Healthy Aging Book Club

Last month I had a lovely visit with a group of 60 and 70 somethings to discuss the book A Long Bright Future by Laura Carstensen. The book club was hosted by Meghan Marty, a local Geropsychologist.

In her book, the author suggests cultural shifts that would better allow us to live long prosperous lives. She claims our current model of aging is built for short lives, not long ones. We cram the majority of our work in the beginning of our lives, and most of our relaxation at the end. One idea she suggests is that we redesign our work lives to have a more relaxed mid-life (for example, taking more time off when you have small kids at home). Then instead of “retiring” at 65, we could work differently, say mentoring younger people in our industry, or working part-time or at a more limited capacity into our 60’s, 70’s, 80’s…

One of the highlights for me was her 5 myths of aging (spoiler alert – elderly people tend to report greater happiness than those in their 20’s). Stress, worry and anger all decrease as we age. The author says it’s never too late to change, and regardless of genetics, our individual choices matter as far our long-term mental and physical health.

The author also stresses the importance of community as we age.

Having fewer than three people in your social circle with whom you feel emotionally close is a risk factor for all sorts of physical and psychological problems.

Our group discussed how this book could benefit not only those over 65, but people my age (40’s) as we think about successful ageing. Some ideas include keeping our minds sharp, our relationships strong, and setting realistic financial goals so that we feel safe and secure going into retirement. I liked the positive spin on this (not to worry, aging is not all doom and gloom) and how the author not only suggests cultural shifts, like major changes to social security, but also action steps we can take personally to improve our golden years.

Meghan is hosting her next book club Friday July 27th. We will read Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons Learned From a Year Among the Oldest Old by John Leland (2018).

Want to join this lovely group? Message Meghan directly to reserve your spot.

More about Meghan:

Your host Meghan earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2012. She completed a geropsychology-focused pre-doctoral internship (2011-2012) and a palliative care-focused post-doctoral fellowship (2012-2013), both at the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System in Palo Alto, CA. Since 2013, she has been licensed to practice psychology in the state of Oregon.

She has spent years providing services to older adults and their families, in a variety of settings, dealing with anxiety, bereavement; end-of-life issues; chronic illness/injury; family caregiver stress; and varying degrees of cognitive impairment. She takes a strengths-based approach to her work, using interventions based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), person-centered/Humanistic therapy, and multicultural counseling to facilitate the mental health and well-being of her clients. Her clinical research has explored coping and adjustment in older adults, as well as protective factors against late-life suicide.

Want to join this lovely group? Message Meghan directly to reserve your spot.

A Hygge Recipe For Danish Meatballs In Curry

I recently read Meik Wiking’s The Little Book Of Hygge. Mr Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. He studies happiness in cultures around the world. Despite their long, dark winters the Danes are among the happiest people on the planet. Why is this? Could it be their culture of Hygge?

So what is hygge exactly? Hygge (pronounced Hooga) is as a feeling of home, safety, warmth, coziness, love. It can be as simple as savoring a cup of warm tea, or relaxing in front of a roaring fireplace snuggled in a blanket. Hygge is often combined with other words – “I can’t wait to get home and put on my Hyggesocks.” or “Want to take a hyggecoffee with me?”

Danes know how to hygge – they dress casually, layering bulky sweaters and scarves over skinny jeans. They fill their homes with vintage furniture, stacks of books, fuzzy blankets and cushions, and they often bring nature indoors via leaves, twigs, or animal skin rugs. They love coffee, sweets and bacon. Sounds like Portland has the Hygge thing down! Danes are obsessed with lighting, especially candles! They light them at work, at home, and in classrooms to create “emotional coziness”. As far as lamps go, the lower the temperature of the lighting, the more hygge a room feels. I believe the ONLY time you should turn on an overhead light is while vacuuming or mopping the floor, so I totally get it. This is dinner not a police interrogation! 🙂

Hot drinks (especially coffee, tea, and mulled wine) are high on the hygge list, as are fireplaces, board games, music and sweet treats. Danes like to spend time cooking and eating with loved ones, in fact the longer a dish takes to cook the more hygge it is! Here’s what it is not: bragging about your accomplishments, or trying to one up your neighbor with the fanciest car, watch, or house. Hygge is about simplicity and modesty. Think rustic over new, simple over posh, and ambience instead of excitement.

