The golden years: sailing off into the sunset with a great love, enjoying every minute of life’s treasures…

We all wish life was like that. We plan for a time when we have enough income, fortitude, and good health to enter the last stage of life with a sense of contentment and purpose. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. As they say, He laughs while we are making plans.

And while retirement may not be exactly how you envisioned it, there are simple steps to take to keep it exciting and fruitful:

Be here now. You’ve heard over and over “cherish each day, no matter what.” It’s trite, but so true. If you can find one or two pieces of each day that are sweet, encouraging, positive, or purposeful, those are tomorrow’s memories. The next time you’re having a conversation with someone, notice how many times your mind wanders. You might be thinking about the roast you forgot to take out of the freezer or your trip to the dry cleaners – anything but the current moment and being invested in that conversation. If you notice yourself leaving the moment, take a breath and allow yourself to come back. Eckhart Tolle calls that, “watching the watcher.” As you begin to just observe your thoughts, you’ll be brought back to the present moment rather than driven by your mind’s busy mode. This is a crucial suggestion for a social media-driven world.

Expect the unexpected. “Live life on life’s terms” is a saying from AA. There are always going to be times when we feel knocked down and helpless. It’s how we perceive our challenges and react to them that matter, and being resilient, bouncing back from unexpected challenges, is key. According to psychiatrist Dennis Charney, MD, dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, resilient people are less likely to be diagnosed with mental health struggles like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. He posits that, “increasingly, research has shown that the ability to thrive despite difficult circumstances can speed recovery from injury and surgery, reduce pain, and improve health outcomes for a wide variety of conditions.” Optimism and positivity go a long way in the reduction of illness and illness timelines.

Appreciate your wisdom and give back. When the body begins to decline and we’re not as spry as in our youth, wisdom excels and there’s so much we can do to mentor and pay our life experiences forward. Younger people really are interested in learning from a more mature perspective. Explore opportunities to share that knowledge.

Acceptance. Life can take its toll and we need to honor and listen to our intuitive selves and accept what is. Finally accepting the loss of a loved one and trudging forward alone all come back to heartfelt acceptance. Finding a sense of peace and contentment can be achieved. Anything is possible!

Physical, mental, and emotional self-care. Remember that in order to find peace and purpose in retirement, one must get proper rest, eat right, and explore appropriate avenues of treatment for prevention, medical and emotional care.

Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC # 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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