Loving life over 50 should be easy. We’ve done a lot of hard work – raising a family, establishing a career, building financial security.
But, many of us are still working out what it means to love our life.
Loving life over 50 isn’t about having it all! Rather it’s an attitude. And it’s about using the hard-won knowledge from the past 30+ years to create a life we can love, even when things are tough. Here are 21 ideas for you to love life over 50, experience more joy, and have more adventures.
Since turning 50 I’ve gathered a lot of experiences, some of them tough.
Like spending 3 years getting through a major mental health crisis. And then there was a long recovery. But that taught me a lot about loving life, even when things were hard.
It’s also guided me to create the right mindset so that I make good decisions based on what’s good for me.
Today, I am living the life of my dreams.
That doesn’t mean that things always go right. But I’ve learned how to approach things with a calm mind, optimism, and the smarts to ‘not sweat the small stuff’!
But I want all women to have the benefits I’ve received.
We all deserve to have the freedom to do work we love, achieve financial comfort, and have adventures.
Here are 21 of my secrets to loving life over 50
The secrets I share here are personal. They are the things that help me achieve my desires and dreams.
1. Don’t apologize for living your dream
I am living my dream. It’s true, but I still have to pinch myself to believe it.
For the past year, my husband and I have been able to do what we planned and dreamed about.
We sold the business we established and ran for 14 years to retire early, so we could both look after our health. We now live in a simple beach house and get to enjoy travel adventures for weeks at a time.
But there are times when I feel self-conscious as I talk about my life.
That’s because I feel guilty that others don’t get to achieve their dreams, or are held back by less-fortunate circumstances. Am I on my own with these feelings?
On the one hand, I know I deserve what I’ve got. I’ve worked hard, have benefited from the risks of going into business, and as a team my partner and I work well together to make good decisions allowing us to achieve our goals.
And, we make compromises. Our home is small, we live quite frugally, and enjoy the simple things.
(At the same time, I’m also aware of my good fortune in having a safe and supportive, white middle-class upbringing.)
So I tell myself what I tell others. Leigh, it is okay to live your dream! You deserve it!
2. Be kind to yourself
We are often harder on ourselves than anyone else.
Have you ever had a close friend who you knew was suffering from burnout? What advice would you offer them? Probably to take care of themselves. Am I right?
Yet we often neglect the signals warning us to be kind to ourselves. Why is that? Do we have something to prove? And if so, what?
I learned these lessons the hard way. After spending three years recovering from depression, anxiety, and burnout, I can now say that I take really good care of myself.
I put my happiness, healthiness, and well-being first. That doesn’t always make me popular, but I know it’s what I need to do to maintain my mental health and well-being.
Because it’s difficult to detach ourselves from the conditioning we’ve maintained since childhood, becoming aware of our own needs is the first step. Then it’s about practice.
In the beginning, it may not feel comfortable to put yourself first.
Feeling uncomfortable is a sign that you are making a change, so hang with it! It will get easier.
Every time you do something that puts your well-being first it builds a ladder to a healthier, happier you. It’s worth it!
3. Create a personal mission statement
There’s one post-it note in a little ceramic jar on my dresser that has this uncanny knack of turning up whenever I need reminding why I do what I do.
It reads – My mission is to “help others succeed through the creative use of my unique talents.”
I remember exactly when I write this. It was a dark day. I was in the midst of a major depressive episode.
I was searching for answers to my depression, researching causes, and trying to find strategies to get myself better.
Writing this statement seemed like a small thing then, but it’s now a guiding principle especially whenever things get tough.
And what I wrote then is even truer today.
Create your own personal mission statement using these questions.
- What do you love learning about?
- What do you want to know more about?
- What energizes you?
- What was your childhood ambition?
- Do you have an issue you care deeply about?
- Where could you see yourself making a difference in the world?
- What aspirations are you prepared to follow through on, despite the risks?
- What would you do even if no money was involved?
- What skills do you love using?
- What can you do that others find difficult?
- How can you use your skills to create something valuable?
- What are you doing when you use your most-enjoyed skills?
- Who are you doing it all for?
- What sort of people do you want to be around?
- Who do you like to help?
- Why do you like helping these people?
Make notes. Write stuff down. Draw pictures. Read books. Sleep on it.
