How Baby Boomers Can Build Self-Esteem

julie robe 3Yesterday, I posed in my 77-year-old mother’s bathrobe. Do I get a brownie button?

Like many people, I was appalled when Bethenny Frankel – who is 43 and should know better – snapped a picture of herself proudly posing in her four-year-old daughter’s pajamas. If you keep up on celebrity news, you may have noticed she quickly realized her mistake and posted another photo a few days ago wearing oversized men’s clothing.

Too little, too late, if you ask me.

First of all, the whole selfie thing is getting on my nerves. Second of all, her impulse to brag about fitting into children’s clothes reveals a lot about middle-aged women basing their self-confidence on looks and weight.

As I’ve shared before, I’m currently 53. Thank goodness, at this age I’ve let go of striving after perfection when it comes to being a “skinny girl” and am focusing on my health instead. Let’s face it, as we enter our 50s that perfect body is pretty much unattainable without the help of plastic surgery – a road I refuse to go down. And hopefully, we’re at the age when we can finally become more comfortable in our own skin.

In fact, a few years ago researchers discovered that Americans’ experience the highest self-esteem at age 60, which is good news for all of us approaching that age. Of course, education, income, health, and employment status all affected self-confidence, especially as people aged. In addition, people in satisfying and supportive relationships tended to have higher self-esteem.

An article by Psych Central noted that “it’s possible the peak in self-esteem comes about at the point in many people’s lives where they have achieved some professional success, have formed good track records in personal relationships and have some leisure time.”

Unfortunately, but not too surprisingly, the study showed that women tended to have lower self-esteem than men.

The other bad news is that there is a drop in self-esteem after 60 during old age. This may be due to a change of roles and challenges such as empty nest syndrome, retirement, caring for aging parents, and declining health.

The good news is that the lead author of the study, Ulrich Orth, PhD, doesn’t think baby boomers will experience this decline in self-esteem the same way as previous generations. With medical advances, he thinks we’ll be healthier longer and thus work and earn money longer. “It is possible that the decline in self-esteem might occur later in life for baby boomers,” he said.

Let’s hope so, since people with low self-esteem often feel reluctant to express and assert themselves and as a result can miss out on experiences and opportunities and feel helpless about changing their lives. Who wants that?

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re getting older and wiser, right? Hopefully as we age, we can give up the inclination to base our self-confidence on what we look like or how much we weigh or what we wear.

Instead of beating yourself up because you can’t fit into a certain pair of jeans anymore or perhaps because you’re going through some kind of negative life experience, think positively about yourself and take note of all your strengths, good qualities, and achievements.

Remember that you are a special, unique, and valuable person in this world.

And in the meantime, if you can fit into your mama’s muumuu like me, wear it proudly!

Fifteen Awesome Happiness Quotes

Image courtesy of Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Since I’m a writer, it’s no surprise that I’m in love with words.

Words can inspire, motivate, comfort, uplift, and encourage us. Words can help us have a positive outlook on life and even make our spirits soar.

With that in mind – since this blog is all about finding happiness – I wanted to share several of my favorite quotes on the subject.

These sayings are brief and to the point, but will help you feel a bit wiser and happier. Why not ponder on these tidbits of wisdom and try to incorporate their messages into your life?

Before you begin reading, perhaps it’s good to remember that happiness itself should not be our ultimate goal. As Albert Einstein said, “Happiness never appeared to me as an absolute aim. The ideals that have lighted my way are kindness, beauty, and truth.”

Well said!

So ready, set go! Hope you love these quotes as much as I do!

Image courtesy of graur codrin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of graur codrin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1.  It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about. ― Dale Carnegie

2.  There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. ― Apostle Paul quoting Jesus

3.  Sometimes  the things you are most afraid of are the things that make you the happiest. ― Kiara Leigh

4.   The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us. ― Ashley Montagu

5.  We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. ― Frederick Keonig

6.  Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need. ― Matthew 5:3

7.  When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us. ― Helen Keller

8. The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does. ― James M. Barrie

9.  A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. ― Leo Tolstoy

10. Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. ― Nathaniel Hawthorne

11. Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. ― Abraham Lincoln

12. Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. ― Eleanor Roosevelt

13. Joy is a flower that blooms when you do. ― Author Unknown

14. Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond imperfections.― Gerard Way

15. If you want to be happy, be. ― Leo Tolstoy

What are your favorite quotes on happiness? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to share in the comments below.

When Adult Children Move Back Home

As I wrote in a past blog, when my youngest son, Chris, left home, I didn’t think I would be like those other mothers who cry a river. No empty nest syndrome for me! After all, I had a very full life. Nonetheless, as I watched my baby pack up his stuff and move out, I found myself sobbing, bawling, and lamenting that we only fully appreciate motherhood once it’s gone.

