Tag Archives: health

Want to Live a Long, Healthy Life? Phone A Friend.

I recently read an article titled, Why Millennials Are Lonely. In it, author Caroline Beaton cites a number of potential reasons for our increasing sense of isolation and one cause, no surprise, is that social media has taken the place of what Beaton refers to as “offline” socialization. In other words, many people are spending time communicating through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and texts, rather than sharing face time with friends. In the short-term, electronic communications can make us feel more connected to our peers; however, because the interactions are fleeting and lack depth, with time they can leave us empty.

That is especially sad, because loneliness is shown to increase our risk of heart disease and early death.

Conversely, a longitudinal study on health and happiness, conducted by researches at Harvard University, found that good health and longevity are strongly linked to building and maintaining positive relationships. People who have a close-knit group of friends and family members, will live longer and healthier lives. If you’d like to learn more about this 80 year project, check out Director Robert Waldingers Ted Talk here.

As the mother of a child who will grow up in a world even more consumed with electronics and Artificial Intelligence, I want to ensure that I am teaching her to value and sustain social connections. At seven years old, she already shows a deep interest in texting and Facebook. She loves the real-time conversations she can have with relatives across the world, even if they are limited to a few lines of text and some well placed emojis. And who doesn’t? Let’s face it, social media is convenient and instantaneous. However, she also loves hosting sleepovers and special events for her close friends. She finds joy in doing kind things for people, like handwriting thank you notes and gifting favorite books to younger children. Those are the interests I want to nurture.

How can we role model friendship for the young people in our lives, and in the process alleviate loneliness we may feel? Here are some quick and easy ways to connect with loved ones and build a deeper sense of community.

1.) Take time away from social media

When we step away from our phones, ipads, and computers, we become aware of something really interesting. Life is happening all around us! And when we take time to connect, life flows through us. If we just look up for a few moments, we might find something beautiful staring us in the face.

2.) Invite a friend on a walk.

Every evening after my little one has been tucked in for the night and my husband is relaxing with a good book, I take a walk through my neighborhood. Seeing other people out and about, walking their dogs, or chatting with friends on the front porch makes me feel connected to the place where I live. I will often invite one of my closest pals to go along with me. This is an easy way for us to get exercise and fresh air, but more importantly, it is a way to connect without any distractions. We talk about work, family, plans for the future. Nothing is off-limits. Those walks are therapeutic and they are something I look forward to them during my work day. Here’s another post we wrote about this topic.

3.) Host a “game night”

I grew up in the 90s when board games were still a big deal. From Trivial Persuit, to Pictionary, to Scattergories, you could usually find my family “gaming” around the dinner table on Friday nights. There is something lighthearted and comforting about the shenanigans that ensue as you play one of these classic games. Invite a small group of people over to share a bottle of wine and hunker down on the living room floor for some friendly competition. It is a great way to bond.

4.) Perform a selfless act for someone in need

Whether you bake cookies for the young family down the street, cuddle kittens at the local Human Society, or volunteer at Bingo night for the nursing home in your community, give selflessly to help others. As we take the focus off of ourselves and think of our neighbors, we can eliminate some feelings of isolation. Better yet, build community service, volunteerism, and regular acts of kindness into your life and model it for the children you know.

5.) Throw a cocktail party

Of all the parties you can put together, this one is the easiest. All you need are two cocktail choices that you mix ahead of time, and maybe a bottle of red and white wine. Put out a couple of simple snacks and ask everyone to bring a favorite wine or beer to share. Create a fun play list, and then mingle for a few hours. Cocktail parties are a great way to bring new people together. You can invite work colleagues, college friends, and some acquaintances that you’ve wanted to get to know better. It is a great way to build your social network.

6.) Pick up the phone

There is something melodic about the voice of a loved one. When I’m feeling lonely, there is always one person who can make me feel better. It’s been that way since I was a kid. After a hard day, if I can hear my brother’s voice, all is well with the world. We text an awful lot, but there are days when listening to his jokes and hearing is laughter is the only thing that will do. Next time you reach for your phone to text a friend, give them a ring instead.

Finally, this post was written to people who may have let personal connections slip away, or who may be looking for ways to prioritize their friendships. If you are feeling more than lonely…if you are depressed or despondent, it isn’t because you haven’t tried hard enough and we encourage you to seek help. Depression can’t be fixed with a cocktail party or a nature hike. And finally, because it can’t be posted enough, here is the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)

Photos of the Snow – A Walk Under the Blue Skies of Winter

As many of you know, everyday, no matter the season, I love to get out for a walk in nature – even if it is ten degrees below zero. And that isn’t an exaggeration.

Recently we’ve been experiencing a stretch of frigid temperatures in the Midwest. It has led some to wonder how I can brave Wisconsin winters. Heck…sometimes I wonder how I do it! But the truth is that while it’s certainly cold, it is also stunning. The stark white ground, the bare branches of the trees, and the vastness of the sky create a beautiful backdrop for living.

For me, winter has always been a season of rest and quiet contemplation. A time to slow down, but never a time to stop. Today I am sharing photos from a recent trek along the shores of Lake Michigan and the thoughts I carried on my journey.

There is beauty to be found every day.

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The world is much bigger than I am.

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I can walk a trail a thousand times and still have a new experience.

Nature allows me to view the world with fresh eyes.

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The Earth is always changing, as am I.

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Friends walk with me, no matter the conditions.

