• Here’s How to Rediscover the Magic of Christmas

    There are people who prepare for Christmas all year long. Yes, those early shoppers who put the rest of us to shame, but there are others who take it to a much higher level. People who spend the entire year crafting hand-made presents and decorations, planning parties, designing recipes, and writing holiday cards and newsletters. Then, as December 25th grows closer they start decorating, baking and wrapping. That is great if you don’t have to work and have little children in your life. But, for the rest of us, who don’t have any elfin blood in our genealogy, Christmas comes just once a year.

    While the world of commercials and advertising would have us thinking about the holidays well before Halloween, most of us will begin when the time is right for us. As humorist Dave Barry observes, “Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.”

    A great way to enter the holidays is with an empowering affirmation.

    I am free to choose how I spend my holidays.

    It is okay to take time for myself this holiday season.

    This year I will celebrate what Christmas means to me.

    Most of us will begin to feel the Christmas spirit some time after Thanksgiving Day. For some it will be the scent of a fresh cut fir tree. For others a favorite Christmas song will get under their skin. Perhaps it will be the pleasant tones and rich voice of Nat King Cole singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire; Jack Frost nipping at your nose;” that gets you in the mood.

    While OHI is Christian-based, we embrace all faiths and beliefs. We believe the spirit of the season is best summed up by the words of Jesus when he said, in Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We embrace that spirit by creating a giving and loving community that shares care and support during the holidays, and throughout the year.

    Community is the Key for Unlocking the Spirit of Christmas

    As the spirit of the season starts plucking at our heartstrings, we hark back to our childhood and the magic that we remember. Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of The Little House on the Prairie, understood this when she wrote, “Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”

    It’s that ‘love of kindred’ that is the true magic of the season. The gathering together of friends and family; the connecting with our community that proves what the season is all about. Many Hollywood movies have attempted to capture this magic, but one has done it so well that it has become a classic.

    George Bailey, in the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, constantly helps other people, often to his own detriment, causing him to forego his personal goals and dreams. What he doesn’t realize is that, over the course of his lifetime, he has built an incredibly loving and supportive community. Then in a moment when his world starts to fall apart, his community comes to his rescue and saves him in his time of need.

    At OHI, we understand that kind of community. We create it, add to it, and reinforce it every week of the year. We would love it if you would spend your Christmas with us. Here at OHI you will enjoy a peaceful and harmonious holiday with loving and supportive people.

    American essayist, Hamilton Wright Mabie, sums it up the holidays beautifully, “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

    When you spend your holiday at OHI, you’ll be eating the delicious clean foods that energize your body. And, you’ll be maintaining your healthy lifestyle in a nonjudgmental and caring community. And, in the giving spirit of the season, bring your friends. What better way to enjoy the holidays than giving the gift of healing body, mind, and spirit to those you love.

  • Scholarship Recipient Inspires Others

    Seattle resident Rhonda Yeoman knows drastic change takes drastic measures. A decade ago, when she had a major thyroid problem, a skilled naturopath got her on the right path. When Rhonda’s naturopath relocated to Texas, Rhonda reverted to her old habits. Her health gradually declined as both her diet and exercise habits deteriorated.

    When Rhonda received a cancer diagnosis last October, she immediately flew to Texas to again seek her naturopath’s sage advice. At that point her scales registered over 300 pounds, and she realized she was sabotaging her health and her life. The naturopath himself had previously been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and shared with her how multiple visits to OHI helped him. She wasn’t sure yet if she wanted to try OHI, but she did drastically change her food plan. Rhonda kicked her meat-at-every-meal routine in favor of a plant-based diet.

    By August of this year she had shed 80 pounds but was still struggling with health opportunities. A friend of Rhonda’s felt so strongly
    that she could benefit from OHI’s holistic healing program that he offered to sponsor a week-long visit. Since crushing medical debt made it impossible for her to afford completing the entire three-week holistic healing program, Rhonda says she’s eternally grateful for the OHI Scholarship she received. “Each week is a different feeling,” Rhonda said, “And it gives you a new sense of awareness. The classes and activities are mapped out so smartly — the whole experience is so intelligently designed with every single layer of the human spirit in mind.” She shed additional pounds during her 3-week stay as her body, mind and spirit came into balance.

