We know how important resilience and your mindset is when we talk about living a long life.
So, what happens when life happens? Challenges come knocking on your door?
Here are some good tips to keep in mind when that happens. And boy, will it happen!
When adversity hits, take a deep breath, think about the situation, and then list five things you can do without falling apart. Say to yourself, “Soon this will already be worked out, and things will be getting better.”
Ask the right questions
People often let situations control them instead of them controlling the situation. Many times, this occurs because they haven’t bothered to get the information they need. When problems occur, ask questions. Lots of questions. This provides you with enough information to develop alternative responses, at least one of which will enable you to bounce back from the situation.
Identify one positive thing in every situation
We’re not recommending that you become a “lemonade-out-of-lemons” kind of person, but no matter how bleak a situation is, there’s almost always something positive to be found. There is a couple whose house burned down on Christmas Eve, just two days after they moved in, when the husband tried to light a fire in the fireplace. They lost everything they had accumulated over the 40-year marriage. But they still had each other. And, they said, starting over was kind of fun.
Manage your expectations
If you expect everything to go perfectly when you travel by airplane these days, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, anticipate long delays and lost luggage by taking extra reading material or playing cards and not putting anything you can’t live without in your checked bags. Then, when disaster doesn’t strike, you’re three steps ahead! This kind of thinking works particularly well for family reunions, house renovations, and medical treatments.
Set daily goals
You need a sense of accomplishment every day to strengthen your own belief in yourself. These goals could be small, such as calling the housebound elderly woman down the block every afternoon, or work on a larger achievement , such as getting another degree or building a gazebo.
Compare yourself only to yourself
Just because Mary lost her job and had to declare bankruptcy doesn’t mean you will. Just because your neighbor Al had lots more good fortune this year than you did doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Mary and Al are very different people from you. Focus on your situation in the context of your life, not that of anyone else around you. Are you always checking out your friends on Facebook? Remember Facebook is only recording the highlights of other people’s lives. Their lives may look perfect looking at their profile, but they are experiencing the same challenges and problems that you are.
Recognize what you can and cannot control
If you have diabetes, for instance, and you’re following a healthy diet, taking your medication, and exercising regularly, but you still have fluctuating blood sugar, recognize that you’re doing all you can to control the situation, and you may need to put the rest of the problem in your doctor’s hands.
Change One thing every day
No matter what your age this is great advice. We become so entrenched in our routines that we don’t even notice them any longer. Then, when something happens to change that routine, we lack the flexibility to cope with it. To prevent this from happening one tip is to change your routine every day. Maybe just brushing your teeth with your left hand instead of your right, or taking a different route to work in the morning for a change. You can even sleep in a different bedroom in the house.
By changing one thing every day you will also improve your outlook on life. Changing something every day will put a little more spice into your life. May things new again and remove the boredom. But remember you need to do this purposefully. It more than likely isn’t going to happen on its own and also keep your mind open to change. Change is all around us!
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In my last blog I explained how having resilience or in other words, having a balanced perspective and understanding that there are going to be daily challenges and being confident you can overcome them is a key to successful aging. But how can you get resilience if you don’t naturally have this type of outlook.
Here are some suggestions for you.
Laugh at least five times a day.
Humor and resilience are actually quite similar. After all, what is humor but the ability to make light of real life? Laughter keeps you optimistic, helps you cope, reduces stress, and reminds you of what’s important in life. If you don’t have a sense of humor, now is the time to work on one. Start with the professionals: Watch comedies on TV, rent funny movies, read funny books. Be less stern and more playful with your family. Have animated conversations about unimportant things with friends. Learn the art of the gentle tease – and be open to teasing in return. Come bedtime, look back on your day and vow to laugh more tomorrow. Just one warning: Avoid sarcasm, mockery, and any other forms of humor that degrade of hurt others. Humor, when twisted improperly, can be more bitter than sweet.
Choose laughter over anger.
