Benefits of Keeping a Journal

Want help finding your bliss? Since I’ve kept a journal since the age of 12 and am a writer by profession, maybe I’m biased. All the same, I’m a firm believer in keeping a journal to help you find happiness.

When I was a teen, I wrote in my diary every day. These days I’m not quite so studious, but I still write in a journal about once a month. And of course, I share my thoughts and feelings on a regular basis in this blog.

Keeping a Journal
Silvia Viñuales / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In my opinion, the benefits of writing in a journal cannot be overstated. Science just so happens to support this belief. Journaling has been proven to improve mental and physical health.

Do you need more inspiration to put pen to paper? Here are five reasons to help you get started:

  1. Journaling helps you learn about yourself. By regularly recording your thoughts and feelings you can gain insight into your behaviors and moods. You’ll get to know who and what makes you happy and what situations and people to avoid. Consequently, journaling will help you avoid repeating mistakes which leads to increased self-esteem and personal growth.
  2. Writing can help you express sadness, fear, pain, or anger, releasing the intensity of these feelings. That makes journaling an important tool for your emotional well-being and stress reduction. You’ll find it easier to cope with life and work through frustrations by writing them down. In addition, journaling can help you heal from grief and loss. Trust me, it’s a wonderful outlet!
  3. Journaling can be used for problem-solving and resolving disagreements with others. Writing about misunderstandings can help you understand another person’s perspective, clarify issues, and come up with sensible resolutions. When we record significant lessons we’ve learned in life, we gain a deeper understanding, insight, and hopefully some wisdom to help us with future problems.
  4. Keeping a journal helps you remember important events and hang on to feelings and memories that would otherwise fade or be lost altogether. In addition, you’ll be able to keep track of personal triumphs so that when a seemingly impossible situation arises, you’ll be reminded that you have overcome dilemmas in the past and can do so again. As a result, you’ll find motivation and strength from your earlier successes.
  5. Journals are a great place to outline your plans, ideas, goals, and dreams. When you write, things come to light that, for some reason, don’t when you talk or think about them. Committing to your goals in writing keeps them in front of you and makes success more likely.

Have I given you enough inspiration to consider keeping a journal? Those are just five reasons – if you research the Internet you can find plenty more.

In my next blog, I’ll give you some ideas on how you can get started and different methods of journaling available today. Which one is best for you? Stay tuned. Whichever form of journaling you choose, your writing will benefit you personally and can prove enlightening to anyone you choose to share your thoughts with – so what are you waiting for? Start writing!

 

Finding Happiness with Grandchildren

My grandkids and the joy of my life: Eden, Rowan, and River.

My grandkids and the joy of my life: Eden, Rowan, and River.

The Welsh have this saying: “Perfect love does not come along until the first grandchild.”

Anyone who is a grandparent understands perfectly. When my first granddaughter, Eden Lillee, was born six years ago, I was unprepared for the instant connection I felt deep down in my soul when our eyes met for the first time.

Of course, we all know grandparenting is much more fun than parenting. After all, you have all the enjoyment without all the responsibility. But it’s so much more than that.

When my grandchildren spend the night and I know they are in the next bedroom sleeping curled up in little balls, a warm glow of satisfaction pervades my body. The next morning, I quietly sip my coffee and anticipate all the soft morning snuggles with blissful baby smells soon to come my way.

I must confess, as a young mother in my 20s, I remember feeling impatient and resentful of all the demands that parenting inevitably brings. At playgrounds, I’d restlessly stare at my watch, thinking I’d rather be anywhere else.

Now, I can sit quietly and patiently, watching my four-year-old grandson playing with his tractors or my two-year-old granddaughter blowing bubbles for hours. I never tire of listening to my six-year-old granddaughter reading me books as she discovers one of life’s pleasures. Instead of feeling impatient, I feel grateful for the reminder that life isn’t always about duties, deadlines, and schedules. In my 50s, I am grateful to see the world in a simple way through their young eyes again.

Studies link grandparenthood and life satisfaction, implying there is a long-run psychological benefit to the investment of raising children that skips a generation. I don’t need research to prove that fact. To be needed and wanted by these delightful creatures is a wonderful treat.

Grandchildren are the living manifestation of who we are and what we’ve accomplished. They represent the best of what we’ve successfully instilled in our children and an opportunity to build on that heritage. Like many people, I find that the rewards of family life only grow richer and more fulfilling as each new grandchild is born.

