By Kathi Casey.
This time of year so often seems to fly by for most of us, but perhaps not so fast for Baby Boomers who are alone. The many office and neighborhood parties, family visits, shopping, and tree lighting ceremonies can be difficult for someone who is alone for the first time in years.
Many of our Baby Boomer friends and family members are struggling to keep the joy of the holiday season while their minds are full of thoughts and memories of a loved one who has recently passed on. It’s very difficult to keep a smile on your face when the overwhelming grief of your first holiday season without the love of your life is looming. Every family tradition has a memory attached and most of us can’t bear the thought of being alone during this time.
Here are a few suggestions for coping with your grief, through finding the joy of today, while keeping safe the wonderful memories of years past.
- Friends can make a big difference in protecting you against loneliness and depression, as well as a host of physical ailments, according to a ten year Australian study. A good friend will also have memories of your loved one to share that can make you both smile! This is true of children too, so make an effort to spend some time with your friends, and if you have grandkids, teach them a card game or chess and bring a smile to everyone’s face!
- Pets provide consistency in our lives, which in turn reduces our risk for depression. For example, walking the dog each morning before starting our day gives us something to look forward to, and an enjoyable reason to get out of bed. It’s also not easy to look into the eyes of your cat or dog and not smile! Pets instill a sense of well-being, promote lower blood pressure, decrease depression and increase self-esteem.
Another dog-specific advantage is the extra motivation to take daily walks, which is good for the health and well-being of those on both ends of that leash. So, whatever furry, finned or feathered friend you enjoy, or have room for, take time to celebrate the joy that animals can bring to your life this holiday season and all through the year.
- Laughter truly is the best medicine – especially when you have the blues. According to William F. Fry, M.D., associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Stanford University, laughing 100-200 times per day is the cardiovascular equivalent of rowing for ten minutes. When something strikes you as funny, you laugh. And when you laugh, your body responds. You flex, and relax 15 facial muscles plus dozens of others all over your body. Your pulse and respiration increase briefly, oxygenating your blood.
You also release “feel good” hormones called endorphins; endorphins reduce the amount of harmful stress hormones flowing through your body, and also give your immune systems a boost. Laughter increases the concentration of salivary immunoglobulin A, which defends against infectious organisms entering through the respiratory tract, helping to reduce breathing difficulties in older Baby Boomers. Laughing benefits both our physical body, and the health of our mind and spirit as well. So open those e-mail jokes from friends and grandkids, watch funny movies or TV shows, or try a laughing meditation session.
My special gift to all of you this holiday season is one of MY favorite things (I have my own list just like Oprah), laughter. Here is a link to my laughing meditation sample. Smile!
Best of Health,