The Ultimate Happiness Formula (Kindness + Novelty)

In a large hospital setting, a young outpatient stopped me in the corridor the other day and asked if I could tell him how to find the EXIT that led to the parking lot where his car was parked. Without thinking twice I said “Sure, let me walk you there.”

He looked at me like he hadn’t heard correctly. “But you were going in the opposite direction” he remarked, “I don’t want to inconvenience you. You can just point me towards the next corridor and I will try to follow the signs.”

“Come on,” I said, smiling, doing a 180-degree turn. “I could use the extra exercise!”

The young gentleman had a knee injury so we had to walk slowly. “I’m really sorry this is taking up so much of your time,” he said as he carefully coordinated his cane with his steps. “Someone asked me if I wanted a wheelchair, but actually, this exercise is good for me, too.”

By the time we made it through 4 corridors to the EXIT, this brave young veteran had relayed the story of his injury, told me about his new car, the joy he took in being a new Dad and professed he was looking forward to the springtime thaw so he could garden again. When we got to the door I walked him out further to the ramp so he could hold on and make a gradual descent into the parking lot.

“ Gee, I don’t know how to thank you,” he said. “Talking to you really made my day.”

And he was off.

I had never really reflected on how a simple good deed could have such a powerful effect on the person you help. But the truth is, volunteering to help someone else has an even more important effect on the do-er of the kind act.

I knew that various studies in my field of psychology have positively correlated performing kind acts (or what we call “prosocial behaviors”) with enhanced life satisfaction (i.e. happiness). This holds true for all ages. Kindness makes us feel good about ourselves in addition to bettering someone else’s situation. What a win-win!

Back in the 80’s the buzz phrase “random acts of kindness”, implied that whenever it popped into our heads, we should do something kind for someone else. I would like to propose something different: PLANNED acts of kindness; not only because we can’t always depend on our head Muse to give us a hint, but because varying the kinds of good deeds we do has a more lasting impact on our personal happiness.

One study showed that participants who were asked to perform 5 kind acts in one day had a larger increase in happiness than those who performed 5 kind acts over the course of one week.

How could this be?

Adaptation

It is like walking into someone’s kitchen when they are sautéing onions: You are overpowered with the aroma initially, but after a few minutes, you hardly know it is there. That is sensory adaptation, but the same thing happens with other systems of the human body and brain. We adapt to what becomes routine, and it has less of an impact on us.

Enter the powerful effect of NOVELTY (or newness). To the participants who performed the 5 acts of kindness in one day, their actions were new, or novel, therefore the kind acts hadn’t become “old hat” routine, as it had with those who were asked to perform the kind acts every day.

Does this mean that:

  1. We should do kind acts less frequently so they don’t lose their effect?, or
  2. Should we plan to do DIFFERENT kind acts more frequently as a way to achieve long-lasting happiness?

THE ANSWER IS “B”

Let me explain:

Researchers randomly assigned participants ages 18-60 into three groups. They were asked to do one of three things: a) perform kind acts for 10 days; b) perform new (novel) acts for 10 days; or c) perform no acts and just go about their normal business (control group) for ten days. What they found was that BOTH of the experimental groups experienced a significant increase in life satisfaction as compared with the control condition, which did not.

Given that both acts of kindness, AND doing new things can be a ticket to greater happiness, combining these two concepts can be an unbeatable formula for making you—and the world around you—a happier, brighter place.

Here’s how to get started on your own kindness-to-happiness project:

Grab a pencil and paper when you get a few moments and start a KINDNESS list. Jot down as many ways to help someone else as you can think of. No numbers on the list, because you will add to it every day as you come up with additional ways to practice kindness. The acts could be big or small. Try to recall some of the nice things you have done for others in the past, or things other people have done for you, and add those acts to the list. Then glance at this list each day. And get out there and do something kind and new every day to put a smile on someone’s face.

Examples of Kindness Acts:

  • Show (not tell) someone how to get to an exit when they are lost
  • Bring a meal or a tray of fruit to a sick friend
  • Order a friend a book on Amazon that you think they’d love
  • Pay the next car’s bill at the Donut Drive-in
  • Offer your store coupons or coins to the person behind you
  • Send someone the announcement of an event or conference they might like
  • Shovel a older neighbor’s driveway when it snows
  • Help someone on with their coat when you see them struggling
  • Buy a sandwich and give it to the homeless person standing out front
  • Listen, when you see someone needs to talk something out
  • Smile and say GOOD-MORNING, instead of keeping your eyes glued to your smart phone.

