The DARKER side of Social Media

Cruise

Last night I had the most FABULOUS date! He was a true gentleman. He opened doors, pulled out my chair at the 5-star restaurant he took me to, spoke intelligently, and had really good hygiene, to boot!  We talked about going on a luxury cruise together, and maybe doing some traveling around the world. Luckily I have been working out like crazy and using a new miracle wrinkle cream so the pounds–and wrinkles—have become a thing of the past!

Well I have to cut this post short because it is time for my laughing-yoga-with-a-goat session, and then on to my wild greens lunch—which I foraged myself alla Euell Gibbons.

OH WAIT—none of that is exactly true! Or rather a few major details might have been left out. Such as I get extremely seasick and would rather camp out in the wild (my LEAST favorite activity in the world) than ever get on a boat again. The last Mr. Clean-cut Gentleman, showed up in cargo shorts, flip flops, dirty fingernails and took me to a dimly lit bar where the beers were on sale. And I buy my greens at the local health food store.

Oh, and this photo? It’s not really of me (surprise!) and I haven’t found that perfect miracle diet or wrinkle cream yet—because THEY DON’T EXIST!

Friends, there is a phenomenon called “Facebook Depression”, although it can be generalized to all social network site usage. I recently came across a fascinating article published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, where researchers did a meta-analysis of all articles published on the connection between a negative mood and social media exposure. They looked at time spent on social media sites; frequency of checking social media sites, and social comparison, a theory put forth in 1954 by social psychologist Leon Festinger. Social Comparison Theory says that we humans have an innate drive to evaluate ourselves based on a comparison with others. Of course there is a lot more to this theory, but the interesting finding the present study, was that “upward” social comparison had the greatest effect on producing a negative mood—even more so than generally comparing our lives to social media posts, the amount of timewe spend on social media, or the frequencywith which we check our social media throughout the day.

In other words—when we read a post like the one I began with, and then compare the reality of our own NORMAL lives to posts that make it appear there really issuch a thing as the PERFECT life—we are more like to get depressed.

The solution is not to swear off of social media—in fact, social media sites do a lot of good when used consciously. We can learn things, get ideas, stay in touch with friends and family we normally wouldn’t see in person that often, and even share announcements that others might be interested in.  However, when it comes to posts that push the FANTASY of a perfect life—don’t buy it, and don’t allow yourself to compare your own life to those posts. Most people DON’T post the things that go wrong in a normal human life—and we ALL have various ups and downs; challenges and victories. The key is to cherish our OWN beautifully imperfect lives, each and every day. The very fact that we are here, alive, and in full human attire—is perhaps the finest gift of all.

Reference:

Yoon, S., Kleinman, M., Mertz, J. & Brannick, M. (2019). Is social network site usage related to depression? A Meta-analysis of Facebook-depression relations. Journal of Affective Disorders, v.248, pp.65-72.

MY UPCOMING BOOK “AGING HAPPY” IS AVAILABLE NOW FOR PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON.COM.

Why You Should Be Your OWN Social Director

Friends

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.  We vary along the introversion—extraversion personality spectrum.

Rest assured, that everyone at one time or another feels lonely, and then the feeling passes when we switch our focus.

Research shows that loneliness involves feelings of social isolation; a feeling that something is “missing” from your life; such as EMOTIONAL SUPPORT or PHYSICAL COMPANIONSHIP. The good news is, you can do something about it. A good place to start is to take control of your social life.  If you frequently feel like you are missing either one of these components, get out your journal, and a calendar, and TAKE ACTION.

First the journal, where you describe WHAT you want your social life to look like? Do you want to find romantic love? New friends? Reconnect with old friends or distant cousins? The possibilities are endless.

Second, be willing to do the WORK.  Designate blocks of time in your calendar to deepen the relationships that afford you emotional support, and schedule activities that provide you with exposure to new possible companionship(special interest groups such as book clubs, walking groups, volunteering, etc.) and not necessarily lifelong commitment.

Third, follow through with at least 1-2 social activities per week. This can be increased or pulled back to your satisfaction.