Let’s be honest: There’s no shortage of people and things that can make us angry, be it the government, the clerk at the store, your spouse’s insensitive comments, the living room mess, the crazy driver in front of you, your boss, and so on. In every case, you have a choice: Get angry, or don’t. We recommend choosing the latter. Getting angry solves nothing. But it does accomplish something: It ruins your mood, hurts your health, and gets in the way of constructive responses. Resilient people avoid anger. Rather, if they can control the situation, they work to improve it – and if they can’t control it directly, they find ways to cope with it. The next time anger starts to sweep over you, shut it down, smile at the absurdity and frustrations of life, and get busy fixing things.
This is closely related to the tip on controlling anger. Most people do what they do by choice. People who take the time to ponder the other side’s perspective almost always sidestep anger and respond constructively. Rather than just getting angry at your boss, for example, take a moment to think through why he said what he said or did what he did (more often than not, he’s acting in response to someone else’s unreasonable demands!) The ability to see situations from multiple viewpoints is extremely handy for building a more resilient personality.
List your strengths.
This could be everything from your ability to interact with anyone at any time to your talent for baking. Don’t do this on your own; ask people who know you well to contribute to the list. Knowing your strengths, becoming aware of your strengths, is like putting money into the resilient bank. When it’s time for a withdrawal, you’ll know just how much you have to use.
Write down your blessings
Recognizing the many things you have to be thankful for is a sign of resilience. Don’t leave anything out. If you’re blessed because you moved into a house with the master bedroom on the first floor and don’t have to climb stairs, add it to the list. Make copies of the list and put one in your bedroom, the kitchen, and the glove compartment of your car. Whenever you’re tempted to complain about your fate, pull out the list and remind yourself how lucky you really are.
A good tip to end with, is not to just write this list one time. Many successful people practice waking up with a mindset of gratitude. The first thing they do in the morning is to take time to either pray or meditate and think of all the things in their life they are grateful for. If the first things you do is this each day you set yourself up for a day of happiness and accomplishment.
When Dutch researched asked 600 people 85 and older to identify the key component of successful aging, they came up with one that even surprised the experts. It was psychological health. But rather than defining psychological health as the lack of depression or other mental health conditions, they told researches it meant being able to adjust to circumstances, focus on gains rather than losses, and appreciate your blessings.
Another word for this? Resilience.
Resilience is why certain kids who grow up surrounded by poverty or cruelty still manage to get in to top universities and become successful. It’s why some people rebuild after hurricanes, despite the challenges and hardships. It’s why you say of someone who’s just been diagnosed with cancer or who has just lost a husband or whose business has just failed: “I can’t believe how wells she’s handling this.” We like to think of a resilient person as a human rubber band – able to be stretched to the breaking point and still snap back.
What resilience is not, says John Stuart Hall, PhD, professor of public affairs at Arizona State University in Phoenix and a pioneer in the area of resilience in older adults, is “positive psychology”, or always “looking on the bright side.” Instead, he explains, resilience is “having a balanced perspective and understanding that there are going to be daily challenges.” It’s being able to focus on your assets instead of your weaknesses. Resilient people, he says, “Learn to value themselves and to look for measures of their successes, not failures.”
Everyone has some measure of resilience, says aging expert Adam Davey, PhD, associate professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. But older adults should be more resilient because of the wisdom they’ve gained from decades of coping with challenging situations. “This enables them to draw on their wealth of experience to come up with solutions to the current situation,” Dr. Davey explains. Thus, if you’re faced with financial trouble for instance, you can think back to another time this happened and draw strength from the fact that you managed the situation then, so you can manage it now.
Resilience really comes into play when you’re confronted with stress. If you’re resilient, studies find, you recover from stress faster, reducing the damaging impact it can have on your body and readying yourself more quickly for the next challenge.
Researchers have identified certain common traits of resilient people. How many apply to you?
In my next blog I will give you some important steps you can do today to improve your resilience. Come back on Wednesday to read about these important steps.
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Researchers for the last 20 years have been on a quest to find out what it takes to age successfully. What they found was that while nutrition and exercise are key elements of a healthy, disease-resistant body but what matters just as much are the attitudes and mind-sets that guide our lives. As it turns out, good health may or may not make us happy, but happiness without a question contributes mightily to good health.