I recently made one of the recipes from this book, and in true hygge style I shared it with friends. Here is my buddy Jonah getting down on his meatballs. A minute before his mamma took this photo he leaned over and out of the blue said “I love you”. Was this because I made him meatballs? Who knows and who cares!

 

 

We all agreed this recipe was a hit so I wanted to share it with you. Here it is below (reprinted with the author’s permission). Try it and let me know what you think!

 

Boller I Karry (Danish Meatballs in Curry)

Cooking time – about an hour and thirty five minutes (including one hour for the meatball mix to rest).

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (or 2 Tbsp. flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 1/2 lbs. ground pork (I mixed beef and pork)
  • 4 cups beef stock (I ended up using two 32 oz containers of beef broth)

Curry Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 heaping Tbsp. mild yellow curry powder
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large leek, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • handful chopped parsley

Directions:

1. Place the breadcrumbs or flour with the egg, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper in a big bowl and mix it well. Add the pork, mix it again, and leave it in the fridge for one hour.

2. Take the mixture out of the fridge and use a spoon to form little balls. Add water to cooking pot  and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the beef stock and the meatballs into the boiling water and let them simmer for five to ten minutes. Remove the meatballs from the water, but retain some of the liquid for later use.

3. Melt the butter in a pot, add the curry powder, and let it brown for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the chopped onion and leek and let them brown for a couple of minutes. Add flour and mix well. Then add some of the cooking liquid, little by little, stirring until the sauce thickens. add the cream and the meatballs and simmer for about twelve minutes.

5. Garnish with parsley and serve with rice.

 

Couple of notes – first, this recipe made about 50 meatballs, so I shared these with several friends and they all loved it! I’m betting you could easily cut this recipe in half. Second, I’m not sure if he meant to use half water and half stock to boil the meatballs, but I doubled the amount of broth he suggests in this recipe and ended up cooking my meatballs in two batches (using just broth, no water) so they had plenty of room to swim around. Save any leftover broth and use it to cook rice, or steam veggies.

Ok one more picture of this cute nugget:

 

 

Anne McCranie is a Portland, Oregon based personal trainer and licensed massage therapist. She offers this recipe to tickle your taste buds. Please see your medical professional for specific dietary advice.

Can Being Happy Protect Your Heart?

According to a recent study your outlook can and does affect your heart health.  People with the most negative emotions had the highest risk for heart disease and people who scored highest for happiness had the lowest risk.  One possible explanation was that happier people tend to lead healthier lives; eating better, sleeping better and getting more exercise.

“Naturally happy people certainly do experience depression and other negative emotions from time to time”, lead researcher Karina W. Davidson, PhD, of Columbia University Medical Center tells WebMD. “But this is usually situational and transient.”

“If we are able to change people’s level of positive effect we may be able to lower their risk for heart disease,” Davidson says.

She recommends devoting at least 15 to 20 minutes a day to doing something enjoyable and relaxing. And make sure this activity is not the first thing to be abandoned on a busy day.

As with a lot of things in life deciding to be happy is a simple concept, but not always easy to implement.  Here are some tips on how you can bring more happiness to your life:

  • Express gratitude to those around you.  Say “thank you” and “I appreciate you” often.
  • Take a moment at the beginning of the day and imagine your day going smoothly as if you were watching it unfold on a movie screen.
  • Practice forgiveness.
  • Take note of even small good things that happen to you during the day.  Did someone let you in on the freeway?  Did you step right up at the coffee shop without having to wait in line?

I recently heard the phrase “inverse paranoid” which means instead of believing the world is out to get you, you believe that everyone is plotting to do good things for you.  What a great concept!