Holistic Health for Vital Aging

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Holistic Health for Vital Aging

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Holistic Health Association (AHHA) has been around since 1989, and is an impartial, non-profit resource for information about holistic (mind/body) wellness.  

One of the first resources I discovered at AHHA, is the booklet  Wellness from Within: The First Step.  I found it to be a great place to start to learn about AHHA and its core values.   

This booklet makes a crucial point: we all have the power of choice.  I’ve seen people who seem to “have it all,” choose to be miserable, stuck in lives of boredom and apathy.  I’ve met others who make the most of what little they have and face life with resilience, laughter and creativity.  AHHA illustrates that using this power can be the difference between a mediocre life and one of optimal health and wellness. 

The Wellness from Within booklet describes health and wellness from a the whole mind/body approach. AHHA points out that good health is not simply about curing diseases, but more about becoming “well” in every aspect: mind, body, and spirit.

I remember seeing my mother suffer from heart disease and diabetes during what should have been her “golden years.”  Sure, she had physicians galore and she took medications meant to control her symptoms. Yet she continued on a path of failing health, because she lived with the belief that she had no control over her own body. It’s that age-old “old age” stereotype; one we need to disrupt with our own thoughts and actions.

The booklet describes how we can do that, simply by using a team approach.  The team consists of all aspects of our self: physical, spiritual, emotional and mental.  We empower ourselves by taking charge of our thoughts, actions, and choices that relate to all of our team members.   These team members are interlinked in a vital way, and taking care of all of them can lead us to a more vital life journey.

AHHA describes things we can do to get to know our team, (discovering where the individual aspects may need help), then initiate changes that will benefit the team as a whole. The booklet also pointed out the importance of motivation and setting health/wellness goals.

The Wellness from Within booklet is written in an easy-to-read, commonsense style.  I found it to be a very worthwhile resource for defining my own wellness goals and making some simple lifestyle changes that will help me reach them.  

Wellness from Within – The First Step

Please let me know what you think about this resource.  Do you have any health and vital aging resources you can share?  I’d love to hear about them. 

Look for me at Facebook, on my page: Vital Aging 4 Women

©Vital Aging 4 Women 2017

ABCs of Vital Aging: Friendships

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ABCs of Vital Aging: Friendships

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You’ve got to have friends,” Bette Midler sang way back in the early seventies, and she sure had it right.  Truer words were never sung.

Whenever I go out for a girl’s night out with my two best friends (we’ve had a 46-year friendship, which tells you that I’m no spring chicken), we laugh, cheer each other on, and lift each other up.  When we were young, we’d go to parties, talk about our “crushes” on boys, and what dreams we had for our lives. Now that we’re of a certain age (not old, mind you, just “perfected”), we talk about how our husbands drive us crazy, brag about our kids and bemoan the aches and pains that come with age.

It’s on those evenings that I realize just how important their friendship is to me.  These two ladies are the ones who truly understand who I am and accept me no matter what. They allow me to be goofy and let me know when I’ve gone off the deep end.

Why do we need friendships like this? 

  • Good friends give you emotional support when you need it.  When I’m blue, all it takes is a quick call to one of my buds to give me a mental health boost.
  • Good friends can help you through difficult life changes, such as divorce, the death of a spouse or other loved one, job loss, or other major life issues
  • Good friends make you feel valued and accepted.
  • Good friends, especially ones you’ve had for a long time, are part of the tapestry of your life, helping you create memories.
  • Good friends are good for a belly laugh, and are there for you when you need to cry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reasons listed above are just my personal beliefs about the importance of friendships. Researchers who study these kinds of things also point out that friendships and other social connections continue to be valuable throughout our lives.  They become even more crucial as we reach the autumn and winter of our lives.

For example, a long-term Australian study on aging (Giles, et al) showed that there’s a positive connection between friendships and longevity.  If we’re going to live longer, it’s sure to be more enjoyable with good friends by our side. 

Some studies have shown that friendships and social support can help reduce stress, benefit our immune system and our heart health as well.  Friends can also keep us healthier by exercising and dieting with us; along with helping us to avoid bad lifestyle choices. Believe it or not, research has also shown that social connections can help protect us from dementia as we age.

It was true when Bette sang it in the seventies, and it still true today.  You’ve got to have friends! Even without the added health benefits of friendships, wouldn’t life be boring without them?

