Archives for September 2020

Practice Empathy to Get Through Trying Times

Have you noticed that people are relatively quick to get angry lately—more frustrated, anxious, or easily stressed out? Or perhaps you’ve seen people reacting with exhaustion or impatience? With all that’s been going on these past few months, many people are psychologically drained whether they realize it or not.

Everything seems to take much longer to process, to do, to get, to achieve. Then there are the new rules—from wearing masks and staying six-feet apart to right and wrong ways to travel the grocery store aisles. Things we never had to worry about in our lives now seem to dictate our actions.

  • We don’t feel free to do what we used to do…
  • …Or safe to do even the simplest things.
  • People seem to be acting irrationally.
  • Things seem pretty uncertain.

I’ve been talking a lot about empathy lately—to my family, Aegis Living team, business peers, friends—and we need to be empathic more than ever before. There’s a difference between sympathy and empathy, and understanding the difference can help us get through these trying times.

Empathy vs. Sympathy

While they seem similar on the surface, there are meaningful differences between empathy and sympathy.

Sympathy is mostly about feeling sorrowful about another person’s misfortune. I think of it as a static relationship. We can have sympathy for a person’s loss or problem and express an “I’m sorry,” but, in most cases, we don’t go much deeper. It’s cognitive in nature and keeps a certain distance.

On the other hand, empathy, is more about the ability to deeply understand someone else’s feelings as if they were our own—it’s being able to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place. While we are generally pretty in tune with our own feelings and emotions, understanding someone else’s can be a bit more difficult. The ability to feel empathy allows people to “walk a mile in another’s shoes,” so to speak, and helps us understand the emotions that others are feeling.

For me, being empathetic to another human requires action. We have to actively try and understand their situation—why they are upset or frustrated or tired or afraid—then we have to actively put ourselves in their exact situation.

Becoming More Empathetic

Being empathetic to what someone is going through comes very easily and naturally to some people and not as easy for others. The good news is that studies show that you can train yourself to become more empathetic, whether it comes naturally or not. Empathy is a skill that you can learn and strengthen. Here are a few simple things that you can do to build up your empathy skills:

  • Listening to people without interrupting. This can be hard sometimes, but everyone likes to fully share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Pay attention to their body language and other types of nonverbal communication. You’ll pick up on many clues, especially if their verbal communication isn’t very emotional.
  • Try to understand people, even when you disagree with them.
  • Ask people questions to learn more about them and their lives.
  • Imagine yourself in another person’s shoes. (This one can’t be said enough.)

Diving a little deeper, here are two very effective ways to improve your ability to show empathy.


I firmly believe that empathy takes the action of listening. This is because, before you can connect with what someone else is feeling, you have to be able to recognize what that feeling is, and listening is crucial to this.

I believe you must become intentional about listening—and specifically listening for emotion. Make an effort to notice the signals people are giving that can indicate what they are feeling. For example, when a friend calls you and vents about something that’s bothering them, the emotion in their voice is something you can very quickly pick up on. Where it’s more difficult is when conversations are happening in the middle of other distractions, or they’re not speaking with emotional tones.

Something else that can hinder your ability to notice what others are feeling is your own emotions. When you have a conversation and only look at your own feelings and how you can communicate them, you’re likely not paying enough attention to what’s going on with the other person. Making an effort to actively listen can help strengthen your emotional understanding and empathy.

When people feel deep sadness for, say, victims of a natural disaster, they get closer to putting themselves in other people’s shoes. While feeling someone else’s pain may enhance a sense of belonging and understanding, it doesn’t maximize the opportunity to enhance well-being. The advantage of knowing what another person is going through is that you can better identify how you can help in that situation. Empathy lets you understand and feel what someone else is going through without actually being in that tough spot. And this empowers you to do something to help.

Take that next step, and help when you can. Recognize that you can do things, however small, to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Remember, whether you’re working through an issue at work or a disagreement with your spouse, we have to listen more intently, think more deeply, and take action more quickly to show empathy.

We’ll get through this crazy 2020 more easily if we all recognize that everyone is struggling with something right now, and practice empathy!

Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!


Pizzazz During a Pandemic!

My wife, T, loves these red shoes. She says they have pizzazz!

In these days of sheltering in place and “safer at home,” it feels like the pandemic has sucked the glamour and vitality out of many of us. And that has such a draining effect on our outlook and sense of well-being.

Lately, Wellness Warriors, I’ve been thinking a lot about how isolation affects our mindset, even when we don’t notice it. We all feel more isolated lately because:

  • We can’t embrace people like we used to
  • We don’t see our family and friends in the places we love
  • Our freedom of travel has been restricted
  • Many of our choices for entertainment have been restricted or canceled
  • Numerous other reasons

Even the way we dress has changed dramatically. Many of us aren’t dressing up to “go” to work much anymore. Casual clothes seem to be enough to get through the next Zoom call. Still, how we reflect to ourselves in the mirror can sting us a bit. And all of this can make us feel pizzazz-less.

Rediscovering Your Pizzazz

There are many things we can do to recapture the vitality and glamour of our pre-COVID, pre-lockdown selves. Here are a few simple things you can do that will help improve your mood, outlook, and bring the pizzazz back into your life.

  • Gratitude – First and foremost, I believe rediscovering the pizzazz starts by acknowledging that we still have much to be grateful for and work toward. Take a moment to acknowledge all of the ways that are going right in your life right now. You can make a mental list of all the GOOD will help bring back a sparkle in your eye. Keeping a gratitude journal is also a great way to keep reminding yourself of all that is going well and that you’re thankful for.
  • Movement – Next, get moving! Go for a walk, dance around the house, take a swim, perk up your flower garden. As long as your body is in motion, you will feel better. There is a mind-body connection to inactivity that creates a dragging mindset. Motion creates energy and vitality.
  • Get outside – Time outdoors decreases stress, blood pressure, and heart rates. Instead of screen time, which frequently has the opposite effect, consider spending time in your yard, a park, in the woods, or just walking around the block after dinner. Relaxing outdoors is good for your mental health.
  • Stay connected to real people – Go out of your way to contact family and friends through video calls, regular phone calls, or even an in-person (safe and socially-distanced) get together. Even something as simple as chatting with a neighbor about the weather can positively affect your mood.
  • Pump Up the Tunes – “Hey, Alexa, play…!” While you’re working from home or starting or winding down your day, jam to your favorite tunes, and before you know it, you’ll be dancing! Also, try finding a live-streaming concert from your favorite artist, since you can’t actually go to a concert right now.
  • Dress Up – Or at least, don’t dress down. Yes, sweatpants and Lululemons are super comfortable, but try dressing it up a little to improve your mental outlook. I know only your top half can be seen on Zoom calls, but dressing it up a little will make you feel more like your old self, and walking past the mirror will give you a good feeling! Also, pick a night with your significant other or family and maybe have a dressy meal together. It’s not easy to go out to eat nowadays, but getting dressed up and having a meal delivered will definitely add that sparkle back in your eye.
  • Sleep – Getting a good night of sleep is helpful in so many ways. It gives you energy, improves your outlook, and improves your immune system. It also has such a big impact on your mood, and if your sleep has been less than stellar lately, you may be sleep-deprived and not even realize it. Getting your circadian rhythm back in check can have an immensely positive impact on your mood and overall health, so be sure to set a bedtime and stick to it.
  • Little Things – And don’t forget that the little things still count. Seek out the details that make life dazzlingly for you, like:
    • Putting fresh flowers in the house
    • Trying a new coat of paint in that room that you’ve been putting off to make it bright and cheery
    • Sending a goofy selfie to friends just because

For me, the fact that my wife still likes it when I wear red shoes for no special reason is worth the mindset shift! Let’s put some pizzazz back into our lives and spread it around…it starts with our heads and trickles down to our feet.

Until next time, Wellness Warriors, Live Well, Live Long!


Get Stronger With Age

Hey, Wellness Warriors! As we grow older, an active life is more important than ever. Aging does not have to equal weakness, so there is no reason to accept that poor health and weakness are inevitable parts of aging. Exercise—and even just regular movement—keeps us healthier as we age.