If you often feel lonely, take action; even if at first you don’t feel like it. 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 will wonder how you spent so much time alone watching TV!

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#Aging Happy #BeingOver50Rocks #HappinessWithinOurControl

What NOT to Ignore if You Want to Be Happy

CaseyFlowersAs I write in “Aging Happy”, ignorance is NOT bliss when it comes to ignoring the beauty around us. On the other hand there is plenty of evidence that SAVORING the small pleasures of life increases our sense of well-being. No more gulping down meals without tasting them; no more walking past the dog that bounds to the door to greet you when you come home; no more failing to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers as you walk past them; no more “multitasking” that keeps you from consiously registering the real treasures this life affords you. So what are the gifts that YOU are going to intentially savor today? Happiness can be as simple as what you decide to focus on.

Don’t Spend Your Money on Ageism

Old bench
Ever notice how birthday greeting cards for young people offer encouragement and congratulations, while greeting cards–and even party favors– for older adults, in an attempt to be humorous, play into seemingly light-hearted–yet far from innocuous– AGEIST stereotypes?
Here is a reason to boycott products that poke fun of baby boomers as being “over-the-hill”, riddled with physical decline,sagging body parts, lack of bladder control , etc.
These ageist messages not only reinforce how society should think and relate to those who are over 50, but there is also research indicating they can have a harmful emotional–and physical– effect on older adults themselves, who eventually will begin to believe and act upon these false and negative assumptions about how “dreadful” it is to grow older.
DON’T SPEND YOUR MONEY IN SUPPORT OF AGEISM. When purchasing birthday cards or buying party favors–or even wishing someone a happy birthday –make sure you are sending a message that reflects how valued that person is, and how fabulous it is that they are on this earth, and still making a positive difference in the world.

Appreciation Can Change Your Life

Piano

Research shows that expressing appreciation increases your sense of well-being and life satisfaction. And it works that way for the recipent, too! Case-in-point:
Two years ago I received a hand-written letter from a friend I had lost contact with since my college days. He had just been given a dismal prognosis and set out to write letters to those who made a difference in his life. The letter to me recalled a time, back in the 70s when we were at my parent’s house waiting for our dates to arrive and while waiting I asked if he wanted to hear the new ragtime piano piece I had been working on. Never did I think he would remember that experience so many years later. Interestingly, it wasn’t just about the music, but the memory of how special he felt that I would want to play that piece for HIM, because no one had ever given him a “private concert” before nor since. Who would have thought?
That letter still means the world to me, and it made me even more convinced of the importance of telling the people who have impacted my life, how much I appreciate them, and how my life changed because of their presence in the world.
What are YOU waiting for to express appreciation to someone who has made a difference in your life? Who are the people who have changed YOUR life for the better? Why not email them, write them, call them, invite them for coffee, etc. –and express THANKS. It will make both of you feel great! #AgingHappy

Brute Force vs Patience + Consistency

 

man-641691_1920.jpg

In our younger years when we wanted to open a jar ASAP we would muscle off the lid in a matter of seconds. Now we know we can avoid a sprained hand by dragging out the old -fashioned bottle opener and easing the pointed end under the jar lid at different spots until we hear the air seal break. Voila’—it eventually opens just fine.

In the past, you may have subjected yourself to numerous fad diets that promised dramatic results in short amounts of time. Now you realize that if you consistently just eat foods that are good for you while cutting out useless calories–over time your body will gravitate almost effortlessly to a healthy normal weight.

There is a certain lightness that comes with realizing there is no need to power through insurmountable obstacles in order to achieve your goals.  Instead we can float through most obstacles with peace and calm –knowing that success is rarely a byproduct of brute force; but rather the result of consistent moderate intensity actions, and having the patience to let the process take its course.

