Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael BrickeyJacqueline Marcell









Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Jacqueline Marcell

Broadcast: 3-25-08 on where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Jacqueline Marcell has learned a lot about caring for parents. She has a fascinating story with lots of lessons and tips. Her marvelous book, Elder Rage reads like Stuart Smalley on steroids. It explains how just when her life was falling apart, her parents’ problems exploded. Elder Rag–with its drama, wit, and humor is a great read. What especially interests me, however, is that in between the compelling stories, she shows how to solve a lot of problems. What’s more, the experience led her to become a passionate advocate for eldercare services, and reform of the often dysfunctional systems that are supposed to help our parents. In the first part of the show we’ll learn about Jacqueline’s experiences with the system and how her sheer determination got her through it. In the second part of the show we’ll focus on practical advice and how to get the best services. Her website is

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 show 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. Life keeps asking us to learn new skills. We graduate from school and we learn to need resume-hunting and job hunting skills. Many of us become parents and learn everything from Lamaze to diapering to dealing with tantrums. Currently my wife and I are still trying to learn how to tell our seven-year-old identical twins apart and learning how to help our teenagers figure out which college to attend. Then comes the time to deal with aging parents’ problems. I experienced my share in the last several years with my father needing hospice services and my mother losing her short-term memory and eventually getting into a good assisted living facility. You hear about the sandwich generation. I guess, with caregiving for three generations, I’m a double-decker sandwich.After we get through these life lessons, we often say, “Boy, I wish I knew then what I know now.” The trick is learning from other people’s experiences early in the process. Joining me on this show is Jacqueline Marcell, who has learned a lot about caring for parents. She has a fascinating story with lots of lessons and tips. Her marvelous book, Elder Rage, reads like Stuart Smalley on steroids. It explains how, just when her life was falling apart, her parents’ problems exploded. Elder Rage, with its drama, wit, humor is a great read. What especially interests me, however, is that in between the compelling stories, she shows how to solve a lot of problems. What’s more, the experience led her to become a passionate advocate for eldercare services and help reform the often dysfunctional systems that are supposed to help our parents.

In the first part of the show, we’ll learn about Jacqueline’s experiences with the system and how her sheer determination got her through the challenges. In the second part of the show, we’ll focus on practical advice on how to get the best services. Jacqueline, could you paint a picture for us of what was happening in your life before your parents raged?

JM: I was a television executive and I’d had a whole string of bad things go wrong – personally, professionally, and then Mom needed care. She’d had a heart attack 11 years before and Dad had done a great job taking care of her, but he couldn’t do it any more and he wouldn’t give up. So I went to San Francisco to try to help the situation. I had been up there many times, of course, in the 11 years, trying to get him to accept help. I got up there, thought I would maybe be there for a month or so, and I was there for almost a year without a day off, getting him to accept help and getting my parents properly cared for and diagnosed and treated and just everything – the whole eldercare system was just not helping me appropriately. So like you say, if I only knew then what I know now, it wouldn’t have taken me all that time. I would know exactly what to do.

MB: So what was the first thing that didn’t go right?

JM: Well, I didn’t understand that my father – you know, he’d always had a bad temper; this was nothing new to me. It had never been at me before. So growing up, you know, he was 90% great, but boy, was that temper a doozy. And now it was at me, and screaming, yelling, throwing me out the house, calling me nasty names. And I’d cry, and you know, I just couldn’t believe he could possibly be so horrible. I didn’t understand that he was addicted and trapped in his own bad behaviors of a lifetime. But now they were getting distorted. He’d get upset over things that were – you know, just seemed illogical or irrational, at times, and then the next day he’d be normal. So I didn’t understand what dementia was. I didn’t understand it’s intermittent; it comes and goes in the beginning. I didn’t know how to get him to the right doctors who could uncover it early enough. And all that cost me a tremendous amount of time, energy, money, and heartache.

MB: What was your experience with doctors?

JM: Horrible! You know, I’m thinking, well, I have no medical background. You know, I’m relying on the doctors that have taken care of my parents for 20 years. And you know, I would describe all these horrific things that my father had done, and they’d look at me like, you know, “Well, we’ve never seen him be mean. We’ve never seen him rage. We’ve known him 20 years.” He was socially adjusted his whole life. My godfather read my book and he said, “You know, in 57 years, I never once saw this in your father.” And I have a cousin, a distant cousin who said, oh, I just made it all up, never seen my father like that. So my brother said, “Well, have them call me.” Because my brother was the one who got the brunt of it. It was the dirty little family secret, you know, that we didn’t share with anybody. My best friends, growing up, I didn’t share. You know, this was very hidden by the four of us in the family. And what a shame, because had we been growing up in this time right now, we would’ve known how to find help, how to get him in anger management, how to get him medicated properly, how to react to him instead of endorsing and ingraining that behavior, and walking on eggshells, hoping not to upset him. So when you do that, you know, your whole life, you’ve created your own monster in a way, and then you add a dash of dementia on top of it, the chances of you being able to turn that around when somebody’s in their 80s are pretty slim, but I did. And that’s when I finally was so infuriated about what I hadn’t known and what I hadn’t been told by these doctors and healthcare professionals that I was coming in contact with, was when I said, “Okay, I’m chucking my career, my whole 20-year career as a television executive. I’m going to go into eldercare because they need me.”

MB: You describe him as kind of an Archie Bunker and your mother as kind of an Edith Bunker. And he knew how to put on a good show when he went to the doctors’ offices or when he was in front of professionals. Is that common?

JM: I didn’t know how common it was until my book. Elder Rage has been out there now long enough and I get emails every single day – several – that will say, “Oh, my gosh! I thought I was the only person with a father like yours,” or “My mother – you know, we must be related, my mother is just like your father,” or “My husband is just like…” or whatever, and describing that how amazingly sharp they can be when they go to the doctor. Well, if you’re going to a doctor that doesn’t understand how to get to the very early signs of this – I mean, anybody can diagnose it in stage two when a person is wandering or starting to – has a car accident or leaves the stove on and almost burns the house down, or has such drastic behaviors that you get it. You know that it’s what we used to call untreatable senility. Or you know, you know, “Dad, I just told you that four times in the last ten minutes,” and you’re starting to think, “Okay, maybe he’s got some type of dementia.” Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia – I didn’t even know that, and most people don’t until they get into it. But the mission that I’m on is to get people to understand it earlier, way before that happens, because you don’t go from normal to not knowing that you’ve asked the same question four times in ten minutes, that you’ve got a short-term memory problem like that or that you don’t remember where you live, after 37 years of living on that street. That’s way far into the disease. So we need to catch it very early. And unless you get to professionals who are trained in uncovering that – and it’s more than “What day is it? What time is it? Who’s the governor?” and the mini mental state exam. It’s a complex diagnosis and a complex evaluation. And those professionals are few and far between. So that was my mistake – relying on professionals that didn’t have any training in that. And then I didn’t find out until much later that Dad had told all the professionals he came in contact with, whenever I wasn’t there, not to listen to anything I said because all I wanted was his money – like, I wish he had some! So it just was unbelievable. I just could not believe. And I’m not shy. I have taught at the college level. I’m a pretty educated person. I’m in a major metropolitan area, San Francisco Bay area, and I am begging, screaming, you know, looking, searching for answers, and was not directed properly for a whole year. So that’s when I realized, if that happened to me, this has got to be happening on such a scale around this country with people that may not be as aggressive, may just be taking whatever the doctors say, may not have the education to try to figure things out. And it was tough, tough for me! And maybe in locations that have even fewer and farther between resources to turn to. That’s when I said, “Okay, this needs my help.”

MB: Knowing what you know now, how does a lay person find whether a doctor is knowledgeable, and how do you find the good doctors?

JM: That is really a key factor, isn’t it? And that’s why everything I do, I spread the ten early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. They’re in my book. They’re on my website at I want these on billboards, I want them on sides of buses, I want them on public service announcements, so that the general public and healthcare professionals are so aware of these warning signs and that it’s common knowledge of what they are, that when the daughter takes the mother to the doctor and says, “I have kept a little diary here of all the ten warning signs that I’ve been noticing my mother doing, and I have specific examples of this one, and then it was a month later she did this, and a month later that. And so, Dr. Smith, I’m really going to need a referral to the best neurologist in the county or that we can find, that you know of, that is a specialist in dementia.” So that – you know, that’s a very specialized thing. So isn’t it interesting now, I – with no degree in medicine except my DLE, my doctor of life experience – I’m educating doctors all over the country for their CMEs, for their Continuing Medical units.

MB: Wonderful.

JM: And I’ve educated – I can’t even tell you how many doctors I’ve educated. But oh, hundreds and hundreds of nurses, social workers, case managers, for their CEUs. But when I can get a doctor educated for a CME, I am thrilled because then I know – I’m teaching them in a very kind way that they just don’t know enough, and getting them the resources of how to help that family take notes, keep track of the warning signs, and then not just say, “Well, honey, your Mom’s getting old.” You know, that’s what people tell me all the time; that’s what they hear from many of these doctors.

