“Joyous aging” is as easy as 1-2-3-4, which you can remember with the simple S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) acronym.
S.U.N.S. AMERICAN ALPHABET reflects on positive things we’ve embraced over the past months in this “52 ODES TO JOY” year-long series.
A is for AUTHENTICITY “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” is a quote attributed to Oscar Wilde though I’m not sure I can authenticate it. One of the best things about aging is you know yourself better and you more likely know what you want out of life. Self-acceptance is part of aging authentically. We’re all flawed but darn it, you’re okay and some people like you. As May Sarton reminds us, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
B is for BETTER WITH AGE “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be. The last of life, for which the first was made.”—Robert Browning–Think of yourself like a wine with a good vintage. I dedicated almost an entire newspaper column in this series to a book I treasure and encourage you to add to your home library, BETTER WITH AGE, by Dr. Alan D. Castel, a psychology professor at UCLA. Per the book jacket, “Although most people think of their later years in terms of decline, they can be one of the best times of life. This book presents the latest scientific research about the psychology of aging, coupled with the insights from those who have succeeded in doing it well, such as Maya Angelou, Bob Newhart, Jared Diamond, John Glenn, and John Wooten.”
C is for COLORS “Colors are the smiles of nature.”—James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) Have you taken the FREE & EASY COLOR PERSONALITY TEST at Lori Weitzner’s self-named website? If not, GO THERE RIGHT NOW! I’ve studied color as an artist and in advertising for decades but this was a new treat I discovered just this year. You’ll find particular joy in one of Weitzner’s 10 palettes that is uniquely YOU. Which of these is more YOU: Earthly? Waterside? Garden Party? Night Shadows? Silverlight? At Ease? Out Loud? Fragrant Woods? Alchemy? or Whisper?
D is for DIET “Don’t dig your grave with your own fork and knife?” I’m not sure who wrote that line but I agree with it. “The JOYrontologist” may have surprised you by having “diet” in the “ABCs of joy” but I mostly practice what I preach on this. “The S.U.N.S. American Longevity Diet” allows for occasional indulgences but it is also tasty. “Delicious nutritious” is not an oxymoron. In this series, we’ve already shared more than forty flavorful recipes saluting healthy food produced in America and highlight vitamin B3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe is a good bet for a long, healthy, JOYFUL life. (Try the “Green Pea” deliciousness below for your four-letter word “trigger alert”—DIET.)
E is for ENTHUSIASM “No one grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle your skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”—Samuel Ullman—
“Growing Older with Enthusiasm—A Positive Aging Conversation” is a FREE, 38-minute YouTube video with noted psychologist, Dr. Ron Kaiser. “The JOYrontologist” enthusiastically RECOMMENDS viewing.
F if for F-WORDS Fifty Fantabulous F-Words were fabu FUN split over two, earlier chapters. They generated lots of comments and some of the FAVES seemed to be FANFARES including “Fanfare for the Common Man” (Aaron Copeland), “Sinfonies de Fanfares (Mouret), “Sinfonietta” (Jancek) and the FABLICIOUS “Triumphal March” from the opera “Aida” (Verdi). F-WORD FANS also FEASTED on: FORWARD-THINKING, FRANKNESS (see Authenticity above and enjoy this FRISKY quote from Mother Teresa: “Honesty and FRANKNESS makes you vulnerable. Be honest and frank, anyway.” Others in the F-WORLD FUNFAIR were: FOOTLOOSE & FANCY FREE, FRESH, FRATERNIZE, FELICITY, FAMILIAL, FANDANGO (if you didn’t YouTube it the first go, please Tango toward it now “Luigi Boccherini Fandango”) and FRESH FLOWERS which often FAH SHIZZLE MY NIZZLE!!
G is for GARDENS and GARDENING which often aid a GOOD LONG LIFE and for which I am GRATEFUL. In an earlier chapter titled “The Four Gardens to Grow Joy,” I used the S.U.N.S. elements and highlighted these: SMILE-MAKING—Monet’s Color Garden (Giverny, France—an easy and popular “JOY JAUNT” an hour from Paris), UNITING—Container Gardens which are a delight to give someone with whom you are closely connected and are easily maintained but still explore this with them prior to giving, NEIGHBORING—community gardens and orchards are a way to teach food self-reliance and share nutrition awareness, SPELLBINDING—lose yourself in a corn maze, “Parade Magazine” (August, 2020) shares an across the nation list with at least one, yes, even north to Alaska, for every state.
