Editor’s note: This post was first written when Betty turned 98. But death need not be the end of her influence. Though she has gone into the Great Googly Moogly, her spirit will continue to inspire.

Who among us has a sunnier disposition than the indomitable Betty White? She turned 98 last week, which is no surprise, given that she’s still a force in the entertainment industry. *

So what’s the secret to an existence like Betty’s? Research shows that optimism contributes to 11 to 15 percent longer life span, and to greater odds of living to the age of 85 or beyond. But White has exceeded that by more than a decade. To what does she attribute that extra oomph?

“I know it sounds corny, but I try to see the funny side and the upside, not the downside” she said in a recent interview.  That’s right, Betty knows it’s best to look at every situation, even the crappy ones, and at least get a laugh or two out of it. (Like her first marriage to a rural chicken farmer that lasted six months.) As Betty is proving, it’s not just optimism, it’s SuperOptimism that can propel you to the century mark in style.**

And while you’re at it, it never hurts to light a votive candle just in case.

*Guinness has awarded Betty the world record for longest TV career for an entertainer — 75 years (and counting).

**You’ll also find vodka, hot dogs and red licorice on Betty’s training table. 

***Final note: Betty said she had no fear of death. Her mom taught her that,’It’s the one secret that we don’t know. Whenever she would lose somebody very close and very dear, she would always say, ‘Well, now he knows the secret.’ Now Betty knows the secret too!

superoptimist half full

While philosophers can spend an eternity wondering whether a glass of water is half empty or half full, the SuperOptimist sees it for what it is — a partially filled glass waiting to be sipped. 7 1/2 glasses more, and he will be well-hydrated for the day. 4 more after that, and he’s super-hydrated!

The philosophy behind the SuperOptimist glass view? If you don’t need to worry about it — then don’t! Let a committee of experts, professors, and doctoral candidates try to answer the unanswerable. Even the best minds can get stumped on the toughest problems, like these:

1. Why are there no words that rhyme with “orange”?

2. What color are things in the dark?

3. If Earth were struck by a giant meteor, who would survive and what would happen to real estate prices?

 

The soul. The sole. This is not a coincidence. Almost every major internal organ can be affected by placing direct pressure on certain areas of the feet. Yet we encase our tootsies in leather or nylon, and let them fester in a dark, sweaty place for most of the day.

One of the best natural massages you can give your long-suffering feet is to walk barefoot through grass. Here you’ll find a nonaddictive mood stabilizer called “herbacinium.” Since each foot has thousands of itty-bitty fibrous nerve endings, soaking the herbacinium through your balls, heals, and toes and into the bloodstream can lower your heart rate by up to 14%. So the relaxation isn’t just psychological, it’s also physical.

In addition, by taking off your shoes, your feet can breath. And if they’re breathing, chances are, so are you.

Here we are in the middle of February, with skies of grey and more snow in the forecast. Fatigue from lack of warmth and reduced daylight hours is only natural. So what’s a northerner to do? Here at SuperOptimist headquarters, in addition to a hearty mug of hot cocoa, we find there’s nothing like a short winter’s nap to reinvigorate the senses. (Unless, of course, it’s a long winter’s nap.  Both rate high in our book.)

That’s why we’re pleased to report that the nation’s military leaders are also proponents of sleeping on the job. According to the recently issued Army Field Manual, the armed forces have officially embraced an afternoon snooze for sleep-deprived soldiers.

“When regular nighttime sleep is not possible due to mission requirements, soldiers can use short, infrequent naps to restore wakefulness and promote performance,” according to the manual. “When routinely available sleep time is difficult to predict, soldiers might take the longest nap possible as frequently as time is available.”

Like civilians, soldiers cannot be trained to perform better on less sleep.  That’s where officially authorized naps fit in. A stage 2 power nap, encompassing 15 to 20 minutes of snooze time, helps reset the system and produces a burst of alertness and increased motor performance.  The slow-wave nap lasting 30 to 60 minutes is good for decision-making skills, such as memorizing vocabulary or recalling directions. Going for 60 to 90 minutes of napping, complete with REM activity, plays a role in solving creative problems.

Then there’s the hypnagogic. The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that true inspiration could be found in the the state of half-wake, half-sleep when the brain slips into an impressionistic state, untethered from a rational framework.  Pushing that idea farther, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali would take micro-naps in order to stay in stage one of sleep, that taps into vivid imagery and sensation.

In Dali’s case, his naps lasted less than 1 second at a time.  How is this possible? By holding a key or spoon between his fingers so when he nodded off, the clang of dropped metal would awaken him. Dali claimed that “slumber with a key” revivified both mind and body, and generated powerful visual ideas. Of course, being Salvador Dali probably helped.

Want to read more about the positivity of nap time? Here’s what the brainiacs at Harvard have to say about it. The Mayo Clinic weighs in here. And let’s not forget the wags at McSweeney’s, who uncovered this list of quotes that take naps.