MB: So it’s a two-pronged approach that you’re both educating the professionals but you’re also getting the lay people to really know what to ask for, what to look for, and taking the data into the doctor.

JM: Exactly. They have to. Otherwise, you know, most people put – you know, the doctor should know! You know, what the doctor says. But if you’re attuned enough to say, “Hmm, this is a GP. May not have been trained in dementia.” But I know these warning signs and I’m seeing them in my mother. And she’s still independent – she can still drive and she can still be at home and take care of herself. But gosh, yesterday she couldn’t find her keys – which we all have that happen – but all the sudden I open the freezer and there’s her keys there in the freezer. And I said, “Mom, why did you put your keys in here?” “Well, I didn’t put them there.” “Well, there’s been nobody here but us. We drove here together in your car. You can’t find your keys. I just found them here.” “Well, I didn’t put them there.” So you know, if you know that that was a warning sign, putting things in odd places, you’d have a light bulb go off in your head, instead of just thinking, “Oh boy, did I put these in here?” You’d start to think, “Well, gee, okay, this could be the beginning of some type of dementia, possibly Alzheimer’s, and I need to make a note of this, write it down, and see what else I notice.” Maybe this was fluke. You know, maybe she was putting something else in there. She had the keys in her hand and she was putting the groceries away and they just happened to fall, and she wasn’t specifically doing that. So you have to keep track of these for awhile. It’s that short-term memory, when they ask you the same question in a short period of time, or tell you a story and then ten minutes later start telling you the same story. It’s not when they tell you something one day and then three days later they tell you again, and you’re going, “Mom, you told me that!” and it was three days ago. Well, we tell people this, we tell people that – “Did I tell you this already?” We all do that; that’s normal aging. But it’s more like if you just told me that. That’s the short-term memory isn’t working right. So that’s a key one to watch for. Some of the other ones are the personality gets shifted a bit, you know, where just all the sudden there can be – they just burst into tears over something. Or like Dad – he’d just fly into a rage. Now, he always flew into a rage, but now it was over because he didn’t have strawberry jam instead of his raspberry jam, you know what I mean? I mean, weird things where you’d go, “Jiminys, all right.” And if you chalk it up to old age, you chalk it up to stress – you know, he’d been taking care of Mom for such a long time, couldn’t do it anymore. She almost died from his inability to care for her. And that’s why I had to persevere. This wasn’t something I wanted to do. It was a necessity, because I couldn’t leave Mom alone with him. There was no way. She would’ve died from his inability to care for her any longer. I mean, when I got there she was – oh, it makes me just shudder right now. She was in the hospital, was there for three months from him not taking her to the hospital. She was 82 pounds when I got there from a urinary tract infection, and he didn’t think maybe that was important enough to take her to the hospital. So I couldn’t leave her. I was in this Catch-22. I call it the Caregiver Catch-22. I was trapped there. Couldn’t leave her alone with him. Couldn’t get the doctors to believe me because it was so intermittent, it was so coming and going. It was the very beginning of it. He was darling when he needed to be. I was not taking him to the right doctors who could uncover it early enough. I couldn’t get a caregiver to stay because he’d throw them out of the house within a day or two or call them nasty names. I couldn’t put them in a nursing home – she required full nursing care, he didn’t. He would just take her out. I couldn’t put him in a home; he didn’t qualify yet. I couldn’t – I was like just completely trapped. And that’s when I said, “Okay, well, I’m not my father’s daughter for nothing. You think he’s stubborn. Okay, I am going to figure this out, come hell or high water.” And I persevered until I did. And once I did, that’s when my whole life took a left turn and I made the decision to do something important.

MB: So we have short-term memory. We have behavior changes. We have just not taking care of things. What are some of the other signs?

JM: Oh, let’s see. Disorientation to time and place – you know, like one day driving with Mom and Dad and we’re at the main drag where they lived for decades and I’m in the left turn lane to go see Aunt Dora. And all the sudden he’s screaming at me to turn right. And I’m like, “Dad, what are you talking about. You know she lives over here.” And he goes, “She lives over here! She lives over here!” And I’m thinking, “What? What is wrong with him?” And then all the sudden he just looks blank. And he goes, “Honey, nothing looks familiar.” And I’m like, “That is so weird!” You know, and I cried, and I’d think, “Oh, he’s getting older now.” If I knew that that was a warning sign, we would’ve gone down to Aunt Dora’s and I would’ve made a phone call to the Alzheimer’s Association. I would’ve known to call the area agency on aging or I would’ve known to call the Alzheimer’s Foundation. I would’ve known where to find the resources and I would’ve known how to locate a neurologist specialized in dementia, to get him in there and evaluated early. People say, “Well why do you want to know? Who wants to know if you’ve got Alzheimer’s?” Well, you do. Because if you do, medical science in the last 15 years – we’re blessed to have four band-aids, I call them. You know, they’re medications. They’re band-aids; they’re not a cure, they’re not going to stop the disease, but in most people they can slow down the progression of the disease. Now that’s huge! You get the diagnosis early and you can slow the progression of the disease down, and then you can make sure that your loved one is being treated with an antidepressant, because most people with any type of dementia are greatly helped with that. And the of course, holistically – eating right and exercising and putting all the effort into getting the person to be as healthy as possible in every way, shape, and form that they can be; and socially – getting them involved in senior centers and adult day centers so that they’re active and busy and so they’re not just spending their days in bed or in front of the TV because they get so depressed. But managing it – the depression is one of the warning signs of dementia, so is it depression alone or dementia or a combination? So you’ve got to get the right doctors, so you’ve got to be attuned to this. Then, okay, let’s say you can delay it for a year from progressing to the point where they need 24/7 care – they’re still independent, they’re still able to do a lot of stuff – that’s huge, huge! Because medical science is working so feverishly trying to come up with a cure or trying to come up with a medication that will stop it in its tracks, or maybe even delay it for two or three or five years. Most people don’t. Most people chalk all these symptoms up to old age – “Well, you know, she’s always had a bad memory,” “Oh, she’s always been difficult,” “Oh, she’s always gotten lost” – whatever. It’s the more-so theory of aging – whatever you were as a young person, you get more so that way as you get older. But now these symptoms start to distort that intermittently, where the – it’s so subtle in the beginning that the family doesn’t catch it. So it progresses. Now it progresses to a crisis, and if you haven’t reached out when it was early, now you’re in the crisis where you’ve got to have 24/7 care. You cannot leave them alone, period.

MB: Big-time safety issues, yeah.

JM: Now, even if you get the diagnosis, even if you get the medication, even if you’re doing everything holistically possible health-wise, you can’t go backwards. You can’t go back to the relative independence that you had in the early stage. And see, the early beginnings of this can last – there’s a stage called MCI, mild cognitive impairment, and that can last five or ten years. So it’s really subtle when this thing starts. It takes a long time to get going. Okay, so you’re in MCI for five to ten years. Well, a large percentage of those people will go to Stage 1. Not everybody – they’re still doing tests to see how many people – but nobody goes to the doctor for MCI. You know, it’s like – uh, you know. But they think it’s between 70 and 90% right now, is what the statistics are showing. So a large percentage of those people are going to go to Stage 1. Stage 1 can last two to four years. Everybody ignores that, too, because, well, they’re not that bad. But then you got to that point where there’s been a car accident or they’ve wandered downtown and ended up in the next county over, completely lost – whatever’s happened. Now the family’s screaming for help and they’re saying, “I can’t take it anymore.” You know, it’s been building, building, building, building, and now we’re at the point where, okay, now we’ve got to do something about Dad. Well, now it’s too late. Now you’ve got to take time off work. Now you’ve got to try to find or hire caregivers. Now you’re doing everything you can to elder-proof the house and keep them safe at home and try to get people to care for them 24/7. And this is why Alzheimer’s Disease is costing this country $61 billion dollars a year. 79% of that is the lost productivity from the absenteeism of adult children and spouses having to take time off work to care for their loved ones, because they didn’t wake up in MCI or Stage 1 and do anything about it. So if we could all wake up, if I can get everybody to wake up early, think what we can save families in terms of heartache, but think what we can save our society in terms of all these elders that are progressing into the Stage 2 where they need full-time care sooner than they should have if they’d gotten evaluated earlier. Now let me tell you, Stage 2 lasts two to ten years. Some people move through very quick, other people – ten years of that. Then they go to Stage 3, which is the end, and that is nursing home time. And that’s one to three years of pure hell. I’m trying to just wipe Stage 3 and most of Stage 2 off the map, so if we can catch it early enough, then we delay, we delay, we delay, they die from something else, because one out of eight persons by the age of 65 will get this – one out of eight by 65, and one out of two by 85. So that’s why it’s so imperative for this early, early understanding of this.

MB: What have you learned about how to coordinate the efforts with your siblings?

