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Senior Viewpoint: Creativity – Food for the Mind & Heart, Moire Embley

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I am the program director for the Senior Theatre Experience, an educational theatre program provided by the City of Marquette Arts and Culture and Senior Center. A couple of years ago, I was able to receive training in Art Therapy and bring new methods to integrate into my programming. This training really opened my eyes to understand how much impact creativity can have on one’s overall health and well-being.

Creativity can come in all kinds of forms, and can even occur when we are inspired by another’s self-expression. For some, creativity comes more naturally, and for others, like me… it can take more work. But what I do know is that creativity exists within us all, and it is just like any other muscle in our body—there are ways we can tone that muscle just by simply using it.

As we grow older, we begin to feel the effects of aging and with that, we become more mindful of how we can care for our body, from the food we eat to the exercise we offer it. But caring for our minds is just as important as caring for our physical bodies. Creativity is food for the mind, just as exercise is food for the body.

According to the National Institute on Aging, “participating in the arts may improve the health, well-being, and independence of older adults, and help with memory and self-esteem.” (Aging Fearlessly: Art, Creativity, and Aging, 2021)

There have been many studies linking the positive impact art and tapping into one’s creativity have on the brain.

According to Barbara Bagan, Ph.D., ATR-BC in her article, Aging: What’s Art Got to Do With It? “Neurological research shows that making art can improve cognitive functions by producing both new neural pathways and thicker, stronger dendrites. Thus, art enhances cognitive reserve, helping the brain actively compensate for pathology by using more efficient brain networks or alternative brain strategies. Making art or even viewing art causes the brain to continue to reshape, adapt, and restructure, thus expanding the potential to increase brain reserve capacity.”

One of the students in my program, Lois Stanley, told me her personal experience with this. “If you want to know that value that this program, the Senior Theatre Experience has had for me personally, (other than credibility with my grandchildren), it has opened up all kinds of synapses and new pathways for me… just trying to memorize some of my lines was an enjoyable exercise for my mind.”

Not only does participating in a creative activity improve cognitive function, but it also promotes feelings of purpose, meaning, well-being, contentment, and joy, while helping to alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and isolation. It strengthens our connection to our own identity and to the world around us.

Lina Belmore, another participant in my program, shares her thoughts: “I would consider myself an introvert, and sometimes it is difficult for me to interact with people. However, by participating in this program, I’m discovering that theater is the human experience on stage, and because of that, I am finding so many wonderful opportunities that expand my own human experience, and I’m able to create deeper connections with those around me. I’m so thankful that the City of Marquette recognizes how important the arts are, and how it brings people together, and brings warmth to me and to our community.”

If you are an older adult in Marquette County and are looking to explore new ways of bringing more creativity into your life, I encourage you to check out the wide variety of free programs the City of Marquette Arts and Culture and Senior Center offers, from fitness programs to painting, dance, and theatre. My intention with the Senior Theatre Experience is to provide programming, in partnership with Songbird Creative, Northern Michigan University, and local theatre non-profits, that nurtures your creativity and self-expression. I invite you to come have fun while exploring the different aspects of the world of theatre, and partake in unique experiences that illuminate the creativity, collaboration, and innovation behind the curtain. You’ll have the opportunity to attend rehearsals, lectures, backstage tours, learn about lighting, stage, and set design, and get free tickets to upcoming productions.

Moiré Embley has over eight years of experience in arts programming as well as training in Art Therapy. She is the program director of the Senior Theatre Experience, and founder of Songbird Creative, a little company encouraging creativity, self-expression, and mental fitness in older adults.

Citations:
‌Aging Fearlessly: Art, Creativity, and Aging. (2021, October 21). Maine. https://states.aarp.org/maine/aging-fearlessly-art-creativity-and-aging

Aging: What’s Art Got To Do With It? (2022). Todaysgeriatricmedicine.com. https://www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com/news/ex_082809_03.shtml#:~:text=Neurological%20research%20shows%20that%20making,networks%20or%20alternative%20brain%20strategies.

Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Creative Inspiration: How to Have an Art-Full UP Summer

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Our precious summertime is here with a rich roster of arts events back in full swing! In fact, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) is so chock-full of great summer art events, one could make a summer-long art-focused vacation a vocation! So let’s consider the possibilities!

You could start off June 11 & 12 with Pictured Rocks Days at Binsfeld Bayshore Park in Munising and enjoy free live music and arts & crafts, as well as food trucks, bounce houses;,a beer tent, petting zoo, Coastie the Safety Boat, and interpretive, demonstration and informational vendors.

