The Dolce Vita Lifestyle

Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D.

When I was student at a university in Perugia, I took a brief stroll one day between classes and got lost in the enchantment of the extraordinarily creative window displays of the mom-and-pop shops that were dotted along the central piazza. I remember being mesmerized by the freshly glazed fruit tarts behind the glass at the Pasticceria, when out from the accessories shop next store comes a merchant motioning me into his store with his hand. 

 I was at the time dressed like any other college student– denim jeans, a plain white tee-shirt and platform sandals that made every step atop cobblestone roads an adventure in survival. My hair was long, parted in the middle and uneventful, probably like the rest of my appearance. 

The shopkeeper’s wife greeted me as if I were a cousin she hadn’t seen in years, then came gliding toward me with a red silk hat in her hand. “Provi, Signorina”, she said, placing it on my head before I could explain this was definitely not going to go with my normal “style”.   She positioned the turban-like headgear on me, adjusting the bow to face the nape of my neck, and then tweaked the direction of my hair a bit so that it seemed to cascade from under the turban and flow like a waterfall over my shoulders.

Che bellezza!  Guardi, Signorina”, the shopkeeper’s wife said, directing me to look in the mirror.

My first thought was that this couple’s sales technique was definitely original. My second thought was that the only women I had ever known to wear hats were my mother and grandmother, and that I wasn’t really that “hat type”.

Looking in the mirror I felt ridiculous, but I had to admit the hat itself was pretty nice. It was a lipstick red, made of beautiful silk, and sat about 6 inches high from the top of my head.

Grazie, ma non e’ per me,  I said to the owners who were expecting me to say “I’ll take it”. But as I began to remove the hat, the Signora put her hand up, in a gesture for me to leave it there, while her husband began punching keys at cash register and telling me I looked so beautiful in it that I was to get a deep discount on the red hat.

What could I say? They insisted I leave the hat on my head, so they could admire me as I left the store and walked back out into the main piazza, where I noted I was drawing stares from passersby, making the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes come to mind.  I felt like the target of jest and ridicule.  I looked back to see the shop owners waving and clasping their hands proudly to their chest, like a mamma and papa bird nudging their young from the nest to fly for the first time.

So I kept walking, with the intention of pulling off that hat as soon as I could turn the corner and disappear from their line of vision.  But then I caught a glimpse of my reflection in another store window. Not so bad.  People began giving me compliments and greeting me with a smile. Maybe they weren’t laughing? I straightened my shoulders, held my head a little higher and began to think I could conquer the world.

What was going on? In hindsight, I doubt it was the hat at all that boosted my confidence and made me feel more attractive.  It was more likely due to the “red effect”, which is a real thing according to research findings of how both men and women are perceived as more attractive by others, when they are either wearing something red or even when photographs of individuals are framed in red. Moreover, one intriguing study showed that not only are other people’s perception of our physical attractiveness increased when we wear red, but we ourselves, when wearing Cupid’s favorite color, feel more attractive and more confident. Who would have thought? It’s not such a far-fetched idea. We know from the psychology research that one’s appearance affects how others see and relate to us. That positive feedback often influences our own self-perception, and so it goes.

As the holidays draw near, at the end of a long and challenging 2021, you have a perfect excuse to pull out the red dress or shirt from your closet, the red sneakers or shoes from the shoe rack, or the ruby red lipstick from your makeup drawer—and if you are really daring, you might want to order yourself a beautiful red hat and watch the magic happen.

Reference:

Berthold, A.; Reese, G., & Martin, J.(2017) The effect of red color on perceived self-attractiveness. European Journal of Social Psychology 47 (20) 645–65.

©Raeleen Mautner Ph.D., LLC

Because COVID has led to spending more time at home, many of us are eliminating the clutter in our surroundings.  A messy environment creates a chaotic mindset. Just walking into a kitchen that has dishes piled up in the sink or trying to relax in a living room that is littered with pet toys or coats thrown the couch—creates a quagmire of distraction that keeps you from enjoying your leisure time or focusing on a project you really want to work on.  

While a pile-up of “things” crowds you out of your own physical space and causes you to lose sight of what is important to you, the same applies to relationships that don’t serve your highest self and cause you to waste the most precious commodity you have in this life—the gift of time. We can’t bank it, invest it, or add to it.  The time we have is the time we have. How we spend this precious currency should be driven by intention and reflection.

