Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael BrickeyDr Richard G. Petty

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Integrative Health Physician Dr. Richard G. Petty

Broadcast: 2-3-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Are you sometimes baffled by so many schools of thought and contradictory advice about health? Today’s guest expert, Dr. Richard G Petty, has traveled the world meeting with top researchers and gurus to sort out what works and develop an integrated approach to health. Dr. Petty received his medical training in England and since then has obtained three Ph.D.s  He put his knowledge and wisdom together in his book, Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He also is a popular speaker who has lectured in 44 countries. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look at how Dr. Petty views health and dealing with health challenges. In the second part we’ll look at what he has found to be the most exciting cutting edge developments in health. His website is http//www.RichardGPettyMD.com

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results. Are you sometimes baffled by so many schools of thought with contradictory advice about health? Today’s guest expert, Dr. Richard G. Petty, has traveled the world meeting with top researchers and gurus to sort out what works and to develop an integrated approach to health. Dr. Petty received his medical training in England, and since then has obtained three PhDs. He put his knowledge and wisdom together in his book, Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He also is a popular speaker who has lectured in 44 countries. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look at how Dr. Petty views health and dealing with health challenges. In the second part, we’ll look at what he has found to be the most exciting cutting-edge developments in health. Dr. Petty, is the title of your book, Healing, Meaning, and Purpose, meant to suggest that integrative health starts with purpose?

RP: Absolutely. And you’ve actually just hit the nail on the head. We spent a long time trying to come up with a title, and somebody had just said to me, “Set down, what is the most important thing?” And I said, number one, have a purpose in life. Find your purpose, because everyone has one. Number two is find meaning in your experiences. And number three, from that, health, healing – it all just flows down from there. And so it really is essential. And I’d like to just pick up on something you said there about some integrative approaches. One of the things that we’ve done – and you’re right, I’ve been a globetrotter over the years – is to create integrated medicine, which is very slightly different, and it’s a slightly different idea, but I wonder if I could just share a little bit of that, because I think it’s going to kind of give a context for the rest of what we talk about. So may I say a little bit about that first, perhaps?

MB: Certainly. Go ahead.

RP: Okay. The reason we came up with this term, and I had the privilege of spending several years – eight years, actually – working with Prince Charles on setting up a new system of healthcare, which we call integrated, the idea being not just to cobble together a few different modalities, but the fundamental idea is that health and wellness and, for that matter, longevity, is really a function of integrating all the different parts of you, yourself, your mind, your spirit, your body, your relationships – all of it. And we know full well that if any one of those things is not functioning properly, then you start feeling lousy. And the way that I always look at this is that, for me, symptoms are signals. So if you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, if you have a physical problem, for me those are signals that something somewhere is going wrong and the integration hasn’t worked. So that’s the idea. And whenever we look at people, one of the cardinal ideas is that we look at them from five dimensions: physical, psychological, social, subtle – so for the subtle systems of the body, and spiritual. And not everybody likes all five, and that’s fine. But I approach everything about health and wellness from those five perspectives, and it really does seem to work very well.

MB: If I asked a dozen different gurus, “How do you find your sense of purpose?” I’d probably get a dozen different answers. How do you put that together and integrate it?

RP: Okay, yes, you’re absolutely right. You do always find a ton of different answers to just about everything. And what you also said at the beginning I liked very much – the whole field of health and wellness is so confused and confusing for everybody. So for me, purpose is, number one, it’s very much a personal thing. It’s a matter of what your core constructs are, what really matters to you. And I always, always recommend to anybody, if they’re going to do anything in life, just sit down and find out what really matters to you. And as far as you possibly can, live your life with those, instead of just trying to do what other folks say. The other day I was talking to somebody and he is a very creative individual and he wanted some advice on how to get more organized and time management and all this. And I said, “Steve, wait a minute, wait a minute. You are very creative. Your purpose is actually to generate ideas and you do this fantastically and people pay you a king’s ransom for doing that sort of thing. Why are you trying to teach your cat to quack?” And he said, “What?” And I said, “You’re teaching your cat to quack. Your purpose in life is to be creative and you bring that to everything you do. And so say that you now want to go in a different direction and organize yourself differently doesn’t make much sense.” So I think it’s very individual, it’s very personal, but everybody does have and can find a purpose in life. And some folk even say, you know, you have more than one. You have a higher purpose, you have a spiritual purpose. But I spend a lot of time always getting people to sit down and really look at what are the things that are your hot-button issues, what are the things that matter to you? And if you’re not doing those things, chances are things will not go well for you. I was recently advising somebody who’s a doctor, and he said, “I never really wanted to be a doctor.” And I said, “Why not? Why are you doing it?” He said, “Well, my parents pushed me into it. They’re both doctors. They went to medical school.” And I said, “Well, what do you really want to do?” He said, “I want to play the trombone.” And in fact – I said, “Well, don’t you go and do that?” And in fact, what eventually happened, he put his financial affairs in order and, you know, plays music professionally. He’s found his purpose. And I think it’s always such a mistake, isn’t it, because you and I both know, and everybody listening, there’s so many people who’ve lived their lives through somebody else’s lens – they’ve actually done what other people have said. And it’s very hard to do that and find satisfaction. And eventually what happens, the wheels come off and you start getting sick and something happens. So this is why I think it’s very personal and yes, you’ll get 100 different answers for what is your purpose. It’s individual. Find it for yourself. Don’t rely on anybody else to tell you.

MB: So sometimes the most brilliant things in life are just figuring out how to get it really simple. And for someone who’s trying to find their purpose, it’s just asking themselves, “What really matters to me?” And that makes a purpose very similar to meaning.

RP: Absolutely. And I really do believe that purpose and meaning are very closely interlinked. And if you just sit down briefly and look at the interrelationship of those and what really matters in your life, you will find very quickly that not only will you find your purpose, but everything you do starts to be imbued with more meaning. So I always say to try not to wait until your body, your relationship, something trips you up, telling you it’s time to look for the answers. Because most people go through sort of phases of life when the big questions come up, the “Who am I? What’s the meaning of life? What should I be doing with my life?” We normally get those at crisis time. What I suggest is look right now, today. Start looking at those things and you will find very, very quickly, just asking very simple questions, that you can come up with the answer for yourself very rapidly. So this does not need to be something which takes you half a lifetime. You can find it quickly. And I do a ton of very, very practical things to just find out where people are at, what their center of gravity is, and from that we can work out a purpose, and from that flows meaning.

MB: So, rather analogous to physical health – be proactive when you’re healthy rather than waiting for the symptoms to give you a wake-up call that you have to do something at a time when you’re feeling pretty unresourceful to begin with?

RP Oh, totally. And how many of us, though, don’t start digging our well until we’re thirsty? And it’s such a terrible mistake. You know, there’s a statistic that I think is really very sobering. It was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine a couple of years back, that only 3% of Americans are following the minimum healthy lifestyle, 3%. 97% are not. And that doesn’t even take into consideration things like having meaning, having purpose, looking after your mental health. It’s just the physical stuff – 3% are doing the minimum. Shocking, isn’t it?

MB: So if we’re not even looking at purpose, what is it that the 3% are doing right?

RP: Well, when they look at statistics like that, the 3%, it just means that they’re eating, exercising, and sleeping. And that pretty much is it. And we all know that a healthy life does not need to be complicated. One of the biggest issues that I run into all the time – and it took me, as you said, a lot of qualifications, a lot of experience to get this – that the answers are actually terribly, terribly simple. And you can do things quickly and it doesn’t need to be something that you have to change everything about life. You can do things quickly and easily, and that must be one of the take-home messages: Quick and easy is the answer.

MB: You write about how, if you have your purpose and meaning aligned, you’re going to have far more energy. And again, if I asked our twelve gurus what energy is and what it means, I’d get twelve different answers. How do you translate or integrate all these theories?

RP: Well, I agree with that wholeheartedly, that you will always get a ton of different answers. And interestingly, we’ve just put together a new program on how to boost your energy. And although you can look it in many different ways, they actually – all roads lead to Rome – they all come down to the same kind of thing. There’s obviously physical energy and that’s metabolism, blood flow, and all of those good things. There’s also the relationship with oxygenation and breathing. Then, of course, there is psychological energy – how much you want to apply. And again, if you find your purpose, that’s where you passion comes from, that’s where your energy comes from. And we know successful people are the people invariably who don’t do a lot of extra work, but when they’re working, they focus all of their energy, all of their attention on one problem at a time, get rid of it, on to the next one. So there certainly is a psychological component of energy. I, in recent years, have also become very persuaded that there is another form of energy, these subtle systems of the body, what in China they call Chi and very similar idea in India of Prana. In the West, the Greeks used to call this *12:32 – rather the Romans and the Greeks called it the same thing, Pneuma. And this idea that there is another form of energy in the body, I think there’s more and more evidence for what we now call – I mean, the technical term is the biofield, but there really does seem to be something else. We can manipulate it with acupuncture. We can certainly build it with certain exercises that seem to do something more than just physical jerks, physical exercise breathing – it’s something else. It took me a long time to be persuaded of the existence of these subtle systems; now I’m quite sure that they’re there. And there’s actually some fairly decent evidence beginning to emerge that they’re there. And if those subtle systems aren’t working properly – again, lack of energy, you just get drained extremely quickly. So for me, it’s several separate pieces. But what’s so intriguing, and why I say all roads lead to Rome ultimately, is that if you work on developing, say, we’ll just use the example of doing some physical exercise, breathing exercise, and sleeping better, the Chinese would say, “Well, actually you are building your Chi.” And so in addition to doing the physical stuff and stuff that is easily measurable, you are also doing something else, which is extremely interesting. And I also think that one of the key things about energy is that there are so many very loose ways that people have talked about it. Years ago, we started having a working party in the UK on the whole idea of energy, energy healing, energy medicine, and so on. And one of the people who attended that – it was a small closed meeting – was Brian Josephson, the Nobel laureate, and a good friend and a nice guy. And he remonstrated with everybody and said, “For heaven’s sake, don’t use this term ‘energy’ so loosely.” He said, “These are systems.” And he said, “They’re fields, and you can’t just have energy, you have to have a field as well.” And that’s why we call them subtle systems, so we get over this kind of rather loose talk about energy this and energy that.

MB: So what I infer from what you said, is part of it is just do the things that you know you should do – exercise and breathing and stress reduction – and don’t worry so much about the school. But when it comes to these subtle forms of energy and the systems, are there things that we need to know about that, or should we be studying, since most of us don’t have much of an understanding of it?

RP: Yes. Number one is yes, the common sense things that we all know and love will build all of that. But there’s a whole system of very simple exercises, primarily based in Qi Gong, which is a Chinese system that anybody can learn very easily and guaranteed to boost energy, and very simple stuff that you can do. There are even some points on the body which you can just do a very simple little bit of 30-second massaging of in morning, evening, whenever you need it. And just by doing that and doing a little bit of breathing, it’s remarkable. I can show anybody how quickly you can boost energy. Just the other day I had – let’s think of one of the most skeptical types of people that you could ever have – I had a representative from a pharmaceutical company, drug rep, sales person – very, very nice, but hard-nosed business person and scientist. She told me that she was pretty tired and I said, “Okay, I’ve just done this program, I’ve just dictated all of this. So take your shoes and socks off for a moment and this is what we’re going to do.” I showed her a couple of points – and again, I can share these exactly with the listeners. And she said, “That’s amazing! How did you do that?” And I said, “You did it. You just stimulated these couple of points, did a couple of breaths.” And she said, “I feel like I just woke up and I’m full of energy again.” Very quick, easy things, but things that are very difficult to explain just on a biomechanical model of the body.

MB: Is that something that you could talk us through now how to do? Or…?

RP: Oh, absolutely I could. And we could do this as a little practice for anybody that’s in a good spot right now where they can do this.

MB: In other words, you don’t want somebody to do it while they’re driving.

RP: I’d prefer not, because if you do it while you’re driving, it would not be a good idea, and number two, it would be a little bit difficult because I’m going to make you touch your foot, and I’d really rather you didn’t do that right now because I like people and I don’t want anybody to harm themselves. Very simple, I can show you this, and something that I can do for you, as well, Mike, if it would be helpful, because I’ve just created a little schematic of this. I don’t know if it’s possible for you to do this, but you might actually want to put it up on your website so people could actually have a little look at that after the show, if that would be convenient.

MB: I’d be happy to, yes.