How can you enrich your life with your grandchildren and increase your happiness? Here are just a few ways:

  1. Be sure and spend time with them while they’re young. Invest the time now. Sure most of us still have lots of responsibilities, but take the time to change those dirty diapers and miss a few nights of sleep. Grandchildren who feel their grandparents played an important role in their lives while they were young tend to feel closer to them as they get older.
  2. Respect and get along with your own children. This isn’t the time to criticize parenting skills or go against your children’s wishes regarding family rules. We’re still working on trying not to spoil the grandkids – but we’re trying!
  3. Don’t make the mistake of having a “favorite” grandchild. All of your grandchildren have something unique to offer. Enjoy each of their little personalities with a profound appreciation for them as individuals.
  4. Stay healthy. Grandchildren can be a wonderful inspiration to stay active and eat right. You’ll be able to enjoy more activities with them and chase them around the house as necessary.
  5. Enjoy the simple things in life with your grandchildren. For example, take an evening stroll with them. Listen to the cicadas. Take binoculars and look for birds. Teach them names of plants and flowers. Savor the sunset. Imitate your children and learn to relish the small things in life.

What effect have your grandchildren had on your life?

Finding Serenity in Nature

Spring Time On the River
Pavel P. / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

When you look at the above photo, don’t you immediately feel calmer? I do. Nature is one of the best ways to bring joy, peace, and happiness into our lives – and it’s absolutely free! 

You probably already know this. However, even though most of us realize that enjoying the outdoors is a quick remedy to feeling less stressed, we often get caught up in our busy lives and take nature for granted.

I’m certainly guilty of that. As a freelance writer constantly meeting deadlines, I’m often indoors pounding on computer keys. As I’m writing this blog, I can look out my window and see the bright morning sun, the hibiscus blooming, and hear the birds singing. Nature is calling my name, but I’ll be in my office all morning. Even if you’re not a writer like me, most people spend way too much time in front of lap tops, televisions, iPads, and iPhones, cooped up indoors even when the weather is gorgeous outside.

So let’s change that. Even if it means getting up an hour earlier to take a quick walk before work,  packing a lunch to eat outside at a nearby park, or dining al fresco.

Think of how nature makes you feel and you’ll be inspired to get out more. Something as simple as walking in a forest or meadow can be magical and awe-inspiring. Can’t you just feel the negativity draining out of you just thinking about it?

Every chance we get, my husband and I go to the beach where our sailboat is docked. The minute I see the ocean, I literally feel the tension and stress melt away. Sailing is the ultimate way to leave our troubles on shore. Hiking in the nearby spectacular Santa Rosa Mountains in the desert where I live inspires peace and tranquility. I can even find refuge and comfort in my own back yard, simply looking at the nearby mountains, admiring my flowers and herbs, and listening to our water fountain.

Springtime is the perfect time to embrace nature with the emergence of tulips and bright green leaves and blossoms sprouting on trees. The warm sunshine not only provides us with essential Vitamin D but also instantly brightens our mood. Perhaps you have a favorite hiking, biking, picnic spot, or getaway on your balcony or yard that immediately boosts your spirit.

Science backs up the fact that nature offers us inner peace and joy. Studies show that even a limited dose of nature like a short walk or simply looking outside through a window is good for us. Nature can improve our mental state, lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone), and increase our energy. The great outdoors can even provide a surge of creative energy. That’s why you’ll often see people in scenic spots with their easels. Others are inspired to write poetry.

So, just in case you aren’t already inspired to run out there and enjoy nature, here are a few ideas to get you outdoors:

  • Fly a kite.
  • Stargaze and watch the heavens light up.
  • Spread a blanket over the grass and take normal activities such as reading, doing homework with the kids, or simply discussing the events of the day outdoors.
  • Plant a small vegetable garden.
  • Build or buy a birdfeeder and watch the birds frolic.
  • Visit the Farmer’s Market.
  • Watch a sunrise or sunset.
  • Go camping.
  • Grab your grandkids and a butterfly net, ball, or gardening shovel and head outdoors and imitate the way kids carefully examine a bug, smell a flower, or inspect a rock.

Keep in mind that the best way to reap the ultimate reward from being in nature is doing so in a mindful way. That means putting away your iPhone while you’re outside and focusing on the beauty of nature.

