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Happy Earth Day – every day!

22nd April, 2021, was Earth Day

So, I thought it timely to write a few words and remind ourselves…

What a wonderful world’…we inhabit

Sung by Louis Armstrong (1967)

Each ‘bright blessed day’ (to quote that great song), I’m grateful for our beautiful, diverse planet, filled with incredible creatures – us included.

During the pandemic I think we’ve all truly valued nature, our green spaces, being outdoors and the good it’s done us. There’s nothing like deprivation for appreciating what we’ve previously taken for granted. Certainly this has been true for me.

Nature takes care of us

Research shows that spending time in nature has mental health benefits, helping with problems of anxiety and depression. It can improve mood, self-esteem and confidence, decrease stress and anger, and relax us.
And being in the sun is beneficial, if you follow the necessary precautions. (As someone who’s had a brush with skin cancer, I strongly encourage you to protect yourself and avoid sunburn).

And if you walk, or do other exercise outside, you’ll be adding the physical health benefits. Meet up with others and these social connections will further contribute to your ageing better.

It’s our turn now

2021 is a key year for action on climate change and many would say not before time. For example, there was the USA’s global climate summit on Earth Day and Glasgow are hosting the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November.

‘There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done…

From ‘The Circle of Life’ by Tim Rice & Elton John in The Lion King

Most of us know we need to and can take steps, however small, to help preserve our global home and its inhabitants. I’m increasingly aware I should be doing more. This was brought home to me very recently when I did the World Wildlife Fund’s environmental footprint quiz . I was surprised by my disappointing score.

I’m trying to do my bit

Most of our waste is recycled into almost as many multicoloured boxes as we have pieces of furniture. And I’m delighted to have discovered a chemist that recycles empty ‘blister’ pill packs – these used to fill up most of our wheelie bin!

I try to remember to turn off lights and the taps while brushing my teeth standing on one leg (for improving balance in case you’re wondering). I try not to overfill the kettle, nor leave the TV on standby.

Plastic bags are history, apart from the odd freezer and sandwich bag. Our huge collection of plastic bags, dating back longer than I care to admit, is put to good use in my constant war against moths. I don’t feel in the least benevolently disposed towards these creatures ravaging my jumpers, particularly as, so far, they seem to be winning our battles.

Relevant charities have had my support, including ‘adopting’ two manatees from ‘Save the Manatee’. Manatees are my favourite animal ever since I saw them up close and totally fell for them. Perhaps it’s something to do with their plus size, slow movement, friendly nature and whiskers? And they have such kind eyes.

Gentle Giants

We also gave up owning a car during the pandemic, although I confess, that was largely due to our Skoda being 19+ years old. Sadly it never got to enjoy a well deserved ‘retirement’, but at least it can be recycled.

In future, we’ll probably take more staycations and fly even less than pre-coronavirus. This is probably the biggest contribution we can make. Less air travel and my (and others) discovering more of what my own country has to offer, have been positive outcomes of this pandemic. Hopefully this will continue.

But there’s a limit!

But doing all we should, or could, is hard and, frankly, I’m not up for it. I don’t know about you, dear readers?

For example, this weekend in a newspaper, I read a Green Guide on how to be more eco in your home. It contains some admirable and achievable suggestions, such as banning single use plastic water bottles, never using wipes, and washing towels less often (I do – mainly through laziness). But I draw the line at making my own plant-based milk (or drinking it), giving up toothpaste that’s in a (plastic/metal) tube, stopping streaming video programmes, buying 96 eco brand loo rolls, or swopping to reusable toilet rolls! (I’ve done my time using terry cloth nappies – remember those? – and that experience, and smell, stay with me).

And finally

As I’ve found, giving back is as rewarding to the giver as the receiver; our earth needs our help and not just on one day a year. I will continue to do my best to follow Desmond Tutu’s inspiring advice…

…and maybe, if I try a bit harder, I’ll improve my score on the Footprint Quiz by Earth Day 2022!

Stay strong; stay safe; stay smiling.

Joyfully,

Maggy x

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A Life Well Lived – HRH Prince Philip, 1921-2021

A sad day

On Friday 9th April, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, died peacefully at Windsor Castle, a couple of months short of reaching his 100th birthday. For so many of us, his strong, supportive partnership with the Queen had existed throughout our lives. They had been married for 73 years. A real love story.