But, like many mothers, after adjusting to the change, I began to enjoy my new-found freedom. My husband and I became connected as a couple once again and life as empty nesters was a fun and exciting time for us. Then the recession hit hard and life changed once again. Like many Baby Boomer parents with children in their 20s, we weren’t empty nesters for very long.

Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My son, now married, was forced to move back home, along with his wife, when he was laid off during the recession. His wife, Johnni, was working at a teeth whitening dental facility that closed down and became unemployed as well.

Not an uncommon scenario in this recovering economy. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, three in 10 parents of adult children (29 percent) report that the economy forced their grown child to move back in with them in the past few years. Adults age 25 to 34 are among the most likely to be living in multigenerational households.

Because of this phenomena, the term “boomerang kids” has been coined. The phrase often describes adult children who may be lackadaisical about finding work after they finish college. Sometimes parents enable these young adults to continue living like adolescents with a sense of entitlement. If your children are looking at your house as a permanent vacation spot or are using their earnings as disposable income to be used for going out, expensive trips, or sports cars, there’s plenty of excellent information on the Internet for your situation.

In my case, my son and his wife are both responsible adults and there was no need to lecture them on the necessity of finding new jobs or to set a time limit for their stay. This blog will focus on those of you in similar circumstances. Maybe your children are living at home to pay off some student loan debt, are saving to buy a house, or like my son, are temporally out of work. In that case, moving back home doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

However, even if you want to help your children, the new living arrangements will most certainly be an adjustment. So, what can you do to make it a positive experience?

Here are a few suggestions:

Treat Each Other with Respect

Remember, everyone living at home is a grown up now. Providing room and board does not include housekeeping or laundry, so don’t fall back into the habit of washing their clothes, cleaning their room, or treating them like children in any way. Everyone should respect each other’s privacy and be considerate of one another. Discuss expectations. Maintaining open communication can lessen the chance of misunderstandings.

Share Expenses or Household Chores

If your children have a part- or full-time job, you may want to charge rent for their living space. This can help adult children who have recently graduated from college to live on a budget and increase their self-esteem. Many experts recommend charging 30 percent of a child’s income, similar to what a mortgage company estimates a person can afford to spend on housing. Or, if your child is unemployed, household chores such as cooking, cleaning up after meals, or grocery shopping can be shared instead. In some cases, you may choose not to charge rent. When my son and his wife were able to find employment again, we wanted to help them pay off bills and save money so they could move out a bit sooner. In the end, the choice is yours.

Coordinate Schedules

Before your adult child moves in, briefly go through each other’s daily schedule. That way you can avoid waking up someone at 5 a.m. to move their car so someone else can get to their job on time. Hopefully, you won’t be sharing a bathroom, but if that’s the case, be sure and determine who needs to shower first in the morning. Be open about what time you need to go to bed so the TV won’t be blaring late at night. If you discuss these matters beforehand, you can stop little annoyances from turning into big arguments.

Be Supportive

Although moving back home as an adult doesn’t carry quite the stigma it used to, chances are that this is a frustrating time for your child. Likely, his or her ego has taken a hit. Help adult children stay positive and believe in themselves. Offer financial advice if needed and share your life experiences without being judgmental or critical.

Use these tips and hopefully you can enjoy this time together as adults. Helping your children regroup so they can live an independent life once again, if handled correctly, can be a rewarding experience.

 

Five Ways to Enjoy Summer

“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language,” Henry James wrote.

Image courtesy of 9comeback/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of 9comeback/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is that how you feel? If so, you better take time now to enjoy the rest of summer. The Fourth of July weekend has come and gone and we’re already halfway through the season.

If you read my blogs on happiness, you know I’m a big supporter of living in the present instead of stressing about the future or fretting about the past.

So, by all means, try and savor the remaining lazy days of carefree sunshine that lends itself to serenity and joy. This isn’t the time to start thinking about school clothes, college tuition, or forecasts for next winter. Take a deep breath, slow down, use all your senses, and notice the little things that can make a summer day special.

Here are a few ways to do that:

Take a Mini Vacation

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With high gas prices and a recovering economy, many people are staying home this summer in place of a costly vacation. But that’s no reason to be depressed. Take a mini-road trip for a quick family getaway. For example, I live in the California desert, but in two hours or less I can drive to Big Bear and hike in the mountains, go sailing at the beach, or visit Los Angeles for some culture and night life. Visit a neighboring state, discover a new swimming spot, go camping, kayak in a lake, or take a leisurely scenic drive somewhere new and exciting. With hundreds of national and state parks across the country, chances are you don’t live far from one that is loaded with fun activities. One year, my husband and I realized that we had never been to the Channel Islands even though we had lived in California most our lives. One of the best weekend trips ever!