RP: I’ll offer that to you and to your listeners. But it’s very, very simple. One caveat, apart from don’t do it while driving, is *17:57. Just above your ankle bone, the ankle that’s on the inside, if you go about three inches above your ankle, just a little spot there, right in the middle. And it’s very forgiving – it doesn’t matter if you don’t find exactly the right place. And if you just put some gentle massage on there, just gentle pressure for about 30 seconds, that’s number one – you do that for 30 seconds. Then second – and it doesn’t matter if you do it on the left or the right, it’s quite all right – second is right in the very, very middle of the sole of your foot. You just give that a little bit of a massage. And again, it doesn’t need to be exactly the right place. You’ll find it. And again, you do that for about 30 seconds. Then plant your feet on the floor, sit up, back straight, and all I’d like you to do with your feet flat on the floor, is do 30 seconds of abdominal breathing – deep, slow – done, one and a half to two minutes. Try it. I’d like anybody, if they’re in a good spot to do it, just try it. You’ll be amazed and astonished, because just about everybody says, “Wow! How come that happened?” And it’s that simple. That point above your inner ankle, middle of the foot, and breathe – very simple technique. And if anybody can explain to me on using normal, physiological, biochemical models how that works, please tell me. Because one of my doctorates is in biochemistry and I cannot explain this – and I’m also a neurologist – I cannot explain it, but it works every time. So it’s very remarkable. So this is a little free gift for you. And as I say, if it would be helpful to you, Mike, I’ll email you a copy of the little picture that I made.

MB: Great, thank you.

RP: That’ll be a little gift for your listeners and for you, of course.

MB: And thank you for taking us through the exercise. If we wanted to learn more about these systems and other exercises like this, what would be the best source?

RP: In fact, what I’ve done is that my own website, which is RichardGPettyMD.com – and I should’ve called it something terribly creative like DancingDragons or something, but I’m not very creative so I just used my name – RichardGPettyMD.com. I have, as a real labor of love, created lists of all kinds of places – it’s one of the most comprehensive lists of where you can find out more about Qigong, homeopathy, flower essences – I’ve listed pretty much every integrated medicine program in the States that I know of, and many in Europe, as well as providing access to about 200 medical journals. So it’s all there, and I just did it because I thought people would find it helpful. So my website’s a pretty good place to start, simply because I took the time to check out every single one of my listings. When you and I first started talking, I had a look at your material because you don’t get on my list unless I’ve checked you, and you are going to be on my list – in fact, you’re going to be very high on my list at the end of today – because I always check everything myself. And then I go back and recheck periodically, just to make sure that people haven’t sort of gone wild and wooly. So it’s a good place to start. And it’s lists and has links to most of the major organizations that I’ve been able to check out, so you can find more information. I also have lists of books – I’ve put a load of lists of books and book reviews up on Amazon and then I linked to those through my website, as well. So if you’re interested in boosting your energy and that kind of thing, I provide *21:45 potted summaries of the books, so it gives you a good place to start.

MB: So it’s probably the most carefully thought-out list that’s out there anywhere.

RP: I hope so. As I say, I just did it because so many people kept saying the same thing – where should somebody go to get reliable information? Because I was seeing person after person after person who had oftentimes spent vast sums of money on all kinds of tests and investigations and treatments, some of which made absolutely no sense at all. And I’ve always been somebody who’s looked very, very hard at data. I’ve always been data-driven. One of the things that you may not yet know is that I had the privilege, for many years, of serving on the Research Council for Complementary Medicine in the UK and then actually chaired the whole organization – that’s how I ended up working with Prince Charles. The whole idea was to just find out what’s real and what isn’t, because there’s so much confusion. And once I discovered that there just was – there’s nothing out there. People were being misled all over the place, because most people, with the greatest respect, have never been taught how to read a research paper – I mean, why should they? And so people were just getting into such a mess. And I said, “Okay, I can read research papers. It’s what I do for a living. I’ve trained thousands of healthcare providers around the world on how to do this.” So I said, “Well, okay.” So I rolled up my sleeves and started doing this. And it took a while, but people obviously find it it’s a pretty useful site. I think as far as I’m aware, it is one of the most comprehensive, carefully scrutinized lists available. And I also try to update with new stuff, because, you know, what you said in your introduction is absolutely right. There’s not just confusion about medical things, but even in fact psychology. I talk a lot about the way that we are now in the fourth wave of personal development. You know, we went through all these different phases of what I’d call psychobabble and these different ideas, and now finally the whole personal development area is being data-driven. So your material is all about, “Well, what can you actually do? Show me the stuff.” And that’s so important, isn’t it?

MB: Yes. Let me take a break here.

RP: Sure.

MB: This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, one of those places for you to go to get the kind of information that Dr. Petty’s talking about. Today’s expert guest is integrative health physician, Dr. Richard G. Petty. His website is www.RichardGPettyMD.com. And his book that puts it all together is Healing, Meaning and Purpose. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at www.DrBricky.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to www.DrBrickey.com. Dr. Petty, one of the things you have a lot of expertise on is resilience. Can you tell us what you mean by that?

RP: Oh, yes. This is something that is very, very close to my own heart. Resilience is the ability to bounce back, and it is one of the things that we have had the most trouble with, because various things have been happening in society and we as a people have been getting worse and worse and worse, to be honest, at being resilient, being able to bounce back. I think it was General Patton once said that, “I’m not interested in how far somebody falls; I’m interested in how far they bounce after they’ve fallen.” And that really does summarize what resilience is all about, why we’re so interested in it, because there are some very novel ways in which you can build your own resilience and feel much better very quickly. And it’s – I look at everything in the world, if I wished for one thing for everybody, it would be let me teach you how to build resilience. The trouble that has happened in recent years is that because everything has been so very easy – you know, if in doubt, you can just take a pill. That’s the solution to everything, and it’s created real difficulties. People do not any longer have the kind of endurance that our ancestors had. And it’s not a matter of being tough; it’s just a matter of knowing how you can put yourself back together again. There’s some very, very good data recently that even things like how do people handle rejection? People that are very good at handling rejection – and heavens, we’ve all been rejected at some time in our life – are the ones who are resilient. And it’s very important in terms not just of your physical health, but also in terms of your longevity. There is evidence now growing that one of the things that determines how long we live for is our ability to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, to be able to bounce back when things hit us – which they inevitably will. It’s part of life’s rich tapestry, isn’t it?

MB: Now, I know you’ve been at the University of Pennsylvania and worked with Dr. Martin Seligman, who is the guru of learned optimism and authentic happiness. How do those relate to resilience?

RP: Oh, very much so. And in fact, the folk there – that was one of the reasons that when Marty started that work, it was driven not just be the ideas of “Let’s all be happy and sing Kumbaya.” It was very much a matter of why is it that some kids and some adults have such problems, and is there something that we can do to build that? And the answer is, absolutely, you can. And when Marty started doing that work, and why it was so desperately important, was that nobody had really been looking at the positive side of life, had they? And it was – at the time, it was just so-

MB: Just like the medical model.

RP: Well, yes. And it’s remarkable that over all of those years, that people really hadn’t looked at it. And so you’re right, it was just all about, “Let’s look at sickness.” And so resilience, to me, is the process of being able to adapt and thrive in the face of any kind of adversity or stress, trauma, tragedy, threat, because when we think about it, our lives never go according to plan. The most important things in our lives are the things that come out of left field unexpected, and they happen all the time. And if you can’t handle those, you’re going to have a real big problem. Now resilience, as I said, the ability to bounce back and being able to adapt and thrive – that doesn’t mean that we all have to just sort of become unemotional creatures like Mr. Spock in Star Trek. It means that you just begin to take control of your life. And I have a few very simple steps that I recommend, and anybody can do these literally in a few minutes a day. And it’s not something that you need to uproot your life, change everything. And there’s some very simple things in terms of – I wonder if we could perhaps talk about one or two-

MB: I was going to ask if you didn’t offer.

RP: Well, number one that I always start with is – and all the evidence on this is self regulation, the ability to be able to monitor your internal states, your moods, your emotions, your reactions, and to be able to watch them and modulate. A very simple way to start with that is I recommend a 60-second exercise. In fact, you can do it in less than 60 seconds. Every morning of just spending 60 seconds before you start your day, just observing your thoughts and emotions. It’s a very, very old Zen technique and it’s very simple. You don’t need to do it for hours. It’s not – if you want to reach Nirvana I guess you would have to. But all I’d like you to do is just spend a minute watching your emotions. The reason why this seems to work so well and has actually now become the basis of an entire new school of therapies, as you know, is that if you get into the habit of basically developing witnessed consciousness, being able to watch yourself, it’s remarkable how quickly you can actually start noticing that you’re not your emotions and you are not your thoughts. And instead of being buffeted by everything that comes through, you are able to quickly take control of the situation. You can de-stress this way. You can watch it happen, and you just begin to detach from the idea that “I am my emotions.” And so I really very strongly recommend to everybody – just try the 60-second thing of watching. You’ll find it’s amazing. Chances are you’ll get hooked and want to do it for more than a minute afterwards. So that’s number one. Number two is to – the key to resilience is coherence, and that’s how we come full circle back to my purpose and meaning. If your world doesn’t feel like it’s manageable and meaningful and comprehensible, it’s extremely difficult to cope. And there’s a ton of very good data on this, that if you feel that your life is unmanageable, things don’t make sense to you, it’s extremely difficult to bounce back. And that was why we started with the purpose and the meaning piece. So coherence, that everything has some sense to it, that you’re not stuck in some dreadful Kafka novel, that you actually are a participant. Because one of the things that is interesting – and I noticed on your website that you’d picked up on this very important data about health, longevity, wellness, that a key to it is to actually be participating, that you not isolate, and that you actually feel empowered and that you can make a difference in your world. Absolutely key – it’s not just about healthcare; it’s empowerment and feeling that you are involved. So this is absolutely a key piece to this. And I don’t know if you saw some very fascinating new data from UCLA about when people are lonely and isolated, the inflammatory mediators surge in the blood, and people that feel better – and in fact, when people start making social connections, the inflammation starts coming down again. Very remarkable, that you can measure it.

MB: And it’s starting to look like inflammation is a real big key to all of our health problems.

RP: Oh, it is, without question. Inflammation is involved in places that most people have absolutely no idea. And I’ll tell you, when I first started looking at this, about 20 years ago when I was writing one of those doctorates, I put in a long section about historical data on inflammation and vascular. And at the time that I was being examined for it, they didn’t know whether they were going to fail me for being too out in left field or give me the gold medal. And it was – now, of course, everybody’s realizing even things like heart failure, arterial sclerosis – they’re all inflammatory. So any kind of social engagement, making friends, it will help you.

MB: So let’s get back to our third step in resilience.

RP: Third is perspective – you must be able to see things from a positive position. And that’s – you see how all these link together. If you have the self-regulation piece, you’ve been watching, you’ve also got this ability to make sense and have purpose. So perspective is absolutely key. Fourth is earned rewards. That’s very interesting, because, you know, for years people used to talk all about self-esteem and all of that. The self-esteem literature is actually a lot weaker than most people realize. And the most important thing about all of that is self-esteem that happens because you’ve succeeded – that’s great. Just telling somebody they’re wonderful, looking the mirror every morning and telling yourself how great you are doesn’t cut it. So it’s having earned rewards. Number five is purposeful physical activity, so actually doing things that are meaningful – I just dug a ditch, it’s great. And the last two that, again, bring us back to where we started are hope – there’s an enormous amount of very good evidence now on the association of hope and recovery from all kinds of illnesses and actually keeping well. And last is faith – and it doesn’t necessarily mean religious faith, if that’s – but having faith in yourself and in something, so to the greater good. And again, that’s that participation thing. So those are my main steps: Self regulation, adherence, perspective, earned rewards, purposeful activity, hope and faith. Together they can change your life in the most fantastic way.

MB: I think one of the most remarkable things that has happened in psychology in the last 20 years is we would look at concepts like resilience or optimism or happiness and everyone would say, “Yeah, we should have that, we want it,” but would be pretty clueless about how to achieve it. And now we have systems that people can use to achieve those.

RP: And I think it’s remarkable, isn’t it, the way in which we had to get other cultures that provided with some of the clues for how to do this. When you think about it, people like the Tibetans – I mean, they were stuck in those high mountain places for a thousand years, they were left alone, and all they did was think about how to control their minds. So probably worth listening to after a thousand years’ experience. And then, of course, the science starting looking – and you mentioned Marty Seligman – and others have done all of this work. And now we realize that there’s a huge amount that you can do for yourself and your family and the people around you very quickly. And it’s amazing how many years. When I was training, and maybe you as well – we didn’t talk about it.

MB: Um-hmm, because there wasn’t any data on it.

RP: No, but now there’s a lot of extremely good stuff. This is not something that’s just cozy or feel-good stuff. It’s absolutely rock solid data. And the other thing – and one of the reasons I became so involved with it, is building resilience, using those very simple steps, is also one of the keys to avoiding burnout. And I once suffered burnout. I missed it completely in myself. I was a meditation teacher and I missed it. So now I’m evangelical about showing people how not to burn out.

