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7 habits of proactive people


Proactive means acting beforehand. Taking action in the present will influence things in the future, perhaps even the future itself. So always think ahead. Practice those habits exhibited by proactive people. Set goals. Schedule time for important activities. Plan daily. Use checklists. Review results, continually make adjustments to improve future outcomes. Plan long range. And maintain the right attitude. There is power in being proactive.

Proactive people are always looking ahead at future activities, projects and events and anticipating needs, problems and possible outcomes. Here are seven habits they have acquired that enable them to tackle almost any situation.

  1. Set goals. Proactive people hold planning sessions with themselves as well as with others, and set specific goals for the future. They not only put them in writing, along with deadline dates, they schedule time in their planners to actually work on them. By doing this, they are helping to create their own future as opposed to reacting to unplanned events.
  • Schedule time for important activities. Proactive people use planners as they are supposed to use them – to record future events and to schedule time for priority tasks and activities. By being able to view the future, they are able to anticipate possible problems and act before they can occur. Just looking at an event such as a scheduled meeting in writing, sets your mind thinking about things you will need for that meeting.
  • Plan daily. Ideally you will have scheduled your priority activities a week ahead, leaving unscheduled time each day for those important and urgent tasks and activities that inevitably pop up throughout the week. But you may have to do some juggling in order to fit them all in. Don’t let a priority activity be replaced without first rescheduling it to another time slot. And never replace a scheduled activity with a less important one. Remember that the good is the enemy of the best.
  • Use checklists. Proactive people make up checklists for all repetitive events or activities, such as meetings, travel, conferences, sales calls, workshops and interviews. These checklists are updated if necessary after every event. If anything was missed, it is added to the list so that it won’t be forgotten the next time. Checklists save time and money and prevent errors.
  • Review results. Proactive people don’t just follow through with planned tasks and events, they follow up as well, and make sure the value received was worth the time and effort expended. This ensures that they are indeed completing the 20% of the tasks that yield 80% of the results. Always question whether you are making the best possible use of your time.
  •  Plan long range. Proactive people recognize that it’s never too early to plan, and that planning too late causes crises and time problems. If the Titanic had started turning sooner, it never would have hit the iceberg. Small adjustments made earlier avoid large adjustments having to be made at the last minute.
  • Maintain the right attitude. The most important weapon that proactive people have at their disposal is their attitude or state of mind. In fact, it could be called a way of life. Proactive people wouldn’t think of making a telephone call without first jotting down the items for discussion or going to the supermarket without first making a list of the items they need. They don’t resent looking at a map before taking a trip or reading the instructions before assembling a swing set.

Proactive people maintain their cool, avoid stress, and never let other people’s lack of planning become their crises. They don’t accept assignments without realistic deadlines, and never accept ASAP in place of an actual date. They are organized, efficient, and respect other people’s time as well as their own.

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Communicating via e-mail messages.

Email, because of its speed, convenience and low cost, is now one of the most frequently used forms of business communication.

A 2018 statistic revealed that the average office worker receives 121 e-mails per day. The volume of e-mail has increased by 2000 percent between 1998 and 2003 and has been increasing ever since. The average working professional spends roughly 23% of the workday on email, and glances at the inbox about 36 times an hour, according to Mike Byster, in his book, The Power of Forgetting.

The April, 2016 issue of Scientific American Mind described a study of 16 billion emails sent by more than 2 million people that revealed the most likely length of reply is just five words. Also more than 90% of replies are sent within one day, and the younger you are the faster and shorter your reply. The study also revealed that messages sent on weekday mornings got the fastest responses and emails with attachments took twice as long to get a reply.

About 12 percent of executives spend 3 hours or more on e-mail. 41% of small businesses are using email to market to customers, a nearly 25% increase over 2012, according to AT&T Small Business Technology.

According to Debra Black, writing in the Toronto Star, some people are so overwhelmed, they routinely delete everything rather than cope with the growing pile of e-mail and scores of messages left on their voice mail. So if you want your e-mail message to be read, you had better capture the reader’s interest quickly. And keep your email messages brief while still communicating clearly.

