Have you been finding it harder to focus these days? Is your memory slipping, remembering names and dates has become a challenge, your brain is experiencing more fog? As one of my friends once described it, “I feel like I am losing my edge.”
Are you laughing about your bad brain days with your friends, but secretly beginning to panic?
We see cartoons everywhere poking fun at senior moments. And sadly, it seems we have grown to expect aging minds to be demented minds.
Well, I don’t know how you feel about this kind of humor…but there’s nothing funny about demented brains to me.
My mother, her mother and two of her sisters suffered with Alzheimer’s. And one of my dear friends is in the late stage of it as I write this. Her husband has been a hero, remaining strong, and determined throughout her decline. But he is exhausted and hospice has been called in to help.
I have seen first-hand the sadness and pain this hideous disease causes to family members. It’s a slow cruel disappearing of a person you once knew.
I witnessed my mom’s early stages of dementia as she frequently lost her keys, told the same stories over and over again, got confused with her directions, blamed and accused others of stealing her jewelry, had lost the capability to make dinner for my dad and wasn’t sure what she’d eaten for lunch only a few hours earlier. I vividly remember one day when I noticed she wasn’t sure which of her four daughters I was. And eventually I stood by her bedside tears running down my face, holding her hand and knowing that she didn’t recognize me as one of her daughters at all, or why I had come to the hospice house to visit her.
We all have loved ones who have struggled or are struggling with brain illnesses…whether it be dementia, anxiety, depression, addictions or other mental illnesses. It is not a pretty sight.
I remember when I took a science class in college and our professor brought in a brain for us to examine. It was soaking in formaldehyde. From the outside, the brain looked like pale mush. It was a bumpy looking 3-pound organ, about the size of a large grapefruit but it looked like a large pinkish-gray walnut. It had the consistency of margarine. There were many folds and creases, and it feels soft and squishy. (at least that’s what our professor said) Frankly, I found nothing whatsoever attractive about it.
And besides the physical appearance of our brains, we have also developed a number of unattractive beliefs about our brains:
Initially, it appears there is nothing beautiful about our brains, doesn’t it?
Here’s what medical correspondent Fergus Walsh wrote about his first experience holding a brain. “When I picked up the human brain in my hands, several things ran through my mind. My immediate concern was I might drop it or that it would fall apart in my hands…. Second, I was struck by how light the human brain is. … The intact human brain weighs only around 3lbs (1.5kg) - just 2% of body-weight, and yet it consumes 20% of its energy…. It was only after I'd got used to the feel of the brain in my hands that I could then start to wonder about how such a simple-looking structure could be capable of so much.”
I found myself wanting to learn more. Instead of turning away from it, I wanted to have a more up-close and personal view of this soft and squishy 3-pound, walnut looking grapefruit sized organ. Each step forward found me becoming more fascinated.
I decided to delve deep. Initially I volunteered to be a ‘lab rat’ in a brain study done by our local University. Soon after I set about becoming certified as a brain health coach.
After reading dozens of books, watching a plethora of webinars, attending every summit I had access to, listening to podcasts and learning about new research being done; I was hooked!
Our brain not only interprets the world, it creates it.
Everything we see, hear, touch, taste and smell would have none of those qualities without the brain.
I must tell you I have been absolutely blown away by the miraculous mystic and power of our brains. I have learned to appreciate the magnificence of our beautiful brains and the critical role it plays in directing our day-to-day life.
The brain is a tricky thing and for most people, understandably shrouded in mystery.
I now cherish my brain; I don’t make fun of it anymore and I do my best to give it my tender loving care. And yes, I now teach my grandchildren about their beautiful brains.
In all my studying of the brain the biggest aha for me was the knowledge that by taking responsibility and changing some lifestyle habits; we can change our brains …. No matter our age! Now, how awesome is that!
We can literally rewire our brains.
I’m sure we have all pondered about what our life might be like in later years. And we can’t help but look at our genetics. I know I certainly do. But what I have come to learn about genetics is that it is not the determining factor….our life styles are.
According to Austin Perlmutter, many of us have a misconception that whether or not we get Alzheimer’s or dementia is out of our hands. And this is an incredibly destructive idea. Why? Because it’s simply not true! He explains that by making a few tweaks in our environment and lifestyles we can prevent Alzheimer’s.
Are you up for a beautiful brain makeover?
In her book, Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You, neurologist, Marie Pasinski, MD begins with this; “In the search for that magic lotion or potion that will make us more beautiful I’m here to tell you that the answer lies inside your head. That’s right ---your brain is the key to improving every facet of your life. …. Your brain is your essence, and it is also the essence of your beauty. By enhancing your mind, you can feel more energetic, creative and alive---all of which makes you more beautiful.”
Don’t you love that word ‘essence’ to describe our brains?
What has become crystal clear to me in my continuing study of brain health is that every day we are confronted with choices about our lives and our brain health. We can choose to mindfully make healthy brain choices, or we can choose to make unhealthy choices. That’s it….
So, let’s do it…. let’s get a brain makeover!
I would love for you to join me and take on the challenge of improving your brain health, your memory, your focus and your mood.
You are never too old or too young to have a beautiful brain day!
Are you Awe Deprived?
This article first appeared on HoneyGood: Are You Awe Deprived? - Honey Good®
While on a recent visit to see grandchildren, I was working my daily crossword puzzle when Nora, our 11-year-old, walked in the kitchen. She heaved her heavy school backpack onto the kitchen table.
I smiled, then looked back down at my puzzle: a three letter word for ‘stunned wonderment’ .” I filled in the squares A- W -E.
“Nora,” I asked, “Were you in awe of anything today?”
“What does that mean?” She asked.
“Well, Nora, according to my crossword puzzle, it means stunned wonderment.”
She wrinkled her nose.
You know, like when you are amazed at something. Or when you see something so spectacular, it takes your breath away.
I repeated the question, “So, Were you in awe of anything today?”
“No”, she responded.
“Well, that sounds about right,” I continued. “Because I read an article a few days ago that said our society is not experiencing as much awe these days.”
“Hmmm,” she muttered, pulling out her homework.
I continued, “But it’s not because there aren’t things to be in awe over…it’s just that we don’t pay attention.”
