Is midlife malaise dragging you down? You’re not alone. Read on for ways of navigating midlife slumps with a positive attitude toward your past and future and enthusiastic engagement in the present.
New perspectives on the past
Midlife dissatisfaction routinely involves longing for what once was (flawless skin? tireless libido?). Eliminating such longings might be impossible; however, we can minimize them by consciously appreciating what we’ve gained over decades of living.
What resources do you now have that your younger self lacked?
- Greater empathy or self-understanding, perhaps?
- Better problem-solving skills?
- Job security and disposable income?
Celebrate those assets, and consider how they might further enrich your life.
Looking to the past can also trigger regrets—about paths not taken, or expectations not met. But here, too, we can adopt a more positive perspective.
While completing the fine arts degree you dropped in your twenties might no longer be feasible, could you …
- Work or volunteer for an arts organization?
- Take some continuing studies courses?
- Turn your lifelong passion for color into a regular activity, or even a business
As for unmet expectations about what our life “should” look like by the time we hit middle age, it’s helpful to remember that many of those widely held expectations stem from arbitrary historical and cultural forces. In other words, there is no natural law dictating that we must achieve certain goals by a certain age!
New perspectives on the future
Fears about the future—health, finances, happiness—are another source of midlife malaise. But brooding about the future (or the past) not only sabotages our enjoyment of the present but also undermines the pleasure we might take in anticipating several more decades of passionate and engaged living.
Precautionary measures, such as staying up to date on recommended health checks or working with a financial planner, can, in addition to their practical benefits, help tame our worries. Equally powerful are exciting and ambitious plans for the future. If you knew for certain that you still had many decades of vibrant health and financial security ahead of you, what would you do? Is anything stopping you? (Maybe that fine arts degree is feasible.)
New perspectives on the present
An excellent way of responding to midlife stressors is to remain as centered as possible in the here and now. A wealth of research, including studies focused on midlife, highlights the wide-ranging benefits of mindfulness practices.
Whether it’s meditation or another activity that settles you in the present moment, such practices will boost your mood, reduce your stress, and very likely improve many aspects of your physical health, from cognitive flexibility to immune response.
Written by Heather Burt