Regret and Bucket Lists

Can we have regret?

Is there a secret to happiness and health?

Have you ever spoken to a happy, healthy person in their nineties, and asked them what their secret is? I don’t get the chance very often as a nurse, because most retired or elderly people I look after are in hospital for a reason. But when we get someone come in who has had a simple trip and fall, but otherwise has no significant illness and is on little or no medication, I ask about their life. They look younger than their years and have a good attitude towards life.

Humans are social creatures
Every one of them has an active social life. It might consist mainly of family, or annual cruises where they meet up with like-minded people who they have become great friends with over the years.
Volunteering is a very popular and enjoyable way that the retired and elderly gain the life extending benefits of being socially active. There is something for everyone, and the big difference I see with these people are that they are happy and have a lot to talk about.
Those who belong to a bowling club, a bridge club, a tennis club, a walking group or who go to aquarobics classes….they have a youthful light in their eyes, their skin is healthy, and they have a ‘glass half full’ attitude every time.

Bucket Lists
Don’t leave your bucket list until you retire, that’s what I have learnt from talking to people. If you feel a strong connection with doing something or going somewhere, make it a part of your holidays now, because who knows what is ahead. Memories are valuable and treasured keepsakes, and make you happy. You might need to buy a new lounge suite, that seems the sensible option. But do you? Look outside the square, buy a gorgeous throw rug and new cushions, then book your cruise.
Visit your old friend from school who lives in Canada. Sign up for that sailing course you always wanted to do. Plan that walk along the Camino de Santiago. Learn how to play the piano. Go back to Uni, who cares if you are seventy-five! I knew a lady who achieved her degree in fine art at Adelaide Uni in her eighties. It’s not too late if you have your marbles, you can get out of bed in the morning and set realistic goals for yourself.

‘Regret’ – Meaning of: ‘feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that one has done or failed to do’
It happens, but this is a new day and the past is the past. Procrastination is poison to the path of happiness, because nothing makes you feel better than getting a job done, making a list and ticking it all off, planning something wonderful and daily anticipating the outcome of your positive energy.
We can look at everything with one bright eye, one dark and defeated. If the defeated path has become a habit, start slowly with one small thing on your list of wishes.

Get a pen and a note-book
Write your list. Columns of a) Would like b) Would love c) This year d) Next year
Prioritise and plan.
Engage others in your plan, either through talking about what you are going to do or inviting them to share the experience. This enhances the momentum in a positive forward direction, encouraging fulfillment of your goal.
If you are sick or are struggling with a disease process, set achievable goals that may not be exactly what you really wanted to do, but still give you something to feel happy about. It might just be on the lower end of the excitement scale, like reading a special book you always wanted, or putting a photo album together from the boxes of old scattered photos. Still valuable and life affirming, and that is the ultimate reason why we have bucket lists.

Erica Fotineas
June 2017

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