Boost Your Immune System to Fight Viruses

Science-backed tips for strengthening your immune response quickly and effectively

a group of people meditating outdoors on a sunny day

When it comes to fighting coronavirus, you already know that handwashing and avoiding those who may be sick are key precautions. But experts say that boosting your immune system may also give you an edge in fending off viruses and staying healthy this season. Here are five smart steps to add to your to-do list now.

Stay active

You may be tempted to avoid the gym because it’s germy. But the reality is, working out is a powerful way to boost your immune system, says Mark Moyad, M.D., M.P.H., Jenkins/Pokempner director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center. Exercise causes your body’s antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly, which means they may be able to detect and zero in on bugs more quickly. Being active this way also lowers stress hormones, which reduces your chances of getting sick, Moyad adds.


For the latest coronavirus news and advice go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


Research suggests that exercise’s effects may be directly relevant to virus fighting, too. According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, of 1,002 people surveyed, those who exercised at least five days a week had almost half the risk of coming down with a cold as those who were more sedentary. If they did get one, they reported less severe symptoms. There also may be a protective benefit from the sweat in your sweat session: Research has shown that simply raising your body temperature may help kill germs in their tracks.

The key to exercise, however, is to do it in moderation. “Like many other things, there’s a sweet spot — doing too much can also put so much stress on your body, it depresses your immune system,” explains Moyad. He recommends 30 to 60 minutes of exercise (either vigorous or moderate) most days of the week. If you’re a germophobe, you don’t even need to hit the fitness center, as walking outdoors will do the trick.

a woman tosses a fresh healthy looking salad with lemon dressing at home in her kitchen

Watch your diet

“Eighty percent of your immune system is in the gut, so when it’s healthy, we tend to be able to fight off infections faster and better,” says Yufang Lin, M.D., of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “When it’s not, our immune system is weaker and more susceptible to fighting off infection.”

In general, Lin recommends that people focus on a Mediterranean style of eating, which means a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, found in foods such as fatty fish, nuts and olive oil. “This eating pattern is high in nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc and other antioxidants shown to help reduce inflammation and fight infection,” she explains. Adults between the ages of 65 and 79 who followed a Mediterranean type of diet, along with taking a daily 400 IU vitamin D supplement for a year, showed small increases in disease-fighting cells such as T cells, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.

It’s also important to limit meat, especially processed and fried foods, all of which are more inflammatory, Lin adds. “Generally, I recommend a whole food diet,” she says. What’s more, it’s smart to include fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso and kefir, in your daily diet. These help build up the good bacteria in your gut, which, in turn, supports a healthy gut and immune system, Lin explains.

More on Coronavirus

Woman washing her soapy hands in a bathroom

Stay on top of stress

There’s a strong link between your immune health and your mental health. “When you’re under chronic stress or anxiety, your body produces stress hormones that suppress your immune system,” Moyad says. Research done at Carnegie Mellon University has found that people who are stressed are more susceptible to developing the common cold. In one study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 276 healthy adults were exposed to the cold virus, then monitored in quarantine for five days. Those who were stressed were more likely to produce cytokines, molecules that trigger inflammation, and were about twice as likely to get sick. In addition, people who are stressed are less likely to pay attention to other healthy habits, like eating right and getting enough sleep, which can affect immunity, Lin adds.

Although you can’t avoid stress in your life, you can adopt strategies to help you manage it better. A 2012 study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, looked at adults 50 and older and found that those who either did a daily exercise routine or performed mindfulness meditation were less likely to get sick with a respiratory infection than subjects in a control group, and if they did get sick, they missed fewer days of work. While you might be skittish right now about going out to meet a friend for dinner or attending a book club, instead of canceling, consider catching up in a less crowded space. Research shows that the more social ties you have, the less susceptible you are to the common cold, possibly because friendships serve as a buffer against stress.

Get enough sleep

Z’s are another natural immune system booster. “Your immune system is like your computer — it needs moments of rest so it doesn’t become overheated,” Moyad explains. “Sleep reboots the system.” When you’re sleep-deprived, he adds, your body churns out stress hormones like cortisol to keep you awake and alert, which can suppress your immune system. People who got a full eight hours of shut-eye had higher levels of T cells than those who slept less, according to a 2019 study. Try to get at least seven hours of slumber a night, as a 2015 study, published in the journal Sleep, found that people who did so were four times less likely to come down with a cold than those who clocked less than six.