I am often asked what I do for workouts. I lift weights. Weightlifting is my go-to, and I try to do it three days/week.

Strength and resistance training is crucial as we age. WHY? It helps maintain muscle tissue. Muscle mass is closely tied to our metabolism. If your muscles decrease by 8-10%, your metabolism also decreases by 8-10%. Increased strength also allows us to lift heavier objects, which translates into a better life outside of the gym.

When you’re over 50, strength training is less about developing those abs of steel and more about maintaining a strong, healthy body that’s less prone to injury and illness. Let’s take a look at a few of the great benefits of strength and resistance training specifically for us seniors.

The Benefits of Strength Training for Seniors

We’ve all heard the expression “use it or lose it,” and that’s especially true when it comes to our strength, flexibility, and mobility. Resistance training can actually prevent muscle loss and increase bone density aswe age. So there really isn’t any need to accept the idea that weakness and poor health are just a part of aging.

Here are five ways you can reap the benefits of strength training:

  1. Prevents muscle loss – As mentioned above, strength training helps prevent muscle loss. It also increases muscle mass. No, you won’t be bulky, but you will have the strength to do the things you need to do to stay independent and live the active life you want to live.
  2. Builds bone density – Again, as mentioned above, strength training helps to build bone density. No one wants to fall and break a bone, and recovering from a break in your 60s+ is very different than when you fell off your bike and broke your arm when you were 7.
  3. Decreases body fat – Too much body fat isn’t ideal for you at any age, but especially not as we age. Strength training will help you maintain a healthy weight. And let’s face it, that’s important when it comes to preventing many of the diseases that seem to come with aging.
  4. Lowers the risk of chronic disease – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends strength training for most older adults to help lessen the symptoms of certain chronic conditions including arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, back pain, depression.
  5. Safety – Strength is also important for safety and independence as we get older. Think of being able to push yourself up from a seated position, pull yourself up with your upper body if you’ve fallen, or (with progressing age) walk unassisted.

Getting Started

So how do you get started with a strength or resistance training program? Well, the first place to start is with your physician. Be sure to check with him or her to discuss what you want to do and anything you need to be careful of before starting.

I think one of the best pieces of news about strength training is that it doesn’t need to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. The most simple, beneficial exercises can be done right in your own home. In fact, if you’re just getting started with strength training, here’s a good 20-minute exercise plan you can do right in your home. I also enjoy using resistance bands, and they can be used in your home, on the walking trail, and especially when you travel.

I like using resistance bands to do strength training. They’re great when I want to work out outside or when I am traveling.

However, going to a gym or fitness center can be helpful. Most facilities offer special classes for seniors, along with a knowledgeable staff that can guide you through proper exercise techniques.

So when should you start? Well, there’s no time like the present! Muscles burn three times the number of calories that fat burns! The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn!

Now, if you think you are going to become big and bulky if you age, think again. We are simply not designed to do so naturally. Strive for lean, toned muscles, an increase in strength and metabolism, and reduced fat!

Wellness Warriors, strength training will help you get stronger and stay stronger, which will help you remain independent and able to do the things you really love to do. Don’t accept weakness and poor health as an inevitable part of aging! We can change the way we age—and it all starts NOW!

Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!


Practicing Gratitude in the Middle of a Pandemic

Wellness Warriors, today, I’m sending you a positive attitude wish, encouraging you to be committed to gratitude. It leads to becoming the best version of you!

But life will not wait for you to learn this. Despite how things might be for you during this pandemic, there are things to be grateful for. And it’s essential for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being to practice gratitude!

Greek philosopher, Aristotle, argued that we become what we habitually do. By changing our habits, we can become more grateful human beings.

So, if we spend our days replaying on all that has gone wrong and how bleak the future may seem, we can actually think ourselves into a negative mindset, filled with misery, resentment, and even depression. But we can also make the choice to become the kind of people who seek out, recognize, and celebrate all that we have to be grateful for.