“Interesting,” she said, sounding not interested at all.
“I wonder if that’s really true?” I said as if speaking to myself. “I think I’ll try an experiment. Hey, Nora, Do you want to join me? How about we challenge ourselves to pay more attention and see if we find more awe in our lives?”
Nora shrugged her shoulders. “Sure.”
Awe Deprivation: A Sign of the Times?
You know, there is something about taking on challenges that piques my interest. I began digging; looking more into this new phenomenon — A lack of awe in our lives.
I was surprised to find a plethora of information.
My research into the concept of awe is pulling up some pretty interesting stuff.
Did you know that there is a clinical name for this diminished occurrence of awe? It’s referred to as awe deprivation.
I didn’t realize that awe was such a hot topic. And despite centuries of philosophical fascination, I learned that awe has only been studied properly in the past 20 years.
Psychological scientists are just now starting to learn about its importance and the impact of the diminishing lack of it in our lives.
The Impact of Experiencing AweHere are some findings about the positive impact of regularly experiencing Awe in our lives:
A Story of Awe
And speaking of positive impacts, I read about William Shatner (Capt. James T Kirk; on the original Star Trek TV series) traveling on Jeff Bezos’s rocket. When Shatner rocketed from earth, he was the oldest person in history at 90 years old to journey into space.
When he emerged from the space capsule, Shatner was surrounded by the media and he was clearly shaken. Here were his words.
“In a way, it’s indescribable,” he said. “Everybody in the world needs to do this, everybody in the world needs to see the. . .” His words lost traction, and then he added, “It was unbelievable. Unbelievable.”
Fighting back tears, Shatner told Bezos, “What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. I just… it’s extraordinary. It’s extraordinary.”
And then he added, “I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”
It seems Shatner was expressing the emotional response of what apparently, few of us experience anymore. It’s a feeling that we were designed to enjoy, don’t you think? But sadly, many of us don’t.
Why Aren’t We Experiencing Awe?
I began to wonder, if experiencing awe was so good for us, then why weren’t we seeking it out? What was standing in our way?
HERE ARE SEVERAL EXPLANATIONS THE SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND TO EXPLAIN WHY WE AREN’T HAVING MORE ‘AWES’ IN OUR LIVES:
So, if we have lost it, forgotten how to connect to it, or choose not to, what then can we do to gain our sense of awe back?
Well, Fortunately, we don’t have to all be catapulted up into space like William Shatner.
Jonah Paquette, author of the book Awestruck: How Embracing Wonder Can Make You Happier, Healthier, and More Connected, describes numerous ways we can incorporate awe into our daily routines.
Tips for Experiencing More Awe in Our Lives
SLOW DOWN AND LINGER
Create space for awe to emerge in the, sometimes seemingly mundane, chores. While you water your plants, tenderly check for new leaves and buds. While eating, consider the time and energy the farmer used in order for you to enjoy the food in front of you.
By slowing down and appreciating the patience and effort involved in habitual processes, Paquette assures us, we will find ourselves awe-inspired.
INCORPORATE AND BE MORE IN TOUCH WITH YOUR SENSES
Tune in deeply to your awareness of color, texture, scent, and sound. So do you suppose that’s why God gave us 5 senses….so we could use them? “
We continue to hear about how the mighty pull of social media and its algorithms fixes our gaze downwards. Dacher Joseph Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkely, shares some of his lab’s findings: “We recently interviewed 320,500 people from 26 countries about what brings them awe – and no one mentioned their smartphone.”
TAKE AWE WALKS OUT IN NATURE
The evidence supporting the link between spending time outdoors, experiencing awe, and lower stress levels “has become so persuasive that many physicians have begun to ‘prescribe’ time spent in nature or in green spaces, the way one might typically prescribe a new medication,” says Paquette.
START KEEPING A JOURNAL OF THINGS THAT ‘AWED YOU
’Writing down your experiences of awe can give you a deeper appreciation and renewed sense of wonder.
OBSERVE PEOPLE WITH UNIQUE ABILITIES
Watch someone do something you find remarkable.
LISTEN TO MUSIC THAT MOVES YOU
Or better yet go to a live performance.
And here are a few other tips I have been trying out:
Read – Immerse yourself in a real-life story about someone that is awe-inspiring.
Try understanding a new concept and recapture your curiosity – I’ve been studying a lot about the brain lately…. Whoa…now that organ is awesome!
Ask others what makes them feel awe – My sister feels awe when she hikes up in the desert mountains and sees all the beautiful wildflowers.
Go places that you can expect to be awed- Places like the beach, Grand Canyon or an art museum.
Look at life through the lens of a microscope- Let that tiny little ant carrying the breadcrumb on his back, stop you in your tracks. Did you know an ant can lift more than 40 times his weight? That’s amazing!
Look at life through the lens of a telescope – Do more star gazing and moon bathing. Do you still make a wish on a falling star?
Hang out with children – If you have been around a young child lately you are quickly reminded of the many wonders and miracles in our world.
And speaking of children…
After returning from our grandchild visit, I spoke to Nora on the phone. I asked her if she remembered our conversation about awe.
She said yes. “In fact, I watched a softball game on TV and someone’s pet parrot got loose and landed on the umpire’s head!”
I chuckled. “Seriously! Can you imagine what the umpire thought? Yep, that sounds like an awe moment to me.”
She continued. “And then yesterday Dad had to run to the pharmacy to pick up his medication and when he got home, he threw the sack of pills on the kitchen counter. We had to hurry to get to softball practice in time.”
“When we got home the pills were strewn everywhere and the paper bag was in shreds. So, we had to rush both dogs to the Vet since we didn’t know which one of them had done it, or how many they had eaten and they both looked guilty! Right before the Vet was getting ready to do an expensive procedure the black lab threw up all over the place. He even threw up the paper bag! “
“Whoa…that must have been a sight!” I laughed. I can just see you standing there in stunned wonderment!
Are you awe deprived?
When was the last time you stood in stunned amazement; when your breath was taken away and you felt that extraordinary sense of wonder? I would like to challenge you to make use of some of the tips I’ve written about. I’m working on it as well.
We begin, as we do with any change in our lives; with attention, awareness, and intention.
