Good to Enjoy the Simple Life, Retirement Savings or Not

When I reached retirement age, seniors being neglected in nursing homes was all over the news. I felt so badly because most of them could have been living happy, independent lives if they only knew how. It’s not their fault. They just didn’t know how.

And it’s not rocket science. It’s just doing a few things most people already know are good for them, but are slightly inconvenient, like a little daily exercise and stretches, trying to eat the right foods, doing your own cooking when you can, learning to look at the positive side of things, and trying to be responsible for yourself. The best way to stop others from taking control of your life is to take control of it yourself.

There’s also an attitude, I call the joy of living the simple life, that brings it all together. Some people might call it living a spiritual life, whether you have religion or not. It starts with mindfulness, but don’t be put off by that word. It just means doing one thing at a time, and paying attention only to what you’re doing.

When you do that you begin to understand what it means to be in the present moment, here and now. Some say the present moment is the only thing that really exists. The past is gone, the future isn’t here yet. They’re just thoughts. The present moment is where we live, where we experience our life, so perhaps we should pay attention. Perhaps we should give it our full attention.

Albert Einstein talked about pausing to stand rapt in wonder and awe. When you pay attention to life for a while you start to notice its beauty and elegance. You develop a sense of gratitude for everything in the world. And gratitude brings joy.

Of course not everything or everybody in the world is wonderful, so it’s good to know the practical steps you can take to stop anyone trying to put you into a nursing home before your time, how to deal with ageism, and how to protect yourself against fraud and internet scams.

Protecting yourself from the harsh realities of the world doesn’t mean we can’t live a simple life. In fact, the only way we can enjoy the simple pleasures is to be strong. Simple pleasures can only be experienced when we’re relaxed, and to be relaxed we need to know we can handle anything life may bring, no problem. Almost anybody can learn to be strong.

After feeling the joy of gratitude for a while you start to realize you have so much, and others have so little. Then it’s very natural to get into volunteer work. Doing volunteer work increases your feeling of self-worth, and self-worth brings contentment.

Whether you have retirement savings or not, living the simple life will bring you peace and contentment.

Positive & Negative Aspects of Religion

I saw a video on Youtube today that said God caused the Covid-19 virus so that everybody would stay home. I don’t like that idea. It made me think about both the positive aspects of religion and the negative ones.

The video says “Today we are one” and that we should work together. Those are wonderful thoughts. And it has beautiful images, calming music, and a well-written script. A lot of time and money went into that production.

But then it says things to encourage people to be superstitious, to give up our personal power to improve our lives because we are not in control. I don’t like that idea either.

Of course we never have control of everything, but we always have control of some things.

And even the things we don’t have control over, we always have control over how we react to them. We can either get sad and angry, or remain calm, obey the laws of the land, and do the best we can to improve our lives and help others.

It’s interesting that although the virus has been around for months, this video was released just a few days before a number of the world’s religions have their most holy day. Of course that could be coincidence.

It’s obvious the intent of the video is to make people more religious. If you are a religious person you might say that is good, and I’m not saying it’s bad. All religions have positive aspects and benefits to society.

I’m just saying we should embrace the positive aspects and reject the negative ones.

The video says society has been impregnated with negative knowledge and mindsets. It says this challenge has opened a new path only God could have opened for us. Doesn’t that imply God made the virus because we’ve strayed from the correct path? I really don’t like that idea. I believe this life is not always fair, and we need to learn to live with that and be happy anyway. Life is for learning. We need to learn to be happy with life whatever it brings us.

I don’t think I should blame God when something unfortunate happens to me.

I’ve never heard of the person who made that video. He might be a wonderful person doing everything he can to be of service to humanity without benefit to himself. I just don’t like it when anybody encourages people to give up their personal power.

There have been religious leaders in the past who told people they should give up their personal power to God, when what they really meant was they should give up their power to them, because they are the messenger of God. In this video the narrator says “I’ve got great news to share with you” and “what I want to tell you today is…”   Is he saying he’s the messenger of God?

Farther into the video he says “We must win. We must not fail”. To phrase it like that makes people afraid. Wouldn’t it be better to say “It is inevitable that we will win”. To me that’s more realistic. There have been many terrible diseases in the history of the world, and every one of them came to an end.

I was surprised the video personified fear by calling it “he”. Is it implying the devil caused this virus and we need to turn to God to protect us? I’m not sure what the narrator’s intent was there.

We need to be careful of religious leaders who use people’s desire for a better life to take advantage of them, to control them and get their money. I’m sure the person who spent all the time and money to make that video is not trying to do that. But we need to be on guard for that kind of behaviour in all leaders.

I believe there is a God. I’m just saying it doesn’t matter if we believe in God or not
because we have free will, freedom of choice.

