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Nicole BernierHaving retired, my favourite uncle certainly didn’t expect the mental burden that accompanied his privilege of no longer having a job.

“Day after day,” he said, “I have lots of free time. My mind is in a state of chaos. I can’t stop thinking too much and my past mistakes are starting to haunt me.”

If you ever were unemployed with not much to do, or if you were sick and bedridden for a while, perhaps you had a similar experience.

Did you notice that whenever you slow the pace down, as my uncle did, the mind gets more active and even takes over your moods and emotions? All sorts of thoughts come for a visit and a few of them – which you’re normally too busy to entertain – even stick around. The sticky thoughts tend to be unpleasant and you end up feeling miserable.

Growing older may mean, for many people, that there’s more time for the mind to run wild. The mind’s tendency to dwell on past regrets or to anticipate the future with fear only gets stronger.

Do you have a strategy and the proper tools to cope with a mind in such a state?

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Baby boomers are joining the ranks of retirement in growing numbers. It’s critical they become skilful at managing the mind in order to grow happier as they get older.

You’re not nearly the only person whose life has been a mixture of joy and success, and adverse events and negative feelings. Broken or dysfunctional relationships, failures and lost opportunities are commonplace in life trajectories, as are feelings of resentment, fear, guilt and jealousy.

Can you mitigate bad memories?

Do you entertain negative feelings or stressful thoughts about the future?

Old age can be very stressful. Particularly after age 75, it’s often associated with an accumulation of challenging conditions such as illness, disability, social isolation, needing more help and having to care for others.

Older people also face a series of disruptions, including bereavement and moving from their homes.

But old age doesn’t have to be depressing. If you’re well prepared, you can grow happier in spite of hardships.

But you can’t let your mind run free. The mind is your instrument and it should be at your service – not the other way around.

How good are you at preventing negative thoughts from taking hold of you?

In this series, I’m going to explore how the mind functions and discuss techniques you can use to train it properly. You will see that there’s no age limit to unlocking your potential. You can shine your light onto others as long as you live.

Nicole F. Bernier is a long time practitioner and teacher of yoga and positive thinking. A fully trained political scientist, she worked as a research professor at the Université de Montréal until her affinity for forward-thinking policy research led her to join the Institute for Research on Public Policy, one of Canada’s most influential think tanks. In her role as director of the Faces of Aging research program (2011-2016), she developed an innovative agenda that explored the social and economic challenges of Canada’s aging population.

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