Part of your wisdom portfolio
I am 55 years old and find there are days when I feel flat, listless, or low on mental energy. I have no health issues or deficiencies, nor am I obese, depressed, a smoker, or a drinker.
I’ve noticed my mood invariably lifts if I do certain things. I am sharing what they are not as a proper study or research but as a confirmation of truth. You’ll find tons of references to clinical studies that say the same thing, but this is my distillation for myself, family, friends, and you.
Aerobic — This is superbly effective in lifting my mood for half a day or more. Twenty minutes of moderate elevation of my heartbeat every day, or at least five days a week, is enough. The best way is through sports, e.g., tennis, badminton, table tennis, etc., as they are sustainable and we mingle with others (see #3 below).
Strength — Muscular exercise gives me confidence and self-assurance. It also makes me stand straight and walk better. I use dumbbells, plus stairs and the occasional squats or pushups. 15–20 reps for two rounds. Each day, a different body part, e.g., biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, thighs, forearms, and fists. There’s no need for a gym.
Brain — I do quick crosswords and read various materials, e.g., newspapers, fiction, biographies, history, self-help, etc. I also find fountain pen handwriting pleasurable. Writing blogs or books and researching for them is my best mental pastime (this also appears in practice #5 below). I do this for 30–60 minutes every day.
2. Be Busy
Nothing gets me down more quickly than having too little to do at my job or outside it. Then I actively look for things to fill my time. The more irons I have in the fire, i.e., the more intertwined projects I have, the better. Of course, I focus on what I am doing and get in ‘the flow’ until I shift to the next. Without this, it would all be a mess and frustrating and disappointing. So beware. If you prefer to do one or two things at most in a day, that’s okay. As long as it pushes you a bit, you won’t get bored.
3. Stay Close to Friends & Family
I am okay at staying connected to my immediate family, okayish with the extended family, and poor at remaining engaged with friends. It’s terrible, given how well I know the company of people I love and who love me back easily brings me joy. I’d say I should be spending quality time with at least one extended family member and two friends every week, and it’ll work wonders for my happiness. The intent is there, so I’ll let you know how I go. You do the same for yourself, and hold me to my word if you can.
4. Listen to Music
Ah, if you don’t feel good when listening to music, you aren’t human. I am human. And I love all sorts of music — English pop, romantic Bollywood hits old and new, Western Classical music, Jazz, ghazals, and more. Not any song or piece of music will sort out a particular downbeat mood, but if I take the trouble to try a few genres and songs, I always find something that cheers me up or calms me down. I do it often. I am sure you also enjoy music, but start using it more consciously as a fix when you are down in the dumps.
5. Be Creative
Unlike the first four, which are basic, this fifth practice can take the last decades of our life to a whole new level. Not that we’ll become famous artists, for we’ve probably left it too late. And we don’t have to produce anything original either. But if we take up painting, writing, cooking, playing a musical instrument, singing, or something else that gives a sense of achievement, the time flies by pleasurably. And we may end up producing something mediocre that delights other mediocre humans. And let no one tell you there’s anything wrong with that.
Note: Our emotional state depends on many things. Some of these are: having normal physical and psychological health, emotional intelligence, a happy family, right BMI, etc. Several other practices contribute to mental well-being, such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness, eating right, regular physical checkups, etc. Far from me to glibly offer just five remedies for sustained happiness. But you understand what I am saying — if other factors are good, there’s no reason for us to wallow in misery, and there are simple ways to cheer up.
So it’s up to you and me how we pass our days till we die once we are beyond a certain age. We can be pathetic and take others down with us, or we can get and give a lot more Joy Of Life in the time we have left.
Today, I climbed thirteen floors to our building’s rooftop, walked for twenty minutes, and then did a good six hours of work for my company. I spoke for a while to a colleague who’s a friend. I spent a lovely thirty minutes writing this story in between. I’ll go for my thirty-minute evening walk once I submit this story. When I go to bed around 10 pm, I’ll read a chapter of my current fiction book ‘A Passage to India’ and fall asleep listening to Hindi film songs on my headphones beside my asleep partner. Tomorrow I’ll exercise my triceps with my dumbbells.
The trick is to keep up this sort of thing with variety and not skip them too many days. Else I’ve no one to kick but myself.
Cheerio, young one.