Let’s ask and reflect on these questions:
Where and when am I missing out on experiencing more awe in my life?
Would I like to have more of it?
One day, while visiting one of our grandchildren, an 8-year-old, I stepped out the back door to locate her. She was perched snuggly up in an oak tree, reading; as if that’s where everyone might choose to spend their afternoon.
I watched the expressions on her face while the sun touched her hair. A breeze came through and seemed to wisp up some fairy dust as she escaped to her world filled with enchantment, dragons, and princesses. That same mystical world where Alice really does have a conversation with a rabbit, Pete spends an entire day with the dragon, and Clara actually is swept off her feet by the nutcracker.
I can’t think of a place I’d rather be than having a front row seat to this great unfolding miracle; a child loving to read.
Having Everything Within Reach
"He that loves reading has everything within his reach".—William Goodwin
Isn’t that what we wish for our children and our grandchildren, for them to have everything within their reach?
The love of reading will give them the advantages, the opportunities, the preparation and the training that will enable them to go out and succeed. Books offer this to our kids and expand their world.
The love of reading opens doors not only for our children but for all of us.
Research shows that regular reading:
The Statistics About Reading Habits in Children Are DismalAnd yet, sadly, I continue to hear about the decline in the enjoyment of reading.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 67% of fourth grade students are below proficiency in reading.
Dianna Gioia, chairman of the National Education Association, explains it this way, “As our kids read less, they read less well. And when they read less well, this has very serious consequences, not just to their academic performance, but to their economic performance and ultimately to their ability to connect with a civic life and political life.”
What are we to do with this dismal research?
Neil Postman, an American author, educator, and cultural critic, further warns us of the consequences of the fallout in reading. “A mode of thinking is being lost,” he laments, “We are losing a sort of psychic habit, a logic, a sense of complexity, an ability to spot contradictions and even falsity.”
Postman believes this loss is now being felt in our cultural activities and in our politics, as well as in our children’s SAT scores, and that it could get worse. But of course, such prophecies are delivered in print, so no one pays much heed.
Can We Turn the Table and Leave a Lasting Legacy?
Shall we sit ideally by, silently watching as the reading, the thinking and the heartbeat of our future generations flatline?
Are we really okay with that? Are we satisfied to leave behind a generation of children that don’t love reading?
"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way…. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away…"
—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
So then, what will keep us – yes, you and me – from being a moving force that transfuses a love of reading back into the next generation?
I know, I know… there are many things we take notice of that are not as they used to be and, quite frankly, not to our liking. We talk about the ‘good old days’ like our grandparents did. And far be it for us to intrude, right? So we go to our corners, make ourselves smaller and quieter and mind our own business… Far be it for us to put our noses in others’ business!
Well, I say bologna to that! I believe it’s time for those of us who know better to do better. I think we should take a stand!
The Solution? Read to Children
"One of the greatest gifts adults can give to their offspring and to their society is to read to children."—Carl Sagan
There are things we can do to fix this reading ailment, for the betterment of ourselves, the younger generation and the future generations to come. And who better to lead the charge and the challenge than us – those who have benefitted from our love of reading in the past and continue to reap the benefits today.
I want to resurrect this dying trend and breathe life back into what we know equips our children to be active participants in creating a better future world.
I spoke with a children’s librarian, Susan Clark. She, like many others, would love to see us inject our grandkids with our own sense of delight and wonder we receive from reading.
And although you may not have a grandchild yet, or one living nearby; there is a child out there that needs you. Volunteer to make a difference in a child’s life. Check out opportunities to read at libraries, schools, hospitals, bookstores or community events.
"You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book."
In my previous article, I wrote about the lack of reading habits – or lack of love toward reading – in the younger generations. Our grandchildren don’t seem to have a healthy exposure and/or regard toward books which, in turn, inhibits the development of their critical thinking capabilities. Naturally, the whole society will suffer in future years.
I spoke with a children’s librarian, Susan Clark. She, like many others, would love to see us inject our grandkids with our own sense of delight and wonder we receive from reading. As well as sharing some of her thoughts and reading tips, Mrs. Clark also suggested some great book choices.
Read to a Child
Regardless of whether you have grandchildren or you read to a non-related child, here are a few examples of “grandparent” books that would be fun to share.
Let the Child Choose the Book
Research shows that providing encouragement for children of all ages to enjoy books they choose to read will help them discover the power and joy of reading,” said Scholastic’s chief academic officer Francie Alexander. “These tactics will also help to motivate kids to read more books, which will improve their skills and open a world of possibilities for them in the future.”
Let the Adult Choose a Book
Share your favorite childhood book and talk about what the book meant to you. I’d love to see grandparents reading their old favorites, often overlooked, which may or may not include titles like:
"You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child."
Let the Child Choose a Place
Ask the child where they want to read with you. Cozy up on the sofa, lay on the bed, prop up pillows on the floor, squeeze in the rocking chair together, bask in the sun in lawn chairs, crawl under a table, in a tent or huddle in a closet with a flashlight, climb up in the tree house or go to the local park.
Let the Child Choose the Way
Solo reading (child reads the entire story), partner reading (child reads, then adult reads) or adult reading (adult only reads). Taking turns with your grandkids reading a page at a time is a fun and helpful idea to encourage reading.
It can be done with any book, but here is a series just for that:
Read Books About the Child’s Interests
Kids love to read about books that allow them to learn more about what they are already excited about:
Read Books Where Grandparents Can Share Their Own Interests
Bring a Book Back as a Souvenir from Your Travels
What a great tradition for your grandchild to look forward to each time you take a trip.
"You’ll never be bored when you try something new. There’s really no limit to what you can do. "—Dr. Seuss
Make It a Discovery Day-
Celebrate with a trip to the library or bookstore together and discover books that are relevant, fun and magical for your grandchild.
Help your grandchild find a book that helps them understand more about where they live and where they come from. Find a book that helps the little reader learn more about the community they live in:
Start a Book Club with a Child Get each of you a copy of a book to read. Discuss what you learned from it. You can use Face Time, or Skype if need be.
My granddaughter (on the East Coast) and I (on the West Coast) are doing just that. She chose the book A Dog's Purpose by W Bruce Cameron
How About a Career Day?
