5 Tips to Fight Loneliness

Around the globe, about 1 in 4 adults says they’re lonely. And the consequences of long-term social disconnection can be dire — everything from an increased risk of heart attacks to dementia and premature death.

But social isolation isn’t new or uncommon. And pangs of loneliness aren’t catastrophic. In fact, they’re nearly universal. What’s critical is how people respond to these feelings when they arise.

You can read the full story at NPR.org, but here are 5 tips to try to combat any loneliness you may be experiencing. 

1. Be curious: It’s easier to connect with people if you have shared interests or experiences, so start paying attention to what’s on your mind. What are you thinking about? What motivates you? What excites you? Nobel says knowing yourself can be a first step to bonding with others. “I think connecting authentically with other people is best done — and perhaps only done — if you have some kind of authentic connection with yourself,” Nobel says. If you know what’s meaningful or fun for you, it may lead you to an activity or creative outlet that connects you to people who share your interests.

2. Make something: “When we say make something, people immediately say, ‘Well, I’m not Picasso. I don’t know how to do a fancy painting,'” Nobel says. And, of course, you’re not! But the opportunities for creative expression are endless. “Do a doodle [or] a dance move,” Nobel suggests. Resurrect your grandma’s pie recipe, plant an herb garden, try a textile art. “Make something that puts your thoughts and feelings and vision about who you are and what matters into a tangible artifact that then can express those thoughts and feelings to others,” he says.

3. Take a risk by having conversations: “Share something about yourself,” Nobel says. “It doesn’t have to be the biggest, darkest secret of your life, but just something you think other people might find interesting and compelling, and see where it goes.” Even if you’re nervous about being judged or dismissed, putting yourself out there requires a bit of a risk, and it’s the first step to authentic connection. If you’ve made something — say your doodle or dance move or pie — this can be a catalyst to sharing. Simply explaining what you’ve made may make it easier to open up about who you are.

4. Find a group that matches your interests: Whether it’s volunteering for a cause you believe in or playing frisbee or Scrabble, try to find others who share your interests. And if you follow your natural curiosities, you may find something new. In his book, Nobel describes an online group that has a quirky shared interest: a fascination with brown bears in Alaska, which led to Fat Bear Week. “Share your thoughts and feelings in creative ways with other people who have that interest,” he says. And, hopefully, in those interactions you can begin to reveal yourself and share the unique things that matter to you. “Then, other people recognize that, share their story in return, and it’s like an electric circuit is connected,” he says.

5. Other people’s loneliness matters too: Loneliness can spiral. If the pangs of loneliness go unaddressed, people can end up in a world of hurt. “If you see someone who’s experiencing loneliness, tolerate the risk of asking them how they’re doing,” Nobel says. Be kind. Be willing to share something about your own experiences of loneliness, and take that risk. “Other people’s loneliness makes us lonely too,” he says.

Holiday Hostility Helpers

Many of us will be observing a variety of holidays in the coming month. This often means gatherings and, even amongst the closest families and friend groups, some tension as popular yet uncomfortable topics arise.

With that, we offer some advice via Heidi Godman, Executive Editor of the Harvard Health Letter.