Then head west June 16 – 19 to the Houghton/Hancock Bridgfest commemorating the 62nd anniversary of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge at its 35th annual downtown celebration. You’ll find fine arts and crafts, live music, food, helicopter rides, fireworks, a parade, classic car show, water activities and more fun! Visit http://www.bridgefestfun.com for the full schedule.

Discover the many joys of Art Week held throughout the city of Marquette from June 19-25, with exhibits, performances, receptions, studio tours, a bike tour, demonstrations, installations, street performers, and an Evening Art Stroll. For details, go to http://www.mqtcompass.com/artweek.

And be sure to take in a City Band concert at Escanaba’s Ludington Park on a Wednesday evening, mid-June to mid-August (www.escanaba.org/community/page/city-band), or Marquette’s Presque Isle Park on select Thursday evenings (marquettecityband.com), as well as great summer entertainment at Marquette’s Lake Superior Theatre (www.lakesuperiortheatre.com).

After enjoying in any of the many 4th of July celebrations held in UP towns large and small, you can head on over to Festival Ironwood July 13-16 for live music, exhibits, craft/artisan vendors, sports activities, food, and more at Historic Depot Park in Ironwood. Visit http://www.ironwoodchamber.org/festival-ironwood and Facebook for more info.

Tear yourself away from the festivities in Ironwood and you could kick up your heels at the annual Aura Jamboree July 15-16. The event features a lively variety of traditional acoustic music, with performers taking fifteen-minute turns on the indoor stage Friday afternoon and Saturday. Traditional dances are held in the evenings in the historic Aura Community Hall in L’Anse, while groups of musicians jam informally outside on the shaded grounds. For more info, see the Aura Hall Jamboree Facebook page.

You can continue your traditional music immersion July 22-24 with Hiawatha Music Festival’s bluegrass, Cajun, Celtic, old-time, acoustic blues and folk, including singer/songwriters, as well as dance at Tourist Park in the city of Marquette. Nationally known performers, regional and local favorites, musician-led workshops, open jams, and dance sessions continue are held, including activities and performances for children, tweens, and teens , with a special teen-only dance Saturday night.  A children’s parade takes place late Sunday afternoon. Artists in the Round, a juried traditional arts show, is on Saturday and Sunday, and Young Artists Corner on Saturday afternoon. For more details and tickets, visit hiawathamusic.org.

The Marquette area fun continues with live music, arts and crafts, and all things blueberry at the July 29 Blueberry Festival from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in downtown Marquette on Washington and Front Streets. Enjoy everything from blueberry pizza to blueberry beer at downtown restaurants and “blue” specials at many downtown shops.

You can follow the festival up with your next art fix at the 62nd Annual Art on the Rocks at Marquette’s Mattson Lower Harbor Park on Lake Superior’s shore in downtown Marquette. You’ll find fine arts and crafts such as painting, photography, blacksmithing, jewelry, pottery, and more at this juried art show, 10 am-6 pm Saturday, July 30th, and 10 am-4 pm Sunday, July 31st.

Then head on up the hill to Outback Art Fair at Shiras Park, aka Picnic Rocks, running simultaneously with Art on the Rocks July 30 – 31 to check out even more creative output, including locally-made soaps, walking sticks, outdoor décor and kitchen gear in addition to fine arts, local books, and more.

Next up, you can drive south to enjoy Woodtick Music Festival’s live bluegrass, country, folk, blues, and rock on August 4-7 at County Park 388 in Hermansville. This year’s performers include Bad Axe Rodeo, Billy Shears Band, The Decendants, Chasin Steel, The Driftless Revelers, Runaway Train, 141 North, Gin Mill Hollow, Norton Chartier & Company, Peltier Brothers, River Valley Rangers,Paul Family Bluegrass Band,Willow Ridge Bluegrass Band, Heartland Express and Dee Dee Jayne. More details and tickets can be found at http://www.woodtickfestival.com.

Or, head northwest to the Keweenaw for Farmblock Music Festival, August 5-7. The festival raises funds for The Dan Schmitt Gift of Music and Education Fund, a non-profit providing free instruments and lessons to youth in the Keweenaw and also after school creative empowerment programming in Kalamazoo. The event is held at 2239 N Farmers Block Rd., Allouez. Weekend and day passes available in advance online at farmblock.com and at the gate with cash or check. Discounts for seniors, veterans, and Keweenaw County residents.

