Tag Archives: Happiness

Let’s Reframe Aging: You’re not just getting older, you’re getting happier!

Seniors Wellness Day!

Seniors Wellness Day!

Last month I wrote a post in which I shared a strategy I have used to help me deal with my mother’s dementia. Aging can suck. My 84 year old mother-in-law says ‘it (getting old) ain’t for wimps’.

While there can certainly be challenges that come with aging, there is some wonderful research supporting something quite different.

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found the psychological health of adults seems to consistently get better over time.  By ‘psychological health’, the scientists are referring to the sense of well-being, of happiness in older adults.

Reading this reminded me of a conversation I had with a girlfriend recently. ‘Don’t you just love this time of life?’ she said. ‘I feel so good about myself; I know I look worse (we laughed) but I just feel happier; more calm, more serene, more at ease with myself and others in my life.’ I had to agree with her. I feel the same.

Now, neither of us would turn down many of the obvious benefits of youth, were they offered to us! The sparkly eyes, the glowing skin, the firm….well, you know what I mean.  What we were referring to, though, was the clear truth to each of us, that we were more mentally healthy now than we were in our youth.

We are much more able to ‘let things go’, we can pause and consider whether or not to pursue something instead of reacting; we simply do not “sweat the small stuff”. The researchers discovered that older adults are better at emotional regulation, and when we experience negative emotion we can more readily determine how to manage it. And, interestingly, the research shows that older adults experience less negative emotion overall. (‘Maybe it’s because we are just happy to wake up every day’ my friend says with a smirk.)

All kidding aside, getting older is not an option (well, it is….but the other one is not very pleasant). So, why not embrace aging? Why not reframe aging?

Here is a little strategy to help you do just that:

A – Attention: Pay particular attention to all the positive parts of aging. Write them down. Each day, remind yourself of how happy you are about where you are in your life.

G – Gratitude: Begin each day with a moment of gratitude — for waking up — and also for all that you appreciate about yourself and your life.

E – Emotion: Feel. And when you do, pause. Embrace the emotion. Researchers have already determined that you have more positive than negative emotion. Feel the positive. Where does it reside in you? Anchor it in your memory.

What’s the best part of aging to you?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com



ACT: A Mental Health Strategy for Overcoming Obstacles

project-mom-dev-kneeSometimes you are just rolling along and – WHAM! – you are broadsided by an unexpected obstacle. It might be a physical obstacle, such a being stuck in traffic. Or it might be another kind of obstacle, one that is more ‘internal’, an emotion or a way of thinking that is having a negative impact on you.

No matter the obstacle, there is a simple and practical strategy that can help you move through the obstacle and either get back on track, or find a new track all together!

Let’s look at the first example. You are heading to an important appointment and suddenly you find yourself stuck in a congested roadway. Traffic is not moving. You begin to notice your anxiety (and maybe your anger) increasing as you realize that you may be late for your appointment. If you stay in that state, your body will tense, you might grip the wheel tighter, you might furrow your brow, you eyes might widen, your heart might increase. All of these physical symptoms are congruent with a threat state. In neuroscience, this state is described as an AWAY state; your body is preparing to protect you from the threat before you. Interestingly, when you are in a threat state, you expereince tunnel vision; you quite literally are limited in your ability to perceive and to think.

Instead of staying in the threat state, you could try this simple strategy, called ACT:

A – Accept your current reality

C – Choose a vision of what you want in this situation

T – Take action to move TOWARD your vision

So…instead of gripping the wheel, furrowing your brow, and maybe releasing some unpleasant expletives, you say the following (to yourself, or out loud):

A – I accept that I am stuck in traffic and I might be late for my appointment

C – I want to look for an opportunity to get to my appointment as soon as possible and I want to feel good when I arrive

T – I will:

  • take a deep breath
  • call ahead and indicate that I am stuck in traffic and might be late for the appointment
  • look around to see if I can make eye contact with someone to let me cut in front of them
  • smile at the person with whom I make eye contact
  • prepare for what I will say when I arrive at the appointment, and visualize myself there
  • remind myself that it is most important to arrive safe and feeling good

You might do all or some of these things, or you might choose to do other things such as listen to calming music or recite a mantra that has meaning for you. The idea is, while you are taking action to move TOWARD your vision, you are NOT wasting energy and valuable neural resources focusing on moving AWAY from your obstacle. A positive, toward state provides you will a broadened perspective; you are able to access more internal and external resources to help you in that moment.

Chances are, you will get to your appointment sooner. Or, at the very least, you’ll arrive much more positive and calm when you do arrive.

Let’s look at another example. My beautiful mother has dementia. It sucks. When she first started experiencing symptoms, it was overwhelming. I found myself becoming anxious and sad just at the thought of going to see her. I felt helpless, angry, and vulnerable. Then, I felt guilty; here I was thinking of myself when my poor mother was mentally deteriorating.