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It is important to be quiet and present. Be the lion.

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In time, I will always get where I need to be.

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As a kid, my family cultivated my love of nature. We were always going for hikes, sleeping under the stars, or spending a day at the beach. When I was old enough, I would happily go to summer camp each year – an experience that developed my independent spirit and desire to explore the world around me. One of the first songs I learned at camp was called “On the Loose”, I’m sure some of you know it. My favorite verse is this: There’s a trail that I’ll be hiking just to see where it might go, many places yet to visit and many people yet to know. And in following my dreams, I will live and I will grow, on a trail that’s waiting out there on the loose.

That sense of wonder and curiosity is with me always.

Everyone of us is balancing multiple roles and responsibilities. Sometimes it is important to step away from the noise and connect with the planet.

Take time to savor the simple pleasures in life.

 

5 Fun Ways to Stay Active This Winter

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I remember looking forward to the snow! There was something magical about that first dusting and the promises it brought: sledding trips, ice skating on frozen ponds, building snow forts with my family, and best of all, unplanned days off of school, famously known as “snow days”.

As I grew into adulthood, somehow the snow lost much of its appeal and became more of a nuisance. There were responsibilities that came with snow….shoveling, driving safely along unplowed streets, and getting to work on time in two feet of slush (even if the schools HAD declared it a “snow day”). Somehow, as an adult, the cold seemed harsher and the winters longer, and I forgot about its magic. But like most things in life, it’s cyclical. Now I have a child and I love the snow again – go figure!

Winter might get you excited or it might drive you nuts. I’m not sure where you fall on the spectrum, but one thing is certain: getting outside and staying active is good for our health and longevity, even during the winter months. It’s also true that if we can find fun outdoor activities to participate in, we are more likely to enjoy winter. So while it might be tempting to stay in by the fire sipping wine and eating comforting food, it’s a good idea to get outside and explore.

Today, I’m sharing five really wonderful activities that help me stay active in winter. In the spirit of the new year (and for the millions who resolve to get healthier in 2016), here is a little inspiration to get you outside having fun!

Of course, it might go without saying, but part of enjoying the cold months is having appropriate winter gear. So, if you live in a place that gets long stretches of cold weather, make sure you invest in a waterproof, insulated jacket, snow pants, boots, and all of the accessories that will allow you to enjoy yourself. It makes a huge difference!

Winter Hikes

The trails that you enjoy hiking in summer are just as beautiful in winter – though they take on a new appeal. Nature that was once full of animal sounds and colorful vegetation is now hushed and monochromatic. Hiking becomes challenging in new ways, as you have to navigate uncleared paths or the occasional icy stretch. But it’s worth it. So put on your boots or snowshoes, and get out into nature.

If you’re walking with children, make sure to get them bundled in layers – my daughter is usually cold in the beginning, but then heats up along the way. One strategy we use to keep her engaged on long hikes, is to have her find animal tracks in the snow. We love following deer and rabbit prints to see where they will lead us.

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Ice Skating

Skating reminds me of my childhood. My dad used to take me all of the time as a kid…he was great on the ice. He’d skate forward and backward, impress me with spins and tight turns, and use his blades to stop quickly, making shards of ice fly through the air. It was fun to watch. On the other hand, my skills were – and have always remained – very basic. I can go forward…and that’s about the extent of it. However, my mom always made adorable pom-poms to tie on my toes…which made me look like I was a better figure skater than I actually was (check out the killer ones below).

As an adult, skating is a great form of exercise. Before you even set foot on the ice, the act of balancing on thin blades engages muscles throughout your body (some you may have never felt before). Second, the faster you go, the more aerobic the workout. Third, the more you fall, the more you engage your core – so have fun! It’s all good.

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Sledding

For some reason, I stopped sledding after my senior year of high school. I wish I hadn’t. It is SO MUCH FUN and such a great workout. Now that I have a child, it is something that I look forward to on snowy days. There is nothing like whizzing down a snow-covered hill with the wind blowing in our faces, and then trudging back up to the top to start all over again.

If you’re like me, and you outgrew sledding, try it again! Buy a saucer, or grab a cookie sheet from your kitchen and get out on the hills. You will have a ball.

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Skiing

I find skiing to be an introspective and meditative activity. Whether you are going cross-country or downhill, it is a solitary sport that connects you to nature. As a kid, I would go downhill skiing every winter with a big group of rowdy friends, but once I was on top of the hill, the only thing that mattered was the swish of my skis, the expanse of my thoughts, and the beauty of the trail I was following. My dad was a great skier and would faithfully take us to the hills every winter. I nicknamed him “Sven” as he would, even in his senior years, easily glide past me with the stature of a Nordic olympian.

The thought of downhill skiing can be intimidating for some first-timers, but all hills offer introductory lessons to get you on your way. And if you spend the whole day on the bunny hill, you’re still reaping the rewards.

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Taking a break at the bottom of the hill

Playing Like a Kid

Get outside and build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or use watercolors to paint the snow. Don’t think about who’s watching. The other night, I was going for a walk through my neighborhood when I found a piece of ice on the sidewalk. I was kicking it and running after it for three or four blocks, pretending that it was a soccer ball.

There is nothing that can bring out your inner-child like the snow. Think about what you liked doing most as a kid, and then get outside and make it happen.

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You're never too old to make snow angels

What wintertime activities are your favorites?

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out A Hike in the Snow.