It feels like for older adults, we’re often feeling nostalgic and looking backwards. But looking forward is not only critical to health, both physical and mental, it’s pleasurable! Regardless of our age, there are things that we can (and should) look forward to, even though sometimes it may be challenging to feel that way.
Why is it so important that we look forward? And as we move into 2022, what are some things that we as seniors can look forward to?
The benefits of “looking forward”
One of the things that we have all experienced during the pandemic has been a loss of things to look forward to. Events being cancelled, health protocols that kept us from seeing loved ones up close and personal, and travel limits have left many of us wondering what there is to look forward to right now.
A recent study done by Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University found that using proactive coping skills, including anticipation (looking forward to something) actually reduces our current state of stress. Other studies have also confirmed that when people have stressful events, but also have something to look forward to once the stressful event is over, they rebound from that stress more quickly.
This confirms that when we look forward to something, it not only gives us the joy of anticipation, but helps us to manage our current situation even better.
“How” to look forward
Experts say that one of the keys about anticipation is balancing being realistic with your plans and daydreaming (a little). For example, if you always wanted to get your pilot’s license, it may not be realistic that you’re able to do that now. But it might be realistic that you could plan to go on a small plane as a guest. The thrill and anticipation might be very similar.
Another piece of this puzzle is to infuse your life with anticipation of smaller, but perhaps more frequent joys. Things you may not normally do, such as getting your favorite takeout dinner one night a week, or scheduling time for that hobby that you used to enjoy, but gave up because you used to be too busy.
What to look forward to?
For everyone reading this, our lives have been affected by the pandemic, whether in large ways or small. Our lives look very different than they used to. This isn’t all that different than growing older. Our lives now look very different than they did when we were younger.
But in both situations, dwelling on the “way things used to be” is irrelevant and frankly, unhealthy. We need to change perspective and think about how and what we have to look forward to now.
Here is a short list of possible things to look forward to:
Achievement – For those of us who love learning, there are some great resources online for continuing education. Ever wanted to learn to speak Italian, get an Interior Design Certificate or learn how to paint with watercolors? There are so many courses to choose from on sites like Udemy.com or Coursera.
More time with family and friends – For those people in our “bubble”, the older we are, generally we have more time to share with others. It might even be the time to learn how to WhatsApp, Zoom or Skype, so that you can video call with your loved ones all around the world! (And if you don’t know what any of those things are, check out How Tech Can Change Your Life in 2022.)
Traveling – This may look a little different than it has in the past. Perhaps you won’t be hopping on a plane and flying halfway around the world. But do you know where the best museum in town is? Or what the best spot is to catch a gorgeous sunset? Traveling and getting out in nature (and in new environments) is still inherently pleasurable, even if you have to adapt a few things.
Start new relationships – Yes! Whether it’s making new friends or starting a new romance, one is never too old to bring wonderful people into our lives. There is a thrill in meeting someone new who you enjoy spending time with and who you look forward to seeing.
Only the cynical would say there is nothing left to look forward too, even in old age. The truth is, we ‘make’ our lives at any age.
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
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