In a world where self-preoccupation is commonplace, YOU can be a unique light that shines kindness all around you. And you’ll be a whole lot happier for doing it, too.

Would you share YOUR ideas for acts of kindness with my readers—so we can all add them to our list, too?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and especially for those of you who “like”, “share” on your social media, and subscribe to my email list. Mille grazie!

References:

Buchanan, K.E., & Bardi, A. (2010). Replications and refinements: Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction. The Journal of Social Psychology 150(3), 235-237

Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K.M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology (9) 111-131

©Raeleen Mautner, LLC

How to Be a Mind Reader (And Why You Should)

Ten years ago (give or take) psychologist Daniel Goleman wrote a book called Emotional Intelligence; opening the first chapter with the unforgettable story of a middle-aged black gentleman who drove the Madison Avenue bus through New York City. On this particular sweltering August afternoon; the kind that made most people “sullen with discomfort”, the bus driver greeted each disgruntled-looking passenger with a hearty welcome and enthusiastic smile; even though few passengers returned his greeting. Then, as the bus continued on its journey through the hot city streets, the driver suddenly began to channel his inner tour guide; pointing out the treasures of the city as they rode by; remarking about this wonderful museum exhibit, that terrific restaurant over there, or the flea market of interest down the block. He could tell by looking at the expressions on his customers’ faces, that they could use an uplifting distraction. And he cared enough to be the one to put a smile on their faces.

By the time each passenger came forward to step down from the bus, they made it a point to thank the driver, wish him a wonderful day, and wave him on to his next stop with a smile. Just like that, they were transformed.

Good feelings all around.

Knowing how to engage in positive social interactions (i.e.. no fighting, no arguing, no negative criticisms, or political put-downs if someone didn’t vote the way you did) is a skill that goes beyond the academic IQ test. EQ is a form of intelligence all its own. Emotional intelligence, as Goleman called it, makes us—and others–happier.  It also helps us guard against loneliness—which affects older adults at alarming rates as our pool of friends dwindles, families become estranged, and divorce or widowhood becomes increasingly commonplace.

The ability to empathize with other people and interpret their mental state (needs, desires, motives, feelings and thoughts) is referred to as Theory of Mind or ToM. All positive human interaction depends on this ability to see things from another viewpoint. The bus driver in Dr. Goleman’s story knew that his passengers were not just scowly for the purpose of being unpleasant. They were unpleasant because they were hot, uncomfortable, and had been waiting at the bus stop under a hot summer sun. He didn’t snarl back at them, he felt their pain, and wanted to do something about it.

Unfortunately, research shows that the older we get, we tend to lose some of ability to decode what others are feeling and thinking; which makes us less adept at the kind of interactions we need at a time in our life when we need them most. Various ToM training programs have found to help, but a technique that I hadn’t expected to come across was the 5-minute meditation.

In this study half of the participants were assigned to the control group, whereby for five minutes they were to asked to sit, breathe, notice their thoughts and immerse themselves in them. The other half were in the the mindfulness meditation group where they also sat for 5 minutes, but were instructed to treat their thoughts as fleeting and keep returning their attention to their breathing for the entire 5 minutes.

Then both groups were given two tasks:

  • One task was to decipher various emotional states expressed by photographs of 36 pair of eyes (both male and female).
  • The other task involved watching a video clip involving 3 cartoon figures playing a ball toss game. One figure was excluded by the other two players during the toss game. At the end of that video both groups were asked to write letters to the player that was excluded.

The mindfulness group in both instances outperformed the group that did not engage in the meditation. They were able to mind read emotional states from looking at the photos of eye expressions, and they also expressed more empathy when writing letters to the player that was left out of the toss game.

If you want to maintain or increase your emotional intelligence and have more positive and less abrasive (irritating, emotionally charged, argumentative etc.) interactions with people, try taking a 5 minute mindfulness breathing meditation break before you leave your house or whenever you can throughout the day. It will soften you, make you feel happier, and draw people to your calm and wise demeanor.