Reading is deeply formative experience that shows your child the kind of person he or she wants to be. What does he/she want to be when he/she grows up? Reading helps them to discover more about their opportunities.
"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.—Dr. Seuss
Take a Field Trip
You and your child could check out Alex Rodriguez’s book Out of the Ballpark and then spend the afternoon together at a local baseball game.
Or take a trip to the ballet after reading Degas and the Little Dancer from Edgar Degas series, Anholt’s Artists Books.
This could also be a great opportunity for the child to bring a friend along… then you are inspiring more kids!
Give the Gift of a Book
What better present for Christmas, birthdays or ‘just cuz’ days.
A monthly subscription that comes in the mail can be a real treat for a child. Why not purchase a gift that ‘keeps on giving’?
Be a Role Model for Your Child
Let the children see you reading often and hear you talking about the books you read.
Listen to Audio Books While Traveling
Here are some ideas for audio books that the entire family might enjoy:
Read a Book Together, Then Watch the Movie
Two of my granddaughters, their mother and I just read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. We then followed it up with a movie night (and yes… popcorn included!)
Start Your Own Neighborhood Reading Group
Team up with other Grannies that support your mission. Find a good meeting spot, talk to some parents and send out some flyers with date and time.
"Spread Books Throughout Your HomeFill your house with books, in all the crannies and all the nooks."—Dr. Seuss
When grandkids come to visit let them find books by their bed side, car, bathroom, back porch. Start pursuing the garage sales, library sales and discounted book shops in your area.
Read All Kinds of Books
Pick a variety of books: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, comic books, puzzle books and fun fact books.
Create Your Own Little Free Library Box
Build a creative library box for the children in your neighborhood that will entice them and encourage them to share books with one another.
Let’s work together to breathe life back into this dying pleasure and past-time.
Although if can feel like a mountain in front of us, what better gift to leave the children, and their children, and their children a legacy of the love of reading.
"You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!"—Dr. Seuss
Here’s a great website for finding other age-appropriate books for kids: http://childrensbooks.about.com/
That day I retired and gave back my office keys, downloaded all my course documents, and met with Human Resources had me questioning my decision.
Was I really ready to retire?
My last week of teaching college was a roller coaster of emotions. It was filled with lots of well-wishers, lovely gifts, sweet cards, get-togethers, balloons and a few tears.
I clearly remember a young professor giving me a big hug. “Karen,” she smiled, “I’m so happy for you. You have done such great things for this college and you worked so hard all these years. Now you deserve to just make time for yourself; take a break, rest, relax and enjoy.”
Did that young woman mean take a break as in; rest on the bench for a bit, or did she mean take a break as in; head to the locker room and turn in my uniform?
So....Was I done? Did my retirement signify I had reached my full potential and was now headed for the downhill slope? What a sobering thought, and quite frankly, a depressing one.
It seemed that with each conversation I had regarding my retirement I was asked the same question.
“What will I do now?”
My response was pretty much the same. “My plan is to spend more time with my children and grand babies, write, take walks, ...and my husband thinks I need to raise chickens.”
I vividly remember setting in my hard metal folding chair out on the football field on my final attendance for graduation night. I thought about my students taking their next step toward an exciting career and gaining a new identity. Here I was retiring, and I felt like I was losing mine.
So, is this as good as it gets? I wondered. Is my life as fulfilling as it’s going to be? Should I just appreciate that it had been a good ride, and be grateful and satisfied for my experience in a career I loved? Why was I even thinking about this now? I had retired.
I was struggling with being branded with that awful word; ‘retired’.
I don’t know about you, but I hate the word ‘retired’. It sounds so old…and tired. Not only tired…but re-tired. And depending on your accent it can sound like you’re saying ‘retard’ or ‘retread’;
Let me ask you; do these synonyms for the word ‘retirement’ sound like something that helps us embrace this transition? ‘Withdrawal, retreat, surrender, pullout, disengagement, recoil, shrinking, disentanglement…?’
Seriously, who wants that? It sounds like we are abandoning the ship!
I think my husband saw the signs of my tsunami coming, so he bought me a book to try and stem the tide: ‘How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free’ by Ernie Zelenski. In the first chapter, there is a little cartoon character lounging in his rocking chair reading a book about retirement and the caption says, “The only major problem with retirement is that it gives you more time to read about the problem of retirement. If you can avoid this trap, you have it made.”
I did not feel I had it made! And I soon learned I was not alone. I found there were others experiencing some negativity with this ‘retirement’ business.
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Retirement is the ugliest word in the language.”
And Rama. Sami Natarajan, an essayist, described the day he announced his retirement, “All my ‘strengths ‘were stripped off me by some unknown force. I became a wimp in the eyes of the world.”
Spanish cellist Pablo Casals was quite clear on his disdain for the term as well, “To retire is the beginning of death.”
And although I admit Casals sounds a bit overly dramatic; there is actually some research that backs up his statement. Yep…you are more likely to die when you retire. I know…that’s scary!
I began searching for someone who might offer some sage advice on this new seismic shift in my life. I asked my newly retired cousin about his thoughts on retirement. He said, “I don’t tell anyone I am retired; I tell them I am a consultant.” Really, I responded, why don’t you tell people?” Because he said, “I found out pretty quickly that when I mention I am retired, it is like I become invisible …I just don’t get the same respect I once did.” Holy cow; is that true?
A good friend of mine suggested I read a book by Jane Pauley; ‘Your Life Calling; Re imagining the rest of your life.’ Pauley shares how she spent the first year of retirement lying on her couch. She filled her days by making up a list of all the things she could do now that she was retired. As the lonely days slowly and painfully passed, she recalled, her list of possibilities grew. Then one day her son called her up and told her, “Mom, you know that list of ideas you keep working on? Well, I think you have collected enough good ideas…. Now it’s time for you to pick one and do something with it!”
I could so relate to Pauley’s experience; I too was spending way too much time lying on the couch, reading about retirement and jotting down ideas. I recalled the professor’s encouragement for me to just rest.
Then one day while mindlessly perusing the internet; this headline piqued my interest:
“Want a happier, more fulfilling retirement? Try this Japanese concept.”
