It is a surprise to me when I hear the complaint, “I am always so busy. I have no time to add one more thing to my schedule.” For example, a weekly yoga class. And, when I hear this from those who are retired or with a greatly reduced workload, I wonder what they do with all their leisure time, all the hours of the day or the week or the month.
As boomers and those beyond, IF we are fortunate to be in good health, or with few physical or mental challenges, and IF we have financial security, we then may have many choices in filling our time. Life after retirement, for some, can be the best part of life, reaping all the benefits of a life well-lived. But, for others, it can mean a time of emotional stress and strain after the work life ends and the children no longer need us. We may feel left behind, with little to no purpose or use.
In this third stage of life, it can be helpful to re-examine how we use our free time. Do we waste too much of this precious commodity? Is there the sense we are killing time, or procrastinating or delaying what it is we best be doing?
We each have our own ways of finding distractions, what it is we turn to when we want to forget our worries and our cares. It’s so easy to fall into habitual, repetitive behaviors, like those of us who are checking in constantly with social media. For our generation, Facebook has become the “go to” place when we want a break from thinking about, perhaps, more important matters. We post things on our pages and check to see if anyone likes our posts or, even better, makes a comment, thus engaging us and reminding us people are “out there,” interested in what we have to say or to show with photos.
Although continually checking into Facebook or other social media sites can be thought of as a waste of time, it does serve a purpose, especially when we find acquaintances from other parts of our lives or from our long-ago history. Now, we can be back in touch, without ever having to travel farther than the computer.
However, while the interaction with many people on social media may seem to be a remedy for feeling left out, it actually can increase feelings of isolation, sadness and depression, so say the sociologists. The risk may be that we value these online connections so much that we never have to extend ourselves to the real people in our lives, even though there is no good substitute for these more personal and intimate relationships.
Hooked on television watching is another way we can choose to while away the hours. There are so many temptations when needing to sit down and watch something entertaining, or just to “zone out.”
I confess, there are a few reality shows that hold my interest more hours than is good for my well-being (knowing, as I do, how sitting in a chair for too long and munching on high-calorie snacks is definitely unhealthy). I admit to sometimes becoming seriously involved in these total strangers’ lives, watching each of the series, curious about their actions, empathizing with their struggles, rooting for a good outcome.
And, at the same time, I wonder why do I allow myself to become so deeply involved in the lives of those who I will never meet? Is it that my own life may be far less interesting and lacking in dramatic intensity? Not wanting to accept that premise, I ask myself, “What are better ways to use my time?” I came up with these suggestions:
Go into nature. Take a walk, and deeply breathe in the fresh air.
Exercise more. Find those physical activities that please you or those that you, at the very least, can tolerate.
Reach out to others, meeting in person when possible, while forming or renewing connections with those who satisfy your need for closeness.
Become more involved in the community. Studies have shown that volunteering to donate time and energy keeps you more socially connected and can ward off the boredom or loneliness or the depression that can come from too much unscheduled time.
Get immersed in a good book, especially the paper kind. You can hold a well-written page-turner in your hand, relax in a comfortable chair and know your time is well-spent.
Angelena Craig teaches slow-flow yoga and chair yoga and organizes yoga retreats to Negril, Jamaica. Contact her through www.anewagingmovement.com.