Welcome to our newsletter on strategies for aging positively. Here we investigate, discuss, and challenge attitudes towards aging.

As Albert Einstein said, "We Act As Though Comfort And Luxury Were The Chief Requirements Of Life, When All That We Need To Make Us Happy Is Something To Be Enthusiastic About!"

... This is something that we ALL need to consider at any stage in life.

Imagination and Relaxation Are a Great Combination

In our last newsletter we discussed the catch cry; "No Pain, No Gain" We found it difficult to accept with all its negative connotations.

Thanks to you, you did not leave me to deal with this dilemma on my own.

Your wonderful enthusiasm reminded me of the theme of James Surowiecki's book "The Wisdom Of Crowds" where he deals with how the "collective wisdom of the many is smarter than that of the few".

Through your amazing feedback,you have convinced me - and we have decided together now - on a new philosophy' "No Pain, No Pain"... WOW! now that's my kind of thinking. I like it and you obviously do too!! Let's run with that one.

I did mention to you in the previous issue of the newsletter that I learned a very important lesson by accident when I was in my early teens, which is a long time ago now!! Actually it is as vivid to me today as the day it happened. I went to the local theatre to see a stage hypnotist. I had never even heard of anything like that before so it was new, and an adventure for me and my older brother. I was mesmerised, fascinated, and at times frightened by the antics that I was witnessing on stage.

I happened to know some of the participants and the hypnotist had them believing that they were characters as diverse as being a famous bull fighter, to being a concert pianist or a great ballet dancer.

We sat through this performance for at least two hours, and we were both absolutely captivated by what we saw ) and to add to the value of it) I would say it was the funniest thing I had ever seen.

As we left the building I noticed the hypnotist standing at the door just saying goodbye to the patrons as they left. Maybe it was the expression on my face as our eyes met (I was secretly afraid that he would make me disappear!!). He moved towards me and handed me a small green sheet of paper about half the size of an A4 page. It was next day before I rustled up enough courage to read it. After all I had seen happening on the stage I didn't trust him or my own judgement.

When I eventually did read it, I found that it was the instructions on how to relax and use your imagination. Very clear, very brief and very simple. It actually introduced me to that whole concept long before anyone ever spoke about it. It was not common knowledge at all at that time, and I can honestly say that (for me) it was providential.

You can see now why I asked you to practice "imagining" your hands being completely relaxed. I emphasized the fact that it was important to "imagine" and not to try to do it.

There is an old saying in life... "You are hindered only by your imagination." This is very true.

Over many years I have studied the workings of the human mind but only as a layman. I did not have any medical qualifications but circumstances in my life made it necessary for me to get as much knowledge as I possibly could by reading and researching in my own way, as well as years of observing human behavior. As a result of the aforementioned experience I was lucky to have developed a great interest in that subject.

In today's society it is regarded as very important to know how to relax but it is often mistaken for just taking your mind off things with activities like playing sport or having a few drinks.

The relaxation that I talk about is of a different kind. It means physically and mentally letting go of all tension in the mind and body. I think it was the great author Sidney J. Harris said "The time to relax is when you don't have time for it".

Yes, playing sport or having a drink can be effective to a certain extent but to get the real value out of it, it is really necessary to relax and let go completely.

I asked you to imagine your hands being completely relaxed, how did you feel? It might take a few attempts to get used to it, only because it is so easy. You would have noticed though that your breathing slowed down and as a result of that your hands did relax.

This gave you some confidence in the fact that it works.

That is why I just gave you that very brief introduction to the system. I have used it and I have given it to so many people over the years. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to start off with and you know it doesn't get any harder than that. If it did I might not have learned it either!!

Remember our new philosophy of "No Pain, No Pain"? You and I agreed before - as Aging Positivists - that we have had enough pain in our lives.

It is a well known fact that when you are stressed in any way there are four very basic things that happen.

1 You clench your fists.
2 You grit your teeth.
3 You furrow your brow.
4 You scrunch up your toes.

That means that all the physical signs of stress and tension are manifested in these four areas. These symptoms are known as the 'Fight or Flight Response". The problem is most times you are not going to "fight or fly", so you don't need these tensions. If you can release them you are well on your way to dealing with your stress.

I am not going to introduce you to something that is going to cause you even more stress I have seen quite a few relaxation techniques that were so complicated to do that people finished up with more tension than they started with,just trying to follow the instructions.

To get right into the system of getting completely physically relaxed I make it very simple.

It requires these four simple procedures;

1 Sit or lie down as comfortably as you can.

2 Imagine that your arms and hands have just collapsed in to a state of complete relaxation.

3 Imagine that your legs and feet have just collapsed into a state of complete relaxation.

4 Imagine that your face has just collapsed into a state of complete relaxation

Each time, try to "imagine" what it would be like if this happened.

Imagine what that feeling would be like. Keep the imagination going, that is what will make it work for you.

You will notice that your breathing has slowed down... Now go through 2-4 again.

I can completely relax now within seconds, but I have had lots of practice and I also know it works.

If you find it a bit difficult in the beginning don't worry. It will happen for you, it always does. It really is a matter of getting to the stage where you can go through the 4 steps without having to remember them. Trying to remember causes its own stress. When you can do it without memorising the steps you're on your way to complete relaxation.

Once you get the hang of this and it starts to work for you, you will have made a great breakthrough in your life. There are so many situations where you can use this skill.

On it's own the ability to relax is just another skill.

You can then turn it into a resource. That's when things get really exciting.

I want you to practice that process now and in the next Newsletter we will make it into an exciting resource. It's called "The Snap" and yes it is a snap, literally!!. See you then...

Oh and before you go, remember; "None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm." (That man again; Henry David Thoreau).

See you soon,

Joe Brennan - Aging Positivist.