MB: How do you see depression fitting into integrated health?

RP: That’s a very big question in this sense. There are multiple contributors to depression. And again, I like to use my little model – physical, psychological, social, subtle, and spiritual. And the reason I do that is because undoubtedly there are some people who have a biochemical – a measurable biochemical disturbance which causes depression. And that may be the predominant feature in that. And those souls oftentimes need pharmacological help. There’s not a whole lot else that works on its own. But pharmacological help is not the only thing. You can also certainly have things in your life which may cause depression because you’re not that resilient or because something really terrible has happened. And there’s also the social component. There’s a very interesting new idea that I’d like to share because it helps people greatly. There’s a fundamental difference in the way that men and women tend to communicate and relate to each other. I’m not taking about something soft – you know, the men are from mars thing; I’m talking about some very interesting empirical data. From early puberty – and this is trans-cultural, not just learned behavior – we know that men tend to be very transactional; women tend to be far more relational. So men – it’s far more about the deal, you know, what’s the answer? Women tend to spend more time on the social aspects, relationships. One of the problems that arises is that during adolescence, girls tend to have much deeper relationships, and when they break, as they do all the time – because there’s so many emotional variance in that – when they break, they get disappointed. And it’s now believed that’s one of the things that may actually set up women to getting depression later in life. And that’s partly the explanation for why depression is more common in women. Useful to know that, because it helps explain lots of very odd data from the 60s and 70s about the causes of depression. And why I use my whole model, I also regularly see people who are depressed because they feel a spiritual hole in their lives. There was a study that recently suggested that 30 million Americans regard themselves as spiritual seekers, people that feel they have a spiritual hole, and that in itself can be a very potent cause of depression. That’s why I’d like to sort of approach it from all of these different angles. And I find that is often a far more satisfactory way of giving people what they need.

MB: I think that makes a lot of sense that it’s different people have different gaps that are causing the problem, and you need to concentrate on what’s causing their problem or what their needs are, rather than one size fits all.

RP: Absolutely correct. And there’s been a great deal of discussion recently because we’re currently in the process of establishing a new diagnostic manual which is due out in 2011, and one of the problems that’s been coming up again and again is the way that people are trying to include normal human variation and make it pathology – which means you have to give it a drug. And you know, it’s okay sometimes to be shy. It doesn’t mean you have social phobia and have to take a drug for it. It’s okay to be depressed because your wife’s died – you know, that’s okay. It really is. And it’s very important to contextualize and just to see exactly, you know, when is it a sickness, when is it a physical thing, when is it psychological, when is it okay – and all of those questions, because we are all different. And the one size fits all does not work, and it ain’t going to help to give everybody in the world Prozac. Somebody tried doing that – there was an entire town where everybody was given Prozac. And believe it or not, some people got very, very, very sick.

MB: Sooner or later we all have friends that develop cancer and maybe we develop it ourselves. What do you say to a person who’s just received a diagnosis of cancer, say colon cancer, and they’re just feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start and don’t know whom to turn to?

RP: I’m very happy to reveal that I went through this problem myself several years ago, so I’m a survivor. And I think there’s never one single way to talk to anybody about this, when they’ve had a problem. That’s why I’m always interested to know where is a person’s center of gravity, what’s important to them? Because for one person, talking to a psychologist would be a good thing; for another, a priest; for another, they just really want the kindness and comfort of family members. Because we’re all different. Some people like sympathy; others thing that sympathy is the worst thing in the world and “Go away and don’t bother me with it!” So it’s – we’re all very different in exactly what we like, how we respond, and what will work best for us. So I think the key point is it’s individualized. Know where a person’s center of gravity is. And again, if I had one wish in the world, if I had my magic wand, I would like everybody in America, in childhood, to learn resilience, to learn the art of what’s important for you, how to bounce back. And then it makes it much easier for the people around you to help you as well. So it’s always – I think it has to be individualized, because I know that when I was facing this kind of a problem, my approach was very proactive and I wasn’t about to sit around and feel sorry for myself; I was going to get over this. And five years later, I have. And so how we actually approach that and how we always approach it is, again, from all the different perspectives. And it’s just a slightly different way of thinking and a slightly different way of acting, and it really makes a huge difference.

MB: So your approach is to start with questions about meaning and then also take a look at resilience.

RP: Absolutely, absolutely, because – and I’ll give a very practical example about this and a couple that I’ve dealt with very recently, and somebody else in another part of the world that I used to see, is that whenever anybody has bad news of any sort, anything like this that is happening, is that you really need to find what is important to them. Is it that they’re frightened? Is it that they don’t want to leave their kids? Because when you actually find the area that is important to them as individuals, deep down inside – not the superficial – “Well, I just don’t like being ill” – the real core features, it’s amazing, because then you can very quickly give them advice that fits. So if there’s – in my case, I had work to do. I had a message to bring out and I realized it was time to stop just writing academic papers about it, but actually to take it to the world. And that was – for me, it was very helpful. For somebody else, they would have a different motivator. It would be maybe that they don’t want to leave their kids alone. Whatever it happens to be, individualize it, find where that center of gravity is, find the purpose and meaning, and build that resilience. And if you do those things, you are giving a gift that goes on giving and it’s more valuable than anything else in the world.

MB: That makes perfect sense. What would you say are the most exciting developments in health and integration of health?

RP: Oh, well, there’s so many of them. Mike, you know, this is an amazing statistic – it’s now calculated the sum total of all medical knowledge is doubling every three and a half years. In the area of the brain, it is doubling every two years. I find that just absolutely stunning that if we look at everything that was discovered in the history of the world up until the beginning of 2006, it’s just doubled. And I think that’s just amazing. I think the most interesting things that we have learned recently that are going to impact everybody in a very major way is the brain regenerates throughout life. We know that the richest source of stem cells is actually inside the brain. And the whole stem cell debate that’s been very hard for many of us over the years is probably going to turn out to have been meaningless. The brain is full of the things. And we know that you can continue creating new neurons – not many, but in key areas that are very key throughout life, certainly into your 70s. There are even midwife cells that direct the stem cells. That’s a huge thing. Second is that the brain constantly recruits what it needs. It’s one of the things that is different between us and most other mammalian species. When you’re on a task, what happens – and I always counsel people, “Don’t say this bit of the brain does this and this bit does that.” The brain simply recruits what it requires. That leads us into the other extraordinary thing, the plasticity of the brain. It’s way beyond what most people realize. You’re a psychologist, you know this field very, very, very well. Most people outside our field simply do not know what seismic changes are taking place in psychology and brain right now. And related to all of that is what I love saying, is biology is not destiny. I think one of the most extraordinary things in the field has been the discovery that our genes, certainly the ones in the brain, do not determine our behavior. You know, we were all brought up on things like eye color and sweet peas, and you know, if Mummy and Daddy have blue eyes and little Johnny has brown eyes, Mum has some explaining to do. That simple idea doesn’t work in the brain. There, it turns out, that most of the genes are involved not in determining your behavior, but how you respond to the environment. And this constant interplay is, I think, a very remarkable thing, and it is also informing a lot of this integrated approach, that by doing the right medications, if that’s what’s needed, by doing the psychological material and so on, that all of those things together can have measurable physiological effects in the brain, the spine, in fact probably all over the body. And I think that’s a most incredible discovery. Biology is not destiny. They shape but they do not determine where you’re going.

MB: So if you blink, you just missed more breakthrough research developments, and the developments are becoming more optimistic all the time about our ability to be resilient.

RP: Absolutely. And if we have a real take-home message today – apart from the little thing on how to boost your energy, which is a little gift to everybody – it’s just realize that in the midst of all the bad news that we keep hearing about, there is just this extraordinary maelstrom of new, very positive information. And we’re even reconceptualizing things like how medicines work. I know we’re pretty much out of time today, but it’s a very interesting field. So you mentioned depression a few minutes ago; I’m going to leave you with a parting shot, that it now appears that antidepressants don’t anti-anything. What they do is they help to build resilience. Remarkable new discovery, but that’s something for another day perhaps. But it’s very important for people to know that there’s so much very interesting, new information, rock solid data, that have already had a major impact and is changing all of our lives. It’s wonderful.

MB: I love ending on a positive note, and I love the way you pull so many things together and make it simple and a few steps and common sense, that is not very common. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyle Radio, one of those places for you to go to get the kind of information that Dr. Petty’s talking about. Today’s expert guest is integrative health physician, Dr. Richard G. Petty. His website is www.RichardGPettyMD.com. And his book that puts it all together is Healing, Meaning, and Purpose. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at www.DrBrickey.com,  or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to www.DrBrickey.com.


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Gini MaddocksAnti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Movement Guru Gini Maddocks

Broadcast: 2-3-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

What if you could get rid of those aches and pains and have more energy–just by tweaking the way you stand, sit, walk, and move? Today’s guest expert is Gini Maddocks. She is a genius at teaching easy exercises and simple changes in what we do with our bodies—tweaks that make a huge difference. She is an award-winning author, educator, columnist, speaker, and licensed medical massage therapist. Her three time award winning book R&R: Rescue and Relief for Computer Users and those at Risk of Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI), is a gem that has step by step illustrations of the exercises she teaches. She also does hands-on therapy and workshops to get people to move and feel better. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look how to avoid aches and pains from using a computers and from how we stand and walk. Later in the show we’ll look at moving holistically to get more energy, aid digestion and address a number of health problems. Her website is http://www.holisticmatters.net/

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results. What if you could get rid of those aches and pains and have more energy, just by tweaking the way you stand, sit, and walk? Today’s guest expert is Gini Maddocks. She is a genius at teaching easy exercises and simple changes in what we do with our bodies, tweaks that make a huge difference. She’s an award-winning author, educator, columnist, speaker, and licensed medical massage therapist. Her three-time award-winning book,  R&R: Rescue and Relief for Computer Users and Those at Risk of Repetitive Motion Injury, is a gem that has step-by-step illustrations of the exercises she teachers. She also does hands-on therapy and workshops to get people to move and feel better. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look at how to avoid aches and pains from using computers and from how we stand and walk. Later in the show we’ll look at moving holistically to get more energy, better digestion, and address a number of health problems. Gini, you started as a social worker. How did you get to be a holistic movement expert?

GM: Well, I think actually it probably began before that. It probably is something that came from childhood, because I had some disabilities myself. I was one of those people at the tail-end of the Polio epidemic, and self-care was the biggest way that we approached my wellbeing. So I think I grew into the social work position because, at the time, it was the only way I could think of to try to impact people in large groups – thinking, not really – being a little naïve about what social work was, especially when you’ve got a mere four-year BA. So I had stars in my eyes and I thought this was the way I was – and you know, it was the ‘60s and ‘70s, so if you didn’t know what to do, you thought you were going to do social work and save the world. I kind of sobered up a little bit and realized there might be other ways of approaching that.

MB: But that got you on a holistic frame of mind and kind of set the canvas background?

GM: Yes, I would say that’s true. Plus the era – that era, that was sort of the holistic – that was like the dawning of holistic thinking, as far as – as least as far as I was concerned. You know, there was a push to go back to nature. And I started working at a health food store, which probably opened my eyes to alternative therapies and holism. So you know, I think it’s all part of the fabric you weave as you grow.

MB: Now, a lot of the exercises you developed were to help with your own health problems?

GM: That’s true. But you know, what really brings that home the most is computer work, because I’ve – you know, I’ve grown up, I’m in my 50s – I can’ believe I just admitted that. But you know, you grow up accommodating and adapting and finding ways to move. So I’ve had that in place for many years. But when I got a computer myself, I started feeling what so many of my clients present to me when they come to me as a massage therapist. It work me up to how what I was doing unconsciously all these years was working on what hurt or was uncomfortable in the moment, when I learned early on to address discomfort as soon as possible, because that really is the way to keep it from compounding. So then, when I started doing computer work, I realized, “Oh, my gosh, here’s a whole new set of problems.” Coupled with being a massage therapist, I myself have to watch out for carpal tunnel and all those issues that – I call them tissue issues – that come with that. So it’s something – it’s common sense. It’s common sense, but I started writing common sense down and developed a book out of it.

MB: Well, it’s common sense to you, but I think most people don’t see it.

GM: I’ve been accused of that before.

MB: You probably see somebody at a computer and internally gasp and say, “Oh, my God, the things they’re doing to themselves!” What do people do wrong at computers?

