We eat right and exercise. We meditate and actively participate in spiritual activities that feed our soul. Despite our best efforts, however, sometimes it’s easy to be lonely, especially as we age.
Physical limitations often keep us closer to home, and frequently we’re alone. Those hours can loom large when there’s no one to entertain us or just sit with us. Even lots of seniors who are very active with family and friends experience bouts of emptiness. And, if we’re not feeling well, emptiness is exaggerated.
Sometimes we create our own emptiness by turning down offers to spend time with friends or (as I’m famous for) signing up and then cancelling at the last moment.
The media tells us our lives are empty and less happy unless we buy into a perfect life that includes a lot of “stuff.” As senior citizens, however, we’re pretty smart from all our years of experience. We get it. We have learned that big houses, fancy cars, and expensive vacations do nothing to quell our feelings of emptiness. People with loads of stuff can be, and often are, just as lonely as people with nothing.
If emptiness is something you struggle with, here are a few ideas to help you with those feelings:
- The biggest and best way to fill the emptiness in your life is to do something for others. Spend time going through your stuff and pack up what you won’t use – from foodstuffs to garden tools – for donation to organizations that will find new homes for it. Or consider anonymously paying off a few layaway accounts at your local WalMart. Also, seniors are needed for tutoring young readers at most elementary schools. Right now there are people and organizations who could benefit from something you have to offer. Check out your local Volunteer Center for opportunities to help others. Sharing your resources doesn’t have to be big; it’s okay to start small. Do something for half a day or even an hour. See how it feels.
- A second suggestion for curing emptiness is to learn something new; take a class, either a semester-long course of study or a short weekend class. The point is to shift the focus from your feelings of pain or lack of self-worth or isolation to outward things that are new and exciting. Learning something new doesn’t have to be difficult and exasperating. It can be fun and funny. I took up juggling a year ago … talk about laughing a lot! I still haven’t mastered the art of juggling, but it’s been fun trying.
- And finally, go wild. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Do something really outside the box: take singing lessons, adopt a pet, get a tattoo or piercing. And, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing these experiences … well, no one needs to know. It’s personal. And it can be drastic. If you acknowledge you need something to kick start you out of your emptiness, then it’s time to get truly creative and find something to do that’s life-changing. I can’t define what that is for you, but I bet there’s something … something you’ve had in the back of your mind for a long time. Dust that idea off and give it a whirl.
Remember, emptiness is a state of mind, and we all have control over our own thoughts. I have been known in the past, however, to have a session or two of therapy to get myself out of a rut to once again see all the good that is available to me. No one makes us experience those feelings of emptiness. It’s up to us to take charge and create more of our own happiness.