But…

His death is a great loss to his family, friends and to the nation; but to have lived to 99 and enjoyed a life devoted to public service (including in the Royal Navy in the Second World War) is something to celebrate. Prince Philip achieved a huge amount for a range of charities, supporting more than 800 organisations, and, most importantly, created the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in 1956. Now in 130+ countries, the awards have transformed so many lives, empowering and equipping millions of young people from all backgrounds to develop skills, confidence and resilience – my children included. (I was lucky enough to meet him some years ago).

Purpose and Giving to Others

Two of the eight steps in my book ‘How to Age Joyfully’ are:

😀 to have a purpose and

😀 to give to others,

HRH Prince Philip exemplified both.

The Leo Tolstoy quote neatly encompasses these two steps. And research has shown that having ‘a reason for being’ and helping others are important for health and well being, and enable us to live a happier, more fulfilled and even a longer life. Prince Philip was such an excellent role model.

At this sad time, it is perhaps timely to highlight these two ways we can help ourselves make the most of our lives.

Another favourite quote of mine is from the 26th US President, Theodore Roosevelt, (1858 – 1919):

It’s never too late

Prince Philip only retired from public life at 96. So, it’s never too late to do ‘what you can’, however small or large, for someone less fortunate than you. During this pandemic many have done exactly that. Let’s hope it continues once we return to our ‘new normal’ – whatever that means!

‘Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.’

Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD), Roman Emperor, Stoic philosopher.

RIP Prince Philip

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully,

Maggy x

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A Time of Hope, New Life, Renewal …and Eggs!

Happy Easter and Passover

Hello again. Just in time to wish you joy and happiness over this festive and, for many, religious period.

Sorry to have been out of touch for a while but life suddenly became extremely busy with voluntary duties, talks on ageing joyfully and the book, and my usual weekly activities. Bad time management no doubt. But now I have more time, I’m proposing to start a newsletter shortly and hope you’ll sign up.

There is hope…

Here in the UK, the sun is shining (some of the time), it’s going to be hot (OK, only for a couple of days), vaccinations rise daily, lockdown restrictions are easing and the end is in sight – hopefully! Now these are powerful reasons to celebrate. For us, meeting our children over the Easter weekend will be a joy, and feasting on chocolate eggs another pleasure. I will try to show restraint…

Spring has arrived

Although losing an hour’s sleep (when the clocks went forward) is never welcome, it is in a good cause and signifies the long-awaited arrival of Spring and Summer.

‘There is no time like spring

When life’s alive in everything’

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894), poet

Walking around the streets, as blossom after blossom appears, certainly cheers my soul.

And importantly…

..this time reminds Jewish people of their escape to freedom. Freedom from oppression, discrimination and inequality has been highlighted this last year. To quote the former Chief Rabbi, philosopher, theologian and author, Lord Sacks:

So, celebrate your good fortune and be grateful

…for being alive, your health, family and friends you’ll soon be able to meet, and the small but important things, including spring flowers, (overpriced) chocolate eggs, Zoom, creative activities, a good book, a boxset, cooking, running, dancing or whatever brings you joy.

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully,

Maggy x

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Live for Today

The ‘Here and now’ are important for a joyful life

I, and many far wiser than I could ever hope to be, believe we can live and age better by focusing on the present.

Why? I offer five reasons.

1. It’s the only reality!

Thich Nhat Hanh (born in 1926) is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist.

2. It’s ‘the first day of the rest of your life’.

It’s a daily fresh beginning, giving you the chance to try again, to discover new things, friends, passions, take an initial step to achieving your dream, do better – or just enjoy life and be happy.
Delighted that both Winnie the Pooh and the Dalai Lama agree.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama since 1940.

I doubt you have seen His Holiness mentioned in the same sentence as ‘the bear of very little brain’ before!

3. It’s good for you

Maslow (1908-1970), an American psychologist, is best known for creating Maslow’s ‘Hierachy of Needs’

We cannot know the future. The past is history and we can, and should, learn from it. But, by living in the moment, and giving full attention to what you are doing now, you are less likely to worry about the future, ruminate on regrets, or feel guilty about past actions.

A wonderful cartoon by Karl Stevens in a recent The New Yorker magazine.

