00:00 You’re listening to the live happier, longer podcast, episode seven.
00:15 Welcome to the live happier, longer podcast. We’re your hosts, Molly Watts, and Angela McDade.
We’re here to help you build the habits of a happier, longer life starting NOW.
00:28 Hey Angela. It is a gorgeous sunny fall day here in Oregon. That makes me extremely happy. But I’m even happier to be talking to someone on our podcast today who shares so much in common in terms of their passion for aging and aging with optimism. When I first started Five for Life©, it was a very personal thing for me, but Nicole Christina, who we’re going to be talking to, definitely brings an academic and clinical view to aging. Yeah. She is a psychotherapist and a professional blogger and she also has her own podcast, Zestful Aging, which is. I love “Zestful” Yeah. It just makes you, makes you feel bright and sunny even if it’s a cloudy day, but she has so many different guests and she describes them all as “women of a certain age” and it’s mostly women that she has. She has a couple of men, but they just give different insights on navigating aging and the challenges that come with it and it’s just, they’re all so interesting
01:39 Different ways of, of looking at life and it’s exactly. It’s exactly the same as we are looking at. Yeah. Well I think that is, it’s great. And I told her this before when we spoke with her overlapping our message is just fantastic because the more people that are talking about how to engage with optimism, how to put a focus on aging, the better off we’re going to be. So here’s Nicole Christina.
02:07 Hi Nicole. Hey Nicole. We are so happy to have you here. Thank you for taking time to speak with us today.
02:15 I love being with like minded people.
02:18 Right, exactly. And we’ve just talked a little bit about the fact that you are a psychotherapist, a professional blogger, and you also have your own wonderful podcast called Zestful Aging.
02:29 Yes. And it is my, my new pet project and I guess we’ll talk about it more, but it is brought so much joy to my life. I can’t even find the words.
02:41 That’s awesome. Yeah, and obviously one of the reasons that we wanted to connect with you is our messages are really very similar. They’re coming from the same place and we both have a, an incredible passion, you and us for creating a positive outlook on aging [inaudible]
03:00 Yeah. It’s really, it’s become my life’s work and the more I do it, the more I want to do it and the more I meet women in the world who are doing this in different creative ways. It’s again, you know, it’s not typical for me not to find words, but it’s just restored my faith in humanity.
03:27 Isn’t that wonderful? Yeah, that is, that is absolutely incredible. And we agree 100 percent. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to have this passion for Zestful aging and it’s brought great things to you, as you said, as you’ve been doing it, but what got you there?
03:47 That’s been a little bit of a twisty turny road. I worked in research and academic research and then I went to school to become a therapist, a clinical social worker. And I’ve been doing that for about 28 years.
04:07 And my program, my Grad program was very focused on the women’s experience and so I got really comfortable and I think good at working with women and then I had a sub specialty on eating disorders. And thing about eating disorders is, it’s a very, very intense and horrible disease and it’s hard to cure and it’s hard to treat. So doing this for 28 years, I certainly am dedicated to it, but I also started finding that I was asking questions like how can I connect with more people? What’s a broader message of wellness and health and taking control of your own life and sort of aging destiny. And so I dropped down on some of my private clients. I still have roughly a half time client load, but decided that, you know, reaching more people, particularly around the world and finding out what they were doing to keep themselves well and lively and engaged. Just, it just became another passion for me.
05:22 And it’s, you know, the people I’ve been able to meet, I, I’ve had so many pinch me moments, I’ve had several guests that, you know, I feel like they raised me, in terms of my own consciousness about women and some of the challenges that we have, particularly around ageism, lookism all of those kinds of things. So it’s all kind of related about taking your life in your own hands.