JM: Well, you know, like I told you, my Dad was really awful to my brother growing up. My brother was eight, nine years older, and I didn’t get that upbringing. You know, my Dad was orphaned when he was ten. He had a fourth-grade education. He lost his mother, his father, his siblings all got battered around, he’s in an orphanage. So there was a lot of rage in that little boy that wasn’t dealt with. Now he marries my mother and boom, there’s a baby right away. So he had tremendous jealousy. He wasn’t evolved enough himself as a man – he was still a little boy and my mother was his anchor. And I think there was just a lot of jealousy of that child. And my brother got the brunt of it, unfortunately. And then eight, nine years later I come along, and I’m a girl – for some reason I don’t get that. I don’t get that same jealousy thing. But I saw my brother deal with it, and it ruined his life, actually. So when my mother had that heart attack – they had an on and off relationship their whole lives. You know, we’re well into adulthood and middle age now and it’s still on, off, on, off. And they never, ever did get along. Well, they had a blowout, Mom had the heart attack, and they never spoke again for eleven years. And I kept trying to get them back together – wouldn’t work. So my brother wiped his hands of all of us, including me. So when I got up there to have to try to solve this and I’m there for a year, there was no help coming from my brother. And it was really hard. You know, this was his mother also. I was sitting in the hospital for three months, feeding her every bite of those meals and, you know, being there until midnight – I’d send Dad home before it got dark – you know, thinking, “Well, he could be here feeding his mother. This is his mother, too.” But I had to walk a mile in his moccasins, you know. I had to realize what my father had put him through and that he did not get the love that I had gotten growing up, and I had to let it go. And so I made amends with him and as soon as my mother was out of the hospital, I got my mother to see her only son. She hadn’t been able to see him – my father wouldn’t allow it – for eleven years. And I mended that fence without any expectations of help from him whatsoever. If I were to do it again, what I would do – and what I tell families, if you’ve got a sibling that doesn’t want to help with the caregiving or they’ve had a much different experience than you had growing up, like I did, you know, people would say to me, “Honey, so sorry about what you’re going through with your Mom and Dad. Is there anything I can do?” And I’d be like – I didn’t know what to say, you know. What I tell people now is make a list of all the things that you need to do, as a caregiver and otherwise, because some people will be happy to come in and sit with you Mom while you go to the market or you do this or that. Other people don’t want to do that part of it. Some people will be happy to bake some cookies for the freezer, though – something that they could do to help. So make a list of all those things. “Gee, you know, my watch needs a battery. I haven’t had a chance to get a battery for my watch. Could you do that for me?” “Sure, I could do that for you.” Now, if I’d asked my brother, “Gee, the car – I haven’t had a chance to get it serviced. It’s way overdue. The tires need rotating.” You know, something where he didn’t have to be involved with Mom and Dad while they were at adult daycare all day and he didn’t have to see them and he didn’t have to be involved in it – I could’ve made a list of things that he might’ve been able to help me with and just said, you know, “Here’s a list of things. If you feel like it, pick one. You know, if you don’t, it’s okay, too. I’m just making up this list and giving it to anybody.” And you know, I’d have at the bottom of the list, “Take me to lunch.”

MB: I love it. It’s such a simple solution, but most people wouldn’t think of it.

JM: Yeah. You know, “That lamp that Dad threw at the caregiver last week is broke. Can you get that fixed?” You know, “He pulled on the curtain rod and that’s all bent and broke.” When you’re a caregiver – you don’t have time for all those things that consume our lives anyway – and then you add caregiving on top of it. Everything else goes by the wayside – until you get your loved on into adult daycare, which I cannot say enough about. I’m a huge advocate for that. And I was a year into it, you know, because I’d have people say, “Well, why don’t you get your parents into that?” I was like, “What is that? A nursing home? I can’t get my father in the shower. How do you recommend I get him to go THERE?” And so, you know, he was a sundowner. He was up all night, she was up all day, meaning I was up the whole time. I couldn’t turn him around. I mean, I am slamming doors, I’m vacuuming next to him – he is out like a light during the day. It’s called sundowning. It’s very common with elderly people, particularly those with dementia. The only way that I was able to finally turn that around was when I got the right doctors, we got the medication to slow down the progression of the disease, we got the antidepressants in both, I was able to optimize nutrition and fluid intake – and then get them into adult daycare all day so that they were busy. You know, they had their crafts and their cooking class and their movies and their field trips and singing. They had all kinds of activities all day – and nutrition and physical exercise. And it was perfect for them and it gave me a little break. And then they’d come home from that and they’d be exhausted and they’d sleep through the night. So it was perfect! And you know, if I’d only known to do that sooner, that it would’ve turned around the sundowning. And I’m for seven-day-a-week daycare because, boy, he’d hit that bed on Friday afternoon after daycare and I could not get him up. Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night, Sunday, Sunday night – Monday morning, he did not want to get out of that bed because he’s been into everything the entire weekend, getting up and just eating. That’s all I could get him to do. So I’m for seven-day-a-week daycare. I’m really an advocate. I’m such an advocate for NADSA, which the National Adult Day Services Association, They gave me their media award because everything I do I mention the value of adult daycare because nobody knows about it. And you know, it’s not a money-making venture. I mean, you know, for $50, to have your loved one go – I mean, how do they make money at that rate. We’ll go into that, and they have hearts of gold, that do that work.

MB: What have you learned about how to recruit and manage caregivers?

JM: Well, I tried everything. I did everything wrong. Everything I did wrong – you can read the things I did wrong, and then how to do it right is in my book, in Elder Rage. But you know, I didn’t know how to hire caregivers. I was calling agencies, you know, and they – “Oh, we’ve dealt with very difficult elders. We know how to manage them.” And, well, good caregivers are in such demand that if you’ve got a very difficult elder like Dad who would call them nasty names and scream and yell if they didn’t do something just perfectly right, and throw things at them – you do not need to be abused, there’s too many other jobs where people would love to have you come and take care of them. So I couldn’t get a professional caregiver. Plus, it was like 20 bucks an hour.

MB: Wow.

JM: You know, it was very expensive. And how am I going to do that? So I started to try to hire – the good thing about going through an agency, though, is that they do – if you check this – background checks. And you’ve got to make sure, okay – “Oh, yes, we did background checks.” “Oh, how far back did you check?” Do they check one year back, three years, ten years, lifetime? Do they check the county, the state, nationally? Criminal – you know, felonies as well as misdemeanors? What do they check? So don’t just be fooled by “Oh, we do background checks.” You want to know what background checks they do. But that’s the good thing about hiring an agency is that they’ll usually do that for you. Plus, the other good thing is, if your caregiver has a problem with their family or their loved one or their car breaks down or whatever, you can call and they’ll have a person there who can fill in and they’re supervised, you know, and they’re bonded – most places will be bonded. Well, all that costs money. That’s why you pay quite a bit of money for that. Well, I had two people needing 24/7 care and the cost was just prohibitive. So I tried to hire caregivers, you know, putting ads in the paper or calling other people, saying, “Do you know anybody?” “Oh, we had one for my Uncle Joe and he’s passed now and she’s great,” and then trying to find her in between, and then of course, trying to find one that lives close enough to where you’re loved one lives. And then I was fingerprinting my own caregivers and taking their picture and being my own little FBI agent. And then, you know, you’ve got to lock up all the valuables. I don’t care how reliable people are, just don’t put temptation in anybody’s path. And even with all of that, I had people steal from us, people on drugs. I had everything go wrong that could go wrong. Until I finally met this gal who came to the interview – the amazing Arianna – and I was at the end of my rope. And you’ll have to read about this gal, with no experience and one year of high school, this gal was the angel I had asked for. And she, with my help, was able to help me turn Mom and Dad’s lives around and get everything accomplished. She and her Mom stayed, taking care of Mom and Dad. I was just so lucky to find her.

MB: If you had to find an Arianna now, how would you go about looking?

JM: Well, I’d know the questions to ask. I’d know to call all the references. And I’d know to go to their home unexpected-

MB: Oh, I like that.

JM: Because that’s the level of neatness and cleanliness I would expect to find in my parents’ home. You know, there’s certain questions you can ask and certain questions you can’t ask, I guess, when you’re hiring people. But you can, you know, kind of go through those. You can get a legal form kind of thing. But I think experience – and I just happened to luck out – she had no experience, but I was just at the end of my rope after about a year of this and I was just, “Fine, whatever, come on in.” But now, I – what a risk I took, you know? But it took me a long time to get her trained. It’s the references. It’s really talking to people – they know this person, they’ve worked – and get five or ten. I mean, really get a lot of references before you allow somebody to be in your home. And realize, you know, these people are not college-educated people, by and large. They’re oftentimes people from other countries, oftentimes people with very limited education, and you care asking them to do a tremendous number of things. You’re asking them to feed, to cook, to prepare – you know, I had them administering pills, because if you have a professional, they’re going to come in and preload a Mediset with a nurse, you know. So here I’m trying to teach her how to do everything – she was like an extension of me, of everything that I was trying to – and I’m, you know, a highly educated person and it was hard for me to do. You’ve got to allow for a learning curve for your caregiver and give them ten attagirls or attaboys for every mistake that they make and try to guide them and teach them how. And reward them – you know, every time – it finally started to hit. First money I got, boy, was big bonuses for amazing Arianna and her Mom. I gave them everything. These people deserve everything.

