Happy Life at Fifty

365 Days of Happiness

‘Beautify your new day!’

‘Beautify your new day!’

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‘Think of water and how it moves around the rocks

It always finds a way to flow around, above, and even underneath them. Water flows wherever it wants to flow, and does not stop or get held up by the rocks. It keeps its focus on its purpose … To stay true to your flow, don't make the rocks in your life the most important happenings. Instead, keep your focus on your purpose to flow, and with that, find other ways around them to be and live your truth.'

This is how Jacqueline Pirtle encourages us to keep focus, in her book, 365 Days of Happiness,*  publisher Freaky Healer (2018)

‘Your NOW is where all your power lays’

‘Your NOW is where all your power lays’

Reflect on some of your Monday mornings.  It may look something like this:  alarm - groan - snooze - alarm - expletive - get up and comment on unfairness of the world - Monday mornings should be banned - look in mirror - groan - expletive - mental list of every flaw/imperfection/excess flesh - shower - open wardrobe - groan nothing to wear - clothes are all meh! .... you get the picture?  Sounds great, doesn't it?  Er NO?  How are we to maintain healthy bodies and minds with such a negative start to the day?

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Jacqueline, an energy healer and mindfulness teacher, offers an alternative start to the day.  374 pages cover 365 days of inspirational approaches, insights and mindfulness exercises to achieving happiness every single day.  In 2017, she decided to document her method for choosing happiness every day.  As adults and children take to social media for their next fix from 'likes', Jacqueline gently redirects this attention to being and living in a "high for life frequency of happiness".

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The Mind Body Spirit or New Age genre is as much in vogue today as it was in the seventies and eighties.  While the subject of happiness – what it is, how to find it, and how to keep it, has been studied extensively as far back as Plato, new additions to the library of work on this topic are still being produced.  However, as culture, language, and external pressures change over time, so does the approach that writers take to address the issue of happiness.

One of the author's core beliefs is that happiness manifests itself through a healthy mind, body and experience.  She further believes that although happiness is how we are meant to BE,  this state is not necessarily passive but something that we can learn.  Furthermore, we all have a responsibility to seek to BE happy.  Based on the premise that everything is connected, everything is ONE,  an investment in our happiness is an investment in the universe.  We are a part of that universe.

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 365 Days of Happiness invites you to take an affirmative and mindful action each day to BE your best happy self.  Jacqueline invites us to either reflect on a routine activity, imagine a specific scenario or remember a past event.  This is then developed into a mindfulness task, visualisation or decisive action for the day.

Dogs playing on the beach

Playful prodding and encouragement steer us towards an energetic shift towards happiness, and we are reminded of our…

' full power to change the state you are in … your thoughts, feelings and perceptions'.

Jacqueline’s whimsical approach to life and happiness is infectious; it will have you smiling at your willingness to 'do the twist' or imagine you have 'inherited a pair of pants'.  While these may sound simple and fun, her analogies are pertinent reminders of actions we can take or thought processes we could change.  She turns these into 'what if?' scenarios, list-making exercises, visualisations, questions, affirmations or 'Aha' moments.  The messages are timeless, and I imagine that when you reach the end of the book, you simply go back to the beginning again? 

Spilled coffee on journal

‘Imagine someone spills a drink!

Usually they are in distress about this happening. Now imagine that you say to them ‘‘it is OK, it is all OK. Are you OK?’’ Hearing these words lets them relax … to smile or laugh about their mishap. The word ‘‘OK’’ carries an energy of resistance-free, peaceful, acceptance, respect for what is…’

Self-acceptance, openness and happiness are examples of what you will be asked to embrace within 365 Days of Happiness.  It is slightly meatier than a simple quote of the day and some days the message may resonate with you more than others.  However, if you are forgetful, like me, it is only far too easy to ‘forget’ to start happy.  This is probably why I called my little dog ‘Happy’, it means that one of the first words that escapes from my barely functioning mouth in the morning is ‘Happy!’ 

One of my favourite analogies from 365 Days of Happiness is Day 154 where Jacqueline invites you to imagine creating your garden of ‘thoughts, intentions, wishes, dreams…’ You are welcome to visit other beautiful gardens that inspire you and bring happiness, but always return to your own. ‘Overstaying creates a disconnect with yourself’. Conversely you are advised to avoid gardens that do not feel good. We can sense negativity or destabilisation if we have strayed into the wrong garden throughout the day. Being mindful of this enables us to act swiftly and implement an escape strategy. In such a situation, Jacqueline advises us to ‘race back home’. Although the advantages of remaining true to ourselves is hardly breaking news, this captivating image of tending, improving and adding to your own garden is an enchanting one.