Freedom of choice means we have to take care of ourselves. We have to try our best at all times. We have to make up our own minds about what to do, and then go do it. And we need to be responsible for our actions. If we cause trouble we’ll probably have to pay the price. If we do things to improve our lives and the lives of others there’s a good chance we will benefit.

Religion can be a wonderful thing. It can inspire people to be their best, and treat others as they’d like to be treated. But we need to watch out for religious leaders who try to make us afraid of God, and give up our power, feel weak, like we can’t take care of ourselves, or even worse, like we shouldn’t take care of ourselves. We need to be wary of religious leaders who encourage us to give our power to them because they are the messenger of God.

If we give up our personal power we’ll be waiting for someone to take care of us and tell us what to do. That kind of thinking is very dangerous. There are a number of examples in history where it led to atrocities and great suffering.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Please share it on social media and leave a comment below.
Kind regards,
Ken Lapp

Be Positive For The Long Term

  1. Meditate – Meditation is a greatly under-estimated tool for happiness and mental health. It’s about learning to control your thoughts. If you can control your thoughts you won’t be taken away by sad memories from the past or negative fantasies about the future. You can learn to be here now, in the present moment, as they say.

    Whenever I bring myself back to the present moment there’s never anything to be afraid of or sad about. Sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed. Try to think only about what’s right in front of you. Don’t think about your shopping list, what a friend said to you earlier, or what you’re going to have for dinner.

    If you do have random thoughts don’t beat yourself up, just bring your focus back to your body and the sound of your breath. The benefits of regular meditation are subtle, but will have a profound influence on your life. It’s one of those things you need to experience to understand. See more about Meditation.

  2. Volunteer – Volunteering is a very spiritual endeavour because it’s not only good for you, it’s good for everyone around you. It increases self-esteem, and even helps you live longer. I learned a great deal about life by being of service to others. And the quality of my life improved significantly.

    I’ve found most who volunteer are very good people, so it’s a great place to connect with people who might become good friends. If you have computer or internet skills it will be easy to find charities that appreciate your help. And if you’re careful, there are many elderly or isolated people who need your help.

  3. Never Give Up – There’s an old saying that problems are afraid of determined people. I believe any problem can be solved, and any goal can be achieved if I am flexible and have enough time. If your life is not great now, just do the best you can and try to look at the positive side of things. Whatever you pay attention to gets stronger. You still know the negatives are there, you just don’t pay them as much attention.

    In a few years your life will be very different. That may seem like a long time now, but if you keep moving and visualize enjoying your new life, it will pass quickly.

  4. A Big Goal – I learned from one of my teachers it’s important to have a really grand long term goal. It helps you keep your life in perspective. Although this is a difficult time it won’t last forever. But your goal needs to be practical, not just a dream. And Ideally it’s not just for yourself, but something that will make the world a better place.

    Your commitment to making that big goal happen will bring you knowledge and skills you wouldn’t have received without it. Your subconscious mind will be working to help you make your goal happen.

  5. Hope – Hope is a double-edged sword. In one sense of the word we can never lose hope. It’s a desire for the future to be better. We should always be optimistic about the future. However, if you use it like “I hope my life improves” it makes you weak and helpless. It’s the same as wishing. One of my business coaches used to say “Hope is not a strategy”.

Pitfalls on Your Way to Being Positive

  1. Don’t Punish Myself – I realized that if I put myself down for being afraid or anxious, then I have two problems instead of just one – the anxiety, and feeling bad about myself. It’s OK to be afraid at a time like this. It’s natural. I just do my best to keep my mind off it, and keep moving.

    I’m a good person trying my best, so what else can I do? I’m learning not to punish myself for anything, no matter what I do or don’t do. If I do something I’m not happy with I learn from it, and keep on going. Beating myself up is never constructive. It only makes me less happy to be alive and less productive.

  2. How I Cured Insomnia – Worry is fear, just not so large or urgent, but it has all the same characteristics. One of the worst problems caused by worry is insomnia. Many years ago I decided that from the time I went to bed until I got up the next morning I really didn’t care at all what happened to anybody or anything.

    What could I do about it when I was asleep? You might think I’m heartless and cruel, but since then I’ve never had trouble sleeping. And I always turned back into my caring, kind, considerate self in the morning. 🙂

  3. Blame and Revenge – When I blame someone else for my problems, even those caused by Covid-19, I am making myself a victim. I’m making myself feel helpless and weak. The most powerful course of action, and the most practical, is to take responsibility for my situation, deal with it as it is, and do whatever I can to get my life back on track.

