Life Lessons from Top Happy Songs of All Time

Music can be powerful. Inspiring songs not only perk us up when we’re down, but lyrics can also contain empowering life lessons.

Happy Songs

Some songs remind us to appreciate all the beauty in the world. Others provide motivation to overcome challenges to accomplish our dreams. 

For example, the profound lyrics of Nickelback’s famous song,  If Today was Your Last Day:

My best friend gave me the best advice.

He said each day’s a gift and not a given right

Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind.

I love these words that teach us never to take life for granted and overcome our fears to live life to its fullest.

Or the lyrics in Beautiful by Christina Aguilera that reminds us to see the beauty within ourselves and not allow others to define us:

I am beautiful

No matter what they say

Words can’t bring me down

Sing it strong, girl!

Since my blog is about happiness, that got me to thinking. What are the most popular happy songs of all time and what can we learn from the lyrics? 

Here are five songs that made the top 20 happy songs of all time according to the Billboard charts (you’ll notice they all have the word “happy” in them) along with their key messages. By all means, if you need a pick-me-up, click on any of the links to hear the songs. 

Happy-Go-Lucky-Me

Interestingly, a lot of songs with the word “happy” in them came from the 50s and 60s. Pharrell William’s song Happy was the last song to hit the charts with the cheerful word “happy” and came in at #17 on the Billboard charts. However, the song was an exception to the rule in recent times. Perhaps, the world was a more lighthearted place back in the day.

An oldie but a goodie, Paul Evans wisely reminds us to quit chasing the almighty dollar and take time to enjoy the simple things in life. The song was released in 1960 – which just happens to be the year I was born – and came in at Number 18 assuring us all that “life is sweet, whooa, sweet as honey.”

I can laugh

When things ain’t funny

Happy go lucky me

Yer, I can smile

When I aint got no money

Happy go lucky me

It may sound silly but I don’t care

I got the moonlight, I got the sun, I’ve got the stars above.

Want to take Paul’s advice? Click here if you want to read my blog listing five ways to become a happy-go-lucky person.

Happy Together

Everyone knows this familiar song by The Turtles, also from the 1960s, that emphasizes the importance of love. The song was the winner, coming in at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. Quite a few of the songs in the top 20 were based on love including the classic Connie Francis’ song, My Happiness which came in at Number 4. These simple, romantic lyrics remind us of the importance of nurturing the relationships with our significant others.

I think about you day and night

It’s only right

To think about the girl you love

And hold her tight

So happy together

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Bobby McFerron wrote this classic happy song that everyone knows to help all of us tap our feet, relax, and join him in his oh-so-contagiously-happy-mood. It came in at Number 2.

Don’t worry, be happy

In every life we have some trouble

But when you worry, you make it double

Amen, brother!

Shiny Happy People

One of the more puzzling songs on the list, coming in at Number 18, is the 1991 R.E.M. hit that had everyone searching for the mysterious meaning. What did the “shiny happy people laughing” represent? 

Everyone around, love them, love them

Put it in your hands, take it, take it

There’s no time to cry, happy, happy

Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines

Gold and silver shine

Some say that the title and chorus are based on a Chinese propaganda poster. They claim that the words “shiny happy people holding hands” are used ironically. After all, the song was released two years after the Tiananmen Square uprising when the Chinese government clamped down on student demonstrators, killing hundreds of them.

On the other hand, according to a blog on Grammy.com’s website although the “vague vocalizing and intriguing lyrics tended to leave fans in search of meaning and definition,” they claim the song “proved to be a rather atypical R.E.M. track in its unironic projection of celebration and good cheer. It’s a sensibility that is fully captured in the song’s sunshiny video.”

Then there’s this one blogger’s opinion: ”It’s this relentlessly cheery vision of utopia where everyone is in love, all of the time. Whether you laugh at it, cringe, swoon, cry, or sing along, it’s revealing something about your outlook on life.”

I’ll let you make up your own mind on this one and move on to the next song, a much lighter and simple-to-understand happy song:

If You Wanna Be Happy 

So I’ll end this article with this silly song meant to simply make you smile. It came in at Number 5. Get ready to tap your feet and have a giggle with Jimmy Soul’s advice:

If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life,

Never make a pretty woman your wife,

So from my personal point of view,

Get an ugly girl to marry you.

