Maira Kalman, April 23, 2009 NYT "And the Pursuit of Happiness"
Not a day goes by that I don't read or hear at least 10 new things that I want to share--medical journal articles--NPR stories--podcasts--newspaper & magazine articles written by brilliant people--wisdom from blogs.
But there is such a thing as information overload.
Since 2 stories are bubbling to the surface this morning--that's what you're going to get!
Caroline Adams Miller's Non-negotiable Advice for Life
Why am I singling out Caroline's words of wisdom?
BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM HAS TAKEN ME YEARS TO FIGURE OUT!! Wish I had this list 40 years ago. There's not one I would leave out!
1. Smile as much as you can
Since research has demonstrated that happy people are the most successful across all domains of life, you might want to up your chances of being happy by initiating a smile, even when you don't feel like it. Not only will smiling create the right chemistry in your body to feel good, you will probably cause other people to smile, too, as they "catch" your look.
2. Create a roadmap, but be prepared for detours
Research shows that the happiest people wake up every day to clear-cut goals, but that happy people also know when a goal has become unworkable due to changed circumstances, and they change direction to accommodate that new reality. Goals create a roadmap, and without that guide, you will run the risk of being reactive to life, as opposed to proactive. This is the difference between being on the stage of life versus handing out the program for others.
3. Work hard and don't quit just because something is hard
No matter which high achiever you study, there is a consistent theme around the time that they put into achieving their goals. Calvin Borel, the jockey who rode Mine That Bird to the unlikeliest of victories at the 2009 Kentucky Derby, is renowned for his work ethic, detailed in this profile: http://tiny.cc/g2DkW Along the same lines, don't walk away from a meaningful goal unless you've given it everything you've got. Research has found that authentic self-esteem comes from doing hard things outside your comfort zone, and not picking the low-hanging fruit in your life.
4. Have four friends and nurture those friendships
Friends are the coin of the realm in a flourishing and happy life, and four seems to be the tipping point. As we've become more preoccupied with our own lives, and less likely to join in-person groups, isolation has become the norm and depression has skyrocketed. Put birthday reminders in your calendar and send a card. Say yes to parties. Attend that wedding that is hard to get to, and smooth out difficulties as they arise. Your reward will be better health, more resilience in hard times, and more joy in the good times.
5. Identify the plus-minus factor of the people around you
A statistic commonly used to evaluate basketball players is called the "plus-minus factor." What this means is that when a certain player is on the court, he either plays better or worse when another player is also on the court. I find that the happiest people systematically strip out, or neutralize, the people who drain them of energy and rob them of their best shots, leaving only the people with the highest plus-minus score on their home court.
6. Play every day
Children do this naturally, but adults rarely do it any longer by their fifties, which is why zest is so low as a character trait at that point for most people. Play helps with executive functioning, builds relationships, and enhances curiosity. Curiosity is a sign of happiness and security, because curious people approach the world with a sense of "What is out here for me to learn and explore?" So find a way to play, whether it's by doing an April Fool's Joke on someone or wearing something goofy. When you take yourself so seriously that you cannot crack a spontaneous smile, you have begun to die.
7. Say thank you early and often
Gratitude is closely associated with happiness, but people also like to be around and work with those who recognize what others bring to the situation. If you thank people, and notice and comment when good things happen to you, you will not only incentivize people to help you again, you will probably be more likely to have their support when you most need it.
8. Build your willpower muscle every day
Generation Y spends an inordinate amount of time being interrupted and responding to non-urgent items that arrive via cell phone, text message, Twitter, Facebook and all manner of technology. Avid Facebook users average a full academic grade lower than peers who don't use Facebook, for example, and researchers report that small children can't even hold a pose in freeze tag as long as previous generations. This all boils down to a simple fact -- today's young adults cannot say no to themselves or delay gratification in a way that will allow them to succeed at goal accomplishment, which doesn't bode well for a future that will involve focus and hard work. So say no to yourself every day when you want to say yes. The domino effect of building your willpower will be impressive in its depth and breadth in your life.
9. Respect and fear the power of alcohol
I know this isn't a popular statement, and that many will find it unrealistic, but alcohol is the one substance that has been found to impede all goal accomplishment. Alcohol lowers inhibitions around food, sex, drugs, anger, words and even more alcohol. Know your limits, respect them, and get help with this if you need it. You'll never regret cutting down on alcohol, but you'll always regret being unable to control it.
10. R.S.V.P. and do what you say
Good old-fashioned manners will grease the wheels of life with everyone you meet, although common courtesy appears to be dead. Respond to invitations. Return phone calls. Answer questions posed to you. If you say you'll be somewhere, be there. If you offer to help someone, follow through. Your word ought to be the most important thing you give away, so treat it with respect, and you will be respected back.
Read more: Why is Vitamin D My Favorite? and the AMA News: Institute of Medicine Studies Boost in Vitamin D Requirements.
Now finally, Dr. William B. Grant of the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center (SUNARC) is connecting the dots & looking at all the risk factors associated with vascular dementia & Alzheimer's disease. Turns out that several studies correlate tooth loss (high correlation to low vitamin d) with dementia. Laboratory evidence further points to the role of Vitamin D in both neuroprotection & reducing inflammation, as well as having an important role in brain development & function. (Dr. Grant's article is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 17:1, May 2009)
Dr. Grant also points to the evidence that the elderly consistently show low vitamin D levels when tested with the 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test.
Voila! Grant suggests there's ample causal criteria to make a good case for linking dementia with low vitamin D. He says further studies of the Vitamin D/Dementia connection are warranted.
He recommends that everyone over the age of 60 have their vitamin D levels tested, and at a bare minimum get their levels up to at least 30 ng/mL, but preferably over 40 ng/mL. Supplement with 1000-2000 IU/a day of vitamin D3 or increase sunblock-free time in the sunlight.
To get guidelines on how to increase your vitamin D levels based on your present levels, skin type, and where you live, take a look at vitamin D expert Dr. Michael F. Holick's excellent book: The UV Advantage. Interestingly, Dr. Holick says the quality & advantages of getting your vitamin D from the sun is preferable to getting it solely from supplements. His supplement recommendation? Solgar's 1000 IUs.
On a personal note, my very fair-skinned mom absolutely avoided the sun all her life. She never drank milk and rarely ate fatty fish--the only food sources of vitamin D; nor did she ever take vitamin D supplements. She had severe osteoporosis, lost all of her teeth before age 50, and suffered multiple mini-strokes resulting in vascular dementia.
I can't see any downside to following Dr. Grant's suggestion to raise one's blood levels of vitamin D. Why wait until there's a documented study to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that low vitamin D levels contribute to vascular dementia or Alzheimers?
Certainly, there are many contributing factors to dementia, but low Vitamin D is such a simple one to correct. Why not?