Me – I’m going to take my own advice and eat lunch on my patio. And this afternoon, if my heads starts to spin after hours on the computer, I’m going to take a quick walk, aware that the best ways to come up with brilliant ideas and be more creative is to take a break with nature.

How will you incorporate more nature into your life?

Finding Happiness as an Empty Nester

What do you do after the last chick leaves the nest?

What do you do after the last chick leaves the nest?

I thought when my youngest son, Christopher, moved out, I wouldn’t be like those OTHER mothers who cry a river and mourn the loss of motherhood. No empty nest syndrome for me!

After all, I had a very full life. My marriage was still going strong with my husband after 30 years, I had recently celebrated the publication of my second young adult novel, a second grandchild was on the way, and we were planning a trip to Germany.

So imagine my surprise when I wasn’t such a big girl after all. As I watched my baby pack up his stuff and move out, I sobbed, wailed, and bawled, all the while lamenting that we women only fully appreciate motherhood once it’s gone. My husband didn’t carry on like me, but I swear I saw tears in his eyes too.

At first, the house seemed way too quiet and empty. But then a funny thing happened. The good news is that like a lot of women today, once I adjusted, it became a wonderful and exciting time of life.

My husband, Scott, and I had quiet time to reconnect with each other. We came to appreciate the opportunity for spontaneous date nights and enjoyed intimate dinners for two at home. We signed up to learn sign language in preparation for volunteer work with the deaf. I had more time to focus on my writing. We both enjoyed our new-found freedom and privacy.

In addition, we found joy in watching our youngest child transition into adulthood. We could see the fruits of our labor realized which was very satisfying and rewarding.

The fact is that “empty nest syndrome” no longer has the same meaning as it did in the past when the term was associated with depression and loss of identity. Today, many women have fulfilling careers and active lives after their children leave home.

Of course, this was my personal experience and I realize empty nest syndrome isn’t the same for everyone. Some parents continue to feel apathy and a sense of loss well after their last child leaves home. This time period can be particularly hard on single mothers who overnight find themselves alone or for those in fragile marriages which have been largely held together by raising children. After spending decades as a parent, it’s not surprising that this change can be difficult. In addition, you may be facing additional challenges such as menopause, retirement, or caring for aging parents.

If you’re having trouble adjusting to this new phase of life, there are positive steps you can take to find your bliss.

  • Start planning for this next stage of life before it arrives. For instance, join a dance class or begin renewing old friendships. Experts agree that keeping busy and tackling new challenges can ease the sense of loss you may be feeling. I’m not talking about drastic changes like selling your house and buying an RV to travel the country or quitting your job to pursue some random wild dream. But perhaps this is the perfect time to make some changes in your career path, go back to school, or volunteer in your community. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to play the guitar, take up painting, or start that novel you’ve been putting off. This may be your chance to follow your passion. (See my article, “Finding and Following Your Passion” for more information.)
  • If you’re married, now that the kids are gone, perhaps you and your spouse can find common interests or hobbies to enjoy together. Maybe you’ll rediscover your love for bike riding or hiking, learn to sail, sign up for French lessons and plan a trip to Paris, take country line dancing lessons, or become certified scuba divers. The door is wide open.
  • Going to the gym may have been one of the first things you gave up after you had a baby, but now that you have fewer obligations you can put exercise back on top of your list. Along with all the health benefits, exercise is a great mood lifter. Join a gym, learn a new sport, try a Zumba class, sign up for country line dancing lessons, or take up jogging. If you have a friend who has recently become an empty nester, you’ve found the perfect workout buddy. Reward yourself afterwards by having a cup of coffee or seeing a movie and you’ll also create social opportunities to get you out of that empty house.
  • If you can’t quit worrying about your child’s well-being now that he or she is out of the home, try setting up a regular schedule to chat for your own peace of mind. Skype is a wonderful tool for staying in touch these days.

If you’re feeling down after your last child leaves home, try some of these tips. Instead of looking at these years negatively, try looking at this time as a unique opportunity to pursue life-enriching, exciting, and fulfilling activities.

Staying Happy Through Menopause

menopause-9401517I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was hired to write humorous articles for a site about menopause, Hot Flash Daily – which I still love doing by the way. Writing the blogs keeps me laughing through what can be a challenging time of life. Great site, check it out.

