Overcoming the challenges of empty nesting and divorce

My precious daughter is home for a season

My empty nest has been full for the holidays. As I sit down to write this, my daughter will soon be returning to university to do her honours in Psychology. She completed her degree at the end of last year, moved out of her flat and came home for a while. My empty nest was transformed overnight from a silent, orderly space into a noisy, messy space full of laughter.  She will soon be packing her bags again and I will have to get used to her not being around all over again.  At this stage her whole life still stretches out ahead of her, full of promise and possibilities. However, for this temporary period, she is happy to be at home and to settle in to some of her old routines.

at summitShe has made herself quite comfortable – rather too comfortable as a matter of fact. As I look up from my desk I can see a sleeping bag laid out on my living floor. She went on a hike with friends and slept in a cave for the night. She says she lay awake for hours with bats flying overhead and water dripping down on her face. She is still trying to clean dirty sand off the borrowed sleeping bag. On my diningroom table I can see her jogging pants, a bottle of deodorant, and a pair of socks. (more…)

Are you struggling to succeed at online marketing?

If you are struggling to succeed at online marketing, here is a list of ten points for you to think about in 2016. You may already be applying some of these strategies and principles successfully. Others, such as your SEO strategies, need to be revised constantly. Some strategies you may need to discard altogether. Everyone is looking for the key to online success and it is those who constantly revise, update and keep learning that have the most opportunity for ongoing success. (more…)

What is Search Engine Optimisation Strategy and why should you care?

SEO strategyBefore we find out more about Search Engine Optimization Strategy, we have to understand more about search engines and how they operate.

What is a search engine?

The search engines are like the librarians of the internet. They help users to find the information they want. A search engine uses robots or spiders (automated software) to crawl through all the billions of documents on the Web, going from one to the next by following links. The information they find is indexed and ranked. There is so much information available that it has to be ranked for you to get the very best results when you conduct a search. Each search engine has a different way of obtaining their results. They use secret recipes called algorithms that are extremely complex and detailed. These algorithms are changed and refined all the time. (more…)

Financial advice for Empty Nesters – 10 important questions to ask yourself

 

10 financial questionsThe following 10 questions have been compiled as a result of having to evaluate these issues myself.  You can ask yourself these questions to help you make some critical decisions when your children have left the nest.  Your answers may be revealing.

It is the start of a whole new chapter in your life. You have spent many years working to educate and care for your children as well as to maintain your home. Now that your children are grown, it is the ideal time to make some changes. If you want to have a successful discussion with your financial adviser, you really need to prepare a little ahead of time and decide what you want to address. Issues such as retirement savings, reducing debt, and downsizing are central to any financial advice for empty nesters.

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A behind-the-scenes look at making a gallery wall

cracks in gallery wallI have not been entirely honest about my attempts at making a gallery wall and I have decided to come clean. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at what really happened:

Bright idea number 1 – I decided not to use nails. I had read about how people use double-sided tape to hang their images. Wikihow even has a post where they show you exactly how to do this and I am sure that if you pay attention to the details, including the weight suggestions, you will be successful. I thought about all the nail holes in my walls and decided tape was a brilliant idea. I bought the toughest, thickest double-sided tape I could find.
Bright idea number 2 – I thought I would save time and effort by taking a huge piece of plastic, draping it over the pictures I had already arranged on the floor and taping it down on both sides. I would avoid cutting out a whole lot of separate pieces.

A great tip! I wish I had found the following tip before I started – take a large piece of butcher paper, arrange the pictures on top of it and trace round the frames. Remove the frames, mark how far down the nails should be and then tape the paper to the wall. Hammer the nails in through the paper, take it down and hang the frames – no measuring, no pencil marks and perfect results. Brilliant!  I will definitely try this one if I ever have the guts to attempt a gallery wall again because my version did not work at all. The plastic kept coming loose as I battled to make the cuts. (more…)

5 ways to choose a niche market for your website

find a nicheIn one of my previous posts, I show how easy it is to build your own website.  Perhaps you already have an idea of the type of website you want to build. Don’t worry if you don’t – there are plenty of ways to find niche ideas.

What is a niche market?
The simplest explanation of a marketing niche is that it is a group of people. It is a specific audience searching for a topic online.  Niche marketing is all about being a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond. If you find a group of people, even a small one, that is not having their needs and desires satisfied by other marketers, you can develop goods or services for them.

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A broken heart – a mother’s pain on parting

I found the poem below in a book by Shelley Bovey  The Empty Nest: When Children Leave Home.  It is a beautiful poem that describes a broken heart – a mother’s pain on parting. It reminded me of an article I read in the Daily Mail written by Maddy Paxman, author of The Great Below. She lost her husband, writer Michael Donaghy, as a result of a brain haemorrhage when she was 46 and was left to bring up her eight-year-old son on her own. In the article she writes about her agony, knowing her son Ruari will soon leave home. She says “moving on from motherhood is no laughing matter. Especially if this is your last – or, as in my case, only child – the transition brings with it a huge sense of loss and grief, largely unacknowledged in our society. We celebrate birth with flowers and presents, but the ending of hands-on motherhood is borne mostly in silent distress.” (more…)