Happiness. What is it, anyway?
On any given day, we all tend to be a bundle of emotions and moods, from angry to ecstatic and bored to bubbly. It’s naïve to think that we could all exist in a steady state of smiles. Concepts like joy, purpose, and self-worth are far too complicated to reduce to a yes-or-no question of “Are you happy?” If only there were some type of measuring machine, like a blood pressure kit, that could tell us our happiness levels on a numbered scale. Now that would be useful!
Lucky for us Researchers have come up with the next best thing. They’ve identified the specific attitudes, lifestyle choices, and personal traits that best contribute to both long life and long health.
It’s no surprise that these positive traits are deeply enmeshed in the cultures of long-lived people. On the Japanese Island of Okinawa, home to the world’s largest concentration of healthy, happy people over the age of 100, people embrace a “don’t worry, be happy” philosophy of life called taygay that minimizes stress and protects people’s emotions from life’s arrows.
Okinawans also practice a deep, meditative spirituality that links them with their ancestors, their gods, and the universe. They stay connected with friends, family, and neighbors. Okinawan village life is based on the value of yuimaru, or mutual assistance. Friends, coworkers, or neighbors meet regularly in groups called moais, where everyone puts a little money into a pot, and whoever needs it most take it home. Elder Okinawans are proud of their status and revered by their communities – something Western cultures would do well to imitate. Here, there’s no word for “retirement”. And most older people to not feel lonely.
The benefits of positive attitudes and practices like these don’t manifest themselves in the distant future. Optimism, resilience, social activities, and faith make today better. And, as revealed in Okinawa, they also make you more likely to enjoy life many years from now.
The bottom line: If you think that living a healthy lifestyle is just about food and exercise, you are badly mistaken. Everyday attitudes are as important to your health, short and long term, as anything else you can do.
So you’ve decided that you want to get out there and become more physically active. A week from now, however, you’re slumped back on the sofa watching television. Don’t feel bad. Half of all people who begin an exercise program drop out within the first six months. So how do you motivate yourself day in and day out? It’s a question researches have been struggling with for decades. While they don’t have any one answer, they do have some suggestions.
Keep reading about the benefits of exercise
It turns out that women who believe in the health benefits of exercise tend to work out more often and more intensely or for longer periods than those with negative thoughts about working out (i.e. “I’ll be sore in the morning.” “It’s too cold to walk.” “I’m too old to lift weights”).
Don’t watch yourself exercise
Stop looking at the mirror and don’t think about the movements, just do them. One study found that women who concentrated on their body movements during exercise tended to exercise less often, less intensely, and/or for less time than women who didn’t.
Switch from negative to positive thinking
For instance, if you hate sweating during exercise, turn it into a positive such as, “Sweating clears toxins from my body and makes my skin look better,” or “The more I sweat, the more my muscles are working.” If you get out of breath when you exercise and perceive it as harmful, you’ll stop, but what if you viewed it as an indication that you’re building endurance? You’d be more likely to continue exercising.
Track your progress
Research finds that you’re more likely to stick with physical activity if you can see or quantify the progress.
Join a class
The socialization that occurs in an exercise class serves as a powerful motivator for anyone of any age. As one women told researchers trying to learn what motivates older people to exercise, “Most of us live alone, so it’s better to come and exercise as a group. I do not do too well at home, as I cheat a little. When I am in a class, I’ve got to keep up. You do not want to cheat with the instructor.”
Set rewards for yourself
Maybe tell yourself that every week in which you complete at least four 30-minute exercise sessions, you’ll treat yourself to a massage or, if you have a certain hobby, like woodworking, you’ll buy a new tool.
Find a caring instructor or personal trainer.
Having someone who knows you and cares about your progress provides a powerful incentive.
Sign a health contract with your doctor
This is a written agreement to accomplish as health goal. In your case, that health goal is to walk 30 minutes a day five days a week. Or to spend 45 minutes two days a week doing resistance training. Or to sign up for a Tai Chi class or a Spinning class. The contract should include a calendar for you to track your progress and to reinforce your commitment.
