Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Five Ways to Ensure Holiday Happiness

          The holidays are just around the corner, and I don't think it's ever too early to remind yourself that you can shape the overall outcome of these days. Don't you want to look back in early January and feel good about how you handled yourself? I do, so I'll share some things that have benefited me.

Make it Work for You

          If you hate decorating, don’t. You can always appreciate the gala trees, bright lights and larger-than-life ornaments at Macy’s or cozier and homier decorations at friends’ homes. 

          If eating poorly during the holidays is a problem for you, compromise. Take it a day at a time and a party at a time and agree with yourself what you will and won’t consume. You don’t have to completely deprive yourself, but you don’t have to gain 10 lbs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, like I’ve done before. 

          If you hate driving all over town to shop, don’t. Consider this year the beginning of your online foray into donations made in behalf of another or at least shopping and having the online retailer deliver the gifts directly to recipients.

2. Commit to No Distractions
          I do this one day a month all year ‘round but it’s particularly helpful during the hectic times of the holidays. On this day, I do my best to go completely without tech products: phone, computer, TV or any other electronic gadgets I falsely believe I can’t live without. Obviously, go for a non-work day when you can just relax, commune with nature, read an uplifting book or visit with family and friends.

3. Family - let it roll
          This is often the trickiest and most challenging factor during the holidays. My experience is that big gatherings don’t bring out the best in family members – there’s too much alcohol and too much past history to completely let go. So, what to do? I don’t have sure fire ways to deal with badly behaving family members, but what I do generally is just give up hope that things will be different and realize it’s just one or two days of the year. I also try to treat family like acquaintances that I would try to be polite to at the very least. Some people feel there is no solution to dealing with a dysfunctional family during the holidays, and they opt out entirely by spending their time by themselves, with spouses or friends. Remember, as harsh as it may sound, that IS an option.

4. Set Your Boundaries
          Way before the holidays, begin to clearly identify for yourself what you will and will not do. If you hate making that gooey, sugar-laden pecan pie that everyone else loves, be prepared to say “no.” If you hate over-extending your budget, just spend what you can -- without explanation. If you hate sitting on your tush watching football after a huge feast, go for a walk or leave the party altogether. 

5. Breathe
          Don’t let anyone steal your pleasure during this joyous time of year. Remember you have choices about what you will and will not do.  Spend your time, money and energy on what you enjoy doing and ... breathe.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is There a Labyrinth to Your Longevity?

          Who is the oldest person you know? What are they like? Are they cranky and scrooge-like or upbeat, active and pretty optimistic? In spite of the fact you don’t have to live your life perfectly to live a long life, I believe your attitudes, beliefs, moods and overall personality have an impact on longevity. I started thinking about this in terms of myself and my friends and I came up with some interesting observations.

          We all know people who are either excessively younger or older than their years. Do their general moods and personalities differ from those of other people? It goes without saying, if you’ve been overweight and/or smoked or been stressed most of your life, your longevity will significantly be affected as you age. In addition, several studies going back to the 1920’s show that other non-lifestyle factors may significantly affect how long some people live. See if you agree that the following four traits can lengthen the lives of older people.

          Spending a chunk of time with others, which includes positive emotions, loving feelings and stimulating interactions, and reduces negative feelings of isolation, can reduce stress, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Belonging to a book club or meeting friends for lunch or to play cards, for instance, brings meaning into our lives, especially after retirement.

          The statistical jury is still out on the value of a positive, upbeat life. While most researchers say, yes, definitely it helps to not sweat the small stuff and approach life optimistically, there are other studies that say a lifetime of optimism leads to a more cavalier approach to the evils of excess (drinking, smoking) and a shunning of medications and proper exercise.

Volunteer Work/Seva
          While I automatically assume that volunteer work would be good for the mind, body and spirit, I heard from one source that it’s the motivation for volunteering that dictates whether your volunteer work helping others will increase longevity or not. Evidently, longevity is not enhanced if your seva is for self-oriented reasons such as boosting your own ego or for gaining work experience. 

Being Open
          Being open and, in particular, being open to new experiences, helps everyone handle change and helps us adapt to challenging problems. This isn’t just reserved for the elderly. However, being open isn’t easy to quantify and it’s very subjective. Personally, when I’m open I’m not as dependent on the opinions of others, and I don’t angst out as much about “doing it the right way.”

          Like the labyrinth, there may be a maze of paths that get us to the end. What do you believe? Even if you don’t agree that these things increase longevity for sure, at the very least they make for a more pleasant person to be around while we’re among the living.

Contact me at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or
  Antonia's Senior Moments on Facebook

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Campaign Spending Reform: Are Our Hands Tied?

          The mid-term elections are upon us, and one of the glaring take-away messages from any political election is the amount of money spent on passing or defeating propositions and candidates. It’s been estimated that approximately $6-BILLION was spent on the last presidential election alone. That kind of money could have gone a long way to reducing the national debt or ending world hunger or cleaning up the environment, etc. In addition, there’s no proof that the more you spend, the better your chances of success.
           Over the past 20+ years I’ve often thought that politicians and lobbyists would do anything, including spending vast sums of money, to accomplish their goals. I doubt they even thought about the consequences of spending this kind of money. Then the elected officials are obligated to vote according to the desires of the contributor.

          While I’ve continuously espoused the need for limits on campaign spending, I hadn’t really looked into why something hadn’t been done about it. A couple months ago I began doing some research on the subject.

          I learned there are several reasons why, to date, we have not installed any significant limitations on campaign spending. These reasons were most succinctly reported by Steve Gillman (Huff Post Politics, “The Blog,” 10/23/12). As he summarized, we can’t significantly reduce the ridiculous spending because:

            -  It’s a First Amendment right to speak our minds and put 
                    our money where our mouths are.

            -  If you limit the amount of money to a candidate, he/she 
                    can always get the support if you give it to an 
                    organization that supports him/her.

            -  Even if you limited contributions to $10, a candidate 
                    would still favor such-and-such donor over a non 

            -  With full disclosure of who gives what to whom it’s still 
                    quite easy to bury or hide completely an individual 
                    name deep within an organization like PACs (political 
                    action committees). I love that Ralph Nader suggested 
                    members of Congress be required to wear corporate 
                    logos of their sponsors, like race car drivers!

            -  If you get rid of the PACs, contributors could still pay for 
                    advertising without the approval of the candidate. 
                    There’s currently no law that could get around this.

            -  More obscure ways of contributing include:   if your 
                    candidate is an author, for instance, you can buy lots 
                    of his/her book and the revenue goes to the candidate. 
                    You can later use the books as kindling.

          So, you see, there really isn’t anything we can currently do about the obscene amount spent on this wasteful (my opinion) endeavor. Politicians are hungry for more money. I’m hungry for a government that puts our needs ahead of private coat pockets.

          As a whole, we Americans are a pretty creative group. I hope that, in the future, we value a solution enough to put time, money and energy into a way to do things better ... better for us all.

Contact me at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com
  or Antonia's Senior Moments on Facebook