It’s “that” time year – Isolation, Not Loneliness, Shortens Life

We often believe that during holidays everyone, except us, is having a wonderful festive time, surrounded by loving family, caring friends, filled with fun, festivity and happiness.

At the risk of “bah humbug” what I most often heard from clients was holidays were filled with stress, trepidation, family feuds or deep pain at being alone while everyone else seemingly was partying.  

Coupled with studies which suggest that the Christmas/New Year’s holidays are a risk factor for cardiac and noncardiac mortality.* the United Kingdom study on loneliness and isolation of 6,500  had an interesting conclusion:

Loneliness hurts, but social isolation can kill you. 

“The study, by a team at University College London, comes after decades of research showing that both loneliness and infrequent contact with friends and family can, independently, shorten a person’s life. The scientists expected to find that the combination of these two risk factors would be especially dangerous.”

“We were thinking that people who were socially isolated but also felt lonely might be at particularly high risk,” says Andrew Steptoe, a professor of psychology at University College London.”

“To find out, the team studied 6,500 men and women ages 52 and older. All of them had answered a questionnaire back in 2004 or 2005 that assessed both their sense of loneliness and how much contact they had with friends and family. The researchers looked to see what happened to those people over the next seven or eight years.”

“And Steptoe says he was surprised by the result. “Both social isolation and loneliness appeared initially to be associated with a greater risk of dying,” he says. “But it was really the isolation which was more important.”‘

‘”At first, it looked like people who reported greater levels of loneliness were more likely to die, Steptoe says. But closer analysis showed that these people were also more likely to have other risk factors, like being poor and having existing health problems. Once those factors were taken into account, the extra risk associated with loneliness pretty much disappeared, Steptoe says.”‘

“But people who spent very little time with friends and family, or at social events, were more likely to die regardless of income or health status the team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

“It’s not clear why social isolation is linked to mortality. But one possibility is that having other people around has practical benefits as you get older, Steptoe says. For example, they may push you to go see a doctor if you are having symptoms like chest pain, he says. And if you were to lose consciousness, they would call for help.”

Do Facebook friends count? How about texting?

“Other researchers say they are surprised and not necessarily convinced by the new study, even though they say it’s large and well-done.”

‘”It doesn’t negate the loneliness work that’s been done to date,” says Bert Uchino, a University of Utah psychology professor. He says this study may have reached a different conclusion than earlier ones because people’s definition of loneliness is changing in the Internet age.”‘

‘”People … may think that they’re connected to other people because they’re on Facebook,” Uchino says. So they may not report feeling lonely. But that sort of connection, he says, may not have the health benefits of direct contact with other people.”

*https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/01.cir.0000151424.02045.f7   (There are multiple explanations for this association, including the possibility that holiday-induced delays in seeking treatment play a role in producing the twin holiday spikes.)

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/03/26/175283008/maybe-isolation-not-loneliness-shortens-life

Frankly Freddie, Heads & Tails

My Way by Freddie
(with apologies to Paul Anka)

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there is doubt
I eat it up, never spit it out
So you too, can face it all standing tall

and if you’re smart

you’ll do it my way

You Humans ruminate, obsess, plan, plod and procrastinate.  I’m here to give you guidance:

1. Get your nose out of the past and your tail out of the future

Live for now. Think about it. Now is all that exists. If all the stuffing comes out of your plaything, find another one. When someone won’t scratch behind your ears offer them your back.

2. Never lead with your butts

I never procrastinate or make excuses why it’s too late to go for a walk or put off dinner until my favorite program is over.

If you had to cram seven years into one year you wouldn’t procrastinate either.  When you tell yourself “I want to go  fetch BUT I have to check text messages text first”  .  remember to go at life head-first, not “BUT . . . first”.

3. STICK Your Head Out the Window (make sure it’s rolled down )

There are so many smells and so many blessings outside the window . . . take it all in wherever you’re headed (pun intended). You humans focus too much on the destination and forget to enjoy the journey.

4. Use Your Sniffer

BEFORE MAKING JUDGMENTS based on what others look like take a few sniffs and watch their behavior.

I can tell after 5 sniffs whether someone is trustworthy.  You might need more than 5 since you aren’t as perceptive as I am.