At one time I had so many workout devices in my home that almost every room seemed to guilt-trip me into jumping on a treadmill, hopping on a skier, hoisting myself over a stepper, or raising and lowering a barbell instead of just enjoying some much-needed down time. Today the rooms in my home beckon me to enjoy reading, writing, sharing a meal with family or friends, or just watching a movie.  With the wisdom of age, it dawned on me that I hardly had to hammer my body into shape in every available free minute.  To the contrary, a brisk lunchtime walk most days of the week, and some light hand-weights here and there keep me in shape just fine.

Whether you are trying to get fit, learn a new musical instrument, write a book, launch a business, feel the effects of a new vitamin, experiment with an unfamiliar dinner recipe, or even expand your social life— forget about knocking yourself out to the point of exhaustion by pressuring yourself to get to the finish line ASAP. Instead, just take a few deep breaths, smile, and note how the process of slow and steady will help you to enjoy your life more—and make you a winner every time. In time.

———–

Coming in November: Ageing Happy: How to Knock Out the Nonsense and Make These the Best Years of Your Life.

For speaking inquiries: RaeleenMautner@gmail.com

 

The Beauty of Age

Autumn trees

I wasn’t able to watch the Grammys last night, although I will catch a glimpse of some of the performances this evening on the Internet. Admittedly, I don’t know all of the newer artists, but of course I remember with fondness the performers of yesteryear—the musical geniuses who provided the backdrop to all of the special moments in my life. I loved them then; I love them now. In many cases, their talent just keeps getting better.

Today, I ran into a friend who asked me if I saw the Grammy Awards. She told me she always loves to see what outfits people will wear, and experience the old and new talents—some of which were pretty outstanding. This was a long time friend of mine—a very good friend; someone with whom I can discuss anything. But as she talked about the Grammys, there seemed to be no energetic vibe, no glint of excitement, no glimmer of joy.  Finally, she revealed how saddened she was to see a few of the older entertainers, who, instead of proudly representing their age, apparently felt the pressure of having to puff up, cut up, or chemically stiffen their faces so many times,  they had practically become caricatures of themselves. She felt badly about the pressure these major talents must have felt that prompted them to change their appearance—and this had even started to make my friend feel badly about herself, knowing full well that if that is what an older person must do to stay in the game, what a dismal state of affairs.

I am all about doing whatever anyone wishes to do in order to feel and look better. What I question, however is feeling we must cave to the pressure that our youth-oriented culture puts on older adults; causing many of us to desperately try to stay looking twenty in order to feel attractive and valued.

Has anyone ever denied the beauty of an autumn tree? Not long ago, I lived on a road lined with stately old trees from which long graceful branches on either side, reached out to touch each other, forming an endless lush arc of foliage. In autumn this arc took on the brilliance of sunlit gold, orange, red, and rust. People who drove on my street experienced a breathtaking—almost blinding work of Nature; a droplet of spiritual beauty to the eye of the observer.

And while no one thinks of autumn trees as unsightly just because they no longer have the tender blossoms of spring—we humans haven’t fared so well when it comes to perspectives on aging in our society. We are bombarded with anti-aging messages that in essence tell us to keep trying, keep hoping, keep chasing the pipedream of being twenty once again, instead of honoring the beauty inherent in every age, the evolvement of the soul, the depth of accumulated intelligence and wisdom we possess in our autumn years.  It is time to start proudly celebrating each birthday, each month, each day, each minute that we are given the privilege to celebrate our life.

While we may not be able to single-handedly change others’ perspective on ageing, we can refuse to buy into it —by respecting ourselves. With unabashed gratitude we owe it to ourselves to acknowledge the beauty of our age, the immensity of our hearts, and the capacity of our minds.  This “third age”, I have discovered, is wrought with exquisiteness. This is the time to live our gift of life to the fullest:  in strength, confidence, grace, and goodness.  What a relief it is to know that we are fine and even perfect just the way we are—without having to chase anyone else’s impossible dream of who they think we should be. Now is the time to live out YOUR dreams, YOUR way.

COMING IN NOVEMBER, my newest book : “Aging Happy: How to Knock Out the Nonsense and Make These the Best Years of Your Life “(Linden Press).