*We’re writing this on President’s Day, as it’s no secret that the occupants of the White House have always taken naps behind the curtains of the oval office, from LBJ to Reagan to Clinton to…well, we assume 78-year-old Joe Biden likes his daily refresher as well.

Nurses are there for you in times like these. They have big hearts, and don’t judge questionable behavior, but instead provide care and comfort, even if it’s the result of a mistake on your part.

It turns out that this celebration of caregivers begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th — Florence Nightingale’s birthday. That’s nice and all, but really, every day should be Nurses Day.

So we hereby extend National Nurses Day for the entire calendar year of 2020, and encourage you to recognize and appreciate the nurses in your life. Not just the hospital variety, who will be working overtime due to American distaste for following rules and guidelines, but the mother who fusses over every sniffle and scrape, the neighbor who rushes over with a bandage after you slip with the electric hedge trimmer, or the concerned friend who hasn’t heard from you in 24 hours and calls repeatedly to make sure you’re still ambulatory.

As for a gift? We recommend following the zen principle of doing absolutely nothing. Not getting in a skateboard mishap. Not overdoing it in your zoom yoga class. Not crowding into a barber shop and catching C19. What better way to say “thanks” than not showing up at the hospital?*

 *When the time is right, we also recommend getting a large tattoo of your favorite nurse on a forearm or neck to show your unwavering devotion. Remember: nurses work hard, and they have to stand all day in ugly shoes.  They deserve more than a day of thanks.  Let the year-long celebration begin!

Today the SuperOptimist turns 141.* (Not in years, but in columns placed on the world wide web.) Naturally, this is cause for revelry, so we’d like to invite you to join us as we dig in to a generous slice of our favorite pie.

At the same time, we pause to reflect on the great gift bestowed upon us as transmitters of SuperOptimist thought. We were first visited by this powerful force in 2006, which resulted in a book that offered a contrarian take on what most humans refer to as “problems.”

Secrets of the SuperOptimist

We thought we had completed our mission with the book’s publication and subsequent second edition, and spent the next 11 years practicing SuperOptimism like a figure skater practices a triple lutz, or an equestrian practices dressage. Yet the spirit channel contacted us again in the spring of 2019, perhaps in anticipation of a major world event which would disrupt our lives the following year.

So we recommitted to writing down the signals we received, sent during the wee hours via lucid dreaming, walking meditation, and glimpses into the space-time continuum.  And now, there may be much more the SuperOptimist wishes to impart to help people survive — and thrive — in this decade and beyond.

We will continue to share these wisdom transmissions, while celebrating each day as if there is no tomorrow. The fact that death can come quick or slow, that money can evaporate after years of saving, that your team may not win the next three-game series  — it’s living in the mystery that makes life an exciting, if unpredictable, adventure.

Finally, we celebrate you for spending some time with us. We hope you will continue to enjoy more slices of our pie in the future.

*At a time when friends have unexpectedly taken flight due to something smaller than the smallest bacterium, we dedicate this column to Bob Levine, one very cool dude who brought joy and humor to many.  

 

Is rushing out to buy a closet full of face masks really the best way to confront your fear of catching the deadly COVID-19?

We think not.

For one thing, masks are really intended for those doing the spreading of disease, not those who are trying to avoid it. They offer little guarantee of preventing the illness due to the size of the microbes that can penetrate the mask (not to mention people’s habit of removing the masks to touch, scratch, and poke at their face).

But perhaps most important, these masks make you look like you’re already on your way to the hospital — or worse. Just by putting one on, you’re admitting you’re scared to death of getting sick. This fear and stress is a real turn-off to your immune system, and can cause you to be more susceptible to catching the virus, not less!

For a SuperOptimist, a face mask is not the weapon of choice for confronting the coronavirus. Facing a pandemic we have no control over, we recommend confronting it head on — by wearing the helmet of your choice.*

Whether it be Roman Gladiator, Viking, vintage leather football, World War II infantry, or standard construction model, sporting a good, solid helmet at all times makes it clear to the world that a deadly virus will not intimidate you, no siree. A helmet says you’re not to be messed with by airborne particles (or anything else, for that matter).

Not only that, the confidence you’ll exhibit wearing a helmet will have your colleagues at work taking a step back in order to let you pass. That’s a good thing, as the farther they are away from you, the less likely you’ll pick up their germs. Plus if you live in an urban environment, a helmet will protect you from falling debris from construction sites, of which there are many.

So rather than quarantine yourself in public behind a surgical mask, we advise you to wash your hands frequently, avoid close contact with sick people, and grab yourself a helmet.  Now get out there and show those microbes of malfeasance who’s boss!

*While we subscribe to time-honored holistic methods of healthcare, we are not licensed physicians. Ask your doctor if SuperOptimism is right for you.

 

There’s a groundswell of opinion out there that unfettered positivity is the key to a happy, successful life. It’s been posited that those people who complain about their situations are digging a hole for themselves, a hole that leads to failure, social isolation, and death!

But what if these cheerful idiots are wrong?

