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The Lost Art of Human Connection – A smile, a wave, and a simple “hello”

Deep human connection is…the purpose and the result of a meaningful life – and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity.” Melinda Gates

Now that we’re back out in public, have you noticed all the cell-phone zombies? People staring at their phones while walking down the street, riding in an elevator, eating at a restaurant, even during workouts!

We can blame it on technology, but technology happens to exist because we humans created it. Sure, cell phones have been a great to stay connected with people, and speed up communication, but if the reason we created this technology was to improve communication and stay connected to others, could it now be backfiring?

Have we lost the art of human connection? A smile, a wave, a simple hello? Let’s be honest, it doesn’t take a great deal of effort.
I am not talking about long conversations, unless you have that opportunity, but rather, looking up, lifting up your hand to wave-position, and speaking a word. It’s such a simple gesture, not hard, and taking a second or two of your time, but that wave, that “hello” just might make someone’s day. A short greeting and smile could be just the acknowledgment, encouragement or positivity they need.

I look at and say hello to pretty much everyone I walk by. Whether I am out for a run, a walk, or getting into an elevator. Not everyone responds, but many do! In that brief moment, we acknowledge our shared humanity. Whether we speak the same language or not, regardless of skin color, age, gender, or any other differences or similarities, we connect — if just for a moment. And in that moment, we are creating fundamental ways we are the same.

It is imperative for our well-being to have a true connection with other humans. What if a smile, a wave, and “hello” could improve your health and well-being? This just might be the simplest way to make our world a better place.

My challenge to you is this: Join me in building human connections one person at a time in the communities where you live and work. Put away your phone. Look up and notice people. Smile, wave, throw out a quick “hi”. Continue on your way until you see another person.

“We need to remind ourselves of the beauty of human connection and of nature and pull ourselves out of devices for a moment and appreciate what it is just to be human beings.” Olivia Wilde

Vicki Parsons
6/1/2022

Check out past blog posts:

May 2022 - Aging Does Not Mean Growing Old

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

May is Older American’s Month.

Have you ever asked someone how they feel about aging? More often than not they immediately respond with a flippant, “Well, it’s better than the alternative!” And then everyone laughs.

But in truth, if you look up the word aging it is defined as “The process of becoming older”. Therefore, contrary to what many people think, aging does not directly associate with a number greater than 50, or 60. It’s a process. A process that actually begins the day we’re born; the day we begin aging.

We also know aging is universal. Everyone ages. We have it in common with all life forms. Everything ages.

What then, is old age?

Well, I guess it depends on if you’re a Mayfly or a Bowhead Whale! And if we’re counting years, we should be happy we’re not a mayfly. They have the shortest lifespan on earth; only 24 hours. And then there’s the Bowhead Whale with an average life span of over 200 Years. Wouldn’t you like to see his wrinkles? One hundred may be old for humans, but it’s nothing for that giant ocean mammal.

So really, old age is relative, and whether we keep a healthy frame of mind during the process is key to how we experience aging, and how we make this journey.

We will get older. The number of candles on the cake will grow! But we are all get older, no matter our age.

So here’s the bigger question. How will you respond to more years in your life? Because how you respond to more years in your life could be the key to whether you grow old.

Research has shown that our attitudes toward aging affect our physical and mental health, even our resilience in the face of adversity, and in some cases, our very survival.

Try asking people how old they feel. It could tell you a lot about their attitude, their approach to living, and their overall well-being.

If they answer with a series of comments about their limitations, their gray hair, achy knees, or the classic “well, it’s better than the alternative.” It is very likely those people have succumbed to a more negative view of aging and are headed to the bottom of the hill. Growing old.

Even Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “All diseases run into one, old age.”

NO! Here’s what I have discovered as I am more than half way through my 7th decade of life. When I am doing things I love, when I can still find joy, wonder and gratitude in each day, I don’t think about how old I am or the state of my knees. I think about my passion and my purpose.

Yes, illness and disease can have an impact, but isn’t that true whether we’re 22 or 82? But aging does not mean growing old. Betty Friedan got it right when she said, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”

I am not going to write any more. Instead, I leave you with this 30-second video from Growing Bolder. It says it all. I hope you will be inspired. I hope this short video will ignite a continued hope for each new day…no matter your age. I hope you will remember that aging does not mean growing old.

“There has never been a better time to stop growing older and start Growing Bolder.”