MB: And I love your idea of going unexpectedly to their home. You just learn so much just by seeing what it’s like.

JM: By observing, yeah. “Oh, I was in the neighborhood and I wanted to stop and give you this.” And you’re going to get an eyeful. You know, you might think twice if you’re a person that likes things neat and organized or clean or – because that’s the level you’re going to expect in the home they’re going to be coming and caring for.

MB: And you could even do that with the pretext, “I have another form I needed you to fill out” or something like that.

JM: Yes.

MB: You’re listening to Ageless Lifestyles Radio on  We’re talking with eldercare advocate and reformer, Jacqueline Marcell. She is the author of Elder Rage, which has been endorsed by an awesome who’s who list of celebrities and healthcare experts and political leaders. Her website is There’s information about her books, her seminars, her blog, and lots of practical advice and resources for helping elders. Anything you want to add to that, Jacqueline?

JM: Oh, I just want to add, take care of you. If you’re a caregiver, make sure you put you first, because, you know, I didn’t. I was so trapped and I got breast cancer. And who do you think called me more than anyone? My brother. So don’t alienate that sibling that’s not able or willing to help with your parents. That’s your family. And you never know. You may need that relationship later. My brother and I have a wonderful relationship now.

MB: Do you think possibly the stress of all the family issues and the job changes and everything contributed to getting breast cancer?

JM: Yes. I think that we are hit with carcinogens all the time, in our air, in our water, in our food. And then you either have an immune system that fights it off or you don’t. And I was under the most incredible stress of my life. And you know, I’ve run some companies so I’ve been under some stress, but this was a stress that was like no other – I cried every day for a year. It was so intense that I was catching every cold, every – you know, I was just – my immune system just went. And that’s when, I believe, the cancer was able to start.

MB: And you’re in full remission and doing well?

JM: I’m in remission, yes. I get tested every three months and so far so good, knock on wood. But what I learned the hard way in both cases is the importance of putting ourselves first. People think it’s selfish or egotistical. But you know, you’re all you have. You know, this is – what you have is you. And in order to be effective and loving partner or for any of your friends or family, you want to put yourself first, because it’s too much for them to – having to try to take care of you also. Everybody’s got their own things, so if we all took better care of ourselves. You also use, you know, the positive imagery – I teach affirmations, I teach gratitude at my seminars, I teach the power of positive thinking and just humor, the power of humor. Boy, the first thing I did when I got diagnosed with breast cancer was I got Netflix and I rented every comedy that I had never seen or the ones that I wanted to see again, because I didn’t want horror movies or anything that would – you know, I wanted to flood my system with endorphins. I wanted to flood it with laughter. And I’ll tell you, they made no money on me – I watched three movies a day, sent them back, got three more. I had a lot of complications. I’ve had six surgeries, six months of chemo, six months of radiation, had a lot of complications – blood transfusion, the whole bit. And I’ll tell you. Positive thinking and keeping going – I didn’t miss one speaking engagement. It wasn’t heroic; it gave me a reason to get out of bed, and gave me something to look forward to, to go do, because I’m so passionate about my work. I couldn’t even imagine if I didn’t have my work to do while I’m going through all of that. But I incorporated a lot of humor into my life wherever I could. And then I made myself little flash cards, my gratitude list that I read over every day – I still read over every day – and just focusing my mind on anything positive and all the positives in my life. Because, you know, when you first start to make that list, you can’t think of one darned thing. And then you put down, “Okay, I’m still breathing. All right, let’s see, what else?” And then, you know, you start to think of more and more and more things, and then if you focus your mind on those, you can’t have a positive and a negative thought at the same time, so who doesn’t want to just have the positive? So I made some flash cards. I put little signs all over the place. I practiced my Stuart Smalley in the mirror – “You’re a wonderful person.” I wake up every morning and kiss my arm [kissing sounds] – “You’re still here, you’re fabulous.” And you know, it helps. It really helps.

MB: One of the things that I really admired in the book was the way that, when things went wrong, you really went in very assertively and got people to make them right. For example, the toilet story in the nursing home.

JM: Oh my gosh, yes. Well, you know, as we know, I take after my father. I told amazing Arianna, “When I get to that age, if I’m like my father, please throw my book at me!” Because, see, by then, we’ll know. We’ll have this wired, so I’m not worried. But the good news is I’m very strong. And when I see an injustice, I’m going to make it right. You know, Mom was in a room when she came out of the hospital – this was my first – you know, after the three months of nursing her back to health and she gets transferred across the street to the sub-acute unit of a nursing home. You know, and every day – Dad’s there during the day, I come late afternoon, I’m there until late at night. And we’re both feeding her every bite. And there’s this lady in the room – they put a lady in the same room with her, you know, with the curtain and the whole thing, and she had this terrible skin condition – I mean, just terrible, all over her body, and she was a very large woman. And nobody ever came to visit her. My Dad said nobody was there all day, and then nobody would be there all night. So I felt bad for her so I was always trying to help her. And you know, I had got a TV for Mom’s room so I made sure that this lady could see it too and every, and I was trying to chat with her a little bit. And then I noticed a little tiny sign outside of our room that said, “Contagious.”

MB: Uh-oh.

JM: And I said, “What!?” And so I pressed the night nurse, when I was there, and I said, “What are – Mom’s not contagious. This person is contagious?” “Yes, she is.” I said, “Well, what the __ is she doing next to my mother? And I have been helping her and nobody told me she was contagious.” So I raised holy heck, as you can imagine. I got in there the next morning. I said, “You’d better tell they’d better have a – I’ll be here the first thing in the morning to meet with the administrators.” And oh, my gosh! You know, “Well, you know.” And I said, “Wait a minute. She’s using the same toilet that my mother’s using. I don’t see it scoured with Clorox every time.” “Well, well, you know, her skin disease is just on her back.” I said, “My mother sits there and leans back all the time with her gown open. What are you telling me?” “Oh, blah-blah-blah.” By the time I got back, the lady had been moved to a private room. We kept a private room. A sign was outside ours that said “Private.” You know, I was like, well, what happens to people that don’t have an assertive daughter like me? What would’ve happened to Mom? Dad couldn’t read that sign with his eyes – he wouldn’t have seen that, he wouldn’t have known what to do. So just think of the horrors that must happen where I raised holy heck about it. What you do in that case is you call the area agency on aging and you talk to the ombudsman. And that’s the person who’s your advocate as a family to tell you what’s going on with nursing homes – how many liens, how complaints, have they had any lawsuits, have they had anybody die suspiciously, what’s the statistics about that place that your loved one’s been put in? You know, she was just transferred there across the street. I had no say of where she was going. It was, “Well, she’s going across the street.” I’m like, you know, I didn’t even know I had an opinion on these things. But now, I’d make sure that that place was fined and cited and everything else. What you don’t know can cost you a lot.

MB: The moral is that even when you have professionals taking care of a parent, you still have to inspect what they’re doing and there often are problems, and when there are-

JM: Yeah, and we only hear about the bad nursing homes. You know, there’s a lot of – God bless anybody that does that work. You know, it has got to be very, very difficult to work in a nursing home. I give – anybody that does, my hat is off to them. And we have so few people going into nursing. We have such a shortage of nurses, you know, all the way around, let alone nurses that want to work in that environment. So, you know, you’ve got to be proactive. And you know, I dropped in at 3:00 in the morning one night. I just had a – I don’t know, I didn’t feel right, and I just got up and got dressed and drove there at 3:00 in the morning. And you know, the guy sitting there was asleep and the buzzers were going off and people were calling for help, and there’s nothing worse than hearing elderly people calling for help and nobody going. Oh! It just makes me cry right now thinking about it. And nobody going to see if they’re okay. And I raised you know what. I got in there, and thank goodness my asleep because if she had been awake and begging for help or had fallen or something, I can’t even imagine what I would’ve done. So – oh, you got me choked up here! They’re overworked, they don’t have enough workers, there’s too many patients. You see, my whole bottom line point of what I said earlier, if everybody knew those ten warning signs, if they woke up early, if the professionals were attuned and the families questioned it, they got the right diagnosis early enough, we delay the disease, people wouldn’t be having to go into nursing homes as much, and a lot of these horrors would be eliminated. I was just shocked a couple of years ago, AARP had an article out about nursing homes – they said that 90% are understaffed. Well, that’s heartbreaking. So you’ve got to be an advocate for your loved one if they’re in a nursing home – or anywhere, you know. Adult daycare – you have to be following up on what’s happening there. If they’re in assisted living, making sure that the activities that you were sold on that were going to be done are happening. You know, what are the meals like? You’ve got to make sure you have a meal yourself at these places. And try a place out first. You know, put your loved one there for rested, you know, instead of signing that they’re going to live there.

MB: Oh, that’s a good strategy.

JM: You know, find out a place that – “We’d just like to try it for the weekend while my husband and I go out of town. We’d just like to have Mom be taken care of for the weekend.” And see how it goes before you commit. That’s a very good thing to always do.

MB: And if something goes wrong, then you said the ombudsman, of course the administrator, and the state licensing agency.