Use a heading that reveals the purpose of the message and grabs the reader’s attention. One survey showed that 35 percent of the people open e-mail based on the header or subject line. Yet some people don’t even bother writing a subject line. An e-mail without a subject line could very well be deleted unread. A good idea might be to identify yourself in the subject line as well as indicate the topic of the e-mail. Personalizing a subject line has been shown to increase the open rate by 17%.

Put the most important information in the first paragraph. This is particularly important now that people are receiving so many e-mails. They tend to start reading based on the subject line, and continue only if they find the text of specific interest to them. Managers simply don’t have time to read all their email.

So after grabbing the reader’s attention with the header and quickly telling them the purpose of your e-mail you might take the necessary time to reread your e-mail before sending it. Just because e-mail is less formal than business letters doesn’t mean it should not be written with care.

Sloppy, poorly worded messages filled with typos and spelling mistakes reflect on your organization, as well as on your reputation. Take a minute or two to reread and edit every message you write. You will save time for the reader, clarify the communication, and create a good impression in the process.

 

 

 

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Print books are still alive and well.

Not only did I buy a Kindle for e-books, I downloaded the app for my PC, iPad, iPhone and android. I thought for sure we were heading for a world of digital when it came to books, magazines and newspapers.

I didn’t like the idea since I loved my hardcover books that I revisited frequently whenever I wrote an article, newsletter, report or book. I found it so easy to highlight passages, scribble notes in the margins – mainly ideas generated by the author’s remarks – and I used print books as references for the 20 odd e-books I authored for Bookboon.com.

But I didn’t want to be left behind in the oncoming digital age of speed. I was committed to at least keep my brain up to date even while my aging body advertised otherwise.

So I have hundreds of e-books on my various devices, which I still refer to when I travel – and in waiting rooms, airports and buses. Many of them, however, are simply duplicates of the print books I’m reading at the time.

You can imagine my surprise and sheer joy when I started reading reports of the recent decline in electronic book sales, and in spite of all the bookstore closures, print book sales had stopped declining.

I noticed it first in an Inc. article written by Glenn Leibowitz titled “7 reasons why e-book sales are falling – and print book sales are rising again.” According to the Wall Street Journal, sales of traditional print books rose by 5% in the U.S. the previous year, while sales of e-books plunged by 17%.

Another article posted by Dave Schumacher on June 20, 2017 reported that during the first nine months of 2016, e-book sales in the US declined by a dramatic 18.7% compared to the same period in 2015. Dollar sales fell to about $877 million while print books grew slightly to more than $1.6 billion.

Publishers weekly showed that hardcover print unit sales had held steady over the past five years while e-books declined – and that hardcover books outsold e-books in 2016 for the first time since 2011.

Of course an actual trend is not yet conclusive. One writer mentioned the popular adult colouring books that can’t be replicated in digital format, for example.

And what about the young people? Are they firmly committed to e-books – especially with their use by schools, and their ease of access and low cost? Well, I found a student report that surveyed other college students using SurveyMonkey. The sample size was only 300, but half the respondents said they buy in both formats, and a surprising 40% said they prefer reading print books.

Like me they like the convenience of having 1000 books at their fingertips. But also like me, they made remarks such as “I spend enough time on computers; I need a break; I like the feel of the pages” and so on.

Of course, as mentioned in last week’s blog, there are plenty of other advantages of the good old-fashioned, reliable, durable print books as well.

I don’t think e-books will keep declining. But neither will print books. Rather than one format taking over a bigger share of the market, I feel the two formats will both share in a bigger market as more people discover the joy – and wisdom – of reading.

At least I like to think so.

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Cut costs to improve your bottom line.

Back in 2005, Angie Mohr, in her book, Managing Business Growth, claimed that 96% of all small businesses fail within 10 years. Today it isn’t much different. Brian Martucci, in an article posted in Small Business, states that according to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months. Richard Legg, in his 2017 book, Hidden Profits, claims that business owners get so caught up in their business that they’re unable to work “on” their business.

As business owners, we must be able to step back from the business and keep tabs on what’s going on. We must spend more time managing the business and spending less time doing what the business does. Most business writers and consultants claim the major cause of business failure is “poor management. “ But according to Dun and Bradstreet, more than 85% of business failures are preventable.

I don’t think it’s so much poor management as it is a lack of management.