Do everything you can to explore the question and come up with an answer.
What stands out? What rings true? Trust your intuition.
Your personal mission statement should reflect who you are, not who you think you should be!
Write it down. Pin it on your wall. Tell your best friend. Do anything that will bring it to life.
“Tell me what you plan to do with this your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver)
4. Be Mindful
It’s something that can be learned by anyone and there are lots of tools and books to help. (Here are my favorite books and podcasts.)
I attended my first mindfulness meditation course (consisting of four simple classes) when I was going into a long, dark mental health crisis.
Learning to sit still and focus on my breathing is one of the tools that helped get me through to the other side of that darkness, and I still use it today, every day.
Currently, I don’t have a daily meditation practice, but that would probably be good for me. Rather I take moments to be mindful, breathe, and calm my mind throughout the day.
And it’s my go-to place when I’ll lying awake at night unable to sleep.
If finding out more about mindfulness or meditation has been on your list, then now’s a good time to take action.
5. Be Grateful, Just For One Minute
There’s nothing like taking a few moments each morning to reflect and be grateful for the good in our lives. And, even the tough stuff.
It’s all our experiences that make us who we are and gives us the ability to have empathy for others.
It’s easy to get dragged down by the constant negativity on TV, and on social media. (We have never been exposed to as many strong opinions as we do now, and honestly, some of them are tough to stomach. 😫)
Taking a few moments for grateful reflection helps to bring us back to ourselves.
I often do this exercise in the morning to make use of that short period when I’m struggling to open my eyes and start the day.
Rather than jumping out of bed, I relax back into my pillow and reflect on what I’ve got to be grateful for.
It doesn’t have to be a long list. It only takes me a moment to come up with three things to be grateful for. Then I leap out of bed. Well sometimes! 🤣
Give this a try tomorrow morning. Start your day with a positive mindset by finding three things to be grateful for. It will only take a minute!
6. Be Vulnerable
Vulnerability comes before courage.
It was only from showing my weakness that I realized how strong I was.
It was a slow process to admit to being less than perfect, and that I didn’t need to justify my actions.
Some days I couldn’t leave the house, but once I was well enough to go out, I decided I wasn’t going to pretend everything was okay.
It would have been easier to lie, or not say anything, because when I did try to explain I felt extremely vulnerable.
As I struggled to express my situation, I could feel tears well up and I wanted to cry.
At first, I didn’t know why. But then I discovered; It was because I felt ashamed. I felt like a failure.
I was a successful businesswoman who couldn’t even fake being normal!
I know there are millions of people living successful lives all the while struggling with a mental illness. That’s hard.
If you’re one of these and you’ve never told anyone, here’s the good news.
The more you talk about it, the easier it becomes. You will feel stronger every time.
And, equally important, it helps others! It’s by sharing our stories, we let others know they are not alone. That’s powerful.
7. Decide who are your true friends
Are your friends holding you back?
We have enough doubts of our own! So don’t foster friendships with anyone who really doesn’t want you to get ahead.
As women over 50, we may have grown up with the expectation that we put others first.
But now is our time. This is time to start making decisions that are good for us and not for other’s benefit.
If you have friends who keep holding you back, seriously consider how you can loosen the friendship ties. Or find new friends who are adventurous and supportive.
Maybe you’ll find them by joining a group, club, or meetup. Do whatever it takes to get over your procrastination.
There’s a big wide world out there waiting for you to give it a go!
8. Stop making judgments
The easiest thing is to make judgments of others. We do it all the time, thoughtlessly, and without hesitation.
What is more difficult is not making judgments.
It takes effort to pause and think, before letting damaging thoughts or words spring forth.
Partly, we do it as a self-defense mechanism. We are innately driven to assess others as a risk as a way to protect ourselves, before accepting them as friends. So it is precautionary to think negatively.
Except we have taken that to the next level when we:
- criticize what someone is wearing
- Make a snap judgment about someone’s job
- React to what we think is rude behavior
- Underestimate someone because they aren’t dressed as we expect
Stop and ask yourself:
- What’s that thought about?
- Where did that thought come from?
- What good is it doing me to make that judgment?
- Does that person deserve it?
- Do I have any idea what’s going on in their lives?
- Is it my business?