JM: Yeah.

MB: And there’s always wonderful data at

JM: Yes.

MB: You can go right in and specify a mile radius around where you want, and incredible detail about the nursing homes in the area.

JM: Yes! You know, I have all these links on my website at Just scroll down on the left side at the bottom; it’ll say “Eldercare links.” And I have gathered every valuable link that I can find. And you’re just going to find tons and tons of how to find nursing home reports, how to evaluate, how to find – just everything related to eldercare I’ve put on my website. And it’s all free. Just trying to spread good information to people.

MB: Well, I want to be sure to get one more tip from you. How did you handle taking away the driving license?

JM: Oh, my gosh! You got about an hour? Dad was horrible. We couldn’t find the car keys and he had taped them to his leg.

MB: Oh, my goodness.

JM: You know, we’re patting him down, we can’t find the car keys. He had taped them to…! I’m here to tell you, dementia doesn’t mean stupid. Oh! Now, see, with the knowledge I have now, what I would do if I knew that he should not be driving – I mean, Dad, you know, he couldn’t see the big E, number one. His sense of direction, his reflexes were bad, his hearing was bad, he couldn’t wear his – he wouldn’t wear his hearing aid. Just, you know, and the beginning of the dementia had started, which I did not – but he just should not – I knew somebody was going to die if I didn’t take the car away. So he hated me, just hated me – horrible! Well, now, see, what I would do is I would call the Department of Motor Vehicles and I’d ask for the supervisor, I’d make friends with that person, and I’d say, “Somebody’s going to die unless you help me. So what I need you to do is be the bad guy so I don’t have to take the brunt of it. I can just be the good daughter.” And then I would tell Dad, “Oh, the Department of Motor Vehicles called today while you were at daycare or while you were in the shower or wherever, and I’ve got to take you down there tomorrow or this afternoon or whatever,” and he would scream and – I can just hear the swear words, like a sailor, it would be like a blue streak, but it would be at them, not at me. And then I’d have the appointment all set up, I’d take him down there, and they’d do the eye test and they’d do – you know, if he somehow passed that, then they’d give him the written exam, and somehow passed that and cleared the parking lot for a driving test – it wouldn’t even take more than the big E that he couldn’t see – but you know, then THEY would take the license away, and then I could be the devoted daughter that says, “Oh, shoot, I’m so sorry this has happened. You know I don’t want you to feel trapped at home. I want to sign you up for…” – in most areas they have transportation for seniors, you know, shuttles that’ll take people for a very – free if you’re a certain age or a very nominal fee. And I would get one of those big button phones, you know, and I would preprogram it so – maybe even a picture phone, so it would have a picture of a taxi or a picture of the shuttle or the neighbor, a picture of the neighbor, and I’d have it one-touch dialing so that he could always reach somebody if he needed to go somewhere. Now this was of course before we got into where he needed 24/7 care. This was early on when I was there. That’s what I would do now. And get the club and put it on the steering wheel, because I don’t care how many times you tell somebody that they shouldn’t drive. He would agree – the doctors would tell him, and he’d say, “Okay, I won’t drive.” And then he’d forget and he’d think he was just fine, and then he’d go out there and start the car, and boy! So at least get the club on the steering wheel or, you know, I don’t know, you’ve got a kill switch in a locked glove compartment. And “I don’t know. The car won’t start. I guess we’ll have to have it towed.” So you might have it towed somewhere, out of site, out of mind. And, “Oh, they just can’t find that part from Japan.” Do whatever. Put a notch in their keys so the keys don’t work. If you’ve got an older car with a distribution cap, take the distribution cap – you know, there’s a million things you can do. But just make sure they do not drive. And most people don’t, because they don’t want to be the chauffeur, they don’t want to be trapped having to go get every little thing that the person needs. But I can’t tell you the lawsuits that people get themselves into when they don’t take those car keys away soon enough. They wait until there’s a crisis, and the crisis is often somebody getting killed.

MB: Jacqueline, thank you so much for sharing. I simply love your book.

JM: Thank you.

MB: Your website,, has just fabulous information on it. And I’m so happy that you’re doing the advocacy and the reform work that you’re doing. It’s a real blessing for all of us.

JM: I’m doing my darnedest. And I’m still so passionate about it! You know, I said, isn’t it funny how sometimes when life takes you to your knees, it may be the same experiences that take you to your highest purpose, your highest passion, and your highest work.

MB: Well said.

MB: Each show I like to share a baby step to help people live longer, healthier, and happier. When my son was about ten years old, he became very ill. He became so weak he could barely talk, he could barely stand up, and we took him to Children’s Hospital. They poked and probed for about an hour and a half and shrugged their shoulders and say, “We don’t know what’s wrong,” and sent him home. My wife called her mother, who had been an art history major, and described the problem, and she said, “You know, David visited me in Philadelphia about a month ago, and there’s a lot of Lyme Disease in our area. Sounds a lot like Lyme Disease.” So we got on the internet, checked the symptoms – they matched very well. Took him back to Children’s Hospital. We told the doctors, “David has Lyme Disease. Please start the treatment right away.” They did and it cleared up within about 24 hours. Without that persistence, without getting the information, David would probably have very serious disabilities today and for the rest of his life. The baby step is that the information for just about anything that we need or the answer for about anything that we need is out there, if we keep looking, if we’re persistent, if we’re determined to find it. And this fits very well with what Jacqueline described, of how, when things don’t make sense in taking care of parents or any area of life, we need to keep asking, to keep probing, to keep being persistent until we get the information we need, the answers we need.

This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio on  I’d love to get your feedback and comments. Just sent them to Information on anti-aging psychology and the Defy Aging Newsletter, which is free, is at Thank you for listening on our quest to live longer, healthier, happier lives.


Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael BrickeyDr. Christiane Northrup








Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Dr. Christiane Northrup

Broadcast: 3-1-08 on where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Dr. Christiane Northrup is one of America’s most trusted medical advisors. She sees menopause as a life affirming –if a woman listens to her body and the wisdom it offers. She is an OBGYN physician who takes a holistic, mind-body-spirit approach to menopause, PMS, and women’s health. Dr. Northrup founded the trailblazing Women to Women health care center. She is author of The Wisdom of Menopause and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. She has appeared on Oprah, The View, Good Morning America, Rachel Ray, and hosted six PBS specials. Her website is

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.

First a caveat: Men, if you think today’s show is only for women, think again. The more you understand about menopause and women’s health, the better your relationships will be with the women in your life. And women, you might want to encourage your husbands or boyfriends to listen to the program, as well, because our guest today, Dr. Christiane Northrup, is one of America’s most trusted medical advisors. She has a very unique take on menopause as life-affirming, that is, if a woman listens to her body and the wisdom it offers. She is an OB/GYN physician who takes a holistic, mind-body-spirit approach to menopause, PMS, and women’s health.

Dr. Northrup founded the trailblazing Women to Women Health Care Center. She is the author of two books, The Wisdom of Menopause and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. She’s appeared on Oprah, The View, Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, and hosted six PBS specials. In the first part of the program I want to emphasize Dr. Northrup’s unique holistic approach to menopause, and then in the second we’ll look at more specific things about problems such as PMS symptoms and health problems. Dr. Northrup, when I started reading your book, The Wisdom of Menopause, I was expecting a rather dry tome or manual, and I was delighted and just got sucked into the gripping drama of “What happens to her next?” and “What happens to this patient?” Have you always been so tuned in to listening to your body and intuition, or was this a revelation in your life?

CN: No, I started out that way. My Dad was what we would call today a holistic dentist, and he used to say that the mouth was the center of the personality, and that’s why people didn’t want you messing around in there, and also why dentists had the second highest suicide rate, second to psychiatrists.

MB: Oh my goodness.

CN: So there was a bit of mind-body integration going on in my childhood. And then when I got to medical school, I was completely enthralled with everything that modern medicine could do. And it wasn’t really until I got finished with my residency and met my cousin at a macrobiotic restaurant and she told me she was healing her fibroid tumors with a macrobiotic diet. Now, I had just finished a four-year surgical residency and my approach was surgery, so-

MB: Two different worlds.

CN: I began to meet with Michio Kushi of the macrobiotic community – he brought that to the United States back in the ‘50s – and I sat with him as he went over the diet and also the lifestyle of patients who had been given up on by standard medicine. And sitting there for months, looking at the medical records of people and seeing that they’d already been through everything I was trained to offer was a revelation, as I found many of them get better. And after that, I realized there was also a limitation to diet. And ultimately, when people understood the unity of their mind, their body, their emotions, particularly the influence of the subconscious, what they don’t know that they know, then you’ve got the keys to the ignition, your own ignition, and you can get somewhere. Otherwise, you’re at the whim of the culture which really believes that people are meant to disintegrate at the age of 50, that it’s all downhill from there, that your sex life goes away – all kinds of things that are simply beliefs and not grounded in fact or science at all.

MB: So you see menopause as a wake-up call. Can you tell us what you mean by that?

