Tuesday, October 20, 2015

5 Small Tips for Living a More Meaningful Life in Retirement

The search for meaning is a quest that, as human beings, we all seem to be pursuing. While we know what will not lead to a more meaningful life — more money, bigger “toys”, popularity or fame, for example — we often struggle to find the path that will lead us to a deeper satisfaction with the life we do have.

Here are five small tips you can try to add more meaning to yours.

1. Choose gratitude. If you put your focus on what you feel you’re lacking, you’ll continue to feel unhappy with what you do have. Instead, consciously choose to look at what you’re grateful for

 "Do you have at least one friend you can count on? A roof over your head? Good health? "

There are millions of people in the world who would answer “no” to those questions. Many people are struggling against debt from personal loans or mortgage payments. Others face hunger or poverty. You can be thankful just for the fact that you are not in one of those situations.

If you want to take it to an even deeper level, seek out ways to be thankful in difficult moments. You may be battling a serious illness; is it helping you to learn patience, or has it brought out the best in your loved ones as they show you more affection? 

 Our hard times have an immense potential to create growth in our lives — if we allow it to happen.

2. Serve others. It’s hard to feel bad about our own situation when we’re working to help someone less fortunate. What community organizations in your area could use an extra hand? 

 Who lives near you that might be touched by a gift of a plate of cookies or by finding that someone brought their trash bins in from the curb? We’re all given the same number of hours in a day; what you do with yours can make a difference for you and for someone else.

3. Keep learning. When we’re stuck in a rut, our brains get to feeling stagnant and unsatisfied. If you feel that way, take the opportunity to learn something new. No, you don’t have to go (back) to college: there are hundreds of ways you can add a skill or discover new facts for free.

Interested in learning a new language? Try Duolingo! Always wanted to be an astronomer? Check out the free classes on Coursera or one of the other Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers. And, it may be old-school, but your local public library has thousands of books in print and eBook format to lead you on a new intellectual adventure.

4. Practice mindfulness. Too often, we get caught up in worrying about the future and agonizing over the past. It may sound clich├ęd, but today truly is the only day we have. When we can pause, breathe, and focus on the here and now — even if only for a minute or two — it allows us to appreciate each day that we have and takes the power out of our worrying.

5. Decide to be happy. Despite what is commonly held to be true, happiness is a choice and not something that just “happens to us”. For a genuinely meaningful life, take out the “I’ll be happy when…” from your thoughts and replace it with “I’m happy now because…” 

Quite often, we reach those “when” moments and aren’t any happier than when we started; instead, we then set new targets for our life without taking the opportunity to rejoice in what we did accomplish. 

Don’t defer your happiness: it goes hand-in-hand with choosing gratitude to say “Today, I am happy because it’s a beautiful day outside” or “Even though I’m not rich, I’m happy because I was able to pay the bills this month.”

Any new habit can take some practice, so don’t get discouraged if these five tips don’t come naturally to you at first. Over time, however, you’ll begin to see that with such small and simple changes, your life will feel much more meaningful and satisfying.

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