Beat the malaise of post-holidays

Christmas has passed and the New Year is upon us!  What joy, what joy…or so they say.

We are still in the festive season for the next week or so and then boom, it’s all over.  All we have to look forward to are slimmer bank accounts, cars that seem to break down at that most inopportune time, cold short days and general malaise.  But that malaise can be overcome.

Psychologists say that we should picture our lives as this straight line on a graph.  But, in reality your life is only a straight line if you have absolutely nothing going on in your life.  Studies of Olympic athletes showed that after the Olympic games were over, whether the athlete won a medal or not, depression set in.  The studies found that the depression would last about the same amount of time as the period from when the athlete qualified for the Olympics up to the conclusion of the Games.  In other words, if an athlete qualified for the Olympics ninety days before the Games then the depression lasted for about ninety days following the games until “balance” was once again attained.

Economists who have studied “shocks” to the economy also watch those lines on graphs closely.  They found that when the line on the graph spiked to highs for say three years then eventually balance would occur by a corresponding reversal in economic activity for three years, thus closely mirroring the spike above the line with a spike below the line.  They found that after the highs peaked, the resulting “shock” in the opposite direction took place until eventually balance….a straight line…once again took place.

Our lives are like that.  When the Christmas season comes, starting with Thanksgiving (about 40 days before New Year’s Day), the general mental condition of the average person “spikes” above the general malaise/daily-grind line.  Unfortunately, the next forty days or so after the New Year is followed with depression, sadness and a general lack of optimism (especially if our local football team doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl… again).

Those same psychologists have come up with a cure to the general up and down mental condition that happens to us when “shocks” occur to our lives.  The cure?  Plan!  Yes, plan.  They say that if you sit down right after New Year’s Day and plan to buy a house or take an exotic trip in the Spring then the mind, over the next forty days or so, will not focus on the negative aspects of life as previously noted and will instead generate endorphins of happiness instead.

So, the moral of the story is to always have something to look forward to.  It’s as simple as that.  If we look forward to something fun then our minds will mask and overcome all those pesky negatives that seem to encompass our lives that come from the day to day grind.

We Baby Boomers are getting along in years but we refuse to accept our mortality.  We still picture ourselves attending anti-war rallies or joining five other friends and stacking six surfboards on top of a ’56 Ford Fairlane heading up or down the coast looking for the perfect waves.  We generally still mentally relive our youth over and over so we naturally feel young despite our withering bodies.  But, reality tells us that we are mortal and the end is coming faster than we would like.  There is a cure to that too.

A physician friend once relayed an AMA study to me years ago.  He said the average male, no matter the retirement age, dies three years after retirement.  I told him that’s impossible but he reiterated facts that seemed to support the thesis.  He did say though that the study had to take out golfers.  Apparently golfers live ten to twenty years beyond those three years and thus golfers were skewing the results.  Apparently walking six miles around a golf course while carrying 25 pounds on your back two to four times a week is going to get you many, many, more years than the sedate retiree.  I’m sure that golfing could be substituted with mountain biking, tennis, surfing, skiing or some other activity that would take up four to six hours a day/ two to four days a week, but the AMA study focused on golfers.  Skin cancer be damned, it means getting sunshine and extended exercise keeps you healthy.

So, as we head into 2015 (hard to believe isn’t it — 2015?), we need to stay physically as well as mentally healthy.  Sit down with your significant other and make plans for the upcoming year and then get your butts off the couch and do something in the outdoors on a regular basis.  Your Soul will sing to the Glories if you do.

Happy 2015 everyone!

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