Bible verses for anxiety

coloring pages for anxietyThere are many verses in the Bible dealing with anxiety for a very good reason – not many people can claim to be anxiety free.  Worry, anxiety, and fear can control us to the extent that it affects every move we make. This is particularly true when we focus on events going on in the world today – wars, terrorism, violence, crime, unemployment … the list goes on and on. We worry about our finances, our families, our health … in fact we will always be able to find something to worry about. However, worry cannot change anything – it only makes things worse. We often worry endlessly about the ‘what if’s’ that may never even take place. When you begin to worry, it has a way of spiraling out of control and that is why I decided to offer you a FREE PDF  containing Bible Verses for Anxiety and coloring pages.  The verses are taken from the American Standard Version. I have included a coloring page to help you relax. The therapeutic benefit of coloring is well documented. I believe that if you color a page while meditating on the specific verse, there is more chance of absorbing the words as you are more relaxed and you mind is more receptive. (more…)

Unique gifts for adult children

gifts

When your children are small, buying gifts is easy. Every toy store is overflowing with all kinds of items that would make them happy. Looking for unique gifts for adult children is harder. I like to think about what would help them with their daily life, give them some enjoyment or contribute in some way towards their future. I also like to take their character into consideration – no-one knows your children as well as you do and this should help you when you select gifts for them.

Sometimes you will end up buying them items that that may not even cost much or that no-one but you would know they would appreciate.  Giving your adult son or daughter a worthwhile gift isn’t so about how much you spend or how trendy it is – it’s more about coming up with something that you know they want and it helps if it reminds them of how much you love and understand them!

(This post  contains affiliate links and I make some commission. It does not cost you more to buy through my links)

In this post, I share some ideas gathered from buying gifts for my own young adult son and daughter as well as from friends with kids of the same age.  I hope you find an idea to help you select a gift they will truly appreciate.

5 gifts for a young adult daughter

Social media fundi

Anker astro My daughter is always on the go and recharging her tablet or smartphone is an issue at times. The Anker Astro E1 Ultra Compact Portable Charger is  great for camping trips or flights and will make sure that she’s never ‘disconnected’. It has a high capacity, adding almost two full charges to an iPhone 7 or 6s or at least one full charge to other smartphones. It even adds an 80% charge to an iPad mini. Another plus is that it’s the size of a candy bar and can fit perfectly in a pocket.

Coffee addict

Single serve coffee brewerHamilton Beach single serve coffee brewer and full pot coffee maker
My daughter was over the moon when she received the gift of the coffee maker recently.  She loves her coffee! You can’t go wrong with this one, a best seller on Amazon, that has two ways to brew – a single cup or a full pot. One of the nice features about this affordable coffee maker is that it has a built-in programmable clock and timer – your daughter can brew in advance and wake up to the smell of hot coffee!

Lover of delicate, handmade jewellery

necklacesWhat my daughter loves about these two necklaces is that they are handmade, delicate, versatile and modern. The initial necklace and the hammered bar necklace can be worn together,  on their own or mixed and matched with other items. They are available in Sterling Silver, Gold and Rose Gold and are a timeless gift.

Drama Student

My daughter studied drama at school and she loves nothing better than to see a live show. I know that I will always score a hit if I get her tickets to a live performance, especially if I buy two tickets so she can take a friend along with her. A special outing we have planned in the future is to attend a production of Phantom of the Opera together. One of our special mother and daughter times was watching the movie together – we did it over and over again through the years when she was a teenager and it’s become ‘our thing’.

Cuddle bunny

onesieI think that onesie’s are awful and I would most certainly never wear one but my daughter disagrees. She has always loved the feeling of soft, cuddly fabrics. This Forever Lazy  Onesie  has a relaxed fit that will keep your daughter comfortable in any position she chooses to lounge around in. It also has a hoodie to keep her head warm. Another advantage is that it has a drop seat back. She can use the restroom without removing the whole garment – an absolute must if she wants to spend a whole day just lounging around!

 5 Gifts for a young, adult son

Hiker/traveller

multi-purpose canvas backpackA multi-purpose canvas backpack is the ideal gift for an adult son. This large Vintage Canvas Backpack  can be used as a backpack/rucksack or satchel. It has a detachable shoulder strap that turns it easily from a backpack into a shoulder bag. It’s useful and spacious with many pockets, including a large main compartment with pouches and a padded divider. It’s suitable for carrying a tablet or smaller laptop.

Game geek

King of TokyoIt’s so interesting to me that my adult son, who is in love with online gaming, also enjoys playing board games. It says something for the new generation of board games coming out now. He recently bought a game called King of Tokyo. . This game is for 2 to 6 players and we had a very entertaining afternoon playing together with his sister and her boyfriendI I must say it took a while for me to get into the idea of mutant monsters, robots and aliens all battling it out but once I did it was fun. You roll a dice and choose to attack enemies, heal wounds and even allow your monster to evolve.  I can see why it has such appeal as it is not a boringly, repetitive game and requires some careful strategizing.

Fitness Fanatic

Garmin Fitbit Vivofit BandThe Garmin Vivofit Fitbit Band displays calories, distance, step count and time. It has a move reminder and a goal tracker. It can be worn 24/7 and is stylish and comfortable. It can stay on for more than a year without having to change the battery and it is water-resistant.

Superhero fan

Batman logo folded art bookI know this one comes a little out of left field but my son loves to collect quirky items, especially if they have anything to do with super heroes.  This creative Batman fan folded art book  is made by intricately folding back the pages of a hardback book.

