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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Mental Health

A few months ago, I ran into a recently-retired judge, a former prosecutor and friendly acquaintance, at the grocery store. I asked him what he thought was causing the wave of homicides and shooting incidents around the city. Even in our normally safe, quiet neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to hear fusillades of gunfire in the night—semi-automatic pistols by the sound of them.

“Damned if I know,” he said. “Probably the same thing that’s making everybody drive like lunatics.”

It’s true. In my travels around town, it’s not uncommon to be passed on a double yellow line on residential streets. Thirty seconds later, you pull up behind them gunning their engines at a stoplight. Everybody drives like they’re in Dallas, with lots of tailgating and horn-blowing. Granted, I’m an old duffer in no particular hurry, but people run so many red lights that it’s definitely a good idea to look both ways on green.

One-finger salutes are ill-advised, as many of these knuckleheads go around heavily armed.

Did I mention a safe neighborhood? Last week there was a homicide at a bar a couple of blocks from our house. The doorman, a universally popular fellow, told a guy he couldn’t carry his drink outside. The idiot came back with a pistol and shot him dead. They showed a remarkably clear photo of the killer on TV and arrested him the next morning—a 23-year-old from across the river.

Two lives destroyed over nothing.

But it’s not just where I live. (Little Rock.) Increasingly bad behavior is nationwide. Auto fatalities, to stick with a relatively non-politicized issue for the moment, are up sharply since the Covid pandemic began. Although traffic volumes diminished with many working from home (or not working), car crash deaths rose fully 18.4 percent in 2021.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “the main behaviors that drove this increase include: impaired driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seat belt.” It appears that some of the same jerks who resented face masks compensated by unbuckling their seat bels.

Why am I not surprised?

“If there was a way to make the driving experience less safe for drivers, less safe for passengers, or less safe for everyone else on the road,” Matt Yglesias comments “people did it.”

At the nation’s airports, there has been an epidemic of unruly passenger behavior—people punching gate attendants, slapping flight attendants, even trying to break into cockpits. Mostly over face masks.

May I offer you another cocktail, sir?

Elsewhere, drug overdose fatalities are up, there’s been an increase in attacks on health care workers, and schools across the country report a sharp uptick in disruptive behavior by students.

A substantial proportion of our fellow Americans are simply losing it. There’s even been a rise in comedian-slapping at the Oscars.

Writing in The Atlantic, Olga Khazan wonders why: “In 2020, the U.S. murder rate rose by nearly a third, the biggest increase on record, then rose again in 2021. Car thefts spiked 14 percent last year, and carjackings have surged in various cities. And if there were a national tracker of school-board-meeting hissy fits, it would be heaving with data points right now.”

Indeed, it’s no longer shocking to hear of school board members receiving death threats—a dubious honor that used to be reserved for such minor public figures as newspaper columnists.

Maybe I’m losing my edge, however, as it’s been months since anybody has vowed to murder me (I do block threatening emailers). Personal abuse, however, has risen sharply. Name-calling is way up, and reading comprehension is down. It’s remarkable how few people can follow an argument that hits their personal hot spots.

Quote something our former president has said in praise of noted humanitarian Vladimir Putin and you’re a “liar!" afflicted with “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” An awful lot of these people sound like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Ginny, i.e. like cranks haunted by imaginary conspiracies and dreaming of vengeance.

For the most part, I agree with The Atlantic’s Khazan that the “rage, frustration, and stress” coursing through American society have a lot to do with Covid, and attendant feelings of fear, frustration and sorrow.

Loneliness too.

“The pandemic” she writes, “loosened ties between people: Kids stopped going to school; their parents stopped going to work; parishioners stopped going to church; people stopped gathering, in general.” Most experts she consulted—psychiatrists, criminologists, and social historians—believe that as our social interactions return to normal, our collective behavior will also improve.

Color me skeptical, but I think that the decay of journalism in the age of Fox News and the derangements of social media have done permanent harm. Mere facts no longer persuade.. The propaganda term “Fake News” has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Millions believe nothing they don’t wish to believe. They have utter contempt for anybody who disagrees.

That won’t change painlessly.

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There's a lot to look forward to in life as you get older. But the older we get, the more we start to wonder how much longer we're going to live. In order to live longer, it's important to lead a healthy lifestyle and there are many everyday things you can do to benefit your health. Here are six things you can do to imiprove your life.

Move Around

As we get older, our arms and legs don't work as well as they did in our younger years. In fact, there are at least two million new wheelchair users in the United States every year, which means there are two million people who aren't able to get up and move.

One of the best things you can do for yourself to live longer is to keep moving. Even if you're not a gym fanatic, there's plenty you can do to stay active. Aim for at least half an hour of activity every day. You can break it up by taking short walks, lifting some hand weights, playing sports, or walking on a treadmill.

Eat Healthy

It's not always easy, but eating healthy and making good food choices is important the older you get. That doesn't mean giviing up your favorite foods cold turkey, but enjoying foods in moderation and following a diet will help keep you healthy. Studies have found that the Mediterranean Diet, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts, is a good one to follow.

Maintain A Good Weight

Along with eating well and staying active, you can live longer by maintaining a healthy weight. That's especially true of senior citizens. The CDC finds that men and women who reach the age of 80 are likely to live another eight to 10 years. Take time to take note of your weight. If you're unsure what a healthy weight should be, consult your doctor.

Don't Smoke

Of all the things you can do to help yourself live longer, this one might be the most important. Smoking affects the lungs and coronary arteries and the older you get, the more risk you have of a stroke or cancer. Whether you're a casual or longtime smoker, take steps to quit; your body will thank you.

Get Some Sleep

We all have reactions to not getting enough sleep and generally none of them are ever good. A lack of sleep makes it hard to focus, makes you irritable, and perhaps unable to put forth your best effort at work. To help yourself live longer, sleep is paramount. Make sure to go to bed at a reasonable hour and turn off electronic devices so you're only focused on sleeping. Don't be afraid to nap either. A mid-day snooze can be just the thing you need to recharge yourself to focus on the rest of your day.

Make Friends

It's estimated that about one million Americans currently live in senior communities and by 2030 that number is expected to double. In senior living communities, you're surrounded by people who can be your friends. Studies have shown that an active social life can also help you live longer, so don't be afraid to make some new pals.

By taking steps to live a healthier life, you'll give yourself every chance to live longer. You'll also lead a more fulfilling life because you're actively taking care of yourself and doing the things you love doing. So if you're concerned about your health as you get older, take steps to change right away. Even small steps can have a big impact and you may just surprise yourself with how those changes have positive benefits for your health and your life.