Be strategic about supplements

There’s no magic herb or vitamin you can pop to automatically prevent a cold, flu or other virus. But a 2017 review of 25 studies, published in the British Medical Journal, found that a moderate daily dose of vitamin D may offer protection if you’re already low in the sunshine vitamin, points out Tod Cooperman, M.D., president and editor in chief of ConsumerLab.com. The best way to find out if you’re lacking in vitamin D is to get your blood levels tested; you should be between 20-39 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter). If you’re within that range, a daily supplement of about 600 to 800 IU is fine. If you’re low, talk with your doctor about additional supplementation — up to 2,000 IU a day. Cooperman advises taking it with meals that contain fats or oils, to increase absorption.

woman chopping ginger on a cutting board with garlic and other ingredients around it

   

Other supplements, like zinc, have been going viral over the internet as a way to prevent coronavirus. But while the mineral has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds, there’s no research to suggest it can be protective against coronavirus, Moyad says. Plus, many older adults already get plenty of zinc because they take supplements such as Ocuvite to treat conditions such as age-related macular degeneration. “If you start piling more zinc on top of that, you run a real risk of developing zinc-related toxicity,” Moyad warns. There’s also no good evidence that other popular supplements, like vitamin C and elderberry, can help.

Instead, Lin recommends cooking with herbs such as garlic, ginger, rosemary, oregano and turmeric. All have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, she explains, and some, like garlic, have even been shown to be protective against colds. “When my patients ask me about taking supplements to enhance their immune system, I always go back to food, food, food,” she says. “Food is medicine.”

Reprinted from AARP.com

IRS Imposter Scams

Some brazen scammers rip off unwary taxpayers by impersonating agents of the Internal Revenue Service. They’ll call and insist that a potential victim has an unpaid tax bill and faces arrest unless they pay up, immediately. In a recent three-year period, the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration received reports of more than 1.6 million calls from IRS impersonators, with more than 8,600 victims collectively losing almost $47 million. 

Con artists have numerous ways to make the hoax seem convincing. They can trick a caller ID to make it appear that the call is coming from an actual IRS office. They may even know part of the mark’s Social Security number.

One massive, long-running fraud scheme, eventually busted by federal authorities, saw call centers in India use information from data brokers to find potential victims, whom they contacted and scared into making payments via reloadable gift cards or wire transfers to co-conspirators in the United States. Older Americans were among the prime targets. 

The IRS says scammers are increasingly turning to robocalls to reach as many potential victims as possible. Their ruses have become more elaborate, with some citing a nonexistent “federal student tax” that they claim their targets have neglected to pay. But you can deter the phony tax collectors by following some basic precautions.

Warning Signs 

  • It’s a phone call. The IRS communicates mostly through the mail, including in cases of delinquent taxes. It will generally make contact by phone or in person only after a taxpayer has received multiple written notices. 
  • The pretend IRS official demands immediate payment and threatens to call police and have you arrested — things the IRS says it never does. 

Do’s

  • Do hang up immediately, unless you have reason to think you actually owe taxes.
  • Do forward any unsolicited emails in which someone claims to be from the IRS or the Treasury Department to phishing@irs.gov. Do not click on any links or open attachments. 
  • Do consider filing a fraud alert or freezing your credit with the three major credit-reporting bureaus if a scammer knows part of your Social Security number.
  • Do ask for identification if you’re visited by someone claiming to be from the IRS. Actual employees carry two official credentials: a “pocket commission” and an HSPD-12 card, a standard ID for federal workers. An IRS employee will provide, on request, a dedicated agency phone number for you to verify the information on the card.

Don’ts

  • Don’t provide or confirm personal or financial information over the phone to someone who claims to be a government official. 
  • Don’t respond to a purported IRS email or text message asking for your information. The IRS doesn’t do that. 
  • Don’t agree to pay a tax bill with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Scammers prefer these methods because they’re difficult to trace and can be used almost anywhere.
  • Don’t give credit or debit card numbers to a caller claiming to be an IRS official. The IRS says it never asks for such information over the phone.
  • Don’t assume a caller who tells you to verify his or her phone number by checking the IRS website is on the level. Caller IDs can be rigged to display the number of a real IRS office.
  • Don’t be bullied. A scammer will issue threats and demands, but according to the IRS, if you actually owe back taxes, you will get a bill in the mail and have an opportunity to appeal or to question the amount. 