Who knows, there could be some profound wisdom in those words. Mwahahaha! If you’d like to see the complete list, you can check it out on Billboard’s website.

So, what are your favorite songs with the word “happy” in them and why? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Menopause Misery: Cry Me a River

Okay, my menopausal madams. Time for a little menopause humor. Because it’s either laugh or cry. And let’s face it. We do way too much crying, right? In fact, when I’m not busy being irritable, irrational, and ill-tempered, I’m enjoying my brand new hobby, thanks to menopause: filling up buckets with tears.

CryingMind you, I was never the super-sensitive emotional type. I was going through life blissfully pragmatic and practical about life’s events.

Even those sentimental, tear-jerker chick flicks would leave me dry-eyed in a theater full of weepy women. I was kind of proud of that.

So what’s happened? Now, it’s instant drama, at any random moment, for no reason whatsoever.

Some days, I can watch a soppy Hallmark commercial or even those tragic ASPCA of starving children commercials without a tear in sight. Other days, that Amazon Prime commercial about the little horse being ignored by all the big horses with a happy ending due to the purchase of a very large doggy door causes me to burst into tears.

Some days, I can listen to the saddest country song unmoved and other days the cheery song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” sends me over the edge and sprinting for the nearest Kleenex box. Just because I happen to feel worried and happy that day and life is SO not fair.

In fact, nowhere is this whole “cry at the drop of a hat” trait more infuriating than while I’m working. I’m a firm believer in the die-before-you-cry-at-work philosophy. So how could my unreliable tear ducts turn on me at a critical moment during an editorial meeting?

I was simply explaining the logistics of my article in a very Spock- or Sheldon Cooper-like way when suddenly tears filled my eyes and my chin began to quiver. Out of nowhere. Dabbing tears, I explained it was just my allergies while my editor looked supportive but a bit confused and doubtful.

And don’t tell me crying is good for me. Shut up! I hate crying. It makes my eyes red, puffy, and swollen. My face looks like a battle zone and crying gives me an Excedrin headache. By the way, I’m not one of those women whose tears delicately make twinkling paths down their cheeks. Oh no, when I cry it’s a watershed moment complete with snot running down my nose, blotchy skin, and unattractive bunched up facial features. Picture deafening, gasping sobs that make me sound like I’m choking on a chicken bone and you get the picture.

Today, well, it’s a roll of the dice. Maybe I’ll blissfully and happily work on my blog this afternoon in total control of my emotions. Or maybe I’ll become convinced everyone hates me because no one favorit-ed my Tweet five minutes after I posted it. You just never know. That’s the kicker. One moment to the next, I’m not sure if I’m going to feel calm and joyful, flip out, or simply sit in the corner and cry like a baby.

So what’s a menopausal woman do? Keep waterproof mascara and Kleenex packs on hand at all times. As I said before, it’s either laugh or cry. Whenever possible, choose laughter.

For more of my articles on menopause along with plenty of great advice and interesting articles on the big M-word, check out Hot Flash Daily.

Image courtesy of holohololand at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Letter to My Younger Self

We’ve all said it: “I wish I knew then what I know now.”

Write a letter to your younger self. It could be the key to self discovery!

Write a letter to your younger self. It could be the key to self discovery!

A group of us bloggers decided to run with this idea and write letters to our younger selves. Take a piece of paper and join us. It’s a thought-provoking way to bring insight to your present life as well as gain an illuminating perspective on the past.

Then visit the awesome bloggers listed below who share their letter to their younger selves.

Just so you know, I visualize my younger self as being about 15-years-old. So ready for my letter?

Here we go…

Dear Younger Self,

There is much I want to say to you, but why not let the future slowly reveal itself to you? I don’t want to spoil all the surprises. I’ll just say that much of what will happen will astound you – but in a good way. I promise. Without giving too much away, I will give you 10 sage pieces of advice based on wisdom I’ve slowly gained over the years:

