The Best Medicine

One of the most effective medicines is becoming less available in the world. This formula for curing many of today’s illnesses such as depression, cancer and other potentially debilitating diseases has been around for a millennium and, most recently, has become a valued, yet limited, approach to healing. You may be wondering what powerful drug your doctor has never prescribed to you – laughter.

As a child, we implement this powerful anti-stress medication approximately 300 times a day according to Psychology Today. The average 40-year-old laughs on average 4 times per day. These statistics may be urban legend, but the outcomes speak for themselves. We are more happy, excited about life and healthier as a child that laughs a substantial number of times each day.

In an April 24, 2020, article on VeryWellMind.com by Elizabeth Scott, PhD, the many benefits of laughter were evaluated. One of the most important outcomes from laughing is the lowering of stress hormones, such as cortisol, epinephrine, dopamine and growth hormone. Another finding was the number of antibody-producing cells increased in test subjects that laughed more per day than the group of individuals who did not.

What if you could become more physically fit simply by laughing? “A hearty laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs, and even works the shoulders, leaving the muscles more relaxed afterward,” according to the author. I am not saying you can eat all the carbs and fats that you wish and only laugh the pounds away, but it would not hurt for you to laugh, even at yourself, during the actual lifting of weights or running.

One of the most humorous stories of my life comes to mind. I was signed up to run a 5-K race for the first time. After running and working out for about 8 weeks, I was ready for the big day. Standing at the start line looking like a typical non-runner, bib fastened to my sweat-wicking running shirt, feet adorned with special running shoes for people of my talent and size (that’s what the skinny running salesman said at the store) and special running shorts that were longer than normal to hide the fact that I have not had any sun on my legs in a while, I faced the course with a determined look.

A few minutes before the starting pistol was to sound, a large woman with a clipboard comes over to me. She had a look in her eye like a TSA Agent finding something on my person while standing outside the body scanner. I will never forget her greeting – “Hi! This must be your first race.” I agreed with a proud smile on my face knowing that I had prepared and was mentally ready to take on the challenge before me. Her next statement, although funny today, was not so encouraging at the time. “You need to move to the back of the race pack.” I looked at her puzzled as to why she would make such a statement. I asked, “Do we start in bid number order or something?” She laughed aloud and replied, “No. Look behind you and you will see a man that will run up your back in the first twenty yards of the race.” Her quip was acknowledged as I turned and saw one of the runners that inherited the genes of the long-distance Grecians who ran from city-to-city without sweating or breathing hard.

As I gingerly walked to the back of the pack, a little dejected but also unable to contain the laughter of receiving advice about running from someone who obviously has never run a race in her life. After completing the course, within 31 minutes, I took my medal and walked over to the clipboard lady and said, “Thanks for the advice. I lost track of “Mercury” or whatever his name was after the first five minutes.” 

Look for opportunities to improve your mental and physical health by simply laughing whether at yourself or circumstances you may find yourself. It is a non-lethal way you can improve your day without hurting your body.

Your longevity in life is determined by how much you laugh. Well, this is my hypothesis and I intend on living to be 124! I always seek opportunities to help people laugh when they are stressed, and it is an appropriate moment in time. 

Your lifetime of financial security for your family is no laughing matter. To alleviate the stress from worrying about your finances, seek out a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional to help you build confidence in your future so you can laugh all the way to retirement and beyond.

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Your Health — The Greatest Asset You Own

If you are concerned about running out of money during retirement, there are several steps you can take now to avoid this catastrophe. Healthcare costs continue to rise at an alarming rate in the United States. Based on estimates provided by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), total health care spending grew by an average of 4.6% in 2017, reaching nearly $3.5 trillion. Prescriptions are arbitrarily sacrificed by some retirees as if they had a choice in taking this life-extending medicine. The reason for such a drastic decision is the required choice some people make to purchase food, shelter and car fuel instead of their medications.

To mitigate the rising cost of healthcare, start making a few small changes in your lifestyle. One simply has to look around to notice many of us carry far too much weight on our body. This result was not realized overnight. We suffer, or enjoy, the results from our choices we make. 

As a teenager, I enjoyed a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, hash browns, fruit, pancakes and, sometimes, chocolate gravy (more on this delightful dish later). I consumed, at least, four thousand calories per day and could not gain weight. Oh, to be young again. Eating this breakfast today would be tantamount to physical torture for my knees, hips and feet. A more sensible approach to eating must be subscribed to at the age of 54. Now, I eat high fiber, low fat meals that are limited to 1,500 calories or less per day.

Another area of choice is activity. Unless you are physically incapable of walking, this form of movement is one of the easiest and best exercises anyone can perform. You can lose a pound of weight for every 3,500 calories you burn walking. Simply calculated, if you burn 350 calories a day, you would lose one pound every 10 days by doing nothing more than walking.

How does this relate to retirement planning? As a retirement expert, we use a factor of 20% of the person’s retirement income for medical purposes. This may seem like a lot of money but the rising cost of healthcare could require significantly more of your income in retirement than you think. Included in the 20% factor would be medicine, physician costs, dental costs, nurses aide expenditures, and, potentially, nursing home needs.

Oh, back to the chocolate gravy. This southern dish consists of Hershey’s Chocolate Baking Powder, sugar (lots of sugar), flour and pure vanilla extract. Mix in a big stew pot on the stove, add water and stir until it boils. Take from the stove, add a hot, home-made biscuit with lots of butter and you have a rib-sticking delight that is out of this world. Also, this is obviously not healthy. So, I only allow myself this treat for breakfast at Christmas. To offset the effects of the calories and sugar, I run a 5-K or complete a CrossFit Workout of the Day (WOD). Don’t tell my doctor!

If you wish for your money to last longer than you, make some simple changes in your lifestyle. Consult your physician before starting any eating or exercise programs. Hope to see you out walking and exercising in our Southeast Oklahoma outdoors!

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