CN: Yes. It’s as though everything in your life converges to get your attention so that you will do what it takes to get healthy in the second half of your life, or you know, maybe – a friend of mine the other day, Gay Hendricks, said, “Why don’t we call it the second third of your life? Because maybe we can live to 150.” But what happens in a woman’s brain – and I know that this is happening in a man’s brain, as well, to some extent, is that as your ovaries are changing and not producing an egg every single month, you actually get an excess of estrogen relative to progesterone. Now, progesterone is a very calming hormone. It also increases heat and it’s very high during pregnancy, so women feel, usually, very calm during their pregnancies and unflappable. But when you don’t have as much progesterone and you have estrogen, that begins to work on certain areas of your brain, the amygdala and the basal forebrain, which is where old memories from childhood and so on are stored, and unfinished business from the past comes up. It’s as though the hormonal change uncovers things that have always been there. So in my experience, women at perimenopause, which is a six to thirteen year process, remember – menopause just means the final menstrual period – so perimenopause is when all the drama and the action takes place. You haven’t actually stopped your periods; you’ve just started the brain and body changes. So during that time, a woman may remember childhood abuse. She may have no tolerance for the kind of injustice that she’s put up with at her job or perhaps in her family. It may be as simple as saying, “I’m sick of being the one who always starts dinner. I’m surrounded by a houseful of teenagers, all of whom can boil water. I’ve had it!” And what that is, is it’s labor pains of birthing your true self. And the thing that’s so wonderful about midlife is you’ve been out in the workforce usually, you know how to drive a car, you know how to run a bank account, you have enough ego strength, you have enough skills finally to have created a container where your true self can finally thrive. You’re not proving to the world that you can do it. It’s not like being in school – although many women go back to school at this time and enjoy it more than they ever did. So I call it break down to break through. There is no question that the incidence of chronic degenerative diseases increases in the second half of life. This is not inevitable. It has to do with lifestyle choices. And what I believe happens is that, at this turning point, the body will not let you get away with the stuff you’ve been doing for the past 50 years that wasn’t a good idea in the first place.

MB: Before we elaborate on that, it’s only in the last couple of years I’ve heard much about estrogen dominance. How did we end up with this impression that everything was just a lack of estrogen?

CN: No kidding! Yeah, how did we? Well, you know, we could do a brief romp through the history of Premarin. Premarin was the first oral estrogen that was available and made from the urine of pregnant horses, back in 1949, 1950. Before that, estrogen was available only as an injectible. Now, when you have your ovaries removed with a hysterectomy, then you have the rug pulled out from under you in terms of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. And so clearly, we have needed a supplement to replace a woman’s missing hormones. And so we thought of the menopause actually, culturally, as a deficiency disease, you see – doctors were thinking about it as you were lacking something. And the truth is that you’re not lacking anything when the body is healthy, when the adrenals are healthy and the ovaries are healthy. But remember, one in three women has a hysterectomy in this country, and so she’s changed the blood supply to her ovaries. And in those women, clearly estrogen, which is considered the most important hormone, but progesterone is left out in the cold and testosterone has gotten short shrift, as well. So it’s all such an interesting thing because science takes place within the context of a culture, and so we look for what we expect to find. If we’re looking at menopause as a deficiency disease and if we have managed to create a pill from the urine of pregnant horses, then if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

MB: And we got to pregnant horses so that we could have a patentable medicine that would profitable, as opposed to a generic that wouldn’t earn much money.

CN: Exactly. That’s the whole thing about the term “bioidentical” hormones. Bioidentical simply means hormones that match exactly what your body produces, and those can be made from wild Mexican yams or soybeans, and that gives you the basic hormonal moiety, and then you make changes in the lab, but you end up with a hormone that matches the molecular structure of your own hormones. And if you know the way hormones work in the body, it’s a lock and key, but it’s more than that, because the charges around the molecule of a hormone, the positive and negative charges, cause it to fold in a unique three-dimensional structure that your body recognizes because it has evolved over millions of years to recognize, for instance, 17-beta estradiol. It hasn’t evolved over millions of years to recognize the urine of a pregnant horse. But as you say-

MB: See, as you said, our bodies are smart.

CN: Yeah, and those things are not patentable. The delivery system, however, can be patentable, and that’s why we have some very good choices with the patches, the transdermal patches, Climara, Estraderm. Those are bioidentical hormones that match what is in your body. But it is the delivery system that the pharmaceutical company was able to patent, and therefore they can make money on them.

MB: You see menopause as a gift and a metaphor. What do you mean by that?

CN: The gift of menopause is that you are now your own person and you must source your life from your own spirit, your own higher power, who you really are uniquely. So I often say to women, “Remember what you liked at 11, when you were 11, before your hormones started in.” And the gift is you live from the inside out, instead of the outside in. What happens is women then, because they are operating from who they really are, not from who the world expects them to be, they often find themselves doing the best art they’ve ever done, having the best sex of their lives, being healthier than they’ve ever been, being happier than they’ve ever been. This is the big secret, that life gets better in your 50s and 60s. And this is a secret because our culture believes just the opposite. We are such a youth-focused culture that people who hit 30 suddenly begin to think something is wrong. Can you imagine anything that’s more death-affirming than that, that at 30 it’s all over? This is simply insane. And it creates a great deal of pain and suffering that is needless, because the truth is you’re really at your best starting at about 50. And I think that maybe 65 is when we hit our stride in a big way.

MB: And there’s wonderful research that shows as we get older, a higher and higher proportion of Americans say they’re very happy, and it goes from 28% in your 20s all the way up to 38% in your 70s.

CN: Isn’t that wonderful?

MB: You talk a lot about women being in a subservient role. Do you think there’s something about puberty that brings that on, at a hormonal level?

CN: I do. I absolutely do. I believe that what it is, is that females are the bodies in which new life is formed. And in order to nurture new life successfully, you need support. And therefore you will do whatever it takes to get that support. We are mammals, after all. And so I believe that the women’s movement had to happen, where women said, “Wait a minute. I’m not going to be subservient anymore. I can do this on my own.” So then what we’ve had, what the Baby Boomers have been the pioneers in, is women going out and having sperm donors, or just deciding to have a baby on their own. As you know, in the ‘50s, you would’ve been so ostracized. You couldn’t have done that and stayed healthy, given that we all need community and we need support and social support to stay healthy. So we’ve changed all the rules. The Baby Boom generation has changed all the rules. Now we’re at a point where we can have true partnerships with men, because when you understand your own strengths and you understand yourself as a woman, as the source of life itself, when you see how important that is to the planet and you begin to own your own gifts, you also understand – and this is really new information for me and my daughters in about the past three years, in a way that we live it – you understand that it is this life force that you know how to support, that you actually support men with. Men don’t do well without the support of either their inner feminine or a woman in their life. We know that from psychology studies. The men who are the happiest and healthiest are the ones who have women in their lives. And when you know this as a woman and you don’t see him as more than, you see yourself as equals, but you have specific gifts, and when you can uplift a man and reflect to him his heroic status, when it’s warranted, then you can improve all of life on earth. It has taken me so long to get it that men are much simpler than women. They don’t get complicated like women do. Haven’t you found this? I mean-

MB: Yes.

CN: Yeah.

MB: Very much so.

CN: You have no idea where women go in their minds. I mean, it is like some kind of a maze in there where we make things so complicated. We hold on to old baggage. A man will have forgotten that, whatever you’re bringing up – you know, the fact that he left you standing at the street corner and didn’t know you were going to be there. You’ll be hanging on to that ten years later and you’ll haul it out of your purse and land it on him when something like that happens again, and a guy is kind of defenseless because he doesn’t even remember. Men are in the moment, and when a woman understands that her mind is multi-modal and she can remember forward and backward in time, and she can remember the birthdays and the needs of her whole family, that’s a tremendous gift that we cannot expect men to share that gift with us. They have different gifts and talents. So the anger that comes up at midlife needs to be addressed, but then it needs to be released or you will have a very unhappy second half of your life if you continue with your anger at men in particular.

MB: As my wife says, “Well, it’s all connected!”

CN: Right. And you know, this is why, in medical school, on my boards and all the multiple choice tests, I could figure out a way in which every choice was correct at least once. That’s a woman’s brain. A guys says, “It’s obvious what the answer is.” To a woman, it is not obvious because it’s all connected.

MB: You describe women as wired for intuition. Are they more wired than men are?

CN: I believe that they are wired differently than men are. Men call it a hunch, and the way you see the intuition playing out in men – if I may be stereotypical – would be on the sports field, where they sort of intuitively know where the ball is going to be tossed. Or the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky was able to tell what someone was doing behind his back – and if that isn’t intuition, I don’t know what is, because the definition of intuition is knowing something with insufficient data. I believe that all of us are intuitive, but we are taught to shut that down as children. The energy medicine teacher, Donna Eden, points out that when you say to children – when you acknowledge an energy field around people and places and plants and so on and you acknowledge that it’s there, the child will not lose his or her ability to see energy around things. And in fact, she has many young people that she trained in Ashland, Oregon, who have always been able to see auras, for instance. And that’s part of intuition. Clearly when you walk into a room, your gut knows who’s safe and who isn’t, and we train that out of kids by saying things like, “Don’t talk to strangers.” That’s really a wrong thing to teach anybody, you know; “Just don’t talk to people who seem strange” would be better.