Tell everyone you know
It turns out that social support for your exercise program keeps you motivated – so call your kids and email the Grand kids, Let your next-door neighbor and the nosy lady at church know that you’re starting a new physical fitness program. They’ll keep asking how you’re doing, and to avoid the embarrassment of telling them you quit, you’ll keep at it.
Sign up for a 5K walk or run two months into the future
Having a goal you’re working toward is one of the best motivators. You can get help training for the event from the internet, books, or your local gym.
The simple truth is: There is no more effective prescription for living a long, healthy life than exercise.
If you do only one thing… Garden!
Gardening is one of those rare multiple-benefit activities, providing endurance, strength, and flexibility activities all in one. How? Picture an early spring day when you’re preparing your vegetable garden for the first planting. Digging in the dirt builds muscle strength as well as endurance. So does loading shovels of compost and top soil into the wheel borrow, wheeling it over to the garden, dumping it, and turning the earth over as you work in it. When the time comes to plant the tomato and squash seedlings, you bend and stretch to get them in the ground.
Some other benefits of Gardening?
Here they are:
Cutting the grass with a walking mower provides a great endurance workout.
Raking leaves provides flexibility and endurance benefits
Hauling compost, dirt, and weeds is a good strength-building workout.
Pulling weeds is a wonderful way to stretch muscles stiff from too much sitting.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, gardening is compared to “moderate cardiovascular exercise.” Gardening 30 to 45 minutes a day can burn 150 to 300 calories. This isn’t just standing there watering the flowers, but weeding, digging, hoeing, raking and planting. And there's nothing like being at one with nature to help create a calming, relaxed state of mind while you let go of the pressures and anxiety of everyday life.
Gardening may be good exercise, but it also is good for the mind. Many gardeners view their hobby as the perfect antidote to the modern world.
In a recent study in the Netherlands they found that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities. In the study, after completeing a stressful task, two groups of people were instructed to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes. Afterward, the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The effortless attention of gardening may even help improve depression. In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression and persistent low mood spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables. After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. There mood even continued to improve after the gardening program ended.
And just think if your gardening includes growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables! The food you grow yourself is the freshest and healthiest food you can eat. Studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers. People who are growing food just tend to be healthier. Maybe in the grocery store you will pass up buying that tomato or yellow squash. But in your garden, after planting the seed or plants, watering and caring for it, you are actually excited to finally be able to eat the red ripe tomato. They even taste better when they come from your own yard and you know without a doubt that they are truly organic with no pesticide residue.
Don’t have a lot of room or a yard? You can do gardening in as little space as a planter box or 5 gallon bucket. I personally have benefitted greatly by gardening over the years. Gardening has been a great stress reliever for me as well as a form of meditation. If you are not sure what I am talking about, you need to try it out for yourself. The only way to truly know is to experience it yourself.
Need another garden idea for your small space? Check out this Garden System that you can do with only 15 feet of space. Check it out here!
Do you know what the Best Fitness of all is? It’s Daily Living. Sounds simple doesn't it? It really is!
If you follow what trainers and experts tell you, a well-rounded fitness regimen would have you actively engaged in some type of formal exercise for an hour a day, six or seven days a week. A lot of effort, a lot of time, but not unreasonable if you want to be truly fit for a long life. But what about the other 15 hours a day when you’re awake?
When you think about it, it’s thoroughly illogical to believe that the optimal fitness schedule is “1 hour on, 15 hours off.” Sure, thinking that way helps gym memberships, and lots of fancy fitness gear. But the truth is, fitness is best thought of as a lifestyle, not as a task.
Every moment of your day, every task that you do, is an opportunity to move in ways that help your health. When you think of fitness as a lifestyle, it means you walk a little faster, stand a little taller, stay outside a little longer, do tasks a little more intensely. It means you bypass that easy or lazy options and instead take the steps, fetch the items from the garage yourself, and take care of that fallen branch or broken step right now, by yourself.