Did you know the Japanese culture doesn’t even have a word for retirement? I loved hearing about that. Instead, they have a term called ikigai. Ikigai (ee-key-guy). iki, means “alive” or “life,” and gai, means “benefit” or “worth.”
When combined, it means that which gives your life worth, meaning, or purpose…. why you get up in the morning.
Other Synonyms for this Japanese term are; worthiness; fruitful; effective… Now, that is quite a big difference from the West’s retirement synonym words: withdrawal, retreat, pullout, surrender.
I learned that In regards to the kai portion of the term; it is important to note that there is a strong connotation with “challenge”. Therefore, if one is seeking their ikigai it requires a certain amount of effort.
Oh…so no more lounging? No more just resting and relaxing? It was necessary to put effort into finding my next path?
It was time for me to get up and off my couch, change my mindset and raise my standards.
Rather than focusing on my fear of losing my identity, I would instead need to put my energy into expanding it.
In other words: It was time to get to work!
Are you, or someone you know struggling with retirement? It is not always an easy transition.
The following precepts and questions helped me to find my new path.
And here are some Questions to journal about:
Oh, and by the way…I still hate the word ‘retirement.”
I Iove a good challenge, don’t you?
Whenever I read about some studies that has been done, and the researchers show results in a month or less; then that makes me feel like I want to take on the challenge.
For example, I just recently tried a blueberry challenge. According to this study, one cup a day every day for a month leads to a better mood, and better mobility. And sure enough…just as the study showed, at the end of the month; I was in a better mood and I am certain I had better mobility. I also felt happier and more focused. (And an extra benefit was that I also brushed my teeth more often because they, as well as my lips, were turning purple.)
Currently, I’m in the midst of a 7-day water challenge. I talked one of my daughters into joining in…doing a challenge with someone else always makes it more fun!
And, no doubt, you’ll be excited to hear that I have a prune challenge on my calendar as well. That one needs to be done when I am close to home?!!
So, would you be up for a challenge? I have one that I want to persuade you to try out. Let’s call it, ‘doing the write thing’.
Your assignment requires writing in a journal each day. I know, I know…. I am well aware that some people do not like to write. And so, they make lame excuses that keep them from receiving the great benefits that come with journaling.
Do any of these ‘I don’t want to write in a journal’ excuses ring a bell with you?
But hold on. What If I told you that just committing one hour a day to this challenge could make you smarter, feel better, be less stressed, lower blood pressure, give you more energy, make you feel happier and enable you to have greater success on your goals; then would you do it?
What if you learned that journaling has been proven to not only be good for your mental health, but also your physical health?
That’s right; the benefits are just amazing! Journaling has been shown to strengthen immune cells. It can decrease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. And journaling has actually been shown to heal injuries faster. It is true! According to one study, personal journaling can predict an astonishing 53% reduction in all-cause dementia risk!
So let me ask you again. Are you up for the challenge of doing the ‘Write’ thing? I hope you are raising your hand and yelling out ‘You bet, Sister, count me in!’
If one of your excuses for not journaling is that you don’t know where to start or what to say, then stick with me, Girlfriend, and I will show you the way.
Although I have been regularly writing in my journal for decades. And believe me, the journey hasn’t always been straight forward or smooth.
For quite a long while I adopted Julia Cameron’s philosophy of ‘morning pages’ as a means of journaling. In her book, The Artist’s Way, she encourages the ‘wanna be’ artists to fill up three pages in their journal each day. She suggests just writing down whatever comes to you…any random thoughts and ideas. A kind of ‘cleaning out the cobwebs’ process.
I have a stack full of journals that include my three pages of random thoughts from my messy mind. I found that although Cameron’s method did help to clean out the rubbish from my brain bin, it did not seem to better prepare me for my ‘real project’; personal growth.
So, when I came across this quote by Tony Robbins, I had a light bulb moment.
““The quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of questions you are asking yourself.”
That was it…I would design my journaling strategy around using quality questions!
After all, what I ultimately hoped to gain from journaling was a means of growth, of expansion, and of becoming a better me.
Thus, I began to ask myself quality questions each day. I decided to refer to keeping my journal as doing the ‘Write Thing’.
So let me explain how you can do the ‘write thing’.
I find a cozy spot, bring my cup of coffee and start by writing out the date and this sentence on the top of the page: Today is going to be a great day! Then I say it out loud…like I mean it!
I created the acronym ‘I LAUGH MORE’ to help organize my writing.
I- Intention- What is my Intention for this day?
What do you want? Many of us don’t give much thought to what we want. We should be asking ourselves this question each day; What do I want? What will make today a great day? Write it down.
And after clarifying your intention for the day, then ask yourself, “What can I do to support my intention? What can I do to make it a great day?”
If we want more success on our goals, ambitions and dreams, having clear intentions is critical.
L- Learning –What am I learning about that I want to remember?
“When you stop learning you start dying”. This quote by Albert Einstein is a great reminder for all of us to stay Life Long Learners so we can live long fulfilling lives.
Are you reading a non-fiction book, taking a class, traveling, or getting ready to launch a new idea? If we repeat what we want to learn we have a better chance of remembering it.
Research has found that if you write something by hand, all that complex sensory information increases the chances the knowledge will be stored for later.
What am I learning and why is it important to me?
A- Action – What action will I take with the information I am learning?
We have all heard that knowledge is power, but it's really only true power when you take action and actually apply what we've learned.
So, our next question is: How will I apply the information I am learning. What action will I take? Like this article for example….you have to not only read about doing the ‘write thing’ you have to do it!
U- Undone - What is something that I have put off doing?
Is there a chore that remains undone? You know, that thing that saps your energy every time you think about it. Or perhaps it’s that tear in your heart that you haven’t taken steps to mend. Is there someone you haven’t forgiven? A conflict you haven’t resolved? Is there burden that you need to let go of and be done with…like the stories you tell of your past that don’t serve you?
I used to clutter up this part of my journal with a ‘to do’ list of the things that I wanted to get done that day like buy a gift for my sister, go to the grocery store, sign the grandkids up for the art class. I finally got myself a note pad that I keep beside me to remind me of those kinds of tasks. I call it ‘Today’s to-do’s’.