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network.

Census Scams

April 1, 2020 is Census Day — the due date for Americans to take part in the decennial national headcount. Until then, and possibly beyond, you’ll probably hear a lot about, and a lot from, the U.S. Census Bureau. But census activity isn’t limited to years ending in 0, and neither is census fraud.

Census scammers contact you by phone, email, regular mail or home visit, or direct you to phony websites, seeking personal and financial information. Like other government impostors, they adopt the mantle of officialdom in hopes of winning your trust — and they have the added advantage of pretending to represent an agency specifically tasked with asking questions. Along with its once-a-decade population count, the Census Bureau conducts more than 130 surveys each year.

The biggest, the American Community Survey (ACS), is sent annually to more than 3.5 million randomly selected homes to gather population, economic, housing and other data that helps determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in state and federal money is distributed. With its detailed questions about things like income, assets, job status, household amenities, even your commute, the ACS does set off scam suspicions — it’s a frequent subject of calls to AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Helpline — but it is legitimate, and relatively easy to verify (see below).

There are some things no genuine census survey or agent will ask — for example, for your Social Security, credit card or bank account number. They won’t ask for money. They won’t threaten jail time if you don’t answer their questions. Any of these is a sure sign that a supposed census taker is phishing for ways to steal your identity, money or possessions.

Census fraud can hit at home or at work (the Census Bureau conducts business-related surveys, too). Be especially watchful for impostors in early and mid-spring of 2020, when the actual Census Bureau will be sending out reminders to fill out your form and following up in person at households that don’t respond. Count on these tips to head off census scams.

Editor’s note: This fraud tip sheet has been updated to remove incorrect information. It previously stated that a census survey or agent will not ask when you leave or return from work. The American Community Survey does in fact ask when respondents leave for work, but not when they return. 

Warning Signs

  • You get an unsolicited email purporting to be from the Census Bureau. For household surveys and the decennial Census, the agency almost always makes contact by mail.
  • A supposed census agent asks you for money or financial data, such as the number of and amount in your bank account.
  • A supposed census taker threatens you with arrest. Taking part in the Census is required by law, and you can be fined for not doing so, but you can’t be imprisoned.

Do’s

  • Do verify that a census taker who comes to your home is legitimate. They should have a Census Bureau photo ID badge (with a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date) and a copy of the letter the bureau sent you. You can also search for an agent’s name in the Census Bureau’s online staff directory.
  • Do confirm that a questionnaire you’ve received is on the Census Bureau’s official list of household or business surveys.
  • Do contact the bureau’s National Processing Center or the regional office for your state to verify that an American Community Survey or other census communication is genuine.
  • Do check that a census mailing has a return address of Jeffersonville, Ind., the site of the National Processing Center. If it’s from somewhere else, it’s not from the Census Bureau.
  • Do check the URL of any supposed Census website. Make sure it has a census.gov domain and is encrypted — look for https:// or a lock symbol in the browser window.

Don’ts

  • Don’t give your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, or bank or credit card numbers to someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau. Genuine Census representatives will not ask for this information.
  • Don’t reply, click links or open attachments in a suspicious census email. Forward the message to ois.fraud.reporting@census.gov.
  • Don’t trust caller ID — scammers can use “spoofing” tools to make it appear they’re calling from a real Census Bureau number. Call the National Processing Center at 800-523-3205, 800-642-0469 or 800-877-8339 (TDD/TTY) to verify that a phone survey is legitimate.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Resource Center

Free Tax Help

AARP Tax-aide is available for people of all ages with low to moderate income. The aide will be available on Fridays at the Carrabassett Valley Public Library at 3209 Carrabassett Valley Drive from 12-4 pm. from February 14,2020 to April 10,2020.

Both Federal and State of Maine Tax Returns will be prepared by IRS-Certified Volunteer Tax Prepares and filed electronically.

Please call for an appointment at :246-2157.

U.S.Tax Return for Seniors

 The Internal Revenue Service’s new “U.S. Tax Return for Seniors” could make filing season a bit less taxing for some older taxpayers — provided you qualify to use it.

If you or your spouse were born before Jan. 2, 1955, you may be able to use Form 1040-SR instead of the more complicated Form 1040. (Note: You don’t have to be retired to file the 1040-SR.) Both forms use the same “building block” approach introduced last year that can be supplemented with additional schedules as needed. Taxpayers with straightforward tax situations should need to file only Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR with no additional schedules.

