How Living in the Moment Can Help You Get Past Grief

Living in the moment

A few years ago, I was talking to a gentleman about a pre-retirement course for himself and his wife.  During our last conversation, I answered all his outstanding questions and left him to make the online course booking - which I fully expected him to do.  After a few days, when the booking still wasn't forthcoming, I assumed that he'd just changed his mind about the course - which was, of course, his prerogative.

About a month later, however, I received an email from the man, apologising for not making the booking and explaining the reason why - his wife had passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly.  She'd fallen downstairs on her way to the bathroom during the TV ad break, hitting her head and sustaining fatal injuries.

The couple had been weeks away from retirement and, just like that, all the plans they'd made were in ruins.

Many things have the potential to derail a retirement:

- a downturn in the economy
- the collapse of a company or corporate financial misdeeds
- ill health or a life-changing accident
- an unexpected redundancy forcing someone to retire before they're financially ready or
- divorce or the unexpected ending of a relationship.

If you've experienced your own derailment, retirement can start to look like a scary and unfathomable place, rather than the warm, chilled out, opportunity-filled future you had planned.

Eventually, like the gentleman who lost his wife, you will have to pick up the pieces and move on, through grief, to a different kind of retirement.  One that you've adapted to your changed circumstances.  After the immediate devastation and debilitation turns into raw grief and pain, however, you might find that mindfulness - or living in the moment - might help you get through each day.

When you're living in the moment, your focus is on that moment only. The past and the future can't touch you.

It can be a difficult task to put your feelings about the past or future aside. It's like when someone says, "Don't think of a pink elephant!" Did you think of one, just now?

Well, your grief is sometimes that pink elephant and it seems like there's nowhere to turn. In this situation, you can look for help from present moment thinking.

Remaining in the present takes practice. While you're learning how to live in the moment, remember that it gets easier as time goes on.

Using Meditation

You can work on controlling your thoughts, but one practice that's all about staying in the present moment is meditation. This simple exercise can also help you get through your grief.

Here are some meditation tips:

  • Make a meditation schedule - 30 minutes per day every day.

  • Go to a place where you can relax and be alone.

  • Sit in a position with good posture.

  • Take deep breaths in and out.

  • You can use a "mantra" or positive affirmation to help you focus.

  • When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, and then let them go.

The most difficult thing you might encounter when learning to meditate is calming your busy mind. Focusing on your breathing helps clear away extraneous thoughts and worries.

When you're grief stricken, it's an especially difficult time to keep a clear mind. Thoughts of the past will more than likely keep coming up in your practice. This is normal. As you continue practicing, it will get easier to focus on the now.

An important thing to remember is to avoid judging yourself. Don't punish yourself for thinking of the past when you're trying not to think about it. Realize that your mind is taking a turn you didn't intend, and then lightly nudge it back in the right direction. Be grateful that you were able to catch yourself in the midst of a negative thought, and then move on.

Keeping Up Your Practice

Once you've adopted a philosophy of present moment thinking, concentrate on keeping up with your practice. Rather than a mechanism you turn to only when you're in a pinch, consistent present moment thinking can bring you comfort on an ongoing basis

Moment By Moment

As your practice deepens, you'll fully realize that life is just a series of moments. It's not a definable measure of time, but you'll feel many moments in every minute. Little by little, you'll learn to recognize them.

You may find it difficult to remain in the present just because you must refer to the past and plan for the future in order to live. This is true, of course, but once the reflection is over, and the planning is put away, your goal is to remain in the moment as much as possible.

  • Refer to the past when you must, but avoid re-immersing yourself in the grief or daydreaming about what things could have been like.

  • Plan for the future, but don't obsess over it.

  • Simply look at what you're experiencing right now and immerse yourself in it.

When your mind is completely focused on the present moment, you'll be able to keep going, one foot in front of the other, until you feel ready to face the future again.

12 Simple Ways to Create Joy in Your Life

12 simple ways to create joy
It's easy to get caught up with worries during difficult times. It's also easy to find yourself feeling a bit jaded during retirement - even your favourite hobby might not feel so much fun when you have all the time in the world to do it! You may think that finding joy involves a great deal of work or money. This isn't true at all - there are plenty of ways to create joy in your life right now!

Here are some ideas to help you enjoy more happiness every day:

  1. Turn off the news, TV, and computer. While theses things can be helpful to keep you informed and entertained, it's important to remember life without them. You'll be amazed at how many projects you can complete without these distractions!

  • For example, instead of mindlessly watching another rerun of Seinfeld, complete a photo album or redecorate a room - something that will give you a sense of satisfaction on completion, rather than a vague sense of having just wasted another day.

  1. Take a class. Almost everyone has a hobby they've been meaning to try for a long time. It's time to actually do it. Take the plunge and take a class!

    • Most community colleges have a flyer or website that lists their class schedule. You'll find that they're affordable too!