The Benefits of Living a Life of Gratitude

Having an attitude of gratitude has benefits that go far beyond the immediate moment. Research shows that grateful people tend to be healthier and happier, exhibiting lower levels of stress and depression, coping better with adversity, and even sleeping better. Not surprisingly, they also tend to be more satisfied with life.

Perhaps when we are more focused on the good things we enjoy in life, we have more to live for and tend to take better care of ourselves and each other. In fact, an experiment that asked participants to write and deliver thank-you notes found large increases in reported levels of happiness, a benefit that lasted for an entire month.

Also, every time a person expresses or receives gratitude, dopamine (known as the feel-good neurotransmitter) is released in the brain. When a person expresses or receives gratitude, dopamine is released, thus making a connection between the behavior and feeling good. The more a person practices gratitude, the more often dopamine is released.

Ways to Practice Gratitude

Gratitude List

One easy way to practice gratitude is to create a gratitude list. From Oprah Winfrey to Dr. Oz, the powers of gratitude lists are widely hailed. If you never tried, I highly recommend you do. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but many studies have shown that taking time every day to acknowledge the things that make you grateful increases optimism, lowers stress, and increases feelings of joy and contentment.

A simple approach is to keep a small notebook next to your bed, write the date, and jot a few notes about what was good and positive in your day. Maybe it was the greeting the barista gave you in the morning, a beautiful sky, a call from your grandkids, or an e-mail from a happy client. Small or large, finding just a few things you’re grateful for can shift your mood and perspective.

Gratitude Journal

Another simple yet powerful way to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. On its most basic level, keeping a gratitude journal involves making a list of the things you are grateful for that day, which makes it similar to the gratitude list just mentioned, but I encourage you to note how these wonderful things made you feel.

Keeping a journal has been shown to increase positivity, improve self-esteem, helps you sleep better, be happier, and reduces your stress level—all tremendous benefits. The great thing is that recording your gratitude in a journal an easy habit to form, and after a while, you have an inspiring collection of material to look back on when you are in need of a pick-me-up.

Other Quick-and-Easy Ways

Here are a few other things we can do to embrace gratitude:

  • Start the day acknowledging three things you’re grateful for before you leave the bedroom in the morning.
  • Slowdown from time to time throughout the day to take it all in.
  • Try to appreciate the moment you are in—make every moment count.
  • Meditate on gratitude.
  • Let people know how much you appreciate them.
  • Any time you get the opportunity to give back, do what you can.
  • Try to see the good in every day.
  • At the end of the day, “count your blessings” by thinking of two or three things for which you’re grateful.
  • Send a thank-you card or a handwritten note of appreciation to someone you’re grateful for.

One last tip about practicing gratitude: watch out for being grateful for things that make you feel better off (or better) than others. I believe this kind of thinking can foster envy, jealousy, and other negative—and unhealthy—emotions.

So come on, Wellness Warriors, let’s put this into practice every day! Make gratitude a way of life, and by developing the simple habit of counting our blessings, we can enhance the degree to which we are truly blessed.

Make gratitude a way of life!


Positivity – A Key Ingredient in Longevity’s Recipe

I want to talk about positivity. Why? I believe happiness is what many people ultimately want, along with longevity. And happiness has been proven to be life-extending.

Research is continuing to prove what we’ve known from experience and observation about the value of a positive outlook and finding reasons to be happy even when faced with challenges.

For example:

  • Optimism, hope, life satisfaction, and happiness are associated with a lowered likelihood of heart disease and stroke.
  • People who perceive aging as a positive experience are more likely to practice healthy behaviors.
  • People who think they’re in poor health may die sooner than those who consider themselves healthy (regardless of their actual health status).

The Research Behind the Belief Furthering this idea about health and happiness, Dr. Andrew Steptoe (University College London), researcher, psychologist, and epidemiologist, led a team that studied 30,000 people over the age of 60 for eight years to learn more about aging, health, and happiness. The study found that those who were least happy were 80% more likely to develop problems with everyday activities.