H is for HEROES and HEROINES I’m writing this the week we celebrate Veterans Day and honor all the men and women who have served America through the military. “The JOYrontologist” RECOMMENDS writing yourself a “Hero Memo” and choose to become the hero or heroine of your own story. As you write a directive thinking of your own talents and value, you may find inspiration from these Americans: Douglas Hegdahl, Lydia Barrington Darragh, Sergeant Alvin Cullum York, Buffalo Calf Road Woman, George Smith Patton Jr., Mae Carol Jemison, Cesar Chavez, Kurt Chew-Een Lee—“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for others to see by.”—Felix Adler
I is for INDULGENCES “Life is short. Eat dessert first.” Another of my favorite quotes which reminds us all to regularly add joy to our lives is from the Danish author of children’s classics, Hans Christian Andersen—”Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
J is for JOY-GIVERS which I’ve arranged my life to have a salute to every day of the year. During the dark months of the worldwide, COVID 19 pandemic, it was a challenging time for even us naturally sunny types. I decided to write a series titled “365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS” so I could have some readymade, at least once-a-day happiness. My roster of USA joy-givers has circus tents full of comedians and comic actors (both genders or if you prefer, all the genders) also lots of witty writers and merrymaking musicians, etc. My parents regularly thought of me as a joy-maker. (The bar was set low and I enjoyed frequenting it with them.) Toward the end of my mom’s all-too-brief life as she was fighting terminal cancer, my dad called to ask me to come bring them some laughter. He said he hadn’t heard my mother, the great love of his life and of mine, laugh in weeks.
I was busy with my own so-called life but he wasn’t one to make vulnerable calls like that casually. The next day, the witty genius of “The Prairie Home Companion,” Garrison Keillor and I hopped in my Jeep and drove to my family’s farm. Garrison was on tape, but for a few hours, he and I were able to give my dear folks the great medicine that is laughter. Here is one joke the wonderful, “Lake Woebegon” JOY-GIVER delivered: “A pickle walks into a bar and the bartender says, ‘Hey, you’re a pickle! What are you doing here?’ The pickle says, ‘Well, for starters, I’m celebrating the fact that I can walk.’” THANK YOU, ladies and germs…I’ll be here all week. Okay, since you asked, here’s one more from the great JOY-GIVER, Garrison Keillor: “A man walked out of the bar and got in his car and a policeman came over. ‘Sir,’ the policeman says, ‘Your eyes seem to be bloodshot. Have you been drinking?’ The fellow answers, ‘Officer, your eyes seem to be glazed. Have you been eating donuts?’”
K is for KINDNESS The great, British-American author, Henry James, wrote one of my favorite bits of JOY-GIVING advice: “Three things in life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Mr. James, one of the finest wordsmiths of any alphabet, also penned: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
L is for LAFF EVERY DAY and is one of the few “shoulds and oughts” in life I have chosen to honor. Dr. Michael Miller, a cardiologist researcher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (Baltimore) believes laughter is quite literally good for the brain and the heart. He states, “Heightened stress magnifies the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes” and “having a good sense of humor is an excellent way to relieve stress and anxiety, potentially preventing those adverse outcomes.” Danish American comedian and pianist, Victor Borge, reminded us “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
M is for MUSIC “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”—Plato—S.U.N.S. MUSIC is about making the choice to add joy to your world with sounds which particularly lift your spirits, not just during the holidays, but every day year-round. In the chapter on S.U.N.S. MUSIC, I shared my ever-evolving “Top 40” joy-giving songs which were on my current playlist when I was writing the installment, but here are five, sure-fire joys I play at some points every year and have for years and I hope they will inspire you to listen to your S.U.N.S MUSIC selections: 1) “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python, 2) “WE ARE THE WORLD” by USA for AFRICA, 3) “Try a Little Kindness” by Glen Campbell, 4) “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves, and 5) “Ode to Joy” by Ludwig von Beethoven, the fourth movement of his Symphony No. 9.
N is for NEIGHBORING “Loving your neighbor is easy when he’s nice, or when she’s the same as you. But the rule is, ‘Love Thy Neighbor’…Even if he is different. Even if she is a bit mean. Even if they don’t believe in the same things you do…You don’t have to hang out with thy neighbor or agree with thy neighbor, just love them. Treat them with as much respect and acceptance as you’d like them to treat you.”—Doe Zantamata
O is for OPTIMISM which positively impacts both the enjoyment of life and the number of years lived. Per Harvard Health.edu: “Science continues to find that people with an optimistic outlook enjoy healthier and longer lives. A study published September 2019 in the journal of PNAS (Proceedings of Academy of Sciences in the United States) involving more than 70,000 people found that those who rated themselves as having high optimism were more likely to live to age 85 or older compared with less optimistic individuals.”
