How to live to be 100: color your thumb GREEN

The “blue zones”, where people live the longest: Okinawa, Japan – Nicoya, Costa Rica – Icaria, Greece – Loma Linda, California and Sardinia, Italy have 4 things in common:

  1. Lots of social support
  2. Daily exercise
  3. A plant based diet
  4. People who garden into their 80’s and 90’s!

So is there a reason people with “green thumbs” live longer?

Gardening is a popular hobby, and something the world’s oldest living people have in common. “. . . the analogy of a chair: diet, physical activity, mental engagement and social connection are the four legs. If you’re missing a chair leg  you fall out of balance, and it can shorten life expectancy. Longevity isn’t about one single factor . . . “*Maybe you should take it up (if you haven’t already).

Keep your mood up

Being outdoors lifts your mood and moderate exercise is correlated with a longer life. Gardening gives you both . . . continually.   It doesn’t matter if you plant flowers, vegetables or hedges.  All gardens need tending, so people who garden get all the benefits of exercise and sunshine regularly.

There is evidence that gardeners live longer and are less stressed and studies show both physical and mental health benefits from gardening:

  • In a Dutch study, people who read for half an hour after having experienced a stressful task reported their mood had gotten worse, while those who gardened instead of reading, “not only had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol afterwards, they also felt “fully restored” to a good mood.”
  • Australian researchers found that people in their 60s who regularly gardened had a 36% lower risk of dementia than their non-gardening counterparts. Even people with cognitive issues benefit. Fresh air and sunshine have a calming effect.
  • In Okinawa, which has the highest ratio of people over 100, Dr Bradley Willcox of the University of Hawaii says it is believed there that  “anybody who grows old healthfully needs an ikigai, or reason for living. Gardening gives you that something to get up for every day.” Residents also value a lot of social interaction, such as sharing what you have grown at the local market.
  • People who are surrounded by lush greenery live longer, according to a Harvard University study. When you garden, you create greenery all around you. Even a small garden lets you be in touch with nature.

There’s a simple truth: gardeners are more likely to plant what they want to eat.

You are likely to eat more vegetables and fruit, which are a big part of the kind of diet that is associated with longevity.  And you know exactly what pesticides, if any, you have sprayed onto the food.

If you’re ready for a job change . . .

There’s evidence that farming is one of the healthiest careers.  Farmers:

  • have fewer chronic illnesses (by a third)
  • are less likely to see a doctor
  • are less likely to die of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes than the population as a whole.
  • work later into life
  • live longer

No land?  Buy container pots!

or move to Okinawa, Japan – Nicoya, Costa Rica – Icaria, Greece – Loma Linda, California or Sardinia, Italy


*Dr Bradley Willcox of the University of Hawaii studies

Frankly Freddie – Beware of evening stress like loud fireworks

Dear Freddie Fans,
As canines go I’m extremely laid back.  The only thing that stresses me are fireworks.  (If humans can send people into space they should be able to make fireworks that don’t make noise.) .  Humans, unlike me, seem to be stressed all the time but . . .

 . . . did you know

The human body releases lower levels of the hormone (that helps ease stress)

in the evening?

According to my research sources*: Cortisol levels — controlled by the circadian clock in the brain — increase significantly in the morning, but not in the evening.

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva were measured from 27 “. . .  young and healthy volunteers, who adhere to normal work hours and sleep habits,  The subjects were not obese and were in tiptop physical condition. Moreover, they did not have jobs in the early morning nor late night nor rotating night shifts, and they all had no personal history of psychiatric, endocrine, or sleep disorders” LIKE ME.

The study is probably too boring for you to read so I’ve distilled the essence for you:

When a stressful event activates the axis, the body releases cortisol.

Encountering stress later during the day or at night time can be harder on the body.*

Some of the important conclusions is the need to take time for your wellbeing, beginning with managing stress, particularly as the day is coming to a close. I have simple solutions for you to ease your stress in the evening and stop it from aggravating your health.

  • Don’t dwell on problems – humans who are too lazy to go for walks, not enough tasty treats, fireworks that contribute to mental anguish.
  • Get a pet LIKE ME.
  • Engage in a  hobby – play ball,   
  • Take “alone” time – you can scratch yourself.
  • Eat human superfoods like spinach & turkey, food high in tryptophan that contains an amino acid that boosts serotonin production that aids in alleviating stress.
  • Still your mind with positive thoughts 
  • Try mind-calming (HUMAN) activities: yogo, meditation, journaling
  • Surround yourself with positive people – like P&J

I had to learn basic Japanese words (“Time to eat”, “Let’s walk”, “Give me a treat”, “Please”, “Thank you”) to bring this information to you.*


I’m happy (to be able to help you).

Freddie Parker Westerfield, Polyglot

* Research done by medical physiologist Yujiro Yamanaka of Hokkaido University in Sapporo and Japanese researchers Hidemasa Motoshima and Kenji Uchida  published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, Twitter: “Beware of evening stress.”

Bottling up your emotions can affect your immunity

We are no longer teenagers – in body if not spirit. Although this study was done on teens it applies to us SeenAgers because we were once teenagers who suppressed our emotions.  

