus. Even when the weather is inclement, taking a short walk outdoors changes my level of motivation. Physical activity clears the brain and caffeine re-charges it.

I try to stay positive and confident.  

During the past two weeks I’ve spent many hours knitting a baby afghan.  I started the project with excitement about the soft wool, the colours, and the pattern.

When the project was halfway to  completion I began to despair. I was unsure that I would finish it in time for the baby shower last weekend. I ran out of one colour of wool which meant a trip to the yarn store. I stayed up late, cancelled going to the gym,  cancelled attending my weekly bridge game — all to knit furiously.

The excitement waned. Yet, I stayed with it, positive that this would please a young mom whose career allows no time for handmade baby items.  I was tired but happy when I finished the afghan.  Visions of a new baby who will be warmed and comforted in the pretty afghan kept me going.

The Sweet Feelings of Success

Whether it’s finishing a big project like a knitted afghan or a smaller task like de-cluttering a closet, completion brings a sense of accomplishment.

Feelings of productivity and happiness result.  Those sweet feelings of success mean it’s time to goof off, to take a nap, or to waste a little time online without guilt.





Handling Loneliness

Have you learned how to handle loneliness?

Most of us, no matter how socially active, fight bouts of loneliness. Feeling lonely is not shameful nor is it a sign of failure.  It is a normal feeling that happens to everyone.

The presence of other people doesn’t insulate you from loneliness. Even when you are in the middle of a crowded room, at a meeting, or at a dinner party, you can still feel the ache of loneliness in your heart.

Together but alone — photo courtesy of Nadya Peek
Together but alone — photo courtesy of Nadya Peek

Many  people who are married or in long-term relationships find themselves feeling alone even when they are with their partner. Strained relations and a lack of closeness can leave you feeling lonely.   Years of poor communication may have caused emotional distance that is difficult to overcome.

Loneliness often comes after a major life change such as retirement, after a move to a new community, or after the loss of a loved one.  Such major life changes cause a disruption in the social activities that previously shaped patterns of life.  It may be difficult to build new connections.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is an emotional reaction that occurs in response to life changes and events. Typically, it involves feeling sad and empty. In extreme cases it can lead to chronic anxiety and clinical depression.

Wikipedia defines loneliness as a complex response to isolation or lack of companionship.

Loneliness is subjective. If someone feels lonely and describes themselves as lonely — then, they are lonely.

Poor self-esteem,  feelings of being unwanted, and feelings of being unloved are sometimes associated with loneliness.

Loneliness and Isolation 

Loneliness is usually considered something that happens when spending time alone.  Faced with harsh Canadian winters, many older people hibernate in their homes and rather than going out in cold weather.  They find themselves feeling lonely and out of touch.

Others are socially isolated because they spend hours on the internet interacting with virtual friends.  Spending time in chat rooms and on social media is satisfying to a degree but online friends don’t substitute for real, live people.

Loneliness may cause isolation but isolation doesn’t mean you are lonely. Many people are loners, by choice.  They may choose solitude.  They are alone but not lonely.

If you are facing a bout of loneliness, there are ways to handle it.

Admitting you are lonely is the first challenge.  Feelings of failure and fear are sometimes associated with loneliness. By recognizing that everyone feels lonely at times, we acknowledge and normalize the feeling, thus allowing ourselves to move on.

Once you recognize feelings of loneliness, the next step is to decide to change.  This is difficult because the feelings associated with loneliness lead to immobilization and inactivity. It’s tempting just to withdraw from the world instead of pushing yourself to connect with others.

By making the effort to get involved with other people or in some activity, we begin to take charge again instead of letting feelings take charge.

Sometimes the simple act of going outdoors for a walk in the sunshine leads to a friendly ‘hello’ from a neighbour. Sometimes a trip to the library, to a coffee shop, or to attend a social event helps.  Perhaps it’s re-involvement with an activity you have always enjoyed.  Perhaps it means taking a bold step to try something new.

Moving your body and getting physical exercise often brings both a surge of energy and a more positive frame of mind. The endorphins and serotonin released from physical excretion increase happiness and help to change your emotional state.

Spiritual connections are helpful when combating loneliness.  Faith in a higher power helps many to accept what happens to them. Attending a church  or other religious institution offers opportunities to take part in a community of faith which influences perspective and offers social engagement.