Learn a New Sport

Image courtesy of arztsamui/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of arztsamui/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether learning a certain sport was a childhood dream or something that catches your fancy as an adult, it’s never too late to learn a new sport. Of course, if you’re older, get medical clearance from your doctor, be safe, and use common sense. Maybe you’ll want to continue the excitement of the World Cup by joining an adult soccer league or try hockey or cricket. Take advantage of hiking and kayaking trips that combine physical activity with luxuries such as gourmet food and comfortable tents. Learn to surf, golf, mountain bike, or scuba dive. You’ll get into shape, learn new skills, increase your confidence, make new friends, and expand your horizons.

Connect with Nature

Image courtesy of mapichai/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of mapichai/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course, you may automatically think of going camping or hiking when you think of enjoying nature, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Visit a farm and pick your own fruit and veggies. Have a picnic by a stream. Buy a bird feeder or birdbath and watch birds come and go. Grab an easel and find a scenic spot. Build a potting bench, create an herb garden, or paint old patio furniture bright summer colors to enjoy nature in your own backyard. Get down on your knees with the grandkids and imitate their wonder and curiosity while examining an insect or a rock. Catch fireflies. Take note of the feel of grass beneath your feet, the smell of fragrant lavender, and the chorus of birds.

Slow Down

Image courtesy of savit keawtavee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of savit keawtavee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Make the choice to do less. Focus on what’s absolutely necessary and let go of the rest. Disconnect from technology. Eat slower. Live at a gentler pace. Create room for some delicious breezy nothingness. Refuse to look at clocks and watches. Go fishing, dance around the house, jump on a trampoline, paint, lie in a hammock, read a book, listen to soothing music, or take a leisurely stroll through the park. Learn a new barbecue recipe and enjoy a candlelit dinner al fresco. Sit quietly and enjoy a cold, yummy ice cream, milkshake, or smoothie. Brew a pot of sun tea and sip it slowly on the porch. Enjoy a slice of watermelon with a dash of salt. In other words, make time for the simple pleasures in life.

Star Gaze

Image courtesy of Idea go/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea go/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Spread a comfy blanket and look to the sky with your loved ones. Countless wonders await you on a clear summer night. A telescope is fun, but is not necessary to enjoy star gazing. You can see a galaxy two and a half million light-years away with your naked eye and craters on the moon with a simple pair of binoculars. Ransack your public library for books on astronomy basics and obtain detailed sky maps. You can learn the names of stars, constellations, along with a few fun myths. To see planets, start in the early evening. In the summer, Venus appears prominently in the western horizon right after sunset, and Jupiter is the second brightest object in the evening sky―just look south.

So there you go!  Use a few of these tips to enjoy the remainder of summer. As Kenny Chesney croons in his song, “Summertime,” “It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!”

Five Ways to Quit Overthinking

Over Thinking“I think I think too much.”

When I saw this quote on Pinterest, I thought, yup, that’s me. According to research, I’m not alone. In fact, it turns out that more of us women find ourselves overthinking than men. Perhaps that’s not too surprising, but that’s not a good thing either.

Let me be clear, I’m not talking about logical thinking that results in positive actions or decisions. No, I’m talking about mulling things over to the point of unnecessarily stressing out. Or overthinking problems so much we’re awake all night or paralyzed with fear. Or the tendency we all have to wonder why something happened, or why a person said something, or what it all means. When by far, the majority of the time, the simple answer is: IT MEANS NOTHING. I’m talking about ruminating on a problem and endlessly analyzing it until it seems unsolvable, impossible to deal with, or larger and scarier than it is in reality. Sometimes our mind is our worst enemy.

We may even create problems that weren’t there in the first place.

For example, let’s say someone doesn’t say hello to me. Instead of assuming that person had other things on his or her mind, my first impulse is to wonder if I offended that person somehow. I replay the past few days or weeks in my mind, think of some little thing I said (that the person probably didn’t even notice) and then wonder why I always seem to say the wrong thing. After beating myself up about it, I then recall every person in my life that has rejected or hurt me and blame my thoughtless ways.

Sound familiar? Be honest. Surely, I’m not the only one. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t do this quite as much, but on occasion I’m still guilty of overthinking. So, why don’t we try to change this bad habit?

Keep these five tips in mind to quit thinking about things too much or for too long:

Keep Things in Perspective

Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you tend to overthink minor problems? If so, ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Often the answer to that question isn’t as scary as what your mind has imagined. To gain perspective, ask if this problem or situation will matter to you in one month, one year, or 10 years from now. If the answer is no, then what’s the point in ruminating and torturing yourself over it now? If the answer is yes, view the problem as a learning tool or an opportunity for personal growth.