    Trying to get revenge or make trouble for whoever caused my problems always makes more problems for me. Why would I want to make more problems for myself? The enjoyment I get from making their life miserable is always less than the additional problems I make for myself. I’ve found it’s much better to forgive and forget, and just keep going.

  4. Detach From Anxiety – Sometimes when I was anxious or afraid I noticed myself breathing rapidly and scanning my surroundings for danger, even when there wasn’t any. When this happened I would take a few deep breaths, and listen to the sound of my breathing. I closed my eyes and felt my breath as it went in and out through my nose.

    Then I visualized bringing my energy back from scanning everything around me, into the part of my abdomen just below my navel. Then I took one step back from my body. That enabled me to be just a little detached from what’s happening around me. I still knew what was going on. I just wasn’t caught up in it.

  5. Fear is Irrational – When I feel myself starting to be afraid or anxious, I remember that what I’m afraid of hasn’t happened yet and may never happen. I also remember that fear makes me less intelligent, less resourceful, and less able to solve problems. These are the abilities I need most. I’m better off if I bring myself back to the present moment, and release the fear.
  6. Release The Fear – To let my fear go I first have to feel it in my body. Sit quietly, relax, close your eyes, and notice how the different parts of your body feel. Where do you feel the fear? What does it feel like? Does it vibrate? Is it like a wave? Does it have a colour? What size is it? What shape? Then visualize it going down out of your body through your feet to the ground.
  7. Complaining – I used to complain a lot about life being unfair, until I realized that whether it’s unfair or not, the only way I’m going to improve it is by taking action. When I complain about the problems this virus has caused me I make myself into a victim. I give away my power, and make myself feel helpless.

    That’s not a productive or fulfilling way to live. I’ve looked at it carefully, and never found a situation where complaining adds something constructive. I’m training myself never to complain about anything.

    The problem with complaining is that it’s socially acceptable. Everybody does it! So I used to use it as a way of relating to strangers in the elevator or people I met for the first time. But in recent years I found that people I don’t know are just as open to talking if I mention something great about the situation.

  8. Wishing – When I wish I didn’t have to stay home or that things are different than they are, I’m not facing reality. I’m not dealing with life the way it is. How can I improve my life if I’m living in a fantasy? Of course it’s understandable. It’s just that it’s not productive.

    Wishing makes me feel helpless. Thinking of yourself as a victim of circumstances is still being a victim. When I hear myself say “I wish (something) would happen” I say to myself “Don’t wish. Make it happen”.

Get Positive Quickly

Some of the skills that help me stay positive are quicker and easier than others.

  1. Laugh – I realized long ago the healthiest thing I can do for myself is to be happy. When you’re happy your body produces hormones that make your immune system stronger. They say that’s the most effective defense against Covid-19. Those same hormones make you feel better, function better, and improve your health both short and long term.

    Watching The Simpsons on TV always makes me laugh, or a good comedy movie on Netflix, like Get Smart. You are not at the mercy of your emotions and feelings. You can learn to control them. When you’re unhappy your body produces hormones that lower your immune system, ruin your health, and make you less intelligent. Better to laugh and be happy.

  2. Listen to Music – It’s very difficult for me to be unhappy when I listen to my favourite music. I like music with happy or inspiring lyrics, such as “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, or “I Just Want To Celebrate” by Rare Earth. One of the most beautiful pieces ever written is the Nocturne, Opus 9 in B minor, by Chopin.
  3. Sing – I always feel better when I sing even though I don’t have a great voice. I figure it doesn’t matter if I’m at home. I feel best when I sing happy songs, but sing whatever you enjoy.
  4. Dance – I love to play loud music on my stereo and dance in my living room. It’s hard not to move when my favourite songs are playing, and it’s very hard to feel bad when I’m dancing.
  5. Gratitude – It may seem strange to talk about gratitude at a time like this, but as bleak as things sometimes get, there are still many things to be grateful for. Gratitude is the hidden gem of mental health and happiness. Most people don’t understand its power. Those who’ve discovered it will never go back. 🙂

    I can guarantee the quality of your life will improve if you write down 3 things you’re grateful for once a day. Then add another one each day. Make it part of your daily routine like brushing your teeth.

  6. Quality Food – I found that when I ate more vegetables and whole foods instead of processed foods with a lot of sugar, salt, and stimulants I felt better right away. An added bonus was that my overall health improved. I think that’s because my body had to use less energy to get rid of the unhealthy chemicals in my body. It could spend more time repairing and improving.

    Also, your brain is part of your body. If it has better quality fuel it works better. It’s easier to relax, concentrate, and be positive.

  7. Exercise – Most people don’t get enough exercise. It could mean the difference between having strength in your step and needing a walker. Sit-ups, push-ups, stretches, walking and jogging help you be stronger, more flexible, and stay pain-free. Regular exercise is a necessary part of any healthy lifestyle.