Being ‘mindful’ is good for wellbeing, for example, mindful walking (being aware of your body, your breathing, and what you can see and hear as you take each step), mindful eating (focusing on the taste, look and sensation of your food), meditating or doing a jigsaw.

So, find your ‘flow’ – the concept of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – to help you find happiness and productivity. In essence ‘flow’ is a state of complete absorption in an activity, especially creative ones, being challenged and becoming totally lost in the moment. I recommend dancing! For more on ‘flow’ see here.

4. You’ll notice and appreciate many wonderful small things

And, as we’ve discovered over the last year, focusing on what’s real and happening now can provide much happiness and comfort, from birdsong and a cloudless blue sky – to a piece of chocolate cake!

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) was an Indian monk, yogi and guru considered as the ‘Father of Yoga in the West’

5. And a good day today can help towards a better tomorrow

If you try to make today the best it can be for you, and hopefully those around you, then you’ll be helping to create a better future. One small step, one day at a time.

As Albert Einstein, the theoretical physicist who lived to 76, said

Life is a preparation for the future and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none’.

Two cautionary notes

Nevertheless, it’s wise to give some thought to your future, what you want to achieve and how. Living fully in the ‘here and now’ does not mean ceasing to dream of, and plan for, good tomorrows. And it’s no justification for hedonism or failing to consider the possible negative consequences of your behaviour. Living in the present is one key ingredient in a recipe of behaviours and actions for a happier, healthier life. ‘How to Age Joyfully’ (my book!) and/or other sources can tell you more.

Secondly, if each day is a real struggle, and your mental health is suffering, do reach out, perhaps to friends, family, helplines, charities, or, if necessary, professional services – whoever is best placed to help you.

So, finally…

May you live today, and all your ‘todays’, to the max and to the best of your ability. This day won’t return – unless you’re in the film ‘Groundhog Day’! And nothing in life, including tomorrow, is guaranteed.
So relish and revel in each and every day you are given.

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully,

Maggy.

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‘..If you just smile’

Smile!

‘You’ll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile

From ‘Smile’, lyrics by Geoffrey Parsons and John Turner

The music of this famous song was composed by Charlie Chaplin, and featured in his 1936 film Modern Times.

Lyrics were only added in 1954, and ‘Smile’ was originally recorded by Nat King Cole. The message is simple – to keep smiling even in the worst of times and ‘maybe tomorrow you’ll see the sun come shining through for you.’ It’s a wonderful song of hope and staying positive in difficult times which strikes a strong chord right now (excuse pun). We’re suffering so much sadness, anxiety and grief from this terrible Coronavirus, but vaccines are now giving us hope for the future.

Smiling is good for your health

Studies have shown that smiling improves your mood (your brain releasing endorphins and serotonin), reduces stress, boosts your immune system and reduces blood pressure. There is even evidence that smiling can increase longevity.

Research has also shown that forcing a smile has health and mood enhancing benefits, your brain being unable to differentiate between a fake and the genuine article! The quote from 94 year old Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, says it all.

And it benefits others too

Smiling can also affect others positively. When you smile at someone they often mirror the action and smile back. A connection is made and you both feel better.

As Mother Teresa said, much more eloquently:

Or, if Winnie the Pooh is more to your taste, then:

All Smiles are not equal

There are various types of smile (about 17 types have been identified, many having nothing to do with expressing happiness), and some cultures interpret a smile differently.

These are known as the Khmer Smile, Bayon Temple, located in Angkor, Cambodia

The ‘gold standard’ is called the Duchenne smile which is the genuine expression of positive emotion and difficult to fake. A Duchenne smile happens when the eyes are also involved. Or, being technical, when the zygomatic major muscle lifts the corners of your mouth at the same time as the orbicularis oculi muscles contract, (lifting the cheeks and forming wrinkles around the eyes).

But nowadays when we are – or should be! – wearing masks for much of the time, many of us (me included) really miss seeing people’s smiles. We need all the joyful interactions we can get, even at two metres distance.

A minor consolation is that it’s still possible to detect a true smile from the eyes – and face mask emojis have been created that demonstrate it!

(The original smiley face icon was created in 1963 by Harvey Ball. He received $45)!

So …

Maybe this blog has raised a smile and, if so, I’m delighted. But do try to find someone or something that makes you smile each and every day and not just on World Smile Day – 1st October 2021 is a long time to wait! 😊

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.😀

Joyfully,

Maggy. 😷

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‘Gratitude Turns What We Have Into Enough’

Happy New Year!