    “OHI is not just a place you go to juice and cleanse,” said Rhonda. “It’s so much more, and truly healing on so many levels. I am a different person — I’m an improved version of my old self — but I was never the person I am today. I feel a lightness now that I never did before. OHI helped me tune out to tune in.”

    Today, Rhonda is living her life more fully and joyfully than she ever imaged possible, thanks to generous donations to the OHI Scholarship Fund.

  • Look What’s New at OHI

    Come experience these new improvements at OHI:

    New 21-Day Menu

    We created a delicious new menu with different recipes so you have variety at every meal during your entire three-week stay.

    Free WiFi

    We still encourage a “digital fast” while you’re here, but we understand the world doesn’t stop and that you occasionally need to “plug in”.

    OHI San Diego

    We added fresh paint, concrete, landscaping; plus renovated the dining room, classrooms and guest rooms. Our guest room updates include new fixtures, new carpet and wood flooring.

    Pray-Eat-Live Class

    In this advanced food prep class you will learn to create delectable yet healthy appetizers, meals, snacks and desserts. Currently at OHI San Diego only.

    OHI Austin

    Stroll along our wonderful walking trails and freshly landscaped grounds. Lounge by the pool or have a bite to eat in our newly furnished outdoor patio. Celebrate nature in quietude in our new Meditation Garden.

    James Adjan

    Former guest, James Adjan, felt so connected to the OHI mission, he didn’t want to leave. So, he joined our staff and is our new OHI Austin Executive Director and Senior Pastor.

    OHI – Best Value!

    We are a faith-based organization whose mission is to support you in your healing. As a healing ministry, we are determined to keep our prices as low as possible, so we can provide you the best value. However, inflation is a factor and plays a part in our rate increases. This is why we are sharing with you the recent upgrades we’ve made to the program, menu, facilities and staff.

    Come experience the improvements at OHI for yourself!

  • The Science of Celebration

    Celebration is one of our most natural impulses.  We celebrate “firsts” — a baby’s first steps or a child’s first day of kindergarten.  We celebrate “milestones” — a high school graduation or a wedding anniversary.  We celebrate “achievements” — a teenager earning their driver’s license or a spouse’s job promotion.

    Celebrations are usually joyful, happy events.  So why don’t we bring “celebration” into our daily life?  Would there be any genuine benefit to celebrating EVERYTHING?

    Absolutely!  A celebration, no matter how small, is a formal invitation to take a break from the daily grind, and feel positive about the moment you’re in.  That positive thinking brings an immediate reduction in stress.  The scientific benefits of stress reduction are well-documented, and include improved cognitive performance, better physical health, and reduced burnout.  Research has shown that a positive attitude and a genuine feeling of gratitude can improve overall well-being, increase resilience, strengthen social relationships, and reduce stress and depression.  (1, 2)

    So how exactly do celebrations impact the brain?  When you feel happy, the parts of the brain that are activated are the ones responsible for personality expression, decision making, moderating social behavior, and abstract reasoning.  They “light up” with feelings of reward (the reward when stress is removed), interpersonal bonding, and positive social interactions.  The happiness you feel with celebration also causes an increase in important neurochemicals.  There is a surge of feel-good chemicals including dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.  Dopamine is your own personal motivation machine.  It is the secret to getting pumped and hitting goals.  Serotonin regulates mood.  Healthy levels of serotonin keep you feeling happy.  Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression.  Endorphins are the chemicals searing through your body when you finish a run, giving you the feeling of being on top of the world.  Dopamine can be triggered by reward, serotonin by community, and endorphins by laughter.  Celebrations are a medley of all three triggers, and all three neurotransmitters combined contribute to the feelings of closeness, connection, and happiness that come with celebrations large and small. (3,4)

    Research shows the brain changes with experience, so the more that daily celebrations are practiced, the more the brain learns to tune in to the positives in the world.  Humans have a negativity bias to notice threats in the environment.  That has kept human beings alive as a species, but hasn’t done much to foster happiness.  Our brains will always notice dangers in an effort to keep us safe, but we also need to make sure our brains notice positive things to nurture our overall happiness and emotional well-being.  To do that, you need to teach your brain to notice positives and celebrate them. (4)

