Paragraphs To Ponder

“In 2021, the average American could expect to live until the age of 76, federal health researchers reported on Wednesday. The figure represents a loss of almost three years since 2019, when Americans could expect to live, on average, nearly 79 years.

The reduction has been particularly steep among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, the National Center for Health Statistics reported. Average life expectancy in those groups was shortened by four years in 2020 alone.

The cumulative decline since the pandemic started, more than six and a half years on average, has brought life expectancy to 65 among Native Americans and Alaska Natives — on par with the figure for all Americans in 1944.”

US Life Expectancy Falls Again in ‘Historic’ Setback.

‘You’re Dead To Me’

Kaitlyn Tiffany’s thoughtful reflection on the increasing tendency of people to cut one another out of their lives.

“The internet is wallpapered with advice, much of it delivered in a cut-and-dried, cut-’em-loose tone. Frankly worded listicles abound. For instance: ‘7 Tips for Eliminating Toxic People From Your Life,’ or ‘7 Ways to Cut a Toxic Friend Out of Your Life.’ On Instagram and Pinterest, the mantras are ruthless: ‘There is no better self-care than cutting off people who are toxic for you’; ‘If I cut you off, chances are, you handed me the scissors.’ The signature smugness and sass of Twitter are particularly well suited to dispensing these tidbits of advice. I don’t know who needs to hear this, a tweet will begin, suggesting that almost anyone might need to hear it, but if someone hurts your feelings, you are allowed to get rid of them. There is even a WebMD page about how to identify a ‘toxic person,’ defined aggressively unhelpfully as ‘anyone whose behavior adds negativity and upset to your life.’ Well, by that measure … !”

You’re Vacationing All Wrong

Opines Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“The truth is, when it comes to vacation, rest and relaxation aren’t just overrated. They might even work against the very things a trip is meant to cultivate: a mental reset, a sense of relaxation, happiness. A better vacation is one in which vigorous exercise features prominently. That way, you can take a break not just from work and routine life but also from the tyranny of self-absorption.”

Okay doc, what do you suggest then?

“Recently, a close friend and his wife invited my husband and me to join them on a cycling vacation. I was a bit nervous; I’m a serious swimmer but not an experienced cyclist. Riding 30 to 40 miles a day through Vancouver’s impressive hills for five days sounded like hard work, not pleasure. But by the end of our first day of riding, I was overtaken by euphoric calm.

The work of managing hills by bike has a special way of commanding your attention. I was so busy thinking about whether I could hold my pace for the next rise and how fast I could go downhill without wiping out that I had no time to think about myself. I started looking forward to getting up early and hitting the road. I took in the mountains and forests, dense with cedar and fir, but my focus was really on the bike and the road.”

But this entire Humble Blog is based on the need for more introspection. If everyone is just hammering up hills on two wheels, are we really better off?

“In fairness to the rest-and-relaxation lobby, some introspection is indeed good for you, and being able to tolerate idleness and boredom is a sign of psychological strength. I’m a clinical psychiatrist, and I know well that self-understanding is a cherished goal of therapy. But too much self-examination doesn’t make you happier or more enlightened. Besides, vacation is not the time to work on that skill. You can incorporate moments of idleness into your daily life if you want to get better at sitting with yourself, but vacation is a time for feeling good and escaping responsibilities, including the ones to yourself. Accordingly, you should do what makes you feel good, and that’s activity, not idleness.”

Got it.

As an endurance athlete, I’m keenly aware of how my brain waves fluctuate markedly during most workouts. If I’m going uphill and/or into the wind, my focus narrows a lot on the task at hand. If I’m descending and/or with the wind, my mind drifts to numerous other non-athletic things. I might even begin writing the next blog post.

All movement is good, but add some intensity in on occasion. Even on vacay.

To Get Out Of Your Head, Get Out Of Your House

Advises Arthur Brooks in the Atlantic.

“In one study from 2015, researchers assigned people to walk in either nature or an urban setting for 50 minutes. The nature walkers had lower anxiety, better mood, and better working memory. They were also much less likely to agree with statements such as ‘I often reflect on episodes of my life that I should no longer concern myself with.'”

This morning I went on a short run. I listened to Apple’s Barefoot Acoustic playlist and admired the light fog and dug the slightly cooler morning temp while realizing fall is coming. Still, by the end of the run, I worked up enough of a sweat to head down to the water, (mostly) disrobe, and slip into the Salish Sea. I sat perfectly still in the perfectly still water, up to my chin, admiring a couple birds. A few sculls materialized nearby. They no doubt were intimately familiar with the power of nature.

I felt lucky to be alive.

Sentence To Ponder

“The activities that make people happiest include sex, exercise and gardening.”

The findings of British researchers who pinged tens of thousands of people on their smartphones and asked them simple questions: Who are they with? What are they doing? How happy are they?

More here. Also worth pondering. . . how good is the sex if one partner is responding to survey researchers?