As men, we tend to be more focused on our physical and financial health than our emotional health. Because of the way we’re wired, we have to make it a point to step back and assess how we’re doing emotionally – something that seems to come much more naturally for women.
If you want to live a happy and fulfilling life at 50 and beyond, there are several key elements to consider. You may be practicing or doing some of these things already, while others may be entirely new to you. Managing your stress, living in the present, and always pursuing worthwhile goals are just a few things that will help ensure your emotional wellbeing regardless of your age.
Just as we discussed in the article on physical health, this is the perfect time to take inventory. Rather than a having a midlife crisis at this point in your life, why not view your age as an opportunity for a midlife (or late life, depending) reappraisal? Think about what you’re doing well and what you’d like to do better. Record this information on a sticky note(s) and place it in a place where you can see it on a regular basis.
This is a much better approach than beating yourself up for perceived failures or focusing on what you’re doing wrong. Focus on your many accomplishments and celebrate them. I’ve found that when I shift my focus in this way, I feel empowered and motivated – and excited about what lies ahead. Dwelling on past regrets serves no good purpose.
Mindfulness is a powerful component of good emotional health. If you’re always rushing through the day, stuck on past regrets, or often worrying about the future, you’re not living mindfully – and you’re also probably feeling very stressed much of the time.
Mindfulness refers to the practice of focusing on the here and now – the present moment – and letting go of the tendency to judge or criticize it. Rather, you take it in and accept it as it is. When you’re mindful, you’re paying attention to your actions, your feelings, your thoughts, and your current situation – whether positive or negative. You let go of the need to fight, resist, control, struggle, or escape when you are mindful – you accept things unconditionally. You’re also not letting life pass you by – you’re showing up and participating.
If you find yourself feeling anxious, practicing mindfulness will be particularly helpful. Anxiety stems from the fear of what’s ahead, the unknown, and what we can’t control. Mindfulness keeps you grounded in the present and involves accepting things as they are, while releasing the need to avoid, escape from, or control them.
People who practice mindfulness are not only less anxious, they’re happier, more content, and more emotionally resilient than those who don’t. They’re also better equipped to handle stressful situations. One of the best ways to develop this skill is through meditation – or more specifically – “mindfulness meditation”.
Mindfulness meditation is quite simple. Spend a few minutes a day sitting quietly in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Focus on your breath, allowing the myriad thoughts that will undoubtedly bombard your mind (especially at first) come and go without judgment or criticism. As your mind wanders, just gently bring it back to your breath.
Strengthen Your EQ (Emotional Intelligence)
Your level of emotional intelligence – your emotional IQ – is a key factor in your overall success in life. In fact, most experts agree that it’s more important than your IQ. It’s also something you can develop and grow.
Emotional intelligence refers to your self-awareness of your emotions and your ability to manage them, while also understanding how they affect you. It also refers to the degree of your awareness of the feelings and needs of those around you. The stronger your emotional IQ, the better equipped you’ll be to develop and maintain healthy relationships, handle conflict, motivate and inspire others, work as part of a team, and manage stress.
Manage Stress Appropriately
I’ve encountered a lot of men who struggle with managing their stress in healthy ways. Numbing uncomfortable feelings with alcohol or drugs, burying yourself in your work when there are conflicts at home, or buying lots of “toys” to keep yourself distracted are a few common, but unhealthy and ineffective, ways that men handle stress.
As mentioned above, practicing mindfulness is an excellent way to combat the stress in your life. I’ve found that it not only helps make me more aware of what’s really bothering me, but also allows me to step back and look at the situation more objectively. In turn, I’m able to be more proactive in finding a solution, rather than merely reacting to the stress and making things worse.
Remember the 3 R’s when it comes to handling stress:
- Relaxation – Do things that help you let go and feel more peaceful and content, such as practicing yoga, going for a run or a walk in the park, or listening to relaxing music. Regular meditation is also an excellent way to relax and calm your body and mind.
- Restoration / Renewal – Find things that energize you and feed your soul. Think of things you’ve done in the past that seemed to “recharge your batteries” and make you feel like you could tackle anything.
- Recreation – Engage in activities that bring joy and / or provide a creative outlet for your talents and abilities.
Ask about the stress management assessment and feedback report. This will help you begin setting a personal development plan geared to strengthen your emotional well-being.
Take Periodic “Time Outs”
Whether it’s taking the afternoon off from work once in a while, or going on a much-needed two-week vacation, we all deserve (and need) a break now and then. These periodic time outs will benefit your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Use them to do something enjoyable.
Avoid an “I’m Old” Mindset
There is lot of truth to the old saying, “you’re only as old as you feel”. Age is a mindset more than anything else. Whether you’re 50, 65, or approaching 80, you’re not dead yet so why not embrace the moment and live life as fully as possible. If you get caught up in the idea that you’re old, now that you’ve passed the half-century mark, you’ll end up cheating yourself out of many more opportunities and adventures.
Tell that negative little voice in your head – you know, the one that whispers “Forget it; you’re too old” – to take a hike when you feel inspired to try something new or pursue a lifelong dream. Ninety-nine percent of the time, age is an obstacle only if you allow it to be one.
Adopt a Spirit of Gratitude
Nothing puts things in a positive perspective more quickly than gratitude. You see, when you focus on what you don’t have, don’t like, and want to change but can’t, it leaves you feeling frustrated, pessimistic, and depressed. When you adopt a spirit of gratitude, it helps you realize just how much you have to be thankful for – and that none of those things are insignificant.
That shift in your mindset will significantly change the way you look at your life and the world in general. This doesn’t mean you have to be “Pollyanna positive”, but it does involve striving to find the silver lining and beauty – even when they’re not immediately obvious.
Make a Bucket List
If you haven’t done it already, sit down and make a bucket list – and keep adding to it. No matter how old you are, you’re never too old to have goals and aspirations – no matter how far-reaching or lofty they may seem. Write down all the things you still want to accomplish and experience in life. Don’t exclude anything from your list, because nothing’s off limits.
Having goals that are exciting keeps you from stagnating. People who write down their goals and dreams (and revisit their list often) are much more likely to reach them than those who don’t. What may seem like a completely absurd and out-of-reach goal today may end up becoming a reality for you tomorrow. Life has a magical way of opening doors once we put something “out there” into the universe.
One of the great things about getting older is that you have more wisdom and perspective than you did 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Use those to improve and enhance both your physical health and your emotional wellbeing. Keep yourself in peak form with good nutritional habits. Rather than repeat past mistakes, learn from them and try something new.
If you feel stuck in any area of your life, or want to make the most of this next phase of your life, arrange a consultation with a life coach. Today truly is the first day of the rest of your life – no matter how many decades are already behind you. It’s never too late to create a brighter and healthier future than you’d ever dared imagine! I want you healthy!
Curt Canada is a Board Certified Coach at Adapting2change in Washington DC. Adapting2changeis a DC Chamber of Commerce Member.