Here’s my favorite 5 minute Mindful Meditation Technique:

  1. Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of 4 (concentrate only on the counting as you breathe)
  2. Hold the breath for a count of 7
  3. Breather out slowly through pursed lips to a count of 9

Do this practice whenever you need it and watch your demeanor change and the quality of your relationships improve.

Let me know how short mindfulness meditation breaks are changing your life and social interactions.

 

BTW–Thank you so much for “following” my blog (If you haven’t done so yet, please do!) Also, I would love it if you would sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter.

 

Reference:

Goleman, Daniel (2006) Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition; Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Bantam

Tan ,B.G., Lo, B.C., & MaCrae, N. (2014) Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Mental State Attribution and Empathizing.

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC

Do You Use Make-Up to Enhance Or Hide?

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

Back in the late 60’s, my M.O. included large hoop earrings, ironed hair, and a splash of Oh de London, before leaving the house with my transistor radio to do the beach strut. I thought I looked pretty dam good. That is, until one particular girl –Yvonne–caused all the boys in our summer neighborhood fall all over themselves whenever she walked by. What the heck did she have that I didn’t? Well, frankly quite a bit, but what it really boiled down to was her— LIPSTICK. Yes, it was the lightest of pink, almost pearlescent. And rumor had it, that it was peppermint! , I never heard one comment about her knockout bikini figure, her large, hypnotic eyes, or her gorgeous dark curly hair. NO. It was all about that lipstick. Not that any of the boys had actually kissed her but that little tube of tint had the capacity to make every boy at least dream of what it would be like to steal a kiss from the alluring girl with peppermint- coated lips.

That was my first observation about the power of makeup to create a perception of beauty— dating back the time of Cleopatra, who was adored for her intriguing painted eyes, long blackened eyelashes, and rose colored lips and cheeks (made possible by red ochre, a type of iron-enriched clay).

The majority of research studies support the fact that women who use makeup are perceived to be more attractive than those who don’t. In one study, women were professionally made up with customized products and application thought to best enhance the specific individual’s features. Then the “judges”, male and female, would look at the same woman’s face in 5 conditions: a) no makeup; b) foundation only; c) eye make-up only, d) lipstick only; and e) full facial make-up (with all of the above). Female judges thought the eye makeup alone condition was most attractive, while the male judges rated eye makeup and foundation to be the most attractive. None of the judges chose the “no makeup” condition as being most attractive.

Personally, I enjoy the “artistry” involved in using makeup, although the older I get the less I use. I have no desire to morph into a “whatever happened to Baby Jane” version of myself; but I do think a little color here and there enhances my current-aged self. Self-adornment can be a reflection of self-respect, although many women bypass make up altogether—and there is no problem whatsoever with their self-esteem. Some older women, however, feel they MUST use makeup or cosmetic procedures to hide their age, because of the consequences of living in a youth-worshiping culture, where they may face age discrimination on the job, or become “invisible” when trying to relate to others.

In fact when women 50-70 years old were interviewed about their reasons for engaging in “beauty work”, to enhance their appearance (e.g., hair dye, makeup, cosmetic surgery, and non-surgical procedures); their explanations included the following:

  • To fight against the invisibility of aging
  • It was part of a lifelong investment in one’s appearance
  • Desire to attract a romantic partner.
  • Because of employment-related ageism.

If you are among those who use makeup to hide your age, because you are either ashamed of the physical changes of growing older, or fear the societal consequences of being perceived as “old”, let me reassure you, you are not alone. But you alone do have the power to turn others’ perceptions around.  You can start by improving your own body image, and acknowledging your ageless beauty. Have fun with makeup if that is your thing. Wear clothes that make you feel great. Stand up tall and proud. Respect yourself and believe in your unique contribution to this world. And only after all of the above– if you feel like buying a tube of peppermint pink lipstick–You go for it 🙂

Do you enjoy or avoid using makeup? I’d love to read your thoughts, so do leave a comment below! 

References:

Clarke L.H., & Griffin M. (2008). Visible and invisible ageing: beauty work as a response to ageism. Ageing & Society (28). 653-674.

Indianpublicmedia.org “Did Cleopatra Wear Makeup?”