Source:

Giles, L., Glonek, G., Luszcz, M., Andrews, G. Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian longitudinal study of aging. PDF.

©Vital Aging 4 Women. 2017

Ted Talk Tuesday: Amy Cuddy & The Power of Body Language

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I remember an acquaintance of mine describing my walk as “determined.”  This was years ago, but I never forget her saying that.  It’s how I’ve lived my life since I was a little kid: determined to change my life. Determined to do something that made a difference.

When I’ve been depressed in the past, I recall walking with head down and shoulders slumped. When I feel good about how my life is going and I’ve done something I’m proud of, I can feel confidence in my walk, just by walking tall.  Our body languages speaks volumes!

In the following Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist whose particular interest is “power dynamics,” makes some important points about the power of non-verbal communication.  Our body language not only communicates messages to others, but to ourselves as well.  Through a simple social experiment, Cuddy and her fellow researchers show how people can make themselves feel more powerful, through what she calls “power posing.” 

7 Ways Caregivers can Take Care of Themselves

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7 Ways Caregivers can Take Care of Themselves

Every airplane traveler hears the same refrain whenever they take a flight. In case of an emergency, always put on your own oxygen mask before helping another passenger. It’s the same when you’re a caregiver, caring for a loved one with a debilitating condition.  To take care of others, you first need to take care of yourself.

Unfortunately, caregivers often forget their own needs.  They’re so busy taking care of their loved one, they don’t eat right, don’t find time to exercise, and suffer from lack of sleep. They simply ignore their own health. This can lead not only physical health issues, but also mental and emotional health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.

Here are some ways caregivers can nurture themselves: 

  • Give yourself a break – If you can afford to hire someone to help you take care of your loved one so you can get time to yourself, do it!  If that’s not possible, try to find a family member or friend who can help you out. 
  • Get emotional support from others – Talk to a friend or friend if you’re suffering from stress or anxiety about your care giving responsibilities.  If needed, find a support group – ask a medical professional or find one online. 
  • Take care of yourself physically – Eat healthy foods, walk or do some other form of exercise.  Exercise will help manage stress and the “blues.”      
  • Don’t forget your own doctor visits to keep up with your own health and wellness needs.
  • Don’t try to everything alone!  You may need to delegate tasks to other family members, especially if you work outside the home.  Check into services that are offered in your community. 
  • Pay attention to your mental health, and seek professional help for yourself when you’re feeling symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Take classes or workshops to learn more about providing care for your loved one.  The American Red Cross offers free family caregiver classes. The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Center also provides training

Other caregiver resources:

Caregiver Action Network

National Alliance for Caregiving 

For further reading: 

Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide

The HelpGuide website provides some great options and food for thought about caregiving in this article, Caring for Caregivers.

From the Mayo Clinic website, Caregiver Stress: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself, you’ll find respite care options. 

©Vital Aging 4 Women 2017

Sleep Thief: Fighting Back

Sleep Thief: Fighting Back

 

 

 

 

 

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On Wednesday, I introduced the topic of insomnia with my postInsomnia, Sleep Thief.  But what about fighting back against this sleep thief?  

For occasional sleepless nights, or short-term insomnia, here are some ideas that may help:

  • For those of you who have kids, remember when they were small and you established a bedtime routine for them?  You can do the same for yourself.  Turn of the computer or television for 45 minutes to an hour before bedtime.  Warning: Don’t watch the nightly news!  When I’ve done that, all the bad news left me tossing and turning. Instead, take a nice warm bath. Sit on a comfortable chair and read a book.   
  • Neither caffeine nor alcohol are good for a sound sleep.  I’ve tried a glass of wine before bedtime, but I’ve found that I tend to wake up after a few hours, rather than sleeping through the night.  Experts have found that alcoholic beverages disrupt our sleep, rather than enhancing it.
  • Around an hour before bedtime have a snack that contains both protein and carbs.  For example, whole wheat bread with peanut butter or whole wheat pita bread with hummus.  Another suggestion I read about in Good Housekeeping magazine is to have a bowl of cornflakes and milk. The cereal enhances our tryptophan levels (an amino acid that helps us sleep) and increases serotonin in our brain. The milk contains melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
  • No clock-watching, please!  I used to wake up in the middle of the night and peek at the clock, which only made me more anxious about getting back to sleep. As in, “OMG!  There’s only an hour and a half before the alarm goes off!” Nowadays, I cover up my alarm clock, ignoring it until the inevitable alarm goes off at 7:00 a.m.
  • Try meditation!  In my blog, Bea Boomer’s Wellness, I wrote about the benefits of meditation and better sleep quality is just one of those benefits Guided meditation with music has helped me turn off the mind chatter that often kept me tossing and turning for hours.  Other things that can help improve our sleep include (1) regular exercise (as long as it’s not done right before bedtime), (2) learning relaxation techniques, and (3) regularly eating foods high in tryptophan.For some unique sleep tips, check out 5 Unusual Ways to Achieve Super Quality Sleep, from the Pick the Brain website.Chronic insomnia is another story, as explained in Help Guide’s article, Insomnia, What to do when you can’t Fall Asleep or Stay Asleep. People who suffer from long-term insomnia should see their doctor for additional options.  Sleeping pills aren’t the answer, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or other treatments may help.What method(s) or routine do you use to get quality sleep?  I’d love to get your input on this topic.For further reading:Insomnia and Menopause 

