A lighthearted article by the Daily Telegraph earlier this year shared the ‘happy moments’ of some of our country’s most famous faces.
It was an entertaining piece but it does have an underlying serious side to it if you believe the findings of a report by University College London (UCL) which concludes that happiness is fundamental to being healthy in old age.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s commonsense that enjoying a fulfilling life is going to be more rewarding both emotionally and physically. We know ourselves if we are in a good mood or happy frame of mind, we might have a spring in our step and we are much more likely to see the positive rather than the negative in situations we face.
But it’s also fair to say that as the years pass, it is extremely easy for this state of mind to change with a very strong likelihood it may decline as contributing factors, many outside of our individual control, such as bereavement, start to impact and influence how we feel.
While many people, whatever their age, can cope with short-term periods of unhappiness, the devastating loss of a loved one has more far-reaching affects. It can lead to loneliness, depression, a growing feeling of helplessness, lack of independence, declining enthusiasm and so the list continues.
This is why helping someone to maintain even just a small chink of happiness and helping it to grow and blossom into something bigger and longer lasting, is crucial.
I decided to ask a group of our own residents how they keep a positive outlook and maintain their own happy thoughts.
Here are their top six tips on how to maintain a happy state of mind. I hope you find it useful:
1. Do not dwell on the past too much – look back on those happy memories from time to time but always point forwards; look ahead to what you have to enjoy next week and next month; life is just too short to be spent with your head in an old photo album all the time.
2. Plan your week – not just the next day, look across the week including the weekend and have a structured timetable to keep you active and your mind busy. Weekends are generally the worst times, when everyone else seems to have family and friends for company and you feel the only one alone. So, make a point of contacting an old friend or someone else you know who will probably be sitting at home alone. If you don’t mind your own company, split up your day and set some timescales to keep yourself ‘busy’ and occupied. Remember, ‘busy’ could mean anything from cleaning the windows to sitting back and reading a book.
3. Ensure some of your week involves other people – plan a trip out, even if it’s just to the local shops or the library; and if you can’t get out for some reason, ensure you invite people round for coffee or an evening get-together. A conversation or social get-together will be stimulating and will probably lead to another social event.
4. If you’re able to, plan some form of exercise every day – it could be a walk around your local village, or just around the garden. Exercise and fresh air is important, whatever the time of year. If it’s cold out or weather is bad, do some exercises in your home – it could be good fun – put the radio or TV on while you’re doing this and it will give you some light relief while doing so.
5. Join a group or club – it may be the last thing you want to do but you will be amazed what it could bring to your life. As well as potential to meet and make some new friends, you could learn a new hobby or pick up an old one you had forgotten about.
6. Wear a smile – it’s easy to say and not so easy to do but life is for living and for enjoying. While you may be feeling pretty low inside, try to wear a smile and you will be amazed how it will be received. A positive action usually results in a positive response.
The UCL survey interviewed over 3,000 people aged 60-plus. We may not have quite this number living in our UK villages just yet but I do know that of the large number I have had the privilege to meet and speak to over the years, the majority would support the theory that happiness does enhance good health.
Just witnessing some of the many happy occasions undertaken by residents at some of our villages such as Blagdon or Castle this summer, I can see how an appetite for a happy and fulfilling life is so important when it comes to retirement living.
I have learned a lot from our residents and continue to do so. Without a shadow of a doubt, their philosophy and outlook on life is one I will maintain myself.
For now, if you want to know what makes me happy, it is something as simple as seeing by son and daughter give me a wave and a smile as they leave for their day at school.
So, what makes you happy? It would be good to know. Please feel free to share your thoughts here, we may even publish the best in one of my future blogs…
Sales and Marketing Director