Anyhow, with the launching of the new site, I thought it would be a good time to tackle the subject of how we can stay happy and retain our joy through menopause.

No, it’s not impossible. And I say that despite the fact that menopause was anything but easy for me.

As I wrote in my first article, “Meandering through Menopausal Madness” I was lucky not to suffer from PMS symptoms which allowed me to laugh hardheartedly at all those PMS jokes. You know the ones: PMS stands for pass my shotgun, pardon my sobbing, perpetual munching spree, pissy mood syndrome, people make me sick, or prepare to meet Satan. I gleefully giggled and thought – okay, perhaps just a wee bit smugly – those poor women. Women who have suffered through PMS throughout the years will be glad to hear, I’m not laughing anymore. Yup, Karma. You have my sincere sympathy and apologies.

“I literally didn’t recognize the woman I became,” I wrote in the article. “For instance, sobbing helplessly in the bathroom because my editor innocently asked, ‘How’s that piece coming along?’ Conversation with my husband turned into mostly annoyed sighs or worse yet, low, menacing growls that never failed to bring a look of terror into his eyes. My teenagers’ precious heads started looking alarmingly like targets for batting practice. The boys were petrified to make eye contact and suddenly became stellar students, spending a lot more time in their rooms doing homework.”

That was just beginning. I won’t even talk about the scorching hot flashes, insane insomnia, annoying forgetfulness, and crazy panic attacks that ensued for YEARS. Thankfully, I lived to tell the story, which I will be sharing in future blogs for Hot Flash Daily.

I’m now technically post-menopausal. Which doesn’t mean it’s over. I hear that menopausal symptoms can last for up to 10 years which makes me want to head for the nearest cliff, but the worst is over. I’m here to tell you that at least menopause is temporary and it does get better.

However, if you are a woman, most likely you will spend a third of your life peri-menopausal or post-menopausal. So back to the question, what can we do to retain our joy through menopause? Here are three ways:

Treat the Symptoms of Menopause

Personally, I chose not to go the route of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but some women find it necessary. If you prefer, there are other options available and many doctors are now embracing integrated medicine to find what works best for individual women – whether that involves HRT or not. Research all the options available today and then evaluate and discuss strategies with your doctor to find out how you can treat your menopause symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes

Although there are several healthy lifestyle changes that can help, regular exercise tops the list. As I wrote in an earlier blog, How Exercise Makes You Happier, maybe 20 minutes on the treadmill doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, but endorphin produced by exercise can help you feel happier by reducing stress and anxiety and lessening feelings of sadness or depression. In addition, a healthy diet and avoiding triggers such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and spicy food can help reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. An added benefit: When your body reaches a healthy weight, your overall wellness and outlook on life improves. Also, reducing stress, getting plenty of rest, and relaxation techniques will help you cope with menopause.

Keep a Positive Attitude

Instead of mourning this inevitable transitional time in life, think of some of the positive life changes that result from menopause. Of course, we can celebrate the fact that we are leaving periods and PMS behind. Also keep in mind that this can be one of the most fulfilling times of your life. Many women take this opportunity to redefine their roles, discover new interests, reflect on their blessings, and plan for an exciting future. If you’re a parent, after years of putting your children’s needs first, this is a time you can think about what you want to do with this next stage of life.

What else helps? Don’t forget to keep your sense of humor! It’s either laugh or cry – and wouldn’t you much rather giggle through all this? If you’re having a hard time thinking of any reasons to laugh about menopause, follow my blog at Hot Flash Daily under the tab, Laugh. In a future article, I’ll be discussing the seven menopausal dwarfs: itchy, bitchy, sweaty, bloaty, sleepy, forgetful, and psycho. So stay tuned, and I’ll have some funny stuff to share with you, guaranteed to bring a few chuckles your way.

 

Simplify Your Life

Sometimes the subjects I choose for my blogs are things I need to work on and this is one of them. We’re all works of progress, right? 

72/365 - And Your Point Is?
How to Balance Your LifeHelga Weber / Foter / CC BY-ND

As a writer, I’m used to brutally editing my work. If it doesn’t work, out it goes. Because if you cut out what’s unnecessary, you have a better and more meaningful story. The same goes for our lives. After all, we’re not meant to live in a frantic world rushing from one commitment to the next without a moment to stop and catch our breath. Our health and our sanity will suffer sooner rather than later.