You can take a break from Farmblock’s festivities and soak in the very best in health, wellness and spiritual guidance just a town over at Keweenaw Summer Celebration on August 6th at beautiful Lions Park, Calumet. Plus check out the wares of artisans and crafters too! Held 10 am- 5 pm, with children’s Fairy Parade at 1 pm and public drumming circle at 3 pm. For more info, visit http://www.summercelebration.org.

Now head south and west to the Grand Marais Music & Crafts Festival, August 11-13, where you can take in more live music, and arts and crafts at the town’s ballfields. Thursday is free for all. Friday to Saturday is free to children 15 and under accompanied by parents holding tickets. Visit the festival’s Facebook page for the music lineup and more details.

You can zip back to the Keweenaw, or extend your stay there, to peruse the 61st Annual Eagle Harbor Art Show, August 13 -14. This juried art show features sixty to seventy artists. You can check out finely crafted jewelry, ceramics, paintings, woodcarvings, photography and more from 10 am – 5 pm on Saturday and noon –4 pm on Sunday.

Now follow this up with a visit to the UP State Fair, August 15-21. Enjoy “Pure Fun, Pure Goodness, and Pure Michigan” with arts & crafts, animals, food and music at the Escanaba fairgrounds. Go to http://www.upstatefair.net for events, schedule, and admission info.

You can continue your summer-long arts imbibing with a beeline back north to the Lake Effect Bar & Grill’s Lake Fanny Hooe-Down 2, August 26 & 27 at Lake Fanny Hooe Resort & Campground in Copper Harbor. This year’s headliners include Country Music Hall of Fame member, 15-time Grammy-winner, CMA Entertainer of the Year and Country Music/Bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, plus multi-Grammy nominated hit-maker Joe Nichols. Also featured are Shawn Lane, a three-time Grammy nominee and 28-time IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Award winner, plus super-talented eighteen year-old Carson Peters. Peters was a recent contestant on NBC’s hit series The Voice, has been a Tonight Show guest, and performed at the Grand Ole Opry and the CMA (Country Music Association) Awards. Regional music favorites Tom Katalin & Highway 41, Chad Borgen & The Collective, Keweenaw Brewgrass, and On the Spot Blues Band will also perform. A limited number of two-day passes are available at fannyhooe.com. Reserve campsite or hotel accommodations at 833-FANNYHOOE (833-326-6946) or email fannyhooe@gmail.com.

For a different take on the music scene, head farther west to the Porcupine Mountain Music Festival, August 26 & 27, at the Winter Sports Complex within Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Several acres of mowed, open slope will be ready for your blankets and lawn chairs. Attendance is limited, so there’s plenty of room for distancing. Concessions are located in the ski chalet and open throughout the event. A Children’s Tent provides kids’ activities during the festival. Performances take place under a big top canopy, rain or shine, so be prepared for the weather and have your required Michigan Recreation Passport. For details and ticket purchases, visit porkiesfestival.org.

Or, opt for festivities at Marquette’s Harborfest August 26 & 27, where you can enjoy live music and food at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in downtown Marquette while helping to fund all the good work supported throughout the year by Marquette West Rotary.

You can complete your art-full summer at the Marquette Area Blues Fest Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 2-4, also at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in downtown Marquette. World class blues performers, artist workshops, a dance floor, several local food vendors and a beverage tent with fine Marquette-crafted brews will be on hand alongside a world-class view. Headliners include Biscuit Miller, Carolyn Wonderland, and Vanessa Collier. Friday night admission is free. For more info and ticket sales, visit marquetteareabluessociety.org.

Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Positive Parenting: The Power of Connection, Kristine Petterson

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Parenting through the ups-and-downs of our pandemic times can be quite challenging, with ever-changing situations—school open, school closed; mask on, mask off; quarantines on or off, shortened or lengthened, along with all of our health concerns, and loss of loved ones, in-person connection, social activities, and more. It can really take its toll on us, our children, and our parenting.

Perhaps you started 2022 out with hopes of building more connection with your kids, or having more peace in your life and household, but have since found yourself tearing your hair out at some point in the day, or cramming in all those needed chores and collapsing exhausted at night. Yet connecting mindfully can make all the difference in enjoying our lives and relationships despite the challenges.

What is this whole connection thing, really? While connection is described as a link or relationship between people, ideas or things, I like to quote Dr. Brené Brown in my Mindful Parenting program: “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

This connection business is powerful stuff.

