Monday, June 17, 2019

From Sixty and Me - Happiness: the Key to Good Health in the Years of Maturity

Last week I had lunch with a dear friend who later texted me, apologizing for having spent most of our time together moaning and groaning about various things going on in her life. She hoped she hadn’t been a drain on me.

I texted her back that no, she hadn’t. On the contrary, I value our friendship and appreciate our being able to share whatever’s going on in our respective lives. That made me happy.

Not happy, of course, that my friend is going through a rough patch, but happy that we can talk about such things, support each other, be there for one another. And certainly not happy as in jumping for joy, but satisfied, content, pleased with our friendship and our sharing.

Happiness Is Good for Your Health

Happy comes in many different shapes and colors, but here’s the thing. Regardless of what makes you happy, whether it’s the content/satisfied version or the jumping-for-joy version, happiness has a direct and unmistakable impact on your health.

Extensive research – over 150 studies – show that happiness, what scientists like to call “subjective well-being,” supports better cardiovascular health, a well-functioning immune system, faster healing from wounds, and lower likelihood of getting colds or the flu.

How do we get there? What if your finances are less than wonderful, your health imperfect, your family annoying, your work life disappointing? Or worse? Where’s the happiness in any of that?
It’s not. So don’t look there.

Watch for the Tide

Happiness isn’t an all-or-nothing experience. Happiness, for most of us, comes and goes. The more aware we are of what makes happiness come, so to speak, the more we can tune in to those events or situations.

For example, my friend loves to watch tennis on TV. No matter what else is going on in her life, she can lose herself and forget about her problems while watching a tennis match. For that time, she is happy.

For me, it’s dance. No matter how dreadful my day, no matter how awful some part of my current experience may be, I will come out of a dance class uplifted and happy.

For others, such as Jean Bailey, it’s volunteering. At 98, she could sit at home by herself, but that’s not what makes Jean happy. She’s been volunteering at Methodist Women’s Hospital since she turned 62, escorting patients to scans and offering assistance to RNs and techs wherever she can be of service.

Jean doesn’t volunteer for the recognition, although she recently received the Methodist Health System’s “honorary lifetime V.I.P. Award” for her greatly appreciated and valuable service.
Jean volunteers because she enjoys people. It makes her happy. Her “happy” certainly supports her being healthy, as her spry 98 years show.

What makes you happy may be simple, like diving into a good book, or more involved, like kayaking. It doesn’t matter. Find something – find several things – that make you happy no matter what, and engage in those activities as often as possible.

With that, you will enjoy the health that your happiness brings.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Just My Luck

Someone cuts you off in traffic, you get stuck behind the person with 30 items in the 10 items or less line, your hair dryer fails in the middle of your blow-dry, the cat throws up on your favorite shirt, and every time you say to yourself, gritting your teeth through it all, “Yup, just my luck.”

You say the same thing when your flight is delayed, or your luggage lost, or your supposed new boy/girlfriend forgets you exist – the list goes on.

You never say, “Just my luck” when the traffic flows freely and easily, the cashier opens a new line up just for you, your blow-dry is impeccable, and your cat uses the litter box for its intended use. Yet, you could. After all, why does “Just my luck” have to be said only of negative events? Why not turn it on its head and make it your happy go-to for when things do go your way?

Because I guarantee, if you’re still walking on this planet, that most things go your way. The sun rises and sets right on cue, you wake up and get your coffee/tea to face the day. You may not have your ideal job, but you have work or you can figure out a way to get some. You may not have your ideal mate, or for that matter any mate, but somewhere in your life there is someone (or some pet) that loves you. You do have “luck,” which in this regard, is simply a short form for “things to be grateful for.”

Why not go for it? Why not start noticing all the “lucky” things that happen to you every single day, and say “Just my luck” with a smile? You just might get even--luckier.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Discard Negative Thoughts that Sabotage Your Life – Embrace a Positive Mindset Instead!

Photo courtesy of Sixty and Me

The dictionary defines sabotage as an attempt to deliberately destroy, damage, or otherwise obstruct something. When we sabotage ourselves, it's often sneaky and can go virtually undetected until we realize that we’re unhappy, or feeling unfulfilled, or that we’re hurt in some way.

One of the sneakiest saboteurs I know of is our nasty habit of entertaining negative thoughts. Thoughts that see the glass as half-empty, our world as unfulfilling, other people as treacherous.

Sabotage Is Unhealthy. Entertain negative thoughts often enough, with sufficient energy, and your health will suffer. Science tells us that such negative thinking depresses our immune system, which in turn can lead to a host of unwelcome disorders: cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, Alzheimer's disease, frailty and functional decline, to name but a few.