P is for “PLANTRY” NEWS: THIS SIMPLE CHANGE WORKED FOR ME! I’ve lost 10 lbs. of flab and more importantly, lowered my blood pressure to a less risky level. Gerontologists have been telling us for years that a more “PLANT-BASED DIET” is best for everyone but especially for those of us in the 50+ crowd who have developed bad food purchasing and devouring habits over the decades. So, I “PURGED THE PANTRY and MADE A “PLANTRY.” Yes, it’s a word I coined but it reminds me to follow the dictum of food writer, Michael Pollan, and: “EAT FOOD. NOT TOO MUCH. MOSTLY PLANTS.” Check out all the nutritionists’ advice online for “Eat this, for the love of all things whole-y…not that!” I’m a proud American who doesn’t have a second home in Europe, so I adapted the much touted “Mediterranean Diet” to “real foods” produced in the good old USA. Here are some SMILE-MAKING PLANTRY favorites: ALABAMA PEANUTS, ARIZONA PISTACHIOS, COLORADO ADZUKI BEANS, FLORIDA PASSION FRUIT, HAWAII MACADAMIA NUTS, KANSAS SUNFLOWER SEEDS, MAINE SARDINES, MICHIGAN CELERY, MISSOURI CARROTS, NEW JERSEY KALE, NEW YORK YOGURT, NORTH DAKOTA FLAX SEEDS, OREGON PRUNES, TENNESSEE BLUEBERRIES, TEXAS PECANS, UTAH DATES, VERMONT OATS, WEST VIRGINIA APPLES, WYOMING BEETS—God Bless the USA PLANTRY!
Q is for QUEST The S.U.N.S. QUEST is a set of questions I have compiled over the decades to create a self-guided exploration intended to increase an individual’s likelihood for “joyous aging.” My experience as a gerontologist has been that people 50+ who examine their lives to recall joys of the past and of the present find personal insights which will equip them to make choices that add jo to their future years. I encourage you to read the August 2022 installment in this series– “52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. QUEST—and go on your own QUEST to find more joy. In that article, I provide 100-plus easy, enjoyable questions “The JOYrontologist” RECOMMENDS. A few samples: What are complements you’ve received over the years that make you smile to recall? Take yourself on a magical, sensory trip—what are your most joyful memories of: Taste? Touch? Sight? Sound? Smell? Have a happy QUEST! Bon Voyage!
R is for RADIATE S.U.N.S. JOY to add more sunny happiness to your world and to others. American novelist, Edith Wharton, illuminates the thought with this: “There are two ways to spread light—to be the candle or the mirror that reflect it.” Using the four, simple elements of the S.U.N.S. system, here are some ways to RADIATE JOY: SMILE-MAKING—Smiling is contagious. Give one of yours to someone who truly appears to need one. Happily, you may start a SMILE-MAKING epidemic. UNITING—Reflect on someone who made you feel warm as autumn brings cooler days and let them know you appreciate them. NEIGHBORING—Join or start a “BIG SING” in your community. Joyful communal noises add joy to the world. SPELLBINDING—Rake someone’s autumn leaves with them or for them. The repetitive action will transport you from your own little world as you get lost in a rewarding, SMILE-MAKING, UNITING, NEIGHBORING task.
S is for SMILE-MAKING and also for SPELLBINDING A quick formula to remember is GRATITUDE + OPTIMISM = JOY. Being grateful 24/7 is a sure way to have more SMILE-MAKING in your life. On this note, I’d like to thank THE CULLMAN TRIBUNE for publishing “The JOYrontologist” series, “52 ODES TO JOY.” I’ve heard from many readers who have enjoyed the weekly articles, but it has also allowed me personally to explore ways to add joy to my own life in my 70th year. One thing I started doing just this year as soon as I wake up each day, even before my head leaves the pillow, is that I stretch a SMILE across my face ear-to-ear. I was reminded doing research for this series that the brain can’t distinguish between spontaneously SMILE-MAKING and that which is a conscious decision. DEAR READER, THIS WORKS! I genuinely start my day feeling joyful with the SMILE-MAKING and add even more joy as I immediately open the window shades and look at some daylight to reset my “circadian clock.” Again, THANK YOU, CULLMAN TRIBUNE. I encourage all to write down this SMILE-MAKING reminder from Thich Nhat Hanh—“Sometimes your JOY is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Getting “in the zone” is what athletes refer to as the SPELLBINDING experience they have being fully caught up in an activity. You would have to concentrate a bit to remember the name of the Claremont University psychologist who popularized the SPELLBINDING concept of “flow”—Mihaly Csikszntmihalyi. In his 1990 bestseller, “FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” it was “MC” who proposed one could feel absorption in a task at will and make the routines of work more purposeful and enjoyable. Here is SPELLBINDING thinking from two, great American minds: “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought into focus.”—Alexander Graham Bell; “Love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.”—Maya Angelou
T is for TEAS Adding a regular teatime to one’s day is an inexpensive and easy way to add joy. The S.U.N.S. TEA LIBRARY catalogued by “The JOYrontologist” RECOMMENDS these ten teas and sources: CHAMOMILE TEA—Rishi-tea.com, GINGER TEA—theeteaspot.com, GREEN TEA—ThriveMarket.com, HIBISCUS TEA—your grocer, JASMINE TEA—teasource.com, MATCHA TEA—bigelowtea.com, OOLONG TEA—arborteas.com, PEPPERMINT TEA—harney.com, ROOIBOS TEA—us.palaisdesthes.com, WHITE TEA—Bai Hao in Zhen Silver Needle Tea at tealyra.com.