I resisted it for a long time thinking I just didn’t have time or energy for one more thing. Now I know that connection is not something extra you have to do; it’s just making a choice to do all the things differently. Whether it’s family dinner, scrubbing your shrieking child’s hair in the bath (we’ve all been there, right?), buying groceries, pumping gas, or even cleaning house. We can rush through our whole day feeling resentful and undone, or we can take each step with love, looking for magical moments to connect with self and others.

It’s helpful to acknowledge that, at first, creating deep mindful connection habits takes work, focus, and awareness throughout your day-to-day grind. For me, it also requires a commitment to reversing downward “should spirals” so that I can put the stuff of life on hold to truly see and be seen. I used to think some people were just born into a life of calm and ease and deep eye-gazing, and other people (like me) were born running around like chickens with their heads cut off and never really seeing anything other than the next check box on the never-ending to-do list.

What I’ve learned is that connecting meaningfully is a muscle you build. Step by step, I found I was able to apply strategies to my relationships with myself, partner, friends, kids, and clients that cultivated connection and deepened the fun we had. I took lots of detours on this journey, so I’ve broken down what I feel is the easiest path to powerful connection here for you.

Pause

Slowing down is key, and also really hard to do if you’re not in the habit. I actually had to get ridiculously deliberate about making space for connection, but now the practices that felt difficult and disjointed are comfortable, and I feel irritation and resistance when I don’t stick to them.

It might look like:
• Setting a timer several times a day to just check in with your breath or to put your hand on your chest to see if you can feel your heartbeat.

• Making a sign to put up in rooms where you usually feel rushed and frustrated (for me it’s the kitchen) that says “Stop. Breathe. What about life is beautiful right now?”

• Putting your phone on its charger for a few hours each day so you can connect with certain tasks and people without distraction.

Notice

Check in with what you are thinking and feeling when the timer goes off or you see that sign. Are you frantic and weighed down by the dozens of tasks on your list? Exhausted by the never-ending work of keeping up appearances?

It might look like:

• “I’m overwhelmed by all that I have to do today.”

• “I feel hungry or thirsty or need to move my body right now.”

• “I’m feeling really lonely, yet I’m surrounded by people.”

• “I’m holding my breath, rushing from one thing to the next, as if that will help me go faster.”

Connect

Make a conscious connection to what you want to be thinking and feeling in this moment—you don’t have to change what you’re doing. Keep chopping veggies or mopping the floor and look for something kinder, easier, and more joyful to connect to in that moment.

It might look like:

• Shifting from hate-cleaning to connection cleaning—turn on some tunes, take a deep breath, and sparkle up the home you love.

• Asking loud obnoxious children to play a game outside while you breathe easy and enjoy making dinner in peace and quiet.

• Calling your grumpy child (or partner for that matter) over for a hug and a deep breath. Bonus points if you do it without saying a word—just smile and look them in the eye.

Will they think you’ve been smoking something?

It’s possible. And honestly, these practices can provide a wonderful rush. The hormones created by connection are the real deal and don’t cost anything. I cringe to think about how much beauty and sweetness I missed when I was focused on the miserable acts of doing, cleaning, and box-checking. I know I tend to get distracted by the never-ending emails, errands, and obligations, but that I’m going to do the work to slow down and connect to the everyday magic along the way.

Petterson lives in Moscow, Idaho with her husband and their two children. She left public education to become a yoga instructor, sleep specialist, and mindful parenting educator. She can be contacted via her website at http://www.kristinepetterson.com.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Healthy Cooking: Sweet Greens & Carrots, Val Wilson

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Spring is the time our bodies go through a natural cleansing. We have just spent months indoors, typically eating more heavy foods seasoned with more fat to help keep us warm. When spring comes, it’s time to lighten up your cooking and include cleansing green foods.

Green foods contain chlorophyll, which has many healing properties such as detoxing the liver. The liver, gallbladder, and nervous system are organs to focus on feeding and nurturing during the spring. Chemically similar to hemoglobin, a protein that is essential in red blood cells as it carries oxygen around a person’s body, chlorophyll also can help with wound healing, cancer prevention, and is good for your skin.

Kale and collards greens are in this category of green foods. Both are high in vitamin C, protein, and iron. Celery helps to cleanse the blood, which brings one’s energy up to help with the busier time of spring. 