Vicki Parsons
5/1/2022

April 2022 - My Favorite Funk-Busters. How to un-funk yourself, flip your mood, and enjoy a better day

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor E. Frankl

Who hasn’t experienced days when your mood hits rock bottom? You’re feeling blue, down in the dumps, in a funk. Whatever you call it, it’s the feeling of being out of sorts.

We blame it on mornings, Mondays, the weather, work, people, lack of sleep, being hungry, and the state of our nation. It’s true, many of these things and more can have a direct effect on our mood. But Mondays, bad weather, and people don’t always go away. Who wants to live in a funk forever? We need to learn how to regulate our mood to respond in a healthier way.

Side note here. Everyone has bad days; the normal ups and downs of life when you feel a bit low one day and better the next, but some people experience chronic and serious mood swings or depression. If you suspect you suffer from ongoing depression, seek professional help. It’s too overwhelming to just “snap out of it”. You can keep reading, but I encourage you to talk to someone.

For the rest of you, when you’re ‘in a funk’, it will affect your well-being. Fact. Your “bad” mood may even be a habit you aren’t aware of it. Your friends, colleagues and family members are probably aware because your mood is affecting them as well.

When I have a low day it leaves me feeling cranky and drained. I am more negative, critical, and irritable; basically living out a cup-half-empty kind of day. By the end of the day I am deep in a funk, often leaving me stressed as well.

Good news! I discovered that overcoming my bad mood isn’t too difficult. I learned some strategies to shake it off when my mood is headed downward.

You too can flip the switch and bust your bad mood. Try a few of the practices below, and move the needle to a more positive sense of well-being. In turn, improve your health and live each day to the fullest:

My favorite ‘Funk-busters’.

  • Don’t underestimate the power of a smile. Smile at yourself in the mirror in the morning, smile at those who live with you, and smile at your pet! The very act can turn your frown upside down. Smile at a stranger on the sidewalk, smile at the store clerk. A smile is free to give, but can lift someone else’s day and will leave you feeling warm inside.
  • Get your NICE on. Do something nice for somebody else and feel better immediately. Small things like letting a merging car pull in front of you, holding a door for someone, or mowing your neighbor’s lawn when mowing yours! Small acts of kindness are proven mood-lifters.
  • Choose healthy foods: Food restores nutrients. If you’re in a bad mood because you haven’t eaten and your blood sugar is low, eat! Don’t skip meals, and when you do eat, eat foods that are known to affect mood in a positive way. Visit our Eat Well pages for some great tips and recipes, or click here for 7 foods to boost your mood.
  • Add Sunshine to your day: Sunshine stimulates the production of feel-good serotonin and helps relieve seasonal sadness which impacts millions of Americans every year. Be sure to spend some time outdoors or near a window when the sun shines!
  • Take a Wonder Walk: In addition to the sunshine, the outdoors and the rhythm of walking has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, decreasing anxiety and creating calm. Recent studies have revealed how the science of ‘awe’ can improve your mental and physical health. Read my March 2022 BLOG below for more about the power of awe.
  • Move your body: I am going to stay away from the word exercise because Garfield the Cat once said, “I may as well exercise. I’m in a bad mood anyway.” The word exercise gets a bad rap, but I won’t use it for mood’s sake. Physical activity, moving my body, can flip my mood from bad to good in literally a few minutes. The toughest part is starting, but since I know from experience that I feel better when I move more, I just do it. And when I do, it’s not long before the endorphins kick in and naturally boost my mood.
  • Turn on some tunes: Evidence shows that music boosts mood and reduces stress. It triggers a release of dopamine into your brain. Listen and sing along for an instant mood-lifter. You will find yourself tapping your feet, humming, smiling, and dancing before you know it.
  • Turn off the news and disconnect from social media. As mesmerizing as it can be, and even harder to turn off, for your sense of peace and a better mood, minimize the attention you give to these platforms. Your choice. Turn it off.
  • Play with a pet. Hang with a pet and feel better. Get a ball or ball of string and let the play take over. After a few pounces and wagging tails you will feel better.
  • Flower Power: People feel better when they see and smell fresh flowers according to Harvard researchers. So buy flowers, or pick them if you can, and keep them where you can see them.
  • Count your blessings. Practice an attitude of gratitude. It takes less than 5 minutes a day to count a few blessings. In fact, research shows that doing this simple practice improves mood and overall outlook on life. Reflect on the good things in your day. No matter how insignificant they seem, count them; the walk in the park, a smile from a friend, a kind word, your health, and so on. We have a tendency to camp out in the negative. Flip it to the positive.
  • Change negative thoughts. Notice when your thoughts or words become negative, critical, or ‘glass half empty’. Stop the thought. Change the thought! Reframe the words in a positive way. It takes practice, but when you practice anything it becomes a habit.