05:54 Oh, I love that. And I love zestful. I love that word. It’s just a fabulous. Yeah. It’s just so uplifting. Right. And Zest. I mean, who doesn’t just, you know, it’s a great word. So I’d love that. Yeah. So yeah, so you’ve created kind of, you’ve gone out there, you’ve, you’ve got different ways that you engage with people, obviously the podcast, which is fantastic. And as you mentioned, you have had some incredible guests that really have wonderful stories of their own where they’re creating their own zestful, aging experience. You also have done some work using your own academic background and your clinical experience and created a zestful aging course.
06:39 Right. I have. And that was actually a lot of fun and it’s hard work, but it’s fun because of course it’s your course so you can really distill the things, you know, you read the research, as I said, I’ve been a clinician so I’ve seen what’s helped people and you kind of making your own, it’s like your own little recipe. Of course it’s based on science, but certain things are highlighted. I’m a really big believer in stillness, nature, meditation and all of those things. So I tend to go heavy on that. But yeah, you’re right, there’s been a lot of different ways to do this. The course is the distillation of what I’ve learned and it’s simple. I found that, you know, people don’t want to sit and watch hours and hours of, of anyone talking I guess. So it’s pretty, you know, the, the modules are pretty short and punchy. And then I also have some meditations. I have different tools on there. I have a 30 page companion workbook that you get along with it so you can kind of take notes and then go back and look at it. And that’s of course a great learning tool. So it’s about much like, I think it has some overlap with your planner. There’s a world in which is like, okay, we’re working on this. Let’s notice about how we can increase this in your life. Let’s notice what it feels like, what’s missing, what needs to be kind of encouraged. It’s helpful. It’s a support. And I have done the work. I mean, there’s so many things that are thrown at us about you should be drinking Kale smoothies. You should be standing on your head, you should eat, you shouldn’t eat. No carbs, carbs, you know, and I, I think my biggest favor maybe to my listeners and to the people who do these courses, I cut through all of that confusing and contradictory message.
08:50 A lot of it may be coming on social media, but people have said, you know, it’s nice to be able to just cut through and not have to wonder, well maybe I should be drinking more, you know, Broccoli and that. And so I have the background to say, listen, this is what works and this we’re not really sure. So maybe let’s put the emphasis on what we, we know absolutely works.
09:16 Yeah. And I think one of the things that you said, right at the start there, that it is simple and I think that’s the key to most things. Although as simple, it’s still hard to carry out at times, but if you’re starting out and it is a simple thing, then it’s approachable for everybody.
09:34 And yeah, I think that’s so right. I mean that’s, that’s what I talk a lot about is that, yeah, you know, do I wanna maybe bike and do these things and then swim. Yeah. But it’s not sustainable. And I find that in my experience with working people with people with eating issues, you know, they want to eat clean or they want to exercise every day. Guess what, you know, there may be days where you’re simply too busy to exercise and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you say, forget it, I’m not doing it anymore. It means that if you could walk five minutes or 10 minutes, okay, well tomorrow I have a gap in my schedule and I’m going to go play tennis, that kind of thing. So it’s much more reasonable and it doesn’t make people crazy.
10:22 Our messages are very similar there. It’s all about creating the habits and doing them in a comfortable or at least in a sustainable way. Figure out what works for you and then make it work.
10:36 Yeah and I know you guys talk about positive stuff and again, bringing it back to the eating disorder, like, you know, when people are recovering from eating disorders, they say, well what should I eat? It’s got to be clean and it’s got to be organic. Like eat something beautiful, eat a salad that has 19 different colors and that’s delicious. Take a take an aesthetic walk, look at the sky, say hi to your neighbors. This isn’t a bootcamp. Life is hard enough.
11:10 Doesn’t the word boot camp just sort of like immediately instill in you that fear not even a fear just like,
11:16 I want to run away screaming.
11:19 Yeah, exactly. Like it says, this is not going to be fun. It’s going to be miserable. You’ll grimace the whole way.
11:32 Sign me up!
