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Mental Health and Mental Illness, Donald Trump and REAL Wellness

September 24th, 2017

Introduction

I once thought insanity was the most likely explanation that accounted for the fact that not everyone was living a healthy lifestyle. That was nearly twenty years ago. It was, of course, a jejune notion, shortsighted and unfair to those not living a healthy lifestyle.

I mention this because a lot of folks still think this way. I’ll summarize why I once did, and then explain why I don’t anymore.

Lunacy and Low Level Worseness

Mental disorders affect nearly one in five Americans, according to a succession of U.S. Surgeons General. This ratio suggests the U.S. harbors over 60 million troubled people, a good number of whom populate our prison system. The rest are out and about with little or no supervision. (According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2,220,300 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons and county jails in 2013, plus another 4,751,400 adults on probation or parole.)

Given that the electorate last year voted Donald Trump into the highest office in the land, these estimates seem conservative. A more likely reality is that the reverse of the Surgeons General figures applies, that is, only one in five Americans is healthy. The other 80% have gone round the bend.

Officials continually advise citizens to seek help for recognized mental problems – and to be alert for symptoms of such in others.

Previous administrations urged Congress to enact laws requiring insurance coverage for mental and physical health treatments on an equal basis with physical troubles. ACA (or Obamacare to Republicans) did this to an extent.

What Constitutes Mental Health?

Mental health is described as an ability to engage in productive activities, to fulfill relationships with others, adapt to change and cope with adversity – for starters. So, go count on two hands the number of folks you work with who pass that test!

Next, think about the quality of relationships of people you know – their ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity – and ask yourself: Is it one in five who meet the test of mentally ill, or four in five? If you didn’t pick the latter, apply another test: Do those you know have the ability to change and adapt, to employ reason, enjoy exuberance in many forms, attend to sufficient exercise and good diet and value their liberties?

Looking after one’s own well being seems like a rational, mentally healthy thing to do, don’t you think?

Healthy people can adapt and change, they are not over-fat and are not afflicted with deadly habits (e.g., smoke, abuse alcohol, or remain in destructive/unhappy relationships), nor do they worry most of the time, day in and day out.

On a personal level, can you check that’s me after all or most of the following:

* Find ways to enjoy your work?

* Manage to fill most days with some form of play?

* Employ sufficient reason to recognize political and other charlatans, avoid bad actors, frauds and mountebanks and steer clear of useless products and services?

* Effectively communicate with honesty and candor?

* Reject cults, gurus, flimflam belief systems while spotting a mile away rigid, archaic and senseless dogmas and creeds based entirely on superstitions?

* Delight in the expression of your gifts and talents?

These are representative examples of good mental health, for starters. So, once again: Are we talking about one in five with or without mental disorders?

We can all profit from continuing education throughout life that helps us adapt to life as it is and function with high levels of reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty.

I suspect you agree that government estimates of mental health problems are not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Now you know why I thought the Attorneys General estimates of mental health were off. As a result, I erroneously concluded people did not embrace wellness-oriented lifestyles because they were, how shall I put this in a delicate, compassionate way? Let’s let it go as pre-postal mad as hatters, one fry short of a Happy Meal or just plain nucking futs.

One More Reason for My Former Thinking

I assumed for a long time that anyone in his or her right mind would realize that to adapt and cope, flourish and prosper in this life, you had to attend to your body and mind in artful, science-based ways known to be effective. I believed in daily exercise of a vigorous nature, dining wisely, being responsible for one’s own health and fate to the extent possible and seeking ways to make life challenging and satisfying,

So, that’s it – that was my old self.

My (Relatively) New Take on Why Most Have Not, Can Not and Will Not Embrace REAL Wellness

Most have little chance to discover that a wellness option exists, let alone opportunities to practice and sustain such a complex personal mission that requires support from families, friends, cultures and environments. I Aussie polymath Grant Donovan has written books and dozens of articles about why most just can not do it (i.e., live well and be happy).

The relatively few who manage healthy lifestyles have done so not so much because of their disciplined ways, heroic efforts, brilliant decisions, favorable educations and good and continuing random good fortune, though any and all of these factors have helped a lot. But the main reason is that they have had better circumstances along life’s way, supportive cultures, environments, heredity and much more.