Card collector

genuine leather wallet

If your adult son is anything like mine, he would appreciate a genuine leather wallet with plenty of options for storage.  My son has so many cards, whether it’s for gym membership or getting into movies. This wallet has plenty of space for all those cards, helping to keep them well organized.

Last word

I have heard of parents who take over car payments for their adult children, put down deposits on flats and pay for holidays – if they can afford to do so, these are wonderful ideas. However, many parents do not have the means for a gift like that.  The above gifts are affordable gifts and will be appreciated by your young, adult son or daughter for their practical value, just because they’re fun or because they have special meaning. What unique ideas do you have for gifts for your adult children? I would love to hear your comments.

Photo gallery wall ideas

 my gallery wall3

I am obsessed with gallery walls – whether they consist of photos, paintings, drawings or an eclectic mix of items. I have been collecting bits and pieces over the years but the final step of assembling them is the part that intimidates me. Photo gallery wall ideas abound on Pinterest and they all look so enticing. I drool over them but the problem comes in the execution. I tend to go at my DIY rather haphazardly, you see – either I am missing the right tools or I take short cuts to save time. I know most of the rules but I just don’t seem to have the patience to measure, plan, and carefully go about hanging in an organized way. Instead, I improvise and it’s a family joke that I use a meat tenderizer to bang in my nails instead of a hammer. My tendency to take short cuts shows in my results and all the walls in my house are pockmarked with nail holes from failed past experiments.

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When are you considered old?

aging gracefullyIn 1933 a self-help book called Life Begins at Forty by Walter Pitkin was a bestselling book in the United States. However, our perceptions about old age have changed since then as life expectancy has increased by leaps and bounds. Today, many people still experience excellent health throughout their sixties. Their finances are often in better shape too, as their children are now adults and no longer need support. For many people, their 60s are the start of a whole new chapter in their lives. They are often found traveling the world, opening businesses, taking up new hobbies and leading active and exciting lifestyles. So, when are you considered old today?

How old is ‘old’?

Many people retire at the age of 65,  so that is often thought of as the start of old age.  However, in a poll conducted in Britain, researchers found that the average age the Brits thought was ‘officially old’ was 68 or over. They found that most 60-somethings did not feel their true age. Of course, the definition of old age also varies according to age groups. As a teenager, I used to think of someone in their 50s as being past it. I am rapidly approaching 60 now and there’s a lot of life left in me yet!  In America, similar results were found in research conducted by the Pew Research Center. Those aged 18 to 29 taking part in their survey believed that the average person becomes old at age 60, whereas those aged 65 and above felt that people were old at 74. All things considered, it appears that the title of ‘old’ is fairly difficult to pin down.

You’re only as old as you feel

We often use the expression “you are only as old as you feel”.  Most of us know a 20-year old who acts more like a 40-year old and a 60-year old who acts like a 30-year old. My mother of 82 is still very active for her age,  and has a better social life than I do. She lives in a retirement village and I am always intrigued to see two people of the same age approaching life very differently.  Some appear to ‘give up’ in their 80s and merely exist until they die. However, one of my mother’s friends is 92 and still has a great appetite for life. She is younger in spirit than many of the others who are still in their early 80s. My own grandmother lived an active, fruitful life until the age of 97. At the age of about 84 I remember her saying “the old ladies love it when I play the piano for them”. I can’t help admiring older people who attempt to do what is not considered acceptable at their age, such as the old lady who went sky-diving on her 80th birthday.

Aging does have its downsides

However,  we do have to face the fact that changes occur with age – biological, psychological, and social. Memory loss, serious illness, becoming sexually inactive, turning gray, poor bladder control,  and no longer being able to drive are just some of the problems that may have to be faced with aging.  The effect of losing a life partner or facing a serious illness cannot be underestimated and such events are more likely to occur in your sixties than in your forties. However, difficult circumstances are not the prerogative of those who are getting old – there are difficulties to overcome at every age and stage of life.

Do these tests of aging

Your mental age

Here is an age test that compares your mental age with your chronological age. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my mental age is thirty years younger than my chronological age. And guess what – I did another one and it gave me the same result!

Your reactions

Try this fun test to find out how old you are in terms of your reactions. I evidently have the reactions of an 84-year old. I better not go sky-diving anytime soon!

Your heart age

Did you know that your heart age can be older than your actual age? I did this heart test online and found out that my heart was ten years older than my actual age – time to reduce the weight and step up the exercise! I know that about 45 minutes of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week is enough to keep my heart young. However, knowing it is one thing and having enough motivation to stick to it is another.

How old you look in pictures

If you’ve ever wondered how old you look in pictures, how-old.net takes data from an image you upload and uses it to determine your age and gender.

Growing older gracefully

The older some people get, the younger they feel. Ask a person of 65 how old they feel and many say that they feel about 10 years younger than their actual age. Of course, there are always times when you feel your age – your bones creak, your joints aren’t quite what they used to be and you can’t stay up late at night anymore and not pay for it the next day.  However, your predominant mindset is positive and you still look forward to what the future holds.

Giving your body what it needs to age well is not rocket science – eat healthily, get enough sleep, exercise, don’t smoke and drink in moderation. Many of you are fairly well educated today as to what you should be doing to keep your bodies healthy.