Carrots are a great vegetable to add color and sweetness to any dish. In the recipe below, the sweetness of the carrots and raisins help balance out the bitterness of the greens. Also known for helping to purify the blood, carrots are high in vitamin A, calcium, and phosphorus. Seasoning this dish with lemon juice and brown rice vinegar brings in the signature flavor of spring—sour. 

Sweet Greens & Carrots

2 cup carrots (pencil-cut) 
2 cups celery, including leaves (diced) 
Olive oil
Sea salt 
1/2 cup raisins 
2 cups collard greens (diced) 
4 cups kale (diced) 
4 cups summer Napa cabbage (diced) 
1/4 cup water 
1 T. tamari 
1 T. brown rice vinegar 
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds 

In a large pot, sauté the carrots in a little olive oil and a pinch of sea salt for a couple of minutes. 

Move the carrots to the side of pot. Add the celery and another pinch of sea salt to the middle of the pot and sauté for a couple more minutes.

Layer the raisins, collard greens, kale, and cabbage on top of sautéed vegetables. 

Add the 1/4 cup water, tamari, and brown rice vinegar. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes, until vegetable are soft. 

Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and sunflower seeds.

Mix everything together and serve warm.

Chef Valerie Wilson has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit http://www.macroval.com for schedule, cookbook purchases, phone consultations, or radio show, and follow her on Facebook at Macro Val Food.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

A Key to Resilience: The Difference Between Powerless & Helpless, Debra L. Smith, PsyD, CMMT

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Resilience refers to the strength of our coping skills when faced with difficulties in our lives, how well we manage stress and stressful situations without losing our health and well-being. Another word for resilience is elasticity, how quickly and easily we stretch during and bounce back from physical, emotional, and psychological challenges.

Our resilience is like a rubber band, stretching without breaking when pulled and returning to its original shape when released. Paying attention to what stretches our resilience, lessens our elasticity, and returns us to our original capacity, keeps us healthier and happier.

How we think about the events in our lives has a direct impact on our resilience and elasticity. Take two words we use interchangeably to describe what happens to us–powerless and helpless. We use these words when we find ourselves in situations where we believe and feel like we have no control.

Changing our perception of these words and how we use them shifts our experience, ability to cope, and ability to bounce back. Using the word “powerless” to represent the situation and characteristics of the event, and the word “helpless” to represent our internal and external reaction to an event can be one way of maintaining resilience.

Recognizing, acknowledging, and accepting what is—finding oneself in a powerless situation—reduces the length to which we stretch our resilience. Changing our self-talk from angry, sad, and helpless language to more compassionate and soothing statements allows our resilience to return to its original capacity more quickly.

For instance, getting a flat tire while out running errands can really mess with our day.

It is a powerless event. We cannot change what has happened—the tire is flat. Standing by the side of the road cursing, kicking the tire, and yelling at the sky about “bad luck” or “the world is out to get me” really stretches our rubber band of resilience by keeping us agitated and aggravated.

A more resilience-saving response would be to pause and take deep breaths. We stay calm and keep the stretch minimal. Recognizing we are in a powerless situation, accepting the moment, moves us more quickly out of anger or immobilization to taking effective action. Next, to address feelings of helplessness, we can change our internal self-talk to a more compassionate response.

For instance, instead of “Only bad things happen to me. I have the worst luck! This is going to ruin everything,” we might try, “Wow, this is unfortunate and challenging. Flat tires happen to all of us. There are other people dealing with this same problem. I can deal with this. Although it isn’t desirable, it is manageable.” The second set of phrases keeps us calmer, not stretching the band so tight, and returns us to calm and balance more quickly.

Bullying and insensitive personality traits of bosses and coworkers is another example of powerless situations.

None of us are successful changing someone else’s personalities. Instead, we find ourselves feeling helpless and hopeless. We become aware that we are telling ourselves things like, “What did I do to deserve this? What’s wrong with me that he is picking on me? There’s nothing I can do here so I just have to take it.”

Instead of these stories, tackle our feelings of helplessness with compassionate self-talk such as, “This is really difficult, and it hurts to be the target of unkind behavior. Anyone in my situation would feel the way I do. Many have difficult bosses and need to find a way to cope. I’m capable and able to find a way to take care of myself in this situation.” This self-compassionate shift brings relief, a lessening of self-blame, and healthier action and behavior.

Once we move out of our helpless state, we can be ready with assertive statements such as, “Please don’t raise your voice to me when discussing my work. It makes it very difficult to listen to the content of what you are saying. If you are willing to lower your voice, I am happy to discuss what I need to change to meet your needs.”