Spending time with children, especially grand children is a powerful antidote for feelings of loneliness.  Children need attention and lots of interaction.  They laugh easily, love unconditionally, and bring a smile.

For people with chronic bouts of loneliness, owning a pet can help to handle loneliness. Pet ownership brings increased responsibility and leads to feelings of purpose.  A pet will offer companionship and affection which is an added benefit.

Changing how you think has a powerful impact. Self-pity and other negative thought patterns reinforce feelings of loneliness.  Use positive thinking as an additional method of handling loneliness. Techniques such as re-framing, taking a long view, and practicing gratefulness are methods that can change thinking.

Extended bouts of loneliness can leave you feeling sad, even depressed.  If loneliness persists for extended periods of time, professional clinical intervention should be considered.

Handling loneliness takes energy. The steps I’ve recommended may not result in immediate change but will begin a process of change that gets you back to feeling like yourself.



Can a Password Mantra Change Habits?

Can a password mantra change habits? Have you tried using a mantra to reinforce a habit change? Can you use a computer password to reinforce your mantra?

This idea of using a computer password as a mantra sounds weird — yet intriguing.

To reinforce a new habit of keeping only two items per day on my retirement schedule, I’ve developed a personal mantra to remind me. Would changing my password reinforce the mantra?

Mantras as Passwords

The strategy of using a password mantra to change a habit came from hearing an interview on The Spark, a CBC program ( about technology.   Nora Young, the host, interviewed Mauricio Estrella who described how he achieved life changing goals by changing his computer password every 30 days. Mauricio began using his password to make positive relationship changes with his wife.

His computer at work required a password change every 30 days.  On a whim, Mauricio began using positive affirmations —like forgiveness, respect, admiration — for his password. He adapted the affirmation into a password which then became his mantra.

This idea was interesting.  Because passwords need to be entered frequently, could a password change a habit?

Research on habits indicates that it usually takes about 30 days or about 100 repetitions create a new habit.  There is no hard and fast rule but the time frame must be of sufficient duration to produce new behaviour.

By using a positive affirmation in the form of a password mantra you prompt your inner voice each time you enter the password. This is a simple digital trick to reinforce the affirmation in your brain.

What is a mantra and how is it used?

A mantra is typically a Sanskrit word or words uttered repeatedly during meditation.  It is a powerful method to calm the mind and to create positive energy in the body.

Psychological or sacred power is believed to come from repetition of a mantra.

“Change your password — Change your life”

Learning Sanskrit isn’t a necessary prerequisite to use a mantra for your password. You don’t need to meditate or chant.

Instead, create a password that is some combination of a word with numbers and symbols that states the change you are undertaking. Each time you enter the password you will validate the mantra and reinforce the habit change in your brain.

Connecting the entry of a password to open a computer program is a simple way of connecting an ordinary activity with changing a habit, or living a bigger dream, or achieving a life aspiration.

The password mantra will trigger your brain and act as an unconscious tracking tool. It still sounds a bit weird, but I’m giving it at try!  I hope that some of my readers will be sufficiently intrigued to try it as well!



Do You Understand Your Habits?

Do you understand your habits?  Do you want to change your habits?

Are you aware that habits, both good habits and bad habits, control most aspects of your life including how you spend your time, how you relate to others,  and how you experience pleasure or pain?

In the past months I’ve noticed that many experts have opinions about habits. It’s a popular topic for talk show hosts, life coaches, advice columnists and bloggers.

Advice about how to develop habits that will improve health, wealth and happiness abounds. There are training programs, online courses, and books for people who want to develop good habits and kick bad habits .

At the beginning of this New Year many people made resolutions about habits they want to give up. Eliminating bad habits like swearing, nail biting, procrastinating, eating junk food, or wasting time top the list of things people want to stop doing.

Addictions to drugs, tobacco, alcohol, food, online gaming, gambling, shopping and, yes, even sex, are among  bad habits that people want to conquer.  Most addictions need professional help although the group support that comes from established organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous is often successful.

Self improvement habits such as getting physically active, keeping a journal,  eating healthy foods, saving money, practicing kindness  often top the list of new habits that people seek to develop.