For example, if we can’t afford to take the time to learn and apply new ideas, attend workshops, read the latest books and keep up with the times – because we are so busy doing what we are in business to do – our business will soon be in trouble.

A major purpose of a Chamber of Commerce, for example, is to provide its members with information essential to growing strong businesses.  It would be wise for the members to take advantage of the learning opportunities, and to suggest other topics if the information does not meet their specific needs.

I know that one of my problems in running a business was my tendency to spend like crazy when times were good, and then try to cut corners and skimp when business was slow. It took a while to learn that cutting costs, not quality or service, was an ongoing activity that maintained a healthy bottom line, and avoided any cash flow problems when sales dipped.

Checking bank charges to ensure the best plan for your level of activity, switching to fluorescent light bulbs , which are said to use as much as 22% energy, printing on both sides of computer paper, hiring virtual freelancers from websites such as “Upwork,” finding a use for your by-products – there is no end to the possibilities for reducing costs.

It only requires a questioning attitude and the odd brainstorming session with yourself or others, and a commitment to not get so involved in doing the work that you don’t have time to manage the work.

Some of the ideas from my 30-page special “Promotion on a shoestring” report also reduce costs, such as using classified ads instead of display ads, sending out news releases to the media, trimming your product line, including sales pitches with product shipments, and offering downloadable products. In fact anything that increases sales indirectly reduces costs.

This Promotion on a Shoestring report is available for download for $4.95 CDN at our website. Click here for a detailed description of the report.

 

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Increase the effectiveness of your training.

When it comes to learning, it has been shown that the more senses that are involved, the better you learn – regardless of your so-called “learning style.” For instance everyone learns better when they’re moving. Motion engages more parts of the brain. So does emotion. Showing, telling, doing, storytelling, visuals, sounds, smells all aid in the learning process.

There were studies done where the researchers separated subjects in a room into three groups. The first group got information through one sense only – example, hearing. The second group was limited to another sense, say sight. And the final group was exposed to both sight and sound. This third group always did better. They had more accurate recall, and their problem-solving skills improved. The combination of senses was always greater than the sum of their parts. Here are a few ways to engage the senses.

The use of stories in training.

Roger Shank, a cognitive scientist, says that humans are not set up to understand logic; but are set up to understand stories. Facts are readily available on the Internet as well as in your workshops. What matters, according to Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.

Facts and suggestions, no matter how logical or practical they may be, are frequently ignored or forgotten. But include these same facts in a true story or example, enriched with emotion, and people can immediately relate, remember, and frequently put into practice. Stories are essential to the learning process.

Demonstrations aid the learning process.

Demonstrations, especially when they actively involve the participants, are effective teaching tools. For example, when explaining prioritizing and the 80/20 Rule, I sometimes make the point by tossing 80 one-dollar bills and 20 twenty-dollar bills on the floor. (I use phony “Dollar Store” money; but if you’re wealthy, the real thing has an even greater impact.)

Then I tell a couple of volunteers to pick up all they can in 5 seconds, picking up only one bill at a time. Most people zero in on the twenties. But they don’t actually do that in their own jobs or personal lives when it comes to the important projects & tasks.

Know your participants.

Getting individuals involved even before the actual training, generates more interest, lends credibility to the training, and assures that you deliver information and strategies relevant to their needs.

If training people in time management, for instance, you might develop a time waster checklist or a survey sheet to identify their problems, and ask for their objectives in taking the program.

For a more complete discussion of this topic, refer to my eBook, “How to increase the effectiveness of your training,” published by Bookboon.com.

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Let the rest of your life be the best of your life.

Every goal you set, by definition, is in the future; but life occurs in the present. Don’t be so focused on what you are aiming to accomplish that you miss the joy of living in the now. There is an old anonymous saying, “The work will wait while you show a child the rainbow; but the rainbow won’t wait until you do the work.”

Life is a precious gift. What a shame if you’re too busy to fully unwrap it. Don’t let “Enjoy life” be the last item on your “To do” list. What’s the sense of having it all if you only have time to enjoy a little of it?