When fitness becomes a lifestyle, it means that you are naturally walking more each day, so you don’t have to formally schedule it, get dressed for it, and recover from it. It means that you are naturally stretching your muscles, using your strength, and challenging your sense of balance. It means that not a half an hour goes by when you haven’t done some small thing with a little more exertion as a matter of habit.
And does this kind of living pay off! More energizing living burns calories, strengthens muscles, builds endurance, improves your mood, and makes you sleep more deeply. Science proves it, and living it quickly reveals it.
So how to you start living a fitter lifestyle? Again, it’s all about the choices. Here are some simple life rules to start:
Does living a fit lifestyle mean you can stop thinking about exercise? No. Active living will do a great job of keeping you slim and maintaining your body’s current physical condition. But remember, by definition of exercise- using your body in ways that go beyond normal exertion levels. Only by mixing in some formal exercise can you improve strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance.
If you are looking for a great way to start a yoga exercise program in the comfort of your home check out this Yoga Program here.
The fourth type of fitness is balance and a great way to use this exercise is by Dancing!
Balance activities are particularly important for people as they age because good balance prevents falls. “But I have no intention of falling,” you say. Right. None of us does. Yet one out of three people 65 and older falls every year. These are not people living in nursing homes but rather those typically living in their own homes.
Falls are the most common reason for injuries treated emergency rooms among those 65 years and older, and 5 to 10 percent of those falls cause serious injuries, including major head trauma. Most important: Falls are one of the most common reasons people find themselves in nursing homes.
There are two types of balance, static and dynamic. Static balance involves the ability to maintain your balance without moving, such as while standing on one foot. Dynamic balance refers to the ability to maintain your balance while moving.
The good news is that many other forms of exercise already challenge and improve your sense of balance. Examples include tai chi, yoga, dance, and even strength training. If you’re an avid exerciser, it’s unlikely that you need to do additional balancing exercise- but try some anyway. This is one area of fitness in which there isn’t a lot of science or precision. Just do things that force you to stay up on your feet in awkward situations. Here are some ideas:
Do basic balance challenges each day at home.
For instance, stand on one leg and lift the other or walk in a straight line heel to toe. If you’re just starting, hold on to something when you try these. Eventually the goal is to be able to perform these exercises for longer times without holding on to anything.
Balance is about being light on your feet and having a good sense of your body and its movements. What teaches you that more than dance? For the most benefits, sign up for dancing classes. You’ll get the physical benefits of the dancing and the emotional and life-enhancing benefits of the social interaction.
Get off the beaten Path.
Taking walks on an unpaved nature trail forces you to step over or around roots, boulders, and other obstructions. It’s the perfect activity to improve your balance.
Do more side-to-side activities.
Sports like badminton, basketball, and soccer all force players to constantly move forward, backward, and sideways, making these sports terrific for helping players develop balance and a sense of assuredness on their feet. If you are relatively fit and have a willingness to play and laugh about it, consider a gentle round of these sports with kids or your spouse. You’ll get a wonderful aerobic and balance workout.
Take up Tai chi.
One study of 256 physically inactive people ages 70 to 92 found that participating in this ancient Chinese martial art form for six months reduced falls by half compared to a similar group who did stretching exercises for six months. Plus, those in the tai chi group who did fall had much less serious falls, with just 7 percent resulting in injuries versus 18 percent in the stretching group.
So get out there and Dance because You Should Be Dancing!
Today I want to talk about the 3rd type of fitness which is Flexibility. Elastigirl's Super Power is the Ultimate flexibility.
My first two blogs, about the two fitness types – endurance and strength – focus mostly on the capabilities of your major muscle groups. Flexibility, however, is in large part about your joints.
The definition of flexibility is simple: It’s the range of motion your body can go through. With age, range of motion naturally decreases. The goal of stretching and other flexibility exercises is to keep your range of motion as wide as possible. If you don’t maintain a certain range of motion, then you start to restrict your activities and this can become a vicious cycle in which you engage in less activity, further reducing not only your flexibility and mobility but also your strength and endurance. Before you know it, you’re grunting just trying to get out of a chair and saying no to invitations to walk, shop, or visit because it’s just to challenging to bother. And you don’t have to be over 60 for this to happen either. This can happen at any age with a lifestyle of little activity. Sitting at a desk at work all day? Then come home exhausted and sit in front of the TV all night watching Netflix? Those muscles are feeling a little tight when you stand up? Yes, you can suffer from loss of muscles and flexibility at any age with the lifestyles many of us are living.