To simplify one’s life means different things to different people, but essentially it means eliminating unessential things to make room for what’s really important to us. In other words, less is more.

As a first step, why don’t we take a moment to inventory what’s important to us. List five essential things in your life that you value and love. Which is the most important? Which do you value the most?

My list is as follows:

  1. My spirituality. Anyone that knows me knows that I have dedicated myself to God and that comes first in my life. This one is simple for me.
  2. My family. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, and sister. This is a trickier one to balance.
  3. My work. Writing has been a lifelong addiction and I am fortunate enough to have made that my career. However, I’m trying to get better at selecting jobs that I enjoy and that bring me satisfaction. Simplifying my life for me also means being happier with less and not striving after money or success.
  4. My home. As I age, I’m beginning to let go of the perfection I used to demand from myself in this area.
  5. Myself. This includes exercising and hobbies such as sailing, traveling, and reading.

Yes, I just noticed that I’m last on my list. Is it the same for you?

Okay, now that you’ve made your list, examine it and make sure the items are in line with your values, priorities, and life goals.

Now look at your list again and ask yourself how you spend your time. List what you do from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. Are your activities in line with the five most important things in your life? Are you letting unnecessary things get in the way? Or are doing what everyone else wants and not doing what’s important to you?

Important questions, my friends.

Now it’s time to make a conscious decision to focus on what’s important and eliminate the things that give you the least return for your invested time and effort. Edit out the non-essentials. Be tough and merciless.

That means saying no to the unnecessary things you don’t enjoy. You don’t want to go to that baby shower? Decline and send a gift. You don’t want to head up the school’s charity function this year? Don’t do it. That doesn’t make you a terrible parent and believe it or not, the world will keep spinning.

Prioritize your activities and set personal boundaries. Like I said in my former blog, How Boomers Can Use Midlife Wisdom to Find Happiness, make healthy, life-affirming choices by saying no to meaningless requests and saying yes to what excites you.

Saying no to things that don’t have value to you or don’t bring joy to your life is the most liberating path to a simpler life. You’ll be happier, more content, and calmer.

So make that list of priorities and if you’re so inclined, share it with me. I’d love to hear what they are along with any tips you’ve discovered along the way for simplifying your life.

Staying Positive Despite Problems

Okay, here’s a confession. Even though I write a blog focused on finding bliss and happiness, sometimes I have days when it feels like problems are overtaking my life and weighing me down.

Whew, now you know and I feel better.

So is it possible to be happy when persistent, scary, and frustrating problems keep rising to the surface and smacking us in the face?

I know, happiness can seem a million miles away sometimes. Problems can make us feel stressed, upset, disappointed, powerless, angry, and depressed. Maybe some or even most other aspects of our lives are going well, yet we still tend to focus on things that go wrong.

So what can we do?

happy-womanI don’t say this lightly because it’s not easy. Problems are very real and can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, we must remember that our happiness depends on our perspective and not our circumstances. Problems may make us feel powerless and defeated, but we can control our outlook. We can still choose to be happy.

Here are a few tips to help you do that:

Separate Yourself from Your Problems

The more you focus on your problems the more magnified they become. Negative thoughts lead to negative feelings like anger and depression that drain your energy and prevent you from being in the present moment.

Instead of allowing damaging thoughts to build and grow in strength, find a quiet, peaceful place. Think of your problems and then forcefully push them aside. As Mark Twain wisely said, “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.”

Another quote I like: “Give your stress wings and let it fly away,” by Terri Guillemets. In other words, close your eyes and visualize placing your problems on the wings of a butterfly and watch them float away. Focus on your breathing, pray, or listen to soothing music.

If problems start popping back into your head, force them right back out. With practice you’ll be able to create a serene place in your mind that allows you to escape from stressful thoughts and feelings.

Do Something Creative

Research has shown there is a strong link between creativity and better mental health.

I love to read, but when I’m really stressed, nothing calms me down like the focus and concentration writing requires. Maybe you love to sing or paint. Instead of stewing about your problems, do something creative and you’ll be forced to look inward and listen to yourself. It will help you shut out the world and its problems for a while.

In fact, if you make the time to be creative, you’ll be happier, less stressed, more resilient and better equipped to problem-solve in the face of hardship.