  1. Get in touch with a friend. The Internet has made it easier than ever to reconnect with people from your past. Whether you last spoke to your friend last month or decades ago, it can be a joyful activity to reconnect. Reflect on your friendship and discuss the good times you've had.

  1. Start a garden. There are many plants and herbs that you can grow both indoors and outdoors. Experiment with different plants or grow some vegetables that you'll enjoy later on, too. There's nothing like the taste of homegrown vegetables!

  1. Dabble in arts and crafts. There are so many fun activities that involve arts and crafts. Just take a trip down the aisles of your local craft store to get some ideas. For low cost alternatives, go to your nearest pound shop or dollar store. You'll be amazed at your new treasures!

  1. Go for a walk or a nature hike. Take your family or go alone. Walking and hiking can be a great break in your day. You'll be able to reflect, relax, and enjoy the fresh air.  You'll probably sleep better too, as a result!

  1. Organize a sports night. Get some of your friends together for a game every once in awhile. It's always beneficial to get a little exercise and it'll be fun to socialize, too.

  1. Start stargazing. On a peaceful, clear night, get in touch with nature in a different way. Enjoy the stars! Pick up an astronomy guide and learn to identify the planets and constellations.

  1. Try journaling. One great way to reflect on your day and get to know yourself is by journaling. For additional fun, pretend you're writing to a long lost friend or write a letter to yourself in the future.

  1. Learn to cook something new. It's always a good idea to add exciting new meals to your repertoire. Find a recipe website or a cookbook and try something you've never tried before.

  1. Have a game night. Gather your family together for some fun and games. Invite friends over to add to the fun. If you're feeling especially creative, try designing your very own board game and play that one.

  1. Be a tourist. You can become a tourist without ever leaving your hometown. It's likely that you haven't been everywhere in your town. Pretend you're on holiday or vacation and try all the tourist attractions. You'll learn something new and may even discover places you'll enjoy visiting often!

You'll soon find that opportunities for joy in your life are around every corner. With a little creative thinking, you can have a great time every day, and you don't have to spend a lot of money to do it, either.


Small Things That Affect Your Mood in Big Ways

We tend to notice how big things affect our mood. Taking a holiday/vacation to Hawaii, marriage, divorce, death, and serious financial issues are a few of the big items. However, small things can also impact your mood is a big way, and the small things happen more frequently. Understanding the small, day-to-day experiences that impact your mood is important.

Many of the smaller things in life can affect your mood:

  1. Dehydration. If you’re feeling sluggish or irritable, you might just need a drink of water. Some people don’t have the benefit of good thirst mechanisms. Have a glass of water at least every few hours. Your mood might improve considerably.

  2. Music. There are at least a few songs that impact your mood in a positive way. It only takes a moment of listening before you can feel your mood shift. Try to listen to a few songs you love each day. Upload them to your smart phone so they’re always handy.

  3. Scents. Certain smells can alter your mood. Your smelly seat mate on a plane has one effect. A scent that reminds you of your all-time best date has a different effect.

  • Are there any scents that you love? Find a candle or air freshener that mimics a smell you enjoy.

  1. Weather. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, or just right. A nice day lifts your mood. A dark, rainy day can drag it down.

  2. Compliments. Receiving a compliment is sure to enhance your mood. Just a few kind words can have a big impact. Giving compliments can have a positive effect on your mood, too. The opposite is also true. A few unkind words can result in a bad mood. Keep that in mind when you’re talking to others.

  3. Sleep. If you have children, you can probably remember how it feels to be sleep-deprived. Hopefully, they're no longer causing you to lose sleep now that they're off your hands but our sleep can be affected in other ways as we get older.  Ensure that you’re getting enough sleep that your mood isn’t being affected negatively.

  4. Your posture. Studies have shown that slouching results in more negative thoughts, and standing or sitting up straight results in more positive thinking.

  5. The food you consume. It’s common to have a mild reaction to certain foods and not even be aware of it. Try eliminating certain foods from your diet for a couple of days and see if it changes how you feel. Eliminate one at a time or you won’t be sure which food causes issues. The most common culprits are: Gluten, Soy Eggs, Milk, Nuts, Peanuts (which aren’t actually a nut) and anything with a high sugar content.

  6. Financial issues. You might not consider financial issues to be a “small thing,” but even small financial issues can harm your mood. For example, one unexpected bill can create a lot of emotional turmoil.

  7. Spending a lot of time with negative people. Whether it’s a coworker at your voluntary job, family member, or friend, spending time with a very negative person can sour your mood.

  8. Exercise. Interestingly, when you least feel like exercising, doing so seems to have the biggest positive influence on your mood. A brisk walk is all you need to boost your mood. It doesn’t take much to make a difference.

You don’t need to do anything like purchasing a sports car or holiday/vacation if you’re looking to boost your mood. There are plenty of smaller things that can change your mood significantly. These small things can occur on a daily basis and are well worth the effort to either seek or avoid. Focus on the small things that enhance or detract from your mood and you’ll enjoy pleasant moods more often.