“The pursuit of happiness” is baked into our constitution, but we don’t often think about what it actually means. Many might think of it as the process of chasing career promotions or striving to raise your children to have greater success than you had, but we don’t think much about what it looks like outside of the American dream. How can you pursue happiness in the golden years of life, once the children are grown and you’ve since retired from your job? It’s entirely possible, if you start with a few simple steps:
You know yourself better than anyone. That’s one of the privileges of aging— having had time and experience to know exactly what you like, why, and how. You have decades of experience to understand what makes you happy, and that’s good information to have. If you miss childrearing, for example, you can’t go back in time to your own little ones’ diaper days, but you can volunteer at the church nursery, after-school programs, or mentor youth as a foster grandparent. The RISE Program and Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama are two options. Or if you miss having an active role in your workplace, you might get involved with the Kentuck Art Center, West Alabama Food Bank, or Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center. Whatever your interests, there’s something perfect for your unique talents.
Remember the Good Times
Reminiscing has been clinically proven to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. The simple act of recalling old memories and sifting through them can renew your sense of purpose and reconnect you to the moments that most defined you as an individual. You can start from your earliest memory, or your happiest one. You can even tackle uncomfortable or sad moments from your past and see if time and distance have changed your perspective on them. Reminiscing can occur alone or in groups, aloud or in a diary. You can even turn your memories into a scrapbook or audio recording to pass down to younger generations, or reminisce with friends and family who know you best.
Live in the Present
Knowing who you are and where you come from are important, but so is being totally present in your day to day activities, as fully immersed in them as you are in the past when actively reminiscing. This is a process called mindfulness, and can be as easy as observing your own thoughts and feelings, as you take a walk through the University of Alabama Arboretum. Or contemplating the taste of new foods, or the way the water feels as it moves over your hands when you wash them. These meditative actions have been shown to connect people to themselves and their surroundings and to reduce stress. It’s also a great way to make a well-loved routine new again, or to commit new experiences to memory.
Experience New Things
Speaking of new experiences, you’re never too old to embrace the unknown. From a new activity, you’ve never tried before (Thursday darts tournament, anyone?) to a brand-new restaurant (Animal Butter opened just a few weeks ago!) or a museum exhibit featuring an artist whose work you’ve never seen before, there’s plenty of new things to experiment with. Or you can get active and try a new form of exercise, from bowling to group wellness classes. Instead of thinking your past has a monopoly on excitement, inject the present with adventure and fun!
Most of all, a sense of community can reduce isolation and unease by giving offering a supportive network of people to share, laugh, and do with. All those new experiences, beautiful memories, and small moments to be sacred can be shared. If you want to find out more about how a senior living community like Regency Tuscaloosa can enrich your golden years, call 205-752-5500 today.
Written by: Meghan O’Dea