GM: We – and this is part of our society, but computers makes it worse – we are folded forward. In fact, you know, as our listeners are listening to this, they might check in on their bodies, and you and myself also. We probably have our shoulders folded forward, which is an inward rotation, and I’ll bet you that your head is sitting a few inches in front of the midline of your body. And most likely, there’s a belly bulge. And who knows what we’re doing with our legs and feet – I’ll bet they’re not sitting firmly and evenly on the floor. And when we do this position that I’m describing, we are prolapsing our organs together, which includes our lungs, and lungs need room to breath. So we’re inhibiting our very breath, our very life force. We can’t live without breath. And so when we impede that activity, a whole lot of other activities cascade. Hormones are released that we didn’t mean to be released and the body tries to make up for the stress of that poor posture.

MB: What hormones are getting released?

GM: Most people would know them as the stress hormones, the fight and flight hormones, because when our body is stressed, physically or through thought, through reaction to fear or danger, the hormone that’s released is the one that is meant to ready us for some sort of activity, evasion or fight. Well, that’s fine if it’s released when it’s necessary. But if it’s released continually, we deplete that ability and we set up a situation where the body thinks we’re its own enemy.

MB: So just having our shoulders forward like that for long periods of time is setting up the fight and flight response system?

GM: Isn’t that incredible? That’s the very truth. And here’s the thing that might get people even more than that, is that becomes fattening. When that becomes fattening, especially women, we’re going to pay attention to that.

MB: So how does that become fattening?

GM: Because the cortisol hormone – that’s part of what its issue is, is to shut down digestion and to store fat in case you need it. You know, when we were in the caves and we needed that fight and flight hormone probably on a daily basis, that was important. We needed to probably conserve what resources we had in our body at the time. But that’s certainly not true today.

MB: So nothing’s changed – we’ve gone from caves to cubicles.

GM: Ooh, that sounds like the title of a book.

MB: There you go. You know, we’re talking about breaking little habits that people have. How do you break that habit?

GM: This is so incredibly simple – and don’t confuse simple with easy, but you could talk yourself into thinking it’s easy, because repetition creates a habit. Repetition creates a habit. For instance, when you’re driving to work in the morning, let’s say you stop and get a Danish and coffee. Well, that’s fine. But if you stop the next day and get a Danish and coffee, by the third day your brain is telling you, “Oh, my gosh, I think I want some Danish and coffee.” And it’s that simple. So one of my little – I have these pet bottom line phrases that I call zingers, and one of them is: “Don’t confuse a habit for a trait.” When we say, “I always do this” or “I can’t do that” – and when we say that more than once, we start to talk our – we’re telling our brain what we want to be reinforced. So we need to stop and think, “Now, is that really what I want?” And if not, the way to start a new habit is simply do what you’d rather have. Do the desire that you want, repeatedly. Now, the trick is, is that really what you want? Because sometimes we want to cling to our bad habits because we’re getting some sort of reward. So what I say to that is create a new reward. Create a reward for the desired behavior, the one that makes you feel good about yourself.

MB: So at the computer, we want our shoulders back, our feet on the floor. How do you create a reward for that, other than Danish?

GM: This is one that takes trying it to believe it, but actually, when you start feeling better – and energy, to me, is a reward, and I think maybe the older you get the more you understand that the real fuel is not food. Our real fuel is energy, how much energy do we have to do all the things we need to do. And if we’re a little bit hedonistic and we want to get the most bang for our buck, energy becomes a really important commodity. And when you start sitting better and when your attitude reflects that posture – because that’s what’s happened – sometimes, if you can’t conjure up a good positive attitude, simply improving your posture facilitates that – then it becomes self-rewarding because you have more energy and you have a better attitude and it feels better to move when you don’t hurt.

MB: And part of that, too, then is listening to your body more and noticing the difference, otherwise you’ll miss the difference and slip back into the old habit.

GM: You know, I broke this down, just exactly what you’re saying, into four steps. I call it the healthy habit technique. And the first step is: Attend – paying attention. If you don’t even know there’s a problem, if you don’t know, your body will tell you eventually and it’s usually in the form of pain or fatigue, a bad taste in your mouth, and a bad mood. All these things are telling you all is not well in your world, and that’s the point to which you could pay attention, because everything’s vying for our attention. So our body does give us clues. But I believe, in the morning and at night before you go to bed, if you tell yourself, “I want those clues to come to the surface,” I think you start paying more attention to them, and then you can intercept them faster.

MB: I bet the one about bad taste in your mouth is a surprise to a lot of people. Is that back to the fight and flight syndrome?

GM: That, or it can be several things. It can be lack of water – that’s a real big one. We’re dehydrated because there’s so much in our environment that dehydrates us, and that fight and flight has a lot to do with that, too. When our hormones are in gear in that way, we require more water. But here’s the cool thing about drinking water. Not only does it help with that bad taste in your mouth, just on a cellular level, but the digestion of water creates molecules of energy, so it’s another way to fuel ourselves with energy. And then also, the thing about that bad taste, it can tell you that you’ve got a cold coming on and that you’ve got debris in your lungs, so maybe some deep breathing exercises could help clear that, if you’re listening. Or it could even be something intestinal, something to pay attention to and watch for and maybe – however you feel about alternative medicine – gets some herbs, do an intestinal cleanse. It’s hard to know exactly what it’s telling you, but it’s telling you something. So then you start asking for more information and paying attention to what suggestions your body gives you.

MB: So our first step was to attend, and our second step is…?

GM: Intend. The second step is, okay, you know that you’re feeling discomfort. You’re sitting at that computer and every day, let’s say, your eyes get tired. And so you pay attention to that, that you’re bleary-eyed and not breathing deeply. And so then you make an intention, meaning what would you rather have? And usually it’s going to be lack of pain or lack of that bleary feeling every day. It may be that you intend that you want more energy and that you want to feel better. Which would then bring us to the third step, which is the action step. And I call it pretend. Pretend is a play on words, because sometimes you have to make believe until you buy what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes, like when I work with people with weight issues, for instance – I had one woman say, “I can’t see myself, I can’t visualize myself as what I want to be. I can only visualize myself the way I am.” So you have to make sure that what you’re going to visualize or what you want to desire is something you believe you can accomplish. So you may think – in her case, she started visualizing herself slightly thinner, until she got there, and then she could go slightly thinner again. So when you’re sitting at the computer, you know, a thing you want to pretend is that – and by pretend, again, I mean practice – is that you’re going to do these exercises in my book or you’re going to use some common sense and know that you should look away from that screen for a few minutes, you should close your eyes and give it a rest.

MB: Just like the athlete picturing themselves making that touchdown catch.

GM: Exactly. It’s an interconnectedness that never stops.

MB: So are we at the fourth step now?

GM: The fourth step is – remember the thing about repetition, that a habit starts as repetition. And what research is showing that 21 days of sustained behavior will create a habit. So if you just practice it, then you depend on your new habit. So you’ve got attend, intend, pretend, and depend.

MB: With computer use, should we just focus on the habit of shoulders back, feet on the floor, and breathing well?

GM: I’m going to give you a new zinger-

MB: Okay.

GM: A new bottom-liner to remember, and it applies to posture everywhere, and particularly at computers, because what I’ve described to you is this posture we sit in actually shortens the muscles in the front of the body. So the muscles behind you, on the backside, are being overextended. So the muscles in the front, for the most part, we call flexors, and the muscles in the back we call extenders, and they’re always trying to keep us from falling forward, those muscles in the back. If we’re at a computer or any position longer than 12 minutes, our muscles will shrink to accommodate whatever that position is in, or overextend – whichever their role is in this posture. And then that becomes the habit. So when you stand up, for instance, after sitting at a computer or maybe being in your car, you feel stiff. And that’s because that has happened. All of your tissue has shrunk to fit that size – I mean, that position. The trick is, every time you get up – this is a back saver, this is probably the biggest thing I like to share with people because it can actually keep you from having back issues. Every time you get up, you should arch your back slightly in the opposite direction. And every time – like even if you’re sitting, you can do that with your shoulders by pulling your arms behind you and stretching in that position. So basically, everything that’s bent forward needs to be bent backwards. And you don’t have to do it to a degree that’s going to hurt you – use, again, a common sense about this – just enough to feel better. You’ll know when you try it. But the trick is to do it often, because if our tissue is solidifying in 12 minutes, then giving yourself a stretch in the morning or doing it at night when you get home, is not really enough to make the difference that I’m talking about. So we incorporate that, incorporate that into the way we’re doing things. Every time we get up, arch our back a little bit. While you’re sitting at the computer, do a shoulder shrug. Keep moving, and it doesn’t have to interrupt what you’re doing.

MB: So as long as we take a minute every 12 minutes, we’re going to be in a lot better shape.

GM: Tremendously, I promise it.

MB: I see some people sitting on gym balls. Is that a good thing to do?

GM: That is so interesting. There’s so much more to that than people understand. You know, I even think that there are implications that it would help – I haven’t seen research on this, this is just coming to me – but I think it would help with people who are hoping not to get Alzheimer’s. You know, a lot of us are trying to keep our brains active. Well, what that does is it stimulates the brain and all these balancing bodies called proprioceptors that we have in our bodies. And the proprioceptors are these little organelles – they’re everywhere, we don’t even know, you know, as people – we never pay any attention to them because they’re these little silent workers that are figuring out how to keep us from falling, how to be balanced. So when we sit on a ball like that, those little proprioceptors, they just wake right up and they keep us from falling over. It’s very stimulating to the brain.

MB: So we’re getting a micro-workout by sitting on a ball.

GM: Yes, that’s a good word for it.

MB: Should we be concerned about carpel tunnel syndrome and computers, and is there a wade to avoid it?

GM: Yes and yes. And we should watch it at early ages now, because children are doing so much with gaming. Basically, carpel tunnel is just one of many syndromes that have to do with doing things over and over and over. Repetitive motion injury has to do with a lot more than carpel tunnel, and many of the other syndromes accompany carpel tunnel. For instance, many people who have this issue will have a TMJ problem, because our bodies don’t just use one muscle at a time. They don’t use just one nerve pathway at a time. We are so interconnected that different syndromes are set up by the same repetitious behavior.

MB: And TMJ would be the tight, painful jaw.

GM: Yes, right. And basically, what I – another zinger I have for you is – and this has to do with carpel tunnel and TMJ and all that – is if we could just keep our muscles longer than our bones, we wouldn’t have all this problem. And the reason I say that is that our bones are connected by muscles which have these endings – they’re called tendons – that’s how we move. Now, if we had perfect muscle health and they were stretched out to the lengths that they’re meant to be for their optimum efficiency, we would not have any joint problems. But when, over time and over behaviors and bad postures and so forth, these muscles start to shorten. And that pulls the bones together at the joint, and then all kinds of problems start happening. And that’s basically what’s happening with carpel tunnel is we’re using our hands in such a way that shortening the muscles, which is shortening the tendons, which is compromising the joints and the blood vessels and the nerves and all that good stuff inside. And if we just knew how to warm up the tissue first and stretch it, we could keep our muscles longer than our bones.

MB: And it’s going to fit through that narrow opening better.

GM: Exactly. That’s that piece. But there’s so much you can do about it that, you know, I’m kind of painting a bleak picture, because it sounds like you have to be moving all the time, but it really doesn’t take that much to address it.

MB: What does it take?

GM: Movement. Movement’s a good one and an easy one, because you can move while you’re sitting in your chair. You can move by paying attention. Music helps – I find that music helps, anyway, and rubbing. And unless you’re already having a carpel tunnel syndrome that’s so severe that you can’t use one hand – you’ve got a tool, you know, you’ve got your hands. You can use balls. If you do have a carpel tunnel problem, you can use a tennis ball, you can use a handball, and you just create friction and warmth. That’s the bottom line about that. Yes, there are techniques for massage, and yes, there are better ways to do it. But basically, we have the tool and what we need to do is apply some pressure and some movement with that tool, and hey, you’ve got a self-massage going. And we should rub what hurts. We shouldn’t be afraid of that. So many people are afraid, “Oh, my gosh, if this hurts, rubbing it’s going to hurt it worse.” Well, you are the determiner of that, because when something hurts when you’re rubbing it, you can back off a little bit. If you rub it at that just tender, not so painful that it brings tears to your eyes, you’re actually flushing toxins from that site, and that’s what’s wrong. They need those toxins moved from that site. And it moves through your lymph channels. And moving it with your hands is the best way to do it.

MB: And what’s really nice about this is you can do these exercises while you’re watching TV, you’re at a traffic line, in the line at the post office or something. It doesn’t take any extra time.

GM: Exactly. And I made sure that they could be done in 30 seconds to a minute, even less in some cases. You know, there’s nothing to sitting in traffic and bringing your shoulders up under your ears and letting them drop and learning-

MB: You don’t have to stand on your head to do this, huh?

GM: That’s right, that’s right.

MB: Let’s take a break. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s expert guest is holistic movement expert Gini Maddocks. Her website is http://www.holisticmatters.net/. Notice that’s .net rather than .com. Her site has lots of tips and information on her blog and newsletter, and on her fabulous book, priced at only $21.95, with all those illustrations, it’s a steal. And her email address is mailto:Gini@holistichealthmatters.net. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it will take you to DrBrickey.com. Gini, what are the common problems people make with posture and walking?