Mulhurn et. al. (2003) Do cosmetics enhance female Caucasian facial attractiveness? International Journal of Cosmetic Science (25) 199-205

 

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC

“Everyone Gets to Be Young. Your Turn is Over.”

My mother (the avid card-sender) and grandmother

My mother would send a greeting card almost every day. We would even go to a special store where she would get her Italian language cards for someone’s onomastico (name day, which coincided with the Saint everyone (except for me apparently), was named for), birthday cards galore, Holy Day of Obligation cards, holidays and everything in between. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree but in my case it must have fallen into the yard in another part of the country. I don’t send greeting cards. Will I call someone, or send an email to wish him or her a Happy Whatever? Yes. I know, I know, it’s not the same, but the good thing about growing older, is that we have earned the right to be who we are; whether we are card senders or not.

The other day, however, I decided to “turn over a new card-sending leaf”. A friend of mine was about to turn 60. Yes, dammit, I will send a card. And so begins the search.

“Everyone Gets to Be Young. Your Turn is Over” sounds like it could be a line from the 70’s Sci Fi movie, Logan’s Run, where everyone lived under a pleasure-perfect dome—that is until they turned 30, at which time they were to be annihilated, to keep from growing old.   But No. The above “greeting”, and hence the title of this post comes straight from a greeting card! Ehm…Was that supposed to be an uplifting message?

And so I looked further:

After a certain age, your body is like a garage sale—Some stuff looks old, some stuff doesn’t’ work, and some stuff you can’t identify.

60 year olds like to nap, stay warm, and have things done for them—so basically you turn into a cat. 

(Picture of a donkey with sunglasses)—Your ass looks good—for 60

Psychologists say you go through 7 stages of adjustment when you turn 50—Denial, Denial, Denial, Denial, Denial, Denial, Denial.

Don’t sweat being 50—nobody likes a sweaty senior citizen

Now I have a sense of humor that rivals the best of them, but as I looked at these cards I wondered what vile undercurrent these messages were really sending to older adults in our society. If you substitute any other “ism” for the ageism in those sayings, you would be horrified, I’m sure. Can you image a card that says “Don’t sweat being _______ (a woman, black, Italian, blind, gay, etc.)—-nobody likes a sweaty ———-?

Having spent a good part of my career investigating the effects of stereotyping on both the people being stereotyped and the ways peoples attitudes toward the stereotyped are formed—I say we stop with the “senior moment” jokes, implying that older people can’t remember things (I don’t know about you but I have been losing my car keys from the time I graduated high school), and stop spending our bank accounts on “anti-aging” potions that make aging seem like a dreadful disease to be stomped out. It isn’t. It is a natural privilege that not everyone (certainly not my late husband) gets to enjoy. But you and I do! And that is why the ageist buck must stop with us.

So I bypassed those cards. In fact, I almost decided to go back to my old ways and not send a damn card at all.

Until…

Happy Birthday!

            Here’s to aging

            Here’s to wrinkles

            Here’s to laughing

Till we twinkles (all right, somewhat corny, but so what)

Here’s to the one’s who see us through

            Here’s to birthdays

            Here’s to YOU.

Well hallelujah.  And that is the one I sent.

To all of my Readers, for whatever the occasion– Here’s to YOU!

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC

Can Gardening Actually Make You Happy? Yes, And Here Are 10 Reasons Why

 

As a kid, let’s just say I “apprenticed” in my grandparents’ garden, year after year. I watched with baited breath as my grandfather prepared the soil; anticipating the moment he would signal me to sprinkle in the vegetable seeds, or place the little tomato plants into their grooves. Then my grandmother and I would weed the irises and tulips that lined our little back yard; water the hydrangeas; and prune the rose bushes that bordered along the front wall. On Sundays I would go see my other grandparents—the ones who hoisted water up from a bucket in a well to moisten the soil around their grape arbor, and who would wrap and bury their fig trees in the winter. In other words, in my family, gardening was no trivial pursuit.

But if you think I inherited even a tip of a green thumbnail, think again. Year after year I continue to plant my basil, parsley, oregano, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and lettuce. Maybe 1/5th of what I plant actually turns into what it is supposed to. But that’s beside the point. I garden anyway.  I garden because I must garden. Because gardening brings be back to the days of my grandparents. Because gardening  brings me joy—even if it doesn’t bring me flowers or vegetables.