    7 ways to getting the best sleep ever

    Traditional Chinese Medicine encourages Restful Sleep

    ©Vital Aging 4 Women 2017

    You may want to read: Insomnia, Sleep Thief 

Insomnia – Sleep Thief

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You know as well as I do that a lack of sleep simply sucks. For me, insomnia reared its ugly head during perimenopause, along with all those other fun things such as night sweats and hot flashes. Now post-menopausal, I still suffer from sleepless nights, which tend to wreak havoc on the daytime hours. 

This lack of sleep makes me grumpy, fuzzy-brained and isn’t too good for my looks. There’s nothing more annoying than have one of my bright-eyed co-workers starting a conversation with “Boy, you look tired!”  Especially if that statement is made every day.

I know I’m not suffering alone – According to the researchers who study this stuff, at least 40% of Americans don’t get the 7 hours of quality sleep they need to function well (Aschwanden). Many of these insomnia sufferers are women.  (Can we create a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?  Maybe we should all get together and start the Middle of the Night Club, since misery loves company). 

For those of you who suffer with insomnia like I do, you already know that lack of sleep can lead to crabbiness, inability to focus/concentrate, forgetfulness, lack of energy, just to name a few annoyances.

Chronic insomnia, unfortunately, ends up causing more than just minor disturbances in our lives.

  • Sleep deprivation can cause problems with the functioning of our brains. It affects our brain’s plasticity, by weakening our brain’s ability to make connections between brain cells.  This decreases our learning ability.  (Evans & Burghardt)
  • One 2015 study has even shown that it can make our brain smaller. Now THAT sounds weird. 
  • In many studies, sleep deprivation has been linked to memory loss and even Alzheimer’s disease (Aschwanden)
  • Chronic sleep loss has been linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and even earlier death.  

I’ve been trying to find things that will help me get better sleep. In my next post (scheduled for Friday, June 16th) I’ll let you know what I’ve discovered from the amazing Internet.

By the way, readers; do you have any “sleep better” suggestions?  What’s worked for you? 

Resources: 

Aschwanden, Christie. Counting Sleep. Prevention Magazine November 2014. 

Evans, S. PhD, & Burghardt, P., PhD. Brain Fit for Life A User’s Guide to Life Long Brain Health and Fitness. 2008. River Point Publications: Milan, MI

For further reading:

What causes Insomnia?

What sleep deprivation does to your brain (infographic)

Fight back against the sleep thief!

©Vital Aging 4 Women, 2017

ABCs of Vital Aging: Leave a Legacy

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legacy, Marcus Aurelius, ABCs of Vital Aging

 

 

 

 

 

 

The quote above is one of my favorites.  How can you deny that waking up and appreciating the life you’ve been given is a great way to start the day? 

I never knew much about Marcus Aurelius, who authored this quote; I never met the guy.  How could I? He was a Roman Emperor who died in year 180 AD.  According to Wikipedia, he lived to the age of 58.  But he packed a lot of wisdom in during those years, in the form of his writings (Meditations). He wrote them as his own personal journalling, never expecting them to be published.  Little did Marcus know that thousands of years later, into the 21st century, people would be reading Meditations in book format. They would also be quoting him on websites and blogs.

