Why Some Retirees Can’t Get Out of Bed (Part 2)
by Jeanne Savelle
In part one, we looked at why some retirees can’t get out of bed and the secret for what to do about it.
The Secret: Learn to watch your brain.
Step One: Awareness — Find out what’s going on in your brain, what you are thinking.
Step Two: Examination — Be curious when looking at your thoughts. Look at them without judgment. Distinguish between facts and stories.
Let’s look at the next few steps on the journey toward making your life worth getting out of bed.
Step Three: Questioning — Start asking yourself how the thoughts you write down make you feel.
Thoughts about the facts of our lives create our feelings. Facts themselves are neutral. When we have a thought about a fact, then we feel something about it.
My mother came to my house today. Fact. Neutral.
My mother always interferes with my life. Story. Emotional.
You may think when your mother comes to your house, she interferes in your life, and causes your negative feelings. But your thought about her, she always interferes, causes your feeling.
Let’s look at the thoughts from part one:
· Retirement didn’t turn out as I expected.
· I feel lonely. (The thought here is actually “I am alone.”)
· I have no routine or no purpose.
· Life is difficult now.
· I’m doing it wrong.
When you think, “Retirement didn’t turn out as I expected,” how do you feel? Describe the feeling.
Disappointed? Helpless? Frustrated? Sad?
No wonder you don’t want to get out of bed! You’ll just feel bad all day and who wants that?
For each thought, you must find the specific feeling. One thought = one feeling.
Thought and Corresponding Feeling:
· I feel lonely (I am alone.) Desperate, afraid, doubtful?
· I have no routine or no purpose. Lethargic, disillusioned, powerless?
· Life is difficult now. Discouraged, indecisive, trapped?
· I’m doing it wrong. Ashamed, guilty, unworthy?
Doing these exercises, you’ll start realizing what you are thinking is causing you to feel a certain way. When you start realizing this, you can question if these are feelings you want to have.
Do you find these feelings useful: afraid, powerless, discouraged, or ashamed?
None of these feelings will help you get out of bed. In fact, they will reinforce your unconscious brain’s desire to stay in the cave.
You won’t venture out to see what’s going on, what’s new, what’s on the horizon. Your unconscious brain will tell you it’s dangerous. Nothing to see here — go back to bed.
Step Three is about making the connection between our thoughts and our feelings.
Step Four: Possibility — Consider other ways of thinking, be open to different points of view.
By knowing what your unconscious brain says to you and how it makes you feel, you can begin to decide which thoughts and feelings you want.
Ask yourself to describe how these feelings benefit your life. What is the benefit of feeling powerless or discouraged, ashamed or lethargic?
Sometimes we want to feel a bad feeling such as when someone gets sick or hurt. We want to feel sad.
But if we think in ways that stop us from living, keeping us in the cave, we owe ourselves an explanation.
You have options. You can choose other thoughts. Let’s revisit the questions above. What thoughts might we consciously choose?
· Maybe retirement didn’t turn out as I expected, but I can create a new life.
· I feel lonely right now, but I can meet like-minded people.
· I am creating purpose in my life by learning and growing.
· Life is a journey that challenges me.
· There is no wrong way because each step offers a new experience toward creating a fulfilling life.
· I am right where I need to be for now.
Note: This series of articles is a general introduction and we are scratching the surface here. Don’t jump into Step 4 right away and try to change your thoughts. You must first learn how to tell facts from stories and how to describe your feelings.
Keep up the good work. As the late, great John Lewis said: “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
What we do here is good work, necessary work: the work of your life.