Author Archive: Erica

Does doing crosswords stave off Alzheimer’s disease?

Arthur Wynne created the first crossword puzzle in 1913. It was published in the Sunday edition of the New York World and called a “Word-Cross” puzzle. It was only due to a typesetting error that it was later changed to “Cross-Word”.  Wynne would no doubt be amazed that crosswords became so popular that they have contributed to the sale of newspapers, magazines, etc for decades. Today we can solve crosswords online and computers are often used to generate them. Besides those who do crosswords for pure entertainment, many people believe that doing them helps to keep their brains young.New York Times crosswords

Why are they addictive?

I never believed in the addictive aspect of crossword puzzles until I began doing them myself. I’ve heard it described as a series of Aha moments, followed by an ultimate Aha when you insert that final word.  I love the way doing a puzzle absorbs me to the extent that I am completely removed from the stresses of my day. While I find them relaxing, I wouldn’t describe myself as addicted although I have expended quite a bit of time and mental effort on them over the years. I know others who carry their puzzle books with them wherever they go and always have to have a puzzle to complete.

I think that much of the fascination with solving crossword puzzles comes from detecting patterns and making meaning from them. As Tyler Hinman, five times champion of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament says  “It’s said that the people who are the best at these are musicians or people who are in math and science. What those fields have in common is they’re both about looking at encoded information and being able to translate it instantly into something meaningful.”

If crossword puzzles are as good for your brain as some people believe, constantly doing them should help you to avoid some of the brain afflictions that come with age. But do they do this?

The effect of crosswords on the brain

There are different opinions as to the effect of crossword puzzles on the brain. The results of research over the years have been mixed.

Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD and cognitive neuroscientist says: “But with all the buzz about brain games—such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and even brain training websites—it begs the question: Can brain games be beneficial to brain health? ….. While the games are fun and engaging, there is insufficient scientific evidence to suggest brain training as it exists now can significantly improve an individual’s higher-order cognitive ability.”

In other words,  although you may become very good at doing crossword puzzles if you do them all the time, this does not mean that other critical brain functions such as decision-making are improved.

Professor Dean Olsher, author of From Square One: A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords  thinks that part of the appeal of crossword puzzles is the familiarity they breed. The same kind of activity is repeated over and over again. This is why he does not believe they can stave of Alzheimer’s. He says ” But the Alzheimer’s research shows that really what matters is novelty  … constantly exposing yourself to something new. That is much more likely, I think, to keep you sharp in the long run.”

Promising research results

Some research through the years has addressed the impact of mental exercise, such as doing crosswords, on the prevention of cognitive decline. Many of these studies involved a relatively small number of participants and although there were some positive results, they were largely inconclusive.

  • The findings of a 2011 study were that late life crossword puzzle participation was associated with delayed onset of memory decline in persons who developed dementia. Of the 101 people who were were diagnosed with dementia during the course of the study, the ones who did crossword puzzles delayed onset of accelerated memory decline by 2.54 years.
  • In  2013 researchers reviewed 32 randomized controlled trials, in which patients were randomly assigned to either an intervention such as drugs to control cognitive decline, herbal remedies, physical activity or mental exercises including crossword puzzles; or left to continue living their lives without any changes. They found the results inconclusive but that there was evidence that mental exercises were more effective than some of the prescribed drugs.
  • In 2017 the results of one of the largest studies were published. A team at University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London analyzed data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over. They asked participants how often they played word puzzles such as crosswords. Core aspects of brain function were assessed and they found that the more regularly participants engaged with word puzzles, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning and memory. They found that people who engage in word puzzles have brain function equivalent to 10 years younger than their age, on tests of grammatical reasoning speed and short-term memory accuracy. Those who did puzzles were quicker and more accurate in nine cognitive tasks that assessed a range of aspects of function including attention, reasoning and memory. Professor Keith Wesnes, from the University of Exeter, said “We now need to follow up this very exciting association in a clinical trial, to establish whether engaging in puzzles results in improvement in brain function.”

    Make your daily puzzle more challenging

    Think about trying to make your daily puzzle more challenging. You can give yourself a time limit and see how quickly you can do it. You can try a puzzle that’s more difficult. If you find you’re speeding through your puzzle without any difficulty, you’re probably not doing much for your brain.  You’re not engaging your whole brain if you don’t have enough variety and challenge. If you find it more and more difficult to do your crossword, this is a sign that it’s time to have your memory tested.  Perhaps you could also trying to do different types of puzzles. I am not a numbers person so I don’t enjoy Sudoko – but I should probably give one a try as it would challenge me more than just doing crosswords. New challenges testing a variety of skills are best for your brain.

    Two of the bestseller puzzle books on Amazon are:

    Monday to Friday puzzlesMega crossword

    Last Word

    By 2030 the US population over 65 will double to more than 70 million. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if non-pharmalogical interventions such as doing crossword puzzles could delay the onset of dementia? 

    Recent research into Alzheimer’s Disease has given hope due to the discovery of genes specifically related to Alzheimer’s. Future genetic research can be more directed and already various new drugs are poised to hit the market within the next five years. This is good news, considering that many of the current drugs are not that effective. 

    However, the fact that crosswords are widely available, easily accessible and cost is minimal means that even if there is the remotest possibility that they can help reduce cognitive decline, it’s worth more research. I, for one, will continue to happily enjoy my crosswords, and hope that my brain will thank me too. 

Adjust to being single after a late-life divorce

beach hat

When you’ve been through a divorce and you are no longer a wife or husband, you have to learn how to be comfortable in your skin as a single person once again. After a long-term marriage, you probably don’t even remember what it’s like to be single.  It’s exciting to go through the process of finding out but daunting at the same time.

It takes guts to take those first shaky steps forward on your own, especially if you’re over 50. It’s easier to withdraw or attempt to escape in some way. I’ve seen how some people jump into an ill-considered second marriage simply because they cannot deal with being on their own.  But it is possible to be “happily single” and to revel in your freedom.

A new identity

If you are a woman going through a late-life divorce, you may have identified yourself as a wife and mother for decades. When the role of mothering is less hands-on and a divorce occurs, it’s no wonder that you go through an identity crisis. Moving on usually comes in fits and starts, but the more you heal, the more you are able to think about yourself in a different way and be open to new options.

For years you sacrificed and made adjustments because that is what you do when you are married with small children.  Now you are able to focus on yourself and what you want out of life without feeling guilty.

Living alone

Your lifestyle usually changes drastically after a divorce.  Loneliness may be one of the biggest problems you may have to face if you’re living alone. You are so accustomed to being part of a couple that it’s inevitable to feel some loneliness. There’s no-one on the other side of the double bed anymore and you may have to eat all your meals alone. Of course, many people experience loneliness within an unhappy marriage too but even in marriages where communication is superficial at best, there is at least still the physical presence of another adult.

When living alone after a divorce, you have to find a balance between enjoying your solitude and finding new ways to connect with other people.

As an introvert, I do not have a problem with solitude. I have always enjoyed being on my own and don’t often feel lonely.  However, with an empty nest and no husband around anymore, there was much too much silence, even for me. I realized just how important it was for me not to become completely isolated. I had to overcome my natural reluctance to socialize and achieve a balance between being alone and being with others. Extroverts, on the other hand, may have to overcome their reluctance to be on their own. They may need to learn to enjoy solitude, rather than run away from it.

Socializing as a single person

Ease into it gently

It helps to ease yourself gently into socializing as a single person after a divorce. You have probably spent years socializing with other couples and it can feel really strange to have to go out on your own.  At first, I didn’t commit myself to any occasions that I knew were going to be overwhelming for me. I also avoided occasions where I knew I would be the only single person.

You need to find ways to socialize that make you feel comfortable and fulfilled. While I was married we socialized with the same couples every weekend. With the divorce, this obviously ended and I felt a sneaky relief.  I still love my ‘couple’ friends but it was liberating to socialize with them on an individual basis, by going out for tea or breakfast.  I’ve always enjoyed relating to a few people at a time, rather than a large group.

Meeting new people

One of the advantages of having the internet is that it is easier to find groups of people with the same interests and values as you.  A simple search for activity groups in your area such as a walking or hiking group may give you a good place to start. You already have something in common with the other members and so it makes it easier to initiate conversations.  You may feel terrified when you have to attend a group activity for the first time. Fear and uncertainty are natural and they are the price you for moving forward. It’s the same principle that operates for most new things you attempt in your life, such as starting a new job or learning a new skill. As you take those steps and begin overcoming the obstacles one by one, you grow in confidence.

Volunteer work

It may be worthwhile to get involved in projects designed to help others.  It not only helps you to realize how fortunate you are, but it takes you out of your comfort zones and gives you the opportunity to meet new people too.

Picking up former passions

A place to start on your process of rediscovery may be to think about what was important to you before you were married. You do not necessarily want to go back to being that person, but it may be the perfect time to explore passions you shelved while you were bringing up your family. Picking up an old hobby or interest may just help you to rediscover facets of yourself that are undeveloped.

Taking up writing again has gone a long way towards helping me come to terms with my divorce and restoring my self-esteem. I have rediscovered a passion that I made little time for when I was raising my children.

One of my unexpected pleasures now is to jump on my bicycle and go for a ride (I was given the bicycle by good friends after the divorce). It helps me to recapture the sense of freedom I used to feel as a child.

Some people advocate writing in a journal as a way to find healing. I personally found that it was far too painful for me. I couldn’t face that systematic expression in written form of my emotions after my divorce. It was only when I was no longer completely raw that I was able to start putting the words on paper.

I did find artistic expression helpful when my emotions were all over the place. I bought myself a sketchpad and some basic supplies, including some oil pastels and started expressing my emotions through drawing. I found that expressing my emotions on paper relaxed me and made me feel calmer.

I have started a basic French course to brush up on what I learned at school.  My next step is to join a conversational French class. My sister has moved to France and I want to be able to hold a conversation in French when I visit her next year.

As you explore all avenues to rediscover yourself, whether it be finding a new job, making new friends, traveling etc. you will find that the biggest part of your journey is probably internal rather than external. It is what happens inside you that propels you forward.

Don’t be dismayed by the setbacks

When you are in this process of rediscovery, you will often find that you hit obstacles and setbacks along the road. Healing from divorce and getting to the place where you are moving forward is not linear. It comes in waves and it’s unpredictable. It’s also different for everyone so you cannot measure your progress against that of others. One day you might be ready to tackle the world and the next you may be huddled in a corner crying.  One day you may start thinking about taking a trip to another country and the next day you may find you do not even have the energy to go on your daily walk around the block. You have to learn to go with the flow and realize that it’s all part of the process of putting yourself back together again. What does happen with time is that you start to focus more on moving forwards, and look less and less in the rearview mirror.

Last Word

You can use the crisis of  your divorce as a catalyst to grow and mature into who you really want to be. It can force you to take stock of your life, look at your mistakes and take time to discover more about yourself.  The process is not easy and it requires patience and dedication, but there will come a time when you can put your divorce behind you. You will have made the transition from being half of a couple to being single.  If you’re patient, kind and loving towards yourself in the process, you may just find that you really enjoy being single.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using art to express your grief

art therapy

When you are experiencing extreme emotions, art gives you a way of venting in a safe way. No matter how disturbing the art you create, it’s much healthier to express these emotions than bottling them up inside.

Expressing and transforming feelings into visual images helps you to heal. It gives you a way to communicate your inner pain when you can’t express it verbally.  No technical skills are necessary and it’s never too late to begin.

It doesn’t matter what form your artwork takes and the benefit comes from the process itself, rather than the finished product.  You don’t have to be an artist and in fact, if you haven’t ever studied art, you will probably express your emotions more freely than those who are trained to worry about perspective, light, color etc.

How can art help you?

  • It helps you to release your emotions in a safe way.
  • It has been proven that creating art increases serotonin levels in your brain.
  • The process helps you to access your subconscious mind. The connection between your head, heart and hand in creating art can allow you to express feelings that may be trapped below the conscious level.
  • It can be like a form of meditation due to the repetitive, soothing actions. It creates a state of relaxation in your body that is beneficial to your health.

Think about your personal history with art

You may have negative or positive ways of thinking about art that come from your childhood. It’s worth asking yourself the following questions. I answered the questions myself to show you what they can reveal.

  1. Do you have any childhood memories of artistic activities?
    One of my good childhood memories is of coloring-in with a huge box of crayons in a fairytale coloring-in book. I also clearly remember my mother taking me to pick up autumn leaves which we made into a collage in a scrapbook.
  2. What did your family think about art?
    My father and grandmother both enjoyed art as a hobby but they came to it later in life. While I was growing up, there was little focus on artistic pursuits in my family.
  3. Did you have any negative experiences with art? Do you remember being told that you were not artistic? Yes, I was regarded as the academic and my sisters were artistic. At high school the art teacher encouraged me but I was very insecure about my artistic ability. My mother took art at school and she would often tell us the story of how the other pupils laughed at the picture of a grand piano she drew for her final exam. That story stuck in my head.

