Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Messages of Hope: Penguins, Blankets and Smiles

With all the shootings, wars, and violence in the world, not to mention the heat of the our current political environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the good.

Yet good there is, always. Good people striving to make the world a better place regardless of the turmoil of the moment.

Two stunning examples come to mind: 

            Weighted blankets – blankets that weigh 10% of the person’s body weight, made of what looks like small bean bags sewn together. For reasons science can’t yet figure out, these blankets are helping vets with PTSD and who are suffering from horrendous nightmares, children with autism and other sensory disorders, and elderly persons with insomnia all get a good night’s sleep.

            Middle-schoolers in Connecticut came to the rescue of a penguin with an injured leg. They first made a 3D printed “boot” (which looks like a wide band just above its left foot) with the help of ACT, a 3D systems partner (and the support of their local aquarium). Then they constructed an even lighter-weight boot on their recently acquired high-school’s 3D printer allowing the beleaguered penguin more mobility.

These innovations may be beyond some of our ability to create (certainly waaay beyond what I could come up with!), but there are a multitude of ways to make the world we live in a better place; ways that take little time, little or no money at all, just a moment’s thought.

For example, smile. Smile at a stranger, smile at your spouse, smile at your dog/cat, smile at your boss (!), smile at a co-worker, smile at the barista, smile at whoever crosses your path. For no good reason. Not because they did anything special, just because a smile is such an easy gift to give and receive.

Oh, once in a while there will be someone who’s too deeply mired in a private sorrow or difficulty to receive your smile, but that doesn’t matter. Somewhere within them it may resonate, and if it doesn’t, nothing lost on your end.

Say “thank you.” A lot. Often. Not just because someone did something especially nice for you, but just ‘cause. Like thanking the cashier for bagging your items. Or your teenager for taking out the trash (it doesn’t matter that you had to remind her 15 times, thank her anyway). Or your spouse for giving you the opportunity to chill for a few minutes before diving in to the evening’s chores. Or the flight attendant as you get off the plane. Or anyone else in your vicinity.

People love to be appreciated, and there’s far too little appreciation that comes our way in any given day. Be an appreciator! Your every message of hope and good matters.

Go for the gold, combine your thanks with a smile, and you will indeed have made the world a better place--if only by reminding yourself and others, how good this amazing thing called “life on planet Earth” really can be.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Secret to a Happy, Long Life: Embrace Aging

When it comes to aging, have confidence in your future. If you have a negative attitude about aging, odds are your attitude will have a profound impact on your later years, even on how long you’ll live.
A 2014 University College London (UCL) study interviewed over 9,000 people with an average age of 65. Those who had an overall sense of well-being--defined as having control, doing something worthwhile and having a purpose in life - were 30 percent less likely do die over the following a 8 years than their least wellbeing counterparts. UCL Professor Andrew Steptoe, who led the study noted, “The findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing well-being could help to improve physical health. There are several biological mechanisms that may link well-being to improved health, for example through hormonal changes or reduced blood pressure.”
What do you value about getting older? If you say "Nothing!" you’re in trouble. If what you see before you as you advance through your 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond is deterioration, ill-health and decrepitude, well then, you’re in for a very unhappy time, and probably won’t live that long.
Another UCL study, this time in 2015, found even further proof:  after suffering a heart attack or angina, the most pessimistic patients were twice as likely to suffer from additional serious health conditions over the next four years than were optimistic patients.
If all you see before you is a depressing future, it’s not too late to change that perception. Take on an appreciative and optimistic attitude. Seek out what makes you happy and fulfilled. If you do, you’ll find plenty of reasons to live a long and purposeful life. Be appreciative every day for who you are. Train yourself to talk differently, positively, to yourself. You’ll be amazed at just how quickly your mind responds, and how your experience of your life shifts into a much happier place, the precursor to gratifying long-life.
This shifting perception is critical. From birth, we are changing every second of every day. What society calls aging, is nothing more than another change in our life’s journey. Whatever your chronological age, maintain and practice appreciation. As is true of any good habit and practice, the more diligently and sincerely you embrace appreciation, the more you will enjoy its physical and psychological benefits.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Who You Gonna Call? Your Inner Hero/Heroine, That’s Who!

The other day at the vet’s, where I struggled mightily with my 90 pound rescue puppy (OK, so he’s 10, but to me he’s still a puppy!) to keep him from gamboling with every other animal in the place, I couldn’t help but notice an absolutely adorable labradoodle, scampering as far as her leash would allow—on three legs.

In chatting with her person, I found out that “Daisy” was one happy pup who in no way allowed her apparent handicap to, well, handicap her. And I thought, “If we only handled the bumps and challenges of life as well as Daisy!”

Especially as we hit those 50-60-70 age markers in life’s road, too often we tend to think, “Oh, it’s not worth trying, I’m too old,” or “The older I get, the longer it takes to heal,” or “Who’d want me, I’m too old.” It doesn’t seem to matter whether the topic is health or work or romance, “I’m too old” becomes an easy fallback when faced with a tough challenge.

Suddenly everything looks like too much of an effort, not worth the time or energy.

Really? What if you end up living another 30 or more years? Or even just one or two? Is it really better to spend those years depressed, thinking about all that could have been, instead of following Daisy’s example and adapting, coping, learning new skills so that whatever life you do have is fun?

I was inspired by a recent study of outstanding athletes, those who rise above the “almost great” athletes to become elite athletes, which showed that elite athletes encounter, on average, the same number of setbacks as the “almost greats.” The elite athletes, however, bring a very different attitude to those same setbacks. Whereas the “almost greats” are surprised by their setbacks, and lose their enthusiasm for the sport, the elite athletes simply become more determined than ever to excel—and they do.

The study’s authors conclude that: “We feel that the differences between different levels of adult achievement relate more to what performers bring to the challenges than what they experience.”

It’s not about age. It’s about attitude. Regardless of your age, summoning up your personal inner hero/heroine, when you are at your most courageous, self-confident and hopeful, is the way to approach any challenge.

You want to start dating at 70? Jane Fonda brags about falling in love at 72, and 90 year olds are getting married. You don’t think they have wrinkles and creaky knees (well, maybe not Jane Fonda). You’d love to find some kind of meaningful work after retirement. Good. Employers are discovering the value of experience that Boomers bring to their job. Buff up your resume and get out there. Or launch a web-based start-up. What, you think that’s only for 20 year olds? Not so!

Or you’re minus a breast, a prostate, you’re facing more chemo or surgery—it’s dreadful, yes, it’s a setback, for sure, but just like those elite athletes, you can go forward with your best self, your most courageous self, your most determined self. Determined, not just to deal with this present challenge, but determined to enjoy life, however it presents itself.

Be like Daisy: tackle every challenge in life with pride and joy!