G- Gratitude and Grace – What am I grateful for? Who needs my prayers?
Here are just a few of the many benefits of expressing your gratitude
What am I grateful for today? Don’t just write it…feel it. (include big and small things)
Grace - Who needs my prayers today?
(I choose 3 people: a loved one, an acquaintance, someone I don’t like)
Clearly visualize them receiving your gifts of prayer and grace.
H- Health – What will I do today to support my becoming a healthier me?
Think small steps. How can I become 1% healthier, do one more thing?
I find that being intentional in this area is super important. Eat the rainbow today, walk one more block, 10 minutes of meditation, drink 8 glasses of water, order my vitamins, Make an appointment for my yearly cheTck-up.
Having good health is not the end of the journey; it’s the vehicle that will get us to where we want to be.
M- Marvel at your mate. What is something my mate did recently that reminds you me how marvelous he/she is?
What we focus on we will see more of. The more I look for the good, the more good I will see.
I think of all the questions I decided to ask each day, this one made an immediate difference. Such a beautiful way to start out my day is to remember what a great partner I have.
What can I do or say today to support my mate? Is it a compliment I should give, an act that I should do or simply being kind, giving a hug and a thank you?
O- Others- What other person in my life do I want to reach out to?
More than 100 years' worth of research shows that having a healthy social life is incredibly important to staying healthy in mind, body and spirit.
The quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our relationships.
What will you today to enhance the quality of an important relationship in your life? Who will I contact today (text, email, call or see)? Is there someone who I feel called to reach out to?
R- Review and Reflect – What went well yesterday?
Think of three things.
What did I do yesterday that was fun, fulfilling or loving?
How did that make me feel? What do I regret not having done?
Is there anything I can do today to fix or repair any regrets I have?
E- Exemplify: What can I do today to serve as an example to others?
I have my vision board in front of me as I write this article. There is a picture of a woman walking with a strong posture, using big strides with her shoulders out. Below her it says, “Walk like everyone’s watching.
If everyone is watching you, what would you like them to see?
I Laugh More – What made me laugh?
Having this question ‘what made me laugh’ before me each day reminds me to search out more reasons to laugh….I want to giggle more and let my laughter become louder and more frequent.
I recently wrote an article on putting more laughter in our lives. Like so many things in our life, just being more aware of them can be a catalyst for change.
I hope I persuaded you to take on the journaling challenge and do the ‘Write Thing’.
Like all habits we want to develop, we want to make them our own. It is best if we tweak the steps to suit our personal preference. So, pick and choose the questions that most resonate with you. You may decide to create your own list.
Please feel free to download my journal page format to get you started.
What Made You Laugh Today?
When my husband and have meals with our grandchildren, we often have a favorite game we play at the dinner table. We call it ‘the mad, sad, glad’ game. I highly recommend it.
The rules are quite simple. We begin by going around the table and each person has a chance to tell us about something that made them mad that day. When one person is talking, the others are just expected to listen and encourage one another.
Next, we each take a turn sharing about what made us sad that day, and then what made us glad.
I am always surprised to see how this simple game allows not only the children; but also, their moms and dads to have a chance to open up about something they wouldn’t normally talk about with the kids.
We recently added some more things to our game: “What did you learn today and what made you laugh today?”
I remember the first time we did the ‘laugh’ part. When it was my turn to share, I paused and asked, “Can it be something that made me smile today?”
“Nope,” my 6-year-old granddaughter quickly retorted, “It has to be something that made you laugh, Grandma!”
“Hmm…” I paused, “I can’t really think of anything that made me laugh today. Can I have more time to think about it?”
Our 10-year-old jumped to my rescue… “Here’s an idea, Grandma. You can say, ‘What made me sad today was when I couldn’t think of anything that made me laugh.’”
Pay Attention to Life
It seems my grandkids often remind me to pay more attention to my life; like the fact I wasn’t laughing as much these days.
Have you heard of statistics that say children laugh about 400 times a day and adults about 15 times a day? Have you ever wondered why that is?
At what point in our maturation period did we decide to drop the other 385 laughs? It must have been during puberty… or maybe for us women, it was at childbirth. (That’ll take the grin right off your face.)
Come to think of it; it must have been when all four of my kids turned into teenagers!
I guess when my doctor reported my bone scan showed I was losing bone mass, I should have asked him if that loss was also occurring in my funny bones?
I found myself pondering this question:
Is Laughter a Big Deal?
Since I am often in search of finding out about things that might make me happier, healthier, and more fulfilled, I decided this question would be a worthwhile research project.
Can laughter play a role in improving not only our attitudes, but also our health?
So, what do you think? Is getting your laughs in each day all that important?
Norman Cousins thought so. It was over 40 years when he called attention to his experience with laughter as a cure. Cousins famously chronicled the effects of his self-prescribed “laughing cure” in his book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient.
Cousins, who suffered from inflammatory arthritis, claimed that just 10 minutes of hearty laughing while viewing Marx Brothers movies brought him two hours of pain-free sleep – and that both his inflammation and pain were significantly reduced. His laughter caused the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
What Does New Research Tell Us About Laughter?
Cousins was on to something! In the last seven years there has been many new scientific studies that support the benefits of laughter in our lives.
Laughter Benefits Our Physical Health!
Laughter Is Good for the Heart
A recent study of 20,934 individuals, aged 65 years or older, showed that laughter had a profound impact on their health and well-being. Persons who reported rarely or almost never laughing experienced a 21% higher prevalence of heart disease than those who reported laughing every day.
The same startling result was true for the prevalence of stroke: 60% higher among the non-laughers than among those who reported a daily dose of laughter.
Are you serious?? I need to watch more Johnny Carson reruns!
So when we read in proverbs that laughter ‘maketh our heart merry’ it is not only a nice adage but also a scientific fact! Laughter, I learned, improves our blood pressure. It enhances our intake of oxygen-rich air, which not only stimulates our heart, but also our lungs and muscles.
Laughter Leads to Greater Resistance to Disease
When negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions, they can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive and humorous thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
Laughter Helps with Insomnia
One more reason not to go to sleep watching the evening news.