Research shows that nature has a significant effect specifically on the well-being of older adults. For example, hospital patients who have a window, through which they can view trees or plants, heal faster than those who just have walls to look at. Similarly, gardening has been shown to positively impact both emotional and physical health of those who plant, water, reap, and admire. In a study that surveyed 331 older adult Australian gardeners, gardening was seen as critical to their physical and psychological well-being.

Plus, the older we are, the more benefits we derive from gardening. Such as the following:

  1. Aesthetic beauty that lifts our mood

  2. A connection with nature, which affirms our place in the universe

  3. Physical exercise from bending, weeding, hoeing, digging

  4. Fresh air and vitamin D from the sunshine

  5. A sense of achievement

  6. A meditation effect as we dig our hands into the soil

  7. Stress reduction as we immerse ourselves in the process

  8. Engagement with life

  9. Greater consumption of fruits and vegetables

  10. Food to feed your body; flowers to feed your soul.

It may be snowing outside but Spring is just around the corner. So start planning your “horticulture therapy” now and look forward to an extra seasonal dose of happiness!

Let’s start a discussion. What do you like to plant in the Spring?

Reference

Scott, T.L., Masser, B.M., & Pachana, N.A. (2015). Exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening for older adults. Aging & Society (35) 2176-2200.

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC

What the *^%$# Are You Telling Yourself?!

What you say to yourself DOES matter. Researchers found that older adults are generally higher in spontaneous self-affirmation tendencies, as compared to other age groups. But that doesn’t mean we’re all immune to occasional negative self-talk. When you examine your own mental chatter, you might discover that you can say some pretty mean things to yourself. Mental statements like: “I’ll never lose this weight”; “Nothing good ever happens to me”; “What’s the point of trying, things never change”; “I never fit in anywhere, what’s wrong with me?”; “I look so (old, fat, skinny, short, tired, bald, etc.).”

The bottom line is, you can reverse this negative thought pattern if you can catch yourself thinking these thoughts, and then correct them. You can also train yourself to establish a new habit of saying positive things about yourself. I’m not saying you should make things up, or make your statements extreme (I am the greatest; I am invincible, etc.). Rather, look to your past accomplishments and successes. Reflect on your values. Have you gotten through a challenge in the past and felt proud of how much strength you had? Have you met goals before? Have you mended your broken heart after a breakup or loss?

Plenty of research confirms why you should make positive self-affirmations a habit. In experiments where researchers had participants practice positive (“induced” ) self-affirmations, the outcomes included taking care of one’s health better, lower stress levels, greater weight loss, and an improvement in general psychological wellbeing.

Here are some ideas for making positive self-talk a habit:

  1. Write down your values, strengths, and past accomplishments.
  2. Think of a challenge you are facing. What are you telling yourself about your ability to handle this issue?
  3. How many times a day do you “bad-mouth” yourself? Put a check mark on a piece of paper whenever you become aware of putting yourself down.
  4. Begin to change any negative self-talk by substituting the put-downs with positive self-affirmations. You do this by recalling your past victories, values and strengths (see #1).

Eventually, by establishing a habit of positive self-talk, those self-affirmations will become spontaneous, and the number of negative “checks” you record will dwindle.

Researchers found a direct association between spontaneous self-affirmations and wellbeing. In my book that’s reason enough to start being your own best friend. Compliment yourself when you achieve a goal; remind yourself of what you have already accomplished in life; encourage yourself as you would a beloved family member.

I’d love to know how YOU are turning negative self-talk around. I read all of your comments!

Please like and share this post with anyone you feel it might benefit. And if you haven’t received my free Happiness eBook yet, just go to the tab on my homepage and get started putting more happiness into your life.

 

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC.

 

 

Happiness-Enhancing Activities in 4 Do-It-Yourself Categories

 

Yes, crazy me, happily cleaning my oven with baking soda + a knit cloth made by a very special friend!