The Stoic Philosopher Seneca, believed it was important to contemplate who you wish to donate the time of your life to, instead of just giving it way thoughtlessly. 

Do you really want to be with people who aren’t truly happy for you in good times nor offer their shoulder to cry on in bad? Why waste your time worrying about people (including family members) who reject you or relegate you to their “holiday-only” phone call list?  Do you feel good or not so good when you spend futile hours on a one-way relationship; one which is not reciprocated in a balanced way that encourages both of you to grow into the best versions of yourselves? Have you ever spent half a day on the phone listening to someone who not once during the lengthy conversation asks how you are doing? Consider if it is time to let go of those who disrespect you, or relegate you to the periphery of their life until they need you for something, or those who criticize you in a judgmental (non-constructive) way.

Only you can make a conscious decision as to who gets the privilege of benefiting from your beautiful spirit, your generosity of heart, your empathy, your caring listening skills, and your willingness to be there and help at a moment’s notice though crises. In other words, only you can decide who gets the gift of your time.

Choose wisely, and thoughtfully, and you will have more time available to nurture the healthier kinds of relationships which are based on mutual caring, respect, and affectionate reciprocity. 

©Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D., LLC

I am unabashedly proud of my Italian roots, and of my maternal and paternal grandparents who endured endless days and tortuous nights crowded into a ship’s steerage unit, packed in elbow to elbow alongside those who were sick and vomiting, and with the stench of dysentery permeating the airless compartment. There were no beds, no bed linens, no gourmet meals.  With barely a few lire in their tattered pockets they courageously sailed to an unknown land, where they hoped to find work, and be able to help those they left behind in the devastation of poverty-stricken southern Italy. They also hoped to raise the next generation to have an easier life, a less austere life—and a secure life. 

The Italians who were lucky enough to overcome the hurdles at Ellis Island, and not be sent home because of a physical limitation as minor as a limp, or a cognitive lack of understanding of a random “IQ” test only to be deported as being “feeble-minded”—were determined to work hard, for very little pay, at whatever work they were assigned. They did so without complaint, no matter how fatigued and tired their bodies were from long hours of physical labor. No matter how discouraged their hearts were from the jeers of those who came here before them.  They were often referred to as dirty “dagoes” who weren’t quite black yet weren’t quite white, so a curious suspicion surrounded them to the point where oftentimes when a crime was committed, Italians were the first ones accused, regardless of whether they were innocent or guilty. This happened in March of 1891 when 11 Sicilians in New Orleans were lynched by an angry vigilante mob, led by local “respected” politicians, even after the courts had acquitted them of the murder of police chief Hennessy. Anti-Italianism ran rampant through the country. Even Theodore Roosevelt (who was later to become president) wrote that the lynching of Italians was a “rather good thing”. After all, Italian immigrants were thought of as born criminals, mafiosi, or dirty beggars.

Negative stereotypes die hard. I have dedicated a good portion of my life combatting these stereotypes and prejudices. I served as Research Director for AIDA (American Italian Defense Association) for whom I launched a national survey to understand how negative Italian stereotypes originated.  I helped to elevate the important contributions of contemporary Italian Americans through the many interviews I conducted on my then-radio show “The Italian Art of Living Well” at WNHU, and also sought to educate through my weekly columns for both America Oggi and then The Italian Tribune.  Two of my self-help books combined my background in psychology, with both the wisdom I gleaned from my Italian grandparents and the discoveries I made through my doctoral cross-cultural research (US-Italy). 

My turn-of-the-century Italian grandparents, like most, came here and worked alongside all ethnicities, believing always that our strength lied in our unity. While most other ethnic groups have risen up strongly and often with a legal team behind them, against bias and prejudice based on heritage, religion, or skin color, the negative Italian stereotypes, put-downs and jokes continue. Because we have been handed a legacy of harmony and avoiding making waves, many just want to let these insults slide—like the defacing and removal of Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day respectively.

My own grandparents, like many Italian immigrants who came during the two big waves at the turn of the century, rarely mentioned Columbus. They didn’t even particularly identify with Christopher Columbus the man. What they did identify with, however, was this United States gesture of finally recognizing them for the hard-working productive laborers, farmers, shop owners, shipyard and train workers that helped to make America better for us all.  

