JOY After 50 comes down to living with intention, and staying connected ~ to the REAL you and all the pleasures and opportunities this world has to offer.
“It’s time to intend to age with joy” ~Marianne Williamson
With that in mind, here are 7 things I know will help you Design your life for Joy After 50. They have worked for me!
1) Stay open to new experiences
Having lived the last decade or so outside my comfort zone I have walked my talk on this one. Studies show that, when it comes to active older adults, there is a direct link between openness to new experiences, ideas and feelings, and life satisfaction – aka JOY! I’ve definitely found that to be the case.
I admit though that at times the prospect of a new experience can feel so daunting I just want to hide under the bed! When that happens I know I need to step up my daily practices of meditation and journaling. Doing that connects me to my true self and helps me shift from being contracted and afraid to OPEN and BOLD. If you often find you’re daunted at the thought of new experiences try this!
2) Surround yourself with people who lift you higher
When it comes to designing a life for joy its a good idea to surround ourselves with people who inspire us ~ people who walk their talk and challenge us to reach beyond our limited self and embrace new ideas, experiences and ways of living.
Margie Warrell expresses this perfectly in her excellent blog post “Stay The Course” ~ “Be intentional in spending more time with the kind of people you’d like to be more like; people who won’t settle for mediocrity and who want nothing less for you! As I wrote in Brave, “Walk with giants. They’ll make you grow bigger.” ”
These giants you walk with might be part of your immediate circle but as I see it they don’t have to be.
A while ago I cut a picture of Meryl Streep out of a mag and stuck it on my wall. Looking at it inspires me. Meryl is one of my role models. She is so REAL. I love her energy and freshness and the joy she exudes as a 65 year old woman. She seems so comfortable in her own skin and clear on her boundaries and values.
I love Meryl’s passion and I love the way she engages with life with humour and humility. I love her warmth and wisdom, and her willingness to be vulnerable and to take on new roles. Can’t wait to see her latest movie, Ricki and the Flash, in which she plays a rock’n roll singer!
So who are the giants YOU walk with in your second half of life?
3) Keep an eye on the stories you tell yourself
In his book, “Happiness by Design”, Paul Dolan writes of how easy it is to get caught up in our stories about life rather than experiencing life as it actually is. The problem is that many of the stories we tell ourselves about aging are skewed by the youth obsessed culture we live in. They may also be out of date, having arisen from watching our grandmother age decades ago. It’s a good idea to ask ourselves, how closely do our stories about aging align with our actual experience, and the experience of our peers?
Is joy in this stage of life easier to find than we are leading ourselves to believe?
It’s also good to notice how much of our precious time is spent caught up in those skewed stories. When you go for a walk are you in your head going over and over the fact that aging is hard and that you want to be young again and that you found a new wrinkle this morning, or are you wholly present, honouring the changes in your body by taking a walk and en-JOYing and celebrating the little moments as they unfold around you?
Which brings me to the next point …
4) Watch where you put your attention
One piece of advice I love on this comes from Dr Christiane Northrup. In her recent book, Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Wellbeing, she says women need to become pleasure seekers, and to seek out unbridled joy and self-nurturing experiences.
Doesn’t that sound luscious? Isn’t that a better way to live than fixating on our latest wrinkle? Yes, sometimes there are benefits to focusing attention on a problem – such as when I connect to my true self in solitude, with the view to finding guidance on something that I’m struggling with.
Other than that though, I try to keep my focus and attention on what brings me joy and leaves me feeling nurtured and loved. In my blog post Taking In The Good I write about how I nurture myself simply by pegging my washing on the clothesline.
I know from experience that where you put your attention will determine how much joy you feel at this stage of life.
5) Know who you are
Know your true self and work on staying connected to that inner place
As storyteller Michael Meade said in a recent interview, when we are connected to our wise centre – our true self – we are more in touch with our uniqueness and we are happier, not in a superficial way but in that now we have the potential for joy.
Our essential nature IS joy and when we are connected to that part of us we can’t help but be enlivened. From this place we find it easier to love who we are. And we find it easier to connect with our passion and bring our wisdom and creativity to the world in ways that really make a difference.
I’ve noticed that when I connect to my true self through the regular daily practices such as meditation or journaling I am calmer and less likely to spend time in drama mode And we all know what a killjoy drama is!
6) Live from a place of kindness
“Those who make compassion an essential part of their lives find the joy of life. Kindness deepens the spirit and produces rewards that cannot be completely explained in words. It is an experience more powerful than words. ” —Robert J. Furey
There are two aspects to this. One is to show yourself kindness and compassion as you grow older. And the second is to live your kindness out in the world through acts of generosity, service to others, random acts of kindness, building a legacy you can leave behind that makes the world a better place, and sharing in the joy of other people’s achievements.
Another thing to remember is that showing kindness to others tends to loop back and bring YOU benefits as well. As the Dalai Lama says, “When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”
“If you have not often felt the joy of doing a kind act, you have neglected much, and most of all yourself.” ~A. Neilen
7) Know how to turn this lemon into lemonade
If aging is a bowl of lemons then lemonade is what we make of it. This comes down to how we interpret and process what’s happening to us during our second half of life. We can spend the rest of our lives feeling sorry for ourselves because we’re not young anymore, or we can turn these lemons into lemonade through reflection, ritual, meditation and creative activities such as art journalling and visioning. (And playing dress-ups in a store changing room!)
In this way we face all the changes taking place in our lives and decide how we are going to respond to them. We look for the lessons, gifts and blessings in it all. We connect with strengths and passions that may have lain dormant all our lives. Over time we begin to form a clear picture of who we are now, and a game plan for living with joy and fulfillment in the years ahead.
This is about staying open, connected and aware. Its about not being afraid to dig deep and be vulnerable. It takes a bit of work, but Joy After 50 is not possible without it as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been working away at this for some years now and I promise you – if you take the time to do this work you’ll love the results.
“All of us have seen people who’ve aged with sorrow; we’ve seen others as well who’ve aged with joy. It’s time to intend to age with joy, deciding that the joy of youth is a good kind of joy, but it’s not the only kind.” ~Marianne Williamson
Further reading: In my Huffington Post blog post – In Defense Of Aging Gracefully – I offer a 5 part game plan for living with joy and fulfillment in second half, and explain why “I’ve adopted grace as one of the big important words for my second half; one of those words I meditate on, write in the sand at the beach and paint in my art journal. And live from and embody, as best I can”