11:32 Yeah, I mean geez. So I know one of the very first things that you talk about is having a positive outlook and we’re all about creating a positive outlook. That optimism. That optimism is super important not only just because it’s better to be happy, sad, right? But is your research shown, Nicole, that there’s benefit to having a positive outlook?
11:59 Well, it’s a choice and the brain loves negativity because that’s how we’re made and that’s how we’re safe. Right? And just in terms of evolution and we’re always scanning and there’s some really interesting research about when people are behind you. They did a study of students in a library and people passing behind them in not any kind of aggressive way and that blood pressure goes up. So, you know, we’re, we’re geared to stay safe and our, our programming is pretty old. And so some of this is flexing a new muscle to say, yeah, I mean the world is really a mess and things are hard and many of us are worried a lot And it’s not to say, oh, it’s, it’s not about being pollyannish, but for me it’s about making sure I get out in the woods and sitting and just looking at moss or really spending time to when the sun sets beautiful to let it sink into my pores. And Rick Hanson is a really great guy. He does. He’s a neuro psychologist and he talks about letting it seep in, spending time, absorb the of whatever it is your puppies silliness, or your beautiful salad, or your kid’s smile, whatever it is. We all have our thing. But to really let it sink in and the idea is to counteract, you know, when you put the news on and you just want to go back to bed and hide under the covers. Y
13:43 Yeah. And I think that’s one of the things that I tell people. I’m not an naturally like optimism is not my default mode. or I am a, I tend to be a realist. I can stumble over something that is a negative thought or negative, negative self talk, things of that nature. And one of the things that I find so encouraging about all of this is that you can create optimism. you can create a positive outlook in your life. It is a choice. Yeah. And you know you, you do it by taking actions. You do it by going out and sitting in nature. You do it by choosing to focus on something like, just like you said, your kid’s smile, something happy and offsetting the negatives that are, that are out there in the world and in your own, in your own brain.
14:33 I’ll give you a even a silly example is I love having fresh cut flowers in my office and I have a flat, you know, I’ve garden, but I do live in upstate New York, so it’s not six months of the year there’s no flowers, but there’s a way in which you kind of counteract some of the sadness and the trauma that comes to this office. And there’s a way that like a look at those flowers and it’s a way of saying, yes, we’ll look at this beauty. And it’s a, it’s a balancing act. There’s a lot to be sad about. There’s a lot of tragedy out there. And in a way, you know, it’s very realistic to be down about that and hopeless. So, but it comes to, you know, how do I want to live, how do I want my my life to go and I just know that there were things that I can do to counter balance that. And some of the things you talk about so eloquently, I’m a big believer in a grateful living, connection, you know, and I’m a more and more a fan as I read more and more about smart phones and how they’re basically destroying our ability to socially interact. Yeah, It’s just to, to have some quiet to sit and, you know, we can call it meditation, that’s a fancy word for it. But just to take a time out, I just find vitally important in aging.
16:02 Well it is. And they’ve done studies now at like Google because even though Google, like, you know, owns the, the world of the Internet now and devices and of, of that nature. But you know, kids are not able to have just the most simple human interaction. They don’t understand how to introduce themselves to someone they don’t understand how to have an engaged conversation. They and they actually are developing like problems in their necks and their shoulders because of whether they’re holding their phone all the time. I mean, it’s, it is crazy. It is crazy, but that’s a whole another conversation. We won’t, we won’t. I’m sorry, going down. I’m going down rabbit holes, but the, but the point is that social connection is something that is vitally important as you age and we talk about it because loneliness and isolation is actually, it has been proven to impact your lifespan and it’s a critical problem for our aging population. What have you seen as far as the importance of social connections or that an impact of loneliness in your research?
