Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Cheer up, it might never happen

Hello. The emails are piling up, I will get round to replying sooner or later, be patient. One blog reader has put in a request so I will endeavour to answer her questions. A bit from her email.....
I wonder whether you would be good enough to do a blog post on how you stay so positive and happy? I'm nearing sixty and retired, life is getting a bit lonely. Don't get me wrong, I'm mobile, go out regularly and have lots of interests but my spirits are deteriorating. I just wondered, living alone as you do, how you keep so mentally cheerful and indeed, what cheers you in Life in general. I hope that makes sense?
It's always fascinating to learn how other people deal with living alone and I'm sure other people reading your blog would benefit from your thoughts. Unfortunately where I live there's a lot of emphasis on keeping children, young people and families entertained, but there's nothing for the older single person except Whist, Bowls etc and I'd rather die than do things like that. I think that's why so many people are old before their time - because they don't take any risks but fall into the 'old person' trap. It would be interesting to hear how you cope as I'm sure you must also get lonely sometimes?
Phew, where to begin. I think I have covered some aspects of this topic before but I can't find it anywhere. 
Living alone. I have had a lot of practice at it, if you do something long enough you get used to it. It would feel pretty strange to me if there was someone else here. Some people are family orientated and love being part of a large family, I am not one of those. I suppose that's the  independent streak in me, I think I was born with it. I always wanted to earn my own money and pay my way in life. I wanted to retain my individuality and not become half of somebody else. It's horses for courses, some people function better as a couple, I do not. 
Do I get lonely sometimes? Hardly ever is the answer. I can take myself off in my head to a different place. I don't actually need people around me to be happy, I am happy with my own company. Admitted, I do wonder sometimes if anyone cares about me, but I can't control how anyone else thinks, I can only control my own thoughts. For instance, I visit family in the Midlands, but apart from my sister, (she rings me), I rarely hear from any of them from one year to the next. I'm a bit disappointed that I make the effort and they don't, but then I remember that they are young, have busy lives, and have family of their own. I will probably end up being the aged aunt and cousin that no one can be bothered with. I am not bitter about that because that's how life is. I made my choices a long time ago, the position I find myself in is down to me, no one else. 
I have built a friendship base around me here, I know I can walk out of the door and there will always be someone to talk to. Saying that, if a person is so inclined you can be lonely in the busiest of cities. Low self esteem, shyness, lack of ideas on how to entertain yourself will lead to withdrawing indoors and not mixing with people. A suitable plan would be to work out what exactly you want to do. Really, for a single person the world is your oyster, the only hurdle you have to get over is to convince yourself to get on with it. 
You need to know why your spirits are deteriorating. Is it because you have run out of ideas? You ask how I keep so mentally cheerful, and what cheers me about life in general. I have said this before, I live with an attitude of gratitude. I am so very grateful that I have everything I need. I am so pleased that I was born in the UK, pleased that my parents were hard working and my mum taught me how to manage on not much money. So pleased that I found a job at 15 and worked for the next 45 years. I am so very happy that I have reasonably good health, and hope very much that it continues. 
I am an optimistic person, never worry about bad things that might happen because they probably never will. I take one day at a time and don't look too far ahead into the future. I wake up each morning and take a few minutes to be grateful that I am still breathing, and think about the wonderful day I might have. What have I got to worry about? Absolutely nothing. 
How do I keep so mentally cheerful? I have a filter in my brain that blocks all the crap. I can't remember when I last had a negative thought. We don't have to take any old stuff that is thrown at us. We have the ability to make our own choices, we can decide where we want to be, and my choice is to be happy. 
It goes without saying that a fit body, getting lots of exercise, is also the key to a healthy mind. It has been proven over and over again. Look at the difference between those who slump in front of the telly every night, eating takeaways and rubbish food, to someone who goes running, walking, cycling, and goes to the gym.  Look at the amount of empty cans and wine bottles in the recycling boxes. All these poor life choices will affect how the brain works. This is not me lecturing, anyone can do exactly as they like, but I personally try and look after myself. We only get one body, once it's knackered that's it. Now someone is going to point out that even slim healthy people can have heart attacks. There you go, I've said it for you so you don't have to bother putting that in a comment. 
I think I'm going to wind this up now, I've been rambling on long enough. Before I go though, I will say this. I know nothing about depression and mental health problems. If anyone thinks they are really struggling the best thing to do would be to seek help and support from a professionally qualified person. I am not that person. 
Thanks for popping in. We'll catch up soon.
Toodle pip