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If you read the book as intended, one day at a time, you will not only reap the benefits of a positive and uplifting start to the day but additionally, a thought-provoking message to ponder on.  This is not a book to digest in large chunks, as I did for review purposes.  I would recommend placing 365 Days of Happiness by your bed so that it may greet you with its happy cupcake on the cover.  Upon opening it, allow its gentle guidance to inspire and embrace you every morning with its happiness for the day. As Jacqueline states at the end of each day’s guidance,

‘That IS happiness!’

  Alternatively, you may feel guided by intuition, or a slightly rebellious streak, and open the book at a random page.  If so, go ahead and absorb whatever message speaks to you on that particular day?  Ideally, in the spirit of giving and sharing, position it strategically on the breakfast table. Other family members may ingest its daily dose of positivity with their morning coffee, smoothie or maybe …  a cupcake?

*Gifted for review purposes

 

Positive Midlife Transition is not a Midlife Crisis?

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A Brief Look at Midlife as One of Life’s Transitions

All transitions can be scary. There, that's the truth. Midlife is yet another transition in life with physical and mental effects; however, remember puberty? Learning to walk? (probably not), your first broken heart? It is a challenging time when, as teenagers, we discover changes to our body and moods … yikes! The moment you find out that your body could potentially reproduce is the same moment a layer of your security blanket is lifted. This security blanket is 'childhood'.

The dynamics that had formed the unspoken consensus of what it means to be a child have changed. You have embarked on a new road leading to a new version of mutual respect. You may feel the level of security afforded by parental rules, expectations, and control is diminishing. At around twelve years of age, this was, of course, totally irrational and slightly premature, but there was a definite shift in the balance of independence and control.

Parental fears of you falling and grazing your knee become memories saturated with nostalgia because now, greater concerns emerge. These greater concerns lead to parental attempts at greater control. (And often house arrest or was that just me?). More often than not, heated arguments and door slamming rituals ensue. My point is, those times were not all Tinkerbell and unicorns

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like
— Lau Tzu

Midlife and Menopause are not a Crisis

The point I wish to make is this: when we speak about the menopause, yes it can be difficult for some women, yes it hits us all in different ways, and yes, the weight is harder to keep off. On the other hand, there are many positives too.

Beauty is subjective and takes many forms, enter the increasing number of women choosing to embrace their grey and redefine beauty. Consider also, that the wealth of experience we have to offer, not only to others but also to ourselves, is priceless.

No one has experienced ‘you’ as much as you. It may be time to practice mindfulness about the present and the past to indeed reveal our true authentic selves to ourselves. It is time to do anything at all that enables that awareness to rise within us because ladies, knowledge is power; knowledge about ourselves is a superpower.

With great power comes great responsibility
— Spriderman

Embracing Midlife Transitions

We could bemoan every transition in life if we wanted to wallow in misery, or alternatively, once acknowledged, we can do something about our current challenges. As with any transition, there are obstacles to negotiate (spots, hormones kicking in …) but once addressed sensibly and positively, we can move on to enjoying the new phase. Let's face it, new things are fun! Perennial women everywhere are challenging midlife stereotypes, breaking out of their society-imposed comfort zones and redefining ageing by living their best lives.

Positive Ageing, Self-Care in Midlife and Taking Action

Consider what you need to do personally to optimise your midlife; that could be HRT, yoga, sweet potatoes or Soya Isoflavithingymajigs. Use an organisation app on your phone if you need to, (Trello is a good option); take Gingko Biloba if you are prone to forgetfulness; take skin boosting supplements; find your comfort zone regarding exercise and, ultimately, be positive. Once those areas have been addressed, put them on autopilot – this is the brand new YOU, and get on with living what could be the best part of your life.

Life does not begin at forty, or fifty or even zero; life begins whenever you decide. Life begins ‘now'. The older you are, the more experience you have had, the more mistakes you have made and the more connections you have established. Therefore, the better position you are in to get the hell on with it and make a damn good job of it. This is unless, of course, you are anything like me where you never learn. You just muddle through the complexities of life with your skirt tucked in your knickers and loo roll stuck to your heel… in blissful oblivion.

