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by Caroline Corser
Cheerleader for Positive Lifestyles

Iím rejoicing! Iíve just read good news about the possibilities for our future thinking abilities. Thereís a wonderful book by Richard Restak and published by the National Geographic Society called Mysteries of the Mind. In it Restak states that we are able to have some influence on how our mind develops as we age. He says, "...we can passively allow our brains to atrophy [waste away], due to a lack of interest in and connections with the people and events in the world, or we can enhance the wonderful complexity of the brain we have. The choice is ours."

For me, the key to this statement lies in his reference to "interest in and connections with...people and events..." We especially need to stay connected with other people, at least in our own world. Itís so easy to withdraw into ourselves and focus on every little problem or discomfort that arises. Thatís when we become cranky, self-centered old fuddy duddies that no one wants to be near. It becomes a snowball effect. The self-centered behavior drives others, even our families, away. This, then, forces us to turn in on ourselves and makes us even more self-centered and unhappy.

The answer, of course, is to develop connections and show an interest in other people. Some of the most interesting people Iíve met are volunteers, for all sorts of organizationsĖor even individuals. In fact, you can find an opportunity to serve others that will permit you to satisfy your own interests while you are helping them.

I met a woman recently who, at age 84, is caring for developmentally disabled children in her home. Her face lighted up as she told me about the good feelings she has in sharing her life and her love with them. A man I heard about raises earthworms and gives them to the local zoo and a rehabilitation center for wounded birds. If youíre interested in politics, you can volunteer in political campaigns, and if you love to read, you can help at the local library. A friend told me about his parents who deliver tapes of their ministerís sermons to home-bound people, and a whole staff of volunteers deliver meals to home-bound and older people through the Meals on Wheels programs. The possibilities are endless.

The point is, when youíre helping others, youíre turning your thoughts on them and their needs, and you forget about your own problems. Problems and pains seem to diminish when we arenít paying attention to them. Thatís not to say that we should ignore serious illness. But once weíve taken action to do everything possible to correct the problem, then itís time to turn our attention away from ourselves and focus on the rest of the world. Then when we get together with family or friends, we have something to talk about besides our problems and gripes. We become more interesting to them, and they seek us out because we have something to offer to the conversation.

The biggest bonus of all is that when we are turning our attention on the service weíre giving to others; we are challenging our minds and keeping our brains active and alert. We actually replenish ourselves and satisfy our own self needs in the process. As they say, "What goes around, comes around." We are the greatest beneficiaries of all.

So what do you chooseĖwithering, self-centered decay, or rewarding, self-replenishing focus on others? Itís your choice. Make it one thatís good for everyone.


Caroline Corser, Cheerleader for Positive Lifestyles, speaks to baby boomers and seniors about filling your life with laughter and play. She can be reached at 661-871-9201 or    caroline@AwesomeAging.com



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