Wayfinder 73 / Midlife Crisis

"When we avoid our pain, we suffer. When we engage our pain, we grow." — Mark Manson, 5 Tenets of a Negative Self-Help

The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis
Apparently there is a happiness pattern, the Happiness U-Curve, by which we tend to grow discontented with life as we approach middle age — peaking at around 50. At this time we gain a matured perspective on life, we find meaning, reset priorities and happiness again ticks upward.

Midlife is, for many people, a time of recalibration, when they begin to evaluate their lives less in terms of social competition and more in terms of social connectedness.

In my own case, however, what seems most relevant is a change frequently described both in popular lore and in the research literature: for some reason, I became more accepting of my limitations. “Goals, because they’re set in temporal context, change systematically with age,” Carstensen says. “As people perceive the future as increasingly constrained, they set goals that are more realistic and easy to pursue.” For me, the expectation of scaling ever greater heights has faded, and with it my sense of disappointment and failure.

The Power of Sharing
Photographer, Ian MacDonald, found relief from his depression through his creative practice of photography and sharing his story.

"When the darkness encroached I knew I could go out on the streets, with a camera in my hand, and that I would be able to enjoy life again for a short period of time."

5 Tenets of a Negative Self-Help
Maybe, more often than not, this is what we need to hear.

Whereas positive self-help believes that we’re all wonderful and destined for greatness, Negative Self-Help admits that we’re all kind of shitty and we should come to terms with that. Whereas positive self-help encourages you to create ambitious goals, to follow your dreams, to reach for the stars—vomits— Negative Self-Help reminds you that your dreams are probably narcissistic delusions and you should probably just shut the fuck up and get to work on something meaningful.

Peeling Away the Promise of Desire
We may call it different names—peace, or awakening, or enlightenment, even love—but what most of us are looking for is happiness: deep, abiding fulfillment and completion. The problem is that we’re looking for it in the wrong place. We’re looking in the places where society or our conditioning tells us to look—in the fulfillment of our desires. But that is not where true happiness is found.

The Nature and Causes of Procrastination
The history of every life is made up both of the life we lead, and the richer, more ambitious one we dream of leading – but never quite do… because we are stretched out in the bath or on the sofa, too tired or worried, too distracted or despairing.

The real reason we are indolent is not so much because we are lazy as because we are scared. What we blithely call being lazy is really a symptom and consequence of anxiety.

We need regularly to step back and retrace the plot once more from the start to the present moment. We need to reorient ourselves in the trajectory of our own lives. We need to remind us ourselves of the ongoing logic of what we’re meant to be doing and have signed up to. We need to tell the story of our lives in a way that can keep illuminating the purpose of the small and large challenges of the days ahead.

The Ritual of Adventure
Riding shared with a handful of close friends... This is why we need routine in movement and adventure.

We’ve ridden this gem for years…over and over again. For me, the exercise of each ride is just as much mental as it is physical, the up-and-down route lending itself to consistent patterns of thought and emotion. For the lengthy climb, I tend to go inward, mind wandering, solving problems and exploring my complex cerebral topography. Reaching the summit, it’s a buzz of climactic elation—always a true moment to celebrate. On the descent, it’s a thrilling rush, almost surreal, given the incredible environment passing by. The entire sequence, for me, is a cathartic blowing-out of the carbon, a reset button I push every spring.

Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness
It's not just green spaces that help with mental wellness, blue spaces have similar effects. We need to connect with nature to be more ourselves.

Proximity to water – especially the sea – is associated with many positive measures of physical and mental wellbeing, from higher levels of vitamin D to better social relations.

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