After reaching the age of 50, many of us fall into the trap of thinking that everything was better "when we were younger." I refer to this as the Old Fogey Syndrome because it's almost a clear indicator of living in the past rather than appreciating the present or looking forward to the future. In fact, upon closer inspection, we often find things weren't necessarily better in the past. What makes us think they were, however, is merely the fact that the past just happens to be the time when we were younger.
I live in South Florida, where there is no shortage of older, retired grumpy men and women. And far be it from me to act like a late-life Pollyanna who doesn't understand that people are carrying their own bundle of negative issues. Regardless of our age, we are all wrestling with one issue or another. But after watching people through the decades, the one thing that has become abundantly clear to me is that the people who are cheerful, upbeat and grateful seem to get a lot more out of each and every day than those who aren't.
When things go wrong in our lives — bad medical news, financial struggles, loneliness, etc. — it's easy to fall into the "woe is me" dungeon. And I'm speaking from experience because there have been plenty of times when my major activity of the day was throwing myself a boo-hoo pity party. It took me a long, long time to stop focusing on what I had "lost" as I aged and remember the good things that I could still be grateful for. For me, it boiled down to reminding myself that I had a choice regarding which "channel" I wanted to dial into: the one that let me mourn the people, places and things I had lost and were no longer mine, or the one that let me celebrate the good things that surrounded me each and every day. The choice was — and is — up to me (and you).
What brought all these thoughts about the past, negativity and coping with the challenges we face to mind was one of Maria Shriver's books, which happens to be her 11th.
"I've Been Thinking ... Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life" includes a short chapter called "The Power of Gratitude" in which she admits that — like so many of us — she has to work at having a positive frame of mind because most of us simply don't have an inherent attitude of gratitude. In her words: "...you can never be grateful enough. ... The power of gratitude can turn a bad day into a good one. It reboots your spirit. It makes you look at your life in a different way being thankful can make all the difference in your day."
If you need more persuasive data that being grateful pays big dividends, just check out the Happier Human website at http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/ to learn the ways that gratitude can enhance your career, emotional state, health, personality and relationships.
Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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