However, I think a person’s mindset is just as important when it comes to aging. When you feel you have nothing more to achieve, nothing more to experience or conquer, you will feel old. If you are just existing and waiting for your life to be over, you will feel old. If you feel you have nothing more to look forward to, you will feel old. On the contrary, if you wake up every morning, excited about what the day ahead holds for you, you will feel younger. If you keep your brain active, challenging yourself by learning new things every day, you will feel younger. If you still have dreams of what you can accomplish in your life, you will feel younger. Sometimes your body will not keep up with your youthful mindset and you will battle to stay positive. However, I believe that a negative mindset contributes towards your aging process. If you do everything you can do to keep your body healthy and cultivate a youthful mindset too, you have the highest odds of aging gracefully.

I would love to hear your comments on how old you feel is ‘old’ in today’s world.

Battling Insomnia – the best ways to fall asleep faster

battling insomnia

Insomnia is one of the curses of modern society. Just about everyone experiences times of lying awake for hours and being unable to go to sleep – this may be before an important exam or interview or even due to drinking too many cups of coffee. However, when sleeplessness happens more often, and becomes a routine, it can cause all kinds of problems. Perhaps you have difficulty in dropping off to sleep in the first place because your mind is racing, or you may wake in the early hours and find it impossible to get back to sleep. The irony is that the more you try, the more anxious you become and the less likely you are to succeed. I have been battling with sleeplessness for some time and so I have been looking for the best ways to fall asleep faster.

Why is sleep so important?

Good quality sleep is essential to a healthy life – it allows the body to process daily events. It helps it to repair, heal and rejuvenate. Sleep is an essential part of the natural cycle of life and without enough of it, we cannot function properly. A lack of sleep disrupts everything from our immune system to our metabolism. It not only contributes to medical problems but also makes us less flexible, impairs our decision-making, depresses us and prevents effective communicate. We become less able to solve problems and find it harder to adapt to life changes.

How much sleep do you need?

The general recommendation is to get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but many people function on either side of the ‘normal’ range. There is no magical formula when it comes to how much sleep you need. Some famous figures in history are well known for needing very little sleep and still being able to function at a high level. Margaret Thatcher and Thomas Edison both managed to get by on four hours a night. However, if you routinely get less than six hours of sleep a night, there is a good chance you are not getting enough.

Facing the problem

When you are suffering from sleeplessness, it is time to take notice. There are many reasons why you could be having a problem – perhaps your bed is uncomfortable, your bedroom cluttered or your pillow too soft. Maybe you need to exercise more. Your unhealthy diet could be forcing your body to use up energy for digestion. You may be so overworked and stressed that you are unable to unwind when it’s time to sleep. There are many types of sleeping pills available and some of these are very helpful. However, they are really only effective on a short-term basis. Natural self-help techniques are much better for you in the long run. I have been trying out the following ones and have found some more helpful than others:

      1. Clear your mind.
        I decided to try writing a “to do” list for the next day.  I thought this might help to introduce some order into the choatic thoughts racing through my brain at night.  I had read many times that ‘spontaneous’ writing was very therapeutic so I also spent some time writing about my emotions and reactions to events of the day. Another activity one can do before going to bed is coloring. Many of us have fond memories about coloring when we were kids and it has now become perfectly acceptable for adults as people rediscover how relaxing it can be. Coloring books are best selling items and so it is easy to get hold of one. Here is one featuring stress relieving patterns and intricate doodles
      2. Avoid caffeine.
        I stopped drinking any drinks containing caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.  I replaced them with herbal tea, trying various ones but finding chamomile tea to be the most pleasant and calming. The Republic Of Tea Chamomile Lemon Herbal Tea is a good one as it also contains valerian root, known to help with insomnia and lemon balm to induce drowsiness.
      3. Invest in a relaxing sound track.
        When you are trying to fall asleep, you can become fixated on irritating noises like a frog croaking or a tap dripping. If you go to iTunes, you can find plenty of free soundtracks to download – rain, birdsong or waves crashing can all help to drown out those irritating noises and help you to sleep.
      4. Eliminate discomfort in your sleep space. memory foam pillow
        If there is anything about your bedroom that disturbs you instead of comforting you – change it. Move your bed into a different position, remove your computer or TV and declutter your room if necessary. Sometimes all you need to do is to buy a new pillow. A Shredded Memory Foam Pillow with Bamboo Cover  is one that is specifically designed to help relieve insomnia.

5. Learn some simple breathing techniques
If you have ever been deprived of breath for some time, you realize how desperate you become. The way we breathe is crucial to everything we do, including how well we sleep.  Learning some breathing techniques is a simple way to help you to relax.

a) Completing the circuit: 
Sit in a relaxed but upright position.
– Close off one nostril with your thumb and place the index finger of the same hand in the space between the eyebrows.
– Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply through the open nostril.
– Repeat for six breaths.
– Use the middle finger to close off the other nostril, simultaneously releasing your thumb from the closed one.
– Keeping the index finger between the eyebrows, inhale and exhale slowly and gently for six breaths.
(I found this exercise in the book Insomnia – Take control of your health naturally by Ann Redfearn).

b) Abdominal or chest breathing:  Ann Redfearn also advocates learning abdominal breathing. She reminds us that the most natural way of breathing is seen in a baby – its stomach rises and falls with each breath. At times when we are anxious, our breathing becomes shallower and is focused more in the upper chest and throat. Less than half our lung capacity is being used. Less oxygen is entering the bloodstream. Chest breathing is not conducive to sleep. If we drop awareness down to our abdomen and allow the stomach to rise and fall as we breathe in, the body becomes more relaxed and the mind follows. It may feel strange at first but with practice, abdominal breathing will soon become easy.

c) ‘4-7-8’ breathing method: Pioneered by the US sleep expert Dr Andrew Weil, this method has been widely shared on the internet. Weil advises sitting with your back straight and placing the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keeping it there throughout the exercise:
– Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
– Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
– Hold your breath for a count of seven.
– Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
– This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
He says this exercise is like a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.