GM: Yeah, and we’re too forwardly folded or inwardly rotated. We use our head to lead us instead of walking in a balanced way. You know, everything seems to be about balance. And even people who are bodybuilders and are really tuned into exercise, they tend to overdevelop their flexor muscles, their lifting muscles, and then the extensor muscles, the muscles that are meant to stabilize, and that’s usually our back muscles, they have to try to keep up, and they don’t have that capability. They’re not that kind of muscle. So balance is where we should be keeping our intention. Learning to – if we just kept the tissue warm, and we could start in the morning with a nice warm shower or basically pumping our arms and legs to get things moving – that really gets the tissue warmed up. The fascia is this interconnective tissue that gets cold, and when it gets cold it gets semisolid, so it makes us stiff. So if we kept ourselves warmed up through movement, through massage, through self-massage, through hot water – those kinds of things, things that common sense tells you makes you warmer – we would be able to move easier. And posture would not be such a sometimes crippling thing, and walking would be something that’s effortless, where we swing our hips and find a gait that’s comfortable. But it just takes a little bit of attention and then practice to make that happen.

MB: So we all should be swinging our hips.

GM: Yes, we should be swinging our hips. Sometimes this sounds crazy, but – and remember, I’m this person who had polio, so walking is not exactly the easiest thing for me. But I have found a gait, and I just – someone gave me this tip. They say, when you’re swinging your arms, pretend that the person in front of you is trying to hand you a coin, and so you’re trying to reach for that coin with your hands. Well, when you do that, you’ll notice that your legs start swinging along with your hands, and it becomes a gait. And there have been times I’ve been trying to walk up a hill, and that has saved me. It was like pulling me up the hill to have that swinging and that momentum going. And also, you just feel like your joints are well-greased. I don’t know how to explain it, but just try it and you’ll see what I mean.

MB: I remember things about imagining a string was pulling up your head. Does that help?

GM: Through the very center of your head. And that particular imagery goes a long way to correcting your entire posture. I encourage everybody to do this right now. Just imagine that there’s a string in the dead center of your head, and someone from above is going to yank your string, so to speak, and it’s going to pull you up so that – and this is important – your chin becomes parallel to the floor. This is really, really important. And the cool thing about that is you’ll notice that your stomach goes in where it belongs at the very same time, and that helps elongate your ribcage, which means your lungs have more room and your hips will be seated evenly on the seat you’re in. Or if you’re standing, you’ll notice that you’ll be standing with both feet with equal amounts of weight. So just that one image is really helpful.

MB: Now, something you said a few minutes ago – I would think that most people who exercise with equipment would be well-advised to really study whether the exercise is balancing the muscles instead of overdeveloping the – was it the flexors?

GM: Right, overdeveloping flexors, yes. I think that’s really true. I think that’s where some education is very important when you’re going to do weight training.

MB: Many people have one leg that’s longer than the other. Does that matter?

GM: It matters a lot. Often the diagnosis is a muscular diagnosis rather than the actual length of the bones. In fact, I think the research says 90% of people who have one leg longer than the other really have the musculature in their hip has contracted on one side more than the other, or it can even be low back. And it hikes and usually torques – which means twist – the pelvis in such a way that functionally one leg is longer than the other. The good news about that situation is it can be changed, it can be affected. But the only way to tell the difference actually is an X-ray.

MB: Who knows how to identify that and how to correct that?

GM: Any doctor that has access to X-rays would be able to do that. A chiropractor would be able to do. A massage therapist would not. But what you would do for both cases, as a massage therapist, would be virtually the same, even if it’s something that’s absolutely the bones are longer on that side of the body, you still would want to soften that tissue on both sides and make it so that the person could be as comfortable as possible. Whereas if it’s just the function of tense muscles in the gluteal part of the body – the buttocks and the hips and the lower back – same thing. You would want to soften that up and do some stretching and some heat, that kind of thing.

MB: And the X-ray you’re talking about is just of the hip area?

GM: No, they would need to do from hip, full length of the leg.

MB: All the way-

GM: Any of those bones could be part of the problem.

MB: All the way down to feet?

GM: Right.

MB: Speaking of feet, what do we need to know about taking care of our feet and how it affects everything else?

GM: Boy, your feet – I remember when I worked all day at the health food store on cement floors, and I had – my husband was kind enough that he would stop in during the middle of the day and we’d find a place somewhere in the back of the store and he would rub my feet. And oh, by gosh, it meant that I could work the rest of the day. It was just incredible. So for one thing, your feet can be an amazing healing tool, whether you believe in reflexology or not. And reflexology is the study of reflex places on the foot. That body of information is that there are places all over the body that can be affected by these places on the foot. On that level, healing goes on. But just in how it makes you feel, how it seems to ease the pain out of the rest of your body is healing in itself, because, remember, every single thing that happens sets off a cascade of hormones. And if you’re feeling something good, that has its own set of hormones just as well as the stress hormones that are released when something dangerous or fearful happens or stressful. So anything you can do to feel better is going to impact your entire body, and your feet is a wonderful place to start. So that also means that if your feet are uncomfortable, your whole body is going to translate that to discomfort. One of the things I suggest for people at work is to take another set of shoes and trade shoes during the day. Change shoes – that helps. And if you could sneak those shoes off and could bear without them, who knows – maybe you could even rub your own food. And I promise you you’re going to like it. It’s not quite as much fun as when someone else does it for you, but it still does the trick.

MB: Yeah, I hadn’t thought that the muscles are getting over-flexed or tight just from walking or standing and that a foot massage might do wonders.

GM: Just wonders. Really, we should have people coming through offices just to do that for people. And I also have this idea that, wouldn’t it be great when you wake up from surgery if someone – when you’re coming out of surgery – if someone were rubbing your feet when you came to?

MB: I think in hospitals and nursing homes they could cut medication by at least a third, just by having some massage therapists there to help out with the muscle pain.

GM: Maybe we could even train like what used to be Candy-Stripers, you know. If we could have muscle therapists going in and training people to do this so everybody got it. Boy, we might really heal people. Actually what it is, it’s facilitating their own healing.

MB: Anything we need to know about shoes?

GM: Shoes, of course – yes. And everybody – you know, I would never tell someone what kind of shoes to get because I know from my own problems that all feet are different, and I know from working on people, all feet are different. A lot of times people will go and get orthotics, which are inserts that help realign the body by the shape that the foot stays in when you’re using these orthotics. The only caution I have about that – I think that’s a good thing – but if you’re doing real therapy to change – say you’ve got one leg longer than the other – well, if you’re working on that and you’re doing therapy maybe with a massage therapist or a physical therapist or whatever, you’re on your own – if you’re going to change the way those tight muscles have been, you’re going to need to get different orthotics. So I would caution people to pay attention to that. If you have orthotics and now you’re really doing things and getting better and better, you might want to make sure that those orthotics are still serving you.

MB: So it’s like losing weight; you have to get a new wardrobe. And if you get healthier, you need new orthotics or maybe no orthotics.

GM: That’s right, that’s right. But yes, shoes are really important, so don’t put up with something that hurts. Don’t put up with something that hurts. Now, I did for many years, and because of the way my foot is shaped – and whoever invented those great soft thick soles on shoes, they changed my life. They really did. I can walk anywhere now. But before that, it was really difficult.

MB: At home, are we better off walking barefoot or wearing some kind of shoes or slippers?

GM: That depends on the person. For instance, being overweight is harder if you’re walking barefooted, because you run the risk of flattening your arch. So probably wearing shoes is a better idea. But then, if you’re thinking about needing to stimulate those reflex places on the bottom of your foot, it’s better to walk barefooted. So again, it’s an individual decision, I think. And probably balance is the best idea, so maybe do a little bit of both.

MB: I see shoes that have little spikes in them-

GM: Right.

MB: And there’s the shoes modeled after Masai warriors. Have you seen any that especially impressed you as helping a lot of people?

GM: Well, I know a lot of people really like Birkenstocks and I know some people like the Earth Shoes – with them you really have a different – oh, they kind of let your heels be lower than the front of your feet. Again, there are so many – how your body is set up and the posture you have depends on the patterns you’ve developed over the years. So what works for one person might not work for the other. Some people love those little nubs that are supposed to stimulate the reflex places; some people, it drives them crazy. So I wish I were more of an expert to say this and this and this would fit this and this and this type, but I think people just have to go try them on and see what works for them. I need the soft, cushy stuff. Some people would need a harder – something that’s more unyielding. It’s too varies to really give any kind of certainty to that.

MB: So you need to experiment and actually try them out for a few hours and see what works for you?

GM: You really do. And I find, you know, if you take them home and walk around in them and don’t get them dirty, more place will take them back than you think.

MB: Let me take a break. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today we’re talking to holistic movement expert Gini Maddocks. Her website is http://www.holisticmatters.net/. Make sure you’ve got .net there. Her site has lots of tips, information on her blog and newsletter, on her videos, and her fabulous book. And her email is mailto:Gini@holistichealthmatters.net. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and the free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or just go to NotAging.com. Gini, one of the things that you advocate is that walking better and moving better gives a lot more energy. How does that work?

GM: Almost all of our basic needs, I’ve noticed that if they’re done in balance, you get more energy from them. Like eating – you have to eat for energy, but if you eat too much, it takes your energy. And I’ve found that to be true about movement. When I have a workshop, we make a list of what gives us energy and what takes our energy. And movement is always one of the ones that you put in both columns. It gives us energy and it takes our energy if it’s out of balance. Many things are going on physically that metabolism is increased when you move, so they call that actually catabolism because the movement itself causes an energy molecule to be released. I almost – when you think about the chakras, the energy centers up and down the body in the Hindu way of looking at the energy systems of the body – you’re making that energy move from the bottom chakra up to the top when you’re moving, so that distributes energy. If you’re thinking about meridian, like acupuncture in Chinese medicine, the way they look at it, movement makes the energy move along these circuits in a more efficient way. And then if you think about physically the way Western medicine looks at the lymph system – now, the lymph system, you know, are these channels that take toxins and move them to the kidneys through the – and back to the heart, even – and distributes then the white blood cells and the things that are actually delivering nutrition – again, it’s movement and it’s only movement, as far as that’s concerned. The heart doesn’t pump that stuff; only movement does. So you’re not going to get nutrition to the rest of your body unless you move. There you go. There’s at least four different philosophies.

MB: So choose the brand that you like to explain it, but it works.

GM: Right, right.

MB: Rather than plastic surgery, are there exercises a person can do to have a more energetic, youthful face?

GM: That’s a really good question. Actually, this would probably surprise you, but I hang upside down towards that end.

MB: I would love to do that. I can’t figure out a place to hang the hooks on the inversion boots.

GM: Well, instead of the inversion boots, I have – and this is not quite as drastic – it’s a slantboard and it’s a freestanding one, so you actually strap your ankles in. And it’s like a teeter-totter – wherever you put your arms will then change the position you’re in. so finally, when you have your arms right above your head, you’ll tip almost, but not quite, upside down. It feels great. And what’s happening is that not only is it helping – it’s cheating gravity, is what it’s doing. We’re cheating gravity when we’re upside down like that. It’s also pulling the bones away from each other, like when I was describing what to do if you want your muscles to be longer than your bones. A pretty gentle traction – it’s a method of traction, so that if you hang there long enough, your nerves will tell your muscles to let go, your muscles will then elongate at the very tapered ends called the tendons, and you really do get longer. You can restore your height that way. And at the same time, you’re cheating gravity and you’re getting more circulation in your face. But beyond that, if you don’t do – and you can like hang off your bed, just to get some of that going for your head. But be careful – I don’t want anybody falling on their head. But another thing you can do is make sure that you’re gentle with your skin. Some of us have grown up treating our faces like we do everything else about our body, like it will always be okay. And we end up maybe with places where our skin is thinning and now we have dark places where we’ve kind of abused that part of our face. So what we need to do is be gentle and always stroke upward. You want to do strokes upward. And if you go to a massage therapist and she’s young or he’s young, they may not realize that. It’s your body; you take control. And if you’re think that they’re pulling downward on your face, just tell them you’re rather them do the upward stroke – so that kind of thing.

MB: So the inversion’s also going to help with disc problems. My father used to kid that he was being downsized and getting shorter. This will help prevent downsizing of your height.

GM: Yes, yes. Right. And you’d want to start out slowly at first, so that you can get those muscles that aren’t used to that elongation. You don’t want them to spasm in response, so just do it a couple of minutes at a time. And finally, I can do it for about a half an hour now. It’s where I meditate.

