How will you LIVE today?

Sunrise

Not everyone gets the chance to wake up to a new day. When I open my eyes at sunrise and realize I am able to put two feet on the floor, the first thing I do is to give thanks. The second is to ask myself how to make the gift of this precious new day count.

Sometimes we get so involved with the practical tasks of daily living that eventually (and often not until it is too late), we realize that our life has been swept away by triviality. Sure, we set short-term daily living goals all the time (grocery shopping, dropping off at the dry cleaners, etc) but rarely do we formulate overall goals that come together as a coherent life plan fueled by purpose and meaning.  A life without a blueprint driven by your values, passions, and talents, is a life poorly lived. It is life that neither gives back nor measures up to your potential capability.

Often when we encounter a roadblock on the way to attaining our objectives, we retreat into frustration instead of letting those challenges strengthen our determination.  Our vision fades away as we get swallowed back up into the hectic sea of details that our daily existence has evolved into.  But the problem is, living a life without a sense of direction ensures that the time of your life will be over before it registers that you never quite got to fulfill your dreams, passions, and talents. Then it will be too late. We all have what it takes to do great things and use our lives to better humanity.  Perfunctory living-that is living superficially–robs us blindly of that chance.

The other antithesis of a quality life is recursive living, for example setting the same goals over and over again without ever doing what it takes to follow through to obtain them.  How many times have you heard stories from people who year after year moan about wanting to lose weight, write a book, or volunteer for a cause they are passionate about, yet never quite realize any of those dreams. You might be someone who knows that your relationships need an overhaul, and yet you keep spending time with the same negative people who make you feel lousy.  Maybe you worry about credit card debt, yet refuse to relinquish the spending habits that got you there in the first place.  Frustration is an uncomfortable feeling, so the typical remedy is to avoid what makes us feel bad. We distract ourselves, so as not to be continually reminded of our failed attempts—or NON-attempts– to reach our goals and become all that we know that we should become. What a waste of valuable time and energy!

The reality is, your life and mine, are far too brief to waste even one day falling short of being all that we could be—vibrant, happy, productive beings. In lieu of distracting ourselves after stumbling, what about a pause for self-reflection, an examination of our failures, and a regrouping of our energies that will propel us to success?  Of course this requires that we plough forward through our pain of the past and our fear of the future. It requires that we put an end to aimless living. It requires that we reflect, come up with a life plan, and then TAKE ACTION, upon the dawning of each new day.

The life of Leonardo da Vinci is the ultimate prototype for what a human being is capable of achieving when every bit of our potential is developed and put to good use. What you may not know, however, is that Leonardo was also a very deep thinker, who amidst the thousands of pages of notes he took daily, also devoted a small section to his philosophy on how to live.

It was evident that he had an insatiable hunger for knowledge and turning that knowledge into productivity consumed his every thought and action. So much so that his influence is unparalleled centuries later, in science, art, architecture, engineering, machinery, aviation, philosophy, medicine, anatomy and more. Leonardo was out there using his energy to make his life matter. Purpose –driven action is the only way to achieve one’s goals and be successful. Of course we have to tend to the mundane activities of living too, but Leonardo refused to give la quotidianita’, the power to distract him from his higher vision.

“Leonardo da Vinci”, wrote Sigmund Freud, “ was like a man who awoke too early in the darkness, while the others were all still asleep.”

We all need to stop sleepwalking through our time here on earth, and make our lives become an example that inspires others.

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply.

Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

                                     Leonardo da Vinci

What action will YOU take today to keep on track with your life’s purpose? I invite you to comment below and tell me about your journey. Or drop me a line: RaeleenMautner@gmail.com.

 

Article copyright© Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D. 2016

To Women Over 50: Yes, Your Appearance Counts

 

WOMAN IMAGE

 

Years ago, I conducted a cross-cultural research survey on Body Image Disturbance. One of the instruments I used, the Figure Rating Scale (FRS) (Stunkard, 1983) is meant to measure the gap between how we see our bodies, and how we would ideally like to see them. This gap of dissatisfaction was clearly greater among American versus Italian women. The reasons (at least to me) were obvious. First, there is a strong positive correlation between a woman’s weight and how much she likes the way she looks. The more overweight we are, the less good we feel about our appearance. In my samples, Italian women had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than did American women.They were thinner.

Second (and this is just my own observation), American women seem to have a more androgynous (rather than feminine) appearance. In Italy, sensuality is celebrated, and women are still considered sexy and vibrant well into their over-50 years in the bel paese.  They dress appropriately but not as if they stepped out of a stifling portrait from Victorian England.