Psychologists and other habit gurus offer advice about how to change habits. Some of the tips they offer include:

1. It’s important to understand the cues and triggers underlying the habit.

For example, know who you are with when the habit occurs.  When I was a smoker, I automatically reached for a cigarette when taking a break with certain co-workers, or when playing a tough bridge hand.  This habit was so strong that, even 35 years after quitting,  I often find myself thinking of a cigarette when I talk to these people on the telephone or when I exchange emails with them.

Other cues and triggers include the time of day when a habit is performed or the setting where it happens.  Many mothers automatically find themselves eating foods that toddlers have left on their plates.  Some people automatically reach for a book to read a few pages before going to sleep.

2. Every habit has its rewards.  Knowing the rewards of a habit helps to change behaviour patterns.

I am determined to develop new habits for time management during 2015 including allowing an extra 30 minutes of time for every appointment I make.  The anticipated reward will be that there is some slack for unanticipated delays in traffic or last minute holdups that might cause a late arrival.  The big reward will be that I honour my time-conscious nature and I’m not stressed about lateness.

Rewards of developing new habits may also include better overall health because of regular exercise, better sleep patterns, and the satisfaction of accomplishment.

3. All habits have emotional roots.  To  understand the emotional roots of habits we need a certain amount of self-awareness.  Addictions often have deep emotional roots which is why professional help is needed when working on addictions.  Other habits can be changed with conscious appreciation of how these habits were formed and what basic needs they satisfy.

Anxiety and stress may cause over-eating. Worry about failure may hinder someone from trying new activities or hobbies.  Some habits, such as nail biting or over-eating provide comfort.  A person addicted to shopping may find relief from isolation by going into a store and making a purchase.

Sometimes habits — even bad habits — make you happy and provide genuine satisfaction. The habit gets performed without conscious awareness of what precipitated the behaviour and without awareness of the many psychological rewards.

Never Too Late to Change Habits

All of us want good habits that lead to happiness. As an optimist, I believe that it’s never too late to change a habit.   The process for changing a habit takes determination and focus. The experts suggest the following techniques:

1.  Choose what you want to change  

If the habit relates to a major life change like attaining physical fitness, beginning with a commitment to take a daily walk may be the starting point. Likewise, if losing weight is the goal,  eliminating junk food from the grocery cart may be the beginning of better diet. Small incremental improvements are easier to achieve.

2.  Make it specific

Making a commitment to a daily walk might include some measure of time or distance.  For example, you may want to develop a habit of walking for 30 minutes for a certain number of city blocks.

3.  Make a public commitment

When working on a new habit,  involving others gives support.  Groups such as AA assign a sponsor who is there to give support when needed.

By writing about my commitment to limit daily activities and allow extra time for appointment, I know that my friends and family who read this blog will be watching me and encouraging me.

4.  Set short term goals

Some social psychologists advise that it takes 30 days to make a habit begin to stick.  Others advise 100 repetitions as a rule.

I’m going to set a 3 month target (90 days) to develop the habit of allowing an extra half hour around scheduled appointments.  It’s more than usual 30 days but with 90 repetitions I’ll have sufficient time to test drive this change.

5. One Change at a time

Often we try to make several changes at once in our efforts at self-improvement.  Major life changes like weight loss or improved physical fitness or better time management involve breaking patterns. These behaviour patterns have  developed over long periods of time with strong emotional roots.

Focusing on one habit at a time is recommended to allow you to gain confidence in your ability to change. To go back to the example of daily walking,  after 30 days of consistent practise, this habit can be augmented with strength training or with other physical activity that will lead to greater fitness levels.

6.  Reward yourself

Once the behaviour becomes automatic, new cues and triggers that become self-rewarding will develop.  Some habits, such as attaining better fitness give automatic rewards such a tightening the belt by a few notches or having clothes fit better.

Sometimes a more concrete reward is desirable. Many smokers who quit use the money they save from buying cigarettes to purchase a vacation or a piece of jewellery.

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle

Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions are often abandoned because people have insufficient awareness about the factors underlying a habit. In this post, I’ve summarized some of the best tips for understanding habits and for changing habits.

