The new Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends survey measured dissatisfaction and pessimism in close to 2500 participants. The data indicates that Baby Boomers worry more than any other generation. And a recent study from the University of Chicago suggests that the boomer generation has never really been happy. One hypothesis is that they grew up wanting to make the world a better place – and it’s not.
No one could deny that the national conversation has become depressing. Some find it hard to get up in the morning, when all they hear about is tumbling home prices, the war in Afghanistan or Iraq and record oil prices. Pundits exclaim that the American dream is dying on the vine and we are all suffering from bankrupt spirits. But are things really that bad? What’s happening may be a natural change in the seasons of life. Cultural pain is normal in crises and perhaps the Baby Boomers just haven’t been adversity-tested. After all, isn’t necessity the mother of invention? Follow some of these suggestions as you develop your inner strength and resiliency:
1. You know about physical fitness. Apply some of these principals to becoming more emotionally fit. Discover your usual emotional pattern and start a training program. In addition to nutritious eating and regular exercise, practice noticing the negative concerns that get your attention, how you end up feeling and what active steps you can take to change your thoughts.
2. Rather than seeing the glass half empty, turn your challenges into opportunities. Release your mind from worries, most of which never happen anyway. Take it one day at a time and accomplish what you can without dwelling on the ‘what ifs.’ Worrying takes a lot of time and energy – it’s counterproductive and destroys your peace of mind.
3. Free yourself from resentment and practice how to forgive. If you hold on to grudges toward your business partner or past hurts from your friends, you’re the only one who will be miserable. Let go of feeling sorry for yourself and you’ll make room for more positive experiences. As your attitude changes, your day-to-day life will become more pleasant.
4. Embrace simplicity and appreciate what you have. Enjoy your family and colleagues. Go outside on a cloudless night and look at the beautiful sky. Take your family camping for the weekend and roast marshmallows over the fire. Eat sandwiches on a park bench with a co-worker and visit during lunch hour. Give back by volunteering at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or a boys and girls club.
5. If you’re feeling gloomy in these rollercoaster times, invite friends over for a potluck dinner and have everyone bring their signature dish. Turn the conversation into a creative and supportive revival of the spirit. Discuss innovative ways to save on groceries, to use less gas, to network for a new job.
6. Don’t expect so much. Unrealistic expectations about things and people lead to disappointment. Stuff loses its shine and appeal. Built-in obsolescence makes you a slave to the latest style and the next upgrade. It never ends, and then you feel dissatisfied with what you have. In some situations try not to expect anything, and whatever comes your way will be a blessing.
It is true that, as financial crises go, this one is very personal. But perception doesn’t always match reality. According to the Pew Research results, the boomer generation enjoys the highest incomes of any age group surveyed. They are less likely to have been laid off and less likely to have trouble paying for medical care or housing. In fact, fewer of them said that someone in their household had to go to work in the past year or take on an extra job to make ends meet. Home prices will stabilize, oil prices could stop going up and, for all we know, the global economy may be resilient. The bottom line is that contentment is elusive for some people. In the end, it’s important to realize that fulfillment isn’t to be achieved as a goal in itself, but rather as the result of living a good life.
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