mental fitness


I recently heard a man complain about some of his friends who had taken up jogging. They were constantly bugging him to jog with them. He finally gave in and said he would jog with them, but only for 1/4 mile. He would later exclaim, “It was the worst three hours of my life.”

I thought it was a funny line. On the serious side of getting in shape, perhaps you have heard about the Frenchman Robert Marchand. Mr. Marchand recently set a record riding a bike for 15 miles on an indoor track in one hour. Robert is 100 years old.

A new report estimates that more than one-third of babies born this year will live to be over 100 years old. Good for them, but what about us old timers? Well, the current average life expectancy in the U. S. for both men and women is between 78 and 79 years. Overall, women usually live two to four years longer, but men are catching up quickly. 

So what are the factors that allow someone to live to be 100 or more? A recent study, The New England Longevity Study, concludes there are four major factors that would allow a person to live to 100. Not surprisingly they are: genetics, environment, lifestyle, and luck. Most of us would probably guess genetics would be the most significant factor. That’s correct. But the study also found genetics is only a 25-30% factor, much less than previously thought. The good news is, if we are somewhat lucky (i.e., don’t get clobbered by a bus or suffer some other accidental disaster) can control our environment and live an appropriate lifestyle, our chances of living to be 100 aren’t that bad.

In their recently published book, The Longevity Project, authors Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, determined six personality traits of people who live to be 100. They are:

Conscientiousness

A conscientious person is someone who tends to all matters including their own personal health.

Healthy Habits

Simply put, the research tells us there are very few smokers who live to be 100, and no obese people.

Working Long and Hard

Mental stimulation is the key. Even stressful work provides the mental stimulation found in those who live to be 100. Remember our Frenchman friend Robert Marchand? He worked until he was 89.

Active Life

As my wife Trisha and I pointed out in our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life, it’s not as much aging as it is inactivity that causes a person to lose strength and stamina. In addition, there are now numerous studies that indicate maintaining muscle strength plays a role in staving off cognitive decline and possibly Alzheimer’s.

Stong Social Network

In their book, Friedman and Martin conclude a strong social network is the “strongest predictor of long life,” and the New England study describes this predictor as “extraversion,” calling it the key trait.

Good Health

While this is an obvious predictor of a long life, the New England study found a high percentage of people who have already lived to be 100 had encountered a serious health problem at some point in their lives. These “survivors” were able to overcome their health problem and live on to their ripe old age.

My reading and research on this subject concures with all of the above. I would, however, make a couple of additions or distinctions. A positive attitude, probably an aspect of every one of the previously stated factors cannot be denied as having a strong influence on longevity. The other longevity factor that more and more research has discovered is adequate sleep. Both stroke and heart disease have recently been correlated to inadequate sleep.

As I look over all of these factors and traits, I can’t help but think of my wife Trisha. She personifies almost everyone of them. She doesn’t drink, smoke, is incredibly concientious, hard-working, has healthy habits, and is so active one would get dizzy following her on a daily basis. She is also extraordinarily extraverted and sleeps very soundly. She is 63, but I’m not sure anyone would ever guess her that old. I’d better start working out more because she is probably going to be around for a very long time. I hope so.

 

Until next time . . . . . . .

TheBestofOurLives.com

 

Advertisements

“there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh . . .”

This is my favorite painting. If you don’t share my faith, no problem. One’s faith is a personal decision and I respect everyone’s beliefs (unless you go around blowing people up). The point is, it makes me smile and that in turn makes me feel good. I’m aware some people contend we should only spend our lives doing solemn works and in quiet reflection. Good for you. I personally take that “a time to laugh” verse just as seriously.

Several things put me in a reflective mood about humor and laughter this week. One of the things was when my shy and soft-spoken mother walked in and sat down in a room filled with many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She seemed to be musing about something so I asked her what she was thinking. She said, “You know, so many of my friends and family are already in heaven, I’ll bet they think I didn’t make it.” It was a very serious and sweet comment. And very, very funny.

I also have a wonderful cadre of friends who send me humorous email forwards. Truth is I’m not big on sending forwards to folks, but my friends are very selective and the stuff they send is most often hilarious. Much of it this last week was laugh out loud funny. I really enjoyed their selections.

Additionally, this week my wife Trisha and I were invited to speak at a luncheon about retired-life issues. I spent much of my time discussing the wellness benefits of humor. Preparing for our presentation forced me to brush up on my humor research. Once again, I found the information very valuable. Here are some of the wellness benefits of humor I shared with our audience.