Regrettably, this summary explanation does not address the complexities of free will versus determinism. That’s for another day, perhaps. Basically, determinism holds that all behavior is caused by preceding factors and is thus predictable. The free will view maintains that we have choices in how we act because we are free to choose our attitudes and behaviors.

The icantdoit model referenced above leans heavily on determinism, not free will.

However, that doesn’t mean I like it. My advice, despite this acknowledgement, is to do what you can to change and adapt. Don’t abandon the quest for improved mental and physical wellbeing. Don’t settle for the mediocre desire to be not crazy! Set your sights higher, and in a more positive way. Seek states of well-being that transcend the norms you’ve known to date. To simply NOT be crazy, however difficult for at least four out of five, overlooks your potentials and your good fortune to be living in a mostly free society where lots of choice is still possible. Don’t go along gently with all the preponderance of experts who insist on the reality of determinism. While it’s important to avoid becoming too mental, assume you can do better than that.

Best wishes and keep focused on the bright side of life.

Five Positive Tips for Baby Boomers: Retirement & Panic

September 24th, 2017

As we 73 million Baby Boomers retire in droves, at the rate of 10,000 per day, and totaling more than a quarter million Americans every month until the year 2030, we enter a period of personal disorientation and confusion, if the truth be known. We are a very hard-working generation, and often have been defined by our careers. And we have high expectations. So our concerns are valid.

Although we have earned money throughout lifetimes of hard work, our savings have been impacted by major stock market, banking industry and housing industry crashes. Even if we did save enough, which many of us did not, we have watched those savings decline drastically, with little we could do about it.

Baby Boomers also have been known to be a generous group. We have done well by our children, our parents, our communities, our churches. Many of us have felt the pinch from adult children who have had difficulties earning adequate incomes on their own. And many of us have dealt with aging parents who need significant assistance, financially and/or otherwise.

We grew up in an era where making a meaningful contribution was paramount to a life well lived. We have always wanted to make a difference. From women’s rights, to civil rights, to world hunger, to preserving the planet, we always have been there – marching, demonstrating, donating our funds and services. We are a generation who has always cared.

And now it is our turn to retire. Our parents retired under a very different paradigm, generally supported for the remainder of their lives by their employer-provided pensions. Not so with us. Only one in four Boomers can expect significant income from an employer-provided pension.

And we know better than to expect that retirement will be cheap. Statistics show that almost half of retired households now spend more money, not less, in retirement. We also know that we are likely to live for quite a long time. According to the Social Security Administration, one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past the age of 90, while one out of 10 will live past 95.

So if some of us associate feelings of panic with retirement, we have good reason. But there are positive factors that will make transformative differences in our favor. Use these five tips and considerations to your advantage to turn your own retirement years into some of the best years of your life.

  1. Time is on your side.
  2. Reinvention is the new normal. Expect to have freedom and engagement too.
  3. If you need more money to live the lifestyle you desire, then make some more.
  4. Seek assistance with your “transition.”
  5. Nurture your pioneer spirit as a role model. Lead the way.

Time is on your side.

If you have lived to age 65, you will have another 25 to 30 years or so of life left to live. So you will have ample time to ace your own retirement transition. This bounty of time can be put to good use to redirect and explore, gain self-knowledge, and study the patterns and passions of your own unique and inimitable self in order to yield a retirement design that is optimal for you, mentally, socially, physically, financially, and spiritually. Use time to your benefit to give yourself the gift of a future that engages you fully and towards which you can and will apply yourself with vitality, enthusiasm and enjoyment. Create a retirement that will be your opus, not just a condition that you wander into aimlessly.

Although, as a Boomer, you already are part of the most educated, most techno-savvy generation in our country’s history, you know that there is a lot more for you to learn. With 25-30 years left ahead of you, there is no need for you to race into your third phase of life limited by what you already know how to do. Once you discover what you long to do and be next, you will have the luxury of time to learn how to do it and do it well, to apply your new learning for many years, and even to pass it on.

Reinvention is the new normal. Expect to have freedom and engagement too.