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
— Rumi

New Perspectives at Fifty and Beyond

I am grateful that I am an adult, that I no longer have to do homework and be ridiculed by red biro all over my work. I no longer have to be told when I can and cannot speak to the person sitting next to me or put my hand up when needing the loo. I can choose when I am allowed to eat treats and if that is chocolate before a meal, then so be it. If you disagree with an assumption someone has made about you, you can protest without fear of being given a detention or having your Xbox confiscated.

‘Ageing in an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.
— David Bowie

You may have a new independence if your children have left home. Alternatively, you may still be honoured with having younger children who help to keep you on your toes and youthful. Perhaps you wish to learn new things or take up a new interest? Perhaps you have realised that you never really wanted half of the stuff around you and you declutter? Perhaps you have been keeping company with people who are not the best fit for you … and for whom you are not the best fit either?

You have my permission (should you need it) to go back to when you were a toddler and re-learn the word ‘NO'! Others may find you difficult but then … do you really care? Gift yourself the privilege of discernment and choose YOU.

By choosing you, the authentic you, you are genuinely gifting yourself to those around you too. You will no longer waste the time of others when you appear as you are, with your unique set of gifts, flaws, and personality. This is preferable to a nodding, resentfully complying, and artificial self who will inevitably disappoint when you cannot or will not deliver.

A Mindful Midlife

Take care of yourself through healthy eating, time spent outdoors, some form of exercise, yoga, meditation, good skincare and decluttering your life. This will not only help you but enable you to be a better version of yourself for those with whom you choose to surround yourself. An astute sense of self can prevent preoccupation with oneself and afford increased engagement with others.

Quality time with no distractions

Show up for people who matter and if you are going to show up, be present! That means having a drink with a friend without having your phone on the table next to the coffee. You have set aside time for the person with you, not the person texting you or posting on social media. Show the person you are with, the respect they deserve by being there for them. You will not have that same moment again and each moment lost, is a thread of connection lost. Eventually, the rope will snap under too great a pressure.

So, embrace your age whatever that may be – five to fifty and beyond! Reflect on what makes you truly happy because then, you can visibly shine, and a shining star is a guiding light for all, no matter how long it has been in the sky.

Do not let there be a glass ceiling on your potential

Do not let there be a glass ceiling on your potential

I will leave you with these words of wisdom which, through their simplicity, articulate positivity, hope, and joy:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.
— Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay

Minimalising

Oh my wordicles! Everyone appears to be decluttering, minimalising, scandivising and just generally chucking their lifetime’s accumulation of stuff into the metaphorical and often actual bin - yikes! Surely I will need that incomplete set of twelve cocktail glass stem rings that aunty whoever bought me for my twenty first? (Why is it always aunties that are picked on?). Anyway, what if I hate minimalism and all these boring old white walls and drawers with no nobs on (how impractical)?

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Minimalizing as Streamlining

Well let me clarify two frequent misconceptions here; firstly, some people like and need a lot of things around them; we all differ in what brings us comfort; secondly, minimalising is NOT necessarily about adopting a minimalist lifestyle nor is it about minimal décor. Whilst those things are, well … things, they are not for the majority and are a separate subject.

Beauty in simplicity

Beauty in simplicity

One could be living in a minimally decorated house with one of fifty shades of white on the walls and monochrome cats, yet still have an impeccably ordered dressing room with cupboards accommodating the largest collection of clothes, toiletries, beauty gadgets, cosmetics etc, many of which are simply gathering dust. That is not a minimalist lifestyle, it is minimalist décor. They often go hand in hand and although my aesthetic preferences lean towards an uncluttered, but still cosy look, that doesn't have to be your bag.

Whenever I have moved house, the best part has been sorting and discarding stuff I no longer need, never really needed or that has outlived its use - fleecy lama pants? Be gone! Contraception no longer required here! (Sniggers unapologetically). The process has been cathartic and strangely liberating. Aren’t we bizarre creatures? We feel great when we get rid of stuff, then feel even better when we go out and buy more stuff!