Very many will share the view expressed below with which I can fully sympathise.

As a Londoner, life is particularly worrying right now. The Mayor has declared a ‘major incident’ in the UK capital with the Coronavirus now ‘out of control’; apparently one in 15 have the virus in some boroughs.

We’ve recently had the highest number of deaths in a day since the pandemic began. This is appalling news and my heart goes out to all those who have suffered from Covid, or have experienced a loved one do so.

I also cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for front line workers in hospitals and care homes, paramedics and all those who have been working so hard for so long saving lives and caring for the sick.

So, in my mission to try to spread a little joy even in dark times, is there anything positive to say or suggest, apart from the vaccine is coming to a place near you, sooner or later?

Well, may I offer a tip, which I appreciate is easier written than done. .

Be Grateful

Why?

Because there are huge rewards in finding things to be grateful for.

In ‘How To Age Joyfully: Eight Steps to a Happier, Fuller Life’, Step 6 is ‘Be Grateful’. Below is the page summarising the benefits of practising gratitude. The chapter then provides 12 tips that might help, especially right now.

How?

It may be a challenge, but there’s almost always something to be grateful for, from waking up each morning to eating your favourite chocolate or being able to dance in your kitchen to your most uplifting songs. (You can guess what does it for me)!

One of the tips in the book is not original, but it works. Start a Gratitude Journal and every day write down 3 -5 things you are grateful happened that day, however large or small. There are even several apps to help. Entries might include chatting to a friend, watching a funny TV programme or video, helping a neighbour, giving a smile and receiving one in return, and the ‘golden ticket’ – getting vaccinated. If you persevere for as little as two weeks, research has shown you can significantly boost your wellbeing.

Other tips include counting your blessings – write a list if that helps. I got the idea for this blog because I am doing exactly that, after pretty worrying health scares just before Christmas made me forget the pandemic completely. But thanks to our wonderful doctors, nurses and hospitals, I was able to crack open the champagne and celebrate on Christmas Day.

(If you read my last blog you will know we ate the full Christmas lunch but, due to the last minute restrictions, only with our son who is in our ‘support bubble’. And yes, it was freezing!)

Find Joy in Each Day

So please value all you have and what you can do, rather than what you lack. Despite the current limitations of lockdown3, with a little creativity most of us can find some joy in each day. I’m just so grateful to have the technology to connect with others, learn, laugh and so much more. Imagine going through this pandemic a few decades ago.

I confess, I’ve just had a go at painting for the first time since school. It’s an elephant from the social enterprise ElephantParade , a great gift for young and old(er) alike. My elephant is decorated with a bunch (a ‘drift’?) of pigs many involved in my favourite activities – dancing, eating, reading, writing… The pigs are extremely poor attempts at capturing the wonderful illustrations of Sandra Boynton (check out her website for an abundance of joyful animals).

With my surname, pigs are, perhaps unsurprisingly, a favourite animal of mine. Although far too old for Peppa Pig, I love Piglet, Miss Piggy, Wilbur, Hamm and the Empress of Blandings. Do you know them all? Pigcasso, a pig who paints – and incredibly not a fictional creation – could probably have done a better job than me, but we all have to start somewhere. Paints and brushes have now been bought…

Pigcasso🐷 – ‘the international art sensation’ with Jo Lefson in South Africa


So, Good Luck, Dear Readers!


Hopefully we’ll all be celebrating getting our jabs over the coming months and we’ll continue to express our deep gratitude to all those involved in creating, making and distributing these life saving vaccines.

Just think how lucky we are not to be living at the time of the seventeenth century Great Plague, or the Spanish Flu almost exactly a hundred years ago. Now that’s something to be grateful for!

Wonderful Oprah Winfrey – 67 years old this month and a role model to us all! @Oprah

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully,

Maggy x

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Here’s to 2021!

We made it!

Just a few words as we approach the end of one of our most difficult years, both on a global and personal level. And I’ve survived a fair number of years – and difficulties.

But we have got through it and, with a vaccine on the horizon, there is hope. It’s now a question of hanging on in there through the predicted tough first months of 2021, after which life should return to some kind of normality. Fingers crossed.