    Holding (focusing on) an experience for 20 seconds is long enough to create positive structural changes in the brain.  The “Three Good Things” practice, developed in a 2005

    study led by Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found that those who spent 5-10 minutes at the end of each day writing in detail about three things to celebrate, large or small, and also reflecting on WHY they were worth celebrating, reported increased levels of happiness that persisted for six months.  This practice is effective because it not only helps you remember and appreciate moments worth celebrating, but it also helps you savor the moment and remember it more vividly later on.  By reflecting on the sources of these celebratory moments, the idea is that you start to see a broader ecosystem of goodness around you rather than assuming that the universe is conspiring against you. (5)

    But daily celebrations don’t all have to be about what you accomplish.  A special moment to celebrate is when you take the time to give back.  Many studies have demonstrated that helping others kindles happiness, just as celebrations do.  When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine.  Compared with people who never volunteered, the odds of being “very happy” rose 7% among those who volunteered monthly and 12% for people who volunteered every 2-4 weeks.  Among weekly volunteers, 16% felt “very happy,” and that happiness was long lasting. (6)

    Volunteering not only makes you feel happier, but also healthier.  Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety.  Working with animals has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety.  Volunteering increases self-confidence, provides a sense of purpose and helps you stay physically healthy.  Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not.  Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have better thinking skills.  Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease. (6)

    Being generous can also have the same healthy benefits as volunteering.  According to a 2010 study, it was found that the less money people gave away the higher their cortisol levels. (6)  Studies demonstrate elevated cortisol levels can impact the immune system, fertility, and bone health.  It can also lead to insulin resistance, Type 2 Diabetes, abdominal weight gain, and loss of verbal declarative memory (words, names, and numbers).  (7)

    “People who engage in kind acts become happier over time,” said Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.  Lyubomirsky, who has studied happiness for over 20 years, found that performing positive acts once a week led to the most happiness.  (8)

    So to come full circle on the topic of celebrations, should you incorporate daily celebrations into your life?  Unequivocally!  Anything that lowers our stress levels, triggers endorphins, and teaches our brain to notice the positives in life is worth the effort.  Should you work volunteering into your schedule?  Sure!  It’s a win-win when you can feel happier and healthier while your community benefits from your generosity.  And if volunteering isn’t an easy fit into your life right now, would performing a few random acts of kindness or donating money to a worthy cause make a difference?  Completely!  So pass it on, and celebrate the good in the world every day!

     

     

    (1)  Duckworth, Steen, & Seligman, 2005;  Watkins, Cruz, Holben, & Kilts, 2008;   Watkins, Uhder, & Pinchinevskiy, 2014;  Wood, Joseph, & Maltby, 2009

    (2)  Brightening the Mind:  The Impact of Practicing Gratitude on Focus and Resilience in Learning, by Jane Taylor Wilson, Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching ad Learning, Vol. 16, No. 4, August 2016, pp. 1-13. Doi: 10.14434/josotl.vl6i4.19998

    (3) Michael Hyatt magazine, michaelhyatt.com, “The Science of Celebration — 5 Reasons Organizations Should Do It More Often,” by Erin Wildermuth

    (4)  Hey Sigmund, heysigmund.com, “The Science of Gratitude — How it Changes People, Relationships (and Brains!) and How to Make it Work For You,” posted by Karen Young

    (5)  Greater Good Magazine, greatergood.berkeley.edu, “Four Great Gratitude Strategies” by Juliana Breines, Ph.D., June 30, 2015

    (6) HelpingGuide.org, “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits — How Giving to Others Makes You Healthier and Happier”

    (7)  Diagnose-me.com, “Elevated Cortisol Levels”

    (8)  Goodnet.org, “7 Scientific Facts About the Benefit of Doing Good”

  • What’s the Difference Between Gratitude and Thanksgiving?

    When I’m worried and I can’t sleep; I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings.”

    After complaining to his physician about suffering from stress-induced insomnia, song-writer Irving Berlin was inspired to pen the above lyrics upon hearing the doctor’s pithy reply, “Did you ever try counting your blessings?”

    With Thanksgiving Day around the corner, it is a natural time to start counting our own blessings. And, here’s some great news: feeling and expressing gratitude is a natural way you can feel better. Try it out. Start small and appreciate the little things with some of these affirmations:

    I am grateful that my heart is beating and my lungs are breathing.