“Happiness-enhancing activities” seem to be the other half of the nature-nurture question when it comes to happiness. I won’t kid you: genetics play apart, and so do life circumstances. If you come from parents and grandparents who tended to frame things in a positive light you probably tend do think the same way. Life circumstances also have some effect on happiness, according to the research on happiness. If you win the lottery, for instance you will probably break into a happy dance; jump for joy; do somersaults around your back yard—who wouldn’t? But researchers found that positive life circumstances only go so far in making us happy. Meaning, the effect is short-lived, and then we adapt to that temporary emotional lift, and go back to being our own emotionally disgruntled selves, if that is how we were before hitting the jackpot.

So what’s the deal when it comes to the “nurture” side of the happiness equation? As it turns out, almost 50% of lasting happiness is under our control! I don’t know about you, but to me, THAT is a reason to do a somersault (okay, at least a mental one). Okay, but now let’s get to the nuts and bolts of what we can actually do, to make a happiness plan. Hint: you can start by doing more activities + thinking more thoughts– that make you happy.

Researchers Henricksen and Stephens did an exploratory study in older adults ranging from 56-76 years old to find out what kind of activities enhanced their happiness. Their responses fell into four categories; all of which are pretty attainable and might be useful for the rest of us to plan our days around if we want to get more out life. Here are the categories, when it comes to happiness self-management.

1. Other-focused activities. These might include spending time with family and significant others; meeting with others on a social basis, and helping others (such as in doing volunteer work or even making a meal for a sick neighbor).
2. Personal Recreation & Interests. This would include pursuing hobbies you are passionate about; balancing your life with entertainment and relaxation (going to a movie or curling up with a good book), or “external engagement” like going on a group hike or attending a book club discussion or adult ed class.
3. Thoughts and Attitudes. Happy older people are filled with gratitude for their blessings. They also tend toward constructive thinking; that is choosing to frame things positively. Even after personal trauma or loss, they focus on inner growth, or what they have learned from the hardship. Many times we think that we cannot change our thoughts, but great Dr. Albert Ellis, founder of Rational Emotive Therapy (who also honored me with his endorsement of my first book “Change Your Mind, Change Your Weight”), devoted his entire life to showing us how to change our thoughts, which in turn would have a positive effect on our emotional landscape.
4. Achievements. Happiness enhancing activities include setting –and achieving small, short-term goals; and also having longer-range goals in progress. Your immediate goal can be a simple as getting your oven clean using only baking soda and vinegar; and if it actually comes out great, you may feel a sense of achievement that starts a snowball effect of feeling good about other things. The oven is my example (as you can see from the photo above). Make a list of some of the short-term goals you want to attain, and then just start in on them, one by one. Your long-term goals might be what you’d like to do after you retire; or what exotic trip you’d like to take next year, or perhaps you’d like to write a book, try out for a play, start your own business or lose some weight so will feel better.

Happiness has too many emotional AND physical benefits to ignore, especially for older adults like us. The good news is, we can intentionally increase our happiness and have it last, by frequently engaging in positive activity and thought.

What do YOU do to feel happier? I’d love to read your feedback (when you’re done cleaning your oven, of course 🙂

Reference:
Henricksen, A., & Stephens, C. (2010) An exploration of he happiness-enhancing activities engaged in by older adults. Aging International (35) 311-326.

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC

8 Tips for Finding Love At Any Age (That is if you want to)

(Dad at 97 with his Lady-Love)

 

Most likely, you belong to one of these three general categories when it comes to romantic love and companionship:

  1. You have a wonderful partner.
  2. You’re happy without a partner, thank-you.
  3. You miss the wonderful relationship you had at one time, and are looking find the right person so you can be part of another one.

If you are in the first category and have a healthy, happy marriage or long-term relationship, then my advice to you is to make the effort to do everything in your power to keep that relationship strong and healthy; you are very blessed. For many men and women, being in love can enrich their physical and emotional wellbeing beyond measure—and according to some studies, may even contribute to longevity.

If you are single and love being that way, well that is terrific too. Enjoy expressing your unique personality to the hilt—paint those living room walls copper if you want; have a bowl of cereal for supper if you are too tired to cook; spend an entire afternoon at an Avant guard art exhibition do any dam thing you feel like doing, and it’s all okay.