Says it all! One of many free e-cards from iconic illustrator Sir Quentin Blake

I do hope that your year hasn’t been one of substantial personal or financial loss, poor physical or mental health, or other hardships but, if it has, I also hope you’ve had people, a faith or whatever you needed to support you. I know how much that can help in the worst of times.

Perhaps the wise words of Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018), who knew a thing or two about survival and thriving in challenging circumstances, may also help:

‘However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there’s life there’s hope’

It’s not been all bad…

And there have been some good stand-out memories of 2020, particularly the dedication of front line workers and our heartfelt attempts to show our appreciation, the brilliance of scientists achieving what seemed impossible only months ago, the countless acts of kindness and selflessness, and many people discovering what truly matters to them, including family, friends, health and hugs.

And in 2021….

With our actions and behaviour, coupled with a little luck, we will outlive and control this pandemic and may even emerge a kinder and more compassionate society.

On a personal note…

My personal goals (as we should have some – Step 3: Purpose) are in fact almost identical to every other year! They are to try to:

1. Stay positive and optimistic (Step 8: Be Positive);

2. Return to physical activity as soon as I can ( Step 1: Move);

3. Reduce my consumption of unhealthy food; over-eating at Christmas is traditionally allowed (Step 2: Eat Right);

4. Continue to do my little bit to help others (Step 7: Give) through the charities I actively support (Open Age, Para DanceUK, Sage Dance Company), my book (How to Age Joyfully), this blog and in whatever other ways I can contribute. Happily there are a few opportunities in the pipeline. Lastly:

5. I want to continue with two new found hobbies – clay modelling and singing (of a kind!) (Step 5: Grow).

And when this pandemic is over, I plan to hug mightily, meet friends, party hard, dance and laugh, like never before (Step 4: Connect). So there’s much to look forward to!

Beautiful drawing from the wonderful Charlie Mackesy, author of ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’

(The sharp eyed among you may have spotted that one of my eight steps is missing. It is Step 6: Be Grateful – which I am, every day).

Here’s wishing you much health and happiness…

So, to all of you, my lovely readers, may you have a year of increasing joy, fulfilment and fun. Remember this isn’t forever and, in the meantime, here’s a brilliant reminder of some things you can do, from Emma Paxton, (who also produced two fabulous posters on ageing joyfully elsewhere on my website):

And finally, a big…

…to all of you, for your support on this new venture. It is much appreciated and, encouraged by your generous feedback, I will continue in the New Year.

Until then…

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully,

Maggy x

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Christmas Conundrum

That is the Question…

‘What are you doing at Christmas?’

It’s the usual seasonal enquiry but this year probably asked for different reasons. Many are facing difficult choices and I’m not referring to what to buy Uncle Fred. The lucky ones amongst us may be wrestling with where to spend Christmas and with whom. I’d be very interested to hear (on Twitter) what you are planning to do.

Apparently about a third of us have not yet made up our minds, although many have decided not to mix with others despite the new rules allowing up to three households to meet over the five day holiday period in the UK. Some have recently changed their plans now immunisation is so close, or after hearing all the advice such as keeping a safe distance, opening windows, and generally exercising this ‘freedom’ very carefully.

Those were the days! Engraving by Randolph Caldecott of a Victorian Christmas meal

Our decision

It’s hard being physically separated from loved ones for long periods and the temptation to get together to celebrate is understandable.

But we’ve reluctantly decided not to have anyone inside our home and not to visit anyone else in theirs, which is the regime we’ve followed since March. I suppose we’re ‘lucky’ in not having elderly parents or grandchildren to tempt us, but we still do look forward to Christmas as a time to see family and close friends, as so many others do.

However, being older and in the vulnerable category, and having been so careful for so long, it seems foolhardy possibly to throw it all away for the sake of a ‘Christmas Bubble’. It would be a cruel fate to succumb to Covid with the ‘cavalry’ (to quote our PM) galloping towards us waving syringes!

So, we’re getting a tree, the decorations will go up, presents bought (online) and sent, mulled wine will be drunk and too many mince pies will be eaten. And we will watch even more Christmas films than usual. I will also be sending cards, as I think it’s important, especially this year, to keep in touch.