    I am grateful for the warm sun on my face which brightens my day.

    (Bonus: it stimulates your body to produce vitamin D as well!).

    I feel deep gratitude for the abundance of health and happiness life offers me each day.

    Inventor Frederick Keonig said, “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”

    Now move it up a few notches, to feel and express gratitude for the bigger things: your family, friends, home, job, etc., because feeling gratitude for what we already have also provides some amazing health benefits. According to Robert A. Emmons, PhD, professor of psychology at University of California-Davis, “Gratitude is good medicine.” He says, it can lower blood pressure, reduce insomnia, and decrease depression. WOW, all that from feeling grateful for what we have!

    Feeling vs. Doing

    Gratitude, however, is different from thanksgiving. Gratitude is a feeling, and giving thanks is an action. Saying a prayer of thanks is an action. So is writing a thank you note to a friend. Giving thanks is an act of celebration. And, there are many ways to give thanks. For example, you can feel grateful for good health, but you can give thanks for it by living a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy food, and exercising. Here at OHI, we love to show our guests how to do all of those.

    The variety of ways for giving thanks is endless and only limited by your imagination. You can give thanks by volunteering for a cause or charity of your choice. You could perform a random act of kindness, like paying for the person in line behind you at a store. You could write a glowing review online for a business that you appreciate. Giving thanks can even be fun – you can do something to make your friends and family laugh – such as telling a joke like this one:

    A woman picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store couldn’t find one big enough to feed her entire family for Thanksgiving, so she asked the man behind the meat counter, “Do these turkeys get any bigger?” The man responded, “No ma’am, they’re dead.”

    Of course, here at OHI, we would show her how to prepare a healthy meal for Thanksgiving. And, another wonderful way to give thanks is to bring a friend to OHI, or make a donation to our scholarship program.

    And, the benefits don’t just stop at good health and good feelings. You see, when someone does something nice for you; you want to reciprocate – most people feel the same way – it’s just human nature. Caring employers, who treat their staff with respect and show gratitude, find their employees become more productive.

    A Solution to a Growing Problem

    Today the world seems to get busier and busier, and getting out and doing things becomes more and more challenging. You can find solace and community in social media, but it’s a mixed bag. It can fun and informative, but it can also make you feel envious, depressed, and isolated. Add to that the onslaught of holiday advertising which can make you feel sad and lonely too. Taking a few moments whenever you are unhappy to express gratitude for what you have can break up those bad feelings, push them out of your mind, and make you feel better.

    You can feel a lot of pressure at this time of year to do things you’d rather not. Eating foods that are not good for you. Spending time with people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Tonight Show host, Johnny Carson, once quipped, “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”

    This year come to OHI for Thanksgiving instead. Share your holidays with the love and support of your special community – with people who treat you well. Friends who understand your diet and won’t judge you for avoiding the traditional Thanksgiving fare. Here you’ll be able to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate, while you get away from the stress of the holidays. Give thanks at OHI this year, and find the peace and joy the holidays are meant to bring.

  • Chairman’s Perspective: Celebrating a Community of Love, Acceptance and Healing

    ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’ Ecclesiastes 3:1

    A warm and hearty winter greeting to our OHI community. This wonderful verse reminds us that the end of the year is a time for reflection. A time to consider our challenges as well as our accomplishments. As we read further into the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, we learn in verse 3:4 that reflection should be balanced by celebration: ‘a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.’ While reflection works best as a solitary activity, celebration is an activity best shared with your community.
    You may recall that in our Spring newsletter, I mentioned that the OHI Community is the one place I’ve experienced where people truly work to love their neighbors as themselves. In the Summer newsletter, I touched on the idea that community is so important to human beings because it satisfies needs such as acceptance, feeling supported and understood, as well as how we develop relationships and friendships. Then in the Fall newsletter, I wrote about the powerful need to belong, and how our community at OHI works in fulfilling that need.

    It is the celebration of community at OHI, and how we observe it together, that is the theme of my thoughts for this season.