28 comments:

  1. Ilona, once again you have come up with such good advice and again I agree with it all. I am 75 but I go to Pilates classes 4 times a week. I used to walk in the park every day with my dog. Sadly he has gone now but I can still go and chat to the people that I met over the years. They are all friendly and there are loose groups such as the big dog group and the small dog group and the young dog group etc etc. You haven't mentioned about the value of lets in keeping ones spirits up although you have of course mentioned it in previous blogs. Other than that I am interested I lots of things. I love reading the newspaper and can read that in the library or buy one. My library is a lovely place to meet people too as they play scrabble there and do jigsaws. In fact I could absolutely fill every moment of my day but sometimes I need to just relax and refresh myself. Meditation is a good way to create positive thoughts and that can be taught from a book. I could go on and on but this is your blog! Hope the person on her own can gain something here.

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  2. Well said, Ilona. You are an inspiration. Your blog is uplifting, and I always appreciate your wisdom. Patricia, Montreal

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  3. Well spoke. Good, common sense attitude. And, all surprisingly effective.

    One suggestion I have read, if you are starting to get down/out of sorts/at loose ends..
    -think of three things you would like to do that you think are impossible. Set about accomplishing them/some version of them. Might surprise one's self. (at sixty you may not anymore qualify to train as an astronaut...but...maybe you could learn to fly..etc)

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    1. okay, don't know if you can post this link, but it sort of applies..

      I said
      " (at sixty you may not anymore qualify to train as an astronaut"

      well, here is a Mom, at 48, applying to do just that..Maybe one really can "reach for the stars".

      http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/heres-why-a-48-year-old-calgary-mom-is-applying-to-be-canadas-next-astronaut

      Here's why a 48-year-old Calgary mom is applying to be Canada's next astronaut

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  4. I don't know your reader's situation, but I was married 26 years when my ex buggered off. I had always had a long-term boyfriend/husband so really didn't live on my own. I have 2 sons both grown and out in the world. I left the UK at 21 so don't have siblings around, although we all get along famously when we are together. I still work so see people there but I LOVE being alone in my home. For me it is just so peaceful, but that may be as a result of having a bloody awful marriage (violent alcoholic). In fact I have to force myself to get out because I could be so content in my solitude. I am almost 58 so retirement is looming. Again I don't know your reader's situation but I always loved to travel when I was single and now single again I picked up where I left off. I travel with solos groups (people who for whatever reason have no-one to travel with) (Just You, Solos etc.) and I LOVE it. You meet a different bunch of people every time and it is great. About 80% women to 20% men and when I went to Croatia the youngest was 34 and the oldest 90! Sadly many widows but I love the older ladies who usually have a great story to tell. I guess it depends on your reader's interests. I go to 2 sewing classes a week and am game for most things. If it doesn't work (I hated photography) then I move on to other things. Give people a chance. You would be amazed how many fun/interesting people there are out there. My brother lost his wife totally unexpectedly in January and has immersed himself in the Ramblers, a widows and widowers group and has now joined he University of the Third Age (which seems to me to be amazing - wish we had the same thing here in France). I think the key to happiness is human contact when you want it and peaceful solitude when you don't. Good luck to your lady. Reach out - you may be surprised. Anna

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  5. Life gets us all down at some point. We all suffer disappointments and a little bit of the green eyed monster. Be grateful for what you have. I agree with Ilona when it comes to exercise, get out in the fresh air and walk/cycle. Do something different, learn something new, join a club, volunteer. Depression is a chemical imbalance that can be rectified with medication over time. For me being lonely is a state of mind and I have felt this. There are lots of lonely people who are married or in relationships. You don't have to be alone to be lonely.

