One Secret to a Happy Life
By: Dr. Joel Verstaendig --Psychologist
Many years ago when I was a young adolescent, my family spent Sundays and vacations at Bradley Beach, a small seaside town in New Jersey. This was a remarkable place as it attracted many teenagers who were just beginning got feel the pleasures of independence from full parental authority. The future seemed endless and we felt immortal. There were also many senior citizens there who came to enjoy the ocean air and cool breezes of a beach resort.
One evening a group of us teens were walking down the boardwalk, savoring our sense of omnipotence. Sitting in a gazebo nearby were a group of elderly people singing the songs of their youth. It struck us teenagers as so silly. We were cool. Our heroes were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Here were people singing “really old songs.” We laughed and mocked them. One woman leered at us, and said in a strong loud voice, “Just wait. You’ll be old someday too!” To this day I remember this incident. I felt like I had been cursed. I was so sorry to have hurt someone’s feelings.
Let’s face it, aging is frightening because the older we get, the harder it is to deny our mortality. Even if we accept our mortality on an intellectual level, more often than not, we continue to deny it on an emotional level. If we are totally honest with ourselves we will admit that a part of us believes the notion that we are different; that we are special. Dying is for others, but does not apply to us. Sure, I know that eventually my end will come, but that is a long way off.
Sometimes we try to master our fear of death my joking about it. A friend recently told me that he wishes he knew where he would die. “Why do you want to know where you’ll die?” I asked. “I just won’t go there!” he replied.
Irvin Yalom, a noted psychiatrist and psychotherapist, has written, “Although the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death may save us.” Dr. Yalom states that full awareness of death need not frighten us. In fact full awareness of death can ripen our wisdom and enrich our lives.
How often have we wasted countless hours worrying about things that have no lasting importance? How often have we bickered with a loved one about something that seemed so important at the time but really was not? Have you ever attended a funeral and as a result feel motivated to make changes in your life before it is too late, only to fall back into old patterns soon after. If we truly accept that our time is finite, we would not waste so much of it worrying about things that are, in a larger sense, truly inconsequential. The quality of our life would be richer.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the noted death researcher, wrote that those who die the best are the ones who lived the best. That is, those who live their lives fully are less tormented when their time to die arrives. Kubler-Ross points out that no one on their death bed has ever thought to themselves, “If only I had spent more time at the office.”
Perhaps the key to happiness is to try to enjoy the everyday activities of life. Live in the moment. Experience whatever you happen to be doing to the fullest. When you eat, enjoy and savor every morsel of food. Chew it; delight in it. When you are engaged in a conversation with someone, look at that person when you talk. Listen to what they are saying. Look them in the eye when they speak. Cherish every moment with a loved one. Enjoy a sunrise; enjoy a sunset. Try to develop a habit of opening your eyes to all the beauty that nature has to offer. Even water coming out of a faucet has a musical quality if you attend to it. Develop a sense of gratitude for all the simple pleasures in life as well as the very special ones.
Yes we will all die some day, but until that day comes, LIVE!
Dr. Joel Verstaendig is available for public speaking engagements. His presentations are entertaining as well as informative.
For information e-mail him at: DrJoelV@aol.com.
One Secret to a Happy Life