The senior tax return form generally follows the familiar 1040, albeit with slightly larger type for older eyes. It also has a chart for calculating your standard deduction — a good way to ensure that taxpayers 65 and older take the larger standard deduction to which they are entitled.

Congress mandated the 1040-SR because the previous simplified return, Form 1040-EZ, didn’t accommodate some typical items for older taxpayers, such as Social Security benefits, IRA distributions, and pension and annuity payments. As such, older filers had to fill out the more complex 1040 form even though their returns weren’t complicated. The 1040-SR does include those items. The 1040-EZ form is no longer in use.

Most tax-return software will generate a form 1040-SR; however, the form is most beneficial to filers who fill out paper returns by hand. If you use tax software to file taxes, as nearly 90 percent of taxpayers do, the software will choose which form is best for you. “If you are filing using a paper form, then there might be some benefit,” says Henry Grzes, lead manager for tax practice and ethics at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. “If you are using tax preparation software, it really doesn’t matter.”

Reprinted from AARP

Tech Support Scammers are still calling.

Technology is constantly changing, and with each new platform or device comes a new worry about security. Tech support scammers aim to exploit this fear, claiming your computer or mobile device is dangerously ill and needs an immediate, costly cure. These fake technicians are out to steal your money or your identity, not save your machine.
Microsoft has estimated that tech support scams victimize 3.3 million people a year, at an annual cost of $1.5 billion — with an average loss of more than $450 per victim. And these numbers are probably on the low side, since many victims never realize that their “repair” was unnecessary.
 
   
How It Works •You get an unsolicited phone call or email from a big tech company like Microsoft or Apple, or you see a pop-up message on your screen warning that a virus or other malicious program has infected your device, and you need to call the number on the screen right away.•A “technician” asks for remote access to your device, and once in, shows you some files that “prove” you have a major problem.•The “technician” says they can fix your problem for a fee, and then may offer you a monthly subscription to keep your device safe.
 
What You Should Know• Big tech companies like Microsoft or Apple say they don’t call customers out of the blue to warn them of problems on their devices.•The concerning files the “technician” may show you on your device are completely benign.•The scammer may ask you to pay by purchasing a gift card and providing the account number and PIN — a sure sign that it’s a scam, as is a request for payment by wire transfer.•The scammer may call back months later and offer you a refund for some phony reason, asking for your bank account information to deposit the money; this is a ruse.•Here’s audio of a tech support scam call as recorded by the Federal Trade Commission.
 
What You Should Do• Screen incoming calls with an answering machine or voice mail, and once you listen to the message, decide if it warrants a call back.•If the caller claims you have a problem with your computer or the software on your computer, it is a scam, so don’t engage or return the call.•If you get a pop-up that freezes your screen, shut down your computer and restart it.•Keep your security software, browser and operating system up to date.•If you think your device is infected, get it checked out by a reputable source; most big box electronics retailers offer tech support services.•If you realize you’ve fallen victim to this scam, and you’ve paid by credit card, contact your financial institution to dispute the charge and to cancel any monthly fees you may have agreed to.•Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
 Reprinted from AARP Fraud Watch Network

The Gift of Gift Cards: Make Sure They’re Legit

Gift cards have become one of Americans’ favorite ways to mark birthdays and holidays. A new survey by AARP reveals that 70% of U.S. adults plan to purchase gift cards as presents this holiday season. But be forewarned of potential scams.
 
 
How It Works Scammers have come up with novel ways to drain the value of gift cards, or to convince us to buy them at a discount.
What You Should Know• A common trick is for thieves to compromise gift cards hanging on store racks. Often, they expose the PIN on the back and then cover it back up with easy-to-obtain replacement stickers. When someone buys and loads a compromised card, the scammer is notified and drains the value from the card.•Fraudsters also lurk on resale or auction websites, ostensibly offering items at an attractive discount. Once they get you interested in buying, they’ll ask you to pay with a gift card. As soon as they get the card number and PIN from you, they vanish, and so does the money on the card.•Scammers send emails or text messages, supposedly from a familiar store or organization, saying you’ve won a gift card. To claim it, you just need to provide contact information, click through to a website or answer a few survey questions. Their goal may be to unleash malicious software on your device to access sensitive information, or to use your data for identity theft or to sell to marketers.
What You Should Do •Examine gift cards carefully for signs of tampering before you buy them. Keep the activation receipt with the gift card. You can also register your card with the retailer if the option is offered. This makes it easier to track and quickly report any issues.•Be wary of cards hanging on racks that are easily accessible. See if you can purchase gift cards that are protected behind the counter, or buy them online directly from the retailer.•Delete any unsolicited email or text message offering you a gift card, without responding. And never give your personal information to anyone in exchange for a gift card.•Buy gift cards directly from the businesses where they can be used. If you do go through an auction site or other secondary market, check reviews, and only buy from reputable resellers.
 Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network