  1. Recognize Vulnerability Factors: Some things predispose us to arguing. Common factors include financial worries that are more pronounced at the holidays, colder and darker climates, tracking modified work and school schedules, painful memories and reminders of loss, as well as behavioral factors like alcohol consumption. Gillis recommends recognizing your vulnerabilities and mitigating what you can while working toward coping with things beyond your control through regular self-care.
  2. Plan Ahead: Gillis offers three ways to prepare ahead of time if arguments are possible. These include:
    • Set a time limit: If you’re hosting the event, let your guests know in advance what time the festivities will end.
    • Ask for help: To help you rein in reactivity, ask someone you trust to give you a sign if a conversation appears to be risky or escalating.
    • Schedule breaks: Think about when and how you’ll be able to take breaks during a gathering. This gives you an opportunity to check in with your emotions.
    • Prepare words of deflection: If you know loved ones might ask questions that will lead to conflict, have a prepared answer and practice it. “Make a statement acknowledging the person’s feelings and letting them know it’s best for the topic to change,” Gillis says. He suggests using a version of the following statement. “I appreciate your thoughts, but let’s talk about something we agree on or share.”
  3. Learn to De-escalate:
    • Don’t take the bait: Don’t answer nosy questions if you don’t want to. “Change the subject. Move the focus back onto the other person and ask how they’re doing,” Gillis says. And if someone asks a loaded question (such as, “I suppose you voted for that candidate?”), use humor if appropriate (“Let’s talk about the Bruins instead”) and change the subject or the activity.
    • Adjust your mindset: “We have to accept that there are perspectives we don’t like and that engaging in conflict isn’t likely to change anyone’s perspective,” Gillis says. “You can choose not to participate in an unhealthy conversation.”
    • Respond with kindness: “If someone is angry with you, that suggests they really care what you think. Remember that and try to maintain a compassionate stance and response,” Gillis advises.
    • Remember why you’re there: The goal of the gathering is celebrating, not solving painful or controversial issues. “It’s the holiday. It doesn’t have to be the day when everyone puts their cards on the table to work out problems,” Gillis says. “Make it festive and enjoyable so you can feel that you created a pleasant holiday memory together.”

10 Gratitude Activities to Do This Thanksgiving

Ruchira Roy Chowdhury is a former business journalist turned health and wellness writer, meditation teacher, Ayurveda practitioner, and Art of Living volunteer. Like many, she extoles the importance of offering gratitude as part of wellness. She shares that “Practicing gratitude—not just on a particular day, but as often as we can—is said to have phenomenal benefits for our body, mind, and spirit. For example, research studies link gratitude with fewer signs of heart disease and demonstrate research that practicing gratitude can reduce stress levels, get feel-good hormones flowing, lower anxiety levels, activate parts of the brain associated with pleasure, and aid in good emotional and mental health.”

Below you will find her 10 recommended activities for this Thanksgiving, and you can read her full article at https://artoflivingretreatcenter.org/blog/10-gratitude-activities-to-do-this-thanksgiving/.

Perform Five Random Acts of Kindness

Studies suggest that kind people have 23% lower cortisol (stress hormone) release and age slower than the average population. Engaging in kindness also produces feel-good hormones like oxytocin and endorphins that reduce pain, help you live longer, activate the brain’s pleasure and reward centers, and make you as happy as the receiver of the kindness, if not more.

Sometimes when the pressures of our daily grind take over, we might find it challenging to engage in all these activities. But as a group or a family, you may find it easier to execute, fun, and emotionally rewarding. Performing these random acts may also encourage the introverts in the family to participate and enjoy activities they would never think of doing on their own! These do not have to be elaborate, but they must be spontaneous for these activities to be fun and meaningful. Some of these activities could include

  • Volunteer at a shelter
  • Check with a shelter about their immediate needs and organize the material for them
  • Pay for the person behind you—a coffee or a meal
  • Shovel snow for a neighbor
  • Make time with elders who live alone. Invite them over for a meal and a fun evening. Ask them about their life stories and let them share their happiest memories.

Cook a Meal, Feed the Needy

In this, each person in the family can prepare one dish, not more, to feed at least ten people. Play music while you cook. Designate the responsibilities of getting vegetables, spices, paper plates, containers, organizing knives, chopping boards, and wrapping foils among the members. This makes every person feel involved.

Then, load up all the food in a car, and take it to a street corner where you may find people who could use a sumptuous meal. Spend time with them, sing, dance, and share a meal. Let this not be a once-a-year activity. As they say, if it makes you happy, keep doing it.

Create a Gratitude Board

The task here is simple. As family members go about their day, they must write down five things/people/situations they are grateful for on colorful paper and stick it on the gratitude board (this can be made out of cardboard, poster board, or using the family bulletin board). This board can stay up throughout the year—a sweet reminder of how abundant and fulfilled our lives are, even when we don’t feel it.

A Day of Giving Joy

Let’s make these activities slightly more interesting. The idea is to bring a smile to the face of a certain number of people—each person can decide what that number is for them. You can do anything—dance, sing, perform, write a poem, or share a compliment. Nurturing positivity in the environment is much like being in the perfume business; the fragrances, the joy, and the happiness of uplifting someone invariably rub off on you. As you get together for dinner, share what you did and, more importantly, how you felt. Just remembering the feeling of having done something nice for a stranger can bring a sense of gratitude.

Share Your Gratitude Story

Don’t take this process lightly—it can fill you with strength, positivity, and gratefulness. It will bring everyone closer and strengthen your bonds with each other. During this process, you may feel emotional or vulnerable. Let the emotions flow out. Know this is your safe space. Build a safe space for everyone to share openly, wholeheartedly, and without judgment.

Every person will have 5–10 minutes to think of one or more stories/incidents/blessings they received this year that they are grateful for. Remember, this is not about sharing a gratitude list. Here, the idea is to pick a story/incident and flesh out all the details about how it transpired—everything that went behind receiving it and how you feel about having it now.

Consciously reliving a pleasant memory replicates the neural activity as if it were happening in the present, which can reproduce the positive feelings associated with the incident.

Have a Gratitude Bowl

You can purchase a bowl for the occasion or use a bowl handed down from parents or grandparents. Next, everyone will drop in an object they are grateful for or an object that represents something they are thankful for. It could be a key chain, a wedding ring, a book, a pen—anything that is special and makes you feel grateful. Then, at dinner, share why this object is special to you. What makes you grateful for it?

One Thing I Did Not Notice

Email or DM people for one thing they are grateful for that they took for granted. The responses could be the sunrise—a good night’s sleep, a co-worker who always has their back, or a spouse who cooks like magic! You can also help out with generic prompts to make it easier.

Pay a Compliment

Write the names of everyone attending Thanksgiving dinner on pieces of paper and put them into a bowl. Each person picks a name and as you go around the table, you will compliment the person whose name you choose.

You must mention one or more qualities you like in this person and share why you are grateful for them. Then, if you wish, you can go and hug this person. This activity may seem time-consuming, but it will leave everyone feeling appreciated, loved, and grateful for each other.

Say a Prayer

While we spend time with people we love, we often forget the power of faith that has sometimes helped us brave the wildest storms of life. So before starting dinner, try a few minutes of silence.

Use this time to think of all the blessings life has offered and in the heart of silence, share a quiet prayer of gratitude to the divine or any other power you believe in. Gurudev says gratitude is a powerful magnet to bring in more of what we have. The more abundant and generous we feel, the more reasons we attract to feel that way into our lives. This can also be a poignant time to remember the lives and contributions of people who are no longer with us and whom we miss every day. We can pray for their onward journey, wishing them peace, love, and freedom.

Watch a Film Together

And finally, as you end the day, dim the lights and watch a classic heart-warmer like It’s A Wonderful LifeLife is BeautifulFreedom WritersPursuit of HappinessBambi, the Kung Fu Panda series, Inside Out with your family—holding them closer than ever.

Whether you participate in various activities or do nothing but spend time with each other, whatever you do and wherever you are, do not miss a chance to be grateful in life.

Tai Chi for Memory

The below is an excerpt from NPR’s wellness blog. Read the full piece at https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2023/11/06/1210507968/thai-chi-word-games-cognition-mentally-sharp-meditation-motion

There’s plenty of evidence that exercise can help protect our bodies and brains. And as we age, daily movement doesn’t need to be super intense. In fact, a new study finds tai chi, a slow-moving form of martial arts, can help slow cognitive decline and protect against dementia.

The study found that people who practiced a simplified form of tai chi called Tai Ji Quan twice a week for about six months improved their score by 1.5 points. This increase may not sound like a lot, but study author Dr. Elizabeth Eckstrom says “you’ve basically given yourself three extra years” of staving off decline. The study is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Her theory on why tai chi is effective is that it combines the memorization of the movements, known as forms, almost like a dance choreography. “So, you’re getting the physical activity, plus the memory piece,” she says.

Step Right Up!

Cooper recently relaunched one of it’s physical activity initiatives, now known as the Cooper Climbers Club (formerly the Zenith Climb Challenge). You can read full details at https://wellness.cooperhealth.org/ccc/, but in brief its goal is to connect all Cooper team members to climb as many stairs as they can in a month – getting healthy together!

But getting our steps in every day can sometimes be challenging. To that end, Jennifer Garefino, Cooper Operational Excellence Specialist and CCC founding member, recently passed along the following article outlining how to try to get steps in, as well as scientifically backed benefits of doing so. More details available below and at ABCNews.com.

So You Want to Live to Be 100…

Many people fear a long life span, e.g.  living to be 100, due to possible loneliness, poor health, and solitudeI. Peter Attia, physician and best-selling author, acknowledges that many of those fears are valid and so he believes in maximizing what he calls “health span” instead. Attia’s focus is on addressing “the Four Horsemen of Chronic Disease” — cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) and metabolic diseases (such as Type 2 diabetes). Below are some guidelines he provides for achieving this, and you can read the full article at https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2023/10/13/peter-attia-longevity-advice/.

First, Be Specific: the greater the specificity with which you train for your physical goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. Attia asks patients to think specifically about what they want to be able to do when they are in their 80s or older, and to start training for that when they are in their 40s or 50s or 60s, setting milestones along the way. For example, if you want to lift your great-grandchild when you’re 80, you need to, in your 50s, 60s, and 70s, focus on hip flexibility and abdominal and spinal stability that will sustain you to be able to pick up at 30 pound weight at that age. 

Second, Focus on Moving: Attia says “If you’re starting from zero, just getting to 90 minutes a week of exercise will result in a 15 percent reduction in all-cause mortality [including the Four Horsemen]. That’s dramatic. I mean, we don’t have drugs that can reduce 15 percent all-cause mortality across the board. And the good news is it’s not just like this abstract thing of “we’re adding a couple of years to your life.” No, no. You’re going to feel better in three months.”

10 pieces of well-worn life advice you may need to hear right now

Life Kit is a podcast produced by NPR. They believe everyone needs a little help being a human. From sleep to saving money to parenting and more, they talk to the experts to get the best advice out there. Recently, three of their contributors, Becky Harlan, Sylvie Douglis, and Andee Tagle asked professional advice-givers the question “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?” Below are their answers, but feel free to read the full article at https://www.npr.org/2023/02/19/1157287474/best-life-advice-tips

  • ‘There’s more than one way to do something’ – I remember scrubbing a pan when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. There was something stuck on the pan that wouldn’t come off, and I just kept scrubbing it. My dad stopped me, grabbed a fork and just scraped it off. And he looked at me and said, “Jody, there’s more than one way to do something.” From that moment on, I’ve been looking at every problem in my life like how can I do this a different way? — Jody Adewale, clinical psychologist.
  • ‘The hate will come at the same rate as the love’ – The best advice I ever received was that the hate will come at the same rate as the love. There will always be people who are so dissatisfied with themselves that they have to project that onto other people. And instead of trying to focus on the negativity, I tend to try to put more energy into the people and the things that are showing me love, support and good energy. — Kiaundra Jackson, marriage and family therapist
  • ‘Do smaller loads of laundry’ – I used to work at a small grocery store, and before moving away to college, I asked the store manager, “What’s the No. 1 thing that I need to know about going away to college?” And he said, “Do smaller loads of laundry. Your clothes will come out cleaner.” — Shaun Galanos, a relationship coach and host of The Love Drive podcast
  • ‘Being vulnerable means taking off our armor’ – I was talking with my therapist about how I didn’t mind being vulnerable as long as I knew the other person would be warm, that they wouldn’t judge and all of that. And she said, “that’s not vulnerable. Being vulnerable means taking off our armor and going in not knowing how we’ll be received, but putting ourselves out there a little bit anyway.” — Tania Israel, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara
  • ‘Go where the energy goes’ – The best piece of advice I ever received was “Go where the energy goes.” What has good vibes? What makes you feel good about yourself? Where is that good energy? Head in that direction. — Betty Who, pop star and the host of the reality dating series, “The One That Got Away”
  • ‘It’s not all about you’ – The best piece of advice I was given was, “Shanita, it’s not all about you.” When I’m in a situation where a tough decision has to be made and it feels personal, I remind myself it’s not all about me, and that I’m one piece of a bigger universe that’s at play right now. — Shanita Williams, career coach and the author of Feedback Mentality
  • Expect yourself to change – We all change every five years or so. More or less, we have to expect ourselves to change, and we have to expect people in our lives to change. That little piece of advice has given me a lot of space for room and for growth. — Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a financial therapist and host of the Mind Money Balance podcast
  • ‘When people show you who they are, believe them’ – When people show you who they are, believe them. Far too often, I have seen us try to recreate who we want people to be, only to later find out they are exactly what they’ve been demonstrating. — Nedra Glover Tawwab, licensed therapist and the author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace.
  • Pace out your self-improvement – Don’t be so overly involved with your self-improvement. Accept the gifts and abilities that you have, and don’t spend so much time trying to develop new ones that you sacrifice your gifts. Be yourself. — David Defoe, a psychotherapist who specializes in depression, anxiety and grief
  • It’s OK to say ‘I don’t know’ – Something I’ve benefited a lot from is telling yourself, “I don’t know. And that’s exactly where I should be when I take that first step.” I’m as ready as I ever will be. I’m going to do it, and I’ll know more after. — Becky Kennedy, clinical psychologist and author of Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be

It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your thoughts are?

Racing thoughts at bedtime can be a real sleep disruptor, leading to intermittent wakefulness throughout the night but luckily there are ways to clear your head before you lay it down on your pillow.

Recently, the folks at Calm looked at why this happens. Common causes include Life stressors: Whether it’s stress from work, family, or financial situations, daytime worries have a habit of reappearing at night. Anxiety and panic disorders: For some, these continuous thoughts might be a symptom of a bigger issue, like an anxiety disorder. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD might cause recurring, unwanted thoughts. Caffeine: That afternoon coffee might be the reason you’re awake at night. Caffeine can stay in the system for hours, preventing your brain from relaxing for sleep. Fear of sleeplessness: If you’re worried about not getting enough sleep, this sleep anxiety can make you hyper-aware, with thoughts zooming around your alert brain. Over time, this cycle can lead to insomnia.

Want to learn more about what to about it? Check out Calm’s full article and practices at https://blog.calm.com/blog/racing-thoughts-at-night

Social Media and Adolescent Wellness

Bots and corporations excluded, there are 4.9 billion social media users globally, meaning 60.49% of the global population use social media. That is unsurprising given that there are nitch networks for just about everyone in addition the the giants like Facebook and Twitter (now X). But what is social media usage doing for our wellness? It may differ by generation and, in some regards, we are not entirely sure.

Take adolescents as an example. The New York Times recently summarized the state of the science for this group and, yes, social media is of concern because the rapidly developing adolescent brain may be uniquely vulnerable to what the platforms have to offer. But the science is not nearly as settled as some of the most dire headlines would make it seem. Biologically, during adolescence, neuronal signals do not always travel through the brain rapidly enough to help kids regulate their emotions and impulses as mylnation continues to occur, and likewise, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for tasks like weighing, consequences and planning is still maturing. But extant researcher has yet to show any kind of consistent causal connection between social media use and poor mental health outcomes is difficult as a function of their unique needs or biological vulnerabilities. So why are mental health-related E.R. visits are up, and why is anxiety skyrocketing as social media bombards kids with unrealistic academic and health messages, dangerous and deadly challenges, and disinformation? As ever, the message is complicated.

