Last Saturday as I performed at a large outdoor Italian festival with my fellow musicians of our band ENTERPRISE (Facebook.com/ENTERPRISE-LIVE-MUSIC), I was overjoyed to see so much happiness began to snowball in one place. Hundreds of people dancing, eating, chatting, laughing—it seemed like every age group was represented, and the cares of the world slowly drifted far away from all of them, as if encapsulated inside a helium balloon that progressively shrinks down to the size of a pen point just before it disappears totally into the horizon.
As our music filled the air you could see people’s hearts get lighter and fill with merriment. Even the oldest of the crowd got up from their chairs and began to dance with the energy of teenagers.
Of course, it wasn’t just the fact that ENTERPRISE was playing (as partial as I may be to our music); rather, this kind of mood—and even physical —transformation happens commonly from the positive effects that music in generalhas on human emotions and even on human health. People exposed to music are less focused on aches, pains, worries and problems because music elicits positive emotions and “feel-good” brain chemicals, like dopamine. Positive emotions, according to some studies are also inversely related to inflammation—which can be a trigger for many short and long term illness.
Music has been used in rehabilitation settings after heart attacks and strokes, in stress reduction, sleep regulation, and according to one study—music can also strengthen social bonding by making us feel more relaxed when in social settings. Music can bring back beautiful and important memories that connect us to our personal history and family members who may no longer be here. Who amongst us doesn’t remember certain songs that came on the radio when we were with some special high school friends; or the song that played when we went out on our first date; or what was playing on the radio when as a kid we watched our grandmother cooking?
The benefits of filling your life with music are endless. Music provides the backdrop for good times—parities, dances, concerts—and it can act as a comfort in the tough times, for when there are no words that can quite as effectively reach the heart.
Whether you create music, listen to music, dance to music, or just let music provide the background as you move through your day; filling your life with music can be a super-effective source of happiness. Let’s all do more of it!
What kind of music provides the backdrop for YOUR life?
The idea for the little child-ghost with the New Yawk accent was conceived in the 30’s and slowly evolved along the decades from books to comics to a cartoon show in the early 60’s. It was about a delightful ghost. A friendly ghost who wasn’t like the others. He actually wanted to make friends with people—not scare them. He wanted to help others—not hurt them. I loved the Casper cartoons, and you probably did too.
Flash forward to a term we never had to familiarize ourselves with back then—not even on Halloween when we cut three holes into our mother’s old sheets and morphed into little with trick-or-treat bags. The term “ghosting” doesn’t mean any of that today. Instead it refers to a growing phenomenon in a world that is growing increasingly less courteous.
“Ghosting” someone today, means you have an interaction with someone (or may have even had many interactions), and the interaction had been positive. You were on the same wavelength and came to an agreement to talk again or see each other. Then, without warning or explanation that person “disappears”, like a ghost. You may or may not attempt to contact them and there is no response.
Ghosting can happen in any area of a relationship. It can happen after a first date when everything you thought was upbeat and the chemistry seemed to be there. The person says they would like to go out again but then—-POOF– no person.
Ghosting can happen in the context of business. You might have introduced yourself and your idea to someone in a position to purchase or implement that idea. They indicate they are “all in” and really enthusiastic. They give you their personal cellphone just so they are sure not to miss your follow up call. Then POOF—gone. No answer to your call, email or voicemail.
Ghosting can happen between friends or family members; even when longer-term relationships have been established. You think everything is going fine then one day they stop responding to your calls, or calling you back. They stop responding to your emails or attempts at writing a letter, even just to see if they are okay (they are, as you have probably already checked with someone who verified this).
Most of us, even before we knew the term, have experienced the feeling in recent years—and the feeling is one of hurt, confusion, even anger. All of that is normal as we are used to having some kind of conclusion or answers to situations in which people give one impression then appear to change their mind without having the courage to explain, work things out, or even just punctuate their desire not to have further contact with you.
If you have been ghosted recently, I’d like to suggest that you switch your thoughts from a negative reaction (e.g., “what did I do, say, “etc. that may have caused this) to these two perspectives:
IT REALLY ISHIM/HER—NOT YOU. Barring extreme circumstances, disappearing without warning or explanation is usually an act of cowardice, rudeness, or just plain meanness on the part of the person who is doing the disappearing act. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. Believe that.
Be GRATEFUL. Consider that when a person disappoints you by disappearing without warning, it is the natural process of the “nonsense” knocking itself out of your life. You don’t have time for others’ bad behaviors. Life is too precious. Spend yours in positivity, and
MOVE ON.That means, don’t dwell on it, don’t pursue further contact, don’t insist on an explanation, and don’t feed your desire to tell that person off. Neutralize your feelings about that person (eg-stop caring) and let your heart be light. Get professional help if you need it, but always be a shining example of your own inner beauty. Act with dignity, appreciation, and courteousness, and know that you lost nothing, but gained your own self-respect.
If you like topics related to aging happy—please do subscribe to this blog!
COMING THIS NOVEMBER: The release of my book: AgingHappy: How to Knock Out the Nonsense and Make These the Best Years of Your Life. Check my website for my talks and workshops on this topic, including my upcoming presentation at OSHER LIFE LONG LEARNING lunchtime café’ on Friday, April 5th—UConn Waterbury.