Season’s Cheatings: Avoid These Holiday Scams

 
The holiday season is here, and that presents plenty of opportunities for scammers to spoil your celebrations. But with a little preparation and vigilance, you can cut down on the threat of becoming a victim.
How It Works Scammers know a few things about us during the holiday season: we’re busy, and maybe a little stressed, and we tend to be in a charitable frame of mind. So they’ll take advantage of our lack of focus as well as our desire to help those in need to steal our money or our personal information.
 
What You Should Know• Scammers will set up fake websites or mobile apps that mimic those of known and trusted retailers, and offer items at a fraction of the usual cost. Their hope is you won’t notice the red flags (misspelled words, unencrypted websites, lack of information on returns, etc.), and you’ll jump to share your payment information.•Scammers send fake emails from delivery services about packages being held pending delivery. The email directs you to click on a link that asks for your credit card or other personal information. Since many of us expect deliveries this time of year, it’s easy to catch us off guard.•Legitimate charities make a big push at year-end for last-minute annual donations. Scammers know this, and make their own end-of-year push to line their pockets. They’re banking on us not taking the time to verify their legitimacy or noticing that the name of the charity isn’t quite right.•Thieves can hit store gift card racks, scan the numbers off the cards, and then monitor them. As soon as the card is bought and activated, the scammers drain the funds. By the time your gift recipient tries to use the card, the money is long gone.
 
What You Should Do• When shopping online or on a mobile app, make sure the retailer is who you think it is. And if a deal sounds too good to be true, it may indeed be a scam.•Avoid the gift card rack and, instead, safely purchase gift cards directly from the store clerk or buy them online directly from the retailer.•If you receive an email from a delivery company, closely review it — check the sender information, look for misspellings, and hover over the link with your mouse to see if it is really taking you to the delivery service’s website. Also, request signatures for deliveries to stop thieves from stealing packages from doorsteps.•Before donating this holiday season, check the charity at charitynavigator.org or give.org, and make sure the charity will use your donations for good.
 Reprinted from AARP Fraud Watch Network
 
 
 
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Holiday Scams

The holiday season brings the blessings of gift-giving, good cheer and time with family and friends. It also brings plenty of opportunities for cybercrooks to spoil your celebrations. A few scams are specific to the holidays, but most are variations on everyday frauds, ramped up to match seasonal spikes in spending and web traffic. With a little preparation and vigilance, you can lessen your chances of being victimized.

Not surprisingly, holiday scams often center on shopping, especially online. Sixty percent of consumers take to the internet to buy holiday gifts, according to a Deloitte survey. As real retailers roll out their seasonal deals, cybersecurity company ZeroFOX says, scammers seek to snare bargain-hunting shoppers with bogus websites and, increasingly, social media campaigns that impersonate major brands, especially in fashion, tech and sporting goods.

These “spoofing” sites and fake posts entice you to spend money for products you’ll never receive. Further, many are vehicles for harvesting credit card numbers and other personal data that fraudsters use to commit identity theft or sell on the dark web. Scammers may distribute malware-loaded links or attachments via supposed coupon offers or “order confirmation” emails asking you to verify an order you never placed. Frauds involving gift cards — the No. 1 item on holiday wish lists, according to National Retail Federation research — also shift into high gear during the holidays.