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  6. Always be open to new ideas and experiences. Natalie

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  7. Abraham Lincoln said "You are about as happy as you make up your mind to be." I know there are folks out there who have real depression and need professional help, but the majority of us just have to have the right attitude. I have always been an upbeat person and though I am a homebody as is my husband, I have lived alone for many years prior to being married and I was quite involved in church, etc.. I think were I living alone again (which could happen if I become a widow) I would rejoin things and volunteer to keep busy. There is no better remedy for self-pity than helping others. An attitude of gratitude is key and you have that. As always, a wonderful and inspiring post.

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  8. Ilona, your advice/comments are exactly what a mental health professional will tell you, for the behavior modification part of lifting yourself out of the doldrums/depression.

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  9. Very interesting reply Ilona and lots of good advice.
    I have lived on my own for the last 29 years although I have two very good children and two lovely grandchildren I lead a very independent life looking after myself, I never feel lonely I have like you Ilona lots of craft interests and make lots of things for our local hospice to sell, I work 1day a week in the hospice charity shop. I would suggest joining a local church and if you have a WI or U3A nearby give that a try, also visit the local park (providing it is safe) and read a book or even take some knitting and watch the children in the play area no doubt somebody would stop and chat and that could be a new friend. I am a firm believer you have to meet people half way they won't come knocking on your door. I love my own company but also enjoy spending time with friends and helping other people, I am not a youngster but a 78 year old widow but find the world is a wonderful place and full of little adventures.
    Hope this helps the person who ask the question.ilona.

    Hazel c uk

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  10. I completely agree with your ideas about exercise improving our outlook - and any kind of exercise that gets you moving is good.

    I've recently rediscovered the joys of the gym (I was a gym bunny in my 30s then life got busy and complicated)! I started back there in late 2014 having spent a summer trying to garden and realising at 51 I felt like I had the body of a couch bound person a few decades older (everything hurt - my back, knees, shoulders, hands). I found a PT who specialised in dealing with people with sports injuries who's method to fix my issues involved lifting heavy weights - and it worked - and pretty quickly too!

    The PT made me fit and string and flexible again (regardless of the few extra pounds I'm still carrying), I've got the resting heart rate of a pretty good athlete and the blood pressure of a fir 20 year old.

    But I also found a role model - there's a woman at the gym who must be in her mid 70s, still wears lyrca gym gear very well, comes in a lifts weight (admittedly not very heavy ones) and then puts us all to shame with her incredible flexibility.

    I want to be her when I grow up :)

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  11. Dear wise friend, You wrote "admittedly I do wonder sometimes if anyone cares about me". Never doubt that you are greatly cared about...many, many of us care greatly about you and your family of furry friends. Thank-you so much for sharing your insight and wisdom. Cheers. Jo

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  12. Your blog reader has received good advice, both from you and from other readers. I am 70 and married, but I realize I have suffered from clinical depression off and on for most of my adult life. I have been on medication for about 9 years and it gave me my life back. Clinical depression is nothing to be ashamed of--it's a chemical imbalance in the brain that medication can correct. I'm not pushing meds--but in my case, it makes me feel normal and able to deal with the other aspects of life. I would advise your reader to go to a doctor and find out if is her problem.

    Once I began to feel like a normal person, I got involved in several things, including a gourmet dinner group (meets monthly), a book club and 3 other women with whom I play pinochle once a week. They have become among my dearest friends. We also swap unwanted items back and forth, so it's a good frugal friendship. Clubs and churches offer other opportunities for fellowship. Generally, you have to take the initiative to do these things--they won't come knocking at your door.



    I don't exercise as much as I should, but I bought a bike last summer. And, in the last 10 years, I've taken 10 college credits of Spanish (I thought I was too dumb to learn another language) and I've learned to swim. Well, I could flail around in the water before, but I learned to breathe. You are never too old to learn something new!

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  13. Your blog always brightens my day. I'm bookmarking this post.

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  14. Agree with everything you said Ilona - I'm also on my own, always have been - by choice. I come from a large family but they are all married with children and live very different lives from me. I also enjoy my own company but have had to make a bit of an effort at times to "get out there" - I can become a bit of a hermit at times and I don't think it's good to allow that to happen for too long - it's important to have friends and activities that get you out the door - but what that is will be different for each of us. I can only repeat what others have said - "take a class, volunteer, join in a group activity, travel, start a blog, get a part-time job at something totally different from what you've done all your life, start a book club - I wish I was retired so that I'd have time for all the things that I'd love to have more time for. Hope some of these replies are helpful to the person who wrote to you.