I did not find the list-making that helpful because it seemed to stimulate my mind even more rather than relax it. The free writing, however, was as therapeutic as suggested. All of these methods did provide some measure of relief. I am still working on the breathing exercises and I think they take a bit of practice.  The breathing exercise I found surprisingly relaxing was Completing the Circuit. I would love to hear your tips and suggestions about the best natural ways you have discovered to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Build a website in 30 seconds or less, even if you’re over 50

build a website in WordPress

The generations that grew up without any of the current technology can find the speed of its development quite intimidating. If you had said to me when I was in my twenties that I would soon be able to interact with people all over the globe from my own computer, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had said to me a year ago that I could build a website in under 30 seconds, I would have had the same reaction. However, I was able to do it and I will even show you a video of how it can be done. If you are thinking about earning an income online, it is important to have a website of your own. (more…)

Do brain development games really make a difference?

train your brain

There is some controversy as to whether brain development games really make a difference. In the past researchers found that games improved the ability of people to play the games but did not necessarily spill over into other areas. In other words, if you play a lot of Scrabble, you will become really good at Scrabble but but this  will not necessarily elevate your judgement, decision-making or planning skills. Many companies today sell brain games on the basis that these games improve cognitive function. However, is there any real scientific proof that they work?

Study by Alzheimer’s Society

A recent large randomized control trial funded by the Alzheimer’s Society has offered some interesting results. Researchers at King’s College University, London, found that brain development games did improve cognitive function in older people. In the study researchers tested 7,000 subjects above 50 years of age over a period of six months. The brain training package used consisted of three reasoning tasks. One group was given reasoning and problem solving tasks. A second group worked on cognitive skills such as memory and attention.  A third control group looked for information on the internet. Participants were tested before starting the study and again after six weeks, three months and six months. The medically-approved tests included measuring memory and grammatical reasoning.  Those over 60 were also assessed on how well they coped with daily activities like cooking, shopping and managing finances.

Participants who played the brain training games five times a week showed the most improvement. Participants over 50 showed a significant improvement in reasoning and verbal ability. Participants over 60 showed great improvement in scores on tests of daily living activities.

Demo Gamebrain training demo game
Challenge yourself by playing this demo game. You have to work out which is the heaviest single object from the positions of the see-saws. You must select an object you think is the heaviest and the better you get, the harder it becomes.

What is the significance of these results?
Dr Anne Corbet of King’s College said that the research added to growing evidence that lifestyle interventions may provide a more realistic opportunity to maintain cognitive function. They could potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline later in life. Dr. Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at the Alzheimer’s Society, said that the study wasn’t long enough to test whether the brain training package prevents cognitive decline or dementia. However, he was excited about the fact that training the brain could have a positive impact on how well older people perform essential everyday tasks. The Alzheimer’s Society are currently funding a second study to further test brain training in people over 50. They want to investigate how genetics might affect performance, allowing them to get a better understanding of how brain training could be used to maintain cognition or even reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. If you are interested in taking part in the study, visit the project website.

One of the important features of the recent study was that the exercises became progressively more difficult. Participants continually faced new mental challenges. Perhaps this was the real benefit, more than the type of exercises as such. Although brain training software is everywhere these days, there are many simple ways to challenge your brain.  Just as you need to exercise for a healthy body, it appears that exercising your brain can help prevent your mental faculties from deteriorating.

Eight simple activities  to exercise your brain

  1. Eat or shower with your eyes closed. It creates an opportunity to use and strengthen your other senses.
  2. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand. It strengthens pathways and connections in the opposite side of your brain.
  3. Make a grocery list, memorize it and go shopping without it.
  4. Learn a new language or take up playing an instrument.
  5. Drive a different way to work. Introduce novelty into other daily activities.
  6. Take up a new hobby where you need to use fine-motor skills like drawing or embroidery.
  7. Play games with other people like board, word or card games.  Strategise and interact with others.
  8. Do the crosswords in the magazines or newspapers you read.

How else can you help your brain?

Acccording to some research multitasking makes the brain less efficient. Constantly shifting between activities may seem efficient but it overloads the brain and tires it.  Rather do one activity at a time and do it well.

Research has showed that overuse of technology can affect the way we process information. Heavy media multitaskers showed less ability switch tasks, with reduced ability to filter out interference from what was not relevant. Cutting yourself off from all technology for just half an hour may help your brain stay healthy.  Instead of constantly responding to mobile pings, app alerts and incoming emails, focus on one task of substance.

Our brains are the most complex organs in our body.  Playing brain games is stimulating and fun. Even if they do not prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s I will continue playing them even if there is some chance that they will help prevent my brain from deteriorating as I age.