We have all seen protesters lash out, spray paint, or behead statues of Columbus, and point out the negatives of some of his actions so reflective of his time. Native Americans are our national treasures, and it is right to be concerned about their welfare to this day, as history—far outside of Columbus—has treated them unkindly.  So how did Columbus come to represent the achievements of the Italians who came to America?  He didn’t even really discover the America that became the United States of today.

President Benjamin Harris was morally troubled by the New Orleans lynching of 11 Italians, and so in 1892 he decided to make amends with Italy, who had made it known that it was not going to tolerate the horrific treatment of its faraway sons and daughters. So Harris did two things. First, he offered $25,000 to the families of the innocent Italians who were murdered simply because of where they came from; and second, he wanted to create a Presidential Proclamation to honor the contributions that the Italians and Italian Americans made to this country. He had his staff compile a list of prominent Italians throughout history—Galileo, Michelangelo, Vespucci, Columbus, etc.  Ultimately, because the calendar year 1892 marked the 400th anniversary of the Columbus landing (in what we now know was the Bahamas), the decision seemed like a no-brainer. Italy was so pleased by America extending the olive branch (although a formal apology for the tragedy at New Orleans came many decades later), the Italian government decided to donate a statue of Columbus to New York, to be placed at the southwest entrance of Central Park, known as the “circle”.

Yes, it was by chance and coincidence that Cristoforo Colombo came to represent our pride in the Italian American journey. But that statue goes well beyond the man himself.  His journey was a long, arduous voyage into unknown territory, not too unlike the journey of our Italian ancestors. The statues of Columbus represent our eternal bond of affection with the motherland that our forefathers and mothers left behind while also leaving behind their parents, sisters, brothers, and the familiar life they knew. It represents our people’s restored dignity via the government’s recognition of the many contributions that Italians and Italian Americans have made since arriving upon these shores.   

Columbus was unarguably a brilliant navigator, and a courageous leader. Like all of us, he was a product of his times. Like all human beings he had talents and flaws.  I choose to celebrate the more comprehensive picture of what Columbus Day symbolizes, of what the Columbus statues represented to the Italians of my grandparent’s day, and to Italian Americans today. 

As a proud Italian American, I wish all of my readers a Happy Columbus Day.

© Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D. 2021

I’ve heard so many conversations in which individuals complain that in the past year they had hoped to accomplish x, y, and z, but instead fell into a kind of malaise. They marveled at how they didn’t know where the year went, but outside of work hours, the only thing accomplished seemed to be binge-watching several Netflix series or getting lost in a quagmire of YouTube videos, only to find that as the end of each day rolled around they no longer “felt” motivated to relearn an instrument they once used to play, learn that language they had always longed to become fluent in, write the novel that had been locked up in their hearts or follow their long-time dream to start that online business. 

Is there a way to override that “feeling” of not being motivated to follow through with your deepest hopes and dreams?  I’m not talking about the goals you think you “should” accomplish, nor about the tasks that others want you to do. I want to focus for a minute on the true passions that reflect your authentic self. There is much less internal resistance when goals are aligned with your personal values.

YES.  We can absolutely override feelings that keep us locked up in a prison of inertia—and the key to accomplishing the dreams in our hearts— is the WILL. 

Italian psychotherapist and contemporary philosopher Piero Ferrucci, in his book “What We May Be”, recalled a conversation he was having with his mentor Dr. Roberto Assagioli, best known for his work on psychosynthesis. When Ferrucci commented about how we should follow our feelings. Assagioli surprisingly took quite the opposite stance. “Your feelings should follow you,’” Assagioli remarked. 

After reflecting on this, Ferrucci realized that his mentor was indeed correct. Just think about how our feelings can sometimes lead us to wallow in negativity, ruminate over an insult that someone hurled at us, or stay stuck in sadness or bottled-up anger. To break free of the negative feelings-rut, we can have the potential to “will” ourselves to intentionally shift our attention and take a different course of action. Whether we feel like it or not.

Unfortunately, when most people think of will power, the first thing that comes to mind is a rigid taskmaster that we will never be able to obey in the long run. Think of dieters for example who try to use their “will power” to avoid that bag of Halloween candy they have stored in the pantry. Ehm..I don’t think so.

But instead of thinking of your will as a stern boss that you “must” obey, think of it as an overall guide that can help you to effortlessly move forward towards your personal value-driven goals. Dr. Ferrucci compares the Will to sailing a boat versus rowing a boat. When you row, you are putting in great effort to make the oars take the boat against currents, wind, etc.  In contrast, when you sail, you are simply harnessing the wind and the flow of water, and letting them do most of the work, while you (i.e., the Will) simply adjust the sails, to guide the boat to shore.