Getting started

Facing a divorce late in life has led me to explore all possible avenues for healing. One of these was experimenting with art to help with the healing process. I had done a few watercolor and acrylic paintings over the years but for this purpose, I felt I wanted to start off with some basic drawing and coloring-in supplies. (perhaps I was thinking back to the pure, carefree joy of coloring-in as a child!)

My Basic Supplies

Sketch pad
Color pencils:
Moore: Premium Art Color Pencils Set (48 pcs)
Oil Pastels:
Pentel Arts Oil Pastels  An affordable set of 50 colors so you can experiment freely from a vast range.
Drawing pencils with soft lead (2b or 4b)
Gum eraser and white eraser
Glue

Pens:
I like the Gelly roll gel ink pens because they glide effortlessly across the paper. I use the white ones to draw or doodle on black paper.  It’s amazing what interesting shapes come out when you pick up that white pen and freely allow it to wander freely on that black paper!

Sakura 37488 3-Piece Gelly Roll Blister Card Medium Point Gel Ink Pen Set, White

Sakura 57381 6-Piece Gelly Roll Classic-06 Gel Pen Set, Fine, Black

Find a quiet, comfortable spot

Try to find a quiet spot with as few distractions as possible. Make it as comfortable and pleasant as possible with soft cushions and objects that are important to you that have meaning and personal value.  Play some calm music – rather choose instrumental music as songs with lyrics can distract you.

Some daily art therapy activities

Try to commit to a session or two a week, or even daily if possible.

Create a collage

If you have never expressed yourself artistically before, it may help you to start by cutting out shapes and images from magazines. Cut out shapes, images and colors that express what you are feeling and create a collage. You will probably find that you want to add to it with pastels etc. and this will help to set the ball rolling for you.

Visualize and draw your emotions

Think about how you are feeling. Are you sad, angry, fearful? Say, for example, you are feeling angry, first visualize the shapes and colors that express anger in your mind’s eye.  Choose the tools that you think will help you to express this and just allow images to come. Don’t think about right and wrong ways to express it. You may choose never to share any of your pages with anyone, so you can let loose with lines, colors, shapes and even words.

Color a mandala

mandala coloring book

Carl Jung, the psychoanalyst, saw a mandala as “a representation of the unconscious self”. He believed that he could identify emotional disorders by looking at mandala paintings done by his patients and then work with the person towards wholeness. The word mandala is Sanskrit for “healing circle” or “whole world.”  Mandalas are associated with Eastern religions but their use has spread to the Western World and many people color or paint mandalas for the soothing, rhythmic activity and stress relief that comes from doing so. A mandala usually has a prominent center surrounded by an intricate design of colorful shapes. Try the Mandala Coloring Book for Adults on Amazon.

Looking back

Take a look at your work at the end of a session without being critical. If it triggers off some thoughts,  write them on the back. Add a date and a title. Once you have done this for a couple of weeks, it is interesting to look back on what you have done. Look at the shapes, colors, form and content of what you have created. Is there one emotion that stands out?  Is there a color that you use most often? What shapes are important to you? Don’t try to analyze your use of colors and shapes according to common associations. Your own meanings can be influenced by so many things, from your family background and culture to your religious beliefs. By looking back,  you will begin to discover how you personally express your feelings in visual form.

Last Word

Expressing yourself artistically helps to transform your emotional pain and make sense of loss. There is, of course, a limit to what the simple exercises mentioned here can do. Art therapy can really only be defined as such when it takes place in the presence of a certified art therapist. But it doesn’t hurt to try out some of these art activities if you are looking for healthy ways to process your emotions. The process in itself is relaxing and soothing, even if you never find any ‘deep meaning’ in what you have created. Make it a part of your life and you might be surprised at how much you grow to treasure it.

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you choose to click on them and purchase something, you’ll be supporting this website at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-publishing my children’s book, Daisy the Honey Bee

bee and flowers

When I decided to start writing again after a hiatus of many years, I thought that writing a children’s book might be a good place to start. It did not take me long to discover that I was mistaken in thinking it would be easy.  What was encouraging, however, was the discovery of software that simplified the publishing process.

My goals

  • I wanted to write a children’s book with text and illustrations for the 8-12 age group.
  • I only had a limited budget so I needed to do as much as possible myself.
  • I wanted it to be in digital format first so I could test out the market with minimum cost. A print book is obviously far more expensive as the product has to be physically printed and shipped.
  • I wanted to publish it on Amazon because I already make money as an Amazon Associate and I know its potential as a search engine for people looking to buy.
  • I needed an easy way to format my book for Amazon.
  • I wanted readers to be able to read the book on multiple devices.

Kindle Kid’s Book Creator

It didn’t take me long to discover Kindle Kid’s Book Creator. You are able to download the software for free to make formatting a kid’s book super easy. I could import my text and images from Microsoft Word and KDP would automatically convert my book for Kindle, so I wouldn’t have to work with any complex conversion tools. I download a guide from the website too that showed me how to prepare the digital file of my book.

My Content

I have long been fascinated with bees and the life in the hive. I wanted to create content about bees that offered knowledge in a way that was interesting to children, so that they would absorb it without realizing that they were learning at the same time.

Daisy, The Honey Bee

Characters and plot

Just as with any other book, I knew would have to make my characters and plot believable. I  wanted the children to be able to put themselves into the life of Daisy, the Honey Bee, and the challenges she faced inside and outside of the hive.

Words

As soon as I had the rough outline of my story, I went to Microsoft word and started playing with words. Before I realized it, I found I was starting to write in rhyme. I hadn’t wanted to do this but the rhyming kind of took over and developed had a life of its own. I had to be careful to use words that were appropriate for the age group. It was a question of reaching a happy medium between words they would know and other words they may not yet know but would understand from the context. I wanted to help stretch their vocabulary. I used a free Flesch Grade Level Calculator to help me. This readability formula is very well-known, has a number of different names and is designed to test how easy the text is to read. It can give you a fairly good idea if the words you’ve used are suitable for the age group you have chosen.

Word count is another important issue with kid’s books.  Picture books for children up to age eight average 1000 words; easy readers for ages five to nine are usually about 50-2500 words; chapter books (short novels for ages seven to ten) typically are 10,000-12,000 words; middle grade novels (ages eight to twelve) are around 20,000-25,000 words, and young adult novels (ages twelve and up) may be 35,000 to 45,000 words. Of course there are many exceptions, but as a new author I thought it was better to stick fairly close to the norm.

Tone

The tone of a kid’s story is very important. I wanted to use my little story to teach them about bees but I knew I couldn’t just present the facts as though I was lecturing them. The tone of a kid’s book has to suit the subject and age group.  A light, upbeat tone usually goes down well with children.

Illustrations

Queen BeeWhile I was writing, I had images in my mind. Now, I had to bring them to life in some way. Hiring a professional illustrator would obviously be the perfect solution but my budget did not allow for this. I could have tried to find a novice designer who would work more for experience than money. However, I was a graphic designer when I was much younger and decided that I would have to revive those skills and do it myself. This was definitely the hardest part of the exercise for me and although I am proud that I managed to accomplish it at all,  I couldn’t quite capture what I saw in my mind. I have come to believe that hiring an illustrator is not something you should compromise on if at all possible. The same goes for your cover – this is what will make readers buy your book and it’s worth spending some money.

Proofreading and Editing

I have done plenty of proofreading and editing in my life and I felt confident that I could handle this aspect myself.  When I had finished editing myself,  I did get a friend to look at it with fresh eyes and pick up errors I may have missed (why is it that I never seem to pick up my own errors when I’m so good at finding the mistakes in the work of others!).

Publishing

What I had thought was going to be the most difficult part proved to be the easiest with the Kindle Kid’s Book Creator. I had my text and images in Microsoft Word and it took only a few seconds to import the PDF that I had saved. This tool supports importing a file from PDF, JPG, TIFF, PNG and PPM formats.

The first screen I saw was a welcome screen with a self-tutorial to get me started. I was prompted to add details about the book such as title, author, publisher and language. After I had entered all the details, and chosen how I wanted my book to be displayed (landscape, portrait etc.), I was given an options page where I had two choices: 1. to upload a manuscript with the cover already included; or 2. Upload a cover and then upload the manuscript — the option I chose.

ADD POPUP is a feature of the tool that allows you to add pop-up text to your book —  when a finger or a mouse is moved over it, the text pops up and becomes larger.  I decided not to use the feature this time as I already had plenty of text but it does offer great potential for a more interactive kid’s book and it probably won’t be long before audio is added too.

Once I had finished importing my content and cover, I simply headed off to www.kdp.amazon.com, signed in to my Amazon account and followed the steps to add a new title.  I selected the right age and grade to help readers to find my book in Kindle Stores worldwide. Previewing your book is important before you hit the publish button as it allows you to see your book exactly as readers will see it. You are given information about the pricing structure and royalties as well as suggestions as to suitable pricing.  The digital books created with this tool work on all Fire tablets, Fire phone, Kindle for iPad, Kindle for iPhone, and Kindle Android.

Marketing

What I have discovered is that it’s no good to just publish a book on Amazon and expect it to sell. There are so many books available that marketing is all important.  Amazon does have ways for you to advertise that don’t cost too much. I haven’t tried any of the paid advertising methods yet. I did try the free book promotion and was encouraged to see that it was being downloaded. When marketing digital kid’s books your promotions have to appeal to the parents and grandparents who will be buying the books.  Engaging parents on social media using the topic in your book is probably a good way to do this.  One of the best ways to sell is via your mailing list. The more people you sell to, the more Amazon shows your book to other buyers.

Last Word

Well, I managed to get my little children’s book out there into the world and had some fun along the way. I am experimenting as I go and I am still challenged by marketing which does not come naturally to me. I would rather do anything other than self-promote! Trying out the free promotion on Amazon was a good experiment and it felt good that people were actually downloading what I had written.
I would love to know whether you have published a kid’s book and what creative methods you have used to promote it. What made it stand out in the sea of other books out there?

Help! I’m a divorced Christian

Christians and divorce

Divorce and Christian are two words that do not seem to belong together. As a Christian I went into my marriage with the belief that we were making a binding covenant with one another. I believed that we were equally yoked and that our mutual love of God would ensure we would be together forever. The possibility that I would be divorced one day did not even exist for me.

There are some well-meaning believers who think that because you are divorced, you have failed God. They believe that your only option is to pray for reconciliation and if you do get divorced, they believe you have committed the unforgivable sin.

In the past I myself assumed that divorce always showed a lack of faith or trust in God, no matter what the circumstances. I thought that if the couple just believed more or worked harder at their marriage, it could be always be salvaged. Then my own marriage fell apart.

What does the Bible say about divorce?

In Mal. 2:16 we read “For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel.”

In Matt. 19 Jesus responds to some Pharisees who ask Him whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all. He answers by saying that husband and wife are ‘one flesh’ and what God has joined together no man can separate. He then says in verse 8-9 “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.  And I say to you, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman, commits adultery.

It seems quite clear that God does not approve of divorce. Despite this, we see many divorced Christians. How is it possible to live with this contradiction?

What Jesus said to the Pharisees makes it clear that God saw a relationship between a man and a woman that was so close they were ‘one flesh’.  God compares a ‘one flesh’ marriage to the relationship between Christ, as the bridegroom and the church as the bride.  Divorce is the exact opposite of this kind of oneness.

Divorce is messy and hurtful. God does not want you to have to go through it. But we live in a less than perfect world.  Just because God sees divorce as the opposite of what He intended, does not mean that He no longer accepts you as a divorced person. You may feel, like I have at times, that you are wearing a big, shameful letter ‘D’ for divorce on your chest that brands you and sets you apart. But His unconditional, redeeming love for you means that when He looks at you, all He sees is the blood Christ shed for all sin.

God’s given us free choice

I wanted to blame God for my divorce. I felt He had let me down. He had to gently remind me that He has given us free choice. In doing so, He took the risk that some of our choices would be less than perfect.

Marriage was intended to be a glorious expression of oneness but because He gave us free choice, it does not always end up that way. However, His love for His children means He can still bring life and hope out of devastation.

Nothing can separate us from His love. Divorce cannot separate us from His love. Romans 8:38-39 says “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ our Lord
.”

I have seen in retrospect that He has provided for me spiritually, emotionally and physically, even at times when I had lost faith and didn’t believe He was there for me.

Maybe you don’t understand why you have to go on the journey you are on, but He can use it to do what He wants to do in your life anyway. Why would He abandon you when you are going through a divorce and need His love more than ever?  His love for you is unconditional which means that nothing you do can drive Him away.

If you apply the letter of the law to your situation, you are likely to feel condemned, judged and a failure. You have to reach in to the depth of God’s compassion instead. Believe that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3.

As a divorced Christian, this is what I have come to believe.

  • I believe that God sees marriage as a covenant that’s meant to last.
  • God sees a marriage relationship as loving and sacrificial, comparing it with Christ’s love for the church.  Ephesians 5:25-27 says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” 
  • I believe that God wanted my marriage to stay intact. But the fact that it didn’t, does not mean that I have to live with a feeling of failure and condemnation for the rest of my life.
  • I believe that when He gave me and my husband free will, He took a risk and relinquished control.
  • I believe that He offers His grace and love freely to those of us who mess up and ask for forgiveness when we have made bad choices.