One of Sir Quentin Blake’s wonderful illustrations available as a free e-card


All I want for Christmas……

As for Christmas Day, we are trying our own, hopefully one-off, ‘Red Letter Day Experience’. Others have been calling it something rather less positive, ‘madness’ being one of the reactions.


Our children are coming for Christmas lunch – outside in the garden, socially distanced! We have invested in a gazebo and decorated it with fairy lights. We’ve also bought an outdoor heater and have woolly (rather than Santa) hats, coats, scarves and thermals at the ready.

Erecting the gazebo – it did go higher eventually !

All I want for Christmas is that we are well and that the day dawns balmy so we don’t end up with hypothermia instead of Covid! Not sure what we’ll do if it pours, or even worse, snows.

Whilst this is far from an ideal solution to the festive period, I know there’s a lot to be positive about, including Covid rates now decreasing, lockdown 2 over, and, best of all, that we’re still here with, incredibly, one vaccine a reality and more likely to follow.

So many have suffered so much these past months, it seems petty to complain about missing just one proper family Christmas.

Marshmallows ahead..

I’m reminded of the famous marshmallow experiment on delayed gratification where young children were offered a choice between one marshmallow immediately, or two if they waited for about 15 minutes. Those that managed to wait – don’t think I’d have been one of them – had a strong correlation with better life outcomes (although I believe some doubts have now been thrown on the findings).

I’m hoping, if I now wait and delay the pleasure of indoor gatherings, I too may have a better life outcome – and lots of marshmallows!


In the meantime, we can look forward to a plethora of celebrations once we can get together again, and hopefully we will all look back and marvel at how well we did to get through 2020. Perhaps we will also emerge as more grateful, giving and caring people who have learned what is truly important in life.

Season’s Greetings

Whatever you choose to do, I wish you all a Healthy and Happy Christmas – or as happy as we can make it. And take care.
Onwards and upwards in 2021!

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling!

Joyfully
,

Maggy.

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Couch Potato Treats

Cartoon by Fiddy

No, not wine and chocolate but…

In my last blog I mentioned that my aversion to housework has given me more hours to do what I enjoy. I follow Picasso’s advice in his quote below and apply it – perhaps too literally – to the all the dust in my home !


This quote has encouraged me to pass on a few examples of the arts and culture that have recently nourished and cheered my soul (rather than the chocolate and wine that has cheered other parts). Lockdown has, perhaps surprisingly, provided opportunities to enjoy our own or others’ creativity, although nothing truly compensates for the loss of theatres, cinemas, concert venues, museums and galleries.


What follows is a personal and light-hearted list. You may disagree with all of them. It would be great if you shared what your list would include on Twitter (Age Joyfully @AgeingBetter).

Books…

I could recommend lots of books but will mention only two you might enjoy:

I’ve just finished ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman. Recently published, it’s a clever, often funny, warm and easy read, with an intriguing plot set in a retirement village. Its four main characters are ageing joyfully and applying their wide experience of life to a rather different and new activity. It’s already a bestseller and all the better, in my view, for featuring older people and in a positive light. OK, it is fiction but it’s a welcome change to the more usual negative stereotypes.

The second is ‘If I Could Tell You Just One Thing’ Encounters with Remarkable People and Their Most Valuable Advice. The author, Richard Reed CBE, is a businessman , entrepreneur and founder of Innocent Drinks. The book consists of short interviews with people Reed has met, from Presidents to pop-stars, and includes role models and heroes of mine. I learned much from many of them. A tiny sample:

Look for the pluses in life. Being negative completely erodes everything’ Dame Judi Dench.

‘Treat everybody as equal value, irrespective of his or her status or who they are’ Baroness Helena Kennedy.

‘Just work hard and be passionate…life is amazing and it’s full of people you haven’t met yet, music you haven’t heard, books you haven’t read.’ Sandi Toksvig.

‘Make always the best from what you have, no matter how little it is’ Lily Ebert, Auschwitz survivor.

I realise both these books share one thing – very short chapters. This probably says something about my attention span during lockdown!

TV…

Well, of course, given my obsession with all things dance, my top choice is BBC One’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. But even if you don’t know your botafogo from your boleo, it’s fabulous entertainment. It exemplifies the benefits and joys of connection (both social and physical), learning new skills, purpose, giving to others, gratitude and (my favourite) physical activity – all things that promote happiness, health and wellbeing. Hoping Bill Bailey (age 55) lifts the glitter ball in the final – so far, so very good.

Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse

Another highlight has been the brilliant TV lockdown comedy Stagedwith David Tennant, Michael Sheen and some wonderful guest cameos (including Dame Judi again). The six episodes are available on iplayer and I would recommend catching it while you can.

Music…

I could choose so much, as music is an indispensable part of my life. Or as the nineteenth century philosopher put it, rather more elegantly:

‘Without music, life would be a mistake’ Friedrich Nietzsche

I think perhaps the best I can do is to share the joyful playlist of 21 songs that I’ve included in ‘How to Age Joyfully’. Hopefully, one or two might appeal.

Films, Dance, Theatre, Book Festivals…

Despite being deprived of the thrill of being in an audience watching theatre, dance or music, at least we have TV (and Sky Arts now available on Freeview), iPlayer, DVDs, live streaming online performances and subscription channels. And I even have a stack of films on video cassettes and our video recorder that I’ll probably never get round to watching. Our video player will no doubt soon become a prized antique!

In recent times I’ve severely limited watching anything that’s depressing, instead choosing things that lift my spirits, such as comedies (‘Would I Lie to You’ a personal TV favourite ), joyous dance (such as ‘Elite Syncopations’ with its vibrant colour and ragtime music), musicals (such as Mamma Mia), and theatre (NT Live and more). I’ve also heard inspiring speakers at Book Festivals (now online, Cheltenham being among my favourites – their 120+ events are still available for £20) or elsewhere, including Action for Happiness and the How To Academy. Thanks to all those providing opportunities to keep us entertained, many at no, or low, cost.

And for an instant boost of your brain’s happy chemicals, I highly recommend this unmissable 5 minute ‘mash up’ of ‘old’ movie stars dancing to uptown funk on YouTube – if you’re not one of the 55 million who’ve already seen it! It never ceases to amaze and bring joy. (And, if keen to watch another, there’s 66 more modern film extracts danced to Can’t Stop the Feeling )

And finally…DIY!

And there’s no need just to watch or listen, as we can all participate if it appeals. Becoming absorbed in a creative activity is good for us, as well as helping us to forget we’re living through such difficult times.

Good advice from the American author.

There are many online (and other) classes in whatever skill you might be tempted to try or develop, from painting to photography, singing to sculpture, dancing to drama. Or perhaps take up writing, join a Book Club, or do a jigsaw.

If you want to do a class or a course, for the older among us, there’s Open Age, U3A, or organisations such as City Lit and Morley College in London (and online). I’m sure there are very many others to choose from, some of which are free. Enjoy!

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully,

Maggy.

Categories
Blog

Tips for Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow…

Following On…

…from my last blog and its five tips to kick-start your day, here are another five for the rest of the day, some more serious than others. I hope one or two contribute to a more positive Lockdown Mark 2, as well as life after we emerge. And some great quotes may inspire you and raise a smile .

Six…

Life’s too short for daily dusting...do what you enjoy

This is very personal, but my sixth tip is that your home does not need to be cleaned to within an inch of its life. Your hands yes, furniture no. Of course, if you enjoy housework, that’s a totally different matter – move swiftly on to tip 7.

The only positive I take from cleaning is that it counts as physical activity. For example, vacuuming is good for strengthening arms, legs and core muscles. But dusting isn’t great exercise, although it is better than sitting in a chair for hours on end ….

But, I admit I’m with Joan Rivers on housework:-

During these last months, with no one coming inside the house (and being naturally unobservant), my standards have slipped considerably. I’ve found leaving dust to accumulate until you (or your household) can’t ignore the sight of it any longer, provides far greater motivation to clean, as well as greater satisfaction afterwards.

It also gives you time to do something you really enjoy, which, in my opinion, is more important. Time is limited and precious. I don’t imagine anyone at the end of their life regretted spending too little time on housework.

‘May you live every day of your life’ Jonathan Swift.


Luckily, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed – well, perhaps a little. But if someone sees our dust cloud, I’m sure it makes them feel better about the state of their home, so I’m giving joy to others. 

And anyway isn’t dirt supposed to be good for you, building up your immune system? And we all need a good immune system right now!

Standards will probably rise once normal life returns but, until then, I will have enjoyed many extra hours in which to chat, read, walk, watch TV or just ‘be’.