Now let’s say you are looking for love. Perhaps you widowed, divorced, or the other half of a breakup that you didn’t see coming when you first fell in love. You long to have someone by your side once again, but of course, it has to be the right someone. You probably have tried online dating sites, where you may have even met a lot of nice “potentials” but no one who really who hit the home run to your heart (the online oddball phenomenon is another subject entirely J).

If you are among the looking—or at least hoping—to find love, a “retro” solution might be just the blueprint that works, if up to this point nothing else has. Like everything else we discover in the autumn of our lives, sometimes the old tried and true, the simplest ideas that worked in the past, yield the surest results.

Think back to a time when people still got out into the world and looked each other in the eye. Think how you used to socialize in days gone by. Think of the interests you’ve had most of your life, and the places or events you would gravitate towards, where like-minded people gathered. Maybe you love musical concerts, art galleries, museums, coffee bars, libraries, bookstore browsing, antiques, or history lectures. Make a list of the social activities and events you enjoy, and then get busy looking in your local paper’s Event Calendar. Plan to attend at least two or three of these events a month by marking them in your monthly planner. Then follow through. Go with a smile. Start a conversation with someone next to you or during intermission. Keep it light and non-desperate sounding. Comment about the event, or the exhibit and from there see where it goes, with the goal of just having fun, even if it goes nowhere. We learn something from each person we talk to, and even more from each person we listen to.

Psychiatrist Silvano Arieti and his son James wrote a few concise suggestions in their book “Love Can Be Found”, published in 1977 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. I find their ideas perhaps even more of value now. See if any of them might be right for you, if you want to find love.

  1. Overcome your personal fears. By that was meant the fear of rejection, the fear of commitment, the fear of not finding love. Once you decide you are open to finding love, you must gather the courage to follow through.
  2. Believe in your self-worth and dignity. Know that you will make someone a wonderful companion, and do not think you have to be perfect in looks, intelligence, or in any other way. Have faith in your own value and the dignity to acknowledge your limitations with graciousness and humility
  3. If you want love, realize it is not about to come knocking a your door. You need to actively put yourself in settings where you at least have a likelihood of meeting a partner. Socializing, by the way, is uplifting in its own rite.
  4. Don’t look for the impossible. While you shouldn’t “settle” for someone who is not right for you (or who is not “right” period); neither should your expectations be that you would find someone who is perfect–because none of us are.
  5. Don’t rush to accept or reject someone. Sometimes people are nervous in the beginning. Other times, though they may not be a physical attraction at first, charm eventually makes a person more attractive in our eyes. Give him/her a chance before saying NEXT.
  6. Don’t misrepresent yourself. You want a person who is RIGHT for you, so why would you pretend you are someone you are not and preclude any chance they will be a match for the real you?
  7. Ask yourself if there is a repelling pattern (rejection) that YOU need to work on. Are potential partners telling you the same thing that perhaps you do all the talking, or you look bored when they are talking? Do you have a laugh that a potential partner might liken to fingernails across the chalkboard? While you should not try to be someone you are not, that doesn’t mean you should try to be YOUR personal best. We all have minor (or major) flaws we can work on to improve.
  8. Don’t expect success every time. Take your time and enjoy meeting new people and getting out there. You don’t have to rush into anything, especially when you know you are fine and can love your own company. Look at dating as a fascinating chance to meet new people. There are no losers when you decide to just enjoy the process. And who knows, one day, there may be that one person…who makes your heart flutter again.

Where do YOU stand in the search for love? Perhaps you have found it and would like to share how it happened for you. I would LOVE to read your comments. Please “Like” this post and share it with anyone you think might find it useful.

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC

Move it! And Be Happy.

There are a lot of reasons to keep exercising as we age, but one you rarely hear about is HAPPINESS. In a randomized trial of 120 male and female older adults with a mean age of 71, researchers found that participating in an 8-week physical exercise program had a significant impact on their wellbeing. Most experts agree that you don’t have to go to extremes, or even exercise as intensely as you might have when you were in your twenties. Just do something—and do it every day.

