Renewal

by Rich O’Boyle, Publisher
More About Rich…

It’s Spring again. The warm weather is spreading up from the South of the continental United States and will eventually hit the most Northern reaches. While we often focus on the improving weather at this time of year, it’s also a good time to consider improving our own personal, spiritual, and emotional relationships as well.

Some people make “New Year’s Resolutions” on December 31. Others (myself included) make Birthday Resolutions. Why not consider making Springtime Renewal Commitments? It’s a better time of year to get more active outdoors, focus on healthy habits (far away from Christmas and Thanksgiving food binges), and work at improving personal relationships.

Renewal mean taking a fresh look at your life. I tend to view things in categories such as nutrition, exercise, self, relationships, and environment. You don’t have to revamp every aspect of your life. But you can make a huge impact by taking one core issue that you grapple with, find its root cause, and deal with it methodically. One person may have food and weight issues, while another may have some sour relationships that cause emotional stress, or another may need to cheer herself up.

Here are some suggestions for taking the first step toward renewing yourself. These aren’t quick fixes! All of these suggested changes are intended to have lasting impact on your well-being.

Learn How to Breathe:

Most people over the age of two or three have forgotten how to breathe properly. If you ever watch an infant sleeping, you will notice that her belly rises and falls with each breath. When we get older, we tend to breathe with our chests, either to puff it out and look more imposing, or to prevent our bellies from appearing to be too large.

Statues of Buddha and images of Tibetan monks all show a heavy rounded belly. That’s not because they are fat, but because they breathe from the area around their navels using the diaphram. Deep breathing where the belly extends outward when you inhale and goes in when you exhale draws the air deeper into your lungs and actually slows you’re your breathing and heart rate.

Make a conscious effort to breathe using this technique. It will seem awkward at first, but only because you need to unlearn decades of poor breathing technique. Many fitness centers, town and county senior groups, and learning coops offer fitness classes that include an introduction to better breathing techniques. Look for meditation, tai chi, yoga, low-impact martial arts, or Eastern/Asian philosophy classes.

Subtract One/Add One:

Everyone can look at their diet and identify at least one unhealthy food or drink that they consume regularly. It’s easy to say you are going to cut it out, but we often end up replacing it with another unhealthy product or habit. Identify one bad item in your diet and make a commitment to yourself to cut it down significantly or eliminate it. Then identify a healthy substitute:

  • Replace caffienated beverages with skim milk or 100% fruit juices (without high fructose corn syrup).
  • Replace hard liquor with red wine.
  • Replace butter or margarine with olive oil.
  • Replace bacon at breakfast with fresh fruit.

Smell the Roses:

Plant some flowers in a convenient window box, small bed, or pot. Make sure that they are in a location where you can enjoy them. In the Fall, you can plant springtime bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, or hyacinths and enjoy them the following year as the Winter fades. You can also pick up some cut flowers at most supermarkets. You don’t always have to have a huge dramatic bouquet: add two or three stems to several small vases and place them in various rooms.

Quit Smoking:

I can’t go on enough about the health benefits to cutting back and quitting cigarette smoking. I have written a detailed “how to” article at http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/quitsmoking.html. You can greatly increase you success at quitting by avoiding situations that stimulate you to smoke and replacing them with non-smoking activities.

Take Regular Walks:

The activity of walking improves physical conditioning, stimulates weight loss, and can aid in the management of depression. As the weather improves, you can get yourself into a healthy habit of walking 15 minutes every day or five days a week. You might start by walking to a favorite nearby park, resting, and then walking back. Even casual walking has benefits such as:

  • Distracting you temporarily from your home environment.
  • Putting you into social settings.
  • Freeing you up to think creatively.

Mend a Broken Fence:

Many of us have strained relationships with friends or family, or have simply lost touch with someone who has meant a lot to us. Sometimes we have even forgotten why we strayed apart or have come to realize that that tiff 20 years ago really was a misunderstanding. Too often we keep these old hurts bottled up and they fester, limiting our ability to think clearly or deal honestly. Why not take a few minutes one afternoon to write a card to that now-distant person and open the door for an improved relationship? If you have been wronged by someone, maybe it’s time to offer the olive branch and allow them to close the book on their internal grief?

Get Some (More) Religion:

Many of us already participate regularly in group religious activities, such as Sunday church services. But how many of us can say that they do this more out of routine than because we regularly get spiritual stimulation? Part of our spiritual growth and development is the constant stimulation of new ideas and voices that reaffirm our beliefs and help us apply them to daily living.

I’m not suggesting that any individual belief system is inadequate or incorrect. Grow within your existing belief system to open up to new ideas and approaches. For example, attend religious services at a different church (maybe one with dramatic architecture), or attend your same church at a different time to listen to another pastor. You might also attend a weekly Bible study or Sunday school class (or better yet, teach one).

If you are open to various outside ideas, make a monthly visit to a totally different religious service, such as a Muslim or Jewish service if you are Christian, or attend a Catholic, Episcopalian, or Protestant service. You might want to do a little research ahead of time, check for any cultural requirements before showing up, or ask a friend to attend with you.

Look and Feel 20 Years Younger!:

We all wish that we could turn back the clock of aging. So much of what we see and hear on television and the radio… and I won’t even mention the Internet… is hype and misinformation. There are some tried and true ways to look and feel younger, however, none of them come in a bottle or pill, and none of them are painless. Start with good genes, eat right, exercise regularly, and stay mentally active: that’s the gist of it.

For those of us who are slowly moving toward those healthy habits, there are some easier and fun activities that you can engage in that will improve your overall feeling of well-being, improve your looks, and stimulate you to make those harder healthful changes:

  • Give yourself a makeover with a new hairstyle or higher quality makeup; dress nicely even when home alone.
  • Splurge for a massage for yourself, and then give your loved one a massage using some of the techniques you just learned.
  • Do some gentle stretches, push-ups, and sit-ups (after consulting with your physician).
  • Find something or someone that makes you laugh. Don’t stop until it hurts. Then do it again.

Sometimes the routine of caregiving or the slow debilitation of aging forces us into unproductive patterns. We all have a need for renewal in our lives. The challenge is to identify areas for growth, no matter how small they are. Begin by planting the seed for small victories, and then celebrate those victories as you achieve them.

Related Articles:

 - Tai Chi for Health and Fitness  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/taichi.html
 - Exercising Care  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/exercise40+.html
 - Proper Nutrition 40+  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/nutrition40+.html
 - Tips on… Quitting Smoking  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/quitsmoking.html
 - Walking Tips for Seniors  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/feet.html
 - Identifying and Reducing Stress in Your Life  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/stressidentifyreduce.html
 - Memory Enhancement  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/memoryenhancement.html
 - Good Relationships: A Recipe  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/relationshiprecipe.html
 - Respite: What It Is: What It Isn’t  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/respite.html

Recommended Reading:

 - “Successful Aging” by John Rowe and Robert Kahn
 - “A Short Guide to a Happy Life” by Anna Quindlen
 - “If Not Now, When: Reclaiming Ourselves at Midlife” by Stephanie Marston
 - “Taking Time for Me: How Caregivers Can Effectively Deal With Stress” by Katherine L. Karr
 - “How to Quit Smoking and Not Gain Weight Cookbook” by Mary Donkersloot
 - "Tai Chi for Beginners: 10 Minutes to Health and Fitness" by Claire Hooten

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