Isn't it amazing the tricks our minds can play on us as we age?
Over the last two months, I have been publicly counting down the 40 days to turning 40. It has been a roller coaster of emotions, including hope, fear and self-reflection. Thinking it was an old pattern I was happy to release, I chose not to throw a big, expensive soiree. The old Romie would have mindlessly spent a lot of money for a fleeting moment of happiness and pictures to share on Facebook.
I truly wanted to be present, mindful and connect to happiness when turning 40. But how? Last month, I was on a girls' weekend at the beach that included one of my best childhood friends, Melissa, and her 4-year-old daughter Payton. Melissa has had her rite of passage of turning 40 already. Her presence and words were the much needed soulful, sisterly medicine to comfort my fears and self-judgment. She shared with me, "There is no one right place to be at the age of 40. We chase these labels society creates thinking that we should have accomplished certain things by 40. Are those things signs of success if we are not happy?"
I feel that I am now finally on my life's path of living my purpose, I am truly happy. It doesn't have to look like the "traditional American dream" of a marriage, 2.5 kids and a mortgage. I decided to choose happiness and be grateful for what I do have, for what I have accomplished as a physician, speaker and entrepreneur. More importantly, I am clearly blessed to be surrounded by an inspiring and supportive group of women.
How can we choose happiness when society has programmed us to fear the aging process? Age is a state of mind. If we are always chasing youth, we are stuck in the past. But being stuck in the past only fuels the negative thought patterns in our minds that can lead to feelings of hopelessness, grief or depression.
By being present in the current moment it is easier to be grateful for the blessings that surround us. I truly feel by being mindful that life isn't about anti-aging measures, but more importantly it is about aging with health, gratitude, and happiness.
How can we choose to shift to happiness?
1. Hear a happy song and do the "Happy Dance."
The blessing of being around my friend's 4-year-old daughter, Payton, was a reminder to live life in the current moment. While on our weekend getaway, we were walking along the shops of Madeira Beach when Payton heard a fun song that spoke to her spirit. She spontaneously broke out into a dance in the middle of the store, and of course, Auntie Romie joined her. Strangers stopped and saw our joy. The happiness was infectious. Now when I feel my mood dipping, I tune into my "happy dance" playlist and get up to dance. We know movement and exercise lifts the mood but so does happy music.
2. Build your own castle of dreams, not someone else's version.
We can choose to focus on the type of home, job or marriage our neighbors, friends and culture have or focus on what we really want. If we focus on what our culture expects of us, we are creating a prison in our own minds. Now when I get asked if I am single or married, I just answer, "I'm building an empire spreading love." So stop and ask yourself, what do I really want in my life? Is this what I want or what is expected of me?
3. Write a letter to your younger self.
My dear friend Christine called me with a gift of prayer. In many major religions of the world, 40 is a point of spiritual awakening. In order to shift from a place of regret to one of gratitude, she advised me to write a letter to my younger self. Releasing emotions on paper through journaling is a form of healing. I was immediately full of gratitude for the wisdom I realized I had learned through the hardships of a health scare and lost love.
4. Celebrate life with the people you love beyond your birthday.
My friend Sumaira shared a fabulous idea, "Why does your birthday have to be on one day?" In following that idea, I decided to choose 40 people to celebrate 40 different life moments with. Life is worth celebrating daily, and not just on our birthdays. What is my moment with Sumaira? I will fly to California this fall to run my first half-marathon with her.
I now celebrate life knowing: We are never too old to run, do the "Happy Dance" or build an empire spreading love. If age is a state of mind, how will you choose happiness?
Romila "Dr. Romie" Mushtaq, MD, ABIHM is a traditionally trained neurologist with expertise in the field of mind-body medicine -- a branch of medicine that promotes the science behind mindfulness based techniques. Dr. Romie helps clients connect to inner peace despite life's external chaos as a physician, professional speaker and certified life coach with her Mindful Living Program.
Dr. Romie writes at www.brainbodybeauty.com, where you can sign up to join her mindful living community and learn how to conquer stress and boost brainpower. You can follow Dr. Romie on Twitter, Facebook and connect with her on LinkedIn. Her guided meditation CD, "Connect To Joy: Guided Meditation to Quiet the Mind" is now available on iTunes.