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Alice D. Outwater, Ph.D., Contributor

Few things chase people away faster than anger and complaining—first cousins to bitching and moaning. Can you imagine a more toxic combination? A sure formula to keep friends distanced.

It is healthy to acknowledge your feelings and try to fathom what’s going on. However, do not get stuck in negative emotions. Flip them aside. Then face the anger and fear and try to uncover their source. It’s not necessary to comprehend one hundred percent. Just be certain you don’t get glued into a niggling mode. Switch your thinking from “I can’t” and replace it with “I want.” This can be a powerful start.

The challenge of aging can steal your energy and rapidly harden it into bitterness. The next downward trend leads to depression. All of us have been presented with difficult situations, some of which can be devastating. We know people who seem to have more than their share of hardship in life. It may involve divorce, financial reversals or sickness. There seems to be a pattern of one thing triggering another into a downward spiral. In addition, some may lose their support systems and find it hard to visualize an optimistic future. Their moorings seem to detach and float away.

I often wish I could recapture the resilience of earlier years. The aging process means being less nimble mentally and physically. Sometimes I feel more vulnerable—just when an extra dose of confidence would be desirable. Physically I have fewer options, and my parameters have narrowed.

I’ve always had a yen for adventure, but now I’m more physically curtailed. I find creativity helps deal with this. It’s essential to shift my thinking. I find discoveries in surprising spots I would otherwise not have considered investigating. I have a friend who gets excited about the Oscars and attends every movie that might be up for one. She loves the excitement and feels connected to Hollywood and hundreds of other people who may or may not be voting for her favorite actor or movie. I watch her come alive in a way she normally isn’t.

Another friend decided on a whim to sign up for five painting classes. This opened a new vista for her as she stood in front of her easel, brush in hand. Next she put a couple of her pieces in a local exhibit. But wait! She even sold one, which sent her spirits over the top. Not only had she found a new outlet, but classmates came with it.

If I can nudge my mind to wander toward uncharted territory, new ideas often surface. I couldn’t possibly incorporate them all, which gives me a sense of renewal.

I remind myself that choices are waiting, but how to locate them? I chide myself, “Stop being so picky, open up more and see what’s beckoning. Take out your magical, wide-angled lens and look through that.”

I may have to wait patiently for some days. My mind needs room to branch out and reconfigure. I feel assured answers will appear.

Before I go to sleep at night, I pray or whisper to the Universe what I would like to find or change. I ask for an answer. It might take some time for it to appear. I don’t give up. Eventually something swirls into my consciousness and I run with it. As I press on, I glimpse some new connections out there. Next, as I shift my foot path, seeking and reaching become part of my new approach. These changes may take two or three weeks and will need reinforcing.

In the midst of this process I start my day with a prayer of gratitude for being alive. And hey, with a bit of thought, I could make a difference in someone else’s life by a small kindness or gesture. All this becomes a panacea: I stop concentrating on myself, and life becomes more stimulating. It sings to a jauntier tune. I think I’m on to something significant. Do you?