Other hallmarks of the season provide grist for grifters:

  • Charity scams: Thirty percent of giving to nonprofits is done from #GivingTuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) through New Year’s Eve, fundraising software company Network for Good reports. That means more sham charities exploiting Americans’ goodwill via fake websites and pushy telemarketers.
  • Delivery scams: As holiday packages crisscross the country, scammers send out phishing emails disguised as UPS, FedEx or U.S. Postal Service notifications of incoming or missed deliveries. Links lead to phony sign-in pages asking for personal information, or to sites infested with malware.
  • Travel scams: Going home for the holidays carries risks other than family feuding. Spoof booking sites and email offers proliferate, with travel deals that look too good to be true and probably are.
  • Letter from Santa scams: A custom letter from the jolly old elf makes a holiday treat for the little ones on your list, and many legitimate businesses offer them. But so do many scammers looking to scavenge personal information about you or, worse, your kids or grandkids, who may not learn until many years later that their identity was stolen and their credit compromised.

Warning Signs

  • Huge discounts on hot gift items, especially when touted on social media posts or unfamiliar websites.
  • Spelling errors or shoddy grammar on a shopping website or in an email.
  • A shopping or travel site does not list a phone number or street address for the business and offers only an email address or a fill-in contact form.
  • A site does not have a privacy policy.
  • An unsolicited email asks you to click on a link or download an app to access a deal or arrange a delivery.

Do’s

  • Do mouse over links in emails and social media ads to display the true destination URL, and click through only if you’re certain it’s a legitimate site.
  • Do pay by credit card. That way you can dispute charges and limit the damage if it turns out you were scammed.
  • Do research unfamiliar retail, travel and charity sites online. Search for their names with terms like “scam,” “complaints” or “reviews,” and look them up on evaluation and information sites like those listed below under “More Resources.”
  • Do look for return and refund policies when shopping on an unfamiliar or suspicious site, and make sure they are clear.
  • Do carefully examine gift cards at the point of purchase. Signs of tampering could mean a thief has accessed the card’s PIN code and can drain its value as soon as someone buys and loads it.

Don’ts

  • Don’t conduct financial transactions on a site unless the URL begins with “https://” or there’s a padlock or unbroken key icon in the address bar or at the bottom of the browser window. These indicate a secure connection.
  • Don’t buy anything online while using a public Wi-Fi network. It might not be secure.
  • Don’t make a purchase or donation if a website or caller seeks payment by wire transfer, gift card or prepaid card. These are like forking over cash.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/

20 Ways to Say Thank You

Gratitude is a greatly underused emotion. Sometime around mid-November, we take it out, dust it off, put it on display and admire it for a while. Then, come January, we promptly place it back on the shelf for another ten months.

Outside of those precious few weeks at the end of the year when holiday gestures and gatherings abound, we often don’t have the time or energy for giving thanks and fostering feelings of gratitude. But, research shows that there are a number of benefits associated with expressing gratitude for the people who help make our day-to-day lives easier and happier.

Studies have shown that people who keep gratitude journals to regularly record the things they are thankful for are physically, psychologically and socially better off than those who don’t attend to feelings of appreciation. Journal writers are more alert, get better sleep, have lower blood pressure (by as much as 10-15 percent), are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors (e.g. eating right, exercising regularly) and have stronger interpersonal relationships.

While the benefits of acknowledging your gratitude are personally significant, expressing these feelings to those around you can help spread the positive effects. Instead of extending a simple “thank you,” try these 20 timeless ways to express how much you appreciate the important people in your life.

