Tips for Your Milestone Birthday: You Can Heal Your Past and Make Your 40’s The Best Decade Of Your Life
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According to research, we are most happy before and after mid-life, or put another way, happiness levels dip at mid-life. And if this was not enough to cry over, some studies suggest that the great apes, yes monkeys, also experience a dip in happiness around the same time (I am not kidding, there is research on that).
There seems to be many factors that contribute to this sad state of affairs in your forties, when many people experience “the” middle-life crisis. But because the apes also go through the same “crisis”, it seems that biology plays a role in that phenomenon.
Some of the factors that seem to have an effect on human happiness in mid-life are the many demands of work, children and often aging parents. It’s often a time when success is defined as having achieved the right job, the right neighbourhood, etc. and when many fall short of the expectations they had for themselves.
And, it’s a time when we realize we are looking at the second half of life and that can be a scary vantage point.
From my work with thousands of women both as a psychotherapist and a life coach, I discovered the three most important steps you can take to help you through those inescapable ups and downs of mid-life. I call them the 3 Secrets to Make your 40’s the best decade of your life.
Even if biology normalizes a dip in your happiness, you don’t have to take it lying down. Here is what you can do to build a personal foundation that will make you more resilient to face life’s challenges.
The harder your resistance to go through these steps, the more benefits you will gain when you do.
YOU CAN HEAL YOUR PAST
Secret Number 1
First, make peace with your past. We all carry baggage from childhood. Whether you grew up with alcoholism and violence, or mental illness, or a traumatic family event or the death or divorce of your parents, if you have been unhappy for a while, whether in a job or a relationship, dealing with your childhood issues will take a big weight off your shoulders. Read self-help books and if that’s not enough, see a therapist who is experienced in the area that affected you.
Revisiting your childhood will allow you to put the adult in you in charge. It’s about recognizing what affected you and making peace (forgiving) your parents It does not mean the scared child will not show up from time to time, but you will be able to recognie what’s happening and let your adult take over.
Secret Number 2
Second, give yourself a break. It’s time to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made in the past decades, however big they could be. Forgiving yourself will also take a big weight off your small shoulders and allow you to be fully present in the present moment.
Guilt and shame have a way to screw up the present. When feeling guilty people find ways to not feel. That’s when you eat mindlessly, shop online for what you don’t need, or drink to excess or engage in other behaviours that make you forget how you feel.
If you are like most people you will find it easier to forgive others than to forgive yourself. If so, imagine what you would say to your best friend in the same situation. Once that’s done, apply the same compassion to yourself, just because you are a human being too. It will get easier in time.
Secret Number 3
Finally, commit to loving yourself. My definition of loving yourself is “to allow in your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual space only what is good for you”. That includes food, news, people, events. Everything needs to pass the “is this ultimately good for me” criterion. Not just good for me right now (like ice cream or a drink) but for my highest good in the long run.
Love yourself and put yourself at the top of your list of priorities. This third step will only be possible if you do the two first steps.
You see, growing up in a very dysfunctional home leaves you feeling a lot of shame and shame’s job is to make you feel you don’t deserve. Shame makes you feel worthless and as such, makes it impossible to treat yourself with love and respect.
When you don’t feel worthy, you tolerate. You don’t ask for what you want. You settle. You doubt yourself. You actually never even think you deserve better. You feel you need to earn the right to be loved. B.S. You don’t.
I know that these 3 steps to heal your past are not necessarily easy. But they are simple and I promise that they will build the foundation to move forward in live with minimal grief. In fact, they might just make your 40’s the best decade of your life.