Humor:

– relaxes muscles

– reduces harmful stress hormones

– lowers blood pressure

– lowers serum cortisol levels

– speeds oxygen to the blood

– increases blood circulation

– triggers release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers)

– helps in weight reduction

– boosts the immune system

– provides a feeling of overall well-being 

I guess the axiom “laughter is the best medicine” really is  true. The fact is, we live in a very complex, demanding, and potentially stressful world. As we grow older, maintaining a positive attitude and managing our stress becomes very important for maintaining our mental and physical health. Looking for the humor in our lives at a time when we face very real and serious wellness issues will help to maintain an important balance.

Don’t worry, be happy.

Stay healthy, keep on laughing.

Best, John         www.TheBestofOurLives.com

WOW! What a crazy wonderful week.

In the past I’ve written a lot about the power of a positive attitude and the many benefits it can have on our lives. Especially as seniors. It really worked for us this week.

 

As I mentioned in my last blog, my father passed away one year ago. An anniversary of this type can be very depressing and downright difficult while marking the passing of a loved one. We decided we would remember Dad, but in his honor, would also try to have fun. First, we invited some of my wife’s family, her aunt Pat and Uncle Noel, to visit for the week. We had a great time showing them our part of the country and even had a great night out with them and good friends.

 

Then, as the week progressed, several family members who were planning to gather at our home over the weekend began to report very strange and amusing happenings. Typical day-to-day problems or issues  were being miraculously and quickly resolved. In my case, I was trimming a large palm tree high over head. At one point my cutting blade got loose and when I checked it, the nut was missing from the main bolt holding it together. It was a very hot day and I searched high and low for that nut. Finally, I gave up and looked in my garage for a nut that might fit. Finding one, I tried to screw it on the bolt but it became obvious it wouldn’t fit. After several minutes sweating in the hot sun trying to make it work, I looked up to the heavens. As I did, the nut slipped from my hand, bounced on the pavement, rolled all around my driveway, and came to rest – – – right next to the original nut. I looked up and said, “Thanks Dad.” With several of these occurences, our family began to laugh and suggest Dad was orchestrating a celebratory week of remembrance.

 

I know what you are probably saying right now, but hold on. As I walked into the house mid-week, my phone was ringing. It was a man claiming to be a news producer for CBS in Los Angeles. He was putting a segment together about the Los Angeles Dodgers and had come across the story of my father throwing out the ceremonial first pitch almost two years ago. He asked if he could interview me about my father and his being a Dodger fan given the problems the Dodger ownership have been having. I agreed, and after speaking with him, he suggested my wife Trisha and I come to Los Angeles and attend the Sunday Dodger game. He said he would conduct an interview and have his camerman with him. We thought, what a great way to remember Dad and agreed to do it. We also called 5-year-old grandson Jack who lives outside L. A. and invited him to go with us. 

 

Understand, at the time we agreed, Trisha’s aunt and uncle needed to be at the San Francisco airport, an hour and a half drive from our home for a late morning flight. We also needed to meet family at the cemetery in the early afternoon that was another hour and a half from our home. Did I mention I needed to take my mother for lab work at the hospital and be there by 7:30 in the morning before the day even began.

 

It gets better. We then hosted a family dinner for thirteen people at our home and twelve of them spent the night. One of our sons, part of the “planning committee” had forgotten to mention that little detail. Oh well, we all had a great time and enjoyed every minute. It did mean breakfast for twelve in the morning and everyone pitched in. I was in charge of pancakes. After cleanup and swimming, it was now time for lunch. My wife smiled through it all, and it was great fun.

 

We then had to think about getting to L. A., so we called friends who live about half way and invited ourselves for the night. They not only welcomed us but prepared an incredible dinner and dessert. A super night with friends. Back on the road at 7:00 a. m., picked up Jack at Sunday school, and headed for Dodger stadium. Once there we met the producer, a very nice young man, and gave him an on-camera interview. The game was great, and we got to visit our son Michael who works for Fox Sports Net who was working the game.

 

By the time we got Jack home and fought the construction zones on Hwy 5, we got back just before midnight. What a week. But we remembered Dad in a style of family, friends, and fun he would have loved.

 

I should mention, we were shocked to learn it was not a local CBS story. The young man turned out to be a producer for the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley. Dad’s story may be on as early as tonight, June 27. Crazy.

 

Keep it positive.

 

 

                                    

                                 www.TheBestofOurLives.com

                                                                        

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving Holiday, it’s a natural time of reflection. Therefore, I pose the question:  “Are you really happy?”