Take TV host/actress Mara Venier. She is in her early 60’s and breathtaking.  Or Sophia Loren, in her 80s and still looking glamorous.  Both agree that staying beautiful requires putting in some daily effort to take care of oneself, maintaining a great appearance,  not let oneself go, and staying interesting and curious. Neither of these women believe in going overboard or doing too much in terms of makeup or beauty routines. They do, however do SOMETHING. And they do it every day. Sophia, in her book “Women and Beauty” outlines her simple calisthenics and stretching exercise routine.  Mara once told an interviewer that when she notices she needs to lose a few pounds, will cut portions, some of the carbs, and up the visual presentation of her meals to make up for it.

Doing SOMETHING rather than NOTHING makes us feel better about ourselves. Which is why Body Image is important.  When we feel more confident, we interact differently, and others react to us differently.  More positively.

Unfortunately, research indicates  that Body Image Disturbance may still be as strong among older women as it is, among their younger counterparts. There is no magical fountain of youth, and no potion or procedure that is better than  good self-care, when it comes to liking what you look like, at any age.

Eating healthy foods, staying active, and keeping our minds stimulated by learning something new every day–can change the way women over 50  feel about themselves–and at the same time will gradually also change the way they look. It is a win-win.

Please comment below and tell me what you will do THIS WEEK to take better care of your appearance. Think about the clothes you will choose to wear, the foods you will cook for yourself to eat, the exercise you will commit to, the cultural activities you attend, the books you will read.

Stay tuned for upcoming  tips on your over-50 body image makeover. Let me know what body image issues concern YOU and what you would like to read about.

Till next time…

 

 

Ancient Roman Wisdom for How to Cast Your Vote

 

North_Façade_White_House.jpg

Roman Emperor Marco Aurelio wrote: “Make for thyself a definition or description of the thing which is presented to thee, so as to see distinctly what kind of a thing it is in its substance, in its nudity, in its complete entirety…for nothing is so productive of elevation of mind as to be able to examine methodically and truly every object…”

If you are like me, you have probably been riveted by the drama and sensationalism of the 2016 presidential-hopeful campaigns. All of the arguing and mud-slinging, however, have taken us far away from the dignity and ethical leadership that should define the office of President of the United States of America. With the exception of one or two of the remaining candidates who refuse to get distracted from what they are really there for, it seems like we are watching to see who the strongest bully in the playground is going to be. But should the Oval Office really be the set for a Jerry Springer Show episode?

We should all, of course, vote for the candidate we truly believe will make the best President. To do that, our compass should not be exclusively from media images (although behavioral observation can be very telling), but should above all come from the most objective analysis of each candidate that we can muster. We need to reflect, verbalize what we are learning about each one’s policies, and see each one of the presidential hopefuls for what their personal histories –not just their promises—-have truly represented.

Voting is a true privilege and one not to be taken lightly. Being informed requires taking the time to examine each potential candidate’s policies on the things that matter to us dearly. Where does he or she stand on the US Constitution? The Second Amendment? National Debt? National Security? Social Security? Etc. This is how we bypass the hype, “elevate our minds”, and make our vote truly count.

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Copyright 2016 .Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D. is host and producer of The Italian Art of Living Well (www.wnhu.net, 7AM EST Mondays) and author of Living la Dolce Vita and Lemons into Limoncello

A Valentine’s Message for Those Who Grieve

Scalia

Each year in the weeks and days preceding Valentine’s Day, media fills us with images of couples holding hands, chocolate hearts, and advertisements for romantic getaways. If you fit the description of someone who is interested in Valentine’s Day commercialism, this article is not for you. Rather, I direct this special message to the majority of you who—whether partnered or not—may have recently experienced loss. I expand the boundaries of the typical definition of loss. Life as you know, is full of all types of loss (and wins too, we must remember); that is the nature of human existence. Whether you have lost a family member, a job, a home, a friendship, a pet or even feeling the loss of a public figure that represented something important for your life (e.g. the recent passing of Justice Antonin Scalia)—your heart is probably feeling heavy right now. That is perfectly normal (baring a longer lasting depression, for which you would do best to find some professional support). Also normal, however, is the wherewithal to put your heart back together and let the wound heal in a way that makes you stronger, more thoughtful, and more appreciative of life’s beauty than ever before.

In my book “Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy”(HCI Books) one of my suggestions to counteract loss of any kind is to find ways to put more beauty into your life—TODAY. Actually Valentine’s Day is a perfect day to adorn your surroundings with that which makes you smile and affirms the joy in your life. Dr. Piero Ferrucci’s research on beauty (Beauty and the Soul) found that beauty heals both body and mind. Beauty of course, is specific to the individual. A beautiful Italian aria, a simmering sauce that brings back the warmth of your grandmother, a vase of colorful flowers to contrast the gray of winter outside. Or take a ride to a little family-run artisan shop and purchase something within your budget that you can bring home to lighten your heart whenever your eyes land on it. Rent some funny videos and invite a couple of friends over to watch them with you and chat about afterwards. Remember that you can even find beauty in the aftermath of tragedy.