Please leave your comments below. I would love to hear if you have found any novel ways to exercise your brain.

 

Parenting Style Quiz: parenting 20-something kids

Parenting style quiz

Parenting adult children is just as important as parenting little ones but it is very different. During the phase when they first move away from home, children begin to mature and start finding out how they want to live their own lives as adults.  Many of us make the mistake of failing to allow the relationship to mature as our children become adults.  If we continue to treat our children the way we have always done, serious conflicts may arise.  The way we speak to them, the way we love them, and even how much we give them may need some adjustment.  (more…)

Is protein important to your diet as you age?

Some empty nesters live on tea and toast/A recent poll (Seven Seas October 2015) has revealed that many empty nesters are eating unhealthily. They seem to lose incentive to cook meals when their children leave home and tend to rather grab a cup of tea and some toast than eating a proper meal. In the study of 2000 people of over 60, almost half admitted that their diet isn’t that healthy and 12% admitted that it was worse than it had been in the past when they had to make healthy, balanced meals for their children. Why is this so concerning? Is protein important to your diet as you age?

Your body changes as you age
As you age, your body composition changes. You start to lose muscle strength and mass due to a number of factors such as changing hormones, reduced muscle response to the intake of protein and , for some people, less physical activity.  The fancy term for this slow loss of muscle mass is sarcopenia and it can bring with it all kinds of health problems. Sarcopenia can start even before the age of 50, says IL-Young Kim, a researcher into Aging and Longevity. (more…)

Can loneliness kill you?

Can loneliness kill?

Science seems to confirm what many of us perhaps feel instinctively – loneliness can kill us. A number of studies have been done over the years proving its negative effects.

A study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science in March 2015, revealed that loneliness  increases the risk of dying.  The researchers found that subjective feelings of loneliness and the objective state of being socially isolated both increased risk of death.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is an essential human feeling that rises and falls throughout our lives. Loneliness hurts – brain studies have revealed that social pain and actual physical pain lights up the same areas in the brain.

John Cacioppo, Ph.D., who directs the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago says:

Loneliness has a lot in common with pain, hunger, and thirst. You would not want to be in these states, at least not for very long, but each has evolved as an aversive biological signal that motivates us to do something that’s good for us as individuals and as a species. Physical pain motivates us to take care of our physical body. Loneliness motivates us to take care of our social body, and in doing so, it fosters caring about others and being willing to work to stay together. We’re a fundamentally social species, and a social animal that is isolated is almost certain to live a shorter, more miserable life.

The difference between loneliness and being alone

“Language … has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’  to express the glory of being alone” – Paul Tillich

People tend to assume that when people are on their own, they are lonely.  This is not true. You can choose to be alone and feel blissful solitude rather than loneliness. Feelings of loneliness may also strike at unexpected times. You could be in a room full of people and suddenly feel disconnected from those around you. You could lie in bed at night next to your partner and feel intense loneliness because you are physically close but light years away from one another in every other way.  It is when people perceive those around them as threats rather than a source of compassion and help, that they feel most lonely.

Causes of loneliness

Loneliness seems to have reached proportions where researchers are regarding it as an epidemic as significant as obesity or diabetes.   Numbers of adults reporting loneliness have doubled since the 1980s and there are a multitude of causes for this.

  1. Genetic disposition
    Research has also shown that individuals with a certain gene have been found to be more social and respond more to social cues than others. Does this mean that if we do not have that gene, we will inevitably face a life of loneliness? No, it doesn’t, as nurture is still extremely important. Even those genetically predisposed to loneliness are less likely to express it if they are surrounded by good support systems and healthy social networks.
  2. Emotional disposition
    Introverts enjoy being alone more than extroverts but they too need meaningful connections in their lives.
  3. Social grouping
    Immigrants, the disabled, the elderly and those in low-income families are more likely to experience loneliness.
  4. One-person households
    The number of people who live alone has increased slowly but surely over the decades.
  5. Technology
    Social scientists are studying the effect of technology and urbanization on loneliness. It appears that technology can be both a cause of loneliness and a solution for it. It may be easier to have meaningless, virtual relationships instead of working on building and maintaining real relationships. Facebook interactions may be used as a substitute for real life interaction. If you live alone, that may be better than nothing, but it is not the same. However, technology can also be a source of social connection that helps to keep loneliness at bay. For those living apart from family and friends, it may be an important lifeline.
  6. Divorce or death of a spouse
    Divorce, particularly after years of being married, or death of a long-time spouse, inevitably leads to a period of loneliness. People in these situations are not used to being on their own. They are so accustomed to being part of a couple that it takes them time to adjust to being single.
  7. Age and health issues
    Poor physical health, frailty and mobility issues can contribute a great deal to loneliness. Mental health is another factor with anxiety, depression and fear of rejection causing increasing isolation.  Sometimes those who were socially active when they were younger, find themselves more isolated in latter years. Maike Luhmann, a psychologist at the University of Cologne in Germany, has found that loneliness may be worse in old age but young people suffer too. She saw in a study of 16,000 Germans that  “Around 30, there’s elevated levels of loneliness, and then again at age 50.” The reason for this requires further study.