I can hear a predictable response loud and clear: “What do you mean by happy?” Fair enough, let’s give this a try. Here are ten questions I’ve come up with that, if answered honestly, should give you a fairly complete assessment of your happiness:  

1. Do you have enough love in your life?  Do you have a relationship or relationships  in your life that provide you with a sense of caring and support? Do you have friends and neighbors that you can count on? Do you have social groups that provide you with a sense of belonging?

2. Do you maintain your mental and physical health and fitness? Do you care enough about yourself to eat properly and excise routinely? Do you schedule regular screening exams and follow your doctor’s advice?

3. Do you control the stress in your life? Do you understand where your stress comes from and take appropriate measures to control and reduce it? Have you created a stress-free living environment?

4. Have you secured your financial situation by living within your means? Do you have an overall financial plan? Do you have a budget and live within it?

5. Do you regularly help others? Do you give of yourself through time, money, or effort to better the lives of fellow human beings? 

6. Do you live up to the goals, values, and standards you have set for yourself? Do you live a life of honesty, spirituality, and pursue those things in life which are truly worthwhile?

7. Do you express yourself creatively? Do you strive to learn new things, expand and express yourself?  

8. Do you like yourself? Are you satisfied with the person you have become? What changes would you make?

9. Do you have enough humor in your life? Is it possible you take yourself and others too seriously? Do you seek out humor in your everyday activities and entertainment?

10. Are you having fun with your life? Has life simply become a chore or do you take the time for those activities you truly enjoy? 

That’s my list of questions. Perhaps you have your own questions and/or methods for determining personal happiness. Is there any real value in periodically making such an assessment? And what is so important about happiness anyway? Is that what life is really all about? 

One of my favorite class exercises as a university professor was to have my students take note of facial expressions of people they encountered in everyday settings. Based on their observations, I asked them to offer opinions as to each person’s happiness. It was an interesting way to begin a discussion on the concept of happiness, which in turn led to a discussion of values, goals, humanity, stress, etc. It was always an interesting and  valuable discussion. I hope this exercise was beneficial for you.

By the way, don’t miss my wife Trisha’s new blog: 

                                                                       

                      Thanksgiving Side Dishes « Trisha’s Dishes

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Announcement

On our website, www.TheBestofOurLives.com, there is a page called Trisha’s Dishes. This is a page where my wife Trisha offered her favorite recipies. The problem has been that Trisha had to go through our publisher every time she wanted to include a new recipe. Well, good news. Trisha now has her own site where she will be providing her favorite recipies and a forum for others to share their favorites on a weekly basis.

Do yourself and your taste buds a favor and visit her new site.

Simply go to our homepage www.TheBestofOurLives.com and click on Trisha’s Dishes or click on the link below.

               

My Family’s Favorite Dessert « Trisha’s Dishes

Seniors and a Stree-free Environment 

After coming off a long travel adventure, it has taken a while to get unpacked, organized, and acclimated to our own home. As we were going through this process, I came across an online article that provided suggestions for creating a healthy and happy home. It reminded me of something my wife Trisha and I have been working on since we retired. In our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life, we referred to it as creating a stress-free environment. Reducing stress is key to maintaining both mental and physical health, especially as we get older.

Have you ever visited someone who has been retired for many years and noticed their living environment had not changed in years? That in itself may not be a bad thing, but the fact is as we get older we need to pay attention to our environment and make sure we create one that is stree-free, promotes good health, and meets our need for safety.

Here are a few suggestions for creating a stress-free and healthy environment:

1. Reduce clutter – This is my personal favorite because I’m claustrophobic and clutter makes me very stressed. Clutter also increases your chances of tripping and falling (see my last blog). Now University of Chicago researchers have found that living with clutter actually makes you more tired and that fatigue creates a hormone called cortisol within your body that can cause you to eat from 200 to 1,000 more calories per day. I was just going to use the “big bones” excuse.

2. Keep it light – Scientests have shown that keeping your home environment filled with natural light is good for both your mental and physical fitness. There are some studies that now contend an abundance of natural light in our environment can even help prevent disease. I’m always intriqued when I walk into a person’s home that has closed blinds or heavy window covers that prevent light. I’m sure it has something to do with privacy, but keeping our living environment filled with natural light is very important.

3. Keep it simple and spacious – This doesn’t mean you have to have a large home, it simply means don’t over fill your living space with furniture, plants, etc. When my wife and I bought our first home (sometime back in the last century), I could not wait to get one of those big sectional couches. Well, I got my wish. Of course, even the kids had a hard time walking around in our living room. As my old baseball coach used to say, “You have to learn from losing.” Allow yourself plenty of space and wide walking paths.