  1. You were always serious about the Bible and staying close to God, even as a child. Never lose your faith and love for God. It will carry you through life and serve you well.
  2. Stop being a people-pleaser. This is a personality trait you adapted as a teen and practiced most of your life. Your motivations for pleasing people are noble. I realize you don’t want to disappoint people, sound rude, start a fight, or hurt anyone’s feelings. You just want people to be happy. However, the price for this attribute is way too high. You will never, and I mean NEVER, make everyone happy. Trying to do so only leads to frustration and guilt. People-pleasing not only never works and but also saps your own time, energy, and happiness.
  3. The saying that perfection is overrated is absolutely true.  Making lists all the time, a habit you developed very early in life, is just plain neurotic. As a song from a future Disney movie belts out: “Let it go!”
  4. You are not dreaming big enough. You will have a career that you should have foreseen by your interests and love for it even when you were very young. However, you did not even consider pursuing this path until you were well into your 20s. But maybe it’s better that way. No worries, you found your passion anyway and went further with it than you ever expected.
  5. Let go of all those insecurities. Those people that are making you crazy and hurting your feelings right now – they won’t even be in your life later. So who cares?
  6. Never forget to be grateful. This means appreciating life’s many gifts, acknowledging your blessings, and noticing simple pleasures. Focus on what you have instead of what you want.
  7. A boy will come into your life way too young. Now, here’s a unique piece of advice for you – and only you – because most of the time this never works. Everyone will advise you not to marry young. But you go ahead. Because that teenage boy who won’t give up on you grows up to be the best husband you could ever imagine. You have many, many happy years together. So quit trying to break up with him.
  8. You know how you can be really silly, get the giggles, and be playful? As you get older you will have a tendency to be way too serious and lose some of this delightful ability. Fight that impulse.
  9. Here’s a little juicy tidbit, you will have many adventures and travel around the world. Lucky you! Of course, there will also be challenges, heartbreak, and stressful times ahead of you. However, you are much stronger than you think. You will survive.
  10. Finally, young Julie, enjoy every single moment of life. Live in the present. Value your loved ones that will travel with you through life. Old people are telling you that life goes by way too fast and you can’t comprehend that right now. But it’s truer than you’ll ever know.

With lots of love,

Your Much Older and Wiser Self

Thanks for stopping by! For more letters to a younger self, visit these #Gr8blogs today:

How a Forgotten Journal Helped Me Move Beyond a Painful Past

Cat shares excerpts from a journal written by her painfully insecure 15-year-old self to Older Darlin’ — the adult she wished to become and hoped she would do proud.

A Letter to Your Younger Self

Corrina Holyoake enlightens her little mini-me with plenty of gems of wisdom learned along the way during her colorful and fulfilling life.

Listen to Your Inner Beach Bum, Younger Self

This year, Leigh Shearin turns 50 and reviews her life journey and what she’s learned as a writer of historical fiction that she would share with her younger self.

Letter to My Younger Self 
Auden Johnson encourages her 15 year old self to embrace her inner nerd, keep on writing and, above all, never give up hope: “You may not see daylight now, but it’s coming.”

A Letter to My Younger Self

Karen Emma Hall shares plenty of wise advice to her younger self along with a fabulous chicken story and coloring page.

Oh, If I Only Knew…

Who says being stubborn is a bad thing? Stubbornness when wielded wisely can result in wonderful blessings, is just one nugget of wisdom Carmela Dutra shares.

Stay tuned…more letters to my younger self to come! If you’re interested in hopping onto this blog, just link your post back to me or any of these #Gr8Blogs, and we’ll give you some blog lovin’ in return.

What would tell your younger self? Please share in the comments below!

 

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

75-Year Long Study Reveals Secret to Happiness

Happiness is….

Searching HappinessEveryone is searching for happiness. So, how would you answer that question?

An impressive 75-year-long Harvard study tracked the lives of 724 men from their teen years to old age to find the answer. Sixty of those men are still alive and participating in the study along with their 2,000-plus children.

What makes the study fascinating is researchers focused on two very different types of men. The first set of men were sophomore students at Harvard and the second set were from troubled and disadvantaged families in Boston’s poorest neighborhoods.

As different as they were, apparently happiness was achieved in similar ways.

No surprise, wealth and a successful career did not always equal happiness. (Although, by the way people are standing in line for hours and going crazy for the billion dollar lottery this week, it appears people still think money brings happiness.) Having a meaningful connection to the type of work they were doing was more important than achieving traditional success and wealth. Intelligence didn’t guarantee happiness either.

As all the song lyrics seem to agree, it seems that love is the answer. The greatest takeaway from the study was the revelation that relationships bring us the most joy and happiness. As Mary Stuart stated, ”To be kind to all, to like many and love a few, to be needed and wanted by those we love, is certainly the nearest we can come to happiness.”