MB: One of the tips that you inadvertently gave us is one of the ways to tell a good massage therapist is whether they stroke upward on the face. How else would you judge whether a massage therapist is really doing what he or she should be doing?

GM: You would want to know how much training they have. But even so, that’s not always what constitutes a good massage therapist. But I must say that I was forced to go to massage school three different times because I move from state to state and that’s tricky. Licensing is not reciprocated from state to state. But with my education, I definitely became a better massage therapist. But also, probably you’re going to want someone who is intuitive and compassionate. And how you find that is tricky, too. You know, you might be good at – I would look – when I hit towns, for instance, a new town, and I want a massage, I go to the health food store and sometimes I go to the library. And it’s interesting. And at the library, I just ask people there. Librarians – if it’s a small area, librarians know their community really well. And a health food store, the same way. And sometimes you can find publications, free publications in the health industry, here, there, and everywhere, and they will have ads. And I intuitively look at the ads, and if they say holistic, I know they think like I do and I probably would find affinity to that. But maybe somebody doesn’t want that. Maybe somebody wants someone who’s just going to kind of shut up and rub them. And I think you’d be able to tell by the way they place their ads, and if they’re going to the trouble to do that, I think that tells you something about them, too. Sometimes you can see a person reflected even in their Yellow Page ad. That would not be me, though – I have one little line in there. I’m not sure how to tell you about that. And I trust – I sort of have good luck and I trust my luck. So the people I find seem to be the people I needed. So maybe if you set your intention that you want to find someone who’s really a good therapist for you, maybe the law of attraction kicks in.

MB: Okay. I’m reminded that I used to go to a massage therapist who was very, very good at the massage, but she was an unhappy, negative person. And after a while I just said, “This isn’t good for me.”
GM: That’s a good point. I think anything in the healing – including the MD that you might have to choose – I think somebody with a positive attitude is always going to be a better choice.

MB: Yeah. I mean, I’ve changed doctors just because I concluded the person was a pessimist and I want someone who’s looking for how something can be done instead of why it can’t be done.

GM: You know, I had – we didn’t talk about this yet, but I had breast cancer. What made the most difference to me was the surgeon on my way out after our consultation. He hugged me! And he said, “You’re going to get just fine.”

MB: Wow.

GM: And that just – it was like my grandpa was there! And it just meant so much. We need to follow our intuition in how someone makes us feel, because that’s part of our healing.

MB: One of the things I love about your exercises is they’re so simple, they’re so easy. You know, Pilates is very good, but you have to be a contortionist sometimes to do the exercises. But yours, you don’t have to get a sweat up or anything and you see the results so quickly.

GM: If someone would like to try this right now, it’s as simple as this. We could just turn our chin, keeping our nose and our forehead and our chin in alignment – just turn your head all the way to the right and look over your right shoulder, and stop where it feels a little painful, like a stretch. And then bring your chin back into the center. And then turn your head all the way to the left, and when you get to where it stops, look – look and see what you can see. Where’s your area of vision? Now turn your head back to center and then go back to the right again. And low and behold, your head goes further around the other way. You can see further, just by that little exercise. And if your head goes all the way around, then you’ve got a whole ‘nother issue going.

MB: Head-spinning, huh?

GM: Yeah.

MB: So that little exercise alone is also going to help with the computer use.

GM: Exactly. That’s one of my favorites. And it’s a dramatic one, because it’s so fast already. That’s all your muscles needed. And if you do it three times, you’ll be really amazed at how far around you get. And it’s that fast and then you go right back to work. I teach in the book breathing along with it, because basically, when you’re doing the stretch, you’re exhaling, and when you’re returning from the stretch, you’re inhaling. And you’re feeding your body when you do that. And after a while, because your body knows it needs it, it adopts that as the habit very easily, because it does know that you need it.

MB: Gini, in my book, you’re part of a long tradition of therapists who solve their own problems to develop systems, like Frederick Alexander with voice problems, and Moshé Feldenkrais with knee problems, and Pilates who had asthma and rickets and rheumatoid fever. I think it’s wonderful the way you’ve come up with such easy-to-do exercises that incorporate balance and just bring everything together so holistically – the breathing, the energy, the digestion, the posture – literally from head to toe. You really are a gem.

GM: Ah, I love being included along with all those people. That’s – thank you so very much.

MB: And you’ve got an advantage over them. Some of them have passed on.

GM: Hey, that’s right, that’s right. That’s a wonderful thing to think about. And it feels better to feel better. And indeed, need is the mother of invention. You know, without those difficulties, perhaps we never would’ve gotten around to finding out these things. So there really is a blessing in everything.

MB: And I think it starts with believing that there must be a better way, and I’m going to find out how to feel better when I walk and sit at a computer, and everything else I do.

GM: Right. And if I can help people know that you don’t have to keep hurting in the same way, then, boy, that really makes me feel like I’ve been here for a purpose.

MB: Thank you so much for being with us. You’ve been listening to America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr, Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s expert guest is holistic movement expert Gini Maddocks. Her website is HolisticMatters.net – make sure you get .net. Her site has lots of tips and information about her blog and newsletter and videos and her fabulous book. Her email is Gini@holisticmatters.net. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com. I’d love to get your feedback and comments. You can send them to radio@drbrickey.com.

 

Stay Young with Humor

February 25, 2008

Humorist Kay FrancesAnti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Motivational Humorist Kay Frances

Broadcast: 1-26-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Kay Frances is a professional speaker and professional emcee who loves to give a healthy dose of humor. She has a keen interest in health and staying youthful. In her career as a top standup comedienne, she performed in 38 states and even performed for the all male inmates at Riker’s Island prison. She is the host the TV program, Happy Hour with Kay Frances: Health, Humor, and Healing. Her website is http://www.KayFrances.com  

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results. Today’s expert is Kay Frances. Kay Frances is a motivational humorist, professional speaker, and professional emcee who loves to give a healthy dose of humor. She has a keen interest in health and staying youthful. In her previous life as a top standup comedienne, she performed in 38 states and even the all-male institution at Rikers Island Prison. She is host of the TV program, “Happy Hour with Kay Frances: Health, Humor and Healing.” Kay, before I met you a few years ago at the National Speakers Association Meeting, I heard you at the Funnybone Comedy Club. And I remember I was so impressed, I bought your tape in the back of the room. I remember it well. It was “You Don’t Mess with a Woman with PMS.”

KF: Well, I’ve since graduated to menopause, but you know, the principles are the same. And I always say that PMS is just dress rehearsal for the Big M, so…

MB: Okay. Well, how in the world did you get from being a top standup comedienne to being a motivational humorist?

KF: My whole life’s career and path would appear checkered to anyone else but me, and luckily it now sort of all makes sense. And then without boring you with my entire life story, I did start off with a degree in physical education, so I actually have been sort of a fan of wellness, but I decided I didn’t want to teach. So I went into the corporate world for a while and ended up in standup comedy – again, kind of a long story in and of itself. But I’ve done standup for a number of years and, as you mentioned, lived in New York City. And I came back to Ohio, where I’m from, when my Dad passed away, and I just intended to stay about six months and just sort of regroup and help Mom out. And as it turned out, Mom had been taking care of my Dad and was actually a little sicker than we thought, and so six months turned into a year, which turned into two years, which turned into seven years I actually ended up taking care of my Mom. And during that time, I actually – that’s when I really, really began to see the value of humor, you know, dealing with terminal illness and so forth. And after she passed away, I just tried to go back to standup and just felt like I had a little more to say. And by then, I had really become a health and wellness advocate. And speaking of this aging thing, one of the reasons I’m such an advocate of taking care of ourselves is because I did lose my mother – she was only 77, and from where I’m standing at 52, that doesn’t seem very old. And my Dad was barely 70. And all of my grandparents were gone before they were 60. So I’ve had to really take a look at this and determine, well, gosh – I have a really bad genetic hand. If it’s genetics, I mean, I have like five minutes left to live. I’m not even going to make it through this interview, the way it’s looking.

MB: So you looked at this and said, “This is a real wake-up call.” You tell me that you’re actually healthier now than you were 20 years. How’d you do that?

KF: Yes, it’s crazy! Well, I told you I started off with health and wellness, with the physical education, and then it all kind of went south for awhile. I was a smoker, I drank heavily. I was never overweight – yet – but I was not very healthy. Of course, you can get away with that when you’re in your 20s and 30s, and then your body becomes less forgiving. And so it was in my 40s, and really during the time with Mom, I needed my energy. I really did. So I gave up smoking and I started exercising. Well, I did gain some weight.

MB: How did you quit the smoking?

KF: I had tried about everything, and I started smoking in high school, so I’d smoked 25 years. And my friends said I would never quit. My roommate in college said, “Here, Kay – the alarm clock goes off, Kay lights a cigarette and turns off the alarm.” And people were telling me, “Oh, you’ll never quit.” I just – it was just time. I was 41 years old. I always said I don’t want to be smoking when I’m 40. And what happened to work this time was that I had everything else in place. I had already quit drinking, I had already started exercising, drinking water, everything they say you’re supposed to do. And I just decided it was time. And the only thing that was different between this time and all the other times that I tried to quit is that I did use the patch, because I do think we need a little help getting over the physical part of it, because I had dealt with the mental and the social and I had, you know – oh, I understood my addiction inside and out. So I used the patch for about eight weeks and it really did help wean me off of the physical part.

MB: So you did a lot of stage-setting before you really made the all-out effort, including the patch.

KF: I did. And I also had one slight mental shift, in that I decided to take it one day at a time. And you know, this will sound so strange, but I have been off of the cigarettes for 11 years now and I still occasionally will get an urge. And I’ll say to myself, “Well, maybe I will tomorrow, but for today I’m not going to. Today I’m going to choose not to.” So it was different than saying, “I have to give this up forever and ever.” I just felt like I had an inner rebel that would say, “Oh, no, I’m not!” and would fight it. Whereas I – I mean, that sounds so crazy, but I’d say, “You’re an adult, you can do what you want.” And I’d start my self-talk and sort of try to talk myself off the ledge, you know. I’d say, “Fine, you can smoke. But remember, you probably won’t be able to have the workouts that you have.” My skin looks better, I feel better, I have more energy that I did in my 30s, and I’m 52. So that’s part of why I feel better today than I did when I was younger as a smoker – and also, just eating bad and, you know, not taking care of myself overall. And now I do much, much better. I’m not perfect. I believe in progress, not perfection. I’ve had cake as recent as yesterday. But moderation – I think the key is balance and moderation, and of course that ever-ever-important mental attitude.

MB: Now, Kay, I know you’re not really a moderate person. I mean getting healthier wasn’t enough – you went and got a third degree Black Belt?

KF: That’s true. You know, you are right. The moderation page seems to have been ripped out of my dictionary. But at least now when I’m obsessive, it’s over something a little healthier than what I used to do. But as I got into karate, those were the years when I was taking care of Mom and I really needed somewhere to release my stress. And what a great thing to do, to not only get to pound on bags, but other people. I mean, it’s great! So I started studying, and I never set out to get a Black Belt, but you know, it was just taking it one day at a time. And after three and a half years, my instructor, who was 28 years old at the time, said, “You know, it’s about time to start talking about getting your Black Belt.” Well, I couldn’t have been more surprised. And I said, “Really?” He said, “Yes! You’re very good and you know your requirements.” And he never said, “…for your age.” It was just, I was good! And I appreciated that he wasn’t into ages; he just saw me as one of his students and he was as hard on me as he was-

MB: Well, maybe you were so good, he was afraid you’d beat him up. I mean-

KF: Well, there’s that, too, yes. I was at the peak of my training and he was getting a little pooch on him there, you know.

MB: Has the Black Belt helped your humor, as well?

KF: Well, everything’s tied together. You know, life is life. Humor is just one way that – it’s in my toolbox. It used to be, when my life was a lot more out of balance, when I did standup comedy, it was too much. Everything was humor. I would sometimes use it as an escape. And I would say it’s more in balance now, if that makes sense. I still think it’s very, very important – and one of the reasons I am a humorist is I still think it’s important to encourage people to keep a light heart and a positive attitude, because I think that’s lacking. I think in other people’s toolboxes, it gets sort of ignored, especially in really important matters like serious illness, death – you know, there are all the stages of grief which, of course, we can’t ignore them. We have to go through all of them. We have to feel our feelings. We can’t stuff them and hide behind laughter, but we certainly have to give ourselves permission. And it’s just so backwards in our society. It’s viewed as silly, frivolous and unnecessary. We’re told growing up, “Straighten up, get serious. What’s that messing around?” It’s sort of synonymous with horseplay, and it’s not.

