Navigating the “Second Half” of Life: 7 Tips for Living with Meaning, Resilience and Joy
“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
– Dalai Lama
Many of us find ourselves in or nearing the “second half” of life. If we pay attention, navigating life’s transitions offers numerous opportunities to engage our strengths and experiences with the intention to move forward with greater meaning, resilience, and joy.
Whichever decade we are in – 30’s, 40’s 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, or beyond – it is significant to pay attention to where we’ve been, where we’re going, and to integrate changes in how we think, feel and experience our lives.
A landmark study of adult development, conducted by the Harvard Study of Adult Development, followed two groups of men from college into old age, a period of more than 75 years. This major research offers insights into understanding the adult development and aging process.
Here are a few findings based on the Harvard study:
- Good relationships promote health and keep us happier. Social supports, such as friends, family, volunteering, and social groups positively benefit health and wellness.
- It’s not the number of relationships that make a difference, rather the quality of relationships.
The awareness that life is short makes us happier. Knowing that time is limited, encourages us to prioritize well-being as a pivotal resource.
- Education is protective and enhances longevity; continuing to learn is good for health and wellness.
In this study, the men who liked working the most at age 60 liked retirement the most at age 75.
- These four components contribute mightily toward happy retirement: Replace work relationships with other social networks; Re-discover the act of playing; Engage in creative activities; Continue to learn.
7 Tips for Navigating Life with Meaning, Resilience and Joy:
– Rely on and help other people: Getting involved in relationships and building social connections really matters. Engage with friends and family. Become involved in groups and communities. Seek and build relationships in which you feel that you can count on other people and they can count on you.
– Find a sense of purpose, calling, and commitment. Let a meaningful or challenging event help you think about and prioritize what’s really important to you. Sit quietly and pay attention to what the inner part of yourself is saying. When you have a few free moments, write down what you feel is your purpose in life – what you feel is truly significant. Re-evaluate aspects of your life and make changes as you can.
– Keep learning. There are lots of ways to continue to learn. Practice a new skill at home or at work. Learn to dance, to cook, or fix basic household problems. Take a class on-site or on-line. Embrace that hobby you’ve been thinking about. Begin to learn a new language.
– Choose an active approach to define and find solutions to your challenges. If the way you approach a problem isn’t working, try a new strategy. Identify the problem, brainstorm ideas for solving it, take a look at each of the possibilities, and decide which one to try first. Anticipating problems, flexibility, and bringing in other people as resources, or for help, can make a positive difference.
– Pause and take notice of life’s small pleasures. Paying attention to even the briefest moments of joy offers opportunities for renewal. When I was younger, I was quite goal-focused. My husband and I were raising two daughters, I worked, went to school, and tried to be a good wife, mom, daughter, and friend. I accomplished a lot, but I also missed a lot because I didn’t pause often enough to truly notice life’s small pleasures – the first flowers of spring, the touch of my daughter’s soft hands, a moment to offer kindness to an elderly friend.
– Take care of your physical health. Be physically active. When you begin an exercise regime, remember to start slowly and gradually build toward your goal. Check in with your healthcare professional on a regular basis.
– Manage Your Reactions to Stress. Using relaxation strategies to help you focus on this moment, can be helpful for managing reactions to stress. Some relaxation strategies include: focused breathing, meditation, mindfulness, and guided visualization. Many resources are available for learning these strategies.
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…
not going all the way, and not starting.”
- Lewis, T. (2015, December). Business Insider. A Harvard Psychologist Says 3 Things are the Secret to Real Happiness. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.
com/robert-waldinger-says-3- things-are-the-secret-to- happiness-2015-12
- The Dalai Lama’s 6 Key Tips to Happiness (Posted on July 7, 2017) Retrieved from http://www.awaken.com/2017/07/
- Vaillant, G.E., Cui, X., Soldz, S. The Study of Adult Development. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Retrieved from http://www.hms.harvard.edu/
- Waldinger R.J. (November, 2015) What Makes a Good Life: Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness. (TED talk) Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/
robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_ good_life_lessons_from_the_ longest_study_on_happiness
- Waldinger, R.J. (2004). The Harvard Study on Adult Development. Retrieved from http://hr1973.org/docs/
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