    Celebration is an Age-Old Tradition of Community

    There is a spiritual discipline of celebration that dates back thousands of years and crosses all cultures. People come together in community to honor and rejoice in their beliefs. Celebration is about strengthening and developing our own personal relationship with God, the universe, or your higher self. Celebration allows us to release the past, have faith in the future, and live in the present. When we get caught up in our day-to-day routines, it is a path back to spiritual growth, and guides us to remember and return to our faith. In its most basic form, celebration is an expression of joy that enables us to look forward to tomorrow with courage and hope.

    In the Christian tradition we celebrate the key moments in the life of Jesus, his birth and the resurrection. Each holiday serves as a reminder of the teachings of Jesus; how we should love and forgive one another. I’ll never forget the feeling I would get as a boy attending candle-light Christmas Eve services. Surrounded by hundreds of tiny flames flickering in the dark, and the resonance of happy voices singing Joy to the World, I felt an enormous sensation of elation. I can still recall the feeling of chills running up my spine and down my arms as I reveled in my faith along with my entire church community. Even the simple ceremonies of communion or baptism heighten our faith when we celebrate as a spiritual community. When we gather as a community and worship together, we sustain our affinity.

    ‘The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.’ Psalm 118:24

    Celebration is About Gratitude and Healing

    When our lives are in alignment and everything seems to be going well, it’s natural for us to celebrate. We are grateful about that which we’ve accomplished or appreciate that something good has happened. A celebration can be as simple as a high five between two friends who just watched their favorite team win, or it could be two large families joining in a formal wedding party.

    There is a healing quality to celebrations. They are occasions that allow us to take a break from work and obligations. Celebrating makes us happy and helps us forget our fears, anxiety, and other discomforts. We are able to relax, release stress, and have fun. Singing, dancing, cheering, laughing, and hugging are all activities that trigger the release of endorphins and serotonin, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well being and can even temporarily relieve pain, while serotonin is a neurotransmitter that will elevate your mood. And, because these activities can decrease stress hormones, they in turn help to boost the immune system.

    Daily Celebration is a Big Part of Our Program at OHI

    Throughout each week here at OHI, we find many opportunities to celebrate. A good example is our You Validation class, where we celebrate each other’s intrinsic human value. Every accomplishment, no matter what, is worthy of celebration. Someone will say, “I saw you smile this morning and it warmed my heart.” Another says, “You were tired, yet you still showed up for class, and I was encouraged and inspired by your strength to carry on.” These are verbal high fives that honor our moments of achievement. And, they all add up to keep us motivated. This reminds me of something Tom Peters, the co-author of the book In Search of Excellence, once said, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” At OHI, we want to see more people thriving and healing, and we do that by coming together as a community and celebrating.
    Another example of how we celebrate together is during Friday Morning Testimonials. It is so heartwarming to see our guests get up in front of everyone and share their personal revelations, and often their personal miracles, that they experienced over the course of the week. Then there are our Prayer Circles where we celebrate fellowship. And, our Word of the Day which enables to set our intentions. Plus, lots of hugs – which have more benefits than I can list – but as a celebration they allow us to relax, be in the moment, and feel amazing! Our most lively celebration is our Friday Night Live, where we perform and proclaim having made it through the week with hilarious singing, dancing and skits – it’s a glorious time of raucous revelry, laughter, and fun.

    ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ 1 Corinthians 10:31

    Celebrate OHI by Sharing the Love

    As we approach the holiday season and in the spirit of celebrating and sharing, please consider contributing to the OHI Scholarship Fund to help those in need experience the benefits of the OHI program. As many of you know, over the course of our 42 years, OHI has provided scholarships to many individuals who needed the same benefits you experienced – but could not afford to otherwise attend. In most years, we have been able to fulfill all requests for assistance through the generosity of our community. The results have been heartwarming, to say the least. Join with us in celebrating our healing mission with a tax-deductible year-end gift. Your contribution will help to make our community stronger, healthier, and more vibrant. Thank you so much for your help.

    Yours in prayer,

    Robert P. Nees, Jr.,

    Senior Pastor and Chairman

    Optimum Health Institute of
    San Diego and Austin

     

  • Have a Holistic Holiday of Health and Happiness

    As the winter holiday season approaches, you may begin to think of your favorite movies. Christmas with the Kranks, based on the book Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, humorously captures the stress many of us feel this time of year. The Kranks, who have recently become empty nesters, decide to skip all the festivities and go on a peaceful, relaxing vacation instead. Unfortunately it seems like the entire universe conspires against them, and hilarity ensues as they battle the forces of tradition.