“Working” during retirement, with or without earning money for it, can be a meaningful pursuit when it is in line with your truest and most naturally enthusiastic self. It is essential to understand that what we’re talking about here is not simply more of the same. After retirement, motivation to work is based on a desire for continued purpose, productivity, stimulation, satisfaction, and social connection. Gone are the days of “I’ll do anything so long as it pays well.”

Although the majority of Boomers do plan to work in retirement (71%), that does not mean we are willing to continue on with the same work. Over half of us (51%) plan to enter a different line of work in retirement. Since we are looking for work that yields stimulation and satisfaction, we will be less willing to fit ourselves to a job and more prone to find avenues of work that fit us.

This translates to the necessity of reinventing yourself, then reinventing your work. Make choices based on knowledge of your own true self. What are you like? (your type and temperament). What engages you? (your interests). What has meaning for you? (your values). And what can you do well? (your skills and talents).

Then based on what you discover, reinvent your work. Most likely, you will not be interested in continuing at the same pace and intensity level as your earlier work life. And you may not be willing to opt either for freedom over engagement, or the other way around, when you want to, and can, have both. According to the 2013 Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, many Boomers will seek flexible work arrangements such as part-time work (39%), or going back and forth between periods of work and periods of leisure (24%). Others will start businesses or enterprises, offer services, create, perform, invent, coach, guide or mentor.

If you need more money to live the lifestyle you desire, then make some more.

In the past, the focus of retirement planning has been on saving and investing money during your major work years in order to be able to live on passive income throughout retirement. To the degree that we have succeeded at this task, or have the benefit of increasingly rare employer-provided pensions, this passive income can provide a solid base after we retire. But this base income certainly does not define or limit our potential lifestyles. Retirement need not mark a shift to passive income only or the end of active earning. It is much better, and probably more realistic, to think of having some of each!!

With the advent of computer-based work, locating and carrying out work contracts can be accomplished without even leaving your house. The world can be your market for the services you offer, the art or crafts you create, the books or courses you write. Once you redefine yourself, and decide what your purpose will be from this point on, you will have many options and arenas for following through.

If your dream has been to travel during retirement, and you are short the money to do so, set out to earn the travel money you need to fly off to France and Italy for a month. If you want to buy books, or season tickets to the Symphony, or even a boat… work as many “gigs” as it takes for you to achieve your dreams. Do not fall prey to the mentality that you will forevermore be forced to live on a fixed income.

Seek assistance with your “transition.”

Retirement, and the considerable challenges of planning for this dramatic transition, is not something you need to face or plan alone. Although it may sound simple to uncover what you are uniquely and even passionately suited to do for your remaining years, this will be a process, not an event.

After decades of having work define you, it is no simple task to turn this around so you are the one to define the work. Likewise, you will be fully in charge of establishing your new balance between work and lifestyle. Without a plan, you may waste precious years of this pinnacle time in your life. These life and work redesigns are made even more complex for couples, each of whom will need to create an individual vision, and then, through a series of conversations, build a shared vision that takes into account what each needs and wants.

During this all essential transition period, give yourself permission to seek out the assistance you need to get it right. Although in the past most so-called Retirement Counselors have focused exclusively on financial issues, the emerging industry of Certified Retirement Coaches, Retirement Therapists, and Transition Counselors have become an excellent source of assistance, offering one-on-one consultation, as well as group sessions. Also, there are a number of helpful books about the retirement transition, particularly those that offer assistance with self-analysis and career changing. Try a search for “life and work after retirement” to identify resources to guide you through the transition process.

Retirement is a time of rediscovery, followed by essential decisions about what to do and be, to accomplish and contribute, for the rest of your life. It is well worth dedicating energy and time, as well as resources, to your own future.

Nurture your pioneer spirit as a role model. Lead the way.

As we 73 million Baby Boomers redefine the process, the visage, the experience and the outcomes of retirement, we ultimately will be demonstrating to future generations how it can be accomplished creatively and well. This will provide them with all-essential models for their own lives in later years. And with 73 million Boomers going through these changes within less than two decades, there will be plenty of need and demand for more retirement coaches in the years ahead. So once you get your own retirement transition right, you may choose to offer necessary guidance to other Boomers.