You already know that it’s important to eat your leafy veggies and blueberries, rich in antioxidants. But did you know that hope is the ultimate superfood?
A superfood is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Hope offers emotional nourishment that improves emotional and physical health and lengthens life. Numerous research studies have demonstrated the health benefits of an optimistic outlook. Dr. David Snowdon found that positive emotional content in essays written during young adulthood predicted lifespan—those who had a more positive outlook lived 6.9 years longer than their pessimistic counterparts. Similarly, other research has shown that optimism is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lower death rates.
When imagining aging, most middle-aged people look ahead with trepidation. But take heart: the best is likely yet to come!
Satisfaction surveys have found that happiness increases after middle age, and this pattern shows up around the globe. Referred to as the Happiness U-Curve, the data show that on average, life satisfaction drops during midlife and begins its recovery around age 50, reaching its peak at the end of life.
I was fortunate to spend this Independence Day hiking in Golden, Colorado. While delighting in our purple mountain majesties, I was reminded that taking frequent walks is one of the best strategies for maintaining independence as long as possible with age.Continue reading →
One of your most important senses is one you’ve probably never heard of: proprioception. You can experience your proprioception by closing your eyes and trying to stand balanced on one foot. Without visual input, proprioception is the inner awareness of your body that allows you to keep your balance. You might take for granted that your brain knows where your feet are, but without ongoing stimulation into this feedback loop as you age, this sense begins to fail and the risks of falls and injury increase.
Clinical depression is categorically different from the common experience of having the blues for a few hours or days. Depression is a lasting, pervasive, and overwhelming feeling of deep sadness, irritability, apathy, hopelessness, and self-loathing that interferes with life functioning. Other symptoms of depression include concentration problems, obsessive negative thoughts, increased or decreased sleep and/or appetite, feeling sluggish, and thoughts of suicide.
Like cancer, depression is an attack from within. Instead of the body being besieged by its own cancerous cells, in the case of depression, the person is viciously assaulted by his/her own thoughts. Just like cancer, depression is a biological disease. The brain’s chemistry causes self-destructive thinking and behavior, which can be disabling and even lethal, in cases of suicide.
Most people think of exercise as a weight loss strategy. But, weight is about 50% genetically determined and, in some cases, exercising might even cause you to gain weight. Muscle weighs more than fat, so as you get stronger, your weight might go up rather than down. Also, the body’s metabolic system slows down to conserve energy as we burn more calories through exercise. If we only exercise to lose weight, then people who are slim genetically might think they don’t need to bother, and heavy people are left discouraged.
Humans are pack animals. We are biologically designed to connect with each other and generally have longer and healthier lives when we are social. The benefits of relationships are further enhanced when we internalize the love that surrounds us. Keep the kindness you receive alive within you by savoring these experiences.
Diets that involve temporary, significant calorie restrictions are doomed to fail, because the
body’s regulatory systems adjust metabolism and activity rates in order to regain whatever weight has been lost. Nowhere was this more tragically demonstrated than in the follow-up studies of contestants on the reality TV show, The Biggest Loser. These folks dieted and
exercised diligently and succeeded in dramatic weight loss. But during the following few years,
their bodies’ biological systems reset so that maintaining the weight loss was almost impossible. Nearly all of the contestants regained each pound and sometimes more. News stories like this can leave us feeling helpless when we are also bombarded with studies about the health risks of obesity and belly fat.
By the time you walk from one room to the next, you’ve forgotten what you intended to do once you got there. You meet someone new and have lost track of his/her name before the first conversation is over. You sit down to your computer, get sucked into your incoming emails, and then can’t remember whom you intended to write to in the first place. Sound familiar?
These experiences might leave you worried that you are on the scary slide to dementia. While it’s true that memory and brain functioning are generally strongest in our 30s and then begin to falter, there is much that you can do to prevent decline and regain cognitive functioning. Also, epigenetics (the study of the interaction between genetics and lifestyle/environment) has shown that even those with genetic vulnerability for dementia can prevent those genes from being activated by making healthy lifestyle choices. Continue reading →
Make exercise as enjoyable as possible so that it becomes a lifelong habit. Some people naturally like exercising and savor the experience itself. However, for most people, including me, working out can feel like a chore. I exercise regularly because I know that most of what we think of as the effects of aging actually are caused by sedentary lifestyle. But I prefer the carrot to the stick, so I try to make exercising something I want to do rather than focusing on it as something I ought to do.