Give Up Trying to Control Everything

Sometimes you may think things through endlessly as a way to try and control everything in your life. Maybe you deliberate every possible outcome in hopes that you won’t make a wrong decision, make a mistake, or look like a fool. First of all, life is unpredictable, so this doesn’t work because you’ll never be able to foresee every scenario. No matter how much or how long you ponder about a situation, some things are simply out of your control. Second of all, this process can lead to fear. if you let fear dictate your life, you won’t take chances, try new things, or get out of your comfort zone. You’ll lose opportunities to grow. Instead of viewing something from every possible angle which can lead to procrastination, set a time limit for decisions and then follow through and take action.

Don’t Get Stuck Thinking about Things that Can’t Be Changed

Accept that sometimes you can’t change things and thinking about it incessantly won’t make a bit of difference. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves,” Victor Frank once said. No doubt, that includes changing your attitude. Worrying and ruminating over a problem that can’t be fixed is a waste of time and energy and can destroy your happiness. Remember, past mistakes can’t be changed either, no matter how much you think about them. You won’t be able to move forward if you’re perpetually looking in a rear view mirror. Apologize, make amends as needed, and then let it go. Stay in the moment. Focus your time and energy on something that really does matter.

Quit Worrying about What Others Think

In other words, avoid the situation I described in the beginning of the article. Maybe you’re reliving something over and over and blowing a situation out of proportion, while the other person moved on a long time ago. Or maybe no one gave what you said or did, that you’re so worried about, a second thought. As Ethel Barrett said, “We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.” The trouble with overthinking is that it can make you overly dramatic or even a bit neurotic, when the truth is, perhaps the best thing for everyone involved is just to leave it behind. If you’re constantly worrying about what other people think about you or how your actions were perceived, you can’t enjoy your own individuality or become comfortable in your own skin.

Find Distractions

When you catch yourself overthinking, force yourself to do something else. You’re probably not thinking in a reasonable or constructive manner anyway. So use that time to exercise, paint, read a book, watch a funny movie, focus on your breathing, write in a journal, or listen to uplifting music. Spend more time with happy-go-lucky people who don’t overthink. In other words, do something that has a calming, positive effect on you. There are SO many better ways to spend your time than thinking endlessly about problems, things that could go wrong, situations that can’t be changed, or what other people think.

Chronic overthinking is a detriment to a peaceful and fulfilling life. Take these positive steps to quit this bad habit. Life isn’t that complicated; stop overthinking it!

How to Believe in Yourself

Image courtesy of thawats/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of thawats/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its wings.”

Isn’t it true, thanks to that nagging inner voice full of self-doubt that loves to taunt us, we often don’t trust our wings and believe in ourselves?

We’re afraid to put ourselves out there on that branch.

 

 

You know what inner voice I’m talking about. You’ll never succeed. You can’t do this. You’re making a fool out of yourself trying. You’ll never be good enough.

That cruel, critical voice in our head can beat us down and leave us full of insecurities, fears, and anxieties. It can keep us from reaching out for cherished dreams and living life to its fullest. It can devour our confidence and steal our happiness.

Maybe I can relate to this quote so much because as a writer I’ve had to face those inner demons. Writing a book reflecting your personal values, beliefs, humor, and personality and then sending it out to agents and publishers to be read with critical eyes and often rejected isn’t easy. When my agent was trying to find a publisher for my first novel, I received both encouraging (“I am sincere when I say that I believe Julie is a talented story teller, and I found all her characters to be distinct and likable, however….”) and critical (“I found some of the dialog rather stilted”) rejection letters.

And if you’re fortunate enough to be published, then you’ll share your story with readers and reviewers with all their opinions – good and bad. I definitely felt like I was putting myself out on a limb. I tried to take it all in stride, but the criticism I received undeniably zapped my confidence. Not to mention all the rejection letters I collected as a freelance writer over the years submitting short stories and articles. My inner voice often chimed in asking why I ever wanted to be a writer in the first place.

No doubt you’ve felt that same crippling and paralyzing self-doubt at times in your life when you stepped out of your comfort zone, striven to achieve a goal, or received criticism. So what can we do to build up our self-confidence?

Here are four tips to help you trust your wings and believe in yourself:

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Write Down Your Successes

Write a list documenting all your successes. Even seemingly insignificant achievements can boost your confidence if you recall the feelings of pride, strength, joy, and satisfaction you felt at the time. Remember when you won the 50-yard-dash in school, overcame a fear, solved a problem, received encouragement from a teacher or employer, or when someone fell in love with you? Write these experiences down.

When I was first starting out as a writer, I kept a bulletin board with clippings, acceptance letters and even encouraging rejection letters to help me remember early accomplishments. And guess what? By celebrating and focusing on my successes – large or small – I developed a reservoir of confidence that allowed me to continue submitting my work and endure the inevitable rejections.

If you’re shy about listing your achievements, ask someone you trust to help you remember all the triumphs you’ve experienced in life. Keep the list handy and pull it out whenever self-doubt begins to creep its ugly way into your head.

