Upside to Aging

Aging for anyone who is experiencing it does have its downside. There’s an altered appearance which can be distressing and there’s a loss of energy which can be limiting. Cognition can be impaired too. But there’s an upside, a handling of emotions that makes life much easier. Susan Turk Charles, a psychologist at the university of California, Irvine has been focusing on how older people regulate their emotions  and what she found is that when it comes to emotions it’s the reverse of what happens physically, older people have greater ability to handle and regulate their emotions. It’s due to experience,  and it’s also perhaps the fact that being closer to the end of their lives, older people tend to have a perspective which eliminates smaller issues. They know how to pick their battles, and as a result can eliminate certain amount of stress. Of course it may not  be universal, because many of the people studied had a certain level of financial well being, but not surprisingly it does apply to people with certain level of cognitive impairment. Apparently the impairment does not necessarily  interfere with a certain level of happiness.   The hope is that by better understanding what makes older people better adjusted becomes something that can be applied  to those who are younger. The research as far as I can gather is still in a new field, but it does make a too often overlooked point that aging has positive aspects, that the experience we gather as we live, does matter and if we allow it we can benefit from what we learned or lived through.

Friendships and Wellbeing

There’s been a lot written about friendship recently, mainly because of a study showing how poor children having friends who are wealthier than they are makes a huge difference in their future. They are exposed to ideas, to ways of life, to contacts, to opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise. They are therefore more likely to pursue an education and be more successful. It makes so much sense and  in retrospect we have all experienced, witnessed or observed,  what the researchers discovered. Still it was both surprising and reassuring. Perhaps it’s related to a developing trend  which is just as surprising and which didn’t receive as much coverage,  it is one finding that friendships are fundamentally more important to our overall wellbeing,  that what we call relationships, those that are more romantic and lead to a more traditional form of intimacy. When I was in my 20’s we used to say relationships come and go but friendships remain. It was a thought trying to console ourselves after a breakup with someone we thought would be our significant other. It turns out that more and more people are not only discovering but using the notion that friendships are more important than other relationships. Whether  people are in a committed relationship   or not, their friends nurture them and give them something unique.  That is because friendships give us something no other relationship can give us including inner strength and a sense of fulfillment. This is becoming increasingly evident as blogs, organizations, and websites emphasize the enduring benefits of friendship–Including it seems longevity.

LGBT+ Museums

Queer Britain is a new museum in London, as its name lets us know it is a museum about LGBT+. We have museums dedicated to many issues and causes, but this is a first in the UK. Since 1985 the  Schwules Museum in Berlin has  existed and both it and Queer Britain predate the US where the first American LGBT+  Museum will open in New York in 2026. The 50 years it took for Queer Britain to become a reality, since a  march in 1972,  underline the accomplishment of being able to highlight a community which has been marginalized, and one which is still not recognized in at least 70 countries. One exhibit in Queer Britain for example is the door of the writer’s  Oscar Wilde’s cell, a reminder of his having gone to prison for what was called gross indecency, a sentence that destroyed his reputation and maybe his health. He died 2 years after being freed at the age of 46, and for many he has become a symbol of the injustice the LGBT+ community has been subjected to. But this is also a time when in countries like the US rights such as marriage equality which were fought for for generations may well be in jeopardy. And our current discussions reflect questions these museums must address. Are they to speak to the general public, or address their own communities? It’s a line which each addresses in its own way. Queer Britain as it traces the arc of the LGBT+ history is aimed at the larger community, but then neither does it want to forget  the issues affecting LBGT+ people in the present. In Berlin the focus is almost the inverse.

As they work through those issues, the fact remains that those museums exist, and regardless of what the public discourse ends up being, it’s hard to imagine the momentum will cease.

Forgiveness Is Good For Us

Forgiveness is not easy. Humans, being the imperfect creatures we are, most of us are called upon to practice forgiveness at one time or another. There’s a new study that sheds light on why it is something we should do. It was conducted by Everett L. Worthington Jr. a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He specializes in forgiveness and in how people reach it. He says how people become ready to forgive varies  but usually falls into two main categories, decisional forgiveness and emotional forgiveness. “you can experience a change in your emotions and then decide to forgive,” he explains, “Or you can decide to forgive first and experience those changes emotionally later on.” For people who are struggling  to forgive or may need a push to experience it  he suggests to be mindful of three evidence-based ways forgiveness  can benefit our health. Not being able to forgive invites feeling of hostility, anger and stress. While forgiveness is not the only way to deal with stress  and adversity, it is an effective way. Forgiveness is the opposite of the fight or flight response of the parasympathetic nervous system,  it is called the rest and digest response, it slows breathing and heart rate and ends up being good for heart health. Last but not least, forgiveness keeps us from ruminating. We all ruminate, but sometimes rumination can lead to a host of psychological issues such as depression,  obsessive disorders, anxiety, psychosomatic disorders.  ….And so even if and when it seems unfair, it is in our best interest to forgive.