Isn’t it cool that the words of this Roman Emperor from those early days of our planet are still relevant in today’s world? Meditations is his legacy for us. 

The common definition of “legacy” is “something (such as property or money) that is received from someone who has died.” But a person’s legacy doesn’t have to be mounds of money or stuff that they leave as an inheritance for their kids and grand-kids. 

Through our words and actions, we can leave a legacy for, at the very least, our children, grandchildren, and other loved ones, to teach them the true values in life that go beyond the typical definitions of success. 

We certainly don’t have to be famous to leave a legacy. We can be the mom who shows her courage as she faces a cancer diagnosis, and uses a positive mental attitude to fight back.  We can be the dad who works two jobs to give his kids a better life. We can be the person who donates an organ to save another human being; or the one who stops a bully in his tracks. We can be the woman or man who shows their kids that it’s not about what you have; it’s about who you are, and how you treat people, that really matters in this life. 

Leaving a legacy means leaving this world a better place. 

©Vital Aging for Women 2017

Related posts:

ABCs of Vital Aging – Giving Thanks

21 Ways to Make the World a Better Place

 

 

What the Universe Taught Me about Serenity

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One of my favorite episodes from the old television program Seinfeld is the one where Mr. Costanza sits in the back seat of a car yelling “Serenity Now!” Occasionally, I’ll pop over to YouTube just to watch that scene, which always makes me laugh out loud.

That would be me in my younger days, demanding peace of mind from the universe, immediately! Alas, the universe, in its infinite wisdom, ignored me. Because it knew something I didn’t, and wasn’t going to give up that secret easily.

Yep, serenity eluded me over the years, and it took me a long time to realize that it just wasn’t going to knock on my door and let itself in. I’d actually have to work for it (“Duh,” the universe intoned).

When I finally discovered that fact, sometime in my early forties, my quest for serenity became easy as pie. Okay, not really.  I took some pretty big steps to reach peace of mind, and it was worth every step.

First, that meant letting go of all the mental baggage I held onto so closely. This internal clutter stemmed from an anxiety-ridden childhood, messed-up teenage years, and other mix-and-match stuff that accumulated over the years. 

To let go of mental clutter, I had to rethink the words I used about myself and about the world. I worked to erase the negative tape and replace it with strong, positive words.

I had to learn to forgive myself and others who had hurt me. I was eventually able to forgive my dad, for not being the kind of father he should have been. 

I had to learn to forget the past, while remembering the lessons it had provided me. 

Finally, I had to smile at the woman in the mirror, open my mind and accept her, flaws and all. 

There’s no such thing as perfect serenity, of course.  Until the end of my life, I’ll consider myself a work in progress.  There are times when anxiety and fear flare up, but I don’t let them overwhelm me any longer.  Changing my mindset really made a big difference in my life; it opened my mind up to taking chances and look for opportunities to write (something I’ve loved since I was a kid) by blogging and ultimately, completing my first book (soon to be published, by the way).

I have a quote by Doris Mortman taped to my computer desk at home: Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.”  This quote reminds me every day how far I’ve come since those days of inner angst.

Were you born with a sense of serenity?  Or did you have to fight for it, like I did? If you’ve been able to change your outlook, how has it helped you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.  

©Vital Aging for Women 2017

 For further reading

40 Ways to Achieve Peace of Mind 

9 Ways to Find Peace in Tough Times 

 

 

Ted Talk Tuesday: Phil Hansen & Creativity

An intriguing look at creativity, in a mere 10-minute video. Phil Hansen points out how embracing limitations can work wonders for the creative process. 

Ted Talk Tuesday: Becoming More Mindful

You have a treasure within you that is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer. (Eckhart Tolle) 

Andy Puddicombe is the co-founder of the site, Headspace, which describes itself as a personal trainer for your mind.  The site provides guided meditation training to its subscribers.  Check out the Headspace blog for articles in several categories, including mind, body, relationships and more. 

You can even learn to meditate in 10 minutes a day with Headspace’s free phone application.

In his short and sweet Ted Talk, you’ll learn the importance of simply doing absolutely nothing for a mere 10 minutes a day.  Taking that 10 minutes for our mind’s health can affect not only our day, but our whole life. He also describes the benefits of meditation and what meditation actually is: meditation is not about controlling our mind or our thoughts. It’s really about seeing our thoughts and emotions come and go without judgment.