May 12, 2014

Toxic Thoughts

Baseball season is only into its second month and the Arizona Diamondbacks appear to have their dreams for 2014 already gone. With the worst start in team history, as I write this they are in last place, 10 games out of first. They began the season with a horrible losing streak that will be virtually impossible to overcome.


At this point, I assume their day-to-day goal is to simply try to stay positive. It would be easy to give up already, but being (overpaid)  professionals who are providing entertainment to those attending games, their job is to go out every day and play as if all those loses don't exist.


It occurred to me that the same attitude is crucial to those of us having a rough go of it in retirement. Like a losing baseball team, it would be easy to throw in the towel, to settle for the (bad) hand life has dealt us, and muddle through.


You know I'm not going to allow you to do that, right? Attitude is the magic elixir of a satisfying retirement. No matter what struggles you are having, they will not be easier to handle if you have a defeatist approach. Thinking about the dark cloud instead of its silver lining will only make your troubles harder to bear.


This is not a Pollyanna approach to the real pain or problems we may have to deal with. Plenty of studies have drawn a definite link between attitude and health, both mental and physical. Not dwelling on the wrong parts of your life actually has been shown to help you find solutions or deal with an issue more quickly and successfully.


Obviously, I am not referring to serious depression. That is a medical condition that must be addressed and controlled. I am talking about those toxic thoughts that that bog you down and color your daily life but can be attacked by a change in attitude and approach.


Most newly retired folks will have times of toxic thoughts: "I will run out of money, I miss my friends, I have nothing to do all day, my health plan stinks," and so on. This phase of retirement usually disappears as we get used to our new schedule and freedom and begin to build a lifestyle that is as satisfying and enriching as we can make it.


Even then, it is much too easy to allow some new obstacle to upset us or force us off our path. We begin to focus on the negatives or the limitations that change has imposed on us. Certainly, I am not denying that a sudden, major change in our health, marriage, financial status, or death of a loved one can throw a large wrench into our world. Life can change in the blink of an eye.


But you've known that for years. Nothing, I repeat, nothing we have today is guaranteed tomorrow. We have no control over the past, and not much more over the future. The only control we absolutely retain is the control over how we respond, how we react when life does its best to knock us off our block.


I have just finished reading a new book that was sent to me for a review. It is one of the Chicken for the Soul books; this one is built around Alzheimer's. You can find the full review here, but the message in each of the 101 essays is the same: the attitude that an Alzheimer suffer has makes all the difference in the world to the quality of his or her remaining time on earth.


If someone dying, or someone caring for that dying person from this horrible disease is able to tell us that toxic thoughts do no one any good, then I am hard pressed to see how I could have the gall to complain about whatever is bothering me.





26 comments:

  1. I think we're just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to the power of our minds. Although I've been guilty of wrong thinking--especially when I was younger--I have lived long enough to observe what a difference a positive attitude makes. Those who choose to believe the best seem to bounce back quicker when faced with any type of challenge, and they're an inspiration to be around. There's even a bible verse that says "as you think, you will be " (excuse my paraphrase).

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    1. This past Sunday, my pastor's sermon was about worry and it's power to hurt us. Worry is pretty much useless since 95% of it either is about the past (unchangeable), the future (unknowable), something that won't happen, or something we can do nothing about.

      I content that the real fountain of youth is a positive attitude.

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  2. Yeah, toxic thoughts invade most of us at least some time in our retired lives. As you say it is how you deal with them that matters. My health continues to go down but my life is still much better than when I was forced to put in a 7am - 6pm day for someone else. The secret is to just quit moaning and play the hand dealt to you the best you can. Of course you are the guru of that so I am just preaching to the choir here.

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    1. I am very sorry to learn of your declining health, RJ. We all have health issues as we age and we know they are inevitable, but that doesn't change the fact that it is upsetting and frustrating when things affect us directly. As you so nicely note, moaning doesn't make the problem go away it just makes us focus on something we can't change.

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  3. You are so right. Keeping a good attitude is crucial for staying healthy and happy. But, sometimes we do have to vent . . .

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    1. Venting is good for the soul and our emotional balance. Ask my wife - I can vent with the best of them.

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  4. A friend's mother is in the late stages of Alzheimer's and it is so sad. My father-in-law is in late stages of dementia, which they say is not the same disease. However, the result is the same. I would rather get hit by a bus than endure either. Unfortunately we don't get to choose.
    b

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    1. Alzheimer's is a subset of dementia.