Tomorrow on my radio show, THE ITALIAN ART OF LIVING WELL, along with my guest Italian American leader and activist Andre’ DiMino, we will remember the life of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, first Italian American to serve on the Court. Many Italian Americans (as well as others) are feeling the loss of this extraordinary human being. In preparation for our discussion, not only about his life, but also about what his passing means for the Italian American Community, I watched several interviews where reporters put Scalia on the “hot seat” with their quasi-accusatory questioning. The Justice never lost his cool, and he never glossed over the questions, or threatened to walk out, or even reacted defensively. He was a brilliant man with a mission to uphold the Constitution of the United States, regardless of his personal beliefs, and regardless of others’ criticisms. He showed strength, intelligence, compassion, focus, and a true respect for others no matter what their position.

Despite the tragic loss felt by the Italian American community, the beauty emerges in reflecting on Justice Scalia’s extraordinary qualities and his passion for making a difference. We can all make a difference and be the inspiration for others. This is the way we create meaning in our lives, as a public figure or a private person. Knowing what we stand for and using our resources to make a positive impact, is far more beautiful than any chocolate heart or roses that wilt in three days.

Please tune in or stream in tomorrow morning (2/15/2016) to my very special tribute to Justice Antonin Scalia on The Italian Art of Living Well 7AM EST www.wnhu.net

Buon San Valentino to all of my loyal readers .

 

 

Seduzione, as the Antidote to “Love at First Sight”

Time, Courtship and the Art of Seduction: Using your head–and not just your heart when it comes to AMORE

The Italian Art of Living Well

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.org Photo courtesy Wikipedia.org

Yes, there is such a thing as un colpo di fulmine (love at first sight) and in rare cases, the smitten duo turn out to be all they claim to be as time marches on. Those are the success stories, albeit rare. More often a better description is chemistry at first sight, which is something that clouds our judgement. Don’t get me wrong, relationships can’t go beyond platonic if chemistry is lacking; however, there also needs to be the kind of substance and harmony that only comes with the time it takes for each person to reveal (through word and deed) who they really are.

Enter the art of seduction, the master model of which was Giacomo Casanova. While Casanova did teach us few positive strategies regarding winning another’s affection, his was mostly a negative model, because of his “usa e getta”, disposable approach to wooing lovers. …

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In Defense of a Monthly Festa (for Mental Health!)

Super Bowl

Writing bills isn’t the only thing you should be doing on a monthly basis. When my kids were small, I occasionally let them take a “mental health” day off from school. It was an occasion to spend some unexpected time hanging out together having fun, even having a picnic on the living room floor if the weather was bad. I would guess that in each of our memory banks we look back on those unexpected celebrations as important treasures that balanced our otherwise routine lives with the fun and laughter we needed to replenish and be even more productive than we were before.

But have you kept up those regular “mental health feste” in your adult years? They may just do you a world of good, by lightening your mood, revitalizing your energy, and strengthening your social life. Need I say more?

Well today, I have been cooking all morning in preparation of America’s big night tonight—Super Bowl Sunday. Of course I sing along to my favorite arias while creating mini-calzioni; broccolini e salsiccia; chili con carne and more—all with my typical Italian take on whatever holiday gives me reason to invite a few good people over to celebrate. Yes, it is important to fare festa, to dot our lives with celebration, especially if you are prone to:

  • Working non-stop
  • Leading a solitary lifestyle
  • Having a serious personality
  • Gravitating mostly toward intellectual pursuits.

Italy celebrates life full throttle; from the simplest joy of an onomastico (unfortunately, there is no “Saint Raeleen Day”, but that just gives me something to strive for J )—-to the grand occasions in a person’s life that bring a new level of personal growth.

Festeggiare. Throw an impromptu party. And do it regularly. The brevity of life begs us not to wait. I admit I don’t (yet) know what teams are playing; to boot I know next to nothing about football. But I do know how to intuit when it’s time to break out of the box and have some fun, especially when I have been absorbed in a long stretch of work on a project that makes me forget how much time has really passed.

So today—throw a festa.

If you can’t come up with an official occasion, INVENT ONE. You are the sole author of the life you wish to live. Live it happy and decorate it with busts of care-free fun.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, e buona festa!

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Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D. is author of “Living la Dolce Vita” (Sourcebooks) and “Lemons into Limoncello” (HCI Books). She is a columnist for The Italian Tribune, and Host of The Italian Art of Living Well radio show, heard Mondays @ 7AM EST live stream http://www.wnhu.net .  You may write to her at raeleenmautner@gmail.com