What about remarriage?

Remarriage after divorce is a thorny issue amongst Christians. There are some who believe remarriage is never an option. Others believe it is only an option in the case of adultery. Some scholars say remarriage is always allowed because of God’s grace.

In the book Light in my Darkest Night, Catherine Marshall’s second husband Leonard LeSourd records how Catherine was faced with a dilemma when he asked her to marry him because he was a divorced man. She talked to many counselors and pastors who all had different opinions. Eventually she felt the Lord saying the following to her:

“The Lord is in the business of restoring broken homes and healing damaged families. He hates divorce, as He hates all sin, for the harm it does in every life it touches. But He does not lock us into our sins; He is the God of redemption and new beginnings.”

Last Word

I  believe that although divorce is the opposite of what God wants for us, He does not turn away from us because of it. He is the healer of broken hearts and creates beauty from ashes. He reaches out to those who cry out to Him from the ruins they have made of their lives, bringing restoration and healing.  His grace abounds in just such situations, and love triumphs over hatred and judgment.

 

Why is the over-50 divorce rate rising?

late life divorce

Why are so many couples who have been married for years getting divorced? ‘Gray divorce’ figures are rising at a time when other divorce figures are dropping.  In a survey done by the Office for National Statistics in the UK, it was found that the number of over-50s who separated or divorced had risen by 33% between 2002 and 2013. They were the only group whose divorce figures had increased. Studies in the United States have shown that the same trend is occurring there. The rate is continuing to rise and it is being referred to as “the gray divorce phenomenon.”

Silver Splitters

Those who are part of this phenomenon are referred to as “silver splitters”, a trendy term that does little to describe the impact of a late-life divorce on those going through it. I personally believe that even if you have been the initiator of a late-life divorce, the process of recovery is far from easy. Much untangling has to take place in every area of your life when you have lived together for many years.

The exact reasons for ending a long term marriage are hard to determine. Nobody knows what really goes on within the four walls of a home. However, a factor that seems to be playing a big part in these rising figures is that people are living longer. This means that once the children have left home, a couple may still have many years of life left.

A longer life

The idea of living together in an unhappy marriage for another 20 – 30 years after the children leave home may feel like an unbearable option for some. Perhaps the relationship has been in decline for many years already and it has been rather like a balloon leaking air a bit at a time. At some point it becomes totally flat.

My friend Karen said “We both just felt it was time to go our separate ways. There was no drama or tears.  I think we both realized that our time together was over and we wanted different things out of life in the future. We get along well now that we live apart.”

An empty nest

I envy those couples who love their empty nests because they have more time for one another and for enjoying life together. They often have the opportunity to travel, take up new hobbies and even embark on new business ventures. My ex and I often talked about taking a year off once our children left home. We would buy a caravan and stay for months at a time in caravan parks along the beautiful coastline of South Africa. It was not to be and I have had to find other dreams to take its place.

Some couples manage the transition to an empty nest very well but I have read enough to know that even if you face it as a couple, this does not mean you won’t feel bereft when your children leave home. When you are single or divorced, the impact tends to be more severe, however, because you are often left completely alone.

When you are raising your family, children become the focus of your life. As a couple, you overcome many obstacles together and set aside your differences for the sake of your children.

When you are older and your children leave home, issues that have been buried for years may rise to the surface.  The relationship may have gradually developed cracks over the years that have been hard to see because the children have been around as a buffer. Once the children leave, they become very visible and you may realize that you no longer have the same interests, goals or aspirations.

Divorce is viewed differently

My parent’s generation did not see divorce in the same way as it is seen today – they often stuck it out together, even if they were unhappy. My generation, with the focus on individual happiness, is not willing to do this.  Today many women are able to support themselves financially and no longer feel they need a man in the same way as previous generations of women.

Sue gradually accumulated qualifications over the years and became a very successful career woman. When she eventually asked for a divorce at the age of 65, her husband was horrified.  She says. “He would never have wanted a divorce because we lived together comfortably enough. But I wanted more out of life.”

Sexual problems and Infidelity

Sexual compatibility is also a factor that plays a part in divorces that occur in later life.   Incompatibility between partners can increase in later life for various reasons such as illness or hormonal changes. When one partner has a greater level of sexual desire than the other, it can spell trouble.
In the past, aging men had to accommodate to the changes they experienced due to age-related decreases in testosterone levels.  Now, with products like Viagra, many aging men think and act like men decades younger.  Infidelity often plays a part in a late-life divorce, as it did in mine.

Social Media

Social media has had some influence too. Some long term marriages have broken up as a result of romances that develop online. People may read posts about the lives of others and realize just how unhappy they are in comparison. The possibility of meeting another person online, especially one who is of the right age and with the same interests can be intriguing, especially if a marriage has become completely humdrum.

Last word

Whatever the reason for the decision to divorce in late life and even if it’s mutual, I believe people tend to underestimate the consequences. Issues that arise with any divorce such as loneliness, potential loss of social support networks, financial problems and reactions of family members are usually much worse after a long term marriage. Even if the children are adults, they often still experience much pain, contrary to what may be expected. No matter at what age it occurs, divorce is a tearing apart and when so many more years have gone into a life together, the severing is that much more complex.

How adult children respond to divorce

adult children and divorce

Your role as parents does not end when your children become adults.  When you go through a divorce, you may no longer be a husband or a wife but you are still a father or a mother.  Parents may feel that because their children are adults, they should be able to move on more easily after divorce than if they were small children. In fact, I believe that the effect of divorce on adult children has been hugely underestimated.  I believe that there is never a good time for them to face the divorce of their parents.  If you are staying together for the sake of your children and plan to get divorced when they are older because you think it will be easier for them, think again.

They will also grieve

Despite the fact that my children were already over 20, they were shell shocked by our divorce.  I watched them go through deep grief. After the divorce, both of them began to question what was true about their childhood and what wasn’t.  They wondered how much of what they thought was real had been based on lies. Were they mistaken in believing that we had truly loved one another?

Adult children have so many memories of family life together and remembering all the good times in their childhood makes my children sad now.   I don’t want their happy memories to be tainted. I hope that one day they will be able to think of them without seeing them through the lens of our divorce.

Discovering the impermanence of what they thought was forever shook them to the core. Their belief in marriage and ‘happily ever after’ took a real knock. So, not only are they dealing with past memories but with the way in which they think about their own relationships and their future too.

Caught in the middle

I think I gave my children too much detail and if I had to do it again, I would be more circumspect. They were so supportive that I didn’t spare them any of the gory details. On the other hand, they did ask for information and I wanted them to be able to make sense of what had happened. In hindsight I believe there is a fine distinction between confiding in them, giving them the facts they need, and overburdening them.

Sharing too much about your partner that they don’t need to know can make them more insecure and sad. Your child is not meant to be your therapist.

I found that for a while I was always asking my children questions about my ex. Was he healthy? What was he doing ? How was his job going? They were often quite vague in their answers and I backed off in shame, realizing that I was making them uncomfortable. Focusing on him  was making me unhappy anyway and decided I had to put all my energy into my own healing.

The worst thing any parent can do to their children is to expect them to take sides. I have seen situations where divorced parents use their children in the games they play with each other to inflict hurt.  Don’t think that just because your children are adults this no longer happens because you have less control over them. They can still feel seriously conflicted and drawn to support one parent over the other, to the extent that some break ties with one parent altogether.

They still need you to act as parents

Perhaps they don’t need you in exactly the same way as they did before.  Divorce when you’re older means they are probably already independent but you both still play a big part in their lives. Special occasions, birthdays and holidays can be a nightmare for them if you can’t even be in the same room as one another.

My daughter had to face her 21st birthday and her graduation soon after the divorce. Fortunately, both occasions went off smoothly, with her dad giving a speech at her 21st and flying in to attend her graduation. We did not want to spoil these very important occasions for her and so we both managed to set aside our personal feelings. I believe your children should be able to feel that they are more important to you than the difficulties you have with each other.

Be careful of criticizing

Just because your children are adults, does not mean they no longer want to feel that both parents are still there for them. Your children still love you both. It does not help them when you criticize each other.  You may think your subtle remarks about your ex go unnoticed but over time your words may affect and influence them.

I have tried my best to encourage my kids to continue having a strong, loving relationship with their father. Sometimes it’s really hard to do this, especially when holidays come up and they try to divide their time between us. I see more of them on a regular basis, so I reassure them that I am absolutely fine if they spend time with their father (even if it means I will be spending a holiday alone).

Find a way to communicate

A complete lack of communication between divorced parents is hard for the children, even when they are adults. What happens when they face a crisis in their lives? They want to know that you can still speak to each other about them. This is not easy when you are trying to recover from the divorce and any contact just brings back all the hurt. You have to try and put your love for your children ahead of your hurts and issues.

Your divorce impacts their future too

You may not realize it now but your divorce impacts your grown children’s future too. In their minds you would grow old together. You would be a support system for one another. Now, they feel more responsible for you. They are likely to imagine what will happen when one of you gets ill or when other problems occur. They assume they will need to step in and fear that this may become difficult for them as their own families grow.

My daughter has voiced her sadness about the fact that her children won’t have the example of happily married grandparents. My parents were deeply committed to one another and held their 50th wedding anniversary before my dad passed away. They also had a wonderful relationship with their grandchildren and she feels her children won’t experience that because of the divorce. She too has to go through a process of accepting her new reality and letting go of her past.

My son has taken on more responsibility for both of his parents since the divorce. I don’t know what I would have done without his support but I don’t ever want to use him as a crutch. I don’t ever want him to feel that he has to take sole responsibility for my welfare for the rest of his life. I have been forced out of my comfort zones and into learning how to live life on my own without his help.

Last word

Contrary to what some people may think, adult children suffer greatly when their parents go through a divorce. Their childhood memories and perception of their future are affected. Because they are adults, their parents tend to confide in them more, lean on them more and generally treat them like adults rather than like children who need to be protected. They are much more likely to be drawn into the whole divorce process which is often messy. The fall-out of an older divorce on adult children should not be underestimated. Your children need you to treat them with a great deal of sensitivity during your late-life divorce – from how you first tell them about it to helping them to deal with it and express their sense of loss.

 

 

My empty nest is the best of both worlds

letting go

I have the best of both worlds. I spend the week in my empty nest and my 21-year-old daughter comes home from university nearly every weekend. She has the attraction of a boyfriend who lives down the road from me but I don’t care why she comes – I just care that she comes.

In the week, I love the fact that I have the house to myself. I enjoy waking up to complete silence in the mornings. After my shower, I walk around draped in a towel and take leisurely sips of my first cup of tea as I get dressed. Later, as I sit working at my computer, the only noise I hear is the sound of the birds in the trees outside the window. When I take a mid-morning break for tea, I have a choice of a whole array of cups neatly lined up on the shelf. In the evening, I can eat breakfast cereal and watch The Bachelor if I feel like it. In the week, the dishes do not pile up in the sink, my hairdryer stays exactly where I left it and I don’t find half my wardrobe lying on the bed.

By the time Friday comes, the silence suddenly becomes oppressive. I am tired of my own company and I start to anticipate my daughter’s arrival. I hear her car pull up outside. She rings the bell and waits for me to come out and help her carry her load of washing into the house. She dumps her laptop, books and keys on the table and heads straight for the kitchen. “Mom, there’s nothing in the fridge” she says. She’s right – there’s nothing she likes to eat in the fridge. I now have the pleasure of choosing what I want to eat on a daily basis – even if that means opening a can of tuna or living on toast and tea. I feel like a bad mother and know I will soon be on my way down to the shops.

I treasure the time when she unpacks and tells me about her week. This week the news all seems to be bad. She says she and her friends are in shock because a girl was raped outside one of the residences. They are concerned about their safety. I want to know if she has been carrying her mace with her and she reassures me that she has. I don’t want to reveal too much concern and plant more fear in her mind. She is smart and I know she won’t take any unnecessary chances. She tells me that staff members protesting about low wages set a car alight and burned down part of one of the administration buildings on campus. She was in one of the adjoining buildings and watched as it went up in flames. She does not realize that my stomach is lurching at the idea of her being in such close proximity to danger.

Her supervisor has told her that her proposal for her thesis needs work. She is in her fourth year of studying and this is the first time she has received negative criticism. I can’t believe that my confident daughter has become so insecure overnight. I want to give her a little lecture about how to deal with the situation but I realize that she does not want my well-intentioned advice. She is emotionally drained and all she wants to do is watch a movie and eat comfort food.

We decide to watch Room. It’s not long before we are both shedding tears and reaching for tissues. We agree at the end that Brie Larson deserved her Oscar for her emotionally raw performance. This little slice of time watching a good movie, crying a little, and discussing it afterwards instantaneously draws us as close as though we have never been apart. However, my daughter is an adult now and our relationship has been going through some shifts. It’s not hard for me to treat her like an adult. She is a brave, compassionate human being whose point of view I respect. However, every now and then I slip back into ‘mother/child’ mode and she very quickly puts me in my place.