Instead, practice compassion and be kind!
9. Stop explaining yourself
People don’t want to know why!
So why do we feel we need to justify ourselves? Is it because we are worried that people will think badly of us otherwise?
But the truth is they are not really thinking about us. Mostly, we spend our time thinking about ourselves.
Secondly, they already have an opinion of us, be it good or bad, and that’s unlikely to change as a result of this one event.
Truly they’re not interested in your ‘excuses’!
Try this, the next time you have an unwelcome invitation that you’d like to turn down. Just say, “No thank you. Not this time.” Don’t give an ‘excuse’!
You may feel uncomfortable, but don’t make that the reason to justify your decision. And don’t be surprised if the other person fails to ask why, or doesn’t get offended. Truly they are not interested!
Justifying our behavior becomes a bad habit, that hurts us more than it hurts the people we are explaining ourselves to.
Next time you feel the need to explain yourself – pause, wait and watch. The worst may not happen. .
Stop! Right now!
- STOP. Yes, really stop!
- Stand or sit still.
- Take 3 slow breaths.
- As you breathe in; count 1, 2, 3.
- As you breathe out; count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
- DON’T do anything else!
- DON’T think about anything else!
- Just BREATHE! (This will take just 20 seconds.)
- Then get on with the day.
Check out this post for more detailed advice.
11. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Yes, I’m suggesting to be okay with feeling uncomfortable? I’m not talking about putting up with situations that are bad for your health.
Rather it’s about being very conscious of what’s happening to us when we feel uncomfortable.
First by acknowledging our feelings, but then staying with those uncomfortable feelings for long enough to discover what they can tell us.
From my own experience, living with a bit of discomfort for a period allows me to make better decisions. That’s because I have taken the time to explore a situation from an alternative perspective.
2020 has been a year for change and discomfort. Putting this strategy into practice has not been easy, but it’s been rewarding.
As I have leaned into the discomfort rather than resisting it, life has got easier and I’ve become more accepting of these unusual times.
I think this solution will be most useful in the next few months, and then on into the post-Covid19 world.
12. Get curious!
What do you do when you find yourself reacting negatively to an event, situation, or person?
There’s that guy at work who always rubs you up the wrong way, or you can’t help but spin out when your partner does that same annoying thing. Or maybe there’s a nasty, negative voice inside your head berating you!
There’s one question I often ask myself. And it’s the most useful, simple question. “What’s that about?”
What’s that thought about? Why do I think like that? WTF?
The useful strategy is to get really curious – rather than being critical. Stop being hard on yourself. Just get curious.
Getting curious interrupts the negative voices, creates a space to be objective and allows us to stop treating ourselves harshly.
Try it now. Get curious and cut yourself some slack.
13. STOP Doing Stuff
Self-help advice often tells us to do more! Exercise more, get more sleep, create a menu plan, write a journal, get up earlier…. It’s endless.
Instead, look at what you can stop doing. How would you feel if you let go of certain sh*t?
I have a friend who runs workshops during which he gets participants to write things that are bothering them down. The group then sits around a fire while each, in turn, takes a moment to reflect on an item and tosses it into the flames. It’s uber satisfying and great therapeutic.
You can do this at home on your own. Write three things down that you want to stop doing and let them go. If you don’t have a fire handy, it’s equally beneficial to flush them down the toilet. 😅
But learning to let go takes practice. So instead …
14. Let Things BE!
When we want to leave a bad memory or experience behind, we are often tempted to let it go! But next time, instead let it BE.
There is a difference. Do you feel it?
It’s not about rejecting something. Instead, it’s acceptance, but without judgment.
Letting things BE is gentle. It takes less effort.
Try it. What’s one thing you want to let BE?
15. Become a Mentor
According to James Altucher there are many types of mentors:
- There are the micro-mentors. These people may only appear in your life for a moment, maybe a day, but in that time you have learned something new that you can attribute to that person, to that experience.
- There are virtual mentors. You can learn from them by reading their books, or blogs, or listening to their podcasts. These people are so accessible these days.
- There are real-life mentors that you meet with regularly, with whom you can build strong relationships built on trust.
You can have numerous mentors for any and all aspects of your life.
But you get the most benefit when you become a mentor.
It is when you are teaching someone else that you truly get to understand your subject.