Force Yourself to Think Happy Thoughts

Purposely direct your mind to focus on things that make you feel happy.

You might recall something funny your grandchild did or said, reminisce about one of your favorite memories, or plan a trip for the future.

Or write down five reasons you can feel grateful and force yourself to focus on those things. Put inspirational, happy quotes on post it notes and spread them around the house.

Again, with a little practice you can train your mind to naturally gravitate toward more pleasant thoughts.

Of course, these tips won’t make your problems magically disappear, but they can help you better able to cope with challenges.

Like a quote I saw on Pinterest: Life is like a roller coaster. You can either scream every time you hit a bump or you can throw your hands up in the air and enjoy it.

 

The Importance of Self-Acceptance

Give Yourself a Thumbs Up!

Give Yourself a Thumbs Up!

Do you accept yourself as you are?

That can be a difficult question to answer sometimes. I think as you age, you get better at self-acceptance and becoming comfortable in your own skin.

However, if you’re like me, that question often triggers thoughts about things I’d like to change about myself.

We women, in particular, are incredibly hard on ourselves. We can be insecure, full of self-doubt, and even ashamed, particularly about our looks and our weight.

“Self-acceptance is an invitation to stop trying to change yourself into the person you wish to be, long enough to find out who you really are,” Robert Olden wrote in an article, “How Self-Acceptance Can Crack Open Your Life.”

That sentence made me pause and think.

If we want to gain a positive sense of whom we are and find happiness, then we have to stop judging ourselves so harshly. That doesn’t mean we stop trying to be a better person.  It just means that we need to accept our shortcomings and faults as well as our good qualities and our accomplishments. It also means letting go of perfection.

Self-acceptance is a bit different than self-esteem. Self-esteem relates to how we value and respect ourselves. Self-acceptance involves the process of recognizing our weaknesses and limitations, and not letting that knowledge interfere with our ability to accept ourselves fully. That means we accept our bodies even though they don’t look like Sharon Stone or Madonna. We accept that we’re getting wrinkles and parts are starting to sag as we get older. We accept that we’re going to make mistakes. These things don’t mean we’re a bad person. Just human.

Self-acceptance also means that our image of ourselves is not based on other people’s opinions of us. We all run into people who insult us or treat us disrespectfully. However, if we accept ourselves, we will not allow their comments or behavior to destroy us or ruin our happiness.

If we accept ourselves, we’ll stop comparing ourselves to other people. Instead we’ll focus on our own journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Are you a better person than you were a year ago? Are you more loving, kind, wise, healthy, strong, or joyful? Don’t compete with anyone else. Focus on your own progress and accept that there will be bumps in the road along the way.

If we can start accepting our imperfections and embrace our unique, authentic selves, instead of spending time, money and energy trying to change ourselves, we’ll all be happier.

Finding and Following Your Passion

2767-Playa nudista de Combouzas en Arteixo (Coruña)
Finding the Path to Your Passionjl.cernadas / Foter / CC BY

The research is clear: People are most effective when they’re doing what they love. We are happier, experience greater emotional well-being, and enrich the lives of others when we find our passion and live our lives to the fullest.

Finding your passion means different things to different people. For me, I am very passionate about my faith, my family, and my work – in that order. I’m also passionate about reading, learning, traveling, and sailing.

As far as my work, I’m one of those fortunate people that discovered my passion for writing while I was a teen. In my 20s, I began taking writing classes at the local college and took my first step toward fulfilling a secret dream. Be warned, it was a very long time before I could make a living from writing, but I can testify that it’s absolutely fabulous to have a job doing what you love.

Perhaps you’ve already found your passions as well. But if that’s not the case, you’re not alone. It’s never too late to find your passions – whether that means following a spiritual path, finding a more fulfilling job, or discovering a new hobby or activity to escape the stresses of life.

