Originally published on SixtyandMe
Some of us choose to live alone and others are faced with it due to circumstances such as death of a spouse or partner. It’s what we do after we live alone that matters, and I am going to share 5 ways to get the most out of this situation.
According to a recent Pew Research paper 27% of people over 60 in the US and 28% of people over 60 in Europe live alone compared to 16% worldwide. You are definitely in good company.
In the past, we felt sorry for people who had to live alone but that often isn’t the case anymore. And from my observations and conversations with a number of people over 60, many of them are thriving and enjoying the single life.
Are there still a bunch of people out there over 60 who are lonely and depressed and not looking forward to every day? Absolutely. If you are one of them, these 5 tips will help you see the bright side too.
Toss Out That Alarm Clock – or Not!
I love the morning, so I get up early. In fact, I wish I could squeeze 24 hours during the time of 6:00–10:00 am. What about you?
When you start living alone, you can throw right out the window all of the habits you developed to please someone else. Figure out if you are a lark or an owl and start planning your life around that schedule. If you don’t know or can’t tell, you can take a test to see where you fall.
If you are a lark, you definitely will not need an alarm clock. Your body will finally be able to do what it wants when it wants. And enjoy that luxury. You deserve it. Your circadian rhythms will thank you. You will be more alert and have more energy and your moods will greatly improve.
Now the same is true if you are an owl. Go ahead and stay up late and sleep in and listen to your body.
Challenge Yourself 4% Above Your Skill Level
Learning new things focuses your attention and allows you to be present in the moment. Remember to keep your challenge/skills ratio in somewhat of a balance. If your skills are a lot greater than the challenge or new thing you are learning, then you will be bored and want to quit.
On the other hand, if the new thing you are learning is way too difficult for your skills, then you will have a lot of anxiety and frustration and also quit.
It works really well when the challenge is about 4% above your skill level. You stay interested and in the moment while increasing your motivation as you learn more and more.
Make a list of the things you always wanted to do when you were a kid. Learn the guitar, play chess, read in another language, paint, throw pottery, learn to shoot a bow and arrow. Whatever. Write it all down. Now, what still pops out? That is a good place to start.
Celebrate Loving Yourself
For many of us, we grew up with parents who were in the silent generation. They lived through the depression and WWII, and a mindset of just getting by, putting your nose to the grindstone, and living with an austerity filtered down to us.
We didn’t have the luxury of wanting things because we knew it wouldn’t happen. We were told to clean up our plate as people were starving in other parts of the world. We were taught to be happy wearing hand-me-down clothes. We were drilled that thinking about ourselves was selfish and we didn’t deserve it.
I’m here to tell you that you DO deserve it. All the love you have for others will be magnified when you love yourself. Think of all of the people you have helped during your life and people who have depended on you and looked to you for advice and support.
You did that because you cared and loved them. You could not have given love if you did not love yourself so now is the time to recognize it. Celebrate and give thanks for that love.
I learned a trick a few years ago that I still use. Write on your bathroom mirror “I am enough” in bright red lipstick. Buy one just for writing on your mirror, if you must. You can write anything you want as long as it is loving. When you see it every day, and you say it to yourself, you will come to believe it.
Turn Your Awareness On
Whether you have lived in the same place for many years or have recently moved, it is an eye opener to look at your surroundings with a different purpose and new eyes.
We often have a routine route that gets us past all of our regular places we go during the week and we go on automatic. Hardly seeing anything. A building gets torn down and we can’t remember what was there before.
Here’s what you can do. If you are a walker, then you need to head out the door and walk two miles in every direction. One a day. Walk on one side of the street (if you are in a city) and return on the opposite side of the street.
Stop and look in the buildings, the alleys, the parking lots or whatever you pass. Be aware of the time of day, your direction, the time of year, what you are seeing and take photos if you carry your phone with you.
If you cannot walk two miles in every direction, then drive your car 5 miles out on at least 4 different roads. Do one a day.
Turn the radio off. Turn your awareness on. Stop after 5 miles or so and see where you are and what’s going on. Did you go by a park, a cemetery, a market, a fruit stand? You get to stop at those on the way back.
While you have been in habit mode the world has changed around you. Think like a tourist and make discoveries in your own neighborhood. Change things up.
The Art of Listening
You will probably need to silence the little voice in your head that is trying to filter things out and keep you safe. Just give that safety monitor a candy bar and tell it to take a nap.
Instead, tune in to your body and your thoughts when you are calm and quiet and introspective. This happens when you breathe slowly and meditate or simply focus on your breathing for a few minutes.
It also happens when you keep a gratitude journal. Gratitude journals are about things that have already happened, and you are grateful for them. Ask yourself why you are grateful. Write a paragraph about one of the things you are grateful for. This is the close listening to yourself that is so gratifying and healthful.
Listening to others is an art and a gift. When you master this skill it also reinforces the love you have for yourself. Learn to listen without any judgement or conversation in your head or preconceived ideas about what you think the other person is going to say.
Do not react to anything you hear. Be there and create the space for them to communicate honestly and openly knowing they are accepted and loved no matter what they say.
I have definitely found that I love creating adventure on my own terms!
Do you live alone? Do you know a friend or family member who lives alone? What are some things you recommend for living alone? I would love to hear from you.