Wise words for living a life of real meaning and joy this New Year 2020 have been revealed by CSU faculty experts in psychology, gerontology and palliative care. Here's how they say you can make the most of 2020 or any year.
1. Say "thank you" more often. "Students in my gerontology course have a required assignment to do a life review of somebody who's 65 or older," says Maria Claver, Ph.D., director of the gerontology program at California State University, Long Beach. "One of the questions we have them ask is, 'What lesson would you like to tell people who are younger?' So much of it comes down to gratitude—being thankful for the things you do have."
2. Whatever you do, don't wait. "Life presents you with a finite set of opportunities and they tend to diminish over time," explains Jennifer Moore Ballentine, executive director of the CSU Shiley Institute for Palliative Care. "Don't hold back—from opportunities, from risks, from stretching yourself into an area that's unfamiliar. When people get to the end of their lives, they regret the things they didn't do rather than the things they did do."
3. Develop self-awareness. As we get older, we get better at what's called metacognition—the awareness of the ways we think—but that doesn't mean it ever becomes easy, says Richard Addante, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino. "It's like a muscle we need to exercise and grow." Dr. Addante encourages people to think more about how we treat others. Other good questions to ask yourself: How are you spending your time on earth? Are you being selfless instead of selfish? Are you finding solutions to your problems instead of escapes?
4. Commit to what matters. "Stop wasting time," Ballentine stresses. "This includes wasting time on relationships that are destructive, in jobs that aren't stimulating because you feel like you have to stay and on the Internet cyber-slacking." In her 20-plus years in working with the seriously and terminally ill, Ballentine has seen too many life lessons to count. "For people who are dying, it really comes down to family, friends and having a purpose," she says. "There's a truism in our field that people never ask to have their ashes scattered at work."
"Worry less about things that cause rifts between family members, material possessions and even what your job title is," Dr. Claver adds. "Older adults understand it's more about being fulfilled than presenting yourself a certain way to the outside world."
5. Practice forgiveness. "Once a person has the chance to review his or her life, they start to understand what's really important and what needs to be let go of and forgiven," Claver says. "Everything is temporary, and in a few years you won't even remember it was a blip on your radar."
6. Be kinder to yourself, too. The old saying that life is a journey, not a destination, is one that Addante thinks bears repeating. "We should embrace failures and struggles because if we can make them learning opportunities, then they're successes," he notes. "If we're learning something, that's going to make us better and increase our odds of succeeding in the future."
7. Consider your legacy. "There's something called gerotranscendence theory, which is the view that as we get older, it's less about us and more about altruism," Claver explains. "A lot of older adults get to the point where they want to find the legacy they will leave to family and to the world." But you don't need to be older to think about how you want to give back, of course.
8. Choose positive people. "Sometimes that might mean just one like-minded person," Addante says. "It doesn't even have to be in person, it can be digital."
‘You can have a chat group or an organization that provides that kind of support and serves as a reminder to remain positive.’
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