When she is at home I find myself arranging my life around her. She lives life at high velocity and with great intensity. This used to exhaust me. Now, I enjoy every minute I spend with her because I know I will have more than enough time to myself again once she leaves. She decides she will leave on Monday morning at 6am and on Sunday evening I help her fold her washing and pack. Once her car roars off early the next morning, I take stock and realize that I will have to spend some time cleaning up. The TV room is littered with crumbs, crisp packets,  water glasses and that’s just the beginning. However, once I have cleaned up, I know my empty nest will stay clean for the week without much further effort.

I feel elated as the silence settles around me once more. I look forward to being able to write without any distractions. She calls me several times during the week and I listen attentively. If she has a problem or is unhappy, I feel miserable too and do everything I can to ease her pain. However, my world no longer revolves entirely around her – and that’s a good thing. I know the days of her coming home for the weekend will soon be over too. It probably won’t be too long before she has her own children – my future grandchildren.

It has been a process for me to adjust to the empty nest phase. My daughter left home and I went through a divorce at the same time. My world as I knew it came to an end and I didn’t know how I was going to cope. I discovered that adversity can either crush you or create a determination in you to survive and even thrive. I am fortunate that I still see my daughter on a regular basis. I know many parents face not seeing their children for long periods of time. I am content with my current phase in life where I am able to make the most of the times when I do see my daughter and enjoy my solitary life when she’s not around. I know all too well that no phase in life is permanent, so I intend to enjoy this one while it lasts.

(This is a guest post I wrote that originally appeared on the Grown and Flown website http://grownandflown.com/empty-nest-best-both-worlds/  As I reread this post before posting it here on my website, I realized how rapidly life moves along and at the same time how some things never change. My daughter is now working but I still see her on weekends, we still cry over movies together and despite the fact that she is now an independent adult, we are still as close as ever).

Release My Grip by Kami Gilmour: a review

In Release My Grip,  Kami Gilmour shares her own journey and offers encouragement to all of those facing a time when their kids are leaving home and learning to fly.  She writes with humour, honesty and insight, offering wisdom that can only come from someone who has learned the hard way about “letting go”.  Her stories are told with a transparency that will make many other ’empty nesters’ smile and realize they are not alone.

What will you find in this book?

In the introduction, the author says “I felt alone. And crazy” and I think many of us can identify with those emotions. It’s no secret that our children will grow up and leave home and our goal is to raise capable, independent adults.  Why, then, do we feel as though our hearts are being ripped out of our bodies at times? I know that the roller coaster of emotions I experienced when “letting go” took me by surprise.  What the author discovered, as she went through her own heartache and shared on her blog, was that she was not alone. Thousands of parents contacted her to say ‘me too!”.  (Kami Gilmour runs a popular blog called SoulFeed where she shares her thoughts on parenting, life and faith). The response from other parents was her inspiration to write the book.

letting goIn Part One, Leaving the Nest,  you will find a touching prayer of a parent on graduation day. Here is an excerpt from that prayer:

There’s a cap and gown hanging in my son’s room and it’s taking my breath away. He’s graduating in a few days, and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. (Did you maybe spin the earth a little faster on its axis for the past several years? )

He’s ready…but I’m not sure if I am.

Because since the day he was born and wrapped his tiny fingers around mine, my heart has been living outside of my body.  At that moment I understood the concept of unconditional love—including your love.”

In Part Two, Learning to Fly, the author speaks about how parenthood is never over and love never ends. She says ‘the finish line is just a myth. Parenthood is a lifelong journey – and it’s also a lifelong (often painful) practice of letting one season go as a new one begins.”  You will relate to what she shares and you may just realize for the first time, as she did, what your own mother must have felt when she had to let you go.

In the book you will also find:

  • Reflection questions that help you to dig deeper, face your fears and discover peace and hope for the new season that’s starting.
  • A devotional section with relevant Scriptures that reveal God’s loving heart and give you encouragement.
  • Practical challenges that help you to adjust and keep a meaningful connection with your adult children.
  • Journalling pages so you can capture your feelings about letting go. You will be able to look back and reflect on what you’ve written and see how far you have come.

Who is this book for?

It’s always good to know that we are not alone in this challenging phase of our lives when our children are becoming adults.   This book is for everyone who is experiencing this transition and it captures all its thrilling, terrifying and perplexing aspects. One of the valuable truths the author brings out is that ‘we tend to get stuck on the ‘goodbye’ part of the story, grieving our kids leaving the nest like it’s the final chapter of parenthood.”  She emphasizes that leaving the nest does not happen in a day and that while it is happening it can be messy. This is a great truth to remember as we navigate the transition and can help to prevent us from feeling like failures as parents. This book leaves you with a sense of peace that comes with understanding more about what you are going through and how to cope with it.

 

 

 

 

Make your first affiliate sale on Pinterest in 24 hours

When I saw the title of the ebook ” How to make your first affiliate sale in 24 hours using Pinterest” my interest was piqued.  Pinterest is my favourite platform and I can spend hours pinning but I have never focused on making affiliate sales from it.  It was the claim that you could make your first sale in 24 hours that persuaded me to give the ebook a try.  Most people take months to achieve any success. Making such a statement had a boldness to it that appealed to me and, of course, it is also a claim that is easy to prove or disprove. affiliate sale ebook

It had taken me about six months to make my first sale as an affiliate marketer. It seemed incredible that people were able to make sales so quickly on Pinterest. Obviously there was much I needed to learn about how to use Pinterest as a marketing platform.  Today many bloggers are sharing exactly how they earn money and even declare their monthly income on their blogs. I have discovered that if you don’t glean from the experience of others, you are just trying to reinvent the wheel. I am on a mission to find out exactly what makes some bloggers really successful so I can implement their strategies.  This ebook promised results and so I was happy to pay my $25 and receive the download.

Elise McDowell consistently makes over $500 a month from Pinterest and she shares her strategies and tips in this ebook. She does presuppose some knowledge of affiliate marketing and Pinterest. If you do not have this knowledge, she admits that it could take longer than 24 hours to make a sale, with the benefit that once you have your strategies in place, you can generate money on autopilot for years to come. You need to have an affiliate product to sell and a Pinterest profile.

I am already an affiliate marketer and I generate money from my blog this way. I receive commission from the sales I make by recommending products or services that I love.  When I sign up as an affiliate, I get a special link that I add to my blog and that is the way my affiliate income is tracked.  I also have a Pinterest profile already and pin to a number of boards. For those who are unfamiliar with affiliate marketing and Pinterest, links are provided in the book to helpful resources.

What I like about this book was that it is not too complicated. It’s a quick read and provides simple, clear strategies that are easy to follow.  It wasn’t long before I was all set to starting implementing the strategies.

buy your copy nowUntil I have the time to create my own ebooks, becoming an affiliate for other ebook creators is a great affiliate opportunity. If you have read an awesome ebook or taken a really helpful course that has helped you to increase your profits, find out if the author has an affiliate programme you can join.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My post-divorce manifesto

While going through my divorce, I read many helpful books and received plenty of advice from other divorced women. Not all of the advice was helpful but I distilled what really did help me down to five statements that I call my post-divorce manifesto. I continue to remind myself of the following facts every day:

post-divorce manifesto

1. I won’t wonder ‘what if’? or hope that my ex will change his mind

You need to accept the reality of your situation.  This is especially the case if you did not want the divorce. Once it has taken place, there is no point in imagining that your ex just needs to come to his senses.  It serves no useful purpose to keep longing for what was. Some people torture themselves for months after a divorce, asking themselves questions like, ‘Why did this happen to me? Could I have prevented it by doing something differently? When did he stop loving me? It’s natural to think this way at first but at some point you need to accept what has happened. I have a divorced friend who has never managed to reach that place of acceptance. She is still believing that one day she and her ex will get back together, although he moved on long ago. She always encourages me to expect my ex to come back to me but I know I can’t afford to think this way as it anchors me firmly in the past and prevents me from creating a new life for myself.  She is proof of the fact that acceptance does not necessarily come with time – it is a choice you have to make. Acceptance does not mean that are okay with what has happened to you. It simply means that you have accepted that it is a reality.

2. Just because he left me, does not mean I’m not ‘good enough’

It’s easy to battle with self-esteem when going through a divorce. Our marriage finally broke down when my ex had an affair. Recovering from the sense of rejection  and betrayal has not been easy. When he left me, it affected my sense of self worth, desirability and my capacity to trust.  I  constantly have to remind myself that I am worthy of love.

I have seen how feelings of inadequacy after divorce can make people do everything they can to try and improve their bodies, from going to gym to pursuing cosmetic surgery. They strive in every way possible to prove that they are thriving and are ‘over’ their ex. I have seen how some immediately fall into another relationship to prove that they are still desirable. Unfortunately, these new relationships often don’t work because they have not taken time to work properly through the grief and pain. They have not really searched within themselves and experienced ‘wholeness’ as a single person. This means that they often enter the new relationship with the wrong motivations and expectations.

The pain of divorce can crush you or you can drive through it and discover who you really are. You may just find that you are stronger than you thought possible.

3. I choose to be grateful

I have made a decision to be grateful for what I have instead of longing for what I do not have. This is not always easy when you are going through dark days. However, I have found that even on the darkest of days, I can always find something to be grateful for. Before I even get out of bed in the morning, I try to think of at least five things I am grateful for – my children, my mother, a roof over my head, the air I breathe, food to eat  ….  There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I felt there was no reason to do so. Now, when I start with my list of things I’m grateful for as soon as I open my eyes, it seems to give me the impetus I need to get out of bed and start the day. When you’re in a grateful frame of mind, you feel chinks of light in the darkness. I haven’t  reached the place yet where the darkness has been dispelled but at least I have more control over my state of mind. There are many things that happen to us in life that we have no absolutely control over but we can choose how we respond.

You can choose to be bitter and trap yourself for years in a negative spiral or you can choose to take steps towards creating a good life for yourself. I have found that bitterness towards my ex ends up souring my life and I have been ruthless with myself in my attempts to avoid it. Sometimes this meant avoiding certain people who brought this out in me. When I first got divorced, I would get together with some other divorcees and we would trash our exes.  I must admit that it did make me feel better for a while. There is inevitably anger and resentment that comes with divorce and getting it off your chest can feel good. After a while I realized, however, that my resentment towards my ex would spiral after such a session and before I knew it I was devoting all my energy to thinking about how much he had hurt me. I realized that devoting my attention to my ex kept me connected to him. I decided to devote my energy towards making a happy, healthy life for myself instead.

4. I do not need someone to complete me

Romantic novels and movies often suggest that you need a ‘soulmate’ to complete you. I always felt that my ex and I were a team. With the divorce, it was easy to feel that I was not as good on my own. Two ‘halves’ made a ‘whole’ and together we were a ‘whole’ so I was now a ‘half’. It took work to get over that hurdle. For years I had largely defined myself as a wife and a mother.  I had to reach back to a time before marriage and children to rediscover parts of myself that had been buried for years. I cannot blame anyone else for the fact that I surrendered so much of myself and perhaps this  contributed towards the eventual break up of my relationship. I now believe that it’s not two ‘halves’ that make a ‘whole’ in a relationship. Each individual in a partnership should be ‘whole’, without the need for someone to complete them, fix them or rescue them. If you are happy with who you are, the other person will simply enhance your already good life.

5. I choose to be a victor, not a victim

Divorce is a painful experience, even if both partners desire it. It is an experience you would not choose to go through if you had any other option. It’s proof that something went badly wrong in your life and can easily make you feel like a failure.  Nobody gets married thinking that it won’t work out. You have to find a way to forgive yourself if it doesn’t work out and know that you did what you thought was best at the time. You also have to believe that you are not condemned to feeling unhappy for the rest of your life. Even though you may feel like a victim, it’s up to you not to let your divorce define who you are. Mourn your loss, take a day at a time, be gentle on yourself but at the same time, take full responsibility for your life and your happiness.

 

 

 

Looking for the best turmeric supplement? Ask these questions

What do you really need to be aware of when purchasing a turmeric supplement? This is a valid question when there are so many supplements  available, all varying in price, quality, purity and strength.  It can be quite bewildering to be confronted with such an array and it is easy to be fooled into thinking you are buying the best when you listen to all the hype surrounding certain products. The best way to make sure about a product is to check the label (make sure it details ingredients and quantities), find out where it is made, consider the reputation of the brand, look at cost per serving and read customer reviews.  The following questions will help guide you to the right product:

1. What is the key active ingredient?

Many companies use the word turmeric and curcumin interchangeably, but curcumin is the bioactive ingredient in turmeric. Turmeric contains only about 2-3% of curcumin.  Don’t be confused when the words curcumin and curcuminoids are used interchangeably either. Researchers differentiate between curcumin and curcuminoids but the pharmaceutical industry often refers to all curcuminoids as curcumin.

Some supplement are made from drying out the cut termeric root and making a powder. Others manufacturers extract curcumin from turmeric and then concentrate it to make standardized powders.  The standardization process is necessary to ensure some consistency in the amount of curcumin found from bottle to bottle.  In many clinical trials and medical studies, the best results come from dosages containing 95% standardized curcumin. A product solely consisting of turmeric root powder may only contain about 2-4% curcuminoids. A product that contains 95% standardized curcuminoids,  is typically the highest available form.