You probably could have guessed as much. But there’s more to the study than just that.

In a recent TED talk (a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short, powerful talks), Robert Waldinger, the fourth director of the study discussed some of their findings.

What can we learn from this study?

Happy FamilyThe Quality of Relationships Matters

No surprise, the men in both groups who had better relationships with family, friends and community were both happier and healthier than their less social counterparts. They also lived longer. On the other hand, lonely people who were isolated had more health related problems and reported feeling less happy. They also suffered from sleep disorders, had more mental health issues, and lived shorter lives.

However, not just any old miserable committed relationship will do. In fact, the study showed that people who were alone were happier than people in turbulent “high-conflict” relationships. That agrees with research that has shown chronic stress from a bad marriage can affect the immune system.

The quality of close relationships mattered more than the number of friends the men had or whether they were in committed relationships. Interestingly, the Harvard study found that the people who were most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Take a mental note to nurture your relationships into old age.

Happy MarriageA Good Marriage Can Help Your Memory

Stable, secure, and supportive marriages not only contributed to happiness but to better memories as well.

The Harvard study found that married people who had never been divorced, separated, or experienced “serious problems” before age 50 performed better on memory tests later in life. Other research has found that marriage has been linked to a lowered risk of dementia.

In other words, participants who felt they could rely on their partners during old age in times of need found their memories stayed sharper for longer.

Men with Mommy Issues Fared Badly

In a conclusion that surely would have pleased Freud, the study suggested that a man’s relationship with his mother matters long into adulthood.

Men who had “warm” childhood relationships with their mother were less likely to develop dementia later in life and more likely to have professional success. In fact, they earned an average of $87,000 more a year than men whose mothers were uncaring.

Late in their professional lives, the men’s boyhood relationships with their mothers—interestingly not with their fathers—were associated with effectiveness at work.

Stay Away from the Booze and Cigarettes

Alcoholism was the main cause of divorce between the Harvard study men and their wives and it was strongly correlated with neurosis and depression. Together with associated cigarette smoking, it was the single greatest contributor to their early morbidity and death.

Happiness is Love

Psychiatrist George Vaillant, who led the study from 1972 to 2004, wrote regarding this study, “The 75 years and 20 million dollars expended on the Grant Study points … to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’“

Now that you know what made these men happiest over three quarters of a century, hopefully you’ll make any necessary changes. Quit chasing financial success and crying that you didn’t win the lottery, let go of any mommy issues, stop smoking and drinking too much, and concentrate on the relationships in your life.

Some powerful and enlightening insight to take with us into and beyond 2016!

Images courtesy of imagerymajestic, photostock, and Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

A Fresh Start in a New Year: New Beginnings

Had a lovely two weeks off enjoying time with my family and grandkids. This week it’s back to the real world and the pleasure of writing my first blog of the year.

As the new year begins, I’m drawn to quotes about new beginnings. A few of my favorites:

New Beginnings“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” ― T.S. Eliot

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

As I shared in my last blog, last year was a traumatic one. Looking back on it, I realize that there will be some healing time ahead for me as I pave my way to new beginnings. This became fully apparent at the end of the year when I sat down to transfer important dates into my new datebook.

Although my husband urges me to use my phone to keep track of appointments and anniversaries and such, I still prefer an old fashioned datebook. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a datebook since I was a teen. I have this end-of-the-year tradition to browse through the year in review, enjoy good memories, and see how my life has changed.

I knew this year would be different. My datebook for 2015 included some painful reminders that included the dates of my Mom’s birthday, Mom and Dad’s anniversary, my Mom’s death, and her Memorial. Nonetheless, I picked up the old datebook before fully realizing just how hard this process would be.

The first half of last year was full of doctor, dentist, hair, and manicure appointments for my Mom who suffered with Lewy Body Dementia. Mom joked I was both her secretary and chauffeur. Then there were the dates of Mom’s hip surgery, the days that hospice nurses and caregivers visited, and then finally dates of family members who wanted to see my Mom before she died, and the date of her death and Memorial service. Memories flooded back to the day a doctor at the hospital strongly suggested that we put Mom back into hospice and bring her home to die. The day I had to tell my siblings and we all cried as we were forced to accept the reality of her situation. The memory of watching my Mom take her final breath still haunts me as well.