MB: You pointed out that women are more prone to depression until menopause, and then after menopause their rates of depression are equal to rates for men. Does menopause cause women to become more like men?

CN: You know, I think that it does, actually. There’s a role reversal that happens at midlife, sort of kicks in their vocational arousal, as it were. So they want to go out in the world and get it. Many want to start new businesses, and so on. And in fact, the inner part of the ovaries, the stroma, does get bigger, so many women produce more testosterone around the menopausal transition, physically. But metaphorically, there is this huge drive to go out and get something done. Many men have already been out there fighting in the workplace for years, and so many come to the home and want to get more into cooking or gardening. And what works beautifully in a relationship is when they can trade off a bit and start doing what the other has been doing. I believe that women develop their more masculine side and men develop their more feminine side. So for the first half of life, men lead with the low heart and women lead with the high heart – and the low heart, I mean the genitals and so on. But at midlife these things switch around because we really need to come to balance so that it isn’t one or the other. And depression is interesting because it’s often been called anger turned inward. And what happens with many midlife women – it certainly happened with me – is that the anger comes out and gets expressed and you find that it’s simply energy, it’s just jet fuel. Anger means that you have been shortchanged in some way or you feel that you have been, or things haven’t turned out the way you wanted them to. And so it’s your job to address how to change the circumstances of your life. And I’d much rather deal with a woman who is angry than a woman who is depressed, but there isn’t a question – the female brain is more prone to depression, and I think it’s related to the fact that we have the ability to remember every thing bad that ever happened to us.

MB: You talk a lot about accepting responsibility as opposed to being a victim. What do you mean by that?

CN: Yes, this is the most bracing message I have, and that is that you must be responsible for your life, which simply means the ability to respond. It doesn’t mean that you are to blame for what happened. It doesn’t mean that if you were raped as a child or beaten in a marriage or passed over in a job that that is right or just. It simply means you are responsible for your response. So I was recently at the Books For a Better Life Award, and a woman who wrote a book called The 51% Minority – she was a lawyer who was working in a law firm and had been there a long time, was a senior litigator, I believe. And she found that someone who was ten years her junior, who didn’t have half the workload, was earning more money than she was. So she took it to the authorities in the business, and I believe that her boss said, “I will match your salary with his, as long as you don’t tell anyone” – like, don’t let this get out. And she was so outraged by that, that she wrote a book simply to help women stand up for themselves in a way that is reasonable. I believe that there are ways in which you can use your energy that is life-affirming, and then there are ways that you can just run around screaming that, “It ain’t fair and ain’t it awful?” It doesn’t take any time at all to find injustices in the world when it comes to women. I like to say I have footnoted women’s pain; I understand it very, very well from the bone marrow on out. But we’re now at a time when, if anything is going to change, we need to step out of the victim role, because whenever you’re in the victim role – you know that classic triangle, I think it’s called the Rossberg triangle – there’s the victim and then there’s the rescuer and then there’s the persecutor. And usually what happens is the victim becomes the persecutor to someone else, and then someone else has to come in and rescue. And there’s no health in any of those roles, if you’re in those roles chronically. The only health is when you step above all of that and see that you have different choices. You can leave a workplace that is chronically wrong for you. That’s one of the beauties of midlife is you actually get to the point where physiologically you can’t put up with it anymore. You’ve compromised and you’ve compromised and you’ve changed yourself and you’ve done everything in your power to fit in, and it just isn’t working anymore. And finally you say, “Hey, maybe it’s time to do something else.”

MB: So it’s a question of doing something about the anger, doing something about the wrongs in your life. Are there other things involved in listening to your body?

CN: Yes, resting when you’re tired is kind of huge. The average woman is not getting even eight hours of sleep a night, and sleep is the best way to metabolize stress hormones that we know of. It will gobble up excess cortisol and epinephrine. And by the way, excess cortisol and epinephrine are the things that create cellular inflammation, and cellular inflammation is at the root cause of all chronic degenerative diseases – diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease. So getting enough sleep is important, resting when you’re tired. The other thing you must do is you must tune in to know what you’re really, really feeling, and that means slowing down. And when I say slowing down, I mean in the moment you pay attention to your body. You make sure you’re breathing fully all the way down to the bottom of your lungs. You have to exercise. And all of these things – you begin to know that your body responds also to choices that are empowering, thoughts that are happy and uplifting, and so little by little you monitor your thoughts. You start your day, let’s say, with a meditation or simply with some breathing, and you see the difference it makes when you change a thought, and you see the difference it makes in your body. But I will say this about the body. If you have a condition that is bothering you, you must understand it did not leap out of the closet to torture you. It’s related to your life. And that’s one of the things I share throughout the book, The Wisdom of Menopause. My own story of a fibroid, a big fibroid in my uterus, creativity that hasn’t been birthed yet, or creative energy being shoved into a dead-end job or relationship. In my case, it was a marriage that wasn’t working. You won’t know what the message was, usually, until after the thing is over. But I would say to everybody, you could so benefit by understanding that everything that happens to your body is a metaphor for something that’s going on in your life. And then you will not feel like a victim of your body. If you want to use standard conventional medicine as an approach, go right ahead. But understand that simply cutting an organ out or taking a pill to squash symptoms is not going to get you to the promised land. Only taking full responsibility for what this might be and working consciously with your body, mind, and spirit – that’s what works.

MB: So we have dealing with the anger, we have taking care of yourself, and really just realigning with “What’s my sense of purpose?” and “What do I need to do with my life?” Let me take a break here. You’re listening to Ageless Lifestyles Radio on We’re talking with Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of two books, The Wisdom of Menopause, and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Her website, has information about women’s health, her books, her newsletter, and speaking engagements, many of which are open to the public. Information on anti-aging psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at Dr. Northrup, I’d like to shift to some of the practical things that women can do. I hear a lot about eating more soy. Is that helpful or not helpful?

CN: It depends on the woman. Soy has sort of gone – the pendulum has swung, I think, too far with soy, so that women are eating only soy protein. I believe that soy is an important part of the diet, and particularly in those women who are not on hormone replacement or who are having problems with hot flashes, vaginal dryness, anything of that nature, then trying soy is very, very effective in many, and I’ve certainly had – I’ve had women come up to me in airports to say thank you so much, you know, for recommending certain soy products. But there are other women who find that they don’t do well on it. So what I would do is I would try some soy nuts, some soy milk. There’s a product called Revival Soy that is particularly potent for menopausal symptoms, and give it a try. I would also say it’s important to take enough Omega-3 fats. These are what’s found in fish oil. And in an analysis of 70 studies, it was found that fish oil decreases all cause mortality, and is more effective at keeping cholesterol and heart disease at bay than all of the statin drugs. So fish oil is very, very important. If you’re a vegetarian, then you can bet Omega-3 fat in flaxseed or also in algae. So there’s no excuse, is what I’m saying here. You also need to take enough Vitamin D. We find that those women who are most at risk for hip fracture or spinal fracture from osteoporosis are the ones who have the lowest serum levels of Vitamin D. This is the one blood test I believe that every woman should have – not only a lipid profile, you should find out what your total cholesterol is, what the good cholesterol is, the LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, triglyceride level. Don’t let someone put you on statins simply because your cholesterol is above 200, if it’s in the 200-250, 230 range. If your HDL cholesterol is good and high, like 60 or so, then you do not need statin drugs. Statin drugs decrease coenzyme Q10 in the blood. This is an absolutely essential nutrient for energy production in the cell. And where you need energy production in the cell is in your heart, and the statins are being prescribed far too much. Vitamin D levels should be 50 or above. You can have your healthcare practitioner draw that level. And then you should be taking at least 1000 IUs of Vitamin D every day, or going to a tanning booth – I would recommend the stand-up booths with sunscreen on your face and your hands, and about six minutes will boost up Vitamin D very nicely. It also boosts your mood because it increases serotonin in the brain. Light is a nutrient. So those two things are important. Enough calcium and magnesium. We hear all about calcium; we never hear enough about magnesium. Magnesium and calcium have to balance each other. Women who are depressed often have low magnesium levels. Magnesium is what’s necessary for sparking the nerve – from nerve cell to nerve cell requires magnesium to make that connection, and it’s also very relaxing. A very good way to get magnesium is with an Epsom salt bath. One half to one cup of Epsom salt in the bath, soak in there for 30 minutes, read a good novel – that’s a good prescription for a good night’s sleep.

MB: Are these the same things that would help with hot flashes, or are there additional things that would help?