It’s been a while since I said good-bye to the Jane Fonda leg-warmer workouts, the gym weight machine routines, the mountain trail hikes (yes, even the White Mountains), and the long-distance jogs (ouch, my knees!). Throughout the years I’ve had home treadmills, steppers, skiers, weight benches, bicycles, mini rebounders–and yes, I would use them all. Back then. At one point I even tried preparing my graduate student notes while dong side leaps over a high step—and let’s just say that didn’t end so well. But that is how committed and determined I was. Back then my goal was fitness, but I also felt better when I worked out. My mind was clearer, I was better able to focus, and I felt more confident.

Then as the years passed and my body slowed down a bit, I began to lose my resolve to get back on the equipment or do the crazy high-intensity workouts I used to do. Yet I have always hated how I feel when I’m sedentary.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of men and women in their 60s, 70’s and even 80’s that keep to a rigorous exercise routine. I admire you if you are one of them. But if you are like me, and even the thought of doing a Yoga “screaming pigeon pose” makes you want to go lie on a couch and sit this one out—the answer might be to find an activity that is gentler on your body, more enjoyable for you, and is something you really look forward to doing each day because it makes you feel so good. Consider options like barre, basic Yoga (no headstands, thank you), 15-minute low impact interval training, Zumba, ballroom dance (or any other kind), or even a calisthenics routine you put together myself. Take the stairs, walk at lunchtime, or get up and march during commercials when watching the news.

 

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you MOVE. Move a lot. Move every day. And be happy.

 

Reference: Khazaee-Pool, M., et.al. (2015) Effects of physical exercise programme on happiness among older people. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health nursing (22) 47-57.

 

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC

The Henny Youngman Effect—And YOU

Photo courtesy Wikipedia
  • A man goes to a psychiatrist. “Nobody listens to me!” The doctor says, “Next!”
  • The Doctor says, “You’ll live to be 60!” “I AM 60!” “See, what did I tell you?”
  • The doctor says to the patient, “Take your clothes off and stick your tongue out the window”. “What will that do?” asks the patient. The doctor says, “I’m mad at my neighbor!”

I don’t know about you, but Henny Youngman jokes still crack me up every time. They are so simple and goofy, that for a few moments all the problems of the world slip away as I lose myself in a good belly laugh. But that is not where it ends. The effect of laughter lasts far beyond the last line of the joke. Yes, humor does give us a mood lift, but did you also know that laughing has an influence on your physical wellbeing too?

So how is laughter important to aging happy?

Well, if you have ever suffered from the chronic pain that affects so many of us later in life (and it is estimated that over 50% of older adults deal with some kind of ongoing pain), this might interest you:

Researchers conducted an experiment with two groups of nursing home patients, a population that usually suffers a higher rate of chronic pain than do older adults living in the community. One group (the experimental group) was exposed to an 8-week humor therapy program and was compared to the “control” group, who did not receive the intervention. When the program came to an end the findings were significant. Those who had the “humor training” reported substantial decreases in pain, diminished sense of loneliness, and significant increases in happiness and life satisfaction. No such changes were reported amongst the control group (by the way, this group was then offered the humor therapy group in accordance with good research ethics).

The researchers offered several suggestions to increase humor in the lives of an older population, but one of them especially piqued my curiosity, because I had never thought of it before.

We all know that increasing humor in our daily lives, makes us feel good, and there are many ways to do this:

  • Rent a funny movie at the end of the day
  • Watch your favorite comedy TV show
  • Hang out with a friend who always makes you laugh
  • Put on some music and dance or sing with abandon
  • Play with your grandchildren or pets
  • Watch old clips of your favorite comedians on YouTube

The researchers found, that despite patients’ physical conditions, making a “Happy Folder” can empower them to manage their symptoms. They don’t go into detail about what goes into a Happy Folder, but I would think anything that makes you laugh or smile when you re-read your entries.

  • Funny stories that happened to you or someone else you know
  • Jokes (like the Henny Youngman one-liners he was famous for)
  • Philosophical musings about the absurdity of something you’ve observed or experienced.

The possibilities are endless! I say we all start our own Happy Journal and see what happens. If you have an entry that you’d like to share, do comment below. At any rate, please “like” and share this post with your friends, or with anyone who needs a laugh today. So happy to have you on board!

Reference: Tse, Mimi M., et. al. (2010) Humor Therapy: Relieving Chronic Pain and Enhancing Happiness for Older Adults. Journal of Aging Research.

© Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D. 2018