Doctor Danielle’s Turmeric Curcumin with BioPerine

Dr. Danielle's turmeric

Dr. Danielle is a biochemist and licensed naturopathic physician whose product has over 7,000 customer reviews on Amazon. The product is 100% vegan, vegetarian friendly and gluten free. The veggie capsules contain 500mg of organic turmeric and 5mg of BioPerine.  Some people simply want an organic tumeric supplement to enhance their health and for that purpose, this one is a good choice.

2. What quantity of the active ingredient does the extract contain?

The quantity of each active ingredient should be clearly stated on the product label. Products that contain a proprietary complex may look high quality at first glance but this can be misleading. When a proprietary blend is used,  individual ingredients and their quantities may not be listed so you are not quite sure exactly what the product contains.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, the permissable dosages of the following types of turmeric for adults are as follows:

  • Cut root: 1.5 – 3 g per day
  • Dried, powdered root: 1 – 3 g per day
  • Standardized powder (curcumin): 400 – 600 mg, 3 times per day

Turmeric has been used for thousands of years and millions of people consume it on a daily basis in their food. Consuming about 1tsp of turmeric powder a day is unlikely to have any negative effects but at the same time, therapeutic benefits are probably minimal. Adding a very large amount of turmeric spice to food is unwise – it has been reported to cause an interaction with other drugs being taken. When it comes to an extract of turmeric, its potency is much higher – you have to be cautious with regard to dosage and length of time it is taken.

Vitabalance Limited Turmeric Plus 

Turmeric Plus  is a product that contains 600mg of turmeric root, 50mg of 95% curcuminoids and 5mg of BioPerine (Black Pepper). Each bottle contains 60 veggie capsules, made in an FDA registered and GMP certified laboratory. The company is currently giving one bottle free for an order for 3 bottles at $63.95.

3. Does it contain piperine?

Black pepper contains a substance called piperine. Piperine is often added to curcumin extracts because curcumin is eliminated quickly from the body. On the  labels, piperine may be  listed as black pepper extract, piperine or BioPerine.   Piperine inhibits a certain process called glucuronidation in the liver. This means that the curcumin is eliminated more slowly and it has more opportunity to have real benefit.

In some cases, because piperine slows down elimination, it can lead to elevated levels of certain medications, such as blood-sugar lowering and blood-thinning ones. Elevated levels could be good or bad depending on context; regardless, piperine should be used with caution. It may cause problems if it is taken in high doses over long periods.

Me First Living Premium turmeric curcumin

A bottle of Me First Living contains 60 capsules and each capsule contains 1000mg of 95% curcuminoids with 10mg of Black Pepper as Bioperine, This product is gluten-free, vegan-friendly, free of preservatives and made according to certified good manufacturing practices. 

4. How pure is the product?

It is important to realize that products using turmeric root can claim to be organic but when it comes to an extract, the issue is more complex. So many constituents go into making an extract and making it compliant with FDA regulations.  If you choose to use a turmeric powder, find out whether only pure turmeric root is used or whether the product contains fillers etc.   All products should be produced in an approved facility to avoid contamination. Other factors to consider are use of preservatives, artificial colour and whether it is gluten-free or not. 

5. How is the curcumin absorbed?

It is a well known fact that curcumin is poorly absorbed into the blood stream and once it gets there, it is quickly eliminated from the body. If you want to get the full healing effects of curcumin, it has to stay in the  body for long enough to get to the target tissues.  Piperine may be able to delay elimination but fat helps to increase its absorption. This is why taking it with a small amount of fat (coconut oil, olive oil) or after a fatty meal is recommended. Curcumin is lipophilic so it binds to the fat and this increases its absorption. Some of the latest products on the market include BCM-95, which offers greater bioavailability.

Curcumin Extreme, Curcumin BCM-95 400mg

 

curcumin exremeCurcumin Extreme™ with BCM 95® has superior bioavailability and absorption. One bottle contains 30 tablets with 400mg of BCM-95 (containing 95% curcuminoids complex with volatile oils of turmeric rhizome.

6. What do other customers think of the product?

Have you read reviews written by satisfied customers?  It’s a good sign when a product has a significant number of good reviews.  For example, Schwartz Bioresearch Turmeric Curcumin is a best seller on Amazon with reviews written by over 5,000 customers.

Schwartz Bioresearch Turmeric Curcumin

Schwarts turmeric

It contains 1350mg of turmeric (Curcuma Longa root), 150mg of Curcumin with 95% standardized curcuminoids per serving and 10mg of Bioperine. The extract is formulated by doctors and manufactured in the USA in an FDA-approved facility, following GMP guidelines. It is also third party approved. Each bottle contains 90 veggie, gluten-free capsules.

7. What about the price?

Nutricost Turmeric Curcumin

 

nutricost review turmericMost of us do have to consider price when buying supplements and we want to buy the best quality we can afford. If you’re looking for affordability and quality, this product is a good choice. Every bottle contains 120 capsules which provides 500mg of Curcoma longa in every serving, containing 95% curcuminoids. It also contains 25mg of BioPerine. Each bottle contains 120 capsules,  made in the USA in a quality GMP assured facility and is gluten-free.

Last word

Any person in good health will benefit from including turmeric in a diet for its proven anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities.  It may simply be used as a spice in food or taken as a powder supplement which has a subtle effect over the long term.  However, those wanting relief from the pain and inflammation that comes with debilitating health conditions will need the potency that comes with taking one of the better supplements containing turmeric extract. It should be taken in the right dosage and accompanied by ingredients that slow down elimination and increase absorption or they are unlikely to experience any significant relief.  Whether turmeric cures cancer and other diseases in humans has not been proved but this does not take away from its health benefits and who knows what future possibilities it might present with further testing on humans.

 

Are all the claims about Turmeric wildly exaggerated?

turmeric

Turmeric has been touted as a miracle spice that can cure all kinds of diseases, from cancer and indigestion to Alzheimer’s.  Is there any substance to the claims made about Turmeric or are they wildly exaggerated? I am always suspicious when I hear about a miracle cure-all. However, just because turmeric may not do everything it is said to do, we cannot dismiss the fact that it appears to have significant healing properties. For a start, there is sufficient scientific evidence to suggest that it is an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Turmeric is the spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It belongs to the ginger family and is native to South Asia. It is used in cooking, and gives curry its distinctive yellow colour and flavour.  It has also been used for centuries in Chinese and Indian medicine. Modern medicine has now begun to recognize its importance and many studies are being done on curcumin, the compound that makes up about 3-5 % of turmeric and gives it its healing properties.

Natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant

Inflammation has a useful purpose in the body and occurs  when it is fighting off foreign invaders. However, when inflammation continues long term it becomes problematic. Chronic inflammation is thought to play a role in cardiovascular, neurodegenerative,  autoimmune and many other diseases.  That fact that curcumin helps fight inflammation at a molecular level without significant side effects shows promise in the fight against these diseases. Curcumin is also an antioxidant, fighting free radicals that cause damage to cell membranes and can cause cell death.

Conditions where turmeric has proved helpful

According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, studies suggest that turmeric may be helpful for the following conditions:

  • Indigestion
    Curcumin stimulates the gallbladder. It produces more bile and therefore is thought to improve digestion. One double-blind, placebo-controlled, study found that turmeric relieved gas and bloating.
  • Ulcerative Colitis
    In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people with ulcerative colitis who were in remission took either curcumin or a placebo, along with conventional medical treatment, for a period of six months. Those who took curcumin had a significantly lower relapse rate than those who took the placebo.
  • Osteoarthritis
    With Turmeric’s ability to reduce inflammation, there is evidence that it may help relieve osteoarthritis pain.  
  • Heart Disease
    Early animal studies found that an extract of turmeric lowered cholesterol and helped prevent the buildup of plaque that blocks arteries. However,  another double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that taking a 4g dose a day of curcumin did not improve cholesterol levels.   The Statin drugs commonly prescribed to treat high cholesterol today have so many negative side effects. Using turmeric extract as an effective, natural alternative would be ideal but there is not enough clinical evidence yet to support its effective use for this purpose in humans.
  • Cancer
    Evidence from test tube and animal studies suggests that curcumin may help prevent or treat several types of cancers, including prostate, breast, skin, and colon cancer. This may be related to its antioxidant properties. However, again, more research is needed when it comes to its effect on humans.
  • Bacterial and Viral Infections
    In traditional medicine, turmeric has been used for treating infections. This is backed up by test tube and animal studies showing that turmeric does kill some bacteria and viruses.
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the iris of the eye)
    Some preliminary research suggests that curcumin may be as effective as corticosteroids that are usually prescribed for this condition.
  • Neurogenerative Conditions
    Tumeric’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and circulatory effects may help prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases. A decrease of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a type of growth hormone in the brain, is linked to many common brain disorders. Curcumin appears to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier and increase brain levels of BDNF.  By doing this, it may be effective at delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function. More studies are required to determine whether curcumin can really slow down or even reverse the progression of neurogenerative conditions.

Some studies on mice have indicated that curcumin may help with depression. The effects of 560-mg/kg turmeric on mice were found to be more potent than those of the antidepressant fluoxetine.

In 2009 Biochemistry and Biophysical Research Communications published a study out of Auburn University that examined the potential anti-diabetic mechanisms of curcumin. It was found to be 400 times more potent than Metformin, a common drug used to lower blood sugar and insulin resistance.

However, a new review of the scientific literature on curcumin does not support all the many claims of its therapeutic benefits. Research groups teamed up to extract key findings from thousands of articles on the topic.  They found that curcumin is not readily absorbed by the body and is unstable under physiological conditions.  However, they did state that this was not a reason to halt studies on turmeric extracts and preparations. They could have health benefits, although probably not for the number of conditions currently claimed.

Why use a Turmeric extract?

The curcumin content of turmeric is not high and in most of the studies turmeric extracts were used that contain mostly curcumin itself. Consuming between ½ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder with food has been found to have certain digestive and cognitive benefits. However, in extracts, concentration is often increased to as high as 95%. It is not unusual for a capsule to provide as much as 400mg of curcuminoids while the ground spice might provide only about 15mg.

Curcumin is also poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. Taking it in combination with black pepper, which contains piperine, enhances its absorption significantly. Piperine slows down the metabolic breakdown of turmeric compounds in the gut and the liver. This allows higher levels of turmeric compounds to remain in the body (i.e., it increases its bioavailability).

The biggest problem with turmeric is that not much is absorbed from the gut unless it is taken along with oils and fats. This is why it’s best to take it with a meal containing oils or fats.

There are thousands of turmeric supplements on the market and it is difficult to make a decision about which one to purchase. They vary widely according to the amounts of key curcumin compounds they contain, and some formulations are absorbed better than others. When looking for the best turmeric supplement, there are a number of questions one needs to ask.

When to be cautious about turmeric

Turmeric and curcumin supplements are considered safe when taken at the recommended doses. However, taking large amounts of turmeric for long periods of time may cause some stomach upsets. High doses of turmeric have been observed to cause nausea, diarrhea,  increased risk of bleeding and even uterine contractions in pregnant women.

People taking certain medications should also be careful when using turmeric extracts. It may interfere with anti-coagulants like aspirin or warfarin.

People who have gallstones or obstruction of the bile passages should talk to their doctor before taking turmeric. It can make gallbladder problems worse.

Taking turmeric might slow blood clotting. This might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders. It’s better to stop using turmeric a few weeks before undergoing surgery because it might cause extra bleeding during or after surgery.

Turmeric should be used with caution by diabetics. It is better to talk to your doctor first if you are taking medication for diabetes as it might make blood sugar too low.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Turmeric can cause stomach upset in some people. It might make stomach problems such as GERD worse.

Hormone-sensitive conditions (breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids) Some research shows that turmeric reduces the effects of estrogen in some hormone-sensitive cancer cells so it might have beneficial effects on hormone-sensitive conditions. However, until more is known, it’s best to use extracts cautiously if you have a condition that might be made worse by exposure to hormones.

Turmeric might lower testosterone levels and decrease sperm movement when taken by mouth by men. It should be used cautiously by people trying to have a baby.

Taking high amounts of turmeric might prevent the absorption of iron. Turmeric should be used with caution in people with iron deficiency.

A Last Word

On the one hand, turmeric, the golden spice, is seen as an almost magical cure-all. On the other hand, scientific studies have been promising but they have not backed up this view. A more precise understanding is needed of effective dosage, safety and exactly how it acts in the human body.  Studies have offered indications that it has the potential to be significant in our fight against diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.  However, only more clinical studies will determine whether this is true. Before these studies have taken place to prove this, taking a turmeric supplement at recommended dosages will certainly not hurt and is highly likely to be beneficial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 travel accessories for older travellers looking for comfort

traveller

When we were younger, it was fun to sleep on couches or even on an airport bench when travelling. We would cheerfully lug around a heavy backpack from place to place, just so that we could experience new adventures. Travelling does not lose its appeal as we grow older but we are less likely to compromise on comfort and probably more able to afford a few travel accessories that can really make a difference to our comfort levels.