For speaking inquiries : RaeleenMautner@gmail.com

Ever Been “Ghosted”? Here’s What to Do!

casper_the_friendly_ghost_issue_no.1_(march,_1991)

(By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50316612)

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.

Copyright Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D. 2019

 

Can You Ever Be TOO Happy? The Answer Might Surprise You.

 

On more than one occasion I have been mildly chided for being “too happy”. While I don’t consider myself sickeningly exuberant, I am, in general, an optimist; which is not to say I am immune to life’s heartaches. Never-the-less I guess that irritates some people. But it did make me think. I know that in general, too much of a good thing can actually be—well, no good at all. For example, once a year I enjoy a magnificent zeppola di San Giuseppe; a fried Italian pastry , filled with custard, lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar and finished with a maraschino cherry on top. Fortunately, they are only on display at pastry shops around the time of St. Joseph’s Day (Father’s Day in Italy), the 19th of March. Heaven knows if they were available every day of the year, I would be a regular at my favorite Italian bakery and gradually either morph into a cannon ball, or get physically sick from eating a half-dozen in one sitting. So yes, moderation in most things, is key. But come on; happiness?? Can we ever be just too darned happy?

As it turns out, the answer is YES…and NO.

Let me be clear, I ran across no studies that indicate happiness is a bad thing; in fact, happiness is an agreed upon good thing, and has a number of benefits in every age category. Moreover, happy people seem to be more successful in all areas of life—from work, to love, to health—than are unhappy people. What researchers found, however, when taking a closer look, was that there are certain situations where ultra-happiness is productive and other situations where it may be counterproductive.

There are many definitions of happiness, and those definitions vary among individuals, but for the most part, we are referring to subjective well-being—a feeling of positive emotion and life satisfaction. Some experts define happiness as the presence of positive affect and absence of negative affect. But here’s the rub: there are situations where being 100% satisfied with things as they are will kill your motivation to take action in ways that might improve your circumstances. Sometimes negative emotions can be productive. Fear, for example, keeps me from walking down a dark alley in a strange neighborhood at night alone. I can whistle zip-a-dee-do-dah (yeah, okay, I still love that song) all I want, but that won’t help me avoid danger. Similarly, anxiety about my knee pain motivates me to see a physical therapist so I can get out of pain. A certain amount of stress keeps me on target in meeting my writing deadlines, and memorizing my theater scripts. A strong superego (i.e., guilt) keeps me from violating my own moral code.

Thus, when a person’s situation is less than ideal, being happy but not 100 -percent happy, leaves room for the kind of uneasiness that can lead to positive changes. If an uber-happy person is in a low paying job with no chance of advancement, (s)he may not put in the effort to get a better paying job that would cover the monthly bills; or fail to pursue a more challenging career because there is no motivation to seek more education or training.

Thus when overly happy people are in bad circumstances, they may become complacent and not seek to improve their situation. Too much happiness becomes an obstacle to making positive changes in such cases.

On the other hand, there are other situations where maximum happiness is a good thing. For instance in relationships, where being totally positive can help you overlook some of the more irritating flaws of our partners, family, and friends. Being totally content with your circumstances may have a positive impact on the stability of a marriage, for example, where you do want avoid making such changes, as searching for another partner.

Researchers examined how respondents rated their overall life satisfaction on a 10-point scale on The World Values Survey Data. They also examined other variables such as relationship satisfaction, highest level of education completed, volunteer status, and political participation. They found that the highest possible life satisfaction score was correlated to satisfying volunteer work and relationship status; whereas moderately high levels of satisfaction (i.e., less than maximum) were more useful when it came to income, education, and political participation –all variables that can improve our life circumstances if we are motivated to take action to make changes.

So have no fear about pursuing what Aristotle considered to be the ultimate goal in lifeàHAPPINESS. Just make sure you can gauge when complacency is keeping you from improving your situation when change is called for.

 

Reference

Shigehiro, O., Diener, E., & Lucas, R.E. (2007). The optimum level of well-being: Can people be too happy? Perspectives on Psychological Science. Vol 2(4) pp 346-360.

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC