This healthy resolution is a real hoot.

My New Year’s resolution is not about the usual things people resolve to do, or not to do. I’m not going to lose weight, although I should. The problem is I wouldn’t be able to eat all the foods I like. I’m not giving up coffee, even though I drink too much. I have to have my coffee. I’m not going to push my envelope and join Toastmasters and be more outgoing, which would probably also be good for me.  But most of them meet so damn early, before everyone goes to work. I’m not going to quit drinking and smoking because I already did, decades ago, so those resolutions aren’t available to me.

My resolution is to laugh, as often as possible! Out loud. Heartily. Disruptively. Indelicately. I’m going to let it all hang out. And all with the backing of the medical profession. Laughter is healing. Wise people have always known its positive effects intuitively, but in recent years scientists and medical professionals have been seriously—yes, you heard me right, seriously—studying laughter and performing experiments. They have scientifically verified its health benefits by measuring endorphin activity.

Laughter increases endorphins. These are hormones produced by the central nervous system and pituitary gland that can reduce pain and produce a feeling of euphoria. They’re the groovy hormones, the feel-good chemicals produced by the brain. While it’s busy increasing endorphins, laughter is also decreasing levels of stress-producing hormones like epinephrine and cortisol. Laughter increases physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual health, says the Mayo Clinic. It is one of their twelve habits of highly healthy people. 

new-years-day-1090770_640The more you laugh, the easier it gets. You can practice. Go to funny movies, have funny friends (I’m available), read books that make you laugh. Read my blog. Have pets, a rich source of the best kind of laughter, which is affectionate laughter. Play with them, chase them around, rough-house with them, unless you have a 160-pound mastiff. Or just watch them. When I watch my two cats playing hide and seek and tussling and wrestling and chasing each other in the yard I laugh, unstress, and feel peaceful. I luxuriate in the feeling of my endorphins going crazy, flying around, crashing into and bouncing off of each other like bumper cars.

Laughter Yoga is gaining in popularity everywhere. It’s a practice involving prolonged voluntary laughter and done in groups, with eye contact and coordinated movements as well as spontaneous playfulness. At first the laughter feels weird, awkward and forced. Dorky, actually, which was how I felt at my first session. But with persistence and regular practice it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. By the end of a session people are howling with laughter.  

It’s always been common knowledge that to stay healthy, you need to eat sensibly, exercise, and socialize, and now it’s established that you also need to laugh. Laugh every chance you get. Laugh your brains out. Laugh till you cry. Laugh till it hurts. Laugh till you get dizzy. LOL. FOFL.

Just try not to fart. Actually though, farting has its health benefits too. The Mayo Clinic says food that causes gas brings nutrients to beneficial microbes in the gut. The microbes gobble up food, create gas, and make molecules that boost the immune system…. Well, enough of that for now. I’ll have to do a separate piece on farting.

Happy New Year!

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Battle of the birthdays

December is my favorite month. But not because of Christmas. No, December is my favorite month because that’s when my best friend becomes the same age as me again, after being younger for seven months. Margo and I have been friends more than fifty years. (Wow, when I read that sentence it’s scary.) We were both born in 1946. Naturally you’d think we’re the same age. No brainer. But believe it or not she denies it, on a technicality. She points out that I was born in May, but she was born in December, and that therefore she is younger than me for the seven months between our birthdays. Talk about hair-splitting! I think the basis of comparing our ages should be whole years only, but Margo disagrees.

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Happy birthday, girlfriend. Woof woof.

The whole thing is a lot of fun actually. It gets more fun every year as we get older, and send each other humorous birthday cards suitably insulting to senior women: someone at an archeological dig, for instance, holding up a stone tablet and declaring, “We found your birth certificate, and it’s intact!” Or people standing in front of a massive ancient redwood tree over the caption, “Relatively speaking, you’re not that old.” Or an older woman telling her friend that she uses her boobs for knee cushions when she’s gardening. When I’m in the card section of a store, shoppers turn and look at me whenever I read a good one because I LOL without inhibition. The emphasis is on the second L, for LOUD. At least they haven’t seen me FOFL yet.

As I write this it’s late December, so we’re the same age again. I get to bask in that until May, right around the corner, when I’ll be the elder again and Margo can gloat. I can deal with that. After all, it’s temporary. In December 2016 the score will be evened up again, at…well, you can go back to the top and read when we were born and figure it out. I don’t want to make it too easy for you. 

And so the beat goes on, hopefully for many more years of friendship and laughter and delightfully insulting birthday cards.