1. Lightweight suitcase

The best travel suitcases for seniors are lightweight and roll easily. You do not want to lug around a large suitcase and put your back out before you travels even begin. It may even be possible to avoid checking in luggage altogether if you learn to pack smartly enough. However, if you’re not flying direct and have to transfer to a connecting flight, checking your bag in is more sensible.

Briggs and Riley suitcase

2. Luggage scale

 

The LOOP Luggage Scale serves more than one purpose as it includes a portable charger and a LED flashlight.  You can weigh your suitcase before you leave home to see whether you’re under the limit. The scale does not take up much room in your suitcase and the portable charger allows you to charge your mobile device on the go. The LED light is useful when you’re in a dark parking lot or on a dimly light sidewalk.

3. Cross body bag

The strap goes right across the body, thus alleviating any shoulder pain.  It holds all the accessories you need for a day out and the items are easily accessible.  The Piazza Daybag is one that has ample pockets and compartments to keep all your items in place.  This bag is just the right size with secure pockets, a water bottle pouch and a wide soft shoulder strap. It is light in weight when empty and yet it is sturdy too without being bulky when being worn.  It’s big enough for some medium sized electronics and offers easy access with a wide top opening.

Piazza Day Bag

4. Travel money belt

If you look too much like a tourist when travelling, you are far more susceptible to pickpockets and muggers. Important documents must be carried as discreetly as possible. It’s not worth buying a cheap money belt that’s uncomfortable and may break.  It must fit well and be comfortable enough to wear without even thinking about it.  

The best money belts have RFID Block protection that prevents electronic pickpockets from using scanning devices to steal your identity from data chips in your cards and passports.

The Alpha Keeper Money Belt satisfies these requirements. It comes with 7 blocking sleeves and is made with 3 layers of 100% blocking material and high quality, durable, water-resistant nylon.

money belt

5. Medicine organizer

One thing we probably didn’t have to worry about at all as younger travellers was medicine. However, not many of us over 50s can boast that we do not need to take any form of medication, even if it is simply a supplement of some kind. Packing all your pills is easy in the Ezy Dose AM/PM Push Button Pill Planner (XL).  Keep it in your carry-on luggage to ensure it arrives at your destination with you.  This particular pill planner is recommended by the Arthritis Foundation and is a best seller on Amazon with  over 2,500 customer reviews. It’s wise to take along enough medication to last for the whole trip and a few extra days. Tip: Take along a prescription just in case.

Ezy dose pill planner

6. Travel pillow

The Travelrest pillow  is considered one of the best airplane inflatable travel pillows.  Of course your choice of travel pillow will often depend on the way you sleep. As someone who is normally a side-sleeper, this one gives full support to my whole upper body and keeps my head from falling forward.  It helps me to fall asleep and stay asleep.  It is easily inflated and deflated and stores neatly when rolled up. It can also be used in different ways as seen below.

Travelrest pillow

7. Seat cushion

The Aylio coccyx seat cushion has over 10,000 customer reviews and is a best selling product on Amazon. It has far more uses than just being used on a plane as its cut-out leaves your coccyx suspended and it helps to keep your spine properly aligned. It’s lightweight and portable so for someone who suffers from backache, or has coccyx problems, like myself, it is a worthwhile addition to your luggage.

plane seat cushion

8. Compression socks

Deep vein thrombosis or DVT, is a well known risk when it comes to longer flights. This is when blood clots form in deep veins. The risk of this on short flights is minimal, but as travel time increases so does the risk. Tips to avoid this include walking up and down the aisles of the plane once every hour or so, stretching your legs consistently to increase blood flow, wearing loose clothing and drinking plenty of fluids. If your risk of a DVT is higher, your doctor may recommend wearing compression socks as they help to keep the circulation going in your legs and feet. Just make sure that you buy decent quality socks as comfort is key. You want them to be made with moisture wicking material that stays dry. They must not squeeze so tightly that they are unbearable to wear.

compression socks

9. Comfy earphones

Using some types of earphones means you have to lie in the same rigid position all the time.  With AcousticSheep’s SleepPhones, you can fall asleep comfortably while listening to music.  The flat, removable speakers are built into the headband made of soft fleece.  A set of comfy earphones helps you to relax and drowns out the noise made by overly chatty passengers, babies crying or unpleasant aircraft noise.
sleepphones

10. A Kindle

I still love reading real books rather than digital ones but when it comes to travelling, its much easier to take along a Kindle than heavy books. The Kindle is easy on the eyes, you can use a larger text size if you wish, it is glare-free and has a really long battery life. It has also really become much more affordable. I recommend a cheaper, non-colour one like the Paperwhite, one of the best-selling Kindles. It is lighter than a paperback and you can comfortably hold it in one hand. It has a built-in front light so you can read comfortably for hours without eye strain.

Kindle paperwhite


Both your body and your brain will thank you for every small  bit of relief on a long flight. You will arrive at your destination feeling well rested and ready to start enjoying yourself.

 

 

 

Going back to work at 60

working woman

Older people are staying in their jobs for longer or even returning to work after having retired. The reasons for this are many – one of which is what demographers are calling the grey tsunami. As life expectancy increases and fertility declines, the population pyramid is being turned on its head. This effect is being seen in many countries and will inevitably have widespread economic consequences.

I am a sixty-year old divorcee with no pension, so I am one of those people who is being seriously affected by current economic circumstances.  I have been a freelance copywriter for a while and also make some money from writing this blog but the realization that I probably still have many years ahead of me, made me think twice about turning down a recent job offer. If I could make more money while I was still able to do so, I felt I needed to take the opportunity. I know I am not alone in this as many people of my age, especially those who have gone through a divorce, feel the same way. I had made attempts to find a job over the past few years but was unsuccessful.  I had helped my ex-husband run his business for over 20 years so I was not lacking in experience but my age definitely seemed to be a factor. After sending out countless resumes, I decided I would continue with my online activities and only take a job if it presented itself to me without any effort on my part. Well,  I am now about to return to the world of formal employment after many years of absence. The thought of it is both invigorating and terrifying.

Graying Nations are Reinventing Retirement

The fact is that the higher the number of older people, the more elderly people have to be supported by younger working adults.  The West is getting old – that is a demographic fact.  In the United States there is a large ageing population that is expected to reach 72 million by 2030. This is about 21.3% of the population.

The situation is worse in countries like Japan, Germany, France and Spain. Nearly a third of Japanese citizens are expected to be 65 and older by 2030. By 2050 Japan is expected to have 72 elderly for every 100 people of working age. In France,  23.4% of the population are expected to be 65 and older by 2030 and in Spain the figure is 22%. In Italy over a quarter of the population will be 65 and older in 2030.

This grey Tsunami could be completely devastating unless a shift in perspective takes place. A rising share of the population will be seeking increasingly expensive medical treatment and this is just one of the factors in play.  The Sandwich generation is a term used to refer to those being pulled in two directions – still trying to support adult children as well as care for ageing parents.  There is no alternative but to begin to think differently about retirement than the way we did in the past.

Move away from ‘three boxes’ thinking

Three boxes of lifePeople are often choosing to work longer than they did before, even if it is in a slightly different way. They may choose to work in a consulting capacity after they have left a formal job or even turn a hobby into a business. Others are turning to the internet for opportunities to earn. There is no denying the demographics but this is not necessarily a prophecy of doom. Perhaps we have to begin by changing our mindset. Richard Bolles is the author of a book called “The three boxes of life and how to get out of them”. In the late 1970s he predicted that we would move away from three stages that have been the norm – the learning stage, work stage and retirement stage. Thinking about your life in these three boxes can create a mental barrier that’s hard to overcome. We have to start thinking about learning, work and play as being lifelong experiences.

Reasons why I want to keep working

Women still at workMany retirees are returning to work for a multitude of reasons. Money may be the most pressing reason but it is often not the only one. People are living longer and staying healthier for longer too.   Older people are often just as productive as younger people, and maybe more so. Personally, I no longer have the distraction of looking after a husband or children. I am in a position where I can devote myself wholeheartedly to my job. I am reliable, loyal and I have a strong work ethic so I think most employers would be lucky to have me.

I needed time to heal after my divorce and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to do so without having to face the hustle and bustle of the corporate workspace. However, I now know that it’s time to move forward. I have plenty of experience that can still be put to good use.  I think many older people benefit from working for as long as possible – it keeps mind and body active, gives opportunities to continue to make a difference and offers a social outlet and sense of belonging. I also believe that as older people continue to stay productive for as long as possible, some of the stereotypes of ageing will be broken.

Elizabeth F. Fideler, a researcher, found that working women over 60 had a sense of accomplishment. Working seemed to be synonymous for them with a sense of self-esteem and well-being. She wrote a book called Women still at work: Professionals over sixty and still on the job.

I am perfectly happy working from home and I would have been happy to continue to do so. I have been free to work in exactly the way that suits me, even if it means working in my pyjamas or until all hours of the night if I feel like it.  I am never bored but I do miss some of the interaction that happens in the workplace and look forward to that aspect of my new job. What I do not look forward to getting up early in the morning and driving to work. I have no working wardrobe to speak of so it may be fun to buy some smarter clothes for a change.  I will just see how it goes – it can’t hurt to try it and I may just enjoy it. I am really nervous but I suppose that’s normal.  I will keep you posted on how it’s going as I have no intention of giving up on blogging.

 

 

 

 

Tea is far more than just a hot beverage

cup of tea and book

Tea is second only to water as the most popular drink in the world. In my house it’s always time for tea. There is so much more to a cup of tea than a mere hot beverage.  It provides comfort in a time of grief or loss. It is a relaxing way to take a break.  A book and a cup of tea makes all right with the world. Good chats accompanied by cups of tea are an essential part of my friendships. Tea has been with me through thick and thin, at moments of crisis and during some of my most meaningful conversations.

When I was a student, coffee was king. It’s caffeine kick was essential for late night studying. Pregnant with my first child, the taste of coffee became repugnant to me. Its strong, exotic flavours had no more appeal and it was the more subtle flavours of tea that became my addiction. My coffee drinking friends can never remember that I don’t drink coffee. They can’t seem to even entertain the possibility that someone may not drink their favourite beverage.

How to drink your tea

Black tea is one of the most popular teas with 3,200,000 tons produced worldwide every year. However, its popularity is being challenged by green tea with production expected to exceed 3 million by 2023.  Of course by 2023 black tea may have reached the 4 million mark.  There are many different ways of drinking both black and green tea, with most tea lovers being extremely particular about the way they drink it.

Arguments over whether milk should be added first, last or left out altogether are common. Evidently, the traditional way was to pour the milk into the cup first to avoid cracking the delicate glaze on the cup. We do not have that problem any longer and most of us add milk after pouring the tea so we can judge how much to add based on the colour change. Scientists say that adding milk to your tea helps to neutralize the tannins and reduce acidity. I am probably stepping on many toes when I say that there is no right or wrong way to drink a cup of tea, other than the way you like it.

tea partyThose who grew up in Victorian times would be horrified by the fact that I drink my tea out of a mug rather than a fragile teacup. The size of the mug has to be exactly right too or somehow the tea doesn’t taste quite the same. Of course the fact that the teabag goes straight into the cup instead of into a teapot also totally violates tea etiquette. Another habit I have is to squash the teabag against the side of the cup. Evidently this is totally wrong too as it squeezes out all the natural astringent tannins, making the tea bitter. Maybe I’ve just become used to the strong, bitterness and I am actually missing out on some of the delicate flavours I should be experiencing.  Every tea lover I know has their own particular quirks when it comes to how they drink it. This is part of the comforting nature of the ritual, whether its adding just the right amount of milk or drinking it out of a special cup.

Does tea contain more caffeine than coffee?

According to the variety of tea, the caffeine it contains corresponds to a quantity ranging between 30 and 90 milligrams to a cup of approximately 250 ml.  Black tea contains the most caffeine: about 22-28 milligrams to 1 gram.  A cup of black coffee contains about 100-200mg of caffeine per cup. If you’re talking about weight for weight, tea contains more caffeine than coffee but less tea needs to be used to make a cup.

6 Health benefits of tea

The type of tea you drink does make a difference but tea drinking definitely appears to have a number of health benefits.

  1. Tea contains antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
  2. Research has revealed that at least three cups of tea a day can help to prevent the risk of a heart attack.  Some animal studies have demonstrated that tea also lowers cholesterol levels.
  3. Tea drinking has also been linked with protection of cell loss in certain areas of the brain. Studies on mice show that EGCG, a polyphenol in green tea, may guard against neurological diseases.
  4. The mild diuretic effect of tea does not counteract its benefit as a rehydrator.  It helps you to rehydrate with something other than water alone.
  5. The high levels of catechins in tea help with healthy bone formation. People who drink tea on a regular basis are less likely to develop osteoporosis.
  6. Since 2006, numerous studies have compared drinkers of black and green tea to non-tea drinkers. Results have been inconsistent but there does appear to be some link between drinking tea and reduced risk of certain types of cancer.