Like many things, social media is not inherently good or bad. Rather, the changes happening in adolescents’ brains may make them particularly drawn to these platforms and more susceptible to the potential pitfalls. When tweens start obsessing about their social lives — talking endlessly about their peers and who sits at the “popular table” — that is a sign that they are maturing normally. But now, adolescents are experiencing those changes in an online world that is creating the opportunity for reward and social feedback incessantly, almost 24/7. And that’s a combination to be concerned about for teens.

The moral of the story? It is important to talk to our children early and often about the function that social media is playing in their lives but not just emphasizing the negatives. Encourage them to build meaningful connections, but also encourage them to diversify how they are connecting on and offline. How do we promote teen wellness in the digital age? Here are some tips offered by Children’s Hospital of Orange County:

  • Encourage teens to be involved in a variety of free-time activities, like spending time with friends, joining clubs or after-school activities, and exercising.
  • Encourage your teen to be physically active every day and get enough sleep.
  • Turn off all screens during meals and at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Keep devices with screens out of your teen’s bedroom after bedtime and don’t allow a TV in your teen’s bedroom.
  • Spend time together with your teen watching TV, playing games or going online. Use this time as a chance to talk and learn together.
  • Teach your teen about safe Internet and social media use. Make sure they know the dangers of sharing private information online, cyberbullying or sexting.
  • Set a good example. Turn off TVs and other screens when not in use. Don’t leave screens on in the background. Turn off or mute your phone when you’re not using it and during family times, like meals.

Coffee Talk

Coffee is everywhere at Cooper and society at large. In Starbucks, break rooms, public spaces, the delicious drink has been ubiquitous throughout human history. But how much is too much? Coffee is linked with lots of health benefits, but there are some risks to consider from the caffeine it contains.

Alice Callahan at the New York Times recently wrote a piece exploring the pros and cons of coffee consumption.

Most adults can safely consume 400 milligrams of caffeine — or the amount in about four eight-ounce cups of brewed coffee or six espresso shots — per day, according to the Food and Drug Administration. If you’re pregnant, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends no more than 200 milligrams.

“Overall, coffee does more good than bad,” said Rob van Dam, a professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. But between your breakfast brew, lunchtime latte and afternoon espresso, is it possible to have too much? And if so, how can you tell?

Having too much caffeine can cause a racing heart, jitteriness, anxiousness, nausea or trouble sleeping, said Jennifer Temple, a professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the University at Buffalo. It can also lead to headaches, acid reflux and, at high enough doses, even tremors or vomiting, said Dr. Adrienne Hughes, a medical toxicologist and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.

Caffeine overdoses typically result from taking in too much caffeine from concentrated forms, such as powders or supplements, in a short period of time, she said. And in most cases, you would need to consume at least 10,000 milligrams of caffeine — or the equivalent of about 50 to 100 cups of coffee, depending on the strength — for it to be potentially fatal, Dr. Hughes said.

That said, if you’re prone to abnormal heart rhythms, or if you notice palpitations after having caffeine, you may be more sensitive to its effects and should not consume more than you’re used to, or ingest large doses from concentrated sources, like supplements or energy shots, Dr. Hughes said. And having too much caffeine while pregnant is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, Dr. van Dam said.

At the end of the day, “you just kind of have to listen to your body,” Dr. Temple said. “If you’re starting to feel nauseous or jittery or anxious, maybe cut back,” she said. “If it’s affecting your sleep, cut back.”

Read the full article at https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/26/well/eat/coffee-benefits-caffeine-risks.html