Susan Pinker, (www.SusanPinker.com) author of the book, “The village effect,” is a developmental psychologist who is spent 25 years in clinical practice and teaching psychology at Dawson College and McGill University. Her research concluded that our human connections have a huge impact on our well-being and physical health – even to the point of extending our lives. She claims that women live an average of six years longer than men because they tend to prioritize spending time with friends more than men do.

The full benefit is only achieved through person-to-person contact, not through social media, email or texting. Pinker says that face-to-face interaction (even making eye contact, shaking hands or giving high fives) lowers your cortisone levels and releases dopamine, making you less stressed and giving you a little high.

One of the most important things in finding true happiness and meaning in our lives, according to author Emily Esfahani Smith (“The power of meaning”) is a sense of belonging – having people in your life who truly love and care about you.

Staying socially engaged affects your cognitive functioning and keeps your cells from aging too fast. Research indicates that the more social connections you have, the greater your ability to fight infection and keep your cells from aging too quickly.

Relationships are protective against dementia and Alzheimer’s, lengthens your life, and help you cope with traumas such a serious illness or loss of loved one.

Isolation, on the other hand, can have a negative impact on your health, and people who feel lonely are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The very things that make us thrive – relationships, nature, exercise, and healthy eating – are at risk if we continue to focus on creating a better life for ourselves and not leaving ample time to enjoy the one we already have.

The best time of your life should be right now.

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Organization can extend your lifespan.

Will getting organized help increase longevity? It makes sense to say yes; because it puts you under less stress, reduces the frustration of continually having to search for things in your home, and reduces accidents by having everything in its place. One study even found that people who worked in a neat space tended to have healthier snacks during the day than those who lived or worked in a messy work space.

As an octogenarian, I find that my body doesn’t always keep up with my mind and I have to make certain adjustments. Although we may hate to admit it, we become frailer and more susceptible to falls the older we get. The National Center for Injury Control & Prevention reports that over one third of people 65 and over suffer falls and related injuries. Our bones are usually more brittle. So keep both home and office relatively clutter-free. Avoid placing furniture or other obstacles in high-traffic areas. Don’t wear hard-soled shoes and avoid having loose throw rugs on the floor. You might consider balance training as well.

The best advice I can give is to recognize that as you age, your body and mind change, and you have to pay more attention to organizing your environment and yourself as you may have done in the past.

According to Home Safety Council statistics, older adults in the U.S. experience more than 2.3 million home injuries each year. The most dangerous rooms in any home are the bathroom and the kitchen – mainly due to trips and falls. So install grip bars. And remember that bathroom rugs are dangerous.

Pets in the home can also be a hazard as well as a help. Large dogs can push you off balance and small dogs and cats can trip you up. Cats and dogs are blamed for 86,000 annual falling injuries that send humans to the emergency room, according to the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention. Dogs cause seven times more injuries than cats. So be aware of where your pet is at all times.

The major causes of fires in the home include leaving on a curling iron or heating blanket or an electric heater too close to flammable material – or an unattended kitchen burner or stove. I think it would be a good idea to have a checklist to go over each night before retiring – such as pull the plug on electric heater, turn on nightlights, lock door, etc. I’m a great believer in checklists.

Seniors should definitely keep a checklist for all the prescription and over-the-counter medications they take. Include supplements and vitamins. For each medicine, mark the correct name of the drug, the amount you take, the time of day you take it, and whether it should be taken with food. Store two copies of the list: one on the refrigerator door or where your medications are stored, and one in your wallet or purse. Drugs frequently get mixed up because many of them look alike and even the names sound the same.

Some people are notorious for keeping old medications. Periodically organize your medicine cabinet and toss out all the expired and unused stuff. You should store things in the room they are used. For medications, that could be the kitchen. Highlight the expiry date on all your medications. Use pill containers that have separate compartments for morning, afternoon and evening, and fill them with your week’s medications every weekend. I have one that holds enough medication for an entire month and it’s convenient when taking vacations.

Before heading to the runway for takeoff, pilots must complete a procedural checklist to assure the aircraft is ready for flight. Now many hospitals require surgeons to complete a similar checklist before doing even the most minor procedures — including, to the amusement of some, confirming which limb or organ is to be operated upon. While it seems silly, it’s not — it’s a way to be assured that every possible step is being taken to assure patient safety. Research is demonstrating that when hospitals adopt this practice, there is a measurable improvement in outcome. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a reduction in both deaths and complications when hospitals used a 19-item surgical safety checklist.