 

A blast from the past

When Facebook was new I had numerous objections to it, and was a determined holdout. But eventually all my friends and family were on it, and I felt compelled to join so I could keep up with their lives. It was fine for quite a while.  But recently I got a private Facebook message from a woman I’ll call Evelyn, asking if I had worked at a company that, for the sake of convenience, I’ll call ABC. The answer was yes. I had indeed worked at ABC about thirty-five years ago. I remembered Evelyn. I liked her. But I wasn’t happy to have her back in my life.

The embarrassing truth is, I was wild when I worked at ABC. I drank too much and missed a lot of work and…well, a sign on my desk said it all: I type like I livefast, with lots of misteaks.  I did stupid things at parties I thought were brilliant. I’m not going to provide details. They could be worse than what you might be imagining right now. Or they could be more moderate than what you’re imagining. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

font-533232_640My biggest regret is that I put a lot of people at risk by driving buzzed a lot. I could have hurt someone, or worse. It was only by the grace of God that I didn’t. I’ve changed a lot since then. I’m not the same person anymore. For one thing I have more than thirty years of sobriety, for which I am grateful. I live one day at a time, committed to being the best person I can be going forward.

Regrets about my ABC days were all but faded from memory when Evelyn’s message showed up. In the old natural order of things, acquaintances who dropped from your life were gone for a reason and stayed gone. Divine Order reigned. But that was before Facebook. Since FB, it’s easier for people to track you down. They mean well but can remind you of unwanted baggage you thought was behind you. I couldn’t even figure out how to delete Evelyn’s message. I clicked stuff and thrashed around, and in the end I just wildly selected the “file” option I saw to make it go away. I don’t know where it went but I can’t see it anymore. I hope Evelyn has a nice life. I also hope that, like in the song Old Lang Syne, old acquaintance will now be forgot and never brought to mind.   

Following My Aerobic Bliss

We all know regular exercise is important. Ideally we should work out daily. It’s a real challenge to fit it into our hectic schedules, but there is a way! And it’s even more important now during the holidays, when our schedules are crazier than usual and at the same time our calorie intake is way up.

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Why drive to the gym, when you’ve got everything you need at home?

The solution’s simple. To begin with, forget the gym and jogging. Many gym fans like having people around to chat and share exercise notes with, and they are motivated by other people. But a lot
of time is wasted in driving there, waiting in long lines for equipment to become available, chatting, and people (not me) sneakily looking around for nice butts. The gym also costs a lot of money.  Jogging is good exercise, aside from knee injury from high impact, but it requires special scheduling, especially in winter when it gets dark early. Jogging in dark or deserted conditions is not recommended. That’s the woman/mother in me talking. Also, during winter you have to schedule around bad weather.

I now have an embarrassing confession to make. A big reason why jogging and going to the gym don’t appeal to me is because I’m mildly compulsive about being presentable when I’m out and about among people. I like to be showered, with my hair fixed, my clothes coordinated, and a little makeup on. Call it silly, but it is what it is. When I jog or go to the gym in the morning, which is my fave time for exercise, I have to fix myself up before and again after. I waste precious time!   

My perfect solution is a 45-minute aerobic walking session to a DVD in my living room, right after breakfast. I love Leslie Sansone. Her DVDs rock. She’s high energy and funny. It’s primarily aerobic exercise, but also includes some strengthening and toning with light weights. After my cereal and the first, life-giving cup of coffee, I just throw on my color-clashing, smelly, worn-out grubbies with holes in them and put on my cheap tacky walking shoes. My hair is uncombed, my face unwashed, my teeth aren’t even brushed. I am completely gross. But I only need to make myself presentable once all day, after I finish my routine. 

Other benefits include not getting rained on, not freezing, and not having to worry about off-leash dogs outside. And I don’t waste time driving to a gym, or pay a lot of money for dues every month. I’m comfortable in the privacy of my home. I always felt I was being sized up at the gym. A lot of people were surreptitiously peeking and judging everyone else’s physique while they lifted weights and ran the treadmill. I’m pretty sure mine was found wanting, nine times out of ten. I don’t have a nice butt. I’m still working on it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting outside and walking. I try to walk every afternoon or early evening. Right before I go I read a page from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “How to Walk,” which helps make this time a peaceful meditation, calming and soothing. But for cardiovascular health and strengthening, I do my vigorous at-home aerobic walking. I stay fit while I enjoy Leslie, and all those nice, attractive smiling people who walk along with her in the studio, and the fact that they can’t see me—the real me.