Your mood is worth boosting. Make a decision to cultivate a better mood. You win and so does everyone around you. What’s your favorite funk-buster?

Vicki Parsons
4/1/2022

March 2022 - Inexplicable Wonderment. Goosebump-Producing Awe!

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl

With spring upon us, do you see the magic in the things around you?

I love springtime. I only have to walk outside, look around, take a deep breath and I am filled with the wonder of spring. There are never-ending moments of awe…goosebump triggers…when I realize that the best things in life are not things.

By the way, did you know that goosebumps are a common reaction most of us have when we’re cold, or scared, but that the second leading cause of goosebumps is when we’re moved by something awe-inspiring?

AWE. The feeling we get in the presence of something greater than ourselves. A moment that seriously challenges our understanding of the world; beyond words. Moments that trigger those goosebumps.

I experience awe when I see a glorious sunset, or when looking over the rim of the Grand Canyon. I experience awe when I hold a new baby, when I hear the National Anthem, and when looking up at the West Texas night sky.

When was the last time you experienced wonder and awe? When you were filled with inexplicable wonderment. Goosebump-producing awe. Joy. When you encountered something that transcended your understanding, maybe even made you feel small…in a good way.

Psychologists now say the emotion of awe plays a big role in our health, happiness and well-being. Those awe moments affect us on a physical level, actually changing the brain and body; affecting us deeply. But we don’t need to witness a shooting star or sunset, or walk to the edge of the Grand Canyon to experience it. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”

Wonder is all around us. It’s in the ordinary; the simple and the common. Bees buzzing. Flowers blooming. Birds singing. Tell-tale signs that spring is now upon us. It is there whether we experience it or not, but if we do look for it, we will see, hear, and feel it. And when we do, those awe moments will trigger a greater well-being in our lives.

As I reflect on the simple and ordinary times that are awe-inspiring in my life, springtime is at the top of the list. Spring is full of wonder; wonder I will miss if I don’t pay attention, if I don’t look for it. Let’s begin today to become awe-seekers. There is no better time of year to tap into the benefits of the wonder than now.

Springtime. Don’t miss it! Be an intentional seeker this year. Slow down. Discover this gift to yourself.

Here are some ways you can start the process of cultivating awe in your life.

  1. Put your phone away and look up and look around. If all you do is this, it’s huge. When you go outside, or go for a walk, leave your phone at home. At the very least, put it in your pocket. With our heads down, always looking at our phones, we are distracted and we miss the power of awe.
  2. Schedule time outdoors. Whether you go for a walk in your neighborhood, or along the greenbelt, go outside!
  3. Discover the power of lingering. I call this taking a Wonder Walk. And yes, this means you have to slow down, even stop. Look around, listen, and breathe deep. Don’t miss it! Look for the buds of new growth, new grass and new leaves. The bird’s nests in trees, the birds singing as they look for a mate, the fragrance of flowers or fresh cut grass.
  4. Learn from a child. If you have a child in your life, spend time with them. If not, go to a park and watch them and learn. I am captivated by the fact that children are awestruck by the things we take for granted. Every sound, insect, bird, and even the dump truck or garbage truck is met with wonder.

Here is your assignment as you practice the four simple things above:

  • What colors do you see?
  • How many sounds can you hear and can you identify them? Insects? Wind in the trees, birds singing, running water?
  • How many different bird songs can you identify?
  • Can you name the variety of trees and flowers you walk by?
  • What animals do you see? Stop and watch them for a moment.
  • Look up into the clouds. Do you see the silver lining? A variety of shapes?
  • Take a deep breath. What do you smell?
  • Close your eyes and experience a moment of lingering.
  • Now take a new route. Whether you walk, run, bike, or drive, find new streets and new neighborhoods and continue to practice looking for the wonder and the magic around you.
  • Be curious. We thoughtful. Be appreciative. Be an awe-seeker. Be well.

Read this incredible article – ‘Intentionally seeking the feeling of awe can improve memory, boost creativity and relieve anxious rumination.’

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

Vicki Parsons
3/1/2022

February 2022 - How To Bridge The Great Divide Between Knowing and Doing!