Going green

organic matchaWhereas black tea is left to oxidize,  green tea is made by using heat to prevent the fermentation process.  This preserves its green colour and natural properties. Many studies have showed the benefits of drinking green tea.  Green tea has been a staple in the East for centuries but its only in recent years that its popularity has spread. When I began drinking green tea, I found it a poor substitute for my black tea but after a while I started loving the freshness of its taste.  If you find green tea a bit difficult to drink, you can add a slice of lemon or choose one with added mint or jasmine. Organic Matcha is a special form of green tea that seems to be everywhere these days. You can’t miss its vibrant green hue when it is used lattes, desserts and smoothies.

In the Red

Rooibos

Rooibos is a South African tea that I drink on a daily basis. It is caffeine-free and packed with antioxidants, even more than found in green tea. It’s also low in tannins and rich in Vitamin C. I drink this tea in the afternoons as its zero caffeine content means it won’t keep me awake at night. It’s great to drink this tea when suffering from digestive cramps. It also contains many minerals such as calcium, potassium and zinc that help to support  your immune system.  The flavanoids found in Rooibos tea are well known for their cancer-fighting qualities.

My top 3 Herbal Helpers

Herbal teas are considered as infusions rather than proper teas by the purists but drinking them offers many health benefits. I am including a few of the ones I usually reach for to help with a specific complaint.

Chamomile

Chamomile herbal tea helps me with insomnia. It also helps with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and bloating. A chamomile tea with honey and vanilla is one of my favourites.

chamomile

Peppermint

This tea is great for bloating, overindulgence, nausea and flatulence. It also helps with headaches and congested sinuses.

peppermint tea

Ginger

Ginger is a life saver when you’re dealing with morning sickness, nausea or travel sickness. It is also good for menstrual cramps.

ginger tea

Too much tea is not a good thing

Drinking too much tea can cause heartburn, jittery feelings and insomnia due to the caffeine content. High tannin intake can interfere with iron absorption. Stick to a maximum of five cups of tea daily – and make sure it’s not too hot. Research has showed that very hot beverages can increase the risk of oesophageal cancers.

Last word

It’s good to know that a beverage I love so much is good for my health, as long as I don’t drink too much of it. I can freely indulge in my three cups of tea a day and know that it’s of benefit to my heart and much more.  Funnily enough, the smell of coffee still appeals to me and sometimes I’m fooled into thinking that I might enjoy a cup. As soon as I start drinking it, I know immediately why I gave it up and go straight back to my tea. I’m an unrepentant tea addict. What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why your sleep cycle is so important

alarm clock

Our world is very different to that of our ancestors who had no clocks or electricity. They woke when the sun came up and went to sleep when it set. Today, we often get up when our alarm clock rings and go to bed long after the sun has set.  When our natural sleep cycle is broken, what effect does this have on our bodies?  Research seems to show that the constant tug-of-war between our external and internal clocks definitely does have an effect on them.

What is a sleep cycle? 

Your eyes are light sensitive and your brain responds to the signals they send. Your brain regulates body temperature, eating patterns, when to sleep and rise and even hormones according to these signals. This is referred to as your ‘body clock’ or circadian rhythm.  The word circadian comes from the Latin word ‘circa’ that means ‘around’ or ‘about’ and ‘diem’ that means day. A sleep cycle of roughly 24 hours co-ordinates with the light-dark cycle of the earth.  Sleep cycles differ from person to person and also depend upon age.  A child, adolescent and adult all have different sleep cycles.

Stages of sleep

Your sleep cycle begins with non-REM sleep, made up of 3 stages, each one of which can last for about 5 to 15 minutes. Once you have completed this cycle,  you enter Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep before the cycle starts all over again. Most non-REM sleep happens early on in the night and the length of REM periods increases as the night goes on.

Stage 1

When you nod off, brain wave activity gradually starts to slow down. Your eyes roll around and may open and close from time to time. You are sleeping so lightly that you can easily be woken up.

Stage 2

In this stage muscle activity decreases and conscious awareness of the outside world begins to fade completely. Dreaming is rare but twitches are quite common, often accompanied by a falling sensation.  The brain starts to emit larger waves.

Did you know?
More time (45 to 50% of total sleep time) is spent in stage 2 sleep than any other stage.

Stage 3

This stage consists of what was previously known as stage 3 and stage 4. Your brain starts producing slower delta waves. It becomes harder for you to wake up because you are responding  less to outside stimuli. Eye and muscle movement stops.  Heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and brain temperature are at their lowest levels in this stage. Dreaming is more common during this stage than the other non-REM sleep stages but not as common as during REM sleep.

In this stage tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored and hormones are released. These hormones are essential for growth and development.

Did you know?
Other names for this stage include “slow-wave sleep” and “Delta sleep.”

REM sleep

You usually enter Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Each REM stage can last up to an hour. You may go through five or six of these cycles every night. In this final phase, your brain is more active. Your eyes jerk quickly, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Your breathing is fast and shallow and you dream most in this phase. The brain waves you emit at this stage look a lot like those recorded when you are fully awake.  Another paradox of this phase is that even though your brain is very active, your muscles are paralyzed and unresponsive.
During REM sleep, your brain replenishes neurotransmitters. This is essential for problem solving, learning and remembering.  The images and information you receive during the day are processed and stored in your long term memory.

Did you know?
The average adult only spends about 20% (1.5 hours) of eight hours of sleep in REM sleep.

When your sleep cycle is disrupted

If sleep is disrupted, the sleep cycle is reset and may cause you to miss time in the final stages. If you do not experience REM sleep for even one night, your body may go directly into REM sleep the next night until you ‘catch up’.  Waking up to an alarm clock means that you might wake up in the wrong stage of the sleep cycle.  If you wake up in stage three you will probably feel as though you have had hardly any sleep. When you suffer from a sleep disorder or are woken up frequently, your body is often not able to move into deep sleep and REM sleep.

Effects of living against your natural clock

The discrepancy between internal time and external time affects everyone, from children to those of retirement age. We use alarm clocks to wake up in the morning and then try to make up for lost sleep on weekends.  We tend to spend too much time indoors, stay up too late, and use caffeine and sugar to give us energy.

At first scientists studying this discrepancy between internal and external time focused on night-shift workers and others whose jobs meant that they suffered the most disruption to their sleep-wake patterns. However, now research appears to be showing that it is not only these people whose bodies are affected. As long as our sleep cycle is controlled by external rather than internal factors, we are not at our best mentally or physically. Exposure to so much unnatural light and waking up with alarms seems to be extracting a toll on our bodies.

In 2012, a large scale study by Till Roenneberg and his team at Ludwig-Maximilian University found that the conflict between circadian and social clocks resulted in chronic sleep loss. They saw a link between sleep disruption (which they called ‘social jet lag’) and increased BMI. Their results reflected that living “against the clock” may be a factor contributing to obesity.

In 2015, a study at University of Pittsburgh also revealed a link between disruption in sleep cycles and known metabolic risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.  It was found that chronic disruption of circadian rhythms could contribute to metabolic imbalances that cause glucose intolerance and obesity.

Major neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s may also be connected to disrupted circadian rhythms.  Findings of a recent study suggested that poor sleep, of a fragmented or short duration in older adults, could cause a disrupted circadian rhythm. This in turn,  lead to increased accumulation of toxic beta-amyloid proteins – a known precurser of Alzheimer’s.

Tips to help you get a good night’s sleep

Here are a few tips to help you increase your chances of a good night’s sleep:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Our bodies respond well to consistency. It means that our bodily systems are able to prepare in advance. Our digestive systems become activated in advance of regular meal times so we can process are food. We begin to feel sleepy prior to our bedtime.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Surfing the internet or watching TV from your bed is not a good idea. These devices emit light and receiving too much light at night can make it harder for you to fall asleep. Listening to music is relaxing.  Learning some breathing exercises may be very helpful when you are battling insomnia.  A spiritual activity like praying is also a good way of handing over any worries and feeling peaceful. If you find that breathing exercises do not really work for you, it’s worth trying a sleep device called 2breathe. It helps you to breathe yourself to sleep when you don’t know how to meditate or empty your mind.
  •  Stay away from big meals at night. Eating late at night, especially if you eat heavy foods, is a recipe for acid reflux which can keep you awake.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. Drinking alcohol before bed might help you fall asleep faster but research shows that you quality of sleep is poorer. It seems to lead to warring alpha delta patterns which is disruptive to sleep.
  • Pick up on your body’s natural cues.   Your body tells you when it needs sleep and you need to listen to its cues rather than ignoring them by staying up and watching TV.
  • Expose yourself to sunlight.  Just as you need to be in the dark at night, you need to be in the sunlight during the day. Exposing yourself to sunlight a few times a day helps to reset your sleep cycle and also increases vitamin D production.
  • Make sure that you are warm or cool enough. Temperature is often overlooked as a factor preventing sleep. Open windows to clear out any hot, stuffy air. A cool shower before bedtime is better than a hot bath as it takes the body a long time to cool down.
  • Don’t just lie in bed for hours feeling more and more frustrated. It should usually take about 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you have been lying awake for much longer than that, get up and go through your relaxation routine again.

Last word

James B. Maas, PhD, and author of the best-seller Power Sleep says “Most adults are moderately to severely sleep deprived, and it affects their productivity, their work and their relationships. If we treated machines like we treat the human body, we would be accused of reckless endangerment.” In his book, this pioneer of sleep research at Cornell University, has created an easy, drug-free programme to improve your body and mind.

The quality of our sleep, not necessarily the quantity,  affects how we feel and perform on a daily basis.  When sleep is cut short, muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite are affected.  We need to do whatever it takes to make sure that we have enough good quality sleep.

 

 

 

 

Dating when you’re over 50 and divorced

dating

It’s very hard to go from being in a long-term committed relationship to dating someone else. Just the idea of it is often so nerve-wracking that you don’t even attempt it.  However, conquering any fears and taking the plunge may be just what’s needed.  That’s what I’m telling myself at any rate. I know that if I don’t do it soon, I’ll never do it. Of course dating when you’re over 50 and divorced comes with its own set of challenges.  I recently took a tentative first step by browsing through some of the sites out there.

Using internet dating sites

For those of us who grew up without the internet, using it for dating feels very strange. Research has shown, however, that a large and growing number of people over 50 are using dating sites now. Any stigma attached to it appears to have disappeared. When my children flew the nest, my social network became a little smaller and with my divorce it shrank even more.  I’m unlikely to meet someone unless I step outside of my close circle of friends and this is why, despite my initial reluctance, I have been looking at internet dating sites. Of course I am terrified but it’s all about taking my life off autopilot at this point.

I read this advert on Craig’s List recently:

“As a single parent with a couple of grown children my hope is that I can find someone who is in a similar position. I’m hoping to build a relationship with a mature, aware, evolved woman. I am looking for someone who can be open and honest, reliable and spontaneous, not too serious, knows how to have fun. I am intelligent, adventurous, honest, good sense of humor, reasonably attractive, and romantic.”

This is the type of advert that every woman is looking for but the truth is that we cannot afford to believe everything we read. When getting involved in online dating, we cannot afford to be naive. There are many unscrupulous individuals out there but there are also many people genuinely looking to meet and date. Finding the right dating site is a step in the right direction.

Choose the right dating site

The overwhelming number of dating sites makes choosing one difficult. Some sites, like Tinder, are used mainly by younger people. Both my son and daughter have used the Tinder app.  You sign in via Facebook and photos of men or women in your area ping on to your screen. You then press a green heart or a red cross in response. It’s totally superficial as far as I can see because it appears to be based on attractiveness but apparently it’s quite addictive.  Despite the fact that my son and daughter have suggested I use Tinder, it is definitely not a site for me – too many young, attractive users! Match.com is one of the most popular dating sites with plenty of users over 50. It’s useful features, easy navigation and many success stories have led to a large and varied user base and you receive suggested matches daily. However, local and city based sites are probably better than Match.com if you’re looking for someone who lives in your area. Such a site won’t have as many users but your potential matches may not even live too far away from you.

Many sites are dedicated specifically to over 50s. This immediately introduces you to a pool of potential partners of the right age in your area who share your interests. Some sites are more niche and dedicated to those with a specific interest or background. For example, if you are a Christian, you could join a Christian dating site.

At over 50, when it’s already intimidating to join a dating site, it’s helpful to find one that is quite easy to use. You can browse sites without having to complete a profile or pay a subscription and this will usually help you to decide whether you want to join or not.

How internet dating sites work

I discovered from looking at a number of sites for over 50s that most of them work in a similar way. You set up your profile and upload a photo. You will usually complete questions about your looks, lifestyle, beliefs, education and your ideal match.  Some sites require more detailed personality tests than others. You need to give yourself a user name.  Before you can communicate, you have to pay a subscription fee and most sites charge a monthly fee. Before you send an email to someone, you usually have to ‘wink’ at them or give some other indication that you would like to make contact. If they ‘wink’ back at you, you know that you’re chatting to someone who’s interested.  Once you start communicating, you can find out more about what the other person is expecting. All interaction usually takes place on the site and emailing directly is not encouraged. Many safeguards are usually put in place on the best dating sites to protect your privacy as far as possible.