4. Keep it personal and upbeat – Have you ever watched one of those television shows where exerts come into someone’s home and help them redecorate (o.k. guys, now you know I do watch some of those shows)? They will often look at the paint color or some art object and ask why it’s there. The person typically responds, “It’s been there since we moved in.” Yikes! How much does two gallons of paint cost. Why are you hanging on to grandma’s old quilt hanging on the wall? If you are retired, it’s definitely time to make your living environment your own. Look through some magazines, watch some of the decorating shows, and create the kind of living space would make you happy.

5. Enjoy your space – Once you have created the perfect space for your retired life, make sure you enjoy it. My wife Trisha and I have added a mid-afternoon break to our schedules. When we are home, around 4:00 or so, we stop what we’re doing and sit down for some hot or iced tea, sometimes a snack, and just relax. Sounds very English doesn’t it. It just seemed that around that time we are usually still going strong on various projects and a nice peaceful break would be beneficial for us. Our stress-free environment is the perfect location.

See you next time and don’t forget to share this site with your friends and family.

 

Great place for adults, kids and grandkids!

For anyone living near Napa, California, here is a unique and wonderful place to take your kids and grandkids, and have a ball yourself. It’s PB & J’s located at 849 Jackson in Napa. There are inflatable slides, bounce houses, birthday party facilities, and much more for kids. For the older kids and adults, there are batting cages and golf practice facilities. In addition, there are a number of professional instructors available for those who take their games seriously.

That’s PB & J’s                                                                                                                                              

         

                   At the recent celebration to honor my father’s life, the most frequent comment heard was about his positive attitude and positive approach to life. He was not a person given to anger, but rather someone who sought to find the best in himself and others. Humor was his cure all.

          I’m very lucky to have had him as my father, and I’m also fortunate that my wife Trisha  has this same quality. Her every minute is spent with an energetic and positive approach to life. At first meeting, I’m sure some may think it is some sort of faux personality. It’s not.

          I’ve written before about a positive attitude and it’s many benefits on one’s life. From a longevity standpoint, barring some unforeseen health crisis, we now know having a positive attitude toward our retired lives can add nearly 8 years to our life. This week, having spent a lot of time in reflection, I have been reviewing some of my favorite quotes about attitude. Here is one I want to share with you. If you’ve seen it before, another reading may still be inspiring. It was for me.

Attitudes

by Charles R. Swindoll

     Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.

     I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.

Or as the great philosopher Jimmy Buffet put it:

   It’s those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes     Nothing remains quite the same 

   With all of our running and all of our cunning, if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane

Life is indeed difficult. A periodic assessment of one’s attitude may be quite beneficial.

Media Alerts

Meet the “Batting Stance Kid.”

Grandson Jack Reed Parker was recently featured on both the Dodger pregame show and the Jr. Dodgers program for his ability to imitate Major League baseball player’s batting stances and swings. Not bad for a four-year-old. 

Way to go Jack.

Follow the link and then click on “Meet the batting stance guy.”

Jr. Dodgers Show | Jr. Dodger Broadcasters interview Andre Ethier – Video | do

 

       On a travel note, Trisha and I have been invited to Kennebunkport, Maine for a number of book signings this week. Should be a lot of fun and we look forward to the beautiful locale and meeting lots of new people.

Bye for now.

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

I remember the great first line of one of my favorite books by M. Scott Peck, M.D., The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.”  If you haven’t had the good fortune to read Dr. Peck’s philisophical masterpiece, his basic premise is that in our culture we are taught life should always be perfect and wonderful, leaving us vulnerable and unprepared to deal with the harsh realities. While my wife Trisha and I  try our best to maintain positive attitudes, our recent struggles dealing with my father’s health crisis have brought us face-to-face with some very difficult issues and tested every aspect of our mental, emotional, and physical strength.

The good news is virtually every time over the last few weeks we began to feel completely overwhelmed, a family member or friend would stop by, offer encouragement over the phone, or send us a supportive email or card. While not every one of our family members or friends are seniors, they certainly have been providing us with our own personal “Senior Support System.” After each phone call or other message, we have taken a deep breath and smiled at the wonderful sense of not being alone during this difficult time. It has been very reassuring and reminded us of a very simple concept: we all have the capacity to provide support and encouragement for our fellow human beings. What better gift can we share with one another?

For some this may seem a bit cliche and melodramatic, but from this side of the support coin, nothing could be more true and valuable. Thank you to those who have been so supportive (you know who you are). Both Trisha and I aspire to be as thoughtful and play a part in providing others with their “Senior Support System” when those times present themselves.

Life can be difficult indeed, but each of us can help make those times bearable.

John Parker

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Next Page »