“The greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing.” John Maxwell

Overnight oats and fruit for breakfast, check. Salmon and kale for dinner, check. 10,000 steps a day. Heart-rate monitor when working out, check. Yes, we’re pretty heart-smart! Good for us!

Also us…high levels of stress during the week, sitting too long hunched over a computer screen, not enough sleep, and all the other habits that are not so heart-healthy. Maybe we’re not living as heart-smart as we think we are. Does that make us heart-unhealthy?

Well here’s the bad news. About half of all adults in the U.S. have some type of cardiovascular disease. Reports from the American Heart Association put that number at 121.5 million adults; up from 92.1 million reported in their last report. Yikes!

The CDC reports that 73% of adults are overweight or obese, and that obesity in children and teens has reached epidemic levels.

I’m not going to list all the stats associated with heart disease, but wow. If this doesn’t motivate us to make changes, I am not sure what will. There is some good news: research shows that as much as 80% of all heart disease can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle and managing any existing risk factors.

That’s on us. That means choosing healthy foods, maintaining healthy weight, watching blood pressure and cholesterol, not using tobacco products, keeping stress levels low, and staying active. That also means getting rid of bad habits and negative behaviors and adding good habits and positive behaviors. Easier said than done, right?

We know what needs to change. Commercials, billboards, social media, what our doctor tells us, and so on. We know what a healthy lifestyle should look like, and we also know the risk factors for heart disease.

We can’t un-know these things. The problem isn’t that we don’t know. The problem is turning what we know into doing.

Best-selling author and speaker John Maxwell wrote, “The greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing.”

Let’s talk about that gap. I call it the action gap. The great divide between knowing and doing. The gap where bad habits live and keep us on the knowing side. The gap where healthier habits could affect change and move us to the doing side.

Why is that so hard? Excuses for starters. Most of us are master excuse-makers.

It’s too expensive. I don’t have enough time. I can do it next month. I don’t really need it. Nobody will do it with me. I like junk food (or whatever) and don’t want to give it up. The excuses never end.

The gap, however, has nothing to do with money, time, procrastination, or most of the other excuses we come up with.

The gap is there because action is missing; action to create good habits that replace the bad habits that keep us from moving. We continue to live life on the knowing side of the canyon, not taking the action needed to get to the doing side where a healthier life is to be found.

We haven’t mastered the action part. Action turns knowing into doing. It starts with knowing, moves to resolve, then determination, pushing out the bad habits one day at a time, and creating healthy habits to fill the void we create once the bad habits are out. Then it’s more resolve and determination as we focus on our new habits. Eventually the doing side of the gap feels familiar, we have new and healthy habit habits, and we feel and often look better.

I hope you watched the video at the top of this page. Really good stuff. You have the power to change your brain!

The brain loves patterns; loves habits. Unfortunately whether good or bad, anything we do over and over the brain will latch onto, so the key is to set up healthy patterns; healthy systems, and keep doing them again and again.

As soon as the brain catches on, we then have momentum on your side. That’s the force that drives us towards hourly successes, then daily successes.

Aristotle said it well. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Let’s change what we repeatedly do. Let’s reach for excellence. Action is key! Let’s determine that new habits will win and take up residence in our lives.

Decide where to start. What is the most important thing you know needs to change? Think about why you want to change that one thing. Write down the one thing and the why. Decide on the action. Commit to action. Create habits and routine; actions you repeat so often they become automatic (like brushing your teeth). Practice daily determination and solution seeking. Micro steps. What needs to change today?

Here’s the part I love. Instead of standing on the knowledge side of the gap looking over at what we should be doing, we will soon be standing on the doing side of the gap totally pumped because we did it! We put action behind what we know!

And the really cool thing here is that now we become the inspiration for someone else. We are standing on the doing side with our new and proven habits, reaching across to others who might still be struggling to cross the gap.

If we each resolve to move to the doing side of the gap where healthy habits live, we just might be able to change the current trends of heart disease. Let’s do it!

Vicki Parsons
2/1/2022

January 2022 - How To Get Rid Of Rodents!

How To Get Rid Of Rodents!

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same…and nothing that you did mattered?”

 

Does that about sum it up? Sound familiar? YES! We are stuck in one place. We are experiencing our own Groundhog Day. It’s the virus that won’t go away!

Here we are again. We can’t shake it; to move on. It’s hard. We’re tired.