Tackle Your Fears

When you’re thinking about reaching out for a goal but feel afraid, ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” The answer is usually not life-altering.

In fact, if the answer to that question is failure, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Failure can be a great learning tool, an opportunity for personal growth, and a guide toward a better path. Failure can build courage, inspire us, and strengthen us. In addition, failure can make success, when it comes, all the sweeter.

Remember that the reason for failure is not that you’re not educated or smart enough, or that you’re too old, or not talented or good enough. Often, the reason you fail is because you don’t believe in yourself and therefore put barriers in front of you and place limitations on yourself.

So take baby steps and expose yourself gradually to your fears which can make them seem less potent. As i wrote in my article, “Clear Your Mind of ‘I Can’t‘” take those belittling two words out of your vocabulary. Use the adrenaline from your fears as motivation instead of using doubts and worries as an excuse for procrastination and inaction.

Don’t Listen to Nay-Sayers

Even well-meaning people can drag you down with their negative thoughts and words. Don’t listen to people who sap your confidence, inspiration, and energy just because they’ve lost those qualities themselves. Toxic people can poison your mind with the thought that everything is impossible and hopeless and that ideas and dreams are stupid.

Instead, surround yourself with supportive, enthusiastic, smart, and passionate people who bring out the best in you. You want people who believe in you and will help you face all those nagging fears and doubts with courage.

Remember, no one succeeds without trying and being rejected many times. As best-selling author Karen Quinones so eloquently said: “When someone tells me ‘no,’ it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, it simply means I can’t do it with them.”

Believe in yourself and you will have the last laugh.

Love Yourself

Don’t be your own worst enemy. Treat yourself well and quit beating yourself up over past failures that cripple your confidence.

You wouldn’t mentally abuse and incessantly criticize someone you love, so why do it to yourself? You are capable, intelligent, and worthy. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a chance to make mistakes and to try and try again. Remember that your self-doubts and fears are only thoughts and feelings. These emotions don’t have to dictate your future.

As Honore de Balzac said, “When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.”

So be like that bird that trusted its wings. Whenever you are out of your comfort zone or striving to do something great, believe in yourself.

True, that’s no easy feat, but it is crucial to living a fulfilling life.

Celebrating 50 Blogs to Help Boomers Find Happiness

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Woo Hoo! This marks my 50th blog!

As I write in my “About Julie” section, although I’ve been a professional writer for more than 20 years, this is my first blog. Oh my, what a learning experience it’s been, but I’m proud that I’ve been able to write my articles consistently and with a lot of heart and passion.

I was inspired to start this blog by recent reports that show middle-aged baby boomers are miserable. (I use the term “middle-aged” loosely since, as friend of mine kindly pointed out, that at age 53, unless I plan to live to be 106, I am well past the half way point. And thank-you very much for that nugget of wisdom. I’m desperately trying to hang on to the term middle-aged since I don’t consider myself a senior citizen yet – don’t rain on my parade!)

According to these reports, it seems the oldest Americans (age 65 and up) are the happiest, followed by young adults (ages 18 to 29), followed by those ages 33 to 44. On the other hand, ages 45 to 64 consistently report the lowest levels of happiness with startlingly high rates of depression. A 2012 AARP study confirmed there is a U-shaped happiness curve with the early 50s as the lowest point of well-being.

At the time, I was like WHAT are they talking about? When I reluctantly hit the half-century mark, I pouted, but I was happy at the time. After all, I was living my dream as a professional writer, enjoying the freedom of an empty nester, and finding fulfillment in my volunteer work helping the deaf.

But now that I’m facing some of the challenges common to people in their 50s, including caring for an aging parent with serious health problems, I better understand why younger baby boomers struggle to maintain inner peace and happiness through what can be a turbulent time in life.

Nonetheless, I was curious to know why older people – who have plenty of problems of their own – can be more optimistic and happier than our generation. I wanted to know how we could change those statistics and find our bliss. I knew other boomers would be interested in the answer as well. Thus, Baby Boomer Bliss was born.

So, in celebration of reaching my 50th article, I decided to look up my top five posts. I found the results interesting. In case you missed them, they are as follows:

Number 1: 

menopause-9401517Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, my most popular article to date has been Staying Happy Through Menopause. This is one of the challenges that we women hitting 50 face and I completely understand why it’s hard to stay blissful through this time of life. This maddening 10-year process started in my 40s when I suddenly found myself sobbing helplessly in the bathroom because my editor innocently asked, ‘How’s that piece coming along?’ Conversations 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. And that was just the beginning. Interestingly enough, this year I was hired to write humorous articles about menopause for Hot Flash Daily – which has been an absolute blast. A sense of humor definitely helps.