Seven…

You need less clothes …so help your local charity shops

Being at home most of the time during this pandemic, I’ve come to accept I have too many clothes, (something my husband has gently been pointing out for several decades). I probably have more than enough to see me out, even if I live to a ripe old age – unless I put on so much weight during lockdown, that I need a whole new wardrobe.

So, I’ve given clothes I rarely wore, now or before lockdown, to our local charity shops. Giving to others is good for you (and is another of my steps for a happier life). Hopefully others will benefit, but I’ve benefited too. I feel better after decluttering, and I now have some space in my cupboards to see what’s left.

And shopping less, I’ve saved money and time, another positive for me, although sadly not for the retail sector.

I’ve also found almost everything is perfectly wearable without ironing these days, if you hang it up or wear non-iron or easy care. Opportunities for an outing of the must-iron ‘posh frock’ have disappeared. And making-up every day isn’t compulsory. More time saved. However, visits to my hairdresser when permitted are essential. Grey is definitely not my colour; I was born to be brown haired. 

It’s very tempting to now live in track suit bottoms, even for meetings as no one sees below your waist on Zoom – until you forget and get up for a coffee or loo break! But I actually feel better and more positive when I make a bit of an effort, so I do, from time to time, for my well being and to remind myself of pre-pandemic me. As the days (and my hair) become greyer, I also find wearing brighter colours is hugely cheering. Red is the new black! 

Nothing but Fabulous cartoon

Eight…

Reduce stress…Get out, preferably in nature 

‘Stop and smell the roses’ both literally and metaphorically.

I find it all too easy to vegetate indoors, especially if the weather’s bad, but being outside is great for mental health, reducing stress and improving wellbeing.

I know a big plus of lockdown for me – as for many others – has been spending time outside, hearing birdsong and really noticing and appreciating flowers, trees, the birds and the bees, which (as a born and bred Londoner) had largely passed me by. It also provides much needed Vitamin D. Back to gratitude, living in the present, mindfulness, and valuing the small pleasures of life.

And if you walk, or do some other physical activity outdoors, it’s a double win, improving your physical health as well as your outlook and mood. I just hope I can motivate myself to continue my walks once winter arrives. Actually, I dislike walking in the rain, so exercise will then be ‘Zoom’ dancing. But we’ve now invested in a small pop-up gazebo and I plan to sit outside (wearing half of what’s left of my wardrobe) watching rain drops that keep falling – but hopefully not – on my head!

Nine…

Have a weekly routine which gives you a sense of purpose

I, and many others, have learned during the last seven months that you need structure to your week.

I’ve found it really helpful to do things regularly on a certain day of the week – for one thing it helps me remember which day it is!

And physical activity, learning, working, volunteering, and hobbies can give our lives purpose, as well as achieving those short term goals on the ‘To Do’ list!  (See my last blog for more).

I get huge pleasure from connecting with family and friends (with regular video calls and virtual dinners), my activities and voluntary responsibilities ….. It all helps my life feel worthwhile now I’m retired, and particularly when other pursuits are suspended during these ‘unprecedented’ times.

And purpose is another key requirement for ageing joyfully and a life well-lived.

And Finally,Ten…

Be kind to yourself and have fun

This is especially important right now. So give yourself some slack – giving to yourself is an important part of giving.

You’re probably not in the same mindset as you were before all this began. So, don’t expect to feel a million – or even a handful of – dollars. Indeed that would be odd, given the current global situation, unless you happen to be a hermit living up a remote mountain – or Amazon! And it’s OK to wobble, (mentally, as well as physically), and to be feeling anxious. Of course, if your mental health has been seriously affected you should seek help. 


If you can, try to accept there are some things (such as a global pandemic) that we cannot control. But, happily, we can be in control of our actions and attitudes – which brings me back to where I started in my last blog.

‘Energy and persistence conquer all things’ Benjamin Franklin

I suggest:

  • do what you can;
  • focus on the positives – because there are some;
  • believe things will get better – because they will;
  • remember nothing is forever; and
  • spend time on things that make you happy.

I love the following quote (even though, unlike Gene Kelly, I’m very unlikely to dance in the rain):

So start dancing …good luck..

and until we ‘meet’ again in a couple of weeks…

Stay safe, stay strong; stay smiling.

Joyfully (mostly…),

Maggy.