As with most blanket pronouncements, their claim of constant conviviality is utter nonsense. Complaining is like perspiring. It’s part of human nature, and a necessary outlet for dealing with the stresses and strains of mortality. Life is hard, whether you’re a trash collector attempting to wake up at 4 am for your Thursday shift, or Nicole Kidman working hard to cling to the top of the Hollywood pecking order.

So if you feel guilty for not feeling constantly “happy” or “well-adjusted,” you have our permission to stop right now and let out a good, long sigh, followed by a string of choice expletives, some of which can be found here.

Give yourself license to let off some steam. Otherwise, when things really do go off the rails in your life, you won’t have the tools to deal with the problem successfully.*

*Of course, constant complaining can drive your friends and family mad, and eventually, cause them to evade your presence. Make sure you mix it up a little, and add self-effacing humor to your litany of problems, to give it that “universal feel.” And if you’re really down in the dumps, may we suggest a vacation here.

 

 

 

 

If you can only muster one mind-body activity today, make it a genuine gut-busting, milk-out-the-nose-spraying, wake-up-the-neighbors braying spell of laughter. It’s not just a temporary reprieve from the madness that we call “reality.” A blasting, snorting, teeth-baring laugh has definitive health benefits.  Among them are the following:

Reduce anxiety. You don’t need a clinical psychologist to tell you that laughter instantly relieves your body’s stress response.  If you’re laughing, you relax. But it is funny that people have felt the need to research this point.

Sort of like a scientific study on the benefits of brushing your teeth. Guess what?  If you don’t brush them, you will get cavities, gingivitis, bacterial infections, and die! And speaking of dentists, here’s little joke:

A pregnant woman learns from her dentist that she needs a root canal. She says to the dentist, “darn … I’d just as soon give birth as have a root canal”. The dentist replies, “well, make up your mind so I know what position to put the chair in”.

Burn calories —a study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, researchers found the physical act of intense laughing gives your body a mini-workout similar to aerobic exercise. This being America, some enterprising souls have combined the two.

Positive jolt to your immune system — According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, people who laugh increase the number of activated T cells and natural killer cells.

In the right hands, even hideous, ungodly trauma can be funny. (Or not. This all depends on how elastic your sense of humor is.) Take Robert Schimmel, a professional funnyman whose 11-year-old son died of leukemia. While he was devasted as a dad, as a comedian, his job was to find something to balance the gloom. This is what he came up with:

“My son’s last request when Make-A-Wish came was to see his father get oral sex from Dolly Parton. To this day, his wish remains unfulfilled.”*

So fight back against the complete and utter ridiculousness of our political system, our PC culture, our information-age antics, our attempts at garnering accolades for mindless jobs well done, and our grasping and clawing for more of whatever it is that we want more of.  The best way to react to the trauma, the indignities, and the current crop of presidential contenders is by laughing like a hyena with Pseudobulbar Effect.

*By the way, at the end of his career Bob Schimmel needed a liver transplant, was being sued for divorce from his much younger wife, and had moved back in with his parents when he got too sick to make a living — at which point he was killed in a car accident.  Schimmel mined each of these experiences to make people laugh. Except for the car accident, that is.

In America, we’ve been socialized to believe that a “hearty breakfast” consists of eggs, flapjacks, cereal, juice, and the like.

Yet according to food historians, the concept of breakfast food didn’t exist in the U.S. until the mid-1800s. Before that, breakfast was a meal of leftovers, like cheese and bread. If you had a few bucks in the bank, you added meat and fish to your morning plate.

Then the families of Post and Kellogg toasted some grains, and later an egg lobbyist convinced Congress to put scrambled, fried and hard boiled at the top of their food pyramid. You could keep this American breakfast routine going. But why be trapped in the usual food patterns? Could there be a more exciting way to “break fast” that’s just even better than what’s on the menu at your local coffee shop?

One suggestion is adding some inner heat to your morning meal. It’s a sure-fire way to wake up, since hot spices release endorphins in your system, similar to a runner’s high.

While we’re deviating from local custom, why not tour more of the world when it comes to your a.m. cuisine?

In Pakistan, it’s Siri Paya in the a.m., a soup made from slowly cooking the head and feet of a cow, a lamb, or a goat, then adding tomatoes, onions, and spices.

Mexicans like huitlacoche with their eggs. Technically speaking, this is diseased corn, sporting a fungus that’s considered a delicacy in Mexico. The spores that infect the corn turn it black and give it a mushroom-like flavor.

And in Pennsylvania Dutch country (near where the first SuperOptimists were born), scrapple (leftover scraps from the pig, like the eyeballs, tail and snout) are ground into a patty and fried, much to the horror of those thinking sausage is the worst thing that can be done with a sow’s innards.

Hopefully these suggestions have whetted your appetite to try something new. But even if you decide to stick with a bowl of Cheerios, whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast. Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that men who did had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from heart disease.*

So here’s to having your cake and eating it for breakfast too, if you so choose.

*The researchers think that the no-breakfast brigade makes up for skipping the morning meal by stuffing themselves at night. This is neither good for their slumber, nor their metabolic rate.