Number 2:

Kathy Heaney PhotoThe second most popular article was a recent one inspired by a reader of my blog who shared her experience of finding happiness again after suffering a tragic loss. I’m not surprised that Sharing Secrets to Happiness was one of my most popular articles. This was an inspiring and touching story that I’m sure resonated with a lot of people.

 

Number 3:

Ilusión centesimalNext on the list is my blog on Music and Happiness. Turns out music can be a real life saver when our lives become overwhelming. Studies have shown music can ease anxiety, lower stress, and even boost heart health. I listed 15 of my favorite happy songs. And yes, some of these songs show my Baby Boomer roots. No matter what generation, I dare you to listen to these and not tap your feet and feel better!

Number 4:

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Five Ways to Cultivate a Positive Attitude came in at number four. As the late Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Amen sister! In this article, I share five simple tips that will help you improve your state of mind.

 

 

 

Number 5:

canstockphoto13084900My very first blog came in at number five:  Why Older People Are Happier Than Baby Boomers. Don’t gasp, but in this article I proposed that our authority-averse, rebellious boomer generation just might learn something from the generation that precedes us to help us find our bliss now.

 

So there you have it. So far, about 2500 people have visited my site – a BIG thanks to all of you who have read my blogs, supported my efforts, subscribed, and left insightful comments. I hope to increase my readership in upcoming months as I continue to write more articles that can hopefully help us baby boomers cope with issues we face and retain our joy.

So stay tuned for more articles – I post every Monday and Thursday – and feel free to subscribe if you’d like to receive the latest updates. See you on Thursday!

Chocolate and Books Blog Tour

What are two of my favorite things in the world that make me happy? Books and chocolate, of course!

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So when I was asked to join a chocolate and books blog tour, how could I resist?

The idea is to list six of your favorite books and pair it with a chocolate that best represents that book.

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How fun is that?

 

Before I delve into my choices of chocolates and books, I first want to thank author and fellow blogger Cat Michaels for asking me to join her on the tour. After earning a M.S. degree in special education from the University of Kansas, Cat spent two decades helping students from kindergarten to college reach their potential and then served at a community college as a writing coach for students with Asperger’s syndrome and learning disabilities.

Cat builds on her teaching experiences to write illustrated chapter books for young readers of all abilities to develop imagination and critical thinking skills. Watercolor illustrations by Irene A. Jahns help bring the stories to life. Cat’s books, Sweet T and the North Wind and Finding Fuzzy: a You-Decide Tale of a Lost Friend, can be found on Amazon and ordered from local bookstores. To connect with Cat, please visit her website. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this talented author’s literary offerings.

Okay, time to move on to my tasty tidbits of chocolate along with some delicious literary delights. Need I mention, that as a lover of books, how hard it was to narrow my list down to only six choices? But here we go:

Lonesome Dove

lonesome doveOkay, normally I’m not a big fan of westerns. But Larry McCurtry’s grand novel realistically depicts the violent Wild West during the 1870s in a way that makes your heart ache. If you want to learn how to write a multi-dimensional, unforgettable character, look no further than the courageous, lazy, hard-drinking hero Texas Ranger Augustus (Gus) McCrae. This book starts off slowly, but quickly gains momentum with tons of non-stop action. If you don’t have time to read this lengthy novel, the TV miniseries stuck closely to the book and Robert Duvall (who says this was his all-time favorite role) does a fabulous job playing the lovable Gus. McCurtry also wrote Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment (in the latter case, the movie is better than the book, in my opinion) but this is his jewel.

Because this book accurately and brutally depicts the violent and short-lived lives of beastly buffalo hunters, murderous and destitute Indians, brave pioneers, shifty gamblers, talented scouts, and prostitutes with big dreams, I’m going to pair this book with unsweetened chocolate. No sugar coating here, but oh, what a read!

The Prince of Tides

prince of tidesThis sprawling saga about a family who endures sorrow, pain, and unmentionable horror managed to put me under its awful, wonderful spell right from the start. The story is narrated by former high school teacher, Tom Wingo, who is unemployed after a nervous breakdown. Alternating from flashbacks of Tom’s younger years spent on Melrose Island to the present time in Manhattan where his twin sister and renowned poet, Savannah, is recovering from a suicide attempt, this novel keeps you guessing as family secrets unravel. Tom’s older brother, Luke, is dead although we don’t know how he died or why. And although the reader is aware that something awful happened on the island when the three siblings were young, I promise that you’ll never foresee the grisly scene of horror and carnage that unfolds. Pat Conroy beautifully writes about the South Carolina coastline in such poetic language that you’ll yearn to visit this marshland country. Do NOT see the movie – it did not do the book justice.

This one is easy. I paired it with Ghiradelli’s Intense Dark Midnight Reverie chocolate – but with a secret surprise inside that bursts with flavor.