The effects of loneliness on physical health

John Cacioppo has been tracking the effects of loneliness. His studies reveal that loneliness definitely has a negative effect on health:

  • Lonely individuals feel they are more stressed, even when they are exposed to exactly the same stress as people who aren’t lonely and even when they are relaxing.
  • They have raised levels of circulating stress hormones and levels of blood pressure. The heart muscle has to work harder.
  • Loneliness makes them more prone to depression.
  • Loneliness disrupts sleep and they tend to wake up more at night. They spend less time in bed sleeping than those are aren’t lonely.

The effects of loneliness on psychological health

Dr. Guy Winch, Ph.D.  makes a great case for emotional hygiene. He brings out the fact that studies have shown that loneliness poses as significant a risk for long term health and longevity as cigarette smoking. However, it does not come with a health warning like the one found on a cigarette pack. He believes that loneliness can cause deep psychological wounds that distort your perception. It has a way of making you believe that those around you don’t care enough about you. You are afraid to reach out because you fear setting yourself up for rejection when you are already hurting.

Dr. Winch says that we need to pay attention to our emotional pain. We spend more time taking care of our teeth than our minds. He suggests that just as we practice physical hygiene, we need to practice mental hygiene. This means that we should not ignore the emotional pain that we feel. We should not just adjust to our losses by getting used to them. This is the case even when the loss is a normal one – such as when our children leave home. When we ignore psychological pain it becomes much worse and it can impact our lives in many negative ways.  He brings out the fact that people are still told to shake off their depression but we wouldn’t dream of telling someone with a broken leg to just walk it off.

Fighting loneliness

Loneliness has to be battled on many levels. It starts at the family level and as family members, we need to watch out for signs of loneliness in our immediate circle and try to help. Practical support can help a great deal if loneliness is caused due to disability, lack of mobility or ill health. For example, offer to drive an elderly relative to a favorite event when she can no longer drive herself.

Social awareness of the negative health consequences of loneliness can help people to realize its seriousness and prevent them from making decisions that might precipitate it. An example would be retiring away from family and friends, moving to another country or choosing to stay in a large, empty house.

Everyone feels lonely sometimes—when you move to a new place, break up with a boyfriend or lose a loved one.  However, chronic loneliness is a more difficult issue and is not that simple to deal with.  Chronic loneliness is an interaction between your make-up and what life circumstances you have to deal with. Once it is triggered, your thinking becomes defensive and every social interaction becomes difficult. Offering people suffering chronic loneliness the opportunity to meet with others and socially engage often breaks down because of their defensive thinking. They are trapped in a vicious cycle of loneliness. Being aware of their problem is often the first step towards breaking the cycle.

Providing social support is not much of an answer as it often makes the person feel pathetic and does not change their mindset in any way.  Teaching social skills is usually redundant – lonely people often have normal social skills but they don’t use them. The reason for this is that when something goes wrong, their brains put them into self-preservation mode. Social cognition is the type of therapy thought to work best.  It involves paying attention to how people are perceived and works on this.

Simple ways to deal with loneliness

Dan Buettner is a scientist who studies longevity. He has identified communities that have better health and live longer. What these communities have in common was their sense of family and community.  The number and quality of social interactions relate to the quality and length of lives and within these communities quality interactions on a daily basis are woven into the fabric of society.

Having people to turn to for support helps to buffer against depression, hardship, loss.

  • Make sure you connect regularly with friends and family.
  • Spend time with others, even if it’s going on a walk with a neighbor or going out to coffee with a friend. Regular outings for exercise, visiting friends, doing shopping, or going to the library can help.
  • Make new friends if possible. Try a new hobby, join a club,  learn a new skill. Try looking online, at your local  library or community center for events in your area that might be interesting to you.  If your circle of friends has shrunk, it is important to make new connections.
  • Volunteering and giving back to your community is a great way to strengthen social ties and meet people.
  • A support group is helpful in times of change. If you are coping with loss or divorce, relating to others who are going through similar changes can be very helpful.
  • Think about getting a pet.
  • Speak to a GP or a counselor.

Conclusion

The upshot of all the research is that we appear to be built for social contact and that those who are lonely experience life threatening health problems, both physically and mentally. All of us experience loneliness at some stage of our lives as it is part of the human condition. However, when it becomes chronic, it is much harder to deal with. This is why it is important to cultivate friendships and value them. Quality of interaction seems to be the key, not quantity, in keeping us healthy and helping us to live longer.

What to do when you feel lost

lotus flower

When we are feeling lost, it is hard to believe that we will ever find our way again. But, it is that very feeling of being lost that is part of the process of self-discovery. As Henry David Thoreau said “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”  Masaru Emoto describes beautifully what is possible when we feel lost.  “If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.”

What makes us feel lost?

A life transition

It is perfectly natural to feel lost at times in our lives. This often happens in the transition from one phase to another – becoming a teenager, becoming a parent, facing menopause, divorce or the loss of independence that comes with illness or old age.  When our children leave home and we no longer have such a hands-on parenting role, this is one of the times when we may feel lost. Our roles are no longer as defined as they were.

Many mornings after going through a divorce and experiencing an empty nest at the same time, I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed. Everything I tried to do felt like such an effort and I could hardly force myself to keep up with routine tasks, let alone attempt anything more. The former script of my life was shredded and the days when I would spring out of bed with a ‘bring-it-on-world’ attitude and a sense of purpose seemed to have deserted me altogether.