It makes sense that if individuals establish a structure with routine procedures for health-related matters, it would not only reduce stress, but also help lower the risk of at-home medication mistakes and other mishaps that can have serious consequences. Many people put themselves at risk because they are haphazard about letting important papers pile up or, equally problematic, throwing out things they should keep for future reference. Keep a copy of all medical records in a clearly marked folder. Make it a habit to request copies of all test results, X-Rays, and treatments.

As Leonardo da Vinci has been quoted as saying, “Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.”  To that I would add, “and who will manage it with care.”

Note: The above article was taken from the book. “How to grow older without growing old,” by Harold L Taylor, Taylorintime.com, 2018. 147 pages. Available in both paperback (Perfect bound, 8 ½ X 11 format, and electronic format.)

 

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Health management is more important than time management

In general, we mature and grow wiser as we grow older. Time management experts used tell us (and most still do) that in a lifetime we could get the equivalent of two extra years of work done if we applied their time management strategies. I bought into this concept of getting more done in less time, and built my career on the virtues of efficiency. But now I would ask, “Wouldn’t it be easier to simply live two years longer? Then we could be as inefficient as we are now and still accomplish just as much. And as a bonus, we would have an extra two years to enjoy whatever life has to offer.”

In fact, we could get ten or more additional years depending on our health and the lifestyle habits that we adopt.

Ten years ago, I changed my training programs from effective time management to holistic time management, which include strategies completely different from the usual planning, scheduling, delegating, technology, multitasking and so on. These strategies include such things as sleep, personal relationships, and connection to nature, energy cycles, and exercise. I refer to these and other strategies in a new book I am writing with the working title of How to grow older without growing old. I also cover some of them in greater detail – those that also have an impact on slowing down the pace of life as well in one of my e-books published by Bookboon.com, Internal time management.

 It’s important to get rid of the myth that you’re old when you reach retirement age. There’s a difference between growing older and getting old. Old age is a destination. Growing older is a journey. I’m not old. I’m only 83, getting older all the time, and enjoying every minute of it. I believe my destination is heaven, not old age – and I’m in no hurry to reach my destination.

In the book that I’m writing, I interject some of my own experiences to date. I have included some of the results in these blog articles. But what works or doesn’t work for me are not necessarily things that will work for you. I am hoping, however, that some of the recommendations from me or others or the research findings that I pass along will help you to live a long, happy and purposeful life throughout your senior years.

According to an article in the January, 2018 issue of Prevention Guide, published by Rodale Inc., nearly 80% of us want to reach 100, at least according to Stanford University researchers. If you or I happen to be one of those people, I’m sure we would prefer to be in good shape both physically and mentally – at least with enough wind in our sails to blow out all those candles.

One thing that I want to avoid is dementia. Like many people, I don’t want to outlive my mind. Perhaps this fear is exacerbated by the fact that one of my older brothers died from Alzheimer’s at a younger age than I am right now. Because of this, in the first chapter I briefly discuss ways to avoid dementia or at least lessen its impact on your life. There are medications of course that will slow its progression and make life more livable, and I won’t discuss these. But in the various chapters, I highlight natural ways to maintain a healthy brain and strengthen your cognitive skills, and increase the odds of avoiding dementia altogether.

What’s good for your brain is also good for your body, and some of these strategies are discussed at some length. You may be surprised by some of the benefits of simple things such as nature, relationships and a good night’s sleep.

 There are some shocking statistics that are already painful realities for some of us. The author of The Brain Training Revolution claims that two thirds of Americans older than 50 complain of memory problems and that aging Americans fear memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease more than they fear cancer, heart disease and even death. One in nine Americans age 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease according to a 2015 special edition of Scientific American, and ultimately Alzheimer’s disease kills about 40% of those aged 85 and over.

The lifespan of a person in Canada is 80 for men and 84 for women. In 2016, for the first time in census history, there were more seniors over 65 than there were children under 14.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association in Canada, over 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Worldwide, at least 44 million people are living with dementia – more than the total population of Canada – making the disease of global health crisis that must be addressed.