    Luthor and Nora Krank had a good idea, but they were too rigid in their application of it. Of course, if they had found balance in their approach there wouldn’t have been any comedy. We all know that the holidays are a time of mixed emotions that challenge our mindfulness. We are barraged by advertising and heartwarming Hollywood images which can make us wistful for the magical days of our youth. Simultaneously, anticipation and hope can increase our sense of stress. When all we really want is to gather together and experience the love and joy of friends and family.

    Oftentimes, we find ourselves saying, “I’m just not ready for the holidays.” This year when you find that thought surfacing, replace it with one of these: “This holiday season I give myself permission to do that which brings me the greatest pleasure;” or “Divine guidance makes everything around me align perfectly for a pleasant holiday season.” The idea is to take a moment and set your intentions for the holidays now, so that you can relax and enjoy them. That way, you will feel centered, calm, and balanced throughout the weeks ahead.

    It’s okay to feel the feelings we get this time of year as long as they inspire you and bring you joy. But when they create depression or anxiety, it’s time to move back into the present. Remember, you have the power to choose how you spend your holidays. You should feel free to take time for yourself, and reset your system. Allow yourself to fully relax and heal.

    A great way to do that is to take a holistic holiday here. You will enjoy the love and support of your friends and family in the OHI community. You’ll be surrounding yourself with people who treat you well and won’t judge you. You’ll spend your holidays with those who approve of you, and encourage you.

    Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday because we take the time to appreciate the good in our lives. Too often, however, it is celebrated with meats, gravies, and other heavy unhealthy foods. But, when you join us here for Thanksgiving, you won’t be tempted with meals you’ll regret eating later. Here we’ll ensure that the recipes and beverages you ingest contribute to your vibrant good health. And while you meditate and recharge, take time to feel gratitude for all that you have.

    Whether you observe Christmas, Hanukah, or simply the giving spirit of the season, commemorate it at OHI. Here is the perfect environment to rediscover the place within you that is peaceful and harmonious. Even better, share your experience with a friend. When you give the gift of healing body, mind, and spirit, you show your friends how much you really care.

    Then join us again for New Years week. At OHI, you will create more balance in your life every day. What a wonderful way to kick off the new year. And, if you like to make resolutions, you will find the supportive people who will help you keep them.

    Spend some or all of the holidays at OHI. You’ll create holidays to remember – holistic holidays of health and happiness.

  • Power of Community: How Belonging to Community Helps

    There is great value in belonging to something greater than yourself, no matter whether you define “community” as your friends, your church group, your book club, or your PTA. At OHI, we strive to build a culture of inclusivity and acceptance. We have always believed that a supportive sense of community has tangible health benefits, and now science is validating that theory.

    So how is a community created? In a recent NY Times Article titled “We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment,” authors Martin E.P. Seligman and John Tierney postulate that the one thing that sets humans apart from animals is our ability to contemplate the future. It is that forward thinking that allows us to build communities together. (1) “It is increasingly clear,” write Seligman and Tierney, “that the mind is mainly drawn to the future, not driven by the past. We learn not by storing static records, but by continually retouching memories and imagining future possibilities.” Perhaps the most remarkable supporting evidence of this theory comes from recent brain imaging research. When recalling a past event, the hippocampus (a major brain component) must combine three distinct pieces of information — what happened, when it happened, and where it happened — that are each stored in a different part of the brain. Researchers have found that the same circuitry is activated when people imagine a future possibility. It is this ability to envision a positive community that sets us on a path to create it.

    One central role of OHI’s non-judgmental community is to foster a forward-looking attitude, projecting oneself or visualizing oneself in the future. This is reinforced by the “visualization activity” in our Saturday Vision Boards class, so once you get clarity on what you want out of life, the vision boards help lead you down a path to attain it in the future.

    So how do we choose whom we build our community with? Daniel Levitin, psychology professor at McGill University and author of This is Your Brian on Music, hypothesizes that feelings of belonging and mood elevation are biologically ingrained to surface with a shared communal activity. (2) Levitin focuses on the example of singing in a choir as the ideal communal activity, and points to a wealth of neurological research that suggests our brains release oxytocin when we sing with others. “Oxytocin is believed to give rise to feelings of togetherness and friendship,” Levitin said. In addition, when singing with others the brain sees an uptick in two powerful neurotransmitters — serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine activates the brain’s pleasure center, while serotonin is deployed to ward off depression.