    But don’t do too much. That can over-stress your joints and tendons, which is very unhealthy in the long run. Exercising in nature is the best if you can get out. Something about being in nature is relaxing and uplifting for most people.

How to Stay Positive

Here are the methods I learned to stay positive during times of stress. I divided them into four categories. On this page are the ones I do first.

  1. Take Action – When something bad happens I look for things I can control in the situation, and work on those. If I’m not sure what to do, I do anything I can think of. Even if I’m doing the wrong thing I figure it out soon enough and try something else. But I won’t know whether it’s right or wrong unless I try.

    At best, I improve my situation dramatically. At worst it’s a learning experience. But I still feel better about myself than if I did nothing. I always keep moving. When I take action I greatly increase my chances of surviving, and even thriving.

    But taking action is about much more than accomplishing things. It’s about my mindset. Do I have fear, or does my fear have me? As the saying goes, courage is not about having no fear. It’s about being afraid and doing it anyway. I always consider the situation carefully, and then take action.

  2. Do the Right Thing – I found that when I do the right thing my self-esteem improves. When I feel good about myself I feel good about my life and the world. It’s important to stay optimistic. We can never give up.
  3. Stay Connected – It’s always important to feel connected to others, but in these times of “stay home” it’s even more important. It’s very beneficial for people to express their feelings at a time like this. Call your friends and family just to see how they’re doing, and ask how they’re feeling these days.

    Try not to interrupt with things like “Everything will be fine” or “I know exactly what you mean” or to try to fix them. That just tells them you’re not really interested. It’s much better to just listen carefully without judging, and let them know you hear what they’re saying. Everyone needs to be heard.

    Also, unless they are purposely trying to be alone, most people are glad to have someone interested in what’s happening in their life.

  4. Self-Improvement – What have you always wanted to bring into your life but never had the time? What about learning to meditate, playing a musical instrument, painting, writing a book, cooking, sewing, Tai Chi, Yoga, or studying the cosmos? Any form of creativity will help your mental health.

    Will you be better off or worse when Covid-19 comes to an end? What about starting an on-line business? There are many people out there who need the knowledge you’ve accumulated, and are willing to pay for it. And for the first time in history you can reach almost all of them quickly and inexpensively on the internet.

    Or you could learn a skill that your next target employer is looking for. You could upgrade your resumé. Is there a business course you could take on-line? What are your passions? What about learning a language? A hobby you enjoy can increase the quality of your life.

  5. Keep a Journal – My journal has been an important part of my life for 30 years. When I have thoughts and feelings going around and around in my head and I’m not sure how I feel or what to do, putting them down on paper helps me sort them out. I think more logically when I write.

    And when something unpleasant happens I put my thoughts on paper, put them in a drawer and forget about them. Then I can get on with my life without carrying that burden. Even if I have a digital journal, expressing my thoughts and feelings, and closing the file, makes it easier to think about other things.

  6. Responsibility vs Fault – In order to keep my personal power I must take 100% responsibility for everything in my life. That doesn’t mean everything is my fault. It just means I’m responsible for how I react to what happened in the past, and what’s happening now. I can choose what I do, and even how i feel.

    If I’m not happy with something in my life it’s up to me to change it. If I don’t take responsibility for everything in my life I become a helpless victim.

  7. Home Maintenance – What better time to get rid of the clutter and clean your place. Your mind will feel less cluttered. And it will help take your mind off your problems. You’ll be more calm and feel better about your life.

    Doing repairs helps you feel better about yourself because you’re more capable. You’ll be more able to solve problems wherever they arise. If you haven’t done a lot of repairs, search for a video on your project. If you don’t find exactly what you need, just go slow and look for the simplest solution first.

    If you need to take something apart take pictures with your smart phone every step of the way so you can put it back together. Be sure to put all the small bits in a safe place, and put your tools back as soon as you finish using them so you don’t lose them.

    Be patient with yourself. You’re having a learning experience. If you make a mistake just start again. You’ll get better every time you do it.

  8. Everything is Temporary – It’s important to remember in times like these that everything is temporary. As the good book says “This too shall pass”. There have been many large scale diseases over the years, and every one of them came to an end. But we can’t sit around and wait. We need to take action.
  9. Feel My Personal Power – When I start to feel afraid of anything I purposely make myself feel a little bit angry. Anger is powerful, like I can do anything and nobody can stop me. I’m not afraid of anything.

    Of course I don’t let it get the better of me. I’m a kind and gentle person. But there are times when feeling a little bit anger means I can relax, focus, and do whatever needs to be done at the time. Feeling your personal power is a wonderful feeling. I highly recommend it.