If you’re not familiar with the Bill Murray 1993 movie Groundhog Day, it’s worth watching. The short video clip above from the movie relates to how we feel right now. “What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same…and nothing that you did mattered?

Groundhog Day is the story of Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors who was sent to the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover their Groundhog Day ceremony (the Groundhog is also named Phil, by the way; rodent Punxsutawney Phil).

Phil, the weatherman, is an unhappy and selfish person to start with, and he detests this assignment to cover the story of a rodent and it’s shadow. He just wants to return to the big city and get back to his normal life; the way life used to be.

The theme of the movie is repetition and sameness. The day that never ends. It happens over and over and over. Any hope that it would end was crushed when Phil woke up the next morning to find out it was back in full force. For Phil, February 2 kept coming back. No matter how hard he tried, there was no moving on to February 3. With every repetition of February 2 Phil became more frustrated, anxious, depressed. He couldn’t get rid of the rodent!

And so, we make the jump to present day; COVID-19. Our own repetition and sameness. Our own rodent. As of today we are 2 years into this virus…and it keeps coming back.

Is there something that can be learned from Phil and the movie Groundhog Day?

I think so.

In the movie, as time went on, Phil became more selfish, frustrated, irritated…and a little crazy, to say the least. His inability to handle the repetition of February 2 led to his decline. He went downhill physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. There’s a scene in the local diner where he is smoking nonstop, eating a table load of junk food and downing gallons of coffee. He stole sacks of money from the armored car. He punched the insurance guy in the face. And he reached such a point of desperation that he tried to do away with himself and the groundhog!

Phil was a wreck. Phil was stressed out. Phil was unwell.

With the lingering of COVID, many of us experience some of the same thoughts, behaviors, and decline in our well-being as Phil did. But seriously, how can we face one more day of this virus rearing its ugly head…repeating itself…never going away? It disrupts our days, our families, our workplace, our schools, our community, our fun, our hopes and dreams, and so much more.

How do we get rid of the rodent?

Well maybe we don’t…or maybe we don’t right away. Like Phil, are there life lessons to learn during this time? Maybe we can come out of this thing better people.

Groundhog Day is a story of self-awareness, self-improvement and ultimately self-transformation. Phil was not able to change his location or what day it was, so he had to change himself. From the beginning of the movie to the end, we witness the transformation of Phil.

He simplified his life to what was most significant, beneficial, healthy and well. He became more aware of people and started caring for himself and others. Phil, learned how to be resourceful as he turned a miserable day into a wonderful day through choice, until he mastered the art of living his one day, February 2, to the full. In fact, the absolute worst day of Phil’s life took place under the exact same conditions as the absolute best day of Phil’s life.

The movie is less about getting rid of a rodent and more about how Phil discovered that what he thought was utter hell turned out to be heaven. He learned to love the town of Punxsutawney, the people who lived there, and the repetitious activities that irritated him. He became a better person.

How did that happen? Well, not much actually changed except his attitude. If you want to get rid of the overwhelming weight of your current circumstances, that might not change, try changing yourself, your attitude.

By the end of the movie, it was still February 2. The only difference was Phil himself; how he saw the world around him, the people, the town, and what he chose to do with his day.

What if we approach our COVID Groundhog Day in a similar way? We can make choices today and every day to be either sad or happy, discouraged or encouraged. We can look at life as meaningless or meaningful, hopeless or hopeful. We can choose to be grateful or ungrateful. We can make these choices regardless of the external circumstances that are out of our control; this virus, or anything else.

I learned in the past two years that I can bring whatever mindset I choose to the next 24 hours. I learned to take care of self so that self will be stronger to approach each day; so that I can look outward and encourage others.

I learned to wake up each day and ask myself, “What can I think, say and do today that will be healthy for me, bring light and meaning to my day and to someone else’s day?” I look for the wonder around me. I learned to be grateful. I surround myself with hopeful people and new and fun activities that are safe to do. I look for moments of laughter to lift me. I enjoy calmer and simpler times.

Yes, this virus still rages, and it is hard, but summing it it, I choose to make decisions and changes daily that are best for me and those around me. I am intentional about my self-care and well-being. I prioritize physical activity, healthy food, good sleep, me-time, protecting my health, and spending time (even virtually) with people who will infuse life through uplifting connections.

While the rodent remains for a time, let’s be strong. Let’s build hope and resilience and look for ways to improve ourselves and the world around us. What will that look like in your life?

Don’t lose heart. Stay safe and well!

Vicki Parsons – 1/8/2022

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