    Of course, this research doesn’t mean everyone should join a choir. At OHI, our Vocal Toning class and Friday Night Live can foster the same sense of community as singing. We’ve been ahead of the curve all along! Now, once you’ve visualized your community and found a shared activity that brings you together, what happens to your community when life deals you a crisis? In a recent NY Times article titled “Women’s Friendships in Sickness and in Health,” author Deborah Tannen theorizes that the silver lining in the dark cloud of serious illness is the help and caring offered by friends. In her book, “You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships,” Tannen reminds people that a whole host of cultural influences — ethnicity, geographic region, class and family styles — all affect how we show caring. (3) “When fear of saying or doing the wrong thing tempts you to say or do nothing, it may help to remember that just reaching out can mean the world,” she says.

    OHI’s non-judgmental community helps you let go of fears. Our Emotional Detox class, Focus 2 class, and Release Ceremony allow you to cleanse yourself of ideas, feelings, or worries that are holding you back from living your best life. The supportive OHI community surrounds you when you’re most vulnerable, and says, “Welcome. We’ve been waiting for you!”

    Find your community at OHI. You’ll be a better person for it!

     

    1. The New York Times, Opinion column “We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment,” by Martin E.P. Seligman and John Tierney, May 19, 2017.
    2. CBC Radio, “The Science Behind Why Choir-Singing is Good For You”, blog by Sarah Claydon, March 29, 2018.
    3. The New York Times, “Women’s Friendships, in Sickness and in Health,” by Deborah Tannen, April 25, 2017.

  • Meet Alaina Gallegos – Facilitator OHI San Diego

    "

    Q: Tell me how you found out about OHI and became involved. My favorite aunt,Evangeline, runs the spa. She is calming to be around, and I noticed that OHI had a peaceful feeling. I got a Masters degree in Public Health, and I worked in clinical settings but it wasn’t satisfying. Then one day I saw an ad for OHI and was attracted to working here. Facilitating across week 1, 2 and 3 is inspiring.

    Q: Tell me about your most memorable experience working at OHI. Each week during testimonials, guests open up, and share their vulnerable side. I see a transformation within them, and a light shining through them that is amazing.

    Q: What does community mean to you? Community to me is a group of people with whom you can be your true genuine self.

    Q: What inspires you? Outside of OHI, what inspires me is traveling, living abroad, living creatively, and not necessarily doing what society tells me. Inside of OHI, I find inspiration every day. People are bold about their health. We have many talented people that have challenged their limits, and created something out of visualization and living intentionally. I’m inspired by the faith that people have; how they are connecting with their spirituality; the trust they put in God, and that God is going to heal them.

    Q: What creates the feeling of belonging among guests at OHI? Guests often state that they feel at home when they are here, which means they are free to be themselves without judgment, to let their guard down. People from all walks of life form bonds with each other.

    Q: Tell me about some of the classes you teach here, and what makes them important. Focus 1 and 2 is a two-part class. What we do is create balance for people when they leave here. How they can make changes in their day. How to prioritize one or two things from the program that they can implement at home. They share their goals with each other, and they feel inspired. It’s an emotional time, and a bond is formed among them because they’re sharing their most intimate desires. Pray Eat Live, is one of our food prep classes. It really brings everything together from our food program. Guests learn recipes for a maintenance lifestyle. This class is like a party,  it’s a celebration of health with lots of laughter and fun.

    Q: How do you see the OHI program becoming integrated across body-mind-spirit?” A lot of guests, before their first time here, mostly think about the physical, but once they are here, they discover the emotional and spiritual blocks that can impede their healing. When feeling connected is not met, we turn to toxic foods and relationships. Here guests have time to reflect and find the root cause which is emotional. They realize they can’t get over these blocks on their own until they connect to spirit. Guests let go of deep anger and past hurt in our Release Ceremony. They realize with God the impossible becomes possible.

    Q: How does the program help people in everyday life?