MB: Oh, I’m a big believer that humor is one of the most complicated, intellectually stimulating things we can do. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, the IQ test, one of the 11 subtests is arranging cartoon pictures to tell a story. For immigrants, humor is one of the last things they get, because you have to have a good understanding of the culture, you have to have a good understanding of the language, and that’s just to get the joke. To tell the joke, you have to be able to remember it, you have to have timing, and you have to be able to read the audience. Getting some humor in your life every day is one of the best things that you can do for your mind and your spirit.

KF: Oh, I absolutely agree. Well, this is my life’s work. I’m really glad to hear that there’s a lot of research to back it up, because I’ve known it sort of organically. And all those years of standup – I mean, you meet people and they tell you, “Oh, my gosh, I needed to laugh. I just don’t laugh enough.” I heard this constantly for years, and that was one of the reasons I decided that I wanted to delve more into this therapeutic humor, because there’s really a need for it. And it’s important. It’s not just, “Oh, it makes you feel good.” I mean, there’s a lot of physiological benefits to humor and laughter. I mean, even it works your cardiovascular system, your muscles, helps fight disease and infection. I mean, stress management – stress sends us to the doctor for anywhere from 70 to 90% of our diseases and illnesses.

MB: And our immune system doesn’t even have a pump like our heart, so if you don’t laugh to get the movement going or doing some exercise, you’re not going to get full benefit from your immune system. Kay, one thing I was curious about – you know, I occasionally have fantasies of “Wouldn’t it be fun to be a standup comedian?” And then I look at these guys and it seems to me like it’s a terribly unhealthy lifestyle, being on the road. And I picture, frankly, excesses of drinking and maybe even drugs, to boot. Is it an unhealthy lifestyle?

KF: It certainly can be. You know, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and when you’re doing standup comedy on the road, you have a lot of free time. A lot – I mean, yes and no. I mean, we’d say we work an hour a day. It’s not like we’re quite that slovenly, but kind of. And you know, it can really take a toll on your emotionally. Sometimes it takes hours and hours to even come down from a show, to be able to sleep. And the next day you could be really tired. So it’s – yeah, it’s maybe not the same as an hour spent behind the computer. It’s a little different when you’re up there and you have the responsibility of an entire group of strangers. Their good time is in your hands. And you can’t turn around and blame the band or the manager or the economy – I mean, it’s just you up there and the audience. And it sort of does – and I think with a lot of comedians – and there, again, having known literally hundreds of them, and it was an interesting study in human behavior to live and work with comedians – it did seem that we all were somewhat dysfunctional to get into it. There were often a need for a lot of affirmation and validation. Because it’s different than actors, because actors – like, say you’re doing a stage play – you may not get any real validation until the very end and then you’re sharing it with other people, and then you may have to wait for the reviews to come out. Well, look at a movie – it takes months to make a movie. And with standup, the validation is immediate. Immediately you’re getting that affection and love, because they agree with you, and they’re showing their agreement with their laughter. And it’s apparent and it’s public. The downside of that, of course, is when they don’t agree with you and they hate you, and then that’s public, as well. And so it’s a form of public humiliation, basically. So you have to be a little masochistic to go into this to start with, because everybody has bad shows. Even Jerry Seinfeld, after his TV show, with all his fame and all this fortune, he did that standup tour to make that movie – he had bad shows. And we’re talking Jerry Seinfeld!

MB: He’s almost as good as you are, isn’t he?

KF: Yeah, I could only hope to ever be as good as Jerry Seinfeld. And he’s so wise. I always enjoy hearing interviews. He just had an interview in Oprah Magazine with Oprah, and it was just – he always has such an interesting take on standup and just life in general, and I just have a tremendous admiration for him. Met him one time – namedrop, namedrop – when I lived in New York. He’s quite short. I think people would be surprised to know that. Well, he’s not – well, compared to me, everybody’s short. But he’s about 5’7″, 5’8″, something like that.

MB: One of the things that concerns me about humor is that so much of the aging humor is negative stuff about geezers and over-the-hills and granny that’s sex-starved or something. And one of the things that you do is try to put a healthy spin on humor about aging and about health.

KF: Well, I do. And I will say this. If there is humor, there’s a grain of truth somewhere. But we are redefining aging. And that’s not just because we Baby Boomers are too stubborn to get old. There may be an element of that, because our generation is certainly kicking and screaming. We don’t want to be our parents and grandparents, particularly in terms of the disease and illness, which is not inevitable – and we have so many advances in our knowledge now and our medicine and our – like you say, the whole holistic approach to health and wellness and aging that we’ve come to see where a lot of it is a choice. And so the thing is, those jokes really don’t hold – they’re losing their truth. So they’re not funny because there’s not truth to them, so-

MB: I love the idea that they’re outdated.

KF: They’re outdated! That’s just it. Oh, gosh, I’m getting a lot of funnier ones now. I got one with the older people on the treadmill singing the parody to “Get Your Motor Running.” Did you ever – it was all over the internet.

MB: No, I haven’t heard that.

KF: It’s very funny. And it’s just a whole different take. It had the grandparents up there on the treadmill running and talking about their motorcycle and their this and their that – because people are living longer and they’re living much more vibrant lives. But you know, the interesting part of that – and I wanted to bring this up and have you talk to me a little bit about this, because we had discussed this one other time – is about that aging is very much a choice. And you had told me one time about the study, I believe, done on twins. And you had said that something like 30% of our diseases, illness, aging was genetic, that there’s little we can do about it. But something like 70% was within our control?

MB: It was Scandinavian research where they took identical twins and fraternal twins, studied them over a lifetime, crunched the numbers, and came up with 30% of their longevity was due to genetics. I think in our country, it’s probably even less than that, because the Scandinavian countries are pretty homogeneous in terms of social class and lifestyle, where we have a lot more variety here. So rule of thumb here is only 25% is genetic, which means that 75% is going to be your thinking and the lifestyle that you choose. That’s pretty good odds.

KF: Well, see, I find that very freeing. I think a lot of people want to look to genetics first, because it can be a handy excuse.

MB: And on top of that, genetics is going to become less and important as we get into genetic engineering and correct genetic weaknesses. And we’re getting so many other medical advances that more and more of it is what you do with your mind and your lifestyle.

KF: Oh, I couldn’t agree more. And well, I had to come to this conclusion, without even a scientific basis or like that – I’ve got like five minutes left to live. But I had to really take a good look at my grandparents and parents and realize that I lot of it was lifestyle choices. I know that. Type 2 adult-onset diabetes is a great percent – I don’t know the exact percentage – but it has a lot to do with obesity and lack of exercise and all those things. It’s not inevitable. So because my grandfather and my mother had diabetes does not mean that it is a shoe-in for me. And same with high blood pressure.

MB: Kay, you talked earlier about how the Karate helped you cope with being a caretaker. How did humor come into play in dealing with the stresses of being a caretaker with your mother?

KF: Oh, my gosh! Well, I learned from her. She had such a wonderful sense of humor. I’m not kidding you, Dr. Brickey. She was in the hospice facility with five days left to live – no one, of course, really knew it was five days – you never know – but I don’t think they believed that she’d stay there. I mean, I don’t think anyone believed – even though you could read her chart and her numbers and it was horrendous, the sort of diseases and illnesses she was carrying, but she still had this fantastic attitude. And she lived much longer than anyone ever expected her to with the sorts of things she was dealing with. But she had such a sunny attitude. The first time we went there – one of my sisters was very worried about her going to hospice. She was, “Oh, she’s just going off to die,” and all this. Well, you know, she was completely out of options at that point and we just wanted her to be comfortable. And again, we didn’t know – she could’ve lived for several months – nobody really knows. But we checked in the facility and she looked around and she said, “You tell your sister I’m in a beautiful place and I am completely happy.” I mean, this is a woman that couldn’t get out of bed.

MB: She was taking care of you guys.

KF: Yes! Yes, exactly. And I’ll never forget that. And it still just brings almost tears to my eyes, is that – I mean, she got to where she was pretty much confined only to her room, her bedroom, you know, before she went into the hospital and then went into hospice and so forth. But one time I had a bad cold, and I lived two rooms away – I lived in the house with her – and had a bad, bad cold. And she barely left her room, and she had her walker and a cane – you know, it was very, very difficult for her to walk. And I heard her milling around in the kitchen, and usually she would ask me if she needed something. I’m telling you, it took everything she had just to get up and walk across the room. I heard her milling around in the kitchen and I just felt like death warmed over – but you know, still getting my job done with her and so forth. But I was in bed and just -oh, you know. Here she comes with her walker and this cup of hot chocolate sloshing out of this cup, when she – I mean, I’m telling you, she just wanted to help me. She wanted me to feel better. So she had taken everything she had to make that hot chocolate in the microwave. And then here she came, you know, one inch at a time, bringing it in to give to me.

MB: Wow.

KF: But you know, I never thought of her as old. But there again, 77 – that isn’t old. She had an illness – now there’s a difference.

MB: Well, she probably never thought of herself as old.

KF: She did not. And I got that from her. She always said age is a frame of mind, and she always talked about aging gracefully and, you know, that sort of thing – which I’m not sure if I agree with that. I’m not even sure what that means.

MB: Oh, I don’t want to be graceful about it.

KF: I know, I’m kicking and screaming.

MB: I’m kicking and screaming.

KF: I know. Well, she did, too, to a degree. I mean, she was going to the YMCA up until a year before she died and she was on a walker then, and she would walk all the way back to the back to the swimming pool and get in the lift chair and it would lift her into the water, and she would take the arthritis swim class. So she did the best she could as long as she could.

MB: Just wouldn’t quit.

KF: No, no. She was – she made some poor choices, and you know what? She stood by her choices, though. She stood by the poor choices that she made. She never blamed anyone else and she took responsibility for it.

MB: Let me take a brief break here. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyle Radio, your source for cutting edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s guest is motivational humorist Kay Frances. Her website is http://www.kayfrances.com/. And her email is OhioFunnyLady@yahoo.com. And of course, for a comedian, it has to be yahoo.com.

KF: It’s got to be yahoo, of course.

MB: Information on anti-aging psychology is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to DrBrickey.com. I’d love to get your feedback and comments. Just send them to radio@drbrickey.com. Kay, one of the things you talk about is aging inappropriately. What do you mean by that?

KF: I think we should be happy with wherever we are in our age. I think we spend a lot of our lives wanting to be older or younger than we are, and we pay so much attention to that number. And was it Satchel Paige that said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

MB: Exactly.

KF: And I believe that’s true. You know, when you’re young, you’re, “I’m three and a half!” I mean, you want to add the halves on. And we do that for a while. Then we can’t wait to become a teenager. Then we want to be 16. Then we want to be 18. Then we want to be 21. Then we start dreading 30, and it starts going backwards from there. And then we hit about 80 and we start bragging about our age again. And then we hit 90 and it’s “90 and a half,” “91 and a half.”

MB: Exactly. I had a woman in a seminar once who raised her hand and she said, “I’m 97…and a half.”

KF: Well, yeah. But that – I’m concerned about that middle part. You know, when you’re young, you don’t know better. You don’t know to quit wishing you were other than where you are. I think by the time you get to be 30, let’s say, you should begin to realize that you should embrace the moment and the present and where you are and be happy with it. I don’t understand not telling your age. Now, there are differing people with different points of view, and maybe when I’m 60 or 70 or 80, I’ll feel differently about that. But at 52, I just – I want to stop that. You know, we say, “Society says…” and “Society’s youth-obsessed.” You know what? We are society.

MB: I think you’ve already decided to not buy in to what society says.

KF: No, I’m not. And I could just be a good example. And I’d like younger people to go, “Well, gosh. 52’s not so bad. Look at her! She’s having a great time,” you know.

MB: One of the things that you do so well is story-telling. That’s really what makes the humor so memorable. I especially love the story about when your father died.

KF: Oh, yeah. You know, when someone passes away – good gosh, my Mom lost her mate of almost 50 years. She was not yucking it up. It’s inappropriate – no, I don’t want to use that word “inappropriate.” I don’t mean inappropriate. It’s not natural to necessarily want to laugh when something horrendous has happened in your life. However, that said, I think that it is such a wonderful tool to have as part of your grief toolbox, that when the gifts of laughter come up, you just have to take them and run with them. And it may be that day, it might be a month later, it might be two months later. Well, the particular story – I know the one you’re talking about – it was a couple of month after my Dad passed away. And Mom and I were talking, and I knew the story. She had gone in to get him up – it was early in the morning, it was about 7:00 in the morning, and the phone had rang and my Dad had gotten a phone call. Well, she went to go wake him and had discovered that he was gone. He had passed away in his sleep. And so that’s the story. Well, a couple of months later, of course, I get to thinking about it and I said, “Mom, what did you tell the person on the phone?” And she goes, “I told them that he can’t come to the phone right now.” “Did you take a…?” She took a message! I mean, we started laughing. And I’m telling you, we must’ve laughed for 30 minutes. And it was just – you know, she was laughing at herself, at how silly she was. And you know, she was able to have enough distance from the situation where she could put it in perspective and have a good, hearty laugh. And I’m telling you, it made her feel fantastic. She’d been, you know, grief-stricken for two months. And to be able to enjoy a good, hearty laugh was invaluable. I mean, it made her feel terrific.