Dr. Steptoe and his team also analyzed the results of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, which followed 11,000 people over the age of 50. People who reported negative emotions, like feeling anxious or worried, were 2X as likely to die within five years as people who reported feeling contented and excited. Dr. Steptoe has pointed out that this holds true regardless of age, economic status, or health status.

Additionally, a meta-analysis of more than 300 studies covering 30 years of inquiry into the relationship between stress and the immune system found that stressful events can change immune system functioning, while a positive attitude can improve your immune system.

People who assessed their lives as being “stressful” or who reported having numerous negative thoughts had a significant reduction in natural “killer” cells — those good cells whose job is to target and eliminate virus and tumor infected cells. When we’re feeling low and desperately need all of our cells to rally, the immune system is standing on the sidelines, waiting to hear from their coach (you). Since nearly all stress is “self-reported,” you are in control of what your immune system hears. So, if the molecules in your immune system respond to your thoughts, it’s time to advance the practice of positive self-talk to the top of our to-do lists.

The main takeaway here is simply this: Being happy and thinking positive thoughts, despite the challenges you may experience, is health-protective.

The Story of a Centenarian Happiness is a way of seeing and interacting with the world that brings positivity, a sense of purpose, and a spark of aliveness that is infectious.

One of the bright sparks of positivity at Aegis Living is a remarkable African-American woman whose life mirrors the wrenching challenges of succeeding in segregated America. As a centenarian, her attitude is probably her greatest gift to herself and the wide circle of friends that have surrounded her for decades.

She was born in New Orleans in 1913 and worked as a helper in a pathologist’s office starting when she was 11 or 12. In 1926, the doctor moved all the way to Seattle, and he sent for her to come live with his family and continue working. She was only 13 at the time. The doctor helped her learn to read, but she never went to school.

As a teenager, she eventually moved to the YMCA, and the housemother took her under her wing. The housemother introduced her to the black community and church, and she was taught etiquette and social skills with the other girls during their evening meals. She met her first (of three) husbands—a great example of the importance of a fulfilling life, not a “perfect” one. She had a vibrant community of friends. Apparently, her phone never stopped ringing, and she constantly had visitors and all kinds of committees and projects she was involved in.

When she thinks about what has been most important to her long life, she says:

“I try very hard to be nice to people. I feel that, down the road, they too will be nice to everybody. I do things for someone, not because I want anything, but because I want the person to do the same thing—or more—for somebody else. The golden rule is one of the things I believe in. I feel it’s paid off. Not everyone has done for me what I’ve done for them, but I feel like I’ve got it from somewhere.”

Those who practice positivity—or who are positive thinkers—make the best out every situation, focus on what they can control, let go of what they cannot, and search for ways to improve the situation and lessons they learn.

Wellness Warriors, COVID-19 has many of us feeling unhappy, stressed, and pessimistic. It’s time to practice positivity, be happier, and “live well, live long.” Until next time…STAY POSITIVE!


Meditation After 60: A Key Component to a Happier, Healthier Life

Think you’re too old to start meditating? Au contraire! Or maybe that you don’t have enough time? Pish-posh! Or perhaps you have misgivings about it? Well, Wellness Warrior, I’m here to tell you that you’re NOT too old, it doesn’t take long, and it’s time you take a look at some remarkable facts that point to many health benefits.

It’s well-known that unmanaged stress wreaks havoc your body and speeds up the aging process. It weakens the immune system and contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and so much more. Research shows that cutting through the mental noise and focusing your mind through meditation helps alleviate stress and anxiety, slows the aging process, improves your attention span, and can even help you sleep better. And who wouldn’t want help in these areas?