So focus on one goal at a time and let your meta-guide, the Will, direct your attention and your action– even when you don’t “feel” like putting the time or effort into it.  The more you use the Will, like any muscle, the stronger it gets and the easier it will be to “sail” to the shore where your dreams are realized. 

Reference for further reading:

Ferrucci, P. (2004)  What We May Be. New York: Penguin.

© Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D. 2021

Who doesn’t love and admire the ageless beauty and super-talented Italian film actress, Sophia Loren? You know, the one who is purported to have said “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” I don’t know about you, but just looking at her photos makes me want to head straight to the pasta aisle at the nearest supermarket!

What most people don’t know about Ms. Loren is something that goes much deeper than her gorgeous exterior. I’m talking about her wisdom, and her positive outlook on life—especially when it comes to aging well. For her, it is not about seeing the world through rose colored glasses, but instead she accepts reality, and rather than dwelling on negativity, stays focused on the positive. 

Below I have summarized for you 5 of Sophia’s philosophical gems from her interviews and writings. I hope they will inspire you as much as they have me.

In a 1984 interview with TV host Merv Griffin, Sophia Loren told him how she felt about turning 50.  “I have never been afraid of age,” she said. “I always tell my age.”

1.Be proud of who you are.

Merv commented: “Italian women are lucky!” Sophia’s replied that instead of being lucky, “Italian women have a winning nature, and I am one of them.”

2.Believe in yourself.

The key to staying young at heart, she believes, is to anticipate the future instead of longing for the past. How to do that? “No matter how old you are, do something you care about.”

3.Spend your time doing what is meaningful to you.

Ms. Loren also felt that bitterness and negative emotions will eventually show up on one’s face. “Bitterness,” she said, “is not in my vocabulary. I believe in kindness, graciousness, and positive things.”

4.Don’t dwell on negativity; focus on the positive.

But the most important thing Sophia learned to finally do at the age of 50 was to learn to say “No”, upon the advice Charlie Chaplin had given her. He told Sophia that when people who don’t know how to say no (as she had a hard time doing), life becomes a disaster. You end up forfeiting your own priorities by putting yourself at the disposal of others. Your life becomes unorganized.as you get pulled in many different directions. When you learn to say “no” you can focus on spending your time on what really matters to you.

5.Learn to say “no” to whatever takes time away from the causes that are important to your life.

What is one of YOUR most important personal philosophies? I would love to hear them if you can take a moment to comment below.

References:

Interview on the Merv Griffin Show, 1984

Loren, S.  (1984)       Women and Beauty. William Morrow & Co.

In his Book of Meditations, the Ancient Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote that the art of living is more like “wrestling” than dancing.  No matter how smoothly and gracefully we glide through certain periods, suddenly something changes and now we must stand ready to wrestle down the unexpected and the unforeseen challenges that pose a threat to our happiness.  It takes resilience, which can be acquired.

We know that the landscape of life is never flat, nor would we appreciate our time on earth as much if it were uneventful. That is why after a trauma or loss, we often come to appreciate the good times even more than before, with an understanding that nothing ever stays the same, neither the lows nor the highs. We are not a still life painting.

Aurelius believed, however, that if we commit to the following three guidelines — we can build resilience and live happier lives.  

  1. Accept the reality of Nature, and neither fear it nor expect it to be what it isn’t.  If you think back to your biggest fears and disappointments, they usually either pertain to the trepidation you feel over uncertain events in the future or regrets over what did or didn’t happen in the past. Remember this: the only moment that is real is the one you are in now.  You don’t know what will happen in the future and you can’t change what is already behind you. Make the most of the situation you are in right now, in this very moment—and let worry and negativity fade away.
  2. Always speak your truthWhen people complain that they don’t feel understood or in general don’t want to share their perspectives so as not to make others dislike them, the issue here is really a lack of confidence in their ability to authentically express themselves without coming across as combative. There are many resources on assertiveness, which is not the same as being argumentative. Assertiveness elicits respect from others, as it shows one has the courage to stand up for their beliefs.
  3. Be satisfied with whatever is your “present activity” or situation. This third point is very much related to the first. It’s about living as much as possible in the very moment you are in now. Become so totally immersed in what you are doing that you enter the sweet rhythm of what researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi “flow”, where you are so involved in your passionate pursuits that you experience the joy of just being alive.

References:

Aurelius, M.  Meditations.

Csikszentmihalyi, M (2002) Flow. Ebury Press

©Raeleen Mautner LLC  2021

The short answer is YES. According to the research, one of the strongest predictors of happiness in older adults—is health.  Just think: by 2050 the world population of adults 60 and over is expected to reach 2 billion; and study after study shows that this is the also the age demographic at increased risk for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and even cancer. While genetic predispositions may play a role, we often neglect the powerful role that our lifestyle plays in staving off disability and premature death.

The three most agreed-upon lifestyle practices that experts say will help to optimize our health include, diet, exercise, and avoid smoking.  Of these three, an optimally nutritious diet has the most impact on good health –specifically a whole food, low fat, sugar-free, oil-free, and salt-free plant-based vegan diet.

Why not Mediterranean? Paleo? Atkins? While it is true that some approaches to healthy eating may be better than sitting around eating junk food all day, they are still not optimal compared to WFPB SOS (whole food plant-based salt-free, oil-free and sugar free). out all animal products, even fish, eggs, and dairy). Check out the work of the leading plant-based medical doctors who have literally and dramatically helped countless people reverse and prevent disease: Caldwell Esselstyn, Joel Fuhrman, John McDougall, and Neal Barnard. While their approaches to nutritional health differ in only a few minor details, they all agree on the basics that promote vibrant health and longevity. If followed faithfully, this way of eating also helps us to shed pounds and reach our optimal weight. 

What to eat?  Unprocessed plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Also avoid packaged foods and added oils (even olive oil should be eaten in its whole natural form—by eating the olive—which has fiber and nutrients that are stripped when the oil is extracted).  If this sounds like a boring way of eating just hop onto YouTube and check out the channels and recipes of Chef AJ, Plantiful Kiki, Jane Esselstyn, Physicians Committee, Joel Fuhrman, Kyong Weathersby, and the Whole Food Plant Based Cooking Show.  There are countless other great cooking channels, too, as a growing body of research confirms the benefits of this lifestyle.

Naturally, if you have special health considerations you should always consult with your primary health provider before you make any kind of change.  Get informed and share what you learn with your doctor. Together you can make lifestyle decisions that can help you to live longer and feel better each day. Here’s to your happiness!

Resources and for further information:

Barnard, Neal   ( 2018  ) The Vegan Starter Kit. Grand Central Publishing

Kahleova, H., Levin, S., & Barnard, Neal D (2020) Plant-Based Diets for Healthy Aging, Journal of American College of Nutrition. 

© Raeleen Mautner LLC 2021

Pictured above is my typical breakfast: Greens, fruit, and oats. Alright, I also walk every day before work, get medical check-ups when called for, floss my teeth 3 times a day and do everything else the experts advise will best preserve my health as I grow older.  I would guess that you too make some effort to feel your best, knowing how precious and fragile good health can be.

Well, here’s a newsflash: We can take all the right “actions” to stay well, but did you know that what we believe to be true about ourselves may be just as important if not more so?

The danger of self-stereotyping:

Let’s face it: If a Martian landed on Earth and relied on TV, film, or print media, to learn about humans, he/she would get the impression that women can’t do math, Republicans are bigoted, Democrats are communist, Italians eat spaghetti and play the mandolin all day, overweight people are jolly, and older adults are senile, useless, out of touch, and incompetent. The list goes on, no matter what societal category you examine.  Research shows that the result of overgeneralizations, especially in the form of negative stereotyping, is not just limited to discrimination towards individual members of that group, but there is also a likelihood that negative stereotypes can also become internalized, and seep into the individual’s own self-concept. This “self-stereotyping” (or believing in others’ stereotypical presumptions about you) can affect your self-esteem, your outlook on life, and even your physical health.

So where do stereotypes come from? How do they start? Most likely they start in childhood, when children are exposed to stereotypical beliefs held by parents, teachers-even peers. They are also probably reinforced by media from childhood to adulthood.

When I served as the Research Director for AIDA (American Italian Defense Association), I conducted a large survey research study to see how Americans formed their concepts about people of Italian heritage. The stereotypes included an image of Italians as cartoonish, over-gesticulating buffoons, mobsters, overweight housewives whose lives center around tomato sauce, males, who of course must be hot Latin Lovers, and the not-so-bright Jersey Shore -like TV portrayals of slicked back hair, gold neck chains and dummied down English. Participants indicated that they ‘learned” these concepts from media (TV, mafia movies, etc.), and just presumed most of them to be true.  

Ageist self-stereotyping, which can influence older adults on a conscious or unconscious level, has been shown to pose a threat to physical health, memory, cardiovascular health—and it may even shorten lives.   That’s good enough reason for me to resist buying into the nonsense of stereotypes—whether it be about others or about myself. I don’t purchase “over-the-hill” greeting cards. I don’t watch TV shows that portray older people as feeble, mentally unstable, or idiotic.  I go against the flow when it comes to how I dress or wear my hair, or what kind of music the boxed-in stereotype proponents say I should listen to or what kind of goals I should pursue. The first step is to be aware that most stereotypes are FALSE. We are all unique individuals, and the only one who has the right to define who you are is YOU. Have the courage to go against the flow and respectfully and civilly speak up when you hear someone categorizing you or others.  Often people are not aware that they are being insulting when they presume certain things about you and just bringing it to their attention can start to turn things around. Most important, what you think of yourself is what really matters. Focus on all the positive things about you and don’t hand over your valuable energy to the negative influences around you.

Sign up for my FREE monthly newsletter at www.RaeleenMautner.com to receive tips, quotes and ideas to make life better each day.

I also welcome you to join my AgingHappy Facebook page, where occasionally, I will go life. www.Facebook.com/AgingHappy

References

Allen, P.M., Hooker, K., & Meja, S. T (2015) Personality, Self-Pereptions and Daily Variability in Perceived Usefulness Among Older Adults.  Psychology and Aging v30 n3 p534-543.

Herndon, K.K; Norsworthy, C.F.;  & Kor-Sins, R. (2020).  Democrat or Republican? Using Political Stereotypes as a Bias Discussion Exercise Journal of Leadership education. Vol 19(2). 

Levy, B.R. (2003). Mind Matters: Cognitive and Physical Effects of Aging Self-Stereotypes Journal of Gerontology: PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCES Vol. 58B, No. 4, P203–P211 

Rivera, L.M, & Paredez, S.M (2014) Stereotypes Can “Get Under the Skin”: Testing a Self- Stereotyping and Psychological Resource Model of Overweight and Obesity J Soc Issues. 2014 June 1; 70(2): 226–240. doi:10.1111/josi.12057.

©Raeleen Mautner, LLC

When entertainment media wants to portray an exaggerated stereotype or caricature, one of the first tools it uses is vocal manipulation. The Italian (or Italian-American), for instance is often portrayed with an exaggerated broken English or dummied down speech. Witches are portrayed with a nasal, squeaky voice or laugh. And then of course in the true spirit of ageism, an older protagonist usually takes on a wobbly, creaky vocal quality.

There is no denying that physiological changes take place as part of aging. Our respiratory system (i.e., the motor that powers our sound) tends not to be as hearty as it was in our youth. The collagen and muscles used in the production of sound involving our vocal cords may also start to decline; just as happens throughout the rest of our body. However, similarly to how certain self-care routines and physical exercises help the rest of the body to stay strong for as long as possible, the same is true with respect to keeping a beautiful, youthful tone quality to the voice—no matter what our age; provided we are not suffering from a major disease that affects the voice directly.

 As a singer, I have studied with several vocal coaches; each of whom has emphasized the importance of good vocal hygiene if I want to preserve my voice and keep it clear and strong.  Unlike a piano or guitar, many variables can make the voice unreliable or inconsistent (such as allergies, acid reflux, talking too loudly when in a crowd or noisy event, etc.). The one thing we can do consistently, is take good care of our voice.

Proper vocal care is even more important as we age if we want to be taken seriously and avoid becoming that ageist media stereotype. The tone and quality of a confident voice is ageless and commands respect, not ridicule. Having a wobbly or weak voice influences how we are perceived, and how others relate to us. 

Here are 11 ideas for making your voice the best it can be, at any age:

1.Record your speaking voice. Just open a book or newspaper and read into a voice recorder. Yes, that really is how you sound to others.  What are the qualities you love about your voice? What are the aspects of your voice you would like to improve?

2. Don’t habitually speak either too loud or too soft.  Speaking loudly all the time can lead to hoarseness and swollen vocal cords. The same is true with speaking too softly or whispering as too much air passes through the cords and dries them out.

