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Archive for April, 2009

With a little help from your friends

Posted by telos on April 23, 2009

surround yourself with friends

surround yourself with friends

On the Beatles legendary ‘Sergeant Pepper’ Album, Ringo sings …

I get by with a little help from my friends …

Leaving to one side for the moment the quality of his singing voice (or lack thereof) I am here to tell you that John, Paul George and Ringo may have hit on something with that sentiment. It appears that ‘The Fab Four’ were way ahead of their time with their philosophy regarding the relationship between friendship, health and even longevity! The reason I make this bold statement (and an even bolder attempt at singing a few bars of this song while waiting in line at Starbucks) was because I spotted something in the newspaper I picked up which caught my attention.

An article in the Tuesday April 21st issue of Science Times (The New York Times) reported on the rapidly increasing amount of research into the importance of friendships and social networks to overall health. Here’s the lead paragraph in full

In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life: their friends. 

The article cites an Australian study which reported that older people with a large circle of friends were “… 22 percent less likely to die” during the study period than those with fewer friends. Also a large US study that reported ” … an increase of almost 60% in the risk of obesity among people whose friends had gained weight”. In the June 17, 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, a  Harvard research team followed 16,000 men and women over age 50 for six years. The results showed a clear connection between being socially active and involved, and preserving memory and cognitive abilities.  There is increasing evidence to suggest that friendship has an even greater effect on health than a spouse or family member.


This is all highly interesting and valuable information, and more research of course will bring even greater clarity to these connections. In the meantime however I want to comment on the way this kind of research is conducted and the way it is reported. In my ongoing quest of pursuing an ‘assett-based’ approach to health and wellness, I continually find that ‘benefits’ are almost always reported as ‘reductions in risk’ – or as I have written in previous posts ‘Getting less bad’ (See


Take the results of the Australian study reported above. The other way of viewing these results is that older people with larger circles of friends were (some percentage)  more likely to live  – and so continue to enjoy life. Now, which would you prefer to experience – being less likely to die – or being more likely to live? Of course it’s all in the way you think about it, but for me, positive is always preferable to negative. I’d rather ‘get more good’  than ‘get less bad’.  I view the US study in the same way. What about the group who had friends that were of normal weight? What positive things happened to them? What is the message being sent when research results are reported in this way? Avoid your friends, or avoid making friends if they are overweight? The point I am trying to make here is that there are many benefits to be gained from building and keeping friendships, perhaps more than we ever realized. More importantly these benefits are positive experiences, best ‘recieved’  (and most effectively recieved) when expressed in a positive fashion. While the research on friendship is still embryonic, there is a large, and still growing body of research in ‘Positive Psychology’ that confirms the relationship between positivity and health. So I say – take this to heart and choose to be ‘positively good’!

getting more good!

positively good!

Speaking of ‘positively good’ I wanted to add something else that struck me even more powerfully as I was reading this article. I was really taken by the fact that I have actually seen and experienced – in real life – the positive friendship- and socially- inspired benefits that the research in this article talks about through my involvement with STRIVE – the group-based strength and wellness program conducted by my other company The STRIVE Wellness Corporation (

STRIVE is a fun, socially active, group strength training and wellness program, specifically designed for older adults. STRIVE uniquely combines an ongoing, comprehensive wellness assessment with personalized, expert attention, from highly qualified professionals. STRIVE members experience dramatic improvements not only in their functional fitness but also in their physical, social and mental health. Regular STRIVE members have a positively infectious outlook on life and approach getting older with a youthful enthusiasm. But STRIVE isn’t just a place to get fit… it’s a place to make new friends, share experiences, find support, dream new dreams…


Thats what we say about STRIVE – and that’s what we have discovered with STRIVE. You can read and view testimonials from dozens of participants supporting these claims @ As far as the research in the above newspaper article is concerned, very often life preceeds research – or maybe it’s more appropriate to say that life sometimes prompts research to investigate things that people have ‘known’ for years!

To paraphrase the newspaper quote above

In the quest for better health, many older adults turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But some are also discovering  a powerful weapon that increases their strength, independence, vitality, energy and quality of life: STRIVE! 

With a little help from STRIVE, our members are activating their aging as well as activating their engagement with life

– and their engagement with friends –


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Windmills of the mind

Posted by telos on April 15, 2009

blowing in the mindmill

ever spinning ...

As we think about what we ‘should’ do in our quest for health and wellness (and, too often, ‘why’ we don’t do it!) we frequently find our thoughts blowing around and around inside our head just like those child’s colored windmills. As I was writing this, it reminded me of the words of that Michel Legrand song of the late 60’s, “Windmills of your Mind”

“Like a circle in a spiral, Like a wheel within a wheel, Never ending or beginning, On an ever-spinning reel …”

That’s what those kind of ‘should’ thoughts mostly feel like – “I know I should do this because … but if I don’t do it, then what? …and if I .. ? etc etc?” Or those ‘why’ thoughts – “Why do I always do this? … why can’t I succeed? … why do I always fail?” I’m sure we’ve all had those kind of thoughts before – “round and round and round they go and where they stop nobody knows!”

Let’s use exercise as an example. You want to become more active and you have done it for a few days or even a few weeks … but then you just stop. What’s the problem here? You know that you should exercise and you know why you should do it – but you just stop. Each time you ‘fail’, you go round and around in your head wondering why you always do this and ultimately deciding that maybe you just didn’t try hard enough.

What is going on here? Does this happen to everyone all the time? Are we all just lazy (because we just can’t be bothered to do it) or stupid (because we know what is ‘good for us’ but don’t do it anyway?). Of course not! It’s something much more basic than this. Very often it’s the kind of question you ask (yourself or others) that ‘pre-selects’ not only the way you set your goal, but also your response to making (or, especially, not making) the goal, and also your next attempt at the goal. Here’s my take on this based on current research in behavioral science and my training as an Intrinsic Coach.

‘Why?” questions are almost always the first ones to be asked post-goal setting. If you set yourself a goal and you don’t make that goal, I can almost guarantee the first thing your trainer will ask (or you will ask yourself) is some variation of ‘Why do you think you didn’t make that goal?” But here’s the thing, ‘why’ questions (however nicely asked) are hardly ever productive. If asked of another person, they tend to produce defensiveness (e.g. I just got too busy, I just didn’t feel like it etc). If asked of yourself, they tend to produce some variation of ‘I don’t know’, followed by ‘maybe I could do this or maybe I could have done that or next time maybe, maybe, maybe …’ … never ending or beginning like an ever spinning reel!

More productive and far less circular are ‘What?’ questions – but not a ‘What should I do?’ question, since that’s really the same thing we just talked about above. A different and more clarifying question is “What is important to me (about this goal)?” It is essential to say here that this is not the same as ‘what is best for me’, or ‘what is good for me’, or ‘what will benefit me’, or even ‘what will I get out of this’. No – we are thinking here only about “What is important to me”. Incidentally, if for some reason you don’t make that initial goal, the other ‘What?’ question to ask is “What did I learn from this?” (rather than ‘Why did I mess up?” or similar). I have written about this in earlier posts – check out and it is worth repeating that for many people this initially is a funny question to be asked (funny ‘peculiar’ not funny ‘ha ha’), and almost always takes some time to elicit a clear answer.  For more details – and more thinking – on this check my earlier post

If you clarify the ‘What is important’ part, everything else follows, step by step, with each step informing the next

 “As the images unwind, Like the circles that you find, In the windmills of your mind”

Unwind the images – you are outside the circular – what is important to you?

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