Anticipating and preparing for events that have a greater likelihood of happening can cut through our immediate sense of powerlessness and helplessness and lead us to take positive action sooner.

Traveling by air is a perfect example of a powerless event we too often find ourselves facing. Unexpected changes, delays or cancellations of flights leave us in a powerless situation. As individuals we cannot make the airline have more staff, more planes, less mechanical failure, and be invulnerable to weather patterns. Standing at the gate yelling at the customer service representative never results in the power to change those things.

Yet, we do not need to be helpless.

Using our breath to calm down, engaging self-compassionate statements, and being ready with rebooking and hotel apps to act immediately keeps our resilience intact.

Weather is another expected and sometimes unexpected, powerless situation. None of us have learned to turn tornados into soft spring breezes. Preparation works here, too, and is something that many of us use. Everything from carrying a raincoat and umbrella and closing windows before a rainstorm to having a NOAA weather radio, safe location to retreat to, and plan for reconnecting with loved ones after a natural disaster is preparation used to build and maintain resilience and confidence and lessen feelings of helplessness in the face of a powerless situation.

Lastly, making sure we take care of ourselves after powerless events is critical to regaining the elasticity of our resilience. Connecting with others who are going through or have been through similar situations reduces the sense of aloneness and isolation we feel after such events. Reaching out to others and combining resources for recovery efforts after natural disasters builds strength and community. Using self-help groups and psychotherapy to recover keeps us from staying stuck in a powerless situation with helpless feelings.

Taking time to mentally separate powerless situations from helpless feelings and thoughts improves our resilience capacity. Accepting what is right in front of us in the moment cuts through anger and resistance to what is happening and moves us to action more quickly. Tuning into our feelings and thoughts alerts us to the helpless state we find ourselves in, and compassionate self-talk moves us out of that state and into healthier and more effective action. Using these strategies keeps the elastic band of resilience from breaking.

Debra Smith resides in Marquette as a licensed clinical psychologist (PsyD, CMU) and certified mindfulness meditation teacher (UC Berkley Good Science Center). She is currently teaching mindfulness mediation, self-compassion, resilience for health care professionals, and worksite health to many populations, groups, and organizations. dls40@aol.com

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Senior Viewpoint: Heighten Your Health Span at Your Local Senior Center, Kevin McGrath

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An old college friend recently told me he was shocked to see I had written an article for Health & Happiness’s Senior Viewpoint column. But after we spoke just a short while longer, he acknowledged that we both are now in our sixties.

Aging, after all, is something that naturally occurs over time. Our minds often are reluctant to accept the changes in our bodies until something happens that brings the aging process to the forefront. Aging takes place in our bodies every day of our life, whether we are aware of it or not.
According to the Mayo Clinic, staying healthy for the maximum number of years and keeping age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s to a minimum is key to a full and rich long life.

This full and rich long life is considered your health span. Your health span differs from your life span, which refers only to how long you live. Health span refers to qualify of life as opposed to duration of life.

The old view of aging, as Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School puts it, was that our bodies became like an old car that just starts to wear out and break down. The new view he describes is that our bodies are much more complicated than a car. Experiments and research have now shown we have genes call surtuins, a promising development regarding aging.

These surtuin genes can make you fitter with proper exercise and diet. They also occur naturally in the body. More research still needs to be done on surtuins, but medical researchers are excited about their early results. Activating and enhancing these genes may be the health span-promoting way of the future.

The basic key to healthy aging is a healthy lifestyle.

Eating a variety of nutritious foods, practicing portion control, and including physical activity in your daily routine can go a long way toward healthy aging. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults include aerobic activity and strength training in their fitness plans.

The Mayo Clinic says starting a fitness program may be one of the best things you can do for your health. After all, physical activity can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and coordination, help you lose weight, and even boost your self-esteem. Plus, these benefits typically can be achieved regardless of your age, gender, or current fitness level.

Finding the fitness program that best suits your needs is essential. In my own case, I always was very active practicing Vinyasa yoga, playing in basketball and volleyball leagues, as well as participating in Zumba classes. I needed to find a way to keep the intensity up without overdoing it. Injuries can create a major setback, so it’s important to prioritize avoiding them.

If you’re in the area, a good place to start is the Marquette Senior Center, where they have a slew of options. Maureen McFadden, the center’s manager, can steer you in the right direction depending on your abilities and desires.