Read on!

The coping skills teenagers develop by the time they are adolescents have the potential to impact their health later in life.  It’s not that health will be impacted in the short term but over decades could make a difference.

“That may be how small changes in metabolic or inflammatory outcomes may become associated with poorer health or a greater chance of developing a chronic disease later in life.”*.

The study** of 261 adolescents between 13 and 16 years old, explored whether the strategies adolescents used to deal with chronic stress caused by families affected various metabolic and immune processes in the body which included:

  • Cognitive reappraisal — trying to think of the stressor in a more positive way and
  • Suppression — inhibiting the expression of emotions in reaction to a stressor,

Teenagers who suppressed emotions tended to have more inflammation when their immune cells were exposed to a bacterial stimulus in the lab, even in the presence of anti-inflammatory signals.

Conversely, those who used cognitive reappraisal  had better metabolic measures, like blood pressure and waist-to-hip ratio.

Reappraising a situation during times of stress could be beneficial no matter our age.For a mild stressor, this can be as simple as reframing a bad situation by thinking about it as a challenge or an opportunity for growth:

SeenAge reframe: Being a Seenager is indeed a challenge and our expanding waist lines an opportunity for growth?



What Cirque du Soleil can tell us about the neuroscience of awe

“Fans and critics alike have been calling our shows ‘awe-inspiring’ for more than 30 years now, and yet when we asked fans as marketers, ‘How do you feel? How do we connect with you?’ they were not able to explain it,” says Cirque du Soleil’s chief marketing and experience officer Kristina Heney. “We would get the proverbial world cloud of ‘Oh, my god, wow, you have to go, amazing, life-changing,’ but we couldn’t understand that emotional bridge.”

Neuroscience defines awe as: first there is surprise, then comes a sense of wonder and a desire to understand the surprise.

Cirque du Critteres by Peggy

A group of neuroscientists, artists, and technologists at Lab of Misfits, an experimental research lab, looked at what happens in people’s brains as they watched a Cirque du Soleil show. They recruited 282 members of the audience and put EEG caps on 60 of them.

 The caps measured neurological responses during the show.

  • The moment the audience member reported experiencing awe, brain activity in their prefrontal cortexes (The part of the brain that is in charge of “executive function”, which makes plans and decisions.) decreased. They were not focusing, but were taking in what was happening. 
  • Simultaneously, activity increased in the part of the brain that is active when you are daydreaming or imagining. (The part associated with creative thinking).

The audience recruits who did not wear the caps were given several test, some before the show, some after and asked to rate the awe they felt during the show.  Those who experienced awe reported:

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology and director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley who studies awe:

 “We’ve got a lot of findings in that vein. Humans have to fold into social collectives. It’s essential to our survival, and awe helps us with that. Empirically, we find people feeling awe are more humble, and their sense of self diminishes, their sense of network expands, they become more altruistic. They have a quieting of self-interest and a turning to people around them.”

“We define awe as having two key appraisals, which is how we ascribe meaning to what we’re perceiving,” Keltner said. “The first is a sense of vastness that makes you feel small, and then the second is when you don’t understand what’s happening.



Confession: I suffer from CUTE AGGRESSION

It started when I was a child with my pet parakeet.  I wanted to squeeze him.  He was so cute, and warm and soft.  I didn’t squeeze, probably because he wouldn’t let me.  The impulse to squeeze subsided because my next pet was a turtle, which was not squeezable.  But my Cute Aggression had been unleashed and the urge returned with every mammal, human or otherwise.  (Cold blooded animals and insects unleash my aggression too but it is not cute.)

“Being Cute has it’s drawbacks .. .”

Cute aggression was first described in 2015 by researchers at Yale University. Researchers wanted to know what it looked like in the brain and recorded the electrical activity in the brains of 54 young adults as they looked at images of animals and people.

The images included both grown-ups and babies. Some had been manipulated to look less appealing. Others were made extra adorable, meaning “big cheeks, big eyes, small noses — all features we associate with cuteness.

The study found that for the entire group of participants, cuter creatures were associated with greater activity in brain areas involved in emotion. But the more cute aggression a person felt, the more activity the scientists saw in the brain’s reward system.

That suggests people who think about squishing puppies appear to be driven by two powerful forces in the brain: Both emotional and reward systems in the brain are involved in this experience of cute aggression.”

The combination can be overwhelming. And scientists suspect that’s why the brain starts producing aggressive thoughts. The idea is that the appearance of these negative emotions helps people get control of the positive ones running amok.

“It could possibly be that somehow these expressions help us to just sort of get it out and come down off that baby high a little faster,” says Oriana Aragón, an assistant professor at Clemson University who was part of the Yale team that gave cute aggression its name.

Aggressive thoughts in response to adorable creatures are just one example of “dimorphous expressions of positive emotion,” Aragón says.

“So people who, you know, want to pinch the babies cheeks and growl at the baby are also people who are more likely to cry at the wedding or cry when the baby’s born or have nervous laughter,” she says.

I’m sooo relieved to know  I have dimorphous expressions of positive emotion, sounds much less aggressive.






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