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    2. I will make the same point in the book review in a day or two: Alzheimer's is horrible for the individual and ten times worse for the family. But, the stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book are surprisingly encouraging and gave me a very different perspective..

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  5. I just read this mornings post and coincidently thoughts have been on my mind a lot lately. I just finished a new book " You are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter" by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I couldn't put it down all weekend. He makes the case through scientific studies, brain scans, case histories and his own story of being hit by an SUV during a triathlon, that our thoughts can heal us and also make us sick. He not only provides proof, he shows us how we can change our lives through our thoughts and a method of meditation. Dispenza conducts workshops all over the world and appeared in the movie "What the Bleep Do We Know?"

    If you want an uplifting read that offers hope when our medical experts offer little, it's worth looking at. My life has been good, to which I credit my optimistic nature. Knowing I can control many (maybe all?) aspects of it blows my mind. I honestly believe this is what Jesus was saying about abundant life 2000 years ago. Reading the scriptures through this lens makes so much more sense than the dogma handed down through the ages.

    Just thought I'd send this to you. I didn't know if you endorsed books or people endorsed them on your blog. Make it a great day!

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    1. Thanks, Cheryl, for information on the book by Dr. Dispenza. I'll be interested if anyone else knows of this book and adds a comment

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  6. Very timely post for me, as I anticipate my upcoming retirement on June 30. I happen to be off work today and had plans to be outside. But thunderstorms and sheeting rain changed my plans. It occurred to me that I will need some "rainy day plans" if I am to succeed in my own retirement. This post reminded me of a quote (author unknown) who said "a minute to change my attitude can change my day." Wise words, I think!

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    1. We haven't had a decent rain storm in the Phoenix area for several months. Please send some our way!

      "Rainy day" plans for retirement can include much more than the weather! Enjoy your upcoming life change on June 30th.

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  7. As a lifelong San Fran fan my Giants have had something to say about the current troubles the D'backs are experiencing, Bob. But they will be back.

    Most people here seem to be reading things more esoteric than myself. Just finished "Money Secrets of the Amish" and have started "The Amish Society". I bring them up merely because I don't believe the Amish have time to dwell on things others in society seem to at times. It might be food for thought to follow their example, or rather some of their more positive traits.

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    1. Over the last week or so, the D'backs have started to win more than lose. Starting the season with two games in Australia was not helpful.

      Betty and I are fans of some of the Amish belief system. Their steadfast adherence to a simpler lifestyle and rejection of the "idol worship" of technology are very attractive to us.

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  8. I agree.There is no reason to dwell on toxic thoughts. Life is too short to focus on negative things especially when you are already on the age of retirement. Optimism is the key to still be able to smile in spite of hardships.Just keep in mind that hardships don't stay forever and there are always good reasons to be happy. :)

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  9. This was a great post for today as the beginning of today was a series of challenges....spilled tea, lost keys, late to an appointment.....stuff that hasn't happened for awhile (actually since I retired!)

    I was reminded that how I view everything makes a difference! This is one of those posts to re-read ---thanks!

    pam

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    1. As long as you didn't spill the tea on the computer, lose the keys while 10 miles from home, and miss an important appointment, everything is fine!

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    2. Yup! & as I hurried in, apologizing for being late, the receptionist said the gentleman I was there to meet had just called & was running late because his earlier appointment ran over -- reminding me once again not to sweat the small stuff!

      As one of my friends reminded me often, if it's not brain surgery & you didn't sneeze, it's all good.

      pam

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  10. Worrying about the past often generates toxic thoughts. I ran across this quote by Anne Lamott that has helped me a lot: "Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past." By forgiving myself first I have been generating more nourishing vs. toxic thoughts which is by far more preferable...

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    1. Ms. Lamott's quote is so very much on target. Our focus on what can't be changed is just so much wasted energy and opportunity.

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  11. One of my favorite spiritual teachers posted this the other day:

    "Where are you?? " HERE. "What time is it??" NOW.

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  12. Without a doubt, worry and toxic thoughts can make you sick. Just ask any college kid who has exams coming up. Then there are the folks who deliberately live their lives with a "glass half empty" attitude, always waiting for something bad to happen instead of anticipating good - it always shows. So, it makes sense that having a positive attitude and meeting every new day with gratitude keeps us healthy. Not to mention more pleasant to be around. :)

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    1. We've probably all experienced older folks who have descended into mean, negative geezerdom. Not only do they irritate those around them, but I'd be willing to guess they shorten their own lives with that attitude.

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