I’ve attended the Hi-Low Group Fitness class now for just over a year where instructors Paula, Lynn, Sandy, and Diane alternate higher impact aerobic routines with other cardio routines, mixing in weight training, other floor exercises, and stretching for an excellent hour-long workout. The class is held three times a week in Marquette’s Baraga Gym, which offers plenty of space for the twenty to forty individuals who attend regularly.

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Kay Mitchell

Regular Kay Mitchell, who’s been attending these classes for about ten years, keeps coming back because she likes the “great high-intensity workout.” She says the instructors are awesome and make exercise fun. I wholeheartedly agree.

Another reason Kay continues to attend week in and week out is the friendships she has developed with others in the group. Anyone who has ever been part of a team sport, military squad, or any group that works hard to achieve a goal being physically active can understand the sense of camaraderie that develops when people share a common purpose.

Another important factor to consider is brain aging. Brain aging can be traumatic not just for the individual but also his/her family and loved ones. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have become the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Dr. Lewis Lipsitz of Harvard Medical School claims reducing cardiovascular risk factors through mental and physical exercises is key to reduce or slow brain aging. Use it or lose it. Oftentimes as we grow older, we tend to slow down, but all the latest studies show this is the time to increase your activities in those ways that work for you. The priority has now become, as Dr. Sinclair puts it, “keeping people younger for longer as opposed to keeping people older for longer.”

Most people don’t want to live longer if they can’t do much of anything. If our quality of life is good and we can live longer too, that’s icing on the cake. So get active if you aren’t already. And a good place to start is your local Senior Center.

Kevin McGrath can be found step touching on the grape vine of life.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Creative Inspiration: Overcoming Limbo with Courageous Creativity, Roslyn Elena McGrath

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As we move into U.P. spring, it’s hard to know just how gradual this movement may be, how long a gray, muddied limbo between snowy wonders and warm blossoming may go on, and how many restrictions, challenges, and losses we may need to weather through this time. These possibilities alone might nudge us to descend into the doldrums.

But we don’t have to feel diminished by any of this. We can choose to expand our world by exercising our innate creative capacities. In my years teaching visual art in public schools, I saw over and over again how by a certain age, most kids would decide they were good at an art or not. That inner critic can loom so large that many who did not see themselves as “the artist,” “the singer,” “the musician,” etc., might never participate willingly in such activities again.

Do you have to excel at fishing to go fish? At cross-country skiing to go ski? Creativity is part of human nature, and much-needed to come home to ourselves, reduce stress, and increase self-expression and novelty. And if anything is going to combat the stay-at-home same-old same-olds, it’s novelty!

So no matter how rusty, shoddy, or splendid you may believe your creative abilities are, you can take some time this season, even for a few minutes at a time, to juice up your life through your creativity.

If you feel at a complete loss as to where to begin, check out what kinds of guided creative experiences might be available to you locally or online, and pick one that sparks your curiosity.
If you already know of something creative you enjoyed doing as a kid, consider exploring a do-able version of it that excites you now.

If you create regularly but feel you’re in a bit of a slump, try a new art form.

It’s likely to take you in a new direction and/or spice up your old one.

If any of these suggestions make you nervous, that might just indicate you’re on the right track! As artist Henri Matisse once said, “Creativity takes courage.”

If an act is truly creative, it’s a step into the unknown, so there will be plenty of opportunities for your inner critic or inner curmudgeon to try to hold you back. But you can decide which part of you is in charge, and go for it anyway, if only for the pure daring of it!

So, here are some solid do’s and don’ts to help you along the way:

DO create a regular routine of creative time. Don’t wait for inspiration to descend from on high. While it‘s wonderful when that happens, research shows habitual creative time not only increases how much you create, but also helps you generate new creative ideas. So if you’re not creating regularly, put it in your calendar, repeatedly, even if for short bursts of time after prepping in advance.

DONT try to critique or refine your creation at the outset. There will time for that later. The beginning is the time for the rough sketch, the raw draft, the stumbling notes. It’s the time when a field full of possibilities is being explored. Newly-born humans don’t walk, and newly-started projects don’t usually seem like masterpieces. Nurture this tender stage. And if you choose to share this part of your process, only do so with those you can trust one-hundred percent to cheer you on.

DO open up to new experiences. They can trigger new creativity, even if seemingly unrelated.

DO your best to open up your senses more fully to what’s around you. Listen, look, smell, feel, sense with greater attention, and you may find new inspiration even in familiar surroundings, as well as feel more fully present and alive.