Marie Kondo, Appreciation and Sparking Joy

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Personally, I like to settle for a kind of compromising ‘cosy minimalism’. This means that I do not like to be surrounded by unaccounted for stuff; I have to know what is in every drawer and do not want things that are neither beautiful nor useful. For clarity, if something is neither aesthetically beautiful nor practically useful yet makes you happy, it may well, on reflection, deserve both labels. Beauty is not limited to aesthetics and anything that adds personal value should be considered useful. As Marie Kondo herself advocates, the things we own, the things in our homes should ‘spark joy’. Therefore, if your ‘back end of a donkey’ costume from the only pantomime you ever starred in sparks joy, and you need to have it in your life, then keep it! However, put it somewhere where you are able to see it, sometimes, and enjoy it. I will leave that one with you my friends, so no elaborations in the comments please?

If you have no idea where or how to start, then you could do a lot worse than read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. Even if you choose not to follow her method, just reading it fills you with positivity and good intentions. You can then go and do your thing, your way.

What are the Benefits to Decluttering?

Easier to find things - less stress, less timewasting, less duplicate purchases;

More chance of noticing things you love and enjoying them - the idea is not to get rid of as much stuff as possible, but to get rid of stuff that no longer serves or delights you; you are then left to enjoy what is meaningful and/or useful;

Less decisions to be made when there is less choice - who needs five spare pillows and three potato peelers in different colours anyway?

More physical space - things that should not be out, should have a home, eliminating the need to navigate an obstacle course just to retrieve aforementioned potato peeler (the blue one matches today’s outfit please?);

More head space - excess clutter can cause actual stress, whereas a calm uncluttered physical space is mirrored in the mind. To allow the mind to breathe, is to allow it to either rest, play or create according to its needs;

Calmer life - stress causes all manner of undesirable things to happen to our bodies, from frown wrinkles and hot flushes to hormonal mayhem, all of which are ageing; my tip for ageing positively? Streamline, declutter and enjoy your chosen possessions;

Easier to manage anxiety and brain fog - clutterfree spaces equal a clutterfree mind; that must surely help to lift some of the fog and facilitate..

Clearer thinking - this deserves its own line; for some, turning fifty and going through the menopause can hinder clear thinking; trouble sleeping, migraines, anxiety, hot flushes and hormone fluctuations to name but a few of the possible reasons behind this;

Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fuelled by procrastination
— Christina Scalise, Organise Your Life and More

Promotes appreciation and gratitude for what we have in our lives - now that our ‘spark joy’ pieces are not stifled by excess;

Better for the environment when you buy less and buy mindfully - using up existing products and only when they run out, replacing with thoughtful sustainable choices is the way forward;

Easier to keep your house clean and tidy - well it is simple really, less stuff equals less to tidy, less to clean and less to find a home for;

Less dust mites - well, ‘things’ are dust traps are they not?

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‘‘The best way to decide what we really need, is to get rid of what we don’t

Marie Kondo

I have definitely found that knowing where everything is and not wasting time rifling means that I have more headspace to tackle what I need to. The gratitude that accompanies the mindfulness of living with less, may bring about a deeper satisfaction with life and a decreased reliance on having the next ‘new’ thing. Again, it clarifies what you actually want/need, rather than what you think you should want/need.

Where to Start with Decluttering

Streamlining my wardrobe is a work in progress

Streamlining my wardrobe is a work in progress

Marie Kondo advises to start with your wardrobe, and I would agree. This involves gathering every item you own and making a pile, then the sorting begins. Why clothes first? Well, the reasoning is that clothes are generally the things we attach the least sentimentality to (there are exceptions of course; exibit A: back end of donkey costume). We tend to create the least attachment to clothes so it is probably the easiest category to start with. Believe me, I have not yet regretted any of the items I have sent to charity shops, given away or sold.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
— Leonardo da Vinci

I have some ideas for you about making a start on your wardrobes and I am happy to share them, along with a list of my favourite bloggers in this area. Click ‘comments’, and send me a message or go to ‘contact me’ and send me an email stating that you would be interested in this and I will forward you a list of handy tips that helped me, when I started to streamline my wardrobe. I am very much on a journey with this myself and am following advice from others who are nailing the living with less philosophy. You are invited on my journey and encouraged to offer your tips for simplifying your life and parting with things that you have grown unnecessarily attached to. Send me a message to say ‘Hi’ and introduce yourself. I would love to hear your thoughts.