17:15 Yeah, I’m right there with you. I, that’s, that it’s an epidemic and there’s really interesting initiatives both in our country and abroad. We’re bringing a younger folks, college students into retirement homes because it does good for both of them. So trying to be really creative about how do we help people with isolation. I mean, personally I I have dogs. Um, I’m one of those crazy dog ladies who would just adopt every dog that came along and every day, almost every day, unless there’s a wind chill factor below 20, which sometimes happens here, but I’m out. And so I’m always, seeing other people with dogs at the dog parks. Then it could be as simple as what kind of dog is that? Oh, did you get it at such and such shelter? Oh, is it a Texas dog? And just that, like, I see you, you see me, we’re together. It’s that whole idea, that whole namaste thing like I see you, we’re both humans. We’re both in this moment together. And then you walk along and do it all over again. I mean, my work as a psychotherapist can be very isolating and I noticed that if I don’t get out and even just go to the grocery store or walk down the street, go to the bank and, or even the mail carrier, you know, have words just something to say, you know, we’re kind of all in this together. I feel myself get a little crazy. It has to happen. And again, biological reasons, we’re mammals. And back on the Savanna, if you were alone, it’s not only uncomfortable, it’s deadly. I mean, you cannot be traveling outside of your tribe because you will be the first one to get picked up. So where we’re designed to be with our tribe or our herd or whatever you want to call that is for safety and you can’t, you know, this has been implanted and there’s a reason for it and we can’t think we’re going to change habits, against the way we were made biological wiring of generations, hundreds of generations. That’s right It’s not back to those basics, right?
19:49 You know, as your life changes, right? As you continue to age. And I can see myself as I eventually when I retire and things of that nature, you have to keep working at staying engaged. Even with the people that I want to see. Right. It gets very easy to just kind of stop doing because you don’t have the commitments. You know, I don’t have to show up at the school every week. I don’t have to show up at the ballgame. I don’t have to show up at the concert. Those things that would just naturally keep me connected. You again, as people’s lives changed and they retire. They aren’t at the workplace anymore. And if or if they like your, your practice is so low, it’s much more one on one. Because we, we are friends because their kids went to school together and when you’re meeting people without any real effort, you’re going to do the thing. But in, you know, in going to school or the ball game or whatever, you just happened to me each other. But when you don’t have that, everything then becomes an effort. You have to make arrangements to see each other and go out together. And go for a coffee where as it all happened without any effort before. So as you get older, you do find that you have to, when it becomes an effort, then you’re, a lot of people just don’t take the effort and they just let things slide. So that’s, that’s where this interaction, as you get older it becomes more difficult.
21:20 I want to, if you don’t mind, I just want to make a plug for a, an interview I did yesterday. Um, it’s, and you may know about it, it’s called the Transition Network and I spoke to the executive director, her name’s Susan Collins and it is this brilliant organization. It’s a nonprofit and people just go on. They have all these offerings. It’s like a meetup group on steroids and it’s all about training people, offering groups, and it’s for 50 and over and they cover all of the challenges of aging- retirement, Empty Nest, Sandwich generation. They have speakers, they have trainings, they have all kinds of resources. I was just so taken by it and so I just wanted to put it out there to your listeners.
22:15 Yeah, no, absolutely. That is a great, we’ll, in fact we’ll put that down in the show notes.
22:19 It’s the transition network and I think they have chapters, but even if they don’t have a chapter in your area, there are international members and you can get all of their stuff online as well.
22:34 Cool. Very cool. Let’s talk a little bit about something that I found interesting in and we’re going to lead people to leave. You have a free Webinar that they can learn more about your zestful aging class and in watching that Webinar I learned a new word. I didn’t even know.
22:52 Oh, I know what you’re going to say.
22:55 Which is great because I love to learn is generativity. Tell me about generativity.
23:01 Generativity is so funny because I love for us, I love reading and I thought I pretty. You know, I had heard everything but yeah, it came out of the Harvard Study of adult development, which is the longest study of aging today. It’s actually still going on. It’s 80 plus years old.
23:20 I’m actually familiar with that. It’s one of the many. We are continually listening to that kind of stuff and all these studies on aging and that one is super interesting.