  1. With your love. Saying, “I love you,” is sometimes all the thanks a person needs.
  2. With your ears. Listening is perhaps one of the most underappreciated gifts you can give. Lend an ear to friends, family and fellow caregivers and they will know how much you care about them and appreciate their love and support.
  3. With a donation. Does a special person in your life have a cause that is dear to their heart? Instead of getting them a trinket or a gift card, consider making a donation in their name to their favorite charity. It doesn’t have to be a substantial donation to convey your understanding of how important the matter is to them.
  4. With an image. Pictures can often convey feelings that words alone cannot. Find a photo that expresses your feelings of gratitude and send it with a simple thank you note. It could be a photograph of you two together, a quick sketch, a comic or an image you find online—whatever visually represents how you feel.
  5. With a trophy. Who doesn’t love an award? To recognize someone who has gone out of their way to take good care of you or your loved one, make a personalized paper certificate or plaque with a clever title, like “World’s Greatest Dentist” or “Number One Nurse.” It may sound hokey, but it shows your appreciation and encourages the person to keep up the excellent work.
  6. With a hug. Let’s face it, we could all use one. Human touch is important for good mental and physical health, but physical contact tends to fall by the wayside in our busy and increasingly digital culture. Take a moment to literally reach out and let someone know you care.
  7. With sincerity. A cardinal rule of thanking someone is to say it like you mean it. Do it with a smile and gussy it up a little bit. Let the person know, “I couldn’t have done this without you,” or, “Your help means a great deal to me.” It’s underwhelming to receive a lukewarm, “Thanks,” so make a point of including why you’re appreciative and how much they mean to you.
  8. With personality. When communicating your appreciation with a gift, make sure it’s tailored to the recipient’s individual preferences and interests. For example, if you want to express your gratitude to a music lover, make them a thoughtful and personalized playlist or give them a subscription to an online music streaming service like Pandora or Spotify. Small gestures that take some thought and effort are far more meaningful than pricey, generic gifts.
  9. With a party. Throwing a shindig in a person’s honor is one way to show the social butterfly in your life how much you appreciate them. Perhaps it’s for a friend who occasionally comes to your home to watch your dad while you run errands or the ladies from church who take Mom out for lunch one day each week. Putting together a small gathering lets the honorary guest(s) know how important they are to you and the rest of the care team. You get bonus points for giving a brief speech or toast about their contributions in front of family and friends.
  10. With a referral. Did your loved one’s hair dresser give them a great new do? Ask him or her for extra business cards to hand out to family and friends. Many people who provide professional services thrive on good word of mouth to expand their businesses and gain new customers.
  11. With a note. Unlike a quick email or phone call, a hand-written card shows the recipient that their actions are deserving of a proper thank you. Even if you already expressed your gratitude in person, sending a follow-up note in the mail is a pleasant surprise that lets them know your appreciation is not fleeting. But, don’t worry about buying a special greeting card or writing a long letter inside. A few heartfelt sentences on a blank card go a very long way.
  12. With culinary treats. Food is one of the few things all human beings share a common love of. Expressing your thanks in the form of a homemade dish is nourishing for a person’s body and soul. For example, give your in-home caregivers little loaves of banana bread or chocolate chip muffins that they can take home to their families. Sweets are go-to gifts, but a savory side or entrée can do double duty by reducing the recipient’s workload and freeing up some time that they would have otherwise spent making a meal.
  13. With your deeds. Actions are well known for carrying more clout than words. After thanking someone who has done you a service, honor their efforts by paying forward their good deed. Share the love by doing something for someone else who needs help.
  14. With your time. Spending quality time with a friend or family member indicates that you value your relationship with them. It doesn’t have to be anything big. An impromptu movie night or cup of coffee with someone you care about can help keep your connection strong and show that you are willing to invest time and effort to help it grow.
  15. With an endorsement. Publicly praising someone who performs a service for you is a great way to say “thank you” and boost their confidence. Give the skilled and attentive surgeon who just handled your loved one’s hip replacement a shining review on the Internet. Write a note to the manager of your local grocery store about the friendly check-out clerk who helped you juggle a load of groceries while trying to transfer Dad from his wheelchair into the car. Give a personal shout out on Facebook to your sister for watching Mom for a few days so you could have a weekend off from caregiving. Everyone deserves praise for a job well done.
  16. With a smile. Sometimes a genuine smile is all you need to say thanks.
  17. With your patience. Everyone has their good and bad days. Keeping your cool when a friend or family member is being frustrating demonstrates your love and commitment to preserving the relationship.
  18. With the unexpected. Don’t be afraid to get creative when expressing your gratitude. Writing a short poem, running a quick errand or giving a flower you found in your garden can all brighten a person’s day and make them feel appreciated. Think outside the box.
  19. With your help. Reciprocity is very important in relationships. The best way to show your appreciation is to return the favor. Does your sister need someone to watch her kids for a few hours while she runs errands? Could your neighbor who keeps an eye on Mom from time to time use some assistance with the yardwork? Ensuring give and take will help to create a strong, supportive and mutually beneficial relationship for everyone involved.
  20. With inclusivity. Take care to never overlook the “little guy” when showing your gratitude. For example, the nurses and CNAs who help your loved one with daily tasks in the nursing home probably don’t get enough thanks. After all, many of the seniors they care for aren’t exactly keen on their assistance or are unable (or unwilling) to express their appreciation. A short note or $5 gift card to Starbucks can let the staff members know how much you and your loved one value their hard work.

Reprinted from Aging Care https://www.agingcare.com/