Flexibility exercises strive to do a few things. They wash the key parts of your joints – the bones, tendons, ligaments, and cushion-like substances between – with nutrients and blood. They also keep tendons and ligaments strong and stretchable. And, just as important, they keep the muscles attached to your joints loose and flexible. After all, that’s the key function of a muscle: To move your body through constant stretching and compressing.
Stretching, in other words, does a lot of important things. However, it’s also one of the easiest and most pleasurable types of exercise there is. And it requires no gear at all.
To properly stretch a muscle and its related tendons and ligaments, you want to slowly get into the extended position, then hold it for 20 to 30 seconds. This is much different than from what many people do, however. Too often, people jerk and pull muscles, holding the stretch for just a few seconds, if at all. You need to be patient and slowly stretch the muscle and then hold the stretch the suggested amount of time and by doing so you are maximizing the benefits and minimizing the changes of injury.
Aim to do flexibility exercises at least twice a week. These include basic stretching, reaching, and bending. Activities like yoga, tai chi, and pilates provide excellent opportunities for improving your flexibility. The beauty of these is that you can do them anywhere – even sitting on a plane. But many of your daily activities also provide good opportunities for stretching.
Are you interested in exercising in the comfort of your home using Yoga to improve your flexibility and maybe even lose a little weight? Check out this Yoga program here called the Yoga Burn.
What do you think another type of exercise might be, after endurance? Your’re right! It is Strength.
Strength exercises increase the power of a specific muscle by challenging it with some form of resistance. That could be weights, exercise bands, or even your own body weight. The usual method is careful, slow lifting and lowering of weight to target a specific muscle or muscle group.
If you think this form of exercise is best left to body builders, think again. This is probably the most important form of exercise you need when it comes to again and guarding yourself against frailty and disability.
The reason is because muscle strength, your ability to walk, sit stand, and bend gradually fades. Welcome then to the land of wasted muscles. When you observe seniors who struggle to stand or walk, it’s for probably one reason only – their muscle strength has gone. It is true that injury or disease may have stopped their ability for exercise or activity, but in the end of the day, it’s still weak muscles that limit their mobility. And only healthier muscles – achieved through strengthening exercises – can return that mobility.
Strength training has other important benefits besides just keeping you active longer. It also reduces the risk and symptoms of osteoporosis, hearth disease, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes. It helps improve your sleep and reduces your risk of depression. At least on study also found that it improves balance – even in middle-age people you wouldn’t think would have balance problems. And don’t worry about injuries; the risk is low with strength activities, particularly in older adults.
Think strength training is too hard or too awkward for you? Think again. The fact is, strength training is often less tiring endurance workouts. It can be done in limited space and limited time. You need minimal gear – often just a few dumbbells. Best of all, you’ll see the results in as little as a few weeks. Plus strengthening exercises can boost metabolism as much a 15 percent, which is a bonus when it comes to losing weight. Maybe that’s why more than ever, people over 65 and older are taking up strength training.
But let’s get rid of one exercise myth right now: Muscle does not weigh more than fat. How could it? A pound is a pound is a pound, whether it is muscle or fat. However, a pound of muscle takes up less space in your body than a pound of fat, just as a pound of lean beef takes up less space than a pound of shortening. Muscle is Denser than fat, not heavier. That’s why you can be working out and seeing your measurements change, but your weight remains the same. The same weight is simply taking up less space. In fact, some experts estimate that the space used by a pound of muscle is 22 percent less than the space used by a pound of fat.
As you can see there are so many benefits to strength training you can't afford not to start doing it today.
Are you interested in starting an exercise program, but not sure where to start? Here is a fitness plan that I think you should check out. It is called the “Never Grow Old Fitness Plan”. Click here to find out all about it!
Giving you the most current and up to date advice on living a longer and active life.
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