5. Wag before you Speak 

I don’t speak a human language (I write it but don’t speak it)  I can’t give you a thumbs up but I can give you a paw.  Only if I can’t get your attention with a nudge I use my bark. My tail never lies . . . and you shouldn’t either.

6. The Power of Pet 

Scratch each others backs, rub bellies, pat heads.  At the very least, reach out and touch others with kindness.  Getting and giving pets feels really good.

Freddie Parker Westerfield

*If you’re a constant worrier, you’re not alone. 40 million American adults live with anxiety disorders.

Evolution lets you off the hook. This makes perfect sense.

I never thought of myself as a perfectionist because I never have done anything “perfectly”.  

Are you a perfectionist? Do you, too, think you need to do your best and are hard on yourself because your best isn’t perfect?

P is for Peggy Perfect

I now have the “perfect” excuse to not be perfect. I can blame evolution.  

What a relief.

Everyone has on average 400 flaws in their DNA*

“As life evolved, new abilities and new forms of life were not started anew, but grew out of what was there already. What existed just changed a bit, and those changes gave a new ability, a new advantage. Since new life was built on what already existed, the perfect solution to a  new environment wasn’t always available, only what could easily develop from what already existed.”

What was workable, what was good enough, survived. Good enough meant it allowed the plant or animal to survive. And to be better than other solutions. But not necessarily perfect. So we are not perfect, and we do not need to be. We need to be good enough.

“The research gives an insight into the “flaws that make us all different, sometimes with different expertise and different abilities, but also different predispositions in diseases,” said Prof David Cooper of Cardiff University, the other lead researcher of the study.”

“Not all human genomes have perfect sequences,” he added. “The human genome is packed with pervasive, architectural flaws.”

How life evolved means we are not perfect, nothing is perfect, and we do not have to be perfect because perfect isn’t what life is about. Life is about good enough.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-20617312

*The evidence comes from the 1,000 Genomes project, which is mapping normal human genetic differences, from tiny changes in DNA to major mutations.

 

Owls, Larks & then there’s Me (Parenthetically Speaking)

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this.  Maybe there would be more validity if I had taken it when I was middle-aged and had the energy to rebound and peak.  As a seenager I seem to be in the slowdown phase, perpetually.)

Let me explain . . .  

What’s the best time to Think?

Daniel Pink* (born in 1964 and he’s NOT a seenager) says our ability to think changes throughout the day, consequently we function better, smarter and even more creative at various times.  Research suggests these effects can be as large as 20%.

Generally, we have a peak, a slowdown and a rebound during the day.

  • Most people are at their peak function during the late morning, till about noon. We think and focus the best then.  We don’t get distracted as easily.
  • Early to mid afternoon we are less alert and focused-this is the time for “busy work”.
  • In the late afternoon to early evening we rebound. We are more easily distracted though, which turns out to be good for creativity – problem solving and creative thinking. Our mood tends to be up and we are alert. Note that night owls have this time in the morning.

One in 5 people is a night owl, then the order is reversed–rebound, slowdown, peak.

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this.  I’m a night owl person.  My morning rebound lasts until about 3 pm, followed by a slowdown until 11 pm when I go to bed.  My peak performance occurs undoubtedly while I’m sleeping.)

What’s the best time to Exercise?

When is best time to exercise? Depends on your goals-here is Pink’s guide:

  • Morning exercise is best for losing weight –since blood sugar is low before we eat, we will burn fat – even 20% more fat than later exercise
  • Cardio in morning will boost your mood, and doing this in the morning lets you enjoy the boost longer
  • It is easier to have a routine in the morning that later in the day.
  • Late afternoon exercise is best for avoiding injury, since your muscles are warmed up
  • You also perform your best in the afternoon ( one study by Elise Facer-Childs and Ronald Brandstaetter at U. Of Birmingham  in 2015 showed a 26% difference. Lung function is highest and strength peaks at this time, reaction time is quick and eye hand coordination is at its best. This time of day is when athletic records tend to be set-late afternoon to early evening.  You tend to enjoy your workout more at this time.

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this.  I’m a night owl person.  Since my morning rebound lasts until about 3 pm, followed by a slowdown until 11 pm when I go to bed.  I should be exercising while I’m sleeping which will ensure I enjoy it more.)