What a treasure I recently happened upon: An episode of The Jack LaLanne Show from the 1950’s! There he was, the Pioneer of Fitness with his over-the-top enthusiasm, and a charisma that catapulted you from your easy chair into jumping jacks before your mind even had a chance to talk yourself out of it. Oh, what nostalgia! In grade school I was mesmerized in front of our black and white TV as Jack, his stately German Shepherd “Happy”, and his super-cheerful wife Elaine LaLanne got me ready for a simple, 20-minute workout routine, in which nothing more was needed than my own body, and a few things I had around the house—soup cans for weights, a jump rope, maybe a chair. Then, as a backdrop to the overall exuberance—came the muffled sound of a live organ playing Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do. The tempo got faster and faster until Elaine LaLanne could barely keep up and would eventually burst into laughter as Jack encouraged her keep going, keep going, do one more jumping jack.
Watching that show again brought back all kinds of wonderful memories that went beyond Jacks message of exercise and healthy nutrition. At one point he would pull up a chair, look into the camera and saying something like “Boys and Girls, now go get your Mom and your Dad and have them do these exercises with you”. Being as I still believed TV was magical and that Jack was able to see me right through the screen— into the kitchen I ran to get my mother. Of course she resisted, so I would grab her hand and pull her into the “parlor” (what we called the living room back then) and insisted she do the exercises with me. Eventually, unable to keep up, she too, would burst out laughing. Then I would run downstairs and show my grandmother how to do them too—but that was where the line was drawn because in her day in Sicily, intentional exercise hadn’t even been invented; and had it been no one would have done something so silly because life back then was hard enough and physical on its own terms.
These and more memories came flooding back as I recently watched that episode, and I suddenly I felt a surge of happiness. I sent away for a DVD of old Jack LaLanne TV shows and started exercising to them, simply because they made me happy. I still belly laugh at his his corny jokes, contort my face all over the place like I used to do back in the 50’s when Jack commanded us to exercise our face muscles. Reconnecting to something that made me so joyful in childhood still has the power to bring me right back to simpler times, growing up with my parents and sister in a 4-room third floor flat above my grandfather’s shoe store and down the street from my other grandparent’s little grocery market. One memory spawned another and another and I begin to feel like a kid again.
As it turns out, nostalgia may really be the fountain of youth. I’m not talking about external appearance, but rather, when we FEEL younger than our chronological age, studies show that we also feel healthier, more confident about our physical abilities, and more optimistic about our future health. A walk down memory lane can give you that feeling of turning back the clock.
Granted, for a small percentage of people, nostalgia can be equated to a kind of sad longing for something lost in the past. But more recent research shows that for most, nostalgia helps people feel more youthful and promotes a greater sense of well-being. A sentimental affection for one’s past, seems to give us a sense of continuity and a self-perception of youthfulness. Among other benefits this feeling of youthfulness has translated into more positive recovery from illness, lower levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation in the body), and an increased level of strength when performing tasks.
Researchers from North Dakota State University performed three studies that compared participants who were asked to induce nostalgia, by listening to a song they from their childhood, versus the “control” group who were asked to listen to a contemporary song. In all three studies, the older subjects in the nostalgic group—regardless of gender, felt younger than their chronological age. They were also more optimistic about their health, and had a more positive outlook about their current and future health status as compared to the control group.
So the Jack LaLanne effect is not all in my head after all. I didn’t think so. I have since found other ways to weave the warmth of nostalgia into my life. Here are some of them:
Music: I regularly listen to my favorite songs from the 60’s and 70’s; both those in Italian and in English that I loved. Gianni Morandi, Sergio Endrigo, Massimo Ranieri, Iva Zanicchi, Mia Martini, Cream, Mamas and the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, Dusty Springfield, and all those wonderful bands from the “British invasion”.
Artifacts from yesteryear: I located and purchased a perfume that I used to use back in the day—Blue Waltz! It is still as sickening sweet as it was then, but there was a magic to it, which, when I put it on today still happens!
Retro-Dressing: I have a few “retro dresses” that I absolutely love. I found these on Amazon and they are very inexpensive. They are not the quality that will last a decade, but for a couple of seasons, I can look like I Love Lucy if I want to. Oh, Ricky?!!
Old TV Shows: I adore reruns of I love Lucy, the Carol Burnett, Show, I Married Joan, Topper, Leave it to Beaver, Andy of Mayberry, Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour, Lassie, Popeye, The Three Stooges. And of course the yearly event of The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland. My heart still skips when the wicket witch flies onto the scene. We watched that in our little parlor on that Sunday evening. The black and white versions are still the best.
Live in Real (not virtual) Time: I like to spend my free time doing simple things, like I did back then. Forget FaceTime—go make a real time visit. Get up from your computer and start to explore the places you google. Get involved in community theater, go to a discussion group, and art exhibit or a museum. Take a course in a real classroom.
Browse old photo albums: Be careful that this one doesn’t bring you more pain than joy. Select the photos that put a smile on your face, not those that re-open an emotional wound.
Question for my Readers: Does nostalgia make you feel more youthful? What are some of your happiest childhood memories that energize you when you think back to them? Let’s start a conversation!
Abeyta, Andrew A., & Routledge, Clay (2016). Fountain of youth: The impact of nostalgia on youthfulness and implications for health. Self and Identity. Vol 15(3) pp. 356-369