Q: I have just joined the ranks of the "officially retired." Now that I won't have the daily challenge of handling complex details that I've always enjoyed in my work, I'm concerned about keeping my mind sharp. Do you have any insights or suggestions?
Jim: No doubt about it, a big part of enjoying a fulfilling lifestyle as we grow older is keeping our brains healthy. To answer your question, I'll turn to the sage and seasoned advice of our organization's Physicians Resource Council.
The first step is to get active and stay active. Exercise promotes good blood flow in the brain -- and research shows that can stimulate production of new brain cells. These factors can help stave off cognitive decline.
Second, eat healthy. The same dietary issues that contribute to cholesterol-clogged arteries in the heart can also raise the risk of problems such as stroke. Most experts recommend food that's rich in antioxidants and conducive to maintaining a healthy weight.
Next, stay connected. Research consistently shows that social engagement reduces stress and helps protect against dementia. So get involved in church, social clubs, teams and volunteer opportunities. There's also significant mutual benefit in connecting with younger generations -- they gain from your wisdom and experience, and you can be energized by their enthusiasm and creativity.
Finally, keep exercising your brain. Great ways to keep your mind active include reading, writing, puzzles, memory games, learning to play an instrument, taking classes at a local community college -- the list goes on. Such mental activities appear to prevent the loss of brain cells and may even spur formation of new ones.
Our health is precious. So, it's definitely worth the investment to be proactive and boost your chances for maintaining a strong mind.
Q: I love my husband dearly, but one thing he does really bugs me. Sometimes I just need to process something verbally -- but when I start sharing my emotions, he cuts me off with a list of "fixes." I'm not looking for answers, I just want a listening ear. Is there a way to make him stop?!?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: Communicating effectively with another person about your feelings is a delicate art. This is especially true in marriage. Both spouses -- male or female, pragmatic or introspective, "right-brain" or "left-brain" -- have moments when they simply want a partner who will listen instead of offering advice. When this doesn't happen, the relationship feels unsafe and the depth of conversation can become shallow and unsatisfying.
If your spouse responds as a "problem solver" when you're simply thinking out loud or airing your feelings, reply honestly and straightforwardly. Say something like, "When I'm not allowed to finish my sentences, I feel dismissed and unimportant to you. What I need is to be heard."
Here are some key principles to keep in mind when talking about feelings:
-- Be respectful and honoring when your spouse takes responsibility for his or her behaviors and emotions.
-- Understand that men and women have generally different communication styles.
-- Develop conflict resolution strategies before attempting to bare your soul.
-- Be intentional about adopting an interactive approach to conversations that will be nurturing to you both.
-- Commit yourselves to making your marriage as enjoyable as possible for both of you.
This all sets the stage for safe self-disclosure. What happens next is up to you and your spouse. If you need help sorting it all out and making it work, Focus on the Family's Counseling staff would be happy to consult with you and provide a list of professionals in your area who specialize in communication issues. Call 855-771-HELP (4357). And for more tips and tools, see FocusOnTheFamily.com/Marriage.
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Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at jimdalyblog.focusonthefamily.com or at Facebook.com/JimDalyFocus.
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