I’m using this advice to make changes in my life.   Hopefully, you will be inspired to change some of your habits as well.


Living with Purpose

In 2015 I am determined to live with purpose  To make it a more rewarding year I’m making a few changes.

Even though the New Year is a few days ‘old’, this is still a time of new beginnings as I suffered a bout of the flu during the celebrations. I’m feeling rejuvenated from the rest I took while recovering. With the return of health and stamina, I feel like a new person for the New Year.

There’s an overused saying that states “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” This phrase has rung in my head for the past week as I’ve thought about purpose, my 2015 word of the year.

I chose this word to guide and focus my behaviour and activities.

Living with purpose requires decisiveness about use of time. In 2015 I’m making changes to make sure that I don’t squander any precious retirement days.
Use Time effectively — photo courtesy of
Use Time effectively — photo courtesy of

Purpose Reflects Intention

Wikipedia defines intention as “a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future.”

By living with intention, I can focus on deliberate actions to bring about the results I want to achieve.  Setting an intention  for each day that relates to purpose, my word of the year,  will help me to take better control of my life and my time.

Purpose Reflects Resolve

Resolve means backbone to me. It will take  strength and confidence to make deliberate choices consistent with aspirations of how I want to live.

I may have to get up earlier to spend time writing or exercising.  I may have to refuse interesting invitations to avoid distractions that take me away from purposeful activity.

If I am true to my decision that I won’t squander precious retirement days, I will need to make courageous choices about eliminating activities, meetings and appointments that don’t satisfy, inspire and fulfill my life aspirations.

Purpose Reflects Determination

When I am determined to make things happen my productivity improves.   I have achieved difficult goals throughout my life.  Having a tenacious mindset allows me to stick to my purpose regardless of obstacles that I encounter.

Judicious use of precious time

You might wonder how ‘purpose’ with its related meanings of intention, resolve and determination relates to use of time. In my mind, each of these relates to time and how easily it can slip away.

You’ve heard it before — everyone has the same 24 hours each day.  The choices we make are totally up to us. By using time effectively — and with intentionality — our choices will lead to outcomes that are consistent with the big dreams and aspirations we have for our lives.

Unless longevity takes a steep up curve, I know that I am living the last third of my life.  I realize that I have a finite number of days so how I spend each day has to count. Because I can’t get wasted time back, I’m cautious about squandering precious days and hours.

If I’m not careful, my free time can get cluttered with unnecessary activities.  This results in getting behind on things that relate to purpose, missing out on sleep and then finding myself grumpy and de-energized.

I’m focusing on commitments that I make.  I won’t say  ‘yes’ unless making that commitment is consistent with how I want to live.

A few months ago I realized that I had made too many volunteer commitments.  Precious time was used going to meetings of boards and committees that no longer held interest for me. Many of the roles and responsibilities were similar to those I had during my career.  I have stepped away from most of these commitments to free time for activities that I find more rewarding at this stage of my life.

The Rule of Two

I am  implementing ‘the rule of two’ when it comes to my schedule.  I will commit to a maximum of two activities in a day. A class at the gym or a workout counts as one activity.  A meeting or appointment counts as one activity. A social commitment counts as one activity. A major project or task at home counts as one activity. 

Limiting what I do will leave time to work on writing projects, to spend time with my husband and family, for hobbies, and to goof off — if goofing off suits me.  I’m determined to have free time to just be me.

Allow extra time

To stop feeling rushed all the time, I’m allowing 30 minutes of extra time around scheduled activities.  If an appointment is at 10 am, I’ll focus on 9:30 am as the targeted time. Unexpected delays won’t derail my plans because I’ll have a cushion of extra time.

As I am time-conscious, this simple mind-game should help me to manage distractions and arrive on time. By living with the ‘rule of two’, I won’t be over-committed and stressed rushing from one over-booked activity to another. When life throws a curve ball, I won’t have to make an excuse.

These  changes should give me more time for the things in life that matter to me.  Who knows, there may even be time to spend learning new things, or de-cluttering the basement, or thinking about what really matters in my life.

Thanks for reading this post. I’m interested in how you have decided to make 2015 rewarding, remarkable, or memorable.  If you like my blog,  please consider becoming a subscriber.


Inspiration for a Happier Retirement

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