Laughter Helps with Pain
Laughter alleviates pain which supports Norman Cousins earlier claims.
Laughter Benefits Our Mental Health:
Laughter increases health-enhancing hormones (such as endorphins), neurotransmitters, and infection-fighting antibodies.
Laughter reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine; Currently, research is indicating that the physical act of laughing, even without humor, is linked to chemical changes in the body that potentially reduce stress and increase pain tolerance.
Laughter Helps with Depression and Anxiety
Laughter improves our mood. It gives us a more positive mindset and overall outlook on life.
Laughter Even Sharpens Your Mind!
Although you may not think of the funny pages as intellectually stimulating, laughter sharpens your mind. So, put more humorous books on your list of fun activities. Erma Bombeck is one of my favorite authors for finding humor in everyday life.
Laughter Benefits Our Social Life
Laughter Helps Us Connect with Other People
Laughter improves communication. Communication can sometimes be awkward . Even for those of us who share the same language. But laughter can transcend language and strengthen playful communication.
Sets the Mood for Romance
Although most of us focus on being physically attractive to find that man, but laughter can be a real turn on. Unless of course your laugh sounds like Lily Tomlin’s snort.
Laughter is great at fostering emotional connection. And it gets to the core of deeply felt emotions too.
Laughter makes you more approachable. Who doesn’t like to be around someone with a good sense of humor?
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
It appears that laughter really is the best medicine. It can improve our mental health, our physical health and our social lives.
And finally; laughter makes you feel younger; in fact, it’s been revealed that humor can actually be the key to living longer.
And this powerful tool in our toolbox for healthier living is also fun and free! Plus, you can get it without a prescription, and no negative side effects.
Knowing all this, why in the world wouldn’t I do more to seek out this medicine to improve my health, and my happiness? And why wouldn’t you?
‘More Laughter in My Life’ Challenge
Here’s my 5-step plan:
I found this quote and I am going to post it on my refrigerator.
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”—Nicholas Chamfort
I will do a laughter assessment and ask myself at the end of each day: What made me laugh today?
Write down my responses and take notice of how much better I felt after a good laugh.
Be open for more opportunities to find something to laugh about. Take laughter yoga, for example. (Yes, this is actually a thing.) Not only do you get to practice your laughter… you get to do it with friends.
At the end of the month look for commonalities, aha-s and new ideas for bringing more laughter in my life.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
So, what made you laugh today? What gives you the giggles, or better yet, what causes you to bust out into a good old belly laugh? Have you had ‘laughter-healing experiences’ in your life?
Reflections before Resolutions
Photo by Lili Kovac on Unsplash
It will soon be that time on our calendars when making our New Year’s resolutions come front and center. And I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love it!
My family will tell you I become obnoxiously giddy this time of year. I’m like a sprinter at the starting gate, digging my toes in and ready for the ball to drop at Times Square.
Just thinking about my upcoming goals and resolutions gets me charged up and inspired.
Around mid-December I begin to feel drops of inspiration and new ideas beading up on my forehead. Call me crazy, but I get psyched!
I mean, really? Who doesn’t love being given another chance for a new beginning?
And who doesn’t want to think about positive change in their lives?
So, how about you? Have you already carved out your plans for 2023? Have you gotten your goals written down in indelible ink; and ready to scotch tape them up on your refrigerator?
Or have you, like about 60% of the population, given up this age-old practice of setting resolutions? By the way, did you know that it’s been 4000 years since the Babylonians first started the tradition as a celebration and a festival?
Perhaps you don’t care how old the tradition is, and you don’t give a hoot about celebrating; especially celebrating setting goals! Well, my friend, you are not alone.
Although the stats vary somewhat, the bottom line is that of those 40% of us that do plan ahead with specific and clear intentions less than 10 percent achieve them. That’s depressing!
So, Why Is It That So Many of Us That Set Goals Fail?But what if I told you, you could beef up your chances of being more successful in 2023? What if you learned there is current research to show you a better way to accelerate your progress and accomplish your goals? Would you give it a try?
One of our challenges of not being successful with our goals, is that we are often too quick to come up with them. We spew out our new resolutions without taking time to learn from our old ones.
How many times have we resolved to join a gym and get fit, try that new diet and start saving money? And how many times did we fail to accomplish each of those goals?
I fear that in our anxiousness to get up and out with our positive improvement plans we are ignoring a crucial first step. That step is the process of reflection.
There has been a deluge of recent research on the importance and power of focusing on reflection in our lives.
One study published in 2014 by Harvard University shows that when employees practiced reflection at the end of their working day, after 10 days the workers performed 23% better.
Just think how our lives would improve if we did 23% better!
“Reflection is not only valuable,” conclude the researchers, “but it is a critical component of positive change in our lives.”
And frankly, we have known about the positive impact of reflection for many years. In fact, over 2000 years ago, Confucius, Chinese teacher and philosopher, when asked about his advice on becoming wise, said, “First we become wise by reflection.”
And, in the early 1930s, John Dewey, a renowned education reformer and psychologist, studied the importance of reflection. “We do not learn from experience,” he wrote, “we learn from reflecting on experience.”
Here is an interesting summary of Dewey’s key concepts about reflection:
So, if we’re serious about making intentional plans for the upcoming year, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves this question:
“Have I taken adequate time and given careful consideration to reflection in 2022? “
Do you want to try harder, do better, get more done, set new goals, and strive for more success? Then may I propose that we take the advice and the wisdom from many that have gone before us and do some serious thoughtful reflection on our past experiences?
I mean really reflect. Not like a two-minute stroll through memory lane but ‘a get down and dirty’, brutally honest assessment and self-reflection.
This time of year is a perfect opportunity to dig deep, look back, and examine the past year in order to learn from our experiences and perhaps not repeat our mistakes. We can explore our thoughts and feelings looking for insights to help us on our precious meaningful journey forward.
So, for me, that means that although I get super excited in anticipating another chance for a new beginning – and as much as I want to race ahead in order to get a start on my goals for the new year – I must first pause. I must take time to reflect.
So, what do you say… are you in?
And here’s a tip: I am much more successful with this process of reflection if I give it some structure.
