A warm welcome to our new readers and a joyful welcome back to those who subscribed some months ago.

This issue covers Three topics: 1) The thing that speeds aging and how to combat it. 2) A simple test to tell if you will need an assisted care or nursing home facility soon and 3) A Japanese technique to improve health and increase youthfulness.

TOPIC #1. The one thing that speeds aging of your brain, you skin and your muscles and your heart is STRESS. Yes, plain ordinary stress ages your body and mind because it releases cortisol so you can 'flee or fight off attackers'. When you do not respond to this release of cortisol by running or engaging in hand to hand combat, this stress hormone eats away at your cells.

Holiday time is often stressful so here are 3 practical things you can do to keep your self from experiencing its destructive effects this month. First, keep your thoughts in the present. If someone treats you badly, do not spend time rerunning the event in your mind after wards.

Wisdom says, "Do what you are doing when you are doing it." Repeat that sentence 20 times a day. Live by it. You will find yourself much less stressed.

Second idea - Maria Montessori, worked with poor children from cities in Italy. When the children came into the kindergarten each morning, many were already stressed. Maria had aprons ready. The children would put them on. Then she would take them to the sink, fill it with water and ask them to wash the dishes she had stacked on the side. She taught them to really feel each cup and plate, to swish the water and even play with it. By the time the dishes were washed the children were relaxed and ready to engage in learning for the day.

Tich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk, advises "wash the dishes when you are washing them'. Do not think about other things when doing the dishes...wash the dishes when you are washing them. That is a key to peace of mind. Try it. Do not think about other things when you work. Instead "do what you are doing when you are doing it." It is a practical formula for growing younger in mind and heart.

Here is a third technique to over come holiday stress. (I have been using this for the last week and find it really helpful.) Take a moment to lightly run your finger tips across your forehead. Then come down across your eye lids - yes, take off your glasses if you wear them. Continue across your cheeks, over parts of your ears, down around your chin and even your neck. Light, light touch. It only takes about 40 seconds but oh, how restoring. Try it now...see if you get the feeling of relaxation that I do at the end.

You may have other techniques..there are hundreds. Please, please use them this December to keep holiday stress from aging your body and mind.

TOPIC #2 - Here is a simple test to see if you will be needing assisted care or a nursing home soon. Get up out of your chair without using your hands. Can you do it? If not, this is something you want to work on. Why? Weakening of the legs is what send most people into nursing homes - often before their time.

If you have trouble getting out of chairs without using your hands, try it on a kitchen chair. Scrunch forward a bit and either cross your arms or put them on your thighs to give your self a boost. Swing forward a bit as you start to get up. Practice until it becomes an easy thing to do. Get up from chairs and out of your car without using your hands.

If you or an older relative has a hard time with this, do ask your health care provider for a referral to physical therapy. You CAN regain the strength to do it....and it will allow you to live at home for more years.

TOPIC #3.. People in Japan live a long time. The average age is over 80! Yes, you read that correctly. And older people are usually in good shape.

The Japanese have been applying research on the value of laughter to improve their physical and mental health. They have 'laughing clubs' and laughing sessions. People just laugh for 20 minutes or so.

Now this is not really difficult. You can laugh. You do not NEED something funny to happen in order to laugh. You can just start laughing. He he...ha ha... Try it. Go ahead laugh out loud. You know the sounds - ha ha or hee hee or haw haw.

Ask yourself when you might do some laughing each day. Start out with 3-5 minutes of laughter. Then slowly increase it until you are laughing for 7 - 10 minutes. (The Japanese do 20 minute sessions)

Laughing is a great anti-aging exercise. It relaxes your whole body. It improves the function of your blood vessels and can help protect against heart attacks. It lowers your stress hormones, boosts immunity and decreases pain. It eases anxiety, improves mood and makes us more attractive to other people AND when done in the presence of others it even strengthens relationships. (One reason why Japan has laughing clubs).

Join me in a 'life experiment' this month. Laugh for at least 5 minutes every day for a week. At the end of the week ask yourself how it felt to do this. If it felt good, do it twice a day for another week. If you want to let me know of your experience do email me. (I am going to put a page on the site about anti-aging laughing.)

Remember you do not need to have something special to laugh at. You can learn to laugh when you want just as you learned to walk. From what I am reading, laughing could be the best change you would make in your life this year. Better health, better moods, more confidence (Yes!) and it erases some effects of stress and of aging.

Well, that is it for this month...and for the year 2009. I hope these newsletters have been of some use to you since that is why I write them - to share research and offer practical ideas to assist your Ageless Aging and your gaining a glorious Elderhood.

Be well...and may you laugh every day left in 2009. Next letter in 2010.