Talking about our experiences helps us heal, but we can get stuck there. Many people can’t let it go. They repeat their story of pain and trauma to anyone who will listen. After the body heals, retelling your story keeps you locked in the old memory of fear and pain. If you keep repeating your story, it tells your unconscious mind that it still real and still happening. It stops you from experiencing the good things that are happening in your life right now. It is time to let it go when people stop calling, visiting, and stop asking how you are.
Yes, I know you have been through trials and tribulations and you have faced a life crisis or three. However, when your body is healed, it is time to shift your focus from the traumas of your past so you can heal your mind and experience the joy of awakening to another day.
Shift Your Perspective
To fully heal from your trauma, you need to shift your perspective. But, after many weeks (or months) of self-focus, how do you break out? One way to do this is to focus on other people. Find a way to help someone else and you will do wonders for yourself.
According to experts, people who help others are happier, healthier, and more physically fit. Research proves that volunteers have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Volunteers form strong social bonds, which improves all their relationships, not just with people they help, but with the people closest to them. Smiling, touching, and hugging release a powerful hormone (oxytocin) that helps us bond, makes us feel loved, and gives us a better handle on stress. This will make you happier, promote better health, and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Everyone who volunteers gains an increased sense of well-being, but research shows that older volunteers experience even more benefits. According to AARP, senior volunteers gain a sense of purpose and mission and can share their wealth of knowledge and wisdom. Seniors with chronic conditions gain the ability to manage them better because the hormone that helps us bond also helps us to manage stress.
Volunteer, Donate, or Help a Neighbor
Contact a cause that is close to your heart and ask them how you can help . Focusing on other people will get you off the couch, get you moving, and shift your focus to the problems of other people. You will meet other caring people with common interests and goals. You will put your own problems aside as you focus on the problems of others, some of whom have experienced more traumatic events than you. Your focus will shift to the future and your problems will float into the past, at least for a little while.
If you are not a “joiner”, help a friend or find a local charity that would appreciate your time, your money, or your old stuff. Clean out your closet or garage and donate items that you don’t use anymore. You will lighten your load while you help people who have less than you.
Regardless of whether you volunteer to make yourself feel better or to help others, you will reap the benefits, especially if you are a senior. So, find a cause and find a way to support it. You will improve your health as you improve the life of others.
Dunn, E.W., Aknin, L.B., Norton, M.I. (2008). spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319, 5870. DOI: 10.1126/science.1150952. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/319/5870/1687.
Van Willigen, M. (2000). differential benefits of volunteering across the life course. Journals of Gerontology, Series B. 55. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/55.5.S308.
Yeung, J. W. K., Zhang, Z., & Kim, T. Y. (2018). Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms. BMC Public Health, 18, 8. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4561-8.