Then, I decided to ACT. Here is how that went for me:

A – I accept that mom has dementia and it sucks – for her and for those of us who love her

C – I want to see her as often as I can, and to feel good when I go and when I leave

T – I will:

  • go to visit only after I have had a good night’s sleep
  • meditate before I go
  • bring people with me; mom always liked lots of noise
  • make physical contact with mom (hold her hand, rub her back)
  • smile when I arrive and when I leave
  • remind myself that any unpleasantries are not my mom, they are the disease that grips her brain

I decided to ACT in this situation well over 5 years ago, and I never, ever, not once, hesitate to go and see my mom. I truly and completely look forward to it. I feel good when I arrive and when I leave. Because I am moving TOWARD my vision, I am not stuck in the negativity that arrives when I focus on moving AWAY from the reality of her disease.

So, give it a try the next time you feel stuck! Make sure you address and acknowledge all three elements of ACT. The ‘I accept’ element is very important. Do not leave it out. It simply means that you acknowledge that ‘it is what it is’. It does not mean you like it or that you are happy that it happened; it just means that you accept that it is.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com


The Joy of Slow: Time Out to Tune In and Turn On

_MG_8251My friend, Jennifer, told me about a fantastic App called Insight Timer. I’ve been using it over the last few weeks. It’s filled with hundreds of thousands of meditations to choose from, and you get to see yourself amid a world-wide community of meditators. It is very cool! And, it’s free!

One meditation I tried last night reminded me again about the simplicity – and the power – of a meditative practice. It is called ‘How to Fall Asleep Mindfully’ and is a short (6:48) guided experience led by Sean Fargo. Sean’s voice is soothing and relaxing, and he begins by reminding listeners of the noise – the busy-ness – in our minds. That noise can negatively impact sleep (we have all had the experience of lying restlessly being nagged by thoughts of the day gone by or worries about the day ahead) as much as it negatively impacts wakefulness!

Sean guides listeners to tune into their bodies; one ‘part’ at a time. I was only at my knees and I could already notice a shift (we started, by the way, at our feet)!

The simplicity of meditation is in being able to change your state by changing your focus. Mindfully choosing to tune into our bodies helps us to tune out of our busy minds. This simple process induces relaxation and ‘sleepiness’. While I have selected sleep meditations before, I like this one because it taught me how to fall asleep mindfully when I don’t have my headphones in my ears and my Insight Timer turned on. I can learn to slow myself down and fall asleep easily. Every year I get older, I am more grateful for the gift of a good night’s sleep!

I awoke this morning feeling energized and awake! This is where the power of a meditation practice is realized. When I arise energized and awake, I am better able to navigate my day; I begin with more joy in my heart, I proceed with more spring in my step, I make better (more mindful) decisions, and I am more equipped to deal with frustrations and irritations that inevitably come along.

In this world of ‘hurry’, you can choose to pause on purpose…either at the end of your day to fall asleep, at the beginning of your day to awaken positively, or any time throughout your day to engage energetically. And then, just notice what you notice….

I know you will find as I do….there is real joy in ‘slow’. What do you think?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com

Helpful or Unhelpful: What Thoughts Will You Think Today?



A young woman approached me after a keynote presentation recently. She liked an exercise we did on reframing negative situations into something more positive. She told me about how she has suffered from anxiety for years; largely related to a sexual assualt she suffered as a teenager. She liked the reframing exercise because it was so easy.

I told her about something even easier that she might try.

When our son was in Grade 2, the Health Sciences Centre Department of Psychiatry came to his school seeking children and parents to volunteer to experience a communication skills program called ‘Best Friends’ (at least, I think that is what it was called…it has been many years and I have since lost track of the manual, the researcher’s name, and the purpose of the study, but I remember the outcome of the learning very clearly!).

Our son did not experience anxiety at the time, and does not to this day. Although the program was targeted at children with anxiety, the pilot group included any child that was interested and willing to participate. We enthusiastically signed up! (Okay, I should say ‘I’ rather than ‘we’ enthusiastically signed up; but everyone was willing to check it out.)

The researchers asked parents (and their child) to complete the program over a number of months. The students received a manual and did some learning and practice at school. The parents did some reading, and both the parents, the child, and the teacher journalled during the experience.

I remember being so excited when I realized what our son was learning. One piece has stuck with me over all of these years.

The children were taught that thoughts are just thoughts; that they are not facts. And, they were taught that they could choose thoughts that help (rather than hurt) them.

For example, let’s say that you are playing on the school ground and a boy – we’ll call Johnny – steals your ball. You might feel angry. You might be thinking that Johnny is mean, or that Johnny is a bully. You might cry, run to tell a teacher, or get into a school-yard fight with Johnny.

Thinking that Johnny is mean or that he is a bully are not very helpful thoughts. They do not help you achieve your outcome of wanting to have fun on the school ground.

Consider that you could have a more helpful thought about Johnny. You could think that Johnny wants to play and does not know how to ask. You might then invite him and say ‘Hey, Johnny…why don’t you join our game?’