Because you have to know your subject especially well to be able to explain it simply.
That’s how a master teacher like the Dalai Lama has honed his expertise and achieve the highest level of wisdom.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” (Delai Lama)
Not all work is paid. As parents don’t we know it? 😅 But it can be equally meaningful. Sometimes even more so.
My own mother never undertook paid work but spent 1,000s of hours working in the community, from being a Girl Guide leader to planting trees, and as a city councilor and the co-founder of an Art Deco heritage group.
It was only natural for me that much of the work I do helps others without the expectation of a financial return. However, the rewards are there, nonetheless.
We are all familiar with the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing a random act of kindness.
The benefit lies with the giver, as much as the receiver.
There’s also a growing body of research that links different types of giving to greater quality of life, including the following potential health benefits:
- Greater self-esteem and satisfaction with life. Much of the research focuses on volunteering for organizations or informally helping loved ones. …
- Lower risk of depression. Perhaps because of such positive feelings, giving may decrease your risk of depression and depressive symptoms such as sadness or lack of energy. …
- Better physical health. Depression and lack of self-esteem have both been linked with heart disease and other health conditions. …
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
17. Create something – every day
When I was in my dark depression, things were difficult and I can recall only one regular, daily achievement.
That was to cook a nice evening meal for my husband and me. That was it!
But being able to use the tiniest amount of creativity each day kept me afloat.
Whatever your idea of creativity is, use it to start loving life again. Now!
18. Take one baby step – every day
This secret matters!
Taking one baby step every day is all it takes to love life.
Taking one small step means you only need to make one small decision.
Don’t try to answer every question, or respond to every doubt that pops into your head. Don’t get caught up in paralysis by analysis.
You only need to make one decision – and that’s the one that you need to make today!
Making just one decision today, and taking one baby step, means you have moved from being stuck – and you’re on your way to becoming unstoppable – and that’s the goal!
And if you do decide to change direction tomorrow that’s okay, because you’re no longer stuck where you were – simply by the act of making one decision and taking one baby step!
19. Get selfish!
Get selfish with your time and energy
Self-care is about putting yourself first. Good self-care means you need to be selfish.
Now I’m not talking about selfishness, which is about behaving without empathy and about disregarding the rights and well-being of others.
I’m talking about being selfish, which is taking the time you need to take care of yourself, without feeling guilty. Being selfish is the best self-care you can practice.
There are so many ways to be selfish for your own well-being. Remember those flight safety briefings? The flight attendants always say, “Put your own oxygen mask on first”. This is exactly what I mean. It gives you a better chance of survival.
And if you’re surviving, and better still, thriving, then your colleagues, friends, and loved ones are going to do better too.
“Sometimes self-care is exercising and eating right. Sometimes it’s spending time with loved ones and taking a nap. And sometimes it’s watching an entire season on TV in one weekend while you lounge around in your pajamas. (Nanea Hoffman)
20. Reconnect with Your Skills and Strengths
It’s not uncommon to lose confidence over 50.
And that can be because we often take our own skills, strengths, and experience for granted, or we have forgotten that they exist.
It is likely that some of your skills and strengths have become what is called ‘unconscious competencies’.
Get your friends and family, the people who know you well, to help fill in the gaps and get your confidence back.
Ask the people you trust these questions:
- What are the skills and strengths I have that you admire?
- What skills and strengths do you observe I am good at, but you think I have forgotten or take for granted?
- What do I make look easy?
Now pat yourself on the back and put those skills to use. 😊
21. Forgive willingly
Doesn’t it feel good to hold a grudge? It feels great to be right and even to feel aggrieved. Because it gives us something solid to hang onto.
It’s also easier to maintain that negative thought than to replace it with something else, or to let it go.
But how much good is it really doing for us?
What if you could get over this hurdle, by forgiving others, or ourselves? Surely it would be liberating?
Do this! Think of someone for who you have been carrying a grudge or long-standing feelings of anger.
Picture them in your mind, and say them out loud. “I forgive you.”
Play with the idea. You may not feel the change at first, and you may need to say it more than once. I’m not saying this is easy, but keep practicing and life will get lighter. I promise!
This list isn’t exhausted.
Please leave a comment to tell us what secrets you have to loving life over 50?