23:33 Yeah, it’s amazing. And I got familiar with it because one of the principle investigators was affiliated with my Grad School. But that’s another story. Yeah. So, uh, yeah, they just start talking about generativity and I thought what the heck is that? And essentially it’s a fancy word for paying it forward. And an example that I heard once is planting seeds for trees that you will never see grow both figuratively and literally that there was a group of volunteers that were actually planting trees and you know, they’re in their eighties and they’re planting them for shade and they are never going to see that shade come to light. But the idea that you’re helping future generations and you’re giving of yourself in ways that you’re never going to see bear fruit, but people describe that as so deeply satisfying and not in a happy way that maybe back in the day when we got our license or a date or something, you know, we might be squealing about or doing a happy dance. It’s a much deeper, quieter, mellower state of deep, deep satisfaction. And that’s what many people who are aging will describe as a different kind of happiness. And often when they’re doing these kinds of activities.
25:02 You know, one of the things that I, I see as just a vital way of creating generativity and, and I think I would love to hear your opinion on. I’m sure you feel the same way, but I want to really see more seniors, more grandparents in our schools volunteering with kids because it’s good for everybody. It’s good for the volunteers. It’s wonderful for the kids and not all of our kids have have grandparents and then either that or they don’t have great examples of grandparents in their lives either, you know, they’re are not those active. We want to create a positive outlook or a positive image of aging. We need to take a turn as older people to go give back to those And you’re really creating. You are giving something that you may not see the benefit from. You know, you’ll have fun, right in, in a very immediate experience if you’re volunteering at a school, but what you’re doing for those kids and what they will turn, you know, how they will grow up to something that you may not get to see.
26:05 Like it’s an investment. Yes. And, and um, as you noted, that kind of volunteering can be tremendously good for one soul and also the souls of those who you’re helping. I would caution your listeners though that not to just volunteer for volunteering sake. It ‘s really important that there’s a good fit between what you’re doing. You you should feel energized. I mean you might be tired at the end of the day. There’s been some examples of people who say, I know I should volunteer and I’m going to do it to make you know, age better, but it’s not a good fit and they actually feel not energized and, and even resentful about having to go. So shop around and make sure it matches your interests and your talents.
27:03 Yeah. The things that we do try and promote in all of our actions . One of the things in move is that we want you to pick something that you enjoy and the same thing with when you are interacting with people showing up at something that you hate is not going to be beneficial to anybody. So it’s just, as you said, finding the right fit. Something that, that you go and you enjoy and it’s a good experience for everybody involved.
27:34 Yeah. Alright. So we’ve talked a little bit. Like I said, we’re going to direct people to, we’re going to link to your webinar in our show notes. Give me an overview of the Zestful Aging course one more time and what people are going to get out of it both immediately and long term.
27:54 Okay? Sure. Um, you know, it’s Zestful Aging– Simple and Sustainable Habits for Longevity. Um, and much like what you guys are talking about. If you don’t do it, it could be the most healthy and wonderful habit in the world. Uh, I’m all about, you is this what a regular person, can do, does this make sense? Does it feel good? Is there an intuitive sense? Like, yeah, my body actually likes taking a walk. My body does not like running my body loves playing tennis, but I’m not going to be a doing marathon prep. I mean, that’s just not my thing. Um, so it’s really about doing things that are manageable but really pack a punch. So it, it really does matter if you get outside most days and take a walk and move and lubricate your joints, it matters. So I’m really going for bang for the buck here. This is not training Olympic athlete. This is about helping you do the things that we know. The research is very clear. We know that things like quiet meditation, having a spiritual life, getting out in nature, moving and eating reasonably well. Again, not this is not like the food police here. It’s gotta be clean, organic, and it’s gotta be this. It’s okay to have a chocolate covered oreo with caramel Sauce or whatever your fantasy dessert is. once in a while. It sounds pretty good. Yeah. It’s a matter of balance that mostly you want to feed your body good fuel that’s delicious. If you don’t like Greek yogurt for goodness sake, don’t eat it. There’s lovely things for you. Go to the farmer’s market,try new things. So that’s, that’s the whole thing. And it’s, you know, it’s pretty. I’ve tried to make it really accessible and fun and pleasant and even a little bit funny. It’s basic and it’s good stuff and you don’t have to worry so much.