Dementia is a general term for decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, usually involving memory loss and a decline in thinking skills. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia (about 60 to 80% of all cases), with vascular dementia following a stroke the second most common type.

Dementia is not senility since it is not a normal part of aging, and many memory problems can be treated – sometimes simply by exercising the brain through memory training and mental and physical exercises.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, people with dementia may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments or travelling out of the neighborhood. Also many dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms start slowly and gradually get worse. So don’t ignore the symptoms. See a doctor to determine the cause.

Although medication can slow down the progression of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, your goal should be to avoid or delay its onset through relatively simple strategies such as exercise. By caring for your body and brain – from the food you consume and the sleep that you get to the way you respond to stress – you can influence the vitality of your brain, and greatly reduce the chances of ever being affected by the disease.

In my next blog article I will provide a list of actions that are recommended in order to guard against dementia and improve longevity.

 

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How to communicate with the elderly

The author of The Brain Training Revolution claims that two thirds of Americans older than 50 complain of memory problems. According to the Alzheimer’s Association in Canada, where I live, over 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Dementia is a general term for decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, usually involving memory loss and a decline in thinking skills.

When it comes to octogenarians, there are many of us. The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million in 2016 to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent. The age bracket of 85 years and over is the fastest growing segment of the population.

I don’t share the belief of younger people who feel octogenarians are old. In fact I’m already preparing for the nineties. There are several nonagenarians in our local friendship club. I had to look up the term on the Internet. When I asked my son what you call a person in his nineties, he replied, “Dead.” Young people think ninety is old. That’s why I’m currently writing a book on “How to grow older without growing old.”

Since I became an octogenarian several years ago, and have to communicate with others my age and older at our Tuesday morning gatherings, I have picked up a few pointers on communicating with the elderly.

It can be difficult, you know, when you are struggling with a bit of a memory or a hearing problem. I take that back; you’re probably a young buck of sixty or less, looking for some quick time tips so you can cram even more activities into your fast-paced life so it will seem to fly even faster – so you can end up seriously wanting to communicate with other seniors. You might file this article until then; it won’t be long.

People in their seventies, eighties or nineties are not necessarily old; but for many of us, memory, hearing and mental quickness do decline, and communication skills require sharpening.

Be aware that 80% of people over 85 experience hearing loss. Only 16% of those with hearing problems have hearing aids – and only 8% actually use them. But raising your voice doesn’t help. In fact, it makes it worse. When you are explaining something or giving information to seniors, lower your tone of voice, and speak more slowly.

Let me interject here why most of us don’t like to wear our hearing aids – and it’s not because there is nothing worth listening to or that we don’t want to hear our spouse’s requests or we’re too vain to let people think we don’t have perfect hearing. It’s because we can hear the toilet flush three houses down the street – and if it’s in the same house, it sounds like Niagara Falls. A pen dropping sounds like a bomb just exploded, and when the woman three doors down the hall in an apartment calls her husband, you answer. (I found out later we have the same first name.)

When talking to a senior, repeat any important segments using different words if they look confused. Face them directly and maintain eye contact so they can see your facial expressions. It also helps if you use appropriate gestures, and exaggerate your frown or smile depending on whether you are delivering bad or good news. All seniors may not hear everything you say, but they become adept a reading lips, facial expressions and other body language.

If you have control over any background noise, such as a radio or TV blaring or multiple people all speaking at once, so much the better

50% of seniors over 75 have cataracts, and 20% to 30% of people over 75 have impaired vision, so keep that in mind when communicating with the written word. The elderly also need good lighting. As we age, our eyes process only about one third of the light – so lights need to be about three times brighter. And of course we could have trouble reading small print or thin fonts.

Don’t rush seniors. There’s nothing more frustrating than being asked a question and not having enough time to respond. The “7-second rule” in questioning (allowing at least 7 seconds for a response to a question before continuing) might become a “14-second rule” for most of us.

Someone told us that a 25-year old learns a new skill after about 40 repetitions, while the elderly take 400 repetitions. I’m not sure I agree with those figures; but don’t rush through instructions, and make sure you allow us enough time to learn something new or form a habit.