U is for UNITED UNFOLDING UPBEAT UPLIFTING UNIQUE—US!
V is for VERIFY In God we trust, but for all else we need to VERIFY. There are many myths and theories about aging, but we should ask for the scientific facts behind it all and let those facts help form our personal positions. I seek scientists who admit their findings could change with future study as they state their results—to date. For example: I believe that eating blueberries could be good food to help combat some forms of dementia, but I’d like to VERIFY how many I’d need to eat and how often before I wholesale accept this idea as good nutrition science. Also, from everything I’ve read over the years, the best thing to do for brain health is exercise and to get blood circulating better through your heart and brain. I would like to VERIFY how much is enough. Raise your hand and question—VERIFY.
W is for WINES which, unlike most other things we consume, are known for getting better with age. Many wines are best consumed the year they are bottled, but here are wines that age well, per “Master of Wine,” Jancis Robinson, and the number of years age when they reach their prime: CHARDONNAY (2-6 years), RIESLING (2-30 years), CABERNET SAUVIGNON (4-20 years), MERLOT (2-10 years), PINOT NOIR (2-8 years), SYRAH (4-16 years), ZINFANDEL (2-6 years), VINTAGE PORT WINES (20-50 years).
X is for X-ERCISE Yes, I know the spelling on this is almost as painful to some as the idea of EXERCISING. I wrote an “Ode to SILLYASS FITNESS” for people like me and possibly you who like to add a dollop of fun into everything, including—X-ERCISE. The most recent research I’ve read for adequate X-ERCISE for most of us in the 50-plus “Active Adult” group is 20-30 minutes of increasing your heart rate at least 3 or 4 days each week. That doesn’t seem daunting, especially when the activities could be some SILLYASS FITNESS like: “Go You CHICKEN FAT Go!” The 1960s youth fitness do-a-long, “DIDDLY SQUATS” or if ballet is more your cuppa tea—plie’, “KA-POW BATMAN AIR PUNCHES,” “WALKING AS WELLBUTRIN” for natural anti-depressive, “JUMP UP AND DOWN LIKE A CRAZY PERSON” just trust me on this, it’s good for us.
Y is for YOUNG AT HEART which is all about having curiosity and positivity. “Young at Heart” is also the title of a million-selling pop ballad for Frank Sinatra in 1953. The American classic was composed by Johnny Richards with lyrics like these by Carolyn Leigh:
“And if you should arrive to a hundred and five,
Think of all you’ll derive out of being alive,
And, here is the best part, you’ll have a head start,
If you are among the very young at heart.”
Z is for ZZZ and the importance of good sleep to health and happiness. ZEST FOR ZZZ recommendations from “The JOYrontologist,” include Keep your sleeping room cool, about 66-70 degrees Fahrenheit; Get plenty of sunshine in the day and block out light at bedtime; create a one-hour, pre-sleep regimen of no food, no drink, no television, no tech. “Sleep is the best meditation.”—Dalai Lama
AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK
Nov. 12—Grace Kelly
Nov. 13—Whoopi Goldberg
Nov. 14—P.J. O’Rourke
Nov. 15—Georgia O’Keefe
Nov. 16—Pete Davidson
Nov. 18—Mickey Mouse
EASY PEASY GREEN PEA SOUP—SOUTH DAKOTA GREEN PEAS
Each week, “The JOYrontologist” shares a recipe which salutes a healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. American Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.
- 2 tsp. butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 (16-oz.) packages frozen green peas
- 1/2 tsp. dried dill, or to taste
- 1 (900-ml.) carton chicken broth, or as needed
- 1/3 cup milk (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onion in hot butter until golden and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir garlic into onions and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir peas and dill into onion mixture and pour in enough chicken broth to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until hot, 10-15 minutes. Stir milk into soup.
- Puree soup with an immersion blender or pour pea soup into a blender no more than half full. Cover and hold lid down; pulse a few times before leaving on to blend. Puree batches until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued)
953. Alphabet Soup recipe by Laurie Johnson to salute Monroeville, Alabama writers
954. “Beautify America” Ladybird Johnson wildflowers campaign
955. Carrom board, our “Poor Man’s Pool Table”
HAPPY AMERICAN VETERANS HOLIDAY WEEKEND and JOYFUL NEW WEEK!
Read all the installments in this series at www.cullmantribune.com/tag/odes-to-joy-2022.