Although following your passion isn’t always easy, figuring out what your passion is can be even more elusive. Here are a few tips to get you started down the path of discovery:

  • Think about the most meaningful experiences in your life when you felt the greatest personal satisfaction, contentment, and most importantly, when you made a difference. Passion is only lasting and fulfilling when it’s connected to a larger purpose.
  • Examine what interests you. What excites you and brings you joy? What did you love to do as a child? What makes you lose track of time? What blogs do you follow? What kind of books and magazines do you read? What do you research on the Internet?
  • Also consider your skills. Have you always been a good gardener, cook, parent, writer, builder, organizer, teacher, or seller? Do you excel at coming up with unique ideas or connecting with people? The answers to these questions may give you a clue to finding a more satisfying career, since – as I wrote about in my blog, “Why Boomers Can Be Positive About Working Longer,“  - most of us boomers can expect to work into old age.
  • Brainstorm. Let your mind wonder and write down whatever comes to mind. Look at your bookshelf, on your computer, or around your house for inspiration. Or better yet, take a large poster board and create a collage of sayings, articles, poems, photos, and whatever else you find inspiring. Don’t limit yourself. There are no bad ideas; you can narrow down choices later. As your board evolves, you’ll find it becomes more focused.

Finding your true passion will require reflection, soul-searching, and experimentation. If you choose to make a career from your passion, you must leave all of your doubts and fears behind. You’ll need courage commitment, patience, and persistence.

I do have one word of caution: don’t quit your day job right away. When I was starting out, I naively decided to write full-time after several of my articles and short stories were published. That was a big mistake. Be patient and remember that making a living by doing what you love may take a while. However, if you’re enjoying yourself, the time will pass quickly.

Of course, you don’t have to combine your financial income with your passion. They can be separate entities, fulfilling by their own means. A passion is not only valuable when it is validated by money or employment. Doing what you love is worthwhile just for the joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction it brings. Following your passion doesn’t necessarily mean changing careers either; you can cultivate passion for your current job as well.

One more final thought on this subject. Be balanced, people. I’m here to say that if following your passion means giving up your spirituality, your values, or sacrificing your marriage and family to reach your goals, please reconsider. Don’t have an irresponsible view of following your passion no matter what. In fact, dropping everything to follow your passion can have disastrous results.

So those are my thoughts on finding your passion. Drop me a line and give me your thoughts. What are you passionate about?

How Exercise Makes You Happier

stretching_and_exercising_205630Want to find your bliss? We can’t discuss happiness and not talk about the importance of regular exercise. You knew it was coming sooner or later, right?

True, 20 minutes on the treadmill doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, but endorphins produced by exercise can help you feel happier by reducing stress and anxiety and lessening feelings of sadness or depression.

Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident and sure of yourself which can help open doors to all kinds of possibilities.

Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories. Who doesn’t want that? When your body reaches a healthy weight, your overall wellness and outlook on life improves.

If all that weren’t enough, a healthy, active lifestyle can help prevent or substantially slow down a number of health issues that pop up as we age such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, as well as muscle and joint pain.

So you would think us baby boomers would be all over this exercise thing, right? After all, our generation of bell bottoms and tie dye isn’t taking old age lying down. We’ve all seen commercials of those ambitious, fit, gray-haired boomers pedaling bikes uphill, lacing up their sneakers and heading to the gym, jogging, and shooting jump shots.

Not so fast. What is a surprise is how many boomers are not physically active. While we boomers have our share of active go-getters, they do not make up the majority. Not by a long shot.

A whopping 78% of men and women over 40 do not have a consistent fitness routine. In fact, in spite of medical advances, members of the baby boomer generation are actually in worse health than their parents were at the same stage of life, according to research reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Shocking, isn’t it? Not exactly how we want to think of ourselves.

Oh I know, us boomers have a million excuses, myself included. We have demanding jobs, discouraging health problems, a slowing metabolism, and hormonal changes. Some of us are caring for aging parents, raising teens, or dealing with our young adult children who are moving back home due to the economy. We’re concerned about injuries or falls. We’re just plain tired.

Before you throw in the towel though, let’s talk about how much physical activity we need to stay fit.

We’re not talking about hours of pumping iron in a gym or running a marathon to achieve the benefits I listed above. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week (or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days a week) Add a muscle-strengthening activity two days a week for a complete package.

Okay, so visualize a life where you can easily travel, play with your grandchildren, and participate in sports, hobbies, and interests without the restrictions of chronic illnesses brought on by being a couch potato. Picture a life without swallowing cholesterol and high blood pressure pills every day and saving money on medication.

Since study after study shows that staying fit is the key to an energetic and fun-filled life during our 50s, and beyond, don’t you think that type of freedom, independence, happiness, and adventure is worth just 30 minutes a day five days a week?

Okay, so there’s your pep talk. It’s time. Get off that couch and get moving!