Seniors also have a harder time ignoring interruptions, according to Scientific American Mind, January, 2009 issue. I don’t really believe that…Oops, someone’s calling me – gotta go.

 

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Friendly forests and nurturing nature.

South Korea even has a Jangseong healing forest where 2000 plus visitors per month walk through its expanse of cypress trees seeking healing and relaxation – in addition to taking in its sheer beauty. Described by Florence Williams in her book, The nature fix, the two and a half million trees are said to have reduced stress 53% and lowered blood pressure 5% to 7%. She was told the phytoncides are antibacterial and even the soil is good for healing. After only a few minutes of walking, Williams felt more awake than she had been all day.

Korean researchers found that the immune-boosting killer T cells of women with breast cancer increased after a two-week forest visit and stayed elevated for 14 days. People in nature as opposed to the city achieved better fitness and were more likely to continue exercising.

Visits to Korea’s country forest increased from 9.4 million in 2010 to 12.7 million in 2013, while in the U.S., visits to national forests dropped by 25%. In North America at least, we are not taking advantage of the healing power of forests.

There are few trees in cities to absorb particulate matter from pollution, and scientists found that pollution from diesel, as an example, shortens lifespan by causing cardiovascular and pulmonary problems. Black carbon from fires and cook stoves are blamed for 2.1 million premature deaths annually around the world.

It’s not just the lungs that are affected by pollution. The nose allows a direct pathway to the brain, bypassing the blood brain barrier. (This became obvious in 2003 when researchers found brain lesions on stray dogs in smoggy Mexico City.) After spending over 50 years in traffic-congested, smoggy Toronto, it’s no wonder I feel so much better both physically and mentally in the town of Sussex, New Brunswick – surrounded by forests and lacking any pollution-spewing factories or exhaust from  traffic congestion.

To give you an idea of the effectiveness of trees in keeping our air breathable, William’s book reports that a 2014 study estimates trees in the U.S. remove 17.4 million tons of air pollution per year, providing $6.8 billion in human health benefits.

All of this convinces me that my move from the city to the country was well worth the effort.

Richard Louv, in his book, The nature principle, claims that spending time in nature can make aging easier. He refers to it as “nature-assisted aging.” I know I feel younger when I’m walking in a park or along a nature trail. And as someone commented in Louv’s book, “It brings out the excitement and enthusiasm I had as a youngster. I know my body is getting old, but as long as I remain connected to nature, I don’t feel old.”

Louv also mentioned several studies indicating the benefits of gardening. One showed that when elderly residents in retirement apartments had a garden view they experienced greater satisfaction and stronger feelings of well-being. Another study, where one group of institutionalized seniors were provided gardening time, it resulted in emotional and mental improvement as well as pinch and grip strength and improved dexterity. An Australian study found that daily gardening was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of developing dementia.

The above studies may also show the benefits of exercise as well as the impact of exposure to nature. The more exercise one gets, the more the cells release antioxidants for their protection. It would appear that nature walks, gardening and exercising outdoors are all beneficial for seniors – and anyone for that matter.

Moncton Hospital in New Brunswick, about a half-hour drive from where I live, has a roof garden called a “healing garden” with room for exercise. They have found it reduces the medication needed for sleep disorders and helps mental health.

If that’s true, and few people would doubt it based on the research, the Fundy Trail, only a 45-minute drive from Sussex, should be promoted as a healing trail. 16 km of hiking and biking trails and 19 km of parkway with breathtaking views of the Fundy coast should take anyone’s mind off their ailments. And imagine tides that rise 32 feet! Nature at its best.

New Brunswick, now my province of choice, is not an ideal place for lucrative jobs. It currently has the lowest median net worth of any other province in the country, according to a December, 2017 report from Statistics Canada. But money can’t buy health.

It’s interesting to note that young people leave in droves to seek out high paying jobs in the big cities, only to return in their senior years. New Brunswick and the other Atlantic provinces have the highest percentage of seniors in the country according to Statistics Canada. It’s an ideal place for retirement because of its lower cost of living as well as its quality of life.

I’m not saying you should move to Sussex; but you should definitely draw closer to nature if at all possible. And if not, at least draw nature (in the form of plants, greenery and scenic views) closer to you.