And The Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains EchoedFirst of all, I must confess, I’m a fan of Khaled Hosseini. In addition to this book, I also loved A Thousand Splendid Suns and Kite Runner. This author’s remarkable descriptive talents give us intimate glimpses into the daily life in Afghanistan — a country I only was familiar with through news stories about war and terrorism. Like my last book choice, this book delves into the lives of siblings who are haunted by the past. From the telling of a compelling folk story in the beginning of this novel to the heartbreaking separation of two siblings to interlinking tales from a wide cast of fascinating characters, I found this book to be stirring, absorbing, and captivating.

This story definitely is bittersweet chocolate. Read it and you’ll see why.

East of Eden

East of EdenI had to include one of my favorite classics. John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors and I loved Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath as well – but this by far was my favorite addiction. Along with other Steinbeck books, this story is set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley (where I briefly lived as a small child). With brilliant comparisons to the venomous and murderous sibling rivalry of Cain and Abel, Steinbeck creates some of his most memorable characters in this epic and sometimes fierce novel. Please read the book, but if you must watch it – the mini-series starring Jane Seymour, who was perfect as the bewitching, evil, corrupting Cathy Ames – stays more faithful to the book than the 1955 movie with James Dean. I hear Hollywood is making a remake starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by her “Hunger Games” collaborator, Gary Ross. I’m there.

I’m a self-confessed chocoholic that finds all kinds of chocolate addicting but my favorite is caramels with nuts – like Snickers. Since Cathy is kind of nutty and this book is downright addicting, it’s the perfect match.

Flowers for Algernon

flowers for algernonSince I have written two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody-Two-Shoes and Time to Cast Away, I thought my next selection would be one of my favorites from my teen years. I also wanted to mention this book in honor of the recent death of its author, Daniel Keyes. This heart-rending, and ultimately tragic classic was brilliantly written using journal entries from the viewpoint of the beloved main character, Charlie Gordon. When the book opens, Charlie is 32 and works as a janitor in a small bakery. He is severely intellectually disabled but learns that he may be a candidate for an experimental surgery to artificially increase his intelligence. I won’t say anymore in case you’ve never read this sci-fi, philosophical, beautifully-written story.

I’ll pair this story with a simple Hershey bar to match Charlie’s simple mind in the beginning of this book along with the more complicated Lindt Excellence Bars which involves a complicated, hours-long churning process like Charlie’s evolving, increasingly intelligent brain.

The Box Car Children

Boxcar ChildrenFinally, with three grandchildren ages 6, 4, and 3, I wanted to include one of my favorite children’s books. Gertrude Chandler’s endearing story about four orphans who run away and find shelter in an abandoned boxcar in the woods during the Great Depression has been passed down through three generations of my family. I was absolutely fascinated by the way these kids managed to live on their own using their talents and resourcefulness to outfit their refuge. Of course, this story has a happy ending when the children find love and security from an unexpected source.

Let’s pair this with a delicious cup of hot chocolate.

There you go. If only I could share with you the other books that have brought me joy, comfort, and friendship through the years! Maybe sometime in the future.

In the meantime, The Chocolate and Book Tour will take a break for the Fourth of July weekend. However, you can continue the fun by checking out the following author’s choices coming up on the tour on JULY 12:

Kathrine LaFleur grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lurking beneath the stairs where her grandmother kept a small, dusty library is one of her best childhood memories. She loves reading and writing books for children and young adults, Her books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Kathrine also enjoys visiting schools to talk with students about stories and writing. She currently lives in Oakland, CA where she joyfully pursues her passion of writing and publishing books. To learn more about Kathrine, check out her blog, The Persistent Author.

Kelly Wilson is a Portland author and comedian trying to maintain sanity through laughter. She is the author of Live Cheap and Free, Don’t Punch People in the Junk, and Caskets from Costco as well as numerous articles and short stories for children and adults. Kelly Wilson currently writes for a living and lives with her husband, two children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon. Read more about her and check out her entertaining and funny blog at Wilson Writes.

Thank you for joining me on the tour.  Feel free to share with me your favorite books and chocolate pairings in the comments below.

Five Ways to Stop Worrying

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” This question posed in the Bible wisely highlights the futility and pointlessness of worrying.

Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The fact is, we’d all be better off if we could only stop fretting, agonizing, freaking out, panicking, and tormenting ourselves over things we can’t control.

We all need to quit being obsessed with the ‘what ifs’ and imagining the worst-case scenarios. Stop losing sleep over our children, our jobs, our appearance, our health, our past, our money. Stop worrying about what other people think about us.

And while we’re at it, we need to let go of the myth that worrying stops bad things from happening or helps us find solutions to problems. Chronic worrying is counterproductive. Worrying never resolved anything or stopped a tragedy from happening.

As Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”

That’s because worrying zaps your energy, causes stress levels to soar, taxes your immune system, and takes a toll on your sleep. Allowing doubts and worries to dominate your life can paralyze you with fear, prevent you from reaching goals, and negatively impact your health, well-being, and happiness.

And what for? The truth is that most of the stuff we worry about never happens. Like Mark Twain admitted, “I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Okay, so now it’s confession time. I’m talking real big here, but I can be a bit of a worry wart myself.

So what if you’re a chronic worrier and can’t break the habit? Here are a five ways to train your brain to stay calm and develop a more positive attitude:

Create a Worry Period

Instead of worrying all the time, pick a 20 to 30 minute time period for worrying – any time is fine except right before bedtime. Researchers have found that this exercise helps seriously stressed people control their anxieties. During the worry period you have permission to worry about problems or whatever else you want. If you want to use this time productively, try to think of solutions or make necessary decisions. However, the rest of the time is a worry-free zone. If you catch yourself worrying, you must force yourself to think about more positive things.

Write Your Worries Down

Letting all your stress and emotions out on paper can help decrease worry. If an anxious thought or worry comes to mind during your “worry-free zone,” make a brief note of it on paper and postpone stressing about it until your worry period. Remind yourself that you’ll have time to think about your problem later and continue with your day. Sometimes you’ll find that these worries don’t seem so important once you’ve written them down. Keeping a journal is another great outlet for expressing your worries and liberating yourself from those negative feelings. If you hate to write, you can call a friend to vent your worries.

Learn Acceptance

Let go of unproductive worries. For example, you may need to accept a degree of uncertainty, problems that are out of your control, or your own limitations. Accept that sometimes bad things happen. Instead of worrying about problems, focus on things you can control, appreciate, and enjoy.

Keep Busy

You’ve heard this before, but a great way to beat stress and quit worrying is to exercise. Or keep your hands and mind distracted from your problems with a creative hobby. Read a good book. Watch a funny movie. Listen to your favorite music. Close your eyes and take long deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. In just a few minutes, you’ll feel the tension leave your body. There’s so many ways to better spend your time than worrying!

Stay in the Present

Quit worrying about mistakes you made in the past or stressing about the future. As I said in a previous blog, Savor the Day, life unfolds in the present, but often we’re so rushed and stressed that we allow moments to pass by unobserved. We don’t savor precious moments with our loved ones, the kindness of a stranger, or the beauty of a sunset. By focusing on the details, you can enjoy the present instead of squandering time worrying about yesterday or tomorrow.

Practice makes perfect. Follow these five tips and you can overcome this bad habit and replace worries with more positive thoughts. Because as Dan Zadra said, “Worry is a misuse of the imagination.”

What You Don’t Need to Be Happy

When I was younger, I tended to set my expectations too high. Setting goals is fine, but I wanted everything to be a little too perfect. If life wasn’t going according to plan or if I hadn’t reached certain dreams and desires in an expected time frame, happiness seemed out of reach.

With the wisdom I’ve gained along the way, I’ve come to realize that happiness doesn’t depend on ideal circumstances or achievements. But sometimes I still fight that tendency. I’m certainly not alone.

Image courtesy of  supakitmod / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of supakitmod / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unfortunately, we humans tend to overestimate the importance of life circumstances on our happiness. For example, we may think if we had more money, lost weight, got rid of our wrinkles, or owned a nicer house, we’d be happier.

Who hasn’t dreamed of winning the lottery or inheriting money to ensure a life without financial worries, travel around the world, or buy luxury items?

The truth is chasing, and even achieving, these goals may actually make us less happy. For instance, people who suddenly fall into extreme wealth — whether because of an insurance settlement, a professional sports contract, or a lottery win — rarely find happiness.

Take one of the most prominent examples of lottery winners, Jack Whittaker, a West Virginia businessman who won a $315 million Powerball jackpot in 2002. A decade later, his daughter and granddaughter had died of drug overdoses, his wife had divorced him, and he had been sued numerous times. Once, when he was at a strip club, someone drugged his drink and took $545,000 in cash that had been sitting in his car. He later sobbed to reporters, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up.”

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, came to the conclusion that although circumstances and genetic factors play a large role in our happiness, we often underestimate how much control we have over our own feelings.

She reported that 50% of our happiness is set by our genes, 10% by life circumstances beyond our control, and 40% by our own actions. In other words, we have the power to make choices that can raise or lower our happiness level.

Life is never perfect. There will always be difficulties, frustrations, sadness, obstacles, and failures. Learning to overcome challenges makes us stronger as well as more confident, empathetic, and successful. So what if things don’t go according to plan or our lives aren’t picture perfect?

After all, happiness is not about what we have, it’s all about our attitude. Happiness is all about valuing, appreciating, and enjoying the people, experiences, places, and events in our lives right now – today – at this very moment.

As Martha Washington once wisely said, “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”