MB: I think that would’ve been a real long-distance call.

KF: Yeah, exactly. But she went – and that just shows you how you go into shock, and she’s such a responsible person, too – that’s part of what you’d have to know. She’s just so ultra-dependable and responsible, you know. And that would be her, to go and take a – she would never leave the person just hanging. She would go and take a message.

MB: You also had a centenarian neighbor, Pearl?

KF: Oh, Pearl – yeah. Oh, my gosh. Pearl – this is another person that just inspires so much. You know, Dr. Brickey, I always said I want to be a cool old lady. And these women – obviously not an old man, that’s not going to happen in this life, but I love cool old men, too. But I want to be a cool old lady. I want to be Pearl. I want to be Pearl. Pearl lived to be 103 years old and she was my neighbor until she was 101, and she lived in her own home until she was 101 years old. You would see Pearl out in her yard, doing her yard with a manual push mower – not a gas-powered one. 101 years old, doing her flowers – well, the joke around the neighborhood, you get a couple of inches of snow and you go, “Oh, man, my back kind of hurts. Let’s go see if Pearl’s busy. See if she can come shovel us out.” Because she just was so vibrant, had so much energy. But the thing about Pearl, it wasn’t until you really stopped to think about her age that you realized how incredible it was, the things she was doing, because you would just think she was a lady out there working in her yard. She was ageless. There was an ageless quality about her. But she had a fantastic sense of humor. And she was so fun and so funny that literally you had to call and get an appointment to go visit with her, because she was so busy. She had so many friends and so many people – it wasn’t like the obligatory “go visit the old person and make you feel good about yourself” type of stereotype. No, you went to visit Pearl because Pearl was a lot of fun. So Mom and I went to visit her. We walked in and Pearl helps us take our coats off, all right, and we sat down to enjoy a nice visit. Well, Pearl and my mother had been schoolteachers together years before. And so Pearl starts telling this story – she always had fantastic stories. She said, “Eleanor” – that was my Mom’s name – she said, “Do you remember the time we were driving to school. I was driving” – and I’m doing my Pearl voice, because she was very proper. She always wore dresses around the house, and hose – very proper lady. She said, “Do you remember the time we were driving to school. I was driving and Mary Lou Berger was in the passenger seat and you were in the backseat. Do you remember that, Eleanor?” And Mom said, “Well, yes, Pearl. But which time? We rode together for years.” She goes, “Well, on this particular morning, we drove past this house and there was a naked man standing in the picture window. Do you remember that now, Eleanor?” And my Mom was kind of blushing, and I go, “Mom, you never told me this story.” I said, “Well, what happened, Pearl?” She goes, “Well, your mother missed it, so we had to drive back by!” I mean, she threw her head back and just cackled. She was laughing at my Mom’s red face, she was laughing at the story, she was laughing at me because I was laughing. And I mean, we just enjoyed the biggest, heartiest laugh. And it occurred to me right there in that moment – and this was years ago – I thought, “Wow, this is why this lady is sitting across from me and I’m here visiting her, and why she’s 101 years old, living here by herself in her car – in her house.”

MB: Wow.

KF: Living in her car – I was thinking about her car as I was telling that story. She also told us that she stopped driving at 100. She didn’t have to. She said she just missed one little light on the side of the vision test. With a twinkle in her eye, she said, “You know, you can retake the test at another county.” She thought, “Well, you know” – she said, “I suppose maybe it’s time.” But you know, 100 years old is not too shabby to keep driving.

MB: That’s impressive.

KF: But the thing was, Dr. Brickey, her funeral was sad. It was sad. Wouldn’t it be nice to go out at 103 or 110 or 115 and have your funeral be said? Instead of, “Oh, well, my gosh, they had a full, happy life.” No, no, no – we were going to miss her. Her son was 82.

MB: Wow.

KF: He was crying! It was his mamma. He’d had her 82 years.

MB: Geez.

KF: I always said the only people that weren’t upset was the State Teacher Retirement System.

MB: How can humor help us cope with death and dying?

KF: It’s sort of as I was saying – I just think it needs to be part of your grief toolbox. And I think we have to allow ourselves permission to have a light heart. And one thing that humor does – I’m not just talking about laugher, I’m talking about lightheartedness – it helps give you perspective. And you know what they say at a funeral that will bring people together and lighten your heart faster than anything? It’s a child or a baby. I was talking to a funeral director and he said that that’s the one unifying factor that will lighten everyone’s heart. There’s something life-affirming about it, and then their antics, of course. But he said you can have a funeral where of course there’s warring factions – you’ve got divorced parties and exes and this and that, and you can feel the tension in the air, or you know, problems with the will, or fighting brothers and sisters. And you bring a baby or a toddler in the room and everybody’s heart goes warm.

MB: Yeah, but I think that rent-a-baby for a funeral business is tacky.

KF: Hey, but there’s my first million! I’m not above it. And I just think humor helps us to reframe and to gain perspective. And prolonged grief does not benefit anyone. They say it’s not even good for the person that left – and there again, any of these kind of theories are just theories, because I don’t think any of us really know until we slide over the slippery log, as my Dad used to say. But prolonged grief can be selfish, too.

MB: I’ve had a lot of people get unstuck just by asking them what the person would have wanted them to do, and would they want you stuck in grief like this, or would they want you going on and passing the love and other lessons that they taught you? And it’s amazing how that can get people going again.

KF: Right, right. That’s excellent.

MB: Optimism is one of the key traits for people who live well into their hundreds and are still healthy and sharp. Does humor play a role in optimism, as well?

KF: I think humor and optimism go hand-in-hand. They’re not quite synonymous, but very, very close. They’re part of the same energy, which is joy and happiness and laughter and optimism – that’s all part of that. It’s all part of that energy that uplifts us rather than pulls us down. Anytime we’re in that energy that pulls us down – anger, frustration – it’s very difficult on our body. It’s hard on our organs, it squeezes our capillaries. Stress and tension, that fight-or-flight syndrome that we tend to like to live in, it wears out our adrenals – I mean, everything – it’s horrible on your body and your health. Whereas when you’re openhearted, you are allowing your blood to flow, your oxygen goes to your muscles. Now, I do make the point, laughter – it’s not all you can do. I mean, obviously, we see the people that are 400 pounds and they’re quite jolly. But that’s not going to mean they’re going to live to be 100. We’ve got to embrace everything. But I think if you have – well, everything, in terms of your fitness and you’re eating right and drinking water and all of that. But the attitude thing – I think if you have that, the other things will sort of fall into place, because if you have a good light heart, then you’re going to manage your addictive behaviors.

MB: Very true. Any suggestions on how people can add some humor to their daily life?

KF: I think it’s the same as drinking your daily water or taking your daily shower. It needs to be definitely part of your day. Sometimes you can keep a light heart or keep your balance just be choosing your input and now allowing negativity to come in. In other words, decide and choose a good frame of mind, hearken back to something that makes you laugh. I keep a file in my computer called “Keepers.” And it’s funny videos or even pictures of animals that are real cute or children or anything that kind of makes you smile or laugh or – and just go open up that file and look at things that make you smile and laugh.

MB: Oh, I love that idea. That’s wonderful.

KF: Yeah, and some days, like when I read the newspaper – I think the morning newspaper can really set the tone for our day. And if I wake up feeling kind of negative – maybe I’ve got a crick in my neck, a little headache, didn’t sleep so well – the last thing I need to do is pick up the newspaper and read the Op-Ed page and get all aggravated at what’s going on in the world.

MB: Oh, I think they ought to put the comics on the front page and the news on the back page.

KF: Yeah, you’re right! I think you’re right. And I think the evening news is a very dangerous thing to watch right before you go to bed.

MB: To watch news on TV is very unhealthy, because you see an image like, say, the World Trade Center collapsing, and that gets planted in your brain. And worse than that, they show it over and over again, and then they switch to some crime feature for three minutes, and before you get the chance to catch your breath from that, you get another bad news and another bad news, and you get all this stuff stuffed in your brain with pictures of it, and you can’t do much about it.

KF: And it’s when we’re most vulnerable. We’re tired, our defenses are down – it’s right before we go to bed.

MB: I encourage people to get their news in print or from the radio, not from watching the traditional TV program. If you want to watch the talking heads, okay, but not all the crime and tragedy stuff on the 6:00 news.

KF: Well, even the talking heads, sometimes – you know, and we can get ourselves so worked up over things going on. Now, take for example this presidential election – I just don’t want to get so wrapped up in it that I’m so involved that I’m irritated and aggravated every minute of every day, but I want to be informed and involved.

MB: Yeah, unless you don’t take it any more seriously than big-time wrestling that they’re putting on a good show for us.

KF: That’s pretty much what it is. That’s a great analogy!

MB: Any tips on how to use humor to deal with stress?

KF: Well, I think that we have to realize this is just life and none of us gets out of here alive. And no matter how important the things are in our lives, really, stressing about them, worrying – my Mom used to say that 90% of what we worry about never happens. So sometimes we like to worry, so then when it doesn’t happen we get that little feeling of relief that it didn’t happen. So with the humor, with the keeping a positive attitude and lightening up, that doesn’t mean that you’re not serious about what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get anything done. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that the more lighthearted and positive your attitude is, the more you get done. When you are uptight, tense, nervous, and scared, you get less done. So it’s the exact opposite of what a lot of businesses think. They think that people should have their nose to the grindstone and be worried and nervous and anxious. Well, all you’re doing is wearing yourself out because you’re not getting any more done. And again, when I say humor, I mean keeping a light heart and laughing when it’s appropriate. I, for one, really enjoy when I go into a store and the clerk makes a few comments or cracks a little joke and smiles, or makes nice conversation. I don’t think, “Hey, just put your head done and be scanning my stuff, lady!” I don’t think that. It brightens my day. It brings me up a little bit. So I just think we just need to give ourselves permission. If a joke comes up, make the joke. Now, again, that doesn’t mean hide behind it. It doesn’t mean not getting your work done. But I think people would be surprised at how much more they actually get done if they allow themselves to keep a sense of humor. Now, one other point I make – I call it the art of laughing on the inside. We don’t always have to laughing to where people can see us. There’s often times that I’ll be looking at something that somebody’s saying and inside I’m going, “I cannot believe they’re saying this to me,” and I’m laughing about it, but I’m not going to let them know – maybe I don’t want to hurt their feelings or maybe I don’t want a confrontation, but I’m keeping myself centered. I don’t have to be drawn into their stuff. So I might be laughing on the inside with a poker face on the outside, and I’m keeping myself balanced. And you know what? Our own mind, our own heart is the last vestige of freedom, and we can think and feel anything we want and no one has to know.

MB: And then we can go home and put it in our computer file as one of those things that make you crack up.

KF: That’s right! And the same with TiVo. There’s a couple of TV shows that just crack me up, and I TiVo them. There’s a show called “Just for Laughs.” It’s ridiculous. It’s really corny. It’s practical jokes – it’s like “Candid Camera” and it’s so silly. I just – well, one of them was they had an outhouse that looked like it was rooted but it was actually – it was next to a pond and it floated. So the person would go in the outhouse and then they would release it, and when they came out, they’d be in the middle of the lake. Well, that was just hysterical to me, because I have a – my inner nine-year-old still thinks that kind of stuff is funny. So, see, my humor is all over the place. I can go from esoteric humor that nobody but me gets – and we all have that because our sense of humor is almost as individual as our thumbprint – to humor that a nine-year-old enjoys, because that nine-year-old is still in me.

MB: And most humor is really about things that there were painful at one time and – you kept using the word perspective – getting a perspective on it and seeing the funny side of it.

KF: That’s exactly right. Well, there’s a saying that says, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.” It does take time. You couldn’t make jokes about 9/11 on 9/12. You still can’t make jokes about 9/11 because it was a horrific, horrific event. But it’s not that you’re laughing at the event. What you find to laugh at is the politicians and how they reacted and this sort of thing, the media – there are other targets that you can find around the event that can still help you have a perspective of the event that does not diminish the importance of it. Does that make sense?

MB: Completely. Kay, you said you wanted to be Pearl, but to me you’re just a real jewel, and I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom and unique perspective on things. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyle Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s guest has been motivational humorist Kay Frances. Her website is http://www.kayfrances.com/. Her email is OhioFunnyLady@yahoo.com. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to DrBrickey.com. I’d love to get your feedback and comments. Send them to radio@drbricky.com.