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No magic pill for senior mental health

The Lawton Constitution - 1/22/2018

There is no question that the mind-body connection is real, even if we can't quantify it. Hope is one of the greatest weapons we have to fight disease, according to David Agus.

Jacklyn McNeil, licensed professional counselor, quoted Agus when talking about the four principles of Super Aging recently.

"Tom Brokaw dubbed the Great Depression generation as the Greatest Generation almost 20 years ago," McNeil said. "They experienced the Depression, winning a war against Nazi oppression, prevailing for civil rights, traveling to the moon ... Now they are the generation with the most extensive longevity and the most people reaching that longevity. They are reaching 100-110 years old."

Researchers are learning there's no magic bullet, no magic pill and no psychological trick, according to McNeil.

She said there are some common characteristics and she offered what she has determined as the four principles of Super Aging: attitude, acceptance, adaptability and associations.

"No. 1 is attitude," McNeil said. "Your attitude about aging may impact how you age. Researchers at Yale, Psychology Today and the magazine Aging all agree that what you think about growing old affects how you age."

Acceptance is discovering aging in its own terms. In a study called The Journal of Happiness Study, two groups of people were studied - one group in their 30s and one group in their 60s. The question was asked, "Are you happy?"

"Everyone expected the younger group to outnumber the older group; however, the older group had accepted aging as a part of life and were happiest," Mc-Neil said.

She noted Rod Warner wrote a book about building reserves for resilience. McNeil recommends the following for growing through adversity:

n Connect to your purpose and the meaning of life.

n Use your own unique strengths.

n Maintain perspective.

n Generate positive feelings.

n Be realistically optimistic.

n Persevere by being open minded.

n Reach out to others.

McNeil said realizing the mind and body are connected is important.

"If I do yoga or Pilates, that's going to teach my mind and body to be more peaceful and calm than if I just sat on the couch and ate potato chips all day," she said. "It's not just about going to the gym. It's our minds and our body working together ... The faith aspect of it is so important. We know that people who pray are going to live longer. That's been scientifically tested and scientifically proven."

McNeil said she created a program for her elderly patients in which they can sit in a chair and exercise for half an hour.

"They love it because it's a sense of accomplishment," she said. "Research shows those who do 15 minutes exercise for three times a week will live decades longer and they will be healthier and happier."

The fourth aspect for Super Aging that McNeil spoke about was associations, building on social reserves. She said that should include:

n I have strong relationships, structure, rules at home, role models. These provide external supports.

n I am a person who has hope and faith, cares about others, is proud of myself. These are inner strengths.

n I can communicate, solve problems, gauge the temperature of others, seek good relationships - all the interpersonal and problem-solving skills that are acquired through relationships.

McNeil said when her children were young she read storybooks to them. The books they like best were the ones in which they got to use their imagination to chose their own ending.

"Use your imagination on how you want to end your life," she said. "One of my favorite movies was ‘The Bucket List.' They chose how they were going to end their life; you decide how you are going to end yours."

About the counselor

The Rev. Jacklyn McNeil is a licensed professional counselor, supervisor and also certified trauma professional at Cornerstone Clinical Services, Inc in Lawton. She was a pastor in the United Methodist Church for 11 years. "Now my ministry is through my practice of healing," she said.


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