On the eve of our meeting, I have some things I’d like to get off my chest. I wanna like you but first, we need to talk. I learned that when we humans reach approximately 40 years old, we fall victim to something I like to call, The-Been-There-Done-That Syndrome. Basically, we’ve seen so much and been through so much that we are rarely excited, impressed, or enthusiastic about what happens in our lives.
I remember the feeling of leaping into the arms of a good friend or shrieking at the sight of a puppy or a great sweater. But somewhere along the way, 40, I stopped dancing to my favourite songs. I no longer got excited to see my favourite people. I forgot the wonder of going to the movies and lost the whimsy in my walks to the park. I got so focused on the daily grind of getting-shit-done that my daily schedule turned into a race to the finish line of my TODO lists. Old friendships turned lack-lustre at times and making new friendships was almost impossible because of the headaches of previous heartaches.
Some people reading the above will say that what I listed is a simple by-product of being a middle-aged adult. “Suck it up and deal” they might say. But that’s just it. I will deal, I must deal - we all must deal. But perhaps it’s how we deal that is of the utmost importance in mid-life (or what I am now calling, mind-life). I can’t speak for everyone, but while my chronic cynicism and sarcasm is good for a laugh over a few cocktails, it is no longer serving me in the long run.
So in other words, 40, none of my disenchantment is your fault - it’s mine. If I eat like shit, stay up too late or skip workouts, I am not giving my well-being a fighting chance. But perhaps more importantly, I am also doing myself a huge disservice in not taking care of my mind.
You see, I have the power to focus my thoughts, 40. I have a choice over what I think about. I have the freedom to reach for a better feeling thought. How many of us relentlessly plan or worry while washing our hair or driving our cars or passing the vacuum? What we do with our air time is so important to (lovingly) disciplining our minds. Multiple times a day, we get off track and worry or become scared, pessimistic or negative. We have gotten very tolerant in having and maintaining negative, preoccupied, or anxious thinking. It’s like we have become sloppy thinkers who allow our thoughts to take the wheel and initiate what we think all day long. This lackadaisical way of thinking can lead to burnout, sadness, stress, and even mental illness over time!
What if I told you that disciplining our minds into better feeling thoughts can make the difference? Producing better feeling thoughts will allow your brain to produce chemicals conducive to positive emotions and productive physiological changes. Enhancing your mood will thereby rejuvenate your outlook on the world and what you come into contact with everyday. In other words, the grass can be greener exactly where you stand right now. The flowers directly under your feet will smell sweeter and your mind will be cleaner and clearer. Releasing negative resistance in your mind will free up so many resources that you will be liberated to behave differently, plan your day differently, and show up differently with your beloveds.
So, my 40th year commitment is not about getting the body I always wanted or the car I so-long desired (although I would graciously accept these things should they come into my existence ;)). My commitment will be to my mind - to remember my power to wield my thoughts, to remember that I hold the key to my mood through focus, to remember that I am responsible for my happiness. I will no longer be at the mercy of external circumstance - continual reaction to my outside reality will make me a perpetual victim of my environment. Happiness is a choice. We must choose it, or lose it.
So you’re off the hook, 40. I know it’s not going to be easy but this is my birthday wish. Let’s go on to be friends now. Maybe we can take over the world.
Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.