That hint of spring yesterday reminds me of growth and renewal. It also tells me that it's time to think about planting the garden.
Of all the outdoor activities we can engage in, gardening may have the greatest benefit for the largest number of people. We enjoy gardening for a multitude of reasons. It's fun. It's exercise. It's an opportunity to connect with nature... and an opportunity to be productive.... We can grow the best tomatoes that anyone ever tasted!
Maybe you feel that you're not feeling emotionally or physically well enough to think about gardening. Research has also shown that gardening and gardens can help to improve mental health and contribute to physical well-being. According to horticultural therapists, a therapeutic garden can help to "... improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization." Gardens can also "... reduce your levels of pain and stress ... and boost your immune system in ways that allow your own body and other treatments to help you heal" (How Hospital Gardens Help Their Patients Heal).
So get out the seed catalogs and start planning this year's garden. Don't miss the opportunity to improve your well-being... to reconnect with nature... and maybe a gardening partner.
As you probably already know, February is American Heart Month. We're encouraged to focus on the physical side of heart wellness and the importance of healthy habits such as diet, exercise, weight management, and stress reduction.
Did you know that there's an added bonus to maintaining a healthy heart? As it turns out, what's good for your heart is also good for your brain. As Dr. Ralph Sacco, former president of the American Heart Association, has pointed out, the same risk factors that contribute to heart disease and stroke can also lead to brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, depression, silent strokes, and decreases in cognitive ability. Taking care of your heart gets you a two-for-one deal!
Of course, we cannot celebrate Heart month without also talking about love. Originally a special day for romantic love, Valentine's Day has expanded into a day dedicated to displays of love not only for that "special someone" but also for family members, school children, and friends we hold dear. It's a day on which we make a special effort to verbally express the love we have for others... love that we often feel but often don't take the time to put into words or action.
Is the expansion of "Valentine's Day" to a wider circle no more than a boon for Hallmark? Maybe, maybe not. According to researchers, positive emotions like love are also good for our hearts. Not only can demonstrations of love lower stress, they can also lower blood pressure, boost immunity, encourage self-care, and, because expressions of love often include wine and chocolate :-), increase the intake of antioxidants... all of which are great for heart health!
February truly is HEART month. Take it full circle... from lifestyle, to your heart, to your brain, and to the people you care about. I will all come back to you.
AARP has consistently reported that the vast majority of adults age 65 or older would prefer to remain in their homes as they age. The first thing that comes to mind is the house or apartment in which we live. But home is more than that physical entity. If we're lucky, it's also a place where we feel safe, where we can be ourselves, where love and affection are shared. For many, home is also the place where we raised our kids, buy our groceries, and can count on our neighbors' help in an emergency. Thus, "home" is more than a roof over our heads; it also includes the communities in which we live... and where we also wish to stay.
As we age, the pull to remain in our homes and communities may grow even stronger as we come to rely more on our long-term knowledge of where things are and our ability to function within our known environments. In our homes, this may mean easily being able to find the bathroom in the dark; it our communities, it may mean recognizing landmarks that take us places to which we need to drive or walk. At the same time, our homes and communities may also need changes... changes like sidewalks, public transportation, and, dare-I-say grab bars, that help us maintain independence and function.
To learn more about user-friendly homes and livable communities that support Aging-in-Place, click here to visit the Environmental Wellness segment of CareSmart's "Caring for You" page or contact us to request a Aging-in-Place presentation for your organization.