If my Mom was still alive, I’d be writing 60′th anniversary under the date of April 14 in 2016. Before my Mom’s health deteriorated, we talked about throwing a 40′s party since my Mom loved that decade. Once, when we were discussing plans, she joked, “If I make it that long.” Although it panged me to hear her say that, I was still in denial at that point and laughed it off. After all, July was less than a year away.

My step-mother-in-law, Cheryl, died a short 17 months after her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. My 2015 date book included my in-law’s 37th anniversary, which just happens to be on the same day of my mother’s birthday on July 8. Cheryl was determined and brave fighting her battle, and somehow managed to keep going in her typical brisk manner, until the week she announced she was coming home to die. The surgery and treatments were not working and, by that time, she was in a lot of pain. We had dinner at her home and she jumped up to help in the kitchen, as was her habit. A few days later, she died at the young age of 60. My 2015 datebook also includes the date of her Memorial service.

Although I forge ahead into the new year, both their memories will be with me forever and treasured.

Feeding a giraffe at the Living Desert last week with my family.

Feeding a giraffe at the Living Desert last week with my family.

Last year’s date book was also full of family court dates – unwelcome reminders of my oldest son’s ugly divorce and custody battle. Let’s just say, there was no need to write down my son and ex-daughter-in-law’s anniversary date either.

However, this last week, we all enjoyed a blissful week together with the grandchildren, visiting the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Living Desert. The kids enjoyed sleepovers with their friends along with scavenger hunts, homemade pizza, and a talent show. Just hanging around the house puttering around in my new garden or sitting by the fire pit was heavenly. Evidence that it is time to move out of divorce land and move forward into our new lives.

New Start

So, gone is last year’s date book. Distressing as last year was, it is now a time for healing and for new beginnings.

I picked up my new 2016 datebook because I thought it was cute and loved the color. But here’s the funny thing. It’s the most cheerful datebook I’ve ever owned.

I never looked inside, but on the first page it had the words: “Your days are as fun as you make them.” Right on! In fact, each month has a positive quote. For example, April says: “Don’t fall back on what’s behind you; spring forward to what’s ahead.” In November: “Learn from yesterday, dream about tomorrow. Live in the moment.”  And December: “Life goes on so keep on keepin’ on.”

Quotes we’ve all seen before, but it’s perfect for me this year. Simple reminders to live in the moment and make each and every day count. I love it! Who knows what fun dates this year’s datebook will contain?

As you can tell, this blog has served as a sort of therapy for me as I try to make sense of everything that has happened and look to the future. It is my hope that spilling my thoughts and feelings onto this page may somehow help some of you who are facing similar challenges and difficulties.

With that in mind, I look forward to sharing my journey this year with all those who choose to stop by and visit. What will your year be like? I would love to hear about your journey and plans for the new year in the comment section below.

So, here’s to new beginnings. As Rainer Maria Rilke, a famous poet and novelist, wrote, “And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My Personal Review of 2015

I am taking the next couple of weeks off, so this will be my last blog of the year. Hard to believe that only two weeks remain of 2015. So what are my final thoughts about this year?

My husband, Scott, and I on a recent trip to San Francisco.

My husband, Scott, and I on a recent trip to San Francisco.

There’s a certain irony that after starting a blog called Baby Boomer Bliss, I had the worst year so far in my life. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that every day was terrible.

That’s the thing, when things aren’t going according to plan, we encounter challenges, or even when we suffer from tragic events, we cannot afford to squander priceless moments of our lives. We simply don’t have the luxury to spend what little time we have on earth worried about the future or stuck in the past.

For example, this last weekend, my husband, two sons, and daughter-in-law enjoyed a quick but delightful getaway to Monterey and San Francisco. The beauty of these two places with all the breathtaking views, dramatic coastline, and pristine forests along with the terrific company made this a trip to remember.

Our family also enjoyed a fabulous vacation together camping in Sequoia and Yosemite this last summer with many treasured moments.

Our family in Yosemite this past summer.

Our family in Yosemite this past summer.

Along with these cherished memories, there are certainly important things I’ve learned this year that I wouldn’t have otherwise appreciated as fully.

I learned that with God’s help, I am stronger than I thought. Losing my mother and mother-in-law helped me understand that you cannot put off until tomorrow what you need and want to do today – tomorrow is not guaranteed. It’s given me perspective as to what’s important in my life and what is trivial.