CN: Actually, those could help. Soy will definitely help with hot flashes in many women, not all. The gold standard for hot flashes is estrogen replacement – although if a woman has estrogen dominance, then progesterone is what will help with hot flashes. And you can use as little as one-quarter teaspoon of transdermal progesterone on your skin – and this is available over the counter at health food stores. One of the good brands is Progest or Emerita. And many women have been helped by that. Also, that can help with premenstrual migraines, because those are triggered by too much estrogen. Now, the other things you can do for hot flashes, you can change your diet and get rid of the white foods. So that would be white flour products, mashed potatoes, white sugar products; also wine and coffee can trigger hot flashes, but not in everybody. So what you do is you say, “Okay, let me give myself a one-week period of time where I stay away from these foods, particularly the wine, and see what happens.” And if you notice that your hot flashes are far less, then you know what triggers them. Then you can decide whether you’re going to have the wine and get a little hot or not. You know, it’s at your fingertips. The other thing that helps hot flashes, believe it or not, is meditation. And Herbert Benson at Harvard did studies showing a 90% reduction in hot flashes with two 20-minute periods of meditation per day, using what he called his relaxation response, which is where you simply sit and repeat a word in your mind like “peace” or “rose.” There are various mantras that you can do. And the reason that this works is that it decreases stress hormones. And stress hormones in the body actually change the way hormones are metabolized. So it all goes back to what we call stress. And my definition of stress is anything in your life that you don’t like the way it’s turning out, and so therefore you’re railing against it. That’s emotional stress. Of course, there’s physical stress of being too cold or too hot or too hungry, that sort of thing. But it goes back to a balanced lifestyle.

MB: One of women’s biggest concerns, and men’s biggest concerns, is about the effect on the sex life. What can a woman do to maintain a good sex life during menopause and after menopause?

CN: Well, this is about my favorite topic. I just written my fourth book on that and it’ll be out in October, called The Secret Pleasures of Menopause. It’s interesting that you can have pleasure or you can have anger, but you can’t have them at the same time. And I’ll tell you why this is so – it’s really key. Stress hormones like norepinephrine, adrenaline shut down not only blood supply, but they also shunt your nervous system in the direction of fight or flight, so you’re preparing for battle. Entirely different from what’s necessary to shunt the blood flow to the clitoris and to the genitals and to the breast and to the erogenous areas of the bodies. For that, you must be very relaxed and receptive to receiving pleasure. So what happens during the midlife transition is all of the stuff in a relationship that’s been shoved under the rug comes up and hits women between the eyes, and the first thing that goes is their sex life. Now, data from the OB/GYN literature shows that the number one predictor of a great sex life during the menopausal transition and beyond is a new partner.

MB: Uh-oh.

CN: Now, the reason I say that is not because I want women to dump their partners, I want them to become that new partner. This is really important. Many times men don’t know what’s going on, and it is the woman’s job to find out, maybe for the first time in her life, what pleases her, what does she really, really want? And I would say for your listeners, write down five to ten things that you really, really want, and then ask for them. Ask your mate to provide them. But you must do it in a way that is very fun and very flirtatious. Now, that’s what you do in a relationship. But many women, for a while there, for a year or two, feel the need to go into a cocoon and reinvent themselves. So I feel as though the sex juice, as it were, the libido, goes underground like the sap in a tree route in the winter. It doesn’t mean it’s gone. It will come back. It will rise again. But a woman sometimes needs a little time alone in a cave as a she reinvents herself. So that’s very important for a woman to know. Then let’s say that she has her time alone or she goes away to a spa or she somehow changes her job or does something. Then it is her job to learn what turns her on. And you actually can learn this and do it with self-pleasuring or what the Daoist masters call self-cultivation. Another word for that, which I don’t like, is masturbation. Women need to learn what their wiring diagram is, and this is work that you do with yourself, for yourself, because you cannot tell another person what you like if you don’t know yourself. And this is the other thing. At midlife, many women develop thyroid problems. Thyroid is in the fifth chakra. It’s about having your say. It’s saying what you need to say. And it’s time that you learned to ask for what you want. This is a huge risk for most women because they’re afraid of being rejected, and many of them are so surprised and delighted to find out that their mate has been waiting for instructions. See, this is what women think. Women are brought up to believe that if a man is a good guy, he will know – he should know what to do to please them. He will know what to get them for Valentine’s Day. He will know what to get them for their birthday. He should do this big romantic thing like you see in the movies. Well, men want to be romantic. They don’t know how to do it. It is a woman’s job to decide what she wants her mate to do for her, and then set the stage to help him meet her expectations. This goes back to women as the bodies that create life. She can help him do that for her. But if she simply clams up and is angry without saying what would please her, then it’s a stalemate. And if you’ve got 25 years of that going on in a relationship, it is little wonder that sex drive goes away.

MB: So the biggest key on sex life is really getting to know your body and your needs and effectively communicating that?

CN: That’s right. And also understanding that menopause per se does not decrease libido, ease of reaching orgasm, or desire for sex. It doesn’t. And I believe that that is a big cultural myth that many women are up against, because they believe this is the end, when in fact it’s just the beginning. You have the ability, through your attention and focus, and to rewire your body for more pleasure. But to do that, you need to work through your resistance to pleasure. And we all have a ceiling on our pleasure that we’ve usually learned in our families of origin. But I’m here to tell you that the way the body was designed, sex gets better. And that is in fact the latest research: The women having the best sex of their lives are in their 60s and 70s.

MB: And also contributing to that is you’re not worrying about the children knocking at the door or interrupting, or so exhausted from childrearing, and you have more time and less worry about pregnancy.

CN: That’s exactly right. Now, for many women, there is the lack of a partner. So I want to cover that for a moment. And for many – let’s say that they’ve gone through a divorce like myself, or are widowed, or simply don’t have a man, of if they’re a lesbian, a woman in their life. Your job, ladies, is to begin to become the person that you yourself would fall in love with. You can use this time to reinvent yourself and become the person that you yourself can fall in love with. I did that for seven years. I’m now with a wonderful man. But I had to go through all of the stuff that all women go through, thinking it’s over, they’re too old. All of that is simply cultural baggage. I also read a book that I would like to recommend to all of you called Mama Gena’s Owner’s and Operator’s Guide to Men. Let me repeat that: Mama Gena’s Owner’s and Operator’s Guide to Men. It’s by Regena Thomashauer. And she runs Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts in New York City. I read the book to see if she was crazy or not, and she turned out to be not crazy at all, and in fact helped hundreds of women reinvent themselves and also find far more happiness with themselves and with the men in their lives.

MB: Sounds like a fascinating book. One more question. You talk about how women, or probably men as well, attract the unhealed parts of ourselves, and that brings on a lot of chronic disease. Can you explain that?

CN: Well, I believe that in childhood we make certain decisions about ourselves – I’m too fat, I’m not good enough, I’m whatever. And then the parent that we had the most conflict with, we tend to marry or they become our boss or whatever. And I believe it’s because we’re trying to bring love to an area where we have not experienced love. And then we stay in that relationship until more love needs to be called in than that particular container will hold. And if you fail to leave that relationship or you can’t be in a state of love in that relationship, then you get sick. And-

MB: It’s that simple.

CN: It is that simple. I wish it were more complicated. And I’m not blaming anyone. But let’s look at heart disease. It’s the number one killer of women – and men, for that matter. And it outpaces breast cancer by, you know, about 40 to 1. I mean, it’s the one that – if you’re going to be worried about something, be worried about this, and then do something about it, because heart disease is reversible. But anything that your heart isn’t in will begin to take its toll on your heart. Any time you can’t have your say because whoever you’re with won’t hear it, your thyroid could be adversely affected. Any time you’re not nurturing yourself fully, your breasts will take a hit. It’s that simple.

MB: Dr. Northrup, it’s just so refreshing talking with you and getting this holistic view of menopause and women’s health. I really appreciate you being on the program.

CN: It’s been my pleasure.

MB: I like to wrap up shows with some baby steps to hopefully help you live longer, healthier, and happier. In one of my favorite jokes, a reporter asked a 104-year-old woman, “What’s the best thing about being 104?” And she said, “No peer pressure.” As we get older, this is one of the perks, that we become less and less concerned about peer pressure. And indeed, people in their 80s and 90s says, “I don’t have time for that nonsense!” I think Dr. Northrup was teaching us that if you have problems with peer pressure during menopause, you’ve got one big wakeup call saying it needs to be dealt with now, instead of when you’re 80 or 90. The second baby step principle I’d suggest is what I call the rule of thirds, that unless you’re extremely charismatic or a horrible, horrible curmudgeon, most people have a third of people liking them, a third of the people not liking them or not liking their style, and then a third of people not really caring one way or another. And the moral is to be the person that you really want to be, the person that you really are, so that the third of the people who like you, like you for the real you. You’re listening to Ageless Lifestyles Radio on We’re talking with Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause, and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Her website, has information about women’s health, her books, her newsletter and speaking engagements. Information on anti-aging psychology and the Defy Aging Newsletter, which is free, is at This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio on Thank you for listening on our quest to live longer, healthier, happier lives.



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 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//

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 – 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 – 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 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, or you can just go to and it’ll take you to 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 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,  or you can just go to and it’ll take you to

Blog Catalog Blog Directory


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 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

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 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 Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at, or you can just go to and it will take you to 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 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 Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and the free Defy Aging Newsletter is at, or just go to 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 – 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 Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at, or you can just go to I’d love to get your feedback and comments. You can send them to