In case that is true for you, I have included the list of questions I use that you might find helpful. reflection_questions.doc
Let’s Have a Conversation
What are your greatest lessons from 2022? And what new actions will you take as a result of your reflections?
"A reflection from a flickering candle cast its silhouette upon the wall as the Christmas Carol fades and the bells jingle grows still." Karen Spencer
Image by Mika Baumeister
One day I walked into the living room and said to my husband. “I have this idea that won’t leave me alone. I know it is probably a really dumb idea but, I just can’t seem to let it go.”
“What idea is that?” My husband asked as he peeked around his morning newspaper.
“Well,” I said…tiptoeing my way into the conversation. “I have been thinking that maybe I might like to sign up for a health coaching certification program.”
“So, you ‘maybe’ ‘might’ want to be a health coach?” My husband asked.
“Yeah maybe” I said, “It’s just an idea.”
“Well then,” my husband said patiently, “Why don’t you sign up for the program?”
“Because the program it is not cheap, and I am not even sure I really want to be a health coach.”
“Ok” he said…” then don’t sign up.”
“But it just feels like a good idea that I don’t want to pass up on.”
My husband stuck his nose back in his newspaper and was silent.
After a few minutes he spoke, “Karen, I think that if you want to do it, you should do it.”
“But here is another problem.” I responded. “I am 68 years old now. And the certification program takes a year to complete.”
“So that means I will be 69 years old when I get my coaching certification! 69 years old!”
“And so, Karen”, he said, “how old will you be in a year if you don’t sign up for the program?”
I whispered. “I will be 69”.
“Yep,” he retorted matter-of-factly, “and without that health coaching certification”.
Can you relate to my example?
Do you have an idea or a dream? And do you think about taking action on it…someday…maybe?
Have you considered that your good idea may not keep? What if you were given the good idea, as a gift on loan. And that the good idea actually has an expiration date on it? After which time, if you don’t begin to act on it…. then poof…it floats on to a more deserving soul; someone who will actually do something with it.
I can hear you saying it now, “I want to be the deserving soul, but I still feel stuck. I just can’t seem to make up my mind to get started.”
Would I make you feel better to remind you that you are not alone?
Lately, I have been particularly conscious of hearing others talking about their dreams and ideas. Ideas that get them motivated, excited and full of anticipation. Ideas like: going back to school, beginning a new project, starting a volunteer group, committing to a new health plan, a new invention, creating a website, building a product, taking on a new challenge. I'm reminded that there are really a ton of great ideas and unfulfilled dreams out there. A ton of ideas that no one is taking action on.
I wonder what kind of tsunami we could create if all of us over the age of fifty-five banned together and actually did something with our ideas.
Can you even begin to imagine what that would look like?
I say, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s do this thing!
Using the acronym IDEAS; we can work through the following steps. First: Identify your idea, then Decide to do it, Engineer a plan, Act on it and finally Share it.
I -Identify your Idea
A few of us are crystal clear on what it is we feel driven to do. But I would venture to say the rest of us are foggy, unsure, or all over the place. Which one are you?
Perhaps you experience a flickering insight or a hunch or just that whispering inner voice reminding you there is still work to be done.
Here’s an exercise to help shake out and clarify your ideas: Don’t think too much about it and don’t judge your list; just quickly write it down…no matter how small or impossible it may seem.
Once you have finished with your brainstorming, go back and circle the things that most resonate with you. Is there one idea that stands out and cries for your attention?
D- Decide to Do it!
Be honest now…this idea you identified has probably been with you for a while and you haven’t done a darn thing with it, right?
Listen to what Alfred North Whitehead, mathematician and philosopher, tells us.
“Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them."
And so, my friends, let’s get on with it and take the next step. This is the part where we decide to do it; not just think about it, talk about it, or dream about it.
What is it that has been holding you back thus far?
Do any of these lame excuses sound familiar to you?
I beg you, do not let another year go by with your dream still in your mind and on your heart. It is time for you to decide to do it.
And as soon as you decide to do it, then declare it! Whether it’s telling a trusted friend, posting it on Facebook or standing on the mountain top and shouting it out to the world. “I am going to turn my idea into a reality!”
E Engineer a plan –
Once you identify your dream and decide to do it, then celebrate!
Set a date for your planning party and get your pens, pencils, rulers, colorful markers and large pieces of paper ready because, it is time to engineer your plan.
Caution: Like all plans you can get too wrapped up in all the specifics…just get started!
A-Act on your plan
I wonder if we thought our time was limited with the chance to do something with our good idea, would we be more willing to begin the labor?
You have to admit, talking about your idea and dreaming about it are the easy parts. Even the engineering of a plan can seem like a fun play day activity. But the actual doing it…now that takes work.
In his book titled 'Love Does' Bob Goff writes these inspirational words. “Let me tell you what I do when I don’t know what to do to move my dreams down the road. I usually just try to figure out what the next step is and then do that. I know it sounds too simple, too formulaic; it seems like there must be more to it. But there isn’t. For most of us, the next step is as easy as picking up the phone, sending an e=mail, writing a letter, buying a plane ticket, or just showing up. After that, things start happening; things that perhaps have God’s fingerprints on them. You’ll know which ones do and which ones don’t. Pick the ones that do.”
Did you get that? Figure out what the next step is and then do that!
When I first came across Goff words, I was suddenly struck by how profound they were. I began thinking about the people I know that have taken their dream and turned it into reality and sure enough, that’s what they did, isn’t it? They just took the next step.
S- Share it
One would think that this is a ‘no brainer’. But I fear that way too many of us have turned our good idea into reality and then went and stashed it in the closet or set it up on the shelf. Raise your hand if that is you?
“Starting isn’t enough,” writes Seth Godin in his book Ship it. “It’s that follow through to the end that matters. Creating and doing the work is hard, yes, but nothing compares to the difficulty many people have actually shipping. Amazing ideas and incredible projects die at the hands of people who think just one more tweak, one more proofread, one more change is needed before putting that project out into the world.”
So now that you know the steps; it is time to begin: Identify the idea, Decide to do it, Engineer a plan, Act on the plan, and Share it.
And speaking of sharing…It would be such fun to read about your ideas and dreams.
Have you decided to do it? if so, what is your first action step? We would love to support you on your journey.