As I’ve pulled closer to my family through the stressful events this year, my love has grown deeper for my loved ones. After 37 years of marriage, I was reminded that my husband and biggest supporter rocks! I am so fortunate that my children – including my youngest son’s wife — are also my best friends. My older son’s divorce and custody battle was awful beyond words but drew my son and I closer than ever and made me even more grateful for my grandchildren and the precious time I have with them. This year also made me thankful for all the love and kindness shown by friends and members of my congregation.

In memory of my Mom who died in June. Our family has enjoyed sailing for more than 30 years - Mom loved it too. People at the dock admired her for walking down the plank to get on the boat with her walker.

In memory of my Mom who died in June. Our family has enjoyed sailing for more than 30 years – Mom loved it too. People at the dock admired her for walking down the plank to get on the boat with her walker.

Caregiving for my mother who had Lewy Body dementia full-time before her death has given me a new-found appreciation and empathy for all of you out there who are in the same boat. Losing my mother drew me closer to my father and siblings. It also helped me learn the importance of consoling others who have lost loved ones through this most difficult time.

While I wouldn’t want to repeat this year, as hard as it was, I wouldn’t want to trade it away either. 

However, I am at heart an optimist, and am hopeful that 2016 will be a year for fresh beginnings and a time to refocus and recharge after a challenging year.

I hope the same for all of you. A big thank-you to the 13,000 people who have visited my blog and a big hug to those of you who took the time to leave wonderful comments that always make my day.

See you next year!

How to Savor Solitude

This year I have learned to savor solitude.

Being a full-time caregiver for my mother before she passed away in June certainly made me appreciate solitude.

Last Saturday, my mother-in-law’s “celebration of life” after her brave battle with ovarian cancer was attended by over 400 people. The service and gathering afterwards were lovely, but after weeks of being with people, my soul craved an escape to a quiet haven where I could peacefully be alone with my own thoughts.

As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

SolitudeThe Definition of Solitude

The word solitude is defined as the state of being alone. However, that can mean different things to different people. The word ‘solitude’ can take on a negative connotation and be paired with words like loneliness and isolation.

However, in this article I am referring to a few hours of peaceful, quiet solitude. As a quote by Paul Tillich so accurately describes, “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

Well said!

Benefits of Solitude

Solitude can help you re-energize, reflect, and relax. When I force myself to be social all the time or when life gets too demanding, I feel all my energy, perspective, and joy draining out of me. All the hectic noise obscures my inner voice and thoughts. That’s why as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to embrace my need for quiet time and solitude.

Like most writers, I’m a bit of an introvert and must have time to meditate on spiritual matters, take quiet walks alone, write, and reflect quietly on the day’s events, I don’t consider it a guilty pleasure or selfish. When I honor my need for solitude, I become recharged and better able to help those around me,. I actually become a better person.

Even if you’re an extrovert, you can benefit from the simple pleasure of solitude, stillness, and quiet time.

A bit of solitude will give you an opportunity to connect with your spirituality, meditate, pray, and count your blessings. Being alone with your thoughts provides time to get to know yourself better, to reflect on your life, what you’ve learned along the way, and how those life lessons can help you going forward. You will have time to consider what you still want to accomplish. Quiet time will help you find your own voice and be more creative. Solitude gives you the chance to unwind and enjoy peace and tranquility.

As Albert Einstein wisely said, “Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature,”

Finding Solitude

Solitude 2Before you can find the peace that comes with solitude, you’ll need to let go of your worries, anxieties, and to-do lists. Be assured that the world can get along without you for a short period of time.

Find a place where you can escape the frenzy and hubbub of life. Disconnect from your phone, technology, and social media. You may have to schedule and create time for solitude, but it’s worth the effort. 

Take a walk alone, find a shady spot under a tree and read a book, indulge in a cup of tea on your patio, or write in your journal in a comfy chair by a fire. It may be as simple as turning off your radio during your commute to work and simply letting your mind wander. Or sitting on a park bench during your lunch break where you can allow nature to sooth your soul.

Savor solitude, silence, and serenity. Never feel like it’s selfish or frivolous to indulge in some quiet time. Honor your need for solitude in this fast-paced and noisy world knowing that is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones.