The sneaky aspect is that often these thoughts are partially grounded in reality. My flight was canceled this morning, customer service was having a dickens of a time re-booking some 80 passengers and the upshot is we were all considerably late to wherever we were headed. Glass half-empty? You bet. In that moment, my world was certainly unfulfilling, and the notion that my luggage wouldn’t make it to my destination was “treacherous.”

In and of themselves, such thoughts are harmless. Sabotage occurs when we dwell on them--we end up rehashing negative events, looking ahead with trepidation, distrusting everyone and everything on a regular basis.

Negative Thoughts Hold Us Back. The ensuing sabotage of our otherwise happy, healthy lives prevents us from trying new things, exploring new activities. We shy away from the unfamiliar, even if a part of us really wants to try it.

We say to ourselves, “I don’t know how,” as if people who know how were somehow born with the ability. We say, “I’ll be terrible at it.” Everybody is terrible at something new--it takes perseverance and patience to get good at things. We say, “I’m inadequate” or “I’ve never done anything like this,” and with that we squash whatever dream we had. As we move through our 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, we are prone to even more such talk.

What a shame. How dreadful to sabotage dreams, dash hopes and aspirations before they even get off the ground.

How life would have been different for Quin Bommelje, if, at 60, she had said to her husband “No, I don’t think we should try ballroom dancing. I mean, come on, look at us! We’re not dancers, we’re in our 60s, what’s the point of taking ballroom lessons?” Well, the point is that once she and her husband started dancing, Quin discovered she really enjoyed it. At 71, a mere 11 years later, Quin won the America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer award with her dance partner, Misha. Her message to all: age is irrelevant to living your dream.

Yet age is only irrelevant if you don’t allow those sabotaging thoughts to intrude. Counter every negative thought with a positive “Yeah, but,” as in “Yeah, but it might be fun,” “Yeah, but you never know, I might just get good at it.”  

Never let yourself say “That’s all very well for those people, not regular people like me.” Not so. In my research of seniors, I’ve learned an essential, profound truth: they are without exception “regular people.” Some able-bodied, some not so, some long-time active individuals, some never. All of them are just like you and me, with one critical difference; they never let sabotaging thoughts interfere with their desire to be or do whatever it is that makes their hearts sing.

As for my canceled/re-booked travel today, I reversed my negative thinking and put an end to my self-sabotage by reminding myself that I’ve flown umpteen times and always made it to wherever I needed to go in sufficient time. That the airlines are well intentioned, in the business of satisfying customers, and eventually all would be well. And by the time my little red suitcase and I were reunited at the right destination, my sabotaging thoughts were long gone.
For stories about amazing older folks, go to

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Shift your Perspective

Are you a hero or victim?

How do you see yourself? As a hero or a victim? In any given life circumstance, you can see yourself either way.

I recently moved into my new home. As is often the case with a “new” home, that is to say new to me, although built in the mid 1960s, it has what is euphemistically referred to as a few “issues.” As in, I was scheduled to leave town for work first thing Friday morning, and Wednesday night, both toilets in my house ceased to function. This mattered greatly, as the puppy-sitter who was booked to take care of my beloved dogs in my absence could not be expected to stay over-night without a functioning toilet, and it being a Holiday weekend, I would not be able to find a place to board them last-minute.

Hero or victim? First thought, victim. Of all the times for the toilets to fail, and not one, but both toilets! After frantic calls to plumbers not returning my call (more “victim”), worrying myself sick over “Now, what?! This is a disaster!”(yet more “victim”) I took myself in hand, and gave myself a talking-to.

As in, “who would you like to be, Noelle?” A whiny victim, or a successful hero? Good question. Because, you see, I know from long experience, that a hero is simply someone who refuses to see a problem as unsolvable, and forges on until some kind of solution is unearthed. Sometimes that means being Captain Marvel and saving the world, sometimes it’s just me figuring out a toilet situation . . .

Once I shifted my perspective, it dawned on me to contact the repair person who’d fixed some odds and ends; maybe he’d know a willing plumber. To my surprise, he turned out to be the willing plumber. Plus, he was up for a crack-of-dawn visit to the local home improvement center, purchasing two new guaranteed fully-functioning toilets--at a reasonable price, no less-- and installing them, all before I had to leave Friday morning. Whew.

Had I stuck with my “Woe is me, life is so unfair” position, I would not have continued trying to come up with a solution. It was only when I told myself that somehow I’d get this handled that the idea came to me to contact the repair person.

Next time you are up against what could easily be defined as a victim situation, challenge yourself to find your inner hero. You’ll be surprised at just how innovative they (you) are.