DO shake things up if you get stuck–create in a new or even unusual location, do a repetitive non-creative task, or go for a walk. In fact, the connection between walking and creativity has been confirmed by research. According to a 2014 Stanford University Study, a person’s creative output goes up an average of 60% when walking, whether indoors or out. (And a little personal confirmation—ideas for this article came to me while out on a walk.)

DON’T become overwhelmed by a big idea or project you may have come up with. Chunk it down into manageable steps, and even micro steps if needed.

DO remember that everything man-made once existed in imagination only, and honor that magical capacity within yourself and others.

DON’T listen to the naysayers in your head or your life. Be bold, and put your attention on your freedom to choose to create instead.

DO remember that creativity includes more than fine art. It can also be how you put together a meal, a gift, a room, a schedule, resolve a challenge….

DON’T use the truism above to justify shying away from a creative activity that intrigues you.

DO hang around with other creative people. Creativity can be contagious!

DON’T imagine what “others” might think or say about your creation. It’s none of your business anyway. Your job is to nourish your creative faculties.

DO get enough sleep. The brain requires adequate sleep to process ideas and to function well. And the rest of you needs sleep to be able to carry out your creative ideas effectively.

Roslyn Elena McGrath supports fulfilling your innate potential through soul and intuition-based sessions, classes, and products at EmpoweringLightworks.com, and publishing Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Green Living: Finding Carbon Capture Champions, Steve Waller

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There are champion trees quietly lurking in your neighborhood and your favorite forest. You probably never noticed them. They usually hide in the background, obscured by summer leaves. You didn’t know how to see them but now, before they hide again, it’s time you find and appreciate them. Winter’s ending. Get outdoors before the leaves sprout. Take the kids with you. They can help.

I’m sure you’ve heard that trees capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. Half of dry wood is pure carbon from CO2. When you see trees, you are seeing captured CO2. Trees are carbon! Ten pounds of dry wood contains 5 pounds of pure carbon from CO2 (the rest is mostly oxygen and hydrogen). The magic of chemistry changes pure black carbon to all the beautiful colors of wood. But no matter the warm woody color, 50% of dry wood, by weight, is carbon captured from atmospheric CO2. Wood floors, furniture, cabinets, even house framing, are all 50% carbon.

You don’t need any math, measures, botany, or a degree in silviculture. Carbon capture champions are simply the heavyweights! Find the absolute heaviest-looking trees in your neighborhood. Height or girth is less important. Total weight is what counts. Other trees may be taller, but carbon champions have mass. The absolute heaviest looking trees store the most carbon.

How much CO2 do trees remove from air?

Take the weight of a tree’s carbon and multiply it by 3.67. Example: 500 pounds of carbon (from 1,000 pounds of dry wood) times 3.67, means trees remove 1,835 pounds of CO2 for every 1,000 pounds of dry wood. A single champion tree could weigh 15,000 pounds—that’s a lot of captured CO2!

You can spot champions from a distance, hiding among average trees. Champion branches are exceptionally thick, wide, and dark, easy to see even when hiding in the shroud of wimpy, wispy, young, leafless, wanna-be trees. Kids can easily spot big bold trees. That’s why you bring kids along.

Once you’ve found a potential champion, your phone camera can record the shape, size, and GPS location. You can even add a caption, so name it! Kids can help with that too. Don’t ID it to scientific species. Give it a name that means something to you. What does it remind you of? “Big boy”? “Mother tree”? “Large Leaner”? “Uncle Fred”? “The Sentinel”? Use your imagination. Then keep looking. You’ll discover more. Which is the absolute heaviest? Your pictures can help you rank them in weight order. Compare with friends to find your local grand champion. It’s fun.

You may find that some of your heaviest trees aren’t in the woods.

Most, but not all, of the big forest trees have been logged. There are still some heavyweights hidden in protected areas, but your nearest champion could be a huge street tree in town, or an old farmyard tree that’s been growing for a century or more. Keep looking as you hike around and also as you drive your electric car. You never know when or where you’ll discover another champion.

It takes many decades to become a carbon capture champion. Recent studies found that big trees still capture carbon faster than young trees. That’s why carbon capture champions are so important for our climate future. Carbon champion trees are old but valuable, and need recognition. They capture and keep hundreds of years of CO2 out of the air. An old maple can store 300+ years of CO2.; white pine, 400 years; hemlock, 500 years; white cedars, over 1,000 years! Find the champions. Name them. Protect them. They’re helping you fight global warming.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.