Some dating ‘don’ts’ once you’ve landed a date

1. Don’t even go on a date unless you’re ready to face rejection.

You need to be in a healthy emotional state before you start dating again. Dating inevitably brings with it the risk of rejection and you have to feel strong enough to deal with it. You’re unlikely to meet a new partner right away. You may have to go on many dates where you will just not be attracted to the other person or vice versa.

2. Don’t talk about your ex.

If you aren’t yet over your ex and constantly talk about him, this can quickly put off a potential new partner. Sharing all the details of your divorce too early on will probably push someone away. Bonding over your baggage is a bad place to start. Focus on the present and the person you are with.

3. Don’t talk about your health issues.

He doesn’t want to know that you’re having a hot flush and she doesn’t want to know about your prostate or bladder problems.

4. Don’t cling to the first man who comes along.

If you cling onto the first man who takes an interest in you and asks you out on a date, you’re making a mistake. This is especially true if you were married for a long time. Don’t try to recreate the life you had before. If it doesn’t work out with someone after a few dates, don’t try to force it. Don’t keep calling the person who doesn’t call you.

If you’re looking for someone because you’re needy and lonely, the other person can become an emotional crutch. You should be in a place where you would like to have a partner but don’t need one. You will carry all your past problems into a new relationship if you haven’t devoted time to grieving  and finding your own strength again after your divorce.

5. Don’t be in a hurry to find ‘Mr Right’.

Getting back into dating can be frightening when your body is ageing and you don’t even remember how to go about it anymore. It’s probably best to start by seeing it as a way of meeting new people and increasing your friendship circle. Making new friends is a first step. It’s possible that one of these friendships will eventually become something more. You will feel far more comfortable at the idea of finding new friends rather than looking for ‘Mr Right’.

Last word

You may think that it’s too late for you to find another person. I have thought this myself for quite some time now. I have also been content to be on my own and rediscover myself and what I really want out of life. However, I realize that I probably have quite a number of years left  and at times I think it would be nice to share it with someone.  The way I see it is that there’s nothing to lose by registering on a dating site. So, that’s my first little baby step. Whether I would have the guts to go on a date is another story altogether. I’m very good at giving advice to others that I don’t apply myself!

Ending the shame of divorce

shame

Shame is an emotion that many people live with their entire lives. It prevents them from living life fully. A divorce is a life event that often leaves you feeling raw and exposed. You don’t realize how much the burden of shame is weighing you down until you start trying to move on.

It’s ironic that it’s often the partner who has been rejected who feels ashamed. You have internalized that pain of abandonment. And when shame hits, it makes you crawl into your shell like a snail under threat. You try to make yourself as invisible as possible.  You feel as though all eyes are on you and you hide away to escape their scrutiny. Your self-esteem suffers a severe blow and it’s easy to buy into the idea that you are a complete failure. Throwing off the shame is harder but carrying its weight around for the rest of your life is an impossible burden to bear.

The stigma of divorce

In a survey of 1000 divorced people in the UK, 46% of divorcees felt they were judged daily because their marriages had failed.  In our society, we have many preconceived notions about marriage and divorce. We marry our ‘soulmate’ and when he or she no longer wants to be with us, we consider ourselves seriously flawed. Why is it that we feel this way even if the end of the relationship is hardly our fault?  Is it because of the way society looks at marriage and divorce? A book called Sacred Cows: The Truth About Divorce and Marriage, by Danielle Teller, MD, and Astro Teller, PhD reveals different responses to divorce in our society. The authors talk about seven of these sacred cows. ‘The Holy Cow’ is that righteous person to whom marriage is always good and divorce is always bad. ‘The expert cow’ says that every problem can be fixed and if you are divorced it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough. ‘The selfish cow’ says that you didn’t sacrifice or compromise enough to make the marriage work. ‘The defective cow’ says that there’s something wrong with you. ‘The innocent victim cow’ focuses on the children and says that you should have stayed together for them because they are irrevocably harmed by divorce. ‘The one true cow’ gives rise to endless self doubt when the romantic ideal that there’s one person who’s right for you ends. ‘The other cow’ states that no one should ever leave a marriage for another person.  The common thread between these attitudes is that they are all judgemental and based on assumptions.  No-one else can really know the intricacies of your relationship except you. I have personally found empathy and support from my closest friends but it’s still hard to deal with assumptions about divorce made by society in general that cling to me like a mangy coat.

The influence of social media

The end of my marriage was played out on social media where a comment and photographs put a swift end to my illusions. Suddenly the whole world was involved in my marriage and its ugly demise.  My children were subjected to all the sordid details without any chance for me to protect them.

Social media has added an extra layer of complication to the end of relationships. I am not against social media and feel, like any other media, it can be used for positive and negative purposes. Unfortunately, when a relationship ends and the fallout occurs on social media, it adds hurt to an already difficult situation.

What shameful beliefs do you need to ditch?

The rules and values you attempt to live by are your core beliefs. They determine what you expect from yourself, from others and from the world around you. With divorce, your core beliefs may take a knock and become distorted. You may think that:

  • your divorce is due to a flaw in your character.
  • you are to blame for every bad thing that has happened.
  • your life ahead is not worth living because it’s not what you imagined for yourself.
  • you may as well overeat, drink too much etc. because no one will ever love you again.

These are just a few of the beliefs that cause you to shrink away and hide in a corner. You’re afraid to put yourself out there because you feel undesirable, unwanted, unloved and ashamed. Because someone who may have once loved you deeply was the source of your hurt and pain, the cut is really deep. There is nothing that compares with pain inflicted by a loved one.

Why you must leave shame behind

Cynicism, despair and hopelessness are part of a life of shame. This is why shame has a way of morphing into a whole slew of addictive, irresponsible, compulsive and demoralizing attitudes and behaviours.  Strong feelings of shame warp your perspective on life. Before you know it, your deep sense of inadequacy and shame may explode in anger. This can result in bitter fights over children and other issues of divorce. Your hostility may even drive away the people closest to you. Your shame may lead to deep depression which makes you feel completely powerless. You no longer believe that you can do anything positive to improve your life.  Sadly, you may also become self-destructive and your self-destructive behaviour only creates more shame.

Your feeling of being defective in some way affects what you think and how you behave. Living with shame is isolating and it makes you push others away. Intimacy is difficult because being too close to others is just too scary. You imagine they will hurt you in the same way that you were hurt before.

When you’re full of shame, you lack of energy, you feel immobilized and it takes tremendous energy just to continue living. Your motivation is sapped and you no longer have the ability to take positive risks. If you feel trapped and unable to move forward, it could be because of your shame. Shame can be behind many of your choices that keep you from experiencing a full life.

Leaving shame behind

The first step towards becoming free of shame is to understand what it is and how it affects you in your daily life. When you begin to identify your shame, it can feel overwhelming and depressing. It is not an easy task because you have to rewrite the script you have been living by and you are the only one that can do it.

Think about how you speak to yourself. What does that inner voice say? Does it tell you that you’re no good, a loser, and that you’re incapable of being on your own?  When you have created a habit of talking negatively to yourself, it needs to be addressed.  Commit to taking note every time you hear this voice. The truth is that it often voices lies and deceptions. When you begin to realize that, you take away its power.

Recognise your tendency to isolate yourself. On occasions when you feel separate and alone,  question why you are pushing others away. Slowly, as you begin to work on being more open,  you will find that people respond to you.

It important to write a new story that will propel you towards a life you love. Your story is about who you really are inside and who you want to be. It is only when you begin to believe and live your new story that you gain new emotional strength and experience new possibilities. It helps to write down your story and go over it frequently in your mind so that the old negative story has no place anymore.

Last word

Shame makes you hold back, keep yourself separate and close yourself off. Shame loves secrecy. When you experience the shame of divorce, it’s like a blanket of protection that you wear to prevent further hurt. You have to choose to live without that blanket.  Before long, you will a start feeling more fully alive. You will feel the lightness of having shed an intolerable burden and your shame will no longer define you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t live your whole life on autopilot

observe

Humans are creatures of habit. Much of our day-to-day life is repetitive. We all know that feeling of getting into the car and arriving at work without being able to recount the exact details of the journey. When we repeat actions on a daily basis, we use up less energy by doing exactly what we did before. Safe routines can also protect us from danger.  The problem comes when more and more of our life becomes routine until there is no spontaneity left. Don’t live your whole life on autopilot – that is existing and not really living. When we live in autopilot mode we are not really present in our lives and that can only result in plenty of unhappiness. lack of fulfillment and regrets.

mony treeDr. Ira Hyman, Ph.D, did an interesting research project with some former students. They  conducted two studies in which they placed obstacles directly in the pathway of walkers and checked if they avoided the obstacles and if they became aware of the them.  In the one study (inspired by a YouTube video by Amy Krouse Rosenthal) three-dollar bills were clipped onto a branch of a tree beside a narrow path between some dorms and the academic centre of campus. All individuals had to move their heads in order to not walk into the branch. The researchers discovered that people could walk past the tree, move to avoid a branch, and fail to become aware of money hanging directly in front of their faces. We have all heard the saying that ‘money does not grow on trees’ but even if it did, we probably wouldn’t notice it!  Studies like this just help to illustrate how much of our lives is lived on autopilot.

Warning signs

The Cambridge dictionary defines being on autopilot as “doing something without thinking about it or without making an effort”.  Here are some warning signs that may indicate too much of your life is spent on autopilot:

  1. You have lost hope.
    You have nothing to look forward to except more of the same. You have given up on your dreams and aspirations. You have given up all attempts to make any changes in your life. You no longer have any sense of purpose. You may begin to feel this way because of all the losses and discouragement you have suffered in the course of your life. You may have decided that you would rather live without the highs and lows rather than being disappointed again.
  2. You have begun to fear change.
    You no longer want to stretch your boundaries or challenge yourself. You no longer ache to do something new. You think that if you don’t continue performing the same actions day after day, the consequences may be frightening. You may get an idea that lifts you out of your mundane life for a moment, but it remains only an idea because your fear kicks in and squashes it with thoughts that it’s too difficult to follow through.
  3. You don’t take the actions necessary to make your dreams come true.
    It seems like just too much effort to take steps towards fulfilling your dreams. You no longer make any conscious effort to make your life or the life of those around you better. You don’t take risks and yet you live every day with regret about what you are not doing. You are always waiting for something to happen to you as you don’t feel you can make the changes yourself.
  4. You lack self-esteem
    When you lack self-esteem, it is easier to live a life of dull routine that provides no challenges because you do not feel equipped to handle them.
  5. You are influenced by the negativity of others.
    When crabs have been caught, they could easily escape from the bucket but they keep dragging one another down and so none of them get out. People who have a ‘crab mentality’ do not rejoice in the success of others but try to prevent it because of their jealousy, envy and competitiveness.  If you are attempting to make changes in your life, these are the people who will resent it. If they have to go out and work in a cubicle every day to earn a living, why should you be any different? Why should you be able to follow your passion when they have to do the same meaningless job day after day just to pay the bills?  When you share your dreams and hopes, they will point out all the reasons why what you want to do is impossible. If you listen to these voices, you have little chance of escaping mediocrity.
  6. You are caught in the trap of materialism.
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with possessions but sometimes the quest for them gets in the way of life rather than enhancing it.  There are many people who reach the end of their lives having accumulated many possessions but still facing plenty of regrets and unhappiness.

A meaningful life without regrets

Do you want to live your whole life with feelings of regret? There is a natural tendency to re-examine our lives at the start of any new phase such as when we have children or when our children leave home. It often takes a near-death experience or some kind of tragedy to really jolt us out of our complacency and take stock of our lives. It took the trauma of divorce to well and truly shake me out of my comfort zones.

Find out what’s holding you back, say ‘enough’ and make a decision that you want to live more intentionally and meaningfully. That’s the first step. Of course just saying it isn’t enough and it has to be followed up with actions. But there’s nothing stopping you except you.

Living life without regrets does not necessarily mean the same for everyone. For someone it may mean embarking on an adventure such as deciding to live off the grid or traveling around the world. For someone else it might mean living simply and authentically according to their true values – they may want to embrace a creative lifestyle or get rid of excess possessions. It may mean deciding to live fully in the present moment without being dragged down by the past or fearing for the future.  Be consciously aware of living fully in the present and enjoying what it has to offer.

I thought about this today when my adult daughter came to visit me and I was busy doing all sorts of other things instead of talking to her.  I sat down, put aside everything else and we had a good chat. I felt so close to her and my life was suddenly much fuller and richer as a result. This is a simple example but I think it’s the simple choices that can lead to more permanent change.   Maybe, living a life without regrets is as simple as beginning each day by making a conscious decision to be more fully present.

Last word

I think we all want to live life rather than merely existing. To do this, it’s important to be aware of how much of your life is spent on autopilot. Once you have this awareness and you discover what’s holding you back,  you can  start making some changes. If you start becoming more conscious and think about what you are doing, eventually your life will become more meaningful.  Do this often enough and I believe you will no longer feel powerless.  Are you living in a haze where you’re not fully present?  If you are, it’s time to make some changes. I am trying to live more intentionally myself and it’s not always easy to leave your comfort zones and challenge yourself. But, I have found that the rewards are great when I do succeed and that encourages me to move forward. It certainly does not happen overnight and takes determination but it is worth it!