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  15. Your post is brilliant and full of good ideas. One thing I would add to the lady who wrote to you is to be sure to volunteer to help other people or to help a good cause. That leads to happiness. My current blog post explains how I as a senior citizen volunteer in a retirement/nursing home, if that might give her an idea.

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  16. I have two things that greatly contribute to my happy life. Firstly, don't watch the news on tv. You can keep up to date by listening to the radio without being deluged by relentlessly depressing images. Secondly, join your local U3A. There are so many different interest groups that there's bound to something to get you fired up, and you'll meet like minded people.

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  17. Ilona, you have written calmly and sensitively to this person's cry for help, and the responses of your readers has been equally wonderful and uplifting. I wish I could add something of significance but I've never lived on my own - from childhood with my parents, to marriage to my husband. I can only imagine how for some, life on one's own is peaceful while to others, like me, so used to sharing my life with my husband, even the thought is distressing.
    I do hope your correspondent comes out of this slough of despond, that it is only a temporary one, and that she willbe able to look forward again, regain her confidence and make a new life for herself in retirement.
    Margaret P

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  18. It is heartening to read everyones sympathetic advice to the person who wrote to you Ilona, particularly yours. Good luck to her. SueM

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  19. That is a fabulous post that pretty much sums it all up Ilona. I think I may be asimilar age to the lady and would suggest that she takes a look at what her interests are. I started a walking group for ladies only. We meet every Friday for a gentle stroll and a cup of tea. I have enough hobbies to last me ten lifetimes and I love learning more. Some of my walking group have got together and we started a monthly craft group. We had the first session a fortnight ago. There really aren't enough hours in the day sometimes.

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    1. This sounds just what retirement should be for a single person, and long may you continue with the various groups. As you say, there really aren't sufficient hours in the day. I'm a writer and that always keeps me busy (non-fiction, not fiction.)
      Margaret P

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  20. I wonder if your reader has considered getting or fostering a cute rescue dog (cute gets lots of attention) for cmpany but also to take out for walks a couple of times a day where she would meet other people on passing/doing their gardens. Is there a craft and chat group at her local library that she could join if not start one up - great for leaning a new crafts.
    Carolx

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    1. Yes, I've fostered a couple of dogs for a local lab rescue and I found fellow dog walkers to be really friendly - the same sort of thing as pushing a baby in a pram - everyone stops to admire baby or dog!

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  21. Thank you to everyone who has commented, your ideas for a fulfilling life are brilliant. I think the key to enjoying life is to keep busy, and not leave any time to do nothing. Distraction away from the humdrum boring aspects of your day, and focus on what gives you pleasure.

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  22. What a great response Ilona some great feedback and some great points to ponder... I love the fact that negativity doesn't seem to steam roll your brain... and I love the fact that you put your hand up to not knowing about mental health issues...totally smart move. A great read.

    Jo in Auckland, NZ

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  23. The writer who would "rather die than try " etc is answering her own question......she won't try. There is so much out there. Try before you reject. I had never set foot in a gym but decided to give it the "two visit" trial. I joined a ladies gym aimed at 40 plus. In reality the vast majority are 60 plus retirees. By going three regular mornings a week for the last few years, I have made an amazing group of friends. We socialise after the gentle exercise (which in itself is a bonus) in the nice coffee area and do lots of other stuff outside the gym, including meeting at each other's houses so it doesn't always cost money. Additionally, I make regular contact with other friends and never take the attitude (like my lonely late mother did) that the onus is on other people to provide opportunities to enjoy outings etc. Start a book group, start a painting class. Approach others and establish a list of interested people in getting a coach trip to the seaside. In other words, stop sitting and stagnating whilst you expect others to provide you with a social life . It's in your own hands.

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  24. I love working..part time..keeps me active and young. I have lots of interesting things to do like my garden and crafts but I enjoy the buzz of the world

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