Saturday, July 10, 2010
Live with Joy; Live longer
I haven't really been slacking off since my last blog. It's only been a week but it feels like an eternity. I spent the 4th of July weekend reading my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer, one last time and making final corrections. I thought I would get bogged down in the OMG factor of "did I really write that?" But I was relatively free from flogging myself after my two year saga with an idea I had once upon a time at a milonga (a tango salon) when one of my friends said to me, "I think you should write a book about sex and dating in your 60's." It seems like a lifetime ago.
Speaking of lifetimes, it's Saturday night and I'm in Vegas, but I'm not near the Las Vegas Strip. I'm visiting my family - my two sons and those ever-growing four grandsons who have more energy than a cluster of atoms. Then again I'm on the boomer side of life so it might seem I exaggerate.
I found myself giggling with my oldest grandson, Jordan Mac, tonight as I read him some stories. It's one of my favorite rituals in life and I cherish the moments I have have with this young, bright and talented 5 year old. After shooting a round of hoops in the backyard in the 105 evening heat and taking a bath, we went to his room to pick out a few books to read. We had one of those inexplicable moments that two people have when the world stops, our funny bone takes over, and we succumb to non-stop, uncontrolled laughter.
I opened the page to a Curious George book about donuts and we both looked at George the monkey in bed and began to giggle, which lead to laughter, which lead howling. We didn't quite know what struck us as funny, except that George was reclining in bed with his long pencil smile drawn across his face and his huge funky head nestling into a pillow. It seemed to us ridiculous and terribly funny.
It's such a delicious moment to laugh at nothing in particular, to find silliness in the absurd, but it is much more delightful to do so with my five year old grandson. It's always the best Saturday night date with any one of my progeny.
Minutes before I was to read to Jordan, I was wandering through the latest Newsweek magazine on "The Science of Healthy Living." I was reading about the aging brain and scientists understanding of normal cognitive aging; i.e., it's more than memory exercises and crossword puzzles. I'm always so happy to hear that part about not having to do crossword puzzles to keep my brain from atrophying. It seems that as we age, we keep in tact the knowledge we learned decades ago (think our times tables); however, as we age, it is more difficult to learn new things and solve novel problems. We may even improve our vocabulary even into our 60's. Good news, boomers. I would like to add that watching a great amount of television and reading fashion and pop culture magazines won't help you get smarter or increase your mental and physical reaction time.
What does help us support mental acuity as we age that's also good for our heart, lungs, immune system and muscles? Three vigorous 40-minute walks a week can do the trick because aerobic exercise increases the volume of white matter, which connects neurons, in areas responsible for such executive functions as planning.
I'm going to throw in yoga as part of this anti-aging routine - yoga for the strengthening of the mind and the body and our respiratory system because it increases the amount of breath taken into the body on a consistent basis. Good for the heart, lungs, immune system and muscles. In a sense, it is resistance training - moving through our mental and physical resistance as well as keeping our bone density numbers high. It's a happy hunting ground for neurons. Because yoga yokes or unites mind and body through breath, we are able to practice staying present and increase our level of awareness. Hence, we are using our mind in the present and not succumbing to the numbing past or delusional future.
Walking and yoga produce and sustain joy and happiness because it releases endorphins, increases adrenalin, serotonin and dopamine. Live with joy; live longer.
So back to Jordan and our laughing jag. In those silly moments of laughter at something as simple as our shared perception, my grandson and I increased my lifespan - maybe not by much - but sustaining the mantra of living with joy and following my bliss is the best way I know of to living longer.
Why would one want to live longer? Well that's a blog for another time.