When we are moving from one stage of life to another, we are like ships who are no longer anchored and have sailed out of a safe harbor. Many times our destination is unknown. At this point people may find that they begin to drift about in the ocean of life. They lose touch with all the goals and dreams they once had. They cannot even remember what they wanted out of life anymore. Nothing seems to motivate them and make them feel alive any more.

Incoming overload

We are faced with floods of information, noise, consumerism, and technology on a daily basis. In the midst of all of this, it is easy to start feeling as though we’ve lost our way. We cannot see a clear path in front of us due to the confusion and cognitive overload we experience. Life is changing so fast, technology is progressing by leaps and bounds and we have forgotten what it is like to experience silence.  It is easy to be overcome by fear  when we are constantly bombarded with news about terror attacks, rising unemployment, global warming, economic downturns and more. Living in a state of fear gives rise to anxiety and easily results in a feeling of being disconnected and lost.

Lack of meaningful relationships

We all need meaningful relationships in our lives. When we surround ourselves with supportive people who encourage us, we have less chance of feeling lost. Sometimes it is not easy for us to open up to others and nurture deep relationships but it is very important. Even one meaningful relationship is better than having a vast number of casual acquaintances. Some people are surrounded constantly by others and yet they may still feel lost.

Even if we are surrounded by others but they are people who tend to have a negative attitude towards life, it may rub off on us and eventually we lose sight of our own dreams and goals.

Always following the advice and opinions of others instead of trusting our own is another way to end up on a dead-end path.  Common opinion may dissuade us from taking up opportunities to which we feel drawn. I had firmly set my sights on earning a living from my writing online. I must admit I did not know how much hard work it would take but if I had listened to all the detractors, this website would still exist only in my head.

Searching

I am sure there are very few people on earth who haven’t felt lost at some point in their lives, even if they are celebrities or people who seem to have it all together.  It is absolutely fine to feel lost but it is definitely not okay to stay lost. When we are physically lost, we may meander around in circles in our attempt to find our way again. We may not find our way immediately but we have to keep searching.

We need to actively search for a new sense of purpose and ways to create a meaningful life.  The searching itself is part of the process of transformation.

We may have to backtrack and reconnect with our past dreams. What was it that made us excited? What impossible dreams did we once have that may just be possible now?  For those who have kept journals, reading past entries may help to re-awaken dreams.  For those who don’t journal, now is the time to start!

Getting quiet is important if we are to find meaning again. We have to create time apart from all the influences flooding our lives to find out what truly matters to us. We have to allow ourselves to value the silence rather than indulging in a flurry of activities to try and avoid feeling lost.

We have to be prepared to move beyond our comfort zones. Life transformation doesn’t happen if we are not prepared to stretch ourselves and move out of our ruts. If we stay where we are, we stay lost. As we begin to search, we may move forward very slowly but at least we are moving. Even if we take small steps and don’t know where we are going yet, we are making progress. I have begun the journey towards making a living from my writing – a few years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed that I could do something I love and make money at the same time!

It may even take doing something completely out of character to help us find our way again. I was asked by a friend to go to puppy training with her and I accepted. She had bought two puppies on impulse and needed help as she couldn’t manage both of them. I had never done anything like this before but I had such fun and found that there’s nothing better than running around after a puppy to lift your spirits.

We may need to take a closer look at the lives of those who are doing what we might be interested in trying and ask them a lot of questions.  When we have the opportunity of making changes in our lives, we may have to consider some possibilities we have never even entertained before.

Transformation

Life circumstances change and we have to change with them. We may feel lost for a while and change is never easy but embracing it is essential.  No transformation is possible without it. I personally found that one of my turning points was to rediscover some of the activities I loved doing in the past – writing, going to theater, gardening. I began to enjoy my freedom and my own company instead of feeling so lost and dreading being alone. We have to find a way to embrace the feeling of being lost as a step in the journey towards our transformation.

I would love to hear if you have ever felt lost and how you managed to get through it.

Job opportunities for over 50s

INCOMEIf you have spent years raising a family and have always put the needs of others ahead of your own, it is easy to feel redundant once they grow up and leave home. The good news is that job opportunities for over 50s do exist. The mothering role that gave you your sense of purpose may not be as intensive as it once was, but you now have the chance to discover new sides to your character. You may find out, for example, that you love sharing with people online about your hobby and before you know it you can leverage this to create an income opportunity. (more…)

Review of Refeathering the Empty Nest by Wendy Aronsson

refeathering empty nestBook Title: Refeathering the Empty Nest, Life after the children leave
Author: Wendy Aronsson
Published: (2014). New York: Rowman & Littlefield
Price: Hardcover $36.68 Kindle: $34.19
My Rating: 4-5

I found this book thought-provoking and easy to read. I like the distinction Wendy Aronsson makes when she refers to the empty nest stage as a shift rather than a syndrome. Calling it a syndrome has the connotation that it is abnormal. She stresses that it is a normal but challenging adjustment for parents. Aronsson is a psychotherapist and she tells her own story as well as recounting the stories of many others. Interwoven with the stories is good, solid advice. Aronsson says you need to look at your empty nest from a 360-degree perspective. In this way, you can start to see all the fibers interwoven in it – and to realize that it is evolving rather than empty. (more…)