Life Lessons from my Lab… GEORGE: Don’t always act your age.

GeorgeDog#2

“How is George this excited every time we arrive at the ranch? He acts like he has never been here before!”

We laughed aloud as we drove up the dirt road to the house. George was bounding out in front of the car. Though he had been here dozens of times, our older dog with white hair around his eyes and snout, was acting like a puppy. His paws kicked up dust as he sprinted toward the house. Suddenly, he cut hard to the left and pursued a jackrabbit for a couple of seconds, then veered back onto the road. His ears flapped in the wind, his tongue hung out of his mouth, and he was grinning from ear to ear. George’s pace did not slow as we pulled into the driveway and started to unpack the car. He continued to run around the front yard, tail wagging, as if to say, “We’re here! We’re here! What are we going to do first?!”

About an hour later, George was splayed out on the porch fast asleep. “He’s like a kid when he’s out here,” we commented as we turned in for the night, “young at heart.”

The phrase, “young at heart,” doesn’t even begin to describe the way George acts when he is in his element at the ranch. Though George is a dog, (Yes. I’m one of THOSE people that talks about her dog like he’s a person) the truth is that we can learn something from his example. A new research study in the November issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry* says that feeling younger than one’s real age could help to preserve memory and cognitive function as people get older. The men and women in this study who felt older than their age scored 25% lower on memory and cognitive tests than those who felt younger.

So, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, don’t forget to run, bound, get dirty, pursue a passion, let your tongue hang out, and your ears flap in the wind. Find something, someone, or some place that brings you joy and excitement and makes you grin from ear to ear. Allow yourself to play so hard that at the end of the day you are splayed out on the porch… exhausted and happy. And someday at 95 years old, when your grandchildren ask you how your mind is still so sharp, you’ll be tempted to answer with a smirk, “I just acted like a puppy.”

*Stephan, Yannick et al., Subjective Age and Cognitive Functioning: A 10-Year Prospective Study, The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry , Volume 22 , Issue 11 , 1180 – 1187.

New Year Bandit

The fireworks pop. The confetti sparkles. The New Year is here and ready to take over. The Christmas decorations and holiday music took us by surprise when they appeared this year before Halloween. Watch out folks. Christmas has nothing on the New Year. Before the last ornament is back in the box and the final Christmas hymn is sung, the New Year comes in like a thief, grabbing us by the horns, flinging us back to the chaos and rush.

Don’t let the fact that January 1st has passed steal your calm, your chance to reflect, plan, and consider new changes, new goals for a great year to come. Turn off the technology, take a deep breath, and nuzzle in to a quiet spot. Write it, draw it, talk it out with a friend or call your counselor. Do whatever it takes but do not let the moment get swept away or placed on the to-do list for another day.

Where do I start?  Consider these five areas of your being:

  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Social

What do you value in each of these areas? Over the past year, were you able to balance and acknowledge your needs in each area or did you find yourself immersed in only one and ignoring the others? If you felt overworked, stretched thin, or that something was missing last year, you might have been putting too many eggs in one of these baskets, leaving yourself empty and unfulfilled in the others.

Consider this example as you reflect and develop goals for change in each area:

Spiritual: It is important to me that I share a Christian example with others. To do this, I would like to be a more loving person. My spiritual goal is to act in a more loving way. What will this look like? One example is that I will consciously choose to act in a more loving way by being aware of how I drive on the freeway. I will drive with more consideration for others and exemplify less rage and frustration. Another example of living out this goal to act in a loving way is by taking my family to serve at the homeless shelter and pick a person whom I can treat, anonymously, with a random act of kindness.

Dedicating the time to reflect on the important changes you would like to see in each of these areas of life, developing the action plan, and defining how you will know you are working towards that goal will help keep your feet on the ground and your base strong when the daily grind of another year tries to sabotage your goals.