3. Avoid breathing too shallowly and stop to take in more air when you need it as you are talking.

4. Enunciate your words clearly. This will prompt you to speak more slowly and use less energy to make yourself understood.

5. Stay hydrated.  Water keeps the vocal cords from drying out and makes them more pliable.

6. Steam your voice safely if you feel your voice is tired. I use a facial steamer by Conair, but there are also inexpensive portable nebulizers available online. 

7. Use a humidifier at night if the indoor air is dry; especially during the winter.

8. Practice the lip trill. Singers rely on this exercise, and it is often recommended to public speakers, who want to avoid overtaxing their voices. Simply hum up and down the scale through lightly closed lips; like you are making a raspberry.

9. Eat right and exercise.  The body is one whole unit.  Keeping the whole unit as healthy as possible will also have a positive effect on the voice.

10. Maintain good posture.  When we are slumped over a computer all day or habitually hunched over, our air flow is crimped, possibly leading to vocal strain. Check your position a few times a day in a mirror. Your head should not be thrusted forward but rather, resting directly over your shoulders (which should not be rounded).

11. See a professional if you have persistent hoarseness or feel that you need some extra help in maintaining a vibrant, ageless speaking voice. I will occasionally seek consultations with two professionals when I feel I need it: One is an ENT doctor, who can scope you and let you know if you have nodules on your vocal cords or acid reflux; the other is a speech therapist who can point out ways you may you have been overtaxing your voice; and suggest the appropriate corrections.

©Raeleen Mautner, Ph,D.

www.facebook.com/aginghappy

References (or for further information)

Coyne, Audrey (2020) Opera Singer’s Tricks to Have a More Attractive Voice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJsgL5vmtqw

McMillen, M . 5 Ways Not to Sound Old. AARP Media. https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2014/improve-aging-voice.html

Stoney, J (2020) Sing Like Never Before. Mission Point Press

Why You Should Become Your OWN Social Director (and 3 steps to get you started)

The research is clear: Loneliness is hazardous to our health. In fact some experts claim it increases our risk of premature death by a whopping 20%. It can affect our blood pressure, our heart health, and our weight. When we are lonely we take less care of ourselves. We lose the motivation to eat right, exercise, tend to our appearance, or even socialize.

Of course being alone does not always mean you are lonely. Nor does being in company always ensure you are NOT lonely. Also worth noting is that we all have different alone-time preferences, which must be respected.  

Research shows that true loneliness involves feelings of social isolation; indicating that two important ingredients may be “missing” from our lives; EMOTIONAL SUPPORT and PHYSICAL COMPANIONSHIP. The good news is, we can do something about it. A good place to start is to take control of our social lives. One way to do that is to grab a notebook, open a calendar, and TAKE ACTION.  Here are 3 simple steps to get started:

STEP ONE: The notebook is where you want to describe WHAT you want your social life to look like. You may be looking for romantic love, new friends, stronger connections with existing friends, or reuniting with distant family members. The possibilities are endless. 

STEP TWO, be willing to do the WORK.  Designate blocks of time in your calendar to devoted to working on relationships that afford you emotional support, and scheduling activities that provide you with physical companionship (e.g., special interest groups such as book clubs, walking groups, volunteering, etc.).

STEP THREE: follow through with at least 1-2 social activities per week. This can be increased or pulled back to whatever feels right for you.

PANDEMIC NOTE: It is important above al to stay SAFE and follow the guidance of professionals and the situation in your own geographical area as it pertains to the pandemic. Some activities may require masks and/or vaccinations. When it is unsafe to interact in person, there are plenty of online discussion and special interest groups, classes, workshops. And of course, there is the telephone, facetime, skype and zoom.  The important thing is to stay connected to feel connected.

If find you are often feeling lonely, take action, even if at first you don’t feel like doing so. It can save your life; kind of like exercising–if you make social interaction a more frequent habit, you will eventually feel so much better you won’t feel right if you go without it for too long. 

REFERENCES:

Carla M. Perissinotto, MD, MHS; Irena Stijacic Cenzer, MA; Kenneth E. Covinsky, MD, MPH (2012). Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death.

ARCH INTERN MED/VOL 172 (NO. 14).

Sorkin, D; Lu, J; & Rock, K (2002). Loneliness,lack of emotional support, lack of companionship, and the likelihood of having a heart condition in an elderly sample. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 24(4) 290-298

©Raeleen Mautner, LLC 2021

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