I remember us practising with  all sorts of situation, and in each one we could easily identify an unhelpful thought (often the default) and a helpful thought.

The key is, we can call choose thoughts that help us achieve our outcomes, that help to move us toward what we want, and that help us be smarter and more resourceful, no matter what comes our way.

In 2012, I posted this blog.

Out, Damned Thought!

Shortly after, I got a message from the father of a 9 year old boy. He was concerned about his son, who was experiencing very high levels of anxiety. The boy was constantly telling himself that no one liked him, that he was dumb, that school was really hard, and that he had no friends.

This father decided that he was going to share some of the post with his son. He said ‘it seems strange to ask a 9 year old to think about his thoughts, but that is exactly what he needs to do’. And he needs to choose different thoughts and then notice what happens.

This article by Elisha Goldstein, ‘Three Common Mind Traps That Sink Happiness’, speaks to this. Goldstein describes how our lives and our minds become routine, and our thinking, interpreting, expecting and relating to people be come habits; they become our auto-pilot. He goes on to describe that often the auto-pilot is getting in the way of our happiness; particularly when we catastrophize, discount the positive and exaggerate the negative, and point blame.

So, connect with yourself (your thoughts) and connect with other people. The young woman who approached me was so glad that she came to the conference and that she connected with others while she was there. She felt better. The reframing exercise was done in small groups. She realized in doing this simple exercise that she could change her thoughts, affect her experience, and that she was not alone in thinking the thoughts she thought. This article in The Guardian by Will Hutton, references the importance of remembering that we are social beings and we need each other. “For happiness can never result from the exercise of choice alone: we are social beings, and the building blocks of happiness lie in looking out for each other, acting together, being in teams and pursuing common goals for the common good.”

Elisha Goldstein’s article reminds us of an old cartoon of a man and woman sitting on a couch in front of a TV, with a caption that reads ‘It’s 12 o’clock, do you know where your mind is?’. He beautifully reminds you that you can cultivate “the ability to be more present to these mind traps” and that the practice of being more present “will help you break free from (the traps) and shift your attention on more effective ways of interacting with life.”

It’s (look at the time) o’clock, do you know where your mind is? Or better yet, it’s (look at the time) o’clock, are your thoughts helping or hurting?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com






April Showers Bring May Flowers: What Are You Nourishing Today?

Untitled-2I love this time of year. Here in Central Canada, we look forward to April showers. The rain not only helps to clean up our streets and wipe away (along with our wonderful City services) the mess from winter, it also begins to nourish what will soon be blooming all over our beautiful city.

I think this is a great metaphor for life. In fact, for how to approach each day.

Your thoughts are “April Showers”. What you allow to take up residence in your mind impacts what will bloom (or not) in your life. Your thoughts are constantly streaming, just as the rain in April can seem to be doing. What will you allow to swirl around in your mind? If your thoughts were a movie, would you pay money to go see it?

In other words, what will you choose to think that will provide the best nourishment for the kind of outcomes you wish to create in your life?

Here are some ideas for you to GROW the kind of mindset that helps you get what you want:

Greet each day with a moment of gratitude. When your alarm goes off, or when you awake naturally, pause. When you pause, take a deep breath and connect with your body. Wake up and connect with your toes, shins, knees, thighs, and so on. Then, take a moment to reflect on something for which you are grateful (being able to take a breath, having another day to live…these are two very obvious and easy things to start with!)

Reframe negative situations. Perhaps as you are driving to work, someone cuts you off in traffic. You might experience frustration and anger at the driver for not noticing you. You might also experience fear because you missed a fender-bender by mere seconds!  You might notice that the thoughts you are having about that driver are negative ‘What’s up with that guy?’ ‘She didn’t even signal!” “Crazy driver!!” “People are so rude!”. In an instant you can choose other thoughts – you can reframe this negative situation into something more positive. You can decide to think “He must be in a hurry since he did not see me here; I am glad my brakes work well.” “Perhaps she has just left her sick mother’s side, and she is distracted. I hope she gets to her destination okay.” The reframe is a gift to your brain…it helps you to be able to move past this negative situation and to experience more positive feelings…like empathy, compassion, and gratitude.

Open your eyes. Notice all of the moments of wonder around you. You might notice those new buds on the trees as you walk outside. You might notice the joyful sound of children playing in the park. You might notice the faces in the photos on your desk, and take a few seconds to connect with their smiling eyes. You do not need technology to help you experience the amazing things going on in this world. You only need to look around.

Welcome other people into your life. You are always better when you connect with other people. You do less well, mentally and emotionally, when you isolate yourself. You can welcome other people into your life in many ways; smile at people when you walk down the street or through your office, look into the eyes of the person passing you your coffee over the counter, join in the conversation taking place in the office lunch room, invite a co-worker to join you for break, phone a friend.

April showers bring May flowers….what possibilities will begin to sprout for you this month?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com