30:16 And people, I’ve found in my practice they get really, like I’m not doing it right. I didn’t take a walk. Oh, I ate McDonald’s and then they sort of feel like they want to give up. Okay. So you ate McDonald’s? Yeah. Okay. You know, once in awhile it just simply, our bodies are really resilient. It’s not going to kill you, but it’s also not going to make you feel great. So what’s, what’s good tomorrow? What do you like? You like this? You like that? I’ll play or really like don’t eat it. Then what do you like? I love Broccoli. Okay. Let’s think about what we can do with Broccoli that is delicious. I’m about like, you know, practical. I’m not about like, Oh, you know, I’m gonna eat everything that is organic.
31:05 Sometimes you can’t eat organic all the time. Sometimes we have tons of something in the garden and that we eat a lot of tomatoes. So I guess that’s a long winded way of saying it’s, it’s a tool to help guide you and help teach you in a way that I think is not painful and can be fun and is educational.
31:29 Awesome. So the Webinar is called making over 50 the best years ever.
31:35 That’s actually, you know what, that. That was an older version so I’ll have to double check that. But if you go on Nicole, Christina Dot com, I can’t remember where that particular Webinar fit in. There’s been a lot of versions of them, but if you go to Nicole, Christina Dotcom, there’s different options. You can look at different things. You can sign up. I have a monthly newsletter, blog that I talk about all these things and. But you’ll find all my stuff there and then you can just pick and choose what suits you.
32:11 Awesome. Then I think we can find your podcast there as well, or at least add link.
32:15 It’s on itunes and all the platforms called Zestful Aging. It’s the only Zestful Aging and I have some really interesting guests, quirky guests. I’ve learned things about different kinds of volunteering and different kinds of ways of coming into one’s own after 50. That has been an absolute joy.
32:40 Yeah, no, it’s a great podcast and I encourage everybody to go take a listen because you’ll get something. What I love about your podcast is it’s very. It’s different every week, which is so cool. I mean it has that common theme of people doing inspiring things or learning cool things about aging and you can tell that it’s really something that you’ve really. That you’re growing from it too, so that’s really cool.
33:08 Yeah. I have dog rescuers and people going into San Quentin and helping hospice and then I have people knit a prosthetic breasts for post-mastectomy. People go into Rwanda. I mean, it is just a potpurri of really interesting women.
33:28 Isn’t that great though, because that’s really what life is, right? It’s just. I mean there’s so many different ways of approaching the same things and that’s why I love that. I love that and I love our, how our messages have crossed paths and we’re just so lucky that we’ve gotten to meet you and talk with you virtually. Anyway. Again, it’s Nicole, Christina, and that’s n-i-c o l e and then Christina. Yep. C-H-R-I S T I -n-a.com. Right. Perfect. Well, we appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today.
34:03 It’s been a pleasure Molly.
34:04 Cool. We will again link everything in our show notes for everybody and we just thank you for being here. Have a great day and hope it doesn’t snow anytime soon up there in upstate New York. .
34:18 I appreciate that. We’re not quite ready for that. I haven’t put my garden to bed yet. Thanks for all your good work too. I love your planner and I’m gonna sing its praises far and wide. It’s a great idea.
34:30 Thanks. Thanks so much, Nicole.
34:34 Thanks for listening to the live happier, longer podcast. Now it’s time to move, learn, share, give and let go. Five daily actions to make the rest of your life the best of your life. See you next week.