How to stay happy and productive

Take short breaks-this helps keep you able to focus, especially when you move during the breaks.  Taking a 5 minute walk every hour will increase your energy, focus and mood,  lessening afternoon fatigue.  It’s better than one 30 min. walk. Researchers at Stanford found motivation, concentration and creativity went up with short walking breaks.

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this. Peggy told me this is how we evolved – pick some food from a plant, walk a bit, pick more food . . .   I tried this and gained 10 pounds which depressed me and now I’m going to bed to sleep at 3 pm when my slowdown starts.)

Pink says social breaks are the best as they increase mood and decrease stress. The best breaks may be ones in nature, people feel happier and more rested.

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this. I could take a social break but I don’t think my husband would appreciate my asking anyone else to bed)

(jw)

Peggy made  Mood Tracker charts to help me pinpoint my daily energy swings.

Click HERE to get a PDF and print your own chart and instructions.

Mood Chart

 

Sample Mood Chart & Tracker

References:

Wall Street Journal article Feb. 16, 2018,

*“How to be Healthier, Happier and More Productive: It’s All in the Timing” by Daniel H. Pink

 

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Pawsitively Tuesday – We’re just say’n . . . now you do the do’n

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did, 

but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

 

 

 

 

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Frankly Freddie – Making humans extroverted, the Canine Way (parenthetically speaking)

1. Introverts enjoy having time to themselves. P & J would rather spend time reading, gardening and blogging.  They even like to go shopping alone. I give them as much quiet, alone time as possible because it’s  important to their sense of well-being.  (They recharge their batteries by being alone which is puzzling and, might I say, rather boring.  I’m planning on taking them on walks more often so they learn to socialize.)

2.  Introverts best thinking occurs when they’re alone.  I’ve noticed they come up with creative solutions on their own and then they tell each other what they think. (Sometimes the solutions are weird . . .  I think they think too much.  I’m planning on taking them on more walks so they learn not to be so weird)

3.  Introverts lead best when others are self-starters.  They can be the best leaders of all if the group is ready to lead itself, then the introverted leader will draw the most potential out of them.  (I’m planning on taking them on more walks to practice  leading me so I can draw the most potential out of them.)

4. Introverts are content to let others take center stage.   Extraverts, like me, are ready and eager to stand out in any social situation. It’s not that introverts know less than others; they just don’t feel a particular need to be in that limelight.  (I’m not planning on doing anything about this since they tend to hog all the credit for my blogs)

5.  Other people ask introverts their opinion.  They are less likely to volunteer opinions or advice in less public settings.  People high in introversion will keep their views to themselves and let the noisy extraverts take control.  (I’m not planning on doing anything about this since they are already EXTREMELY opinionated.  You’re welcome.)

6.  Introverts do not engage with people who seem angry or upset. This is true.  P & J will drag me on the other side of the street if they see a big dog coming.  People high in introversion don’t want to look at someone who seems mad. this is because they are more sensitive to potentially negative evaluations.  (I’m not planning on doing anything about this since I also enjoy peace, quiet and lots of loving attention)

7.  Introverts receive more calls, texts, and emails than they make, unless there’s no choice. All other things being equal, people high in introversion don’t reach out voluntarily to their social circles. If they have a few minutes to spare, they won’t initiate a call just to pass the time by socializing.  They don’t generate emails and other written correspondence but instead react to the communications they receive from others.  If you have no choice but to initiate communications, such as when they invite people to a social event, they will be less likely to pick up the phone and make a call and more likely to send the request through cyberspace or the post office.  (THIS IS REALLY TRUE about Judy.  She hates to talk on the phone.  When the phone rings she starts twitching.  Peggy talks on the phone A LOT.  I’m not planning on doing anything about this since I don’t care)

8.  Being an introvert definitely has its advantages. You’re less likely to make a social gaffe, such as by inadvertently insulting someone whose opinion you don’t agree with. They enjoy reflecting on their own thoughts and are rarely likely to get bored when they’re alone than someone who needs constant social stimulation. (I’m planning on helping them learn how to pet and scratch me more.  Stimulation is a good thing.)

Maybe Peggy & Judy are ‘ambiverts’?

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, CDE

Canine Dog Extrovert

references:

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.Fulfillment at Any Age

https://www.psychologytoday.com/

Understanding personality types for a happier relationship