Images courtesy of razvan ionut and anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Four Ways to Heal From Emotional Pain

We would all like to hide and run away from emotional pain, but no one skips through life untouched. I can’t complain. Most of my life has been relatively easy and free of pain and adversity. However, as I’ve written about in this blog, this year was a tough one with two recent deaths in our family.

Emotional HealingI’m sure there’s many of you out there going through similar experiences. If you’re going through a challenging time, how can you heal and move forward with your life?

Of course, recovery takes time. Allow yourself to surrender to feelings of sadness, anger, and pain. Accept what you are going through. Give yourself time to rest and heal. However, there are things you can do to help the process along.

Last week, my father in-law and sister-in-law as well as my two sons, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren went to the Living Desert, a local animal park. (If you ever visit the Palm Springs area, be sure and visit this charming zoo.) The day was therapeutic for all of us. Why?

After giving this some thought, I came up with four reasons. If you’re going through emotional pains, I hope these tips will bring you some peace of mind:

Tap into Your Spirituality

At the Living Desert, we couldn’t help of thinking about God and all the beautiful creations he put on this earth for us to enjoy. God gives us strength beyond what is normal and reliance on Him is essential to recovery. Honestly, I wouldn’t have made it through this year without a spiritual foundation, prayer, meditation on God’s Word, and the support from members of my congregation.

Surround Yourself with People You Love

This is true in general, but never more so than when you are going through emotional trauma. Lean on those people who genuinely love and care for you. My husband, my children, my father, and my siblings became more important than ever to me after my Mom’s death. The same thing is happening now with my husband’s family. As we mourn my mother-in-law, we are all clinging to each other. Our grandchildren are soothing and restoring us with their laughter and silliness, their excitement as they learn about new things, and their hugs and kisses.

If you are in a state of recovery, make it a point to only be around those people that make you happy and bring positivity to your life. People that are optimistic and cheerful. People who can make you smile and laugh. People who remind you of the beauty in the world.

River w butterflyAllow Nature to Heal You

Simply being outside in nature will heal and comfort you with its gentle reminders of rebirth, rejuvenation, and renewal.

At the Living Desert, the sun shone bright on us warming our faces. Butterflies landed on our shoulders. We laughed at the giraffes’ long purple tongues greedy for carrots. We ate lunch surrounded by palm trees.

My grandson, Rowan, said, “This is the life.” And he was absolutely right.

That’s why you’ll find me sitting in the courtyard enjoying the smell of lavender and rosemary, watching our new kitten play, and listening to the gentle sound of our gurgling fountain every chance I get. Our family often spends evenings on the patio by a crackling fire gazing at the stars. We planted a garden and are thrilled to see carrots and radishes breaking through the soil.

As Thomas Merton said, “One has to be alone, under the sky, before everything falls into place and one finds his or her own place in the midst of it all.”

Turn Your Wounds Into Wisdom

Now is the time to contemplate and meditate on lessons learned from pain, loss, and disappointment. Yes, there are always important life lessons that can improve our lives.

“Turn your wounds into wisdom,” Oprah Winfrey advises.

So, allow yourself time to rest, time to heal, and time to recover. Then follow these four steps and remember that no pain lasts forever. You’re still alive and there are people to cherish, exciting places to see, thrilling experiences to be had, and new things to learn. No matter what happens,  you can rebuild and create a fabulous life feeling grateful for every day you’re alive.

Postscript: I wrote this article before the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California yesterday – which is only about an hour away from where I live. My heart goes out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy and I pray you all can find emotional healing from this horrific event.

Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Aging is a Gift

Earlier this month I turned 55.

Five years ago, when I reached the half-century mark, I’m embarrassed to admit that I ranted and raved, pouted and protested, and seethed and sulked.  Fifty felt old and I didn’t want to get old.

Now, I look back on that and think, how stupid was I?

Cheryl with my father-in-law shortly after they married 37 years ago.

Cheryl with my father-in-law shortly after they married 37 years ago.

As readers of my blog know, my mother died on June 13, giving me a painful reminder just how precious and fleeting life can be. And now my step-mother-in-law, Cheryl, who is only 60 and one of the bravest women I know, lost her battle with ovarian cancer. She died last night.

When the cancer was discovered, Cheryl was ready to tackle the challenge with gusto. “Just tell me what to do and we’ll do it,” she courageously stated as a matter-of-fact. And she did. However, after surgery, chemo, and then finally an experimental drug that just about killed her, the aggressive cancer kept spreading and nothing stopped it. Last week, Cheryl decided to stop all treatments and come home to die. Doctors supported that choice and Cheryl told her family that the decision to die gave her peace.

My father-in-law lost his first wife to cancer when she was only 37. It breaks my heart to see him go through this again. And I have to confess, at a time when I am beginning to heal from my own mother’s death, watching my husband’s family go through this excruciating process has brought all those agonizing memories flooding back.

So I write this blog with a gaping wound in my heart. I weep for my Mom, my mother-in-law who never saw her 40s, and for Cheryl who fought courageously to the end. I also write this blog as a reminder to myself and all of you.

Like the popular quote from an unknown source says: “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.”  Those words are seen everywhere and have become a cliche, but it’s true. Take those words into your heart and deep inside your soul.

Forget the wrinkles. Forget the aching muscles. Forget the fuzzy memory. Forget that you are getting older and you want to rebel against it.

Aging is a gift and a blessing.

If you are lucky enough to get old, the story of your life becomes more meaningful. Your life evolves into a one-of-a-kind, unique journey filled with wisdom and a renewed sense of purpose. You experience the gratitude that comes with every passing day that will enhance your life.

As Frank Lloyd Wright said, “The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.” That why we all need to embrace and celebrate every day we are alive, giving God thanks for the privilege.

I’ll never complain about a birthday again.

 

 

 

Retired Baby Boomers Experience Boost in Happiness

All of us baby boomers are familiar with the bleak studies about what we’ll face in retirement.

Skimpy savings combined with a decline in health and the emotional changes that come with leaving the workforce could make for some pretty dismal golden years, experts predict.

But hold on a minute.

RetirementA recent study found out that retirees experience an immediate boost in happiness and health actually improves.

And even better, some research suggests you don’t need a huge nest egg to be happy.

Keep reading to learn more…

Happiness and Heath in Retirement

Using data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, researchers at George Mason University and Utah State University discovered retiring is associated with an immediate increase in happiness and the positive effects last for four years after their last day on the job.

Retirees also experienced improved health. Health, however, took a bit longer to achieve – on average, four years.

“We suspect it’s because health changes slowly,” Sita Slavov, a public policy professor at George Mason University and co-author of the report says. “It takes time for lifestyle changes to show up in the form of improved health.”

“One other interesting thing,” he added, “[is] we didn’t find any evidence of long-term changes in health care utilization – i.e. doctor visits and prescription drug use – after retirement. So the improvements in health do not appear to be associated with increased health care costs.”

More good news! Love it!

Happy Older CoupleMoney Doesn’t Buy Happiness

So, according to these studies if you want to feel better emotionally and physically, you may not want to keep delaying retirement. But what if you have limited savings?

Don’t despair.

Chances are if you are an older boomer who has been retired for a few years, you’re feeling pretty good about your finances – even if you don’t have that million dollar-plus nest egg experts say you need.

That’s what Ameriprise Financial discovered in a survey earlier this year. Turns out 76 percent of boomers with $100,000 in investable assets who retired in the last five years felt “in control” of that decision. Some 57 percent say they are very satisfied with their financial situation in retirement.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how happy they are,” said Marcy Keckler, vice president of financial advice strategy at Ameriprise.

“Happiness is a positive cash flow,” says Ken Moraif, founder and senior advisor of Dallas-based financial firm Money Matters. He argues that people with modest means who keep their expenses low can be happier than those who have more money coming in each month but spend it all. “You can have fancy cars and fancy houses, but you’re going to be miserable all the time,” he says of the latter group.

Andrew Meadows, producer of the documentary, Broken Eggs, says he sees seniors getting creative with figuring out how to stay happy while also making ends meet after leaving their careers.

“When I worked on ‘Broken Eggs,’ I found so many people living in their RVs in semi-permanent spots,” he says. While living out of an RV saved money, Meadows says it wasn’t a desperate move for the retirees he met. “It never seemed like [they] were forced out of their homes. It seems like people planned on that life in retirement.”

Planning for a Happy Retirement

I love these studies, but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t expect retirement to magically improve your life.

Taking steps now can help boost happiness and health when the time comes. Save as much as possible while you’re still working, make plans to stay active and engaged in a wide variety of activities, and take care of your health.

If you do so, for many of you baby boomers, the golden years can be just that.

Images courtesy of bplanet and photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.