Regular meditation comes with a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of particular interest seniors. Here are a few ways meditation can improve your overall health and quality of life:

  • Alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression – Research has shown that regular meditation can reduce stress dramatically. Studies conducted at the University of Wisconsin proved that meditation has physiological effects on the brain. For example, researchers found that the part of the brain that regulates stress and anxiety shrinks when meditation is practiced regularly. By focusing on moment-by-moment experiences, meditators train the mind to remain calm, even in stressful situations. 
  • Improves creativity, focus, and cognitive function – Similarly, regular meditation can also increase the size of other parts of the brain. For example, the areas of the brain responsible for self-awareness and personality development, and planning (such as the prefrontal cortex) actually increase. As a result, meditators experience improved focus, creativity, and cognitive function—a great benefit for those of us over 60!
  • Improves memory – A number of studies conducted by neuroscientists have confirmed a clear link between meditation and enhanced memory. Meditation stimulates the memory centers within the brain. One study conducted by researchers in Boston found that frequent meditation seemed to bolster the cerebral cortex. (The cortex deals with mental functions such as learning, concentration, and memory.) Regular meditation increases blood flow to the brain, which leads to a stronger network of blood vessels in the cerebral cortex and reinforces memory capacity. This is great to know as we grow older.
  • Helps you sleep better – Sadly, about one-third of the American population suffers from insomnia or some other form of sleep deprivation, whether occasional or chronic. An article in the Harvard Health Blog confirms that meditation triggers the relaxation response, which allows you to relax and sleep more easily. So, if you frequently find yourself staring at the ceiling and counting sheep all night to no avail, meditation is your likely solution.

How Meditation Works for Me

I’ve incorporated Transcendental Meditation into my routine, and it’s had a profound effect for me. It has improved my energy, and I feel better—I feel well.

Meditation, which is accessible to everyone, also has enormous potential for fostering wellness. According to Dr. Mimi Guarneri, president of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine and medical director of Guarneri Integrative Health in La Jolla, California, “Transcendental Meditation reduces heart attack, stroke, and sudden death by 48%. That’s better than any medicine I know.”

In fact, I added Transcendental Meditation (also known as TM) to my list of habits to prevent illness and promote good health before publishing my recent bestselling book, 30 Summers More.

TM has been life-changing for me. I do it twice a day for 20 minutes. It clears my brain of stress and distracting thoughts, it takes my blood pressure and blood sugar down, and I find that I have much more energy, clarity, and creativity now that it’s part of my daily routine.

This form of meditation must be done twice a day for 20 minutes per meditation period. I have a packed schedule, and finding two 20-minute blocks of time each day can be a challenge, but I do it. Even if it means I’m doing TM in the airport, in the back of a car, or a restaurant, I do it. It’s not something you can do once in a while and expect results, but the time spent has an immediate return if you do it regularly.

Other people also have positive things to say about the benefits of TM. Jerry Seinfeld, Liv Tyler, and Anderson Cooper are fans, too. However, the science speaks the loudest. According to a 2017 Seattle Times article on the subject, the most cited medical research on TM “is a 1989 Stanford University study that found TM is twice as effective at reducing anxiety when compared with concentration, contemplation, and other techniques, like deep breathing.”

According to the David Lynch Foundation, the National Institutes of Health granted $26 million to several organizations to study the effects of TM on cardiovascular disease. These research findings mirror the information above as they found that TM:

  • Decreases the incidence of heart attack, stroke, and death.
  • Reduces the presence of metabolic syndrome.
  • Extends longevity.
  • Reduces blood pressure and use of hypertensive medications.
  • Reduces constriction of blood vessels

Moreover, the American Medical Association released a study that shows TM reduces high blood pressure and mortality rates by almost 50% for those who have practiced for more than five years.”

The transformative potential of meditation shouldn’t be underestimated. Meditation reduces stress, improves your mood, decreases your heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, and increases your production of serotonin and HDL numbers. Meditation can help you sleep better and maintain a better mood, reduces anxiety, and improves the health of our brains, minds, and bodies. We should all be looking at ways to meditate more.

If you think you don’t have time to meditate, consider this: a recent study has shown that longtime meditators’ brains were less affected by aging than the brains of nonmeditators. Maybe spending those extra minutes meditating will produce a longer, happier, and healthier life.

In short, Wellness Warriors, meditation is a wonderful health improvement habit to develop, and the time meditating is time wisely invested. So what are you waiting for? Stop thinking about it and start doing it. What medication do you know of that can produce those results?

Until next time, Wellness Warriors, Live Well, Live Long!