    People leave here with renewed sense of hope. They have control of their health and life. They know their life is dictated by their decisions. They learn to question their relationships, and how they are spending their time and with whom. It helps with their thoughts, not going down that negative cycle. They have control of their lives. We remind people to pray daily and have gratitude. These tools make a big difference.

    Q: What are your favorite parts of San Diego? I’m a surfer, so my first inclination is to say the beach. There are also amazing hiking trails. Any place I can connect to nature like Cowles Mountain.

  • Belonging to a Community Is What Unites Us All

    Warm autumn greetings to you, our OHI community. I love this verse because it says so much about what we are doing here at OHI. People come here seeking a new healthy and healing lifestyle, and then while here they find a community to which they can belong. They no longer feel alone because they have bonded with others in a way that transcends the week or weeks they spend here.

    You may recall that in our Spring newsletter, I mentioned that the OHI Community is the one place I’ve experienced where people truly work to love their neighbors as themselves. A sacred practice which many major religions espouse. Then in the Summer newsletter, I touched on the idea that community is so important to human beings that it is in our DNA. In his famous hierarchy of human needs, Abraham Maslow put “Belonging” at the third level. It includes needs such as acceptance, feeling supported and understood, having relationships and friendships. When these needs aren’t being met, we feel rejected, neglected, and lonely. It is this need to belong, that I want to expand on here.

    The Need to Belong Is a Primal Force

    For our ancestors, it was the difference between living and dying. Belonging to a community was integral to survival. That hasn’t changed all that much since then. Of course, we are no longer threatened by saber tooth tigers, but our mental health is wholly dependent on belonging. It’s easy in today’s busy society to miss opportunities to connect with our fellow humans. Then, if or when, we run into some difficulty, perhaps we suffer a loss or find ourselves stressed at work, we don’t have that support person we need. Suffering alone seems to make any problem worse, and if it continues it can even be harmful to our health.

    According to the July 2012 Journal of the American Medical Association, living alone increases your risk of heart disease by 24%. (1) This is true because people who lack a social support group are more susceptible to the effects of stress. And, being alone can lead to loneliness which in turn can lead to depression. Belonging can defeat depression. A study in 2009 at Colorado State University found that mild to moderate depression can be alleviated more effectively by social interaction than by a prescription antidepressant. (2)

    Making Genuine Connections Is the First Step in Belonging

    What we need is more one-on-one, in-person communication. When I was young, a wise older man told me, “You need to have a belly-tobelly conversation if you want true talk.” At the time, I thought he was just trying to be funny, but it turns out that science supports his approach. It’s called the Belly Button Rule. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, when you are engaged in a conversation with someone and the two of you are genuinely interested in the topic and each other, you will point your navels at each other. Observe people talking in public sometime, and you’ll see that this is true. You’ll see people facing each other, even making eye contact, but their hips will be turned away from each other. Those people are not really interested in the other person or what they are saying. Here at OHI, I see lot people leaning in to each other having genuine conversations.

     ‘Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.’ Romans 15:7

    Belonging begins with acceptance. Accepting others, as well as, being accepted. According to Karyn Hall, PhD in Psychology Today, “One of the best ways to communicate acceptance is through validation. Validation builds a sense of belonging and strengthens relationships.”

    How Belonging to the OHI Community Begins

    Guests who have gone through our program many times described to me how the belonging process occurs. They say that it’s a learning journey of coming into wellness and wholeness. You start out on a path that is both a collective effort but with individualized objectives. It begins with detoxing, fasting and following a strict diet, with a wonderfully supportive group around you.

    You find yourself sharing things that are more intimate than anything you’ve ever shared before. I’ve told complete strangers here at OHI more about myself than I’ve told my loved ones.

    People even say, “I can’t believe I’m telling you this.” It’s an emotional outlet that enables people to feel and share their emotions.

    Everyone is exuding this positive energy. This release of energy helps you transform. You feel, “I don’t want to leave this place” because there is a sense of safety while at OHI. And, the people you meet – many will become lifelong friends. You build friendships that last for years because you let your guard down and felt free to share your most intimate concerns. The next time you feel stressed, you might want to pick up the phone and call one of your OHI friends. A study conducted at UCLA in May of 2000 by Shelley Taylor (3) uncovered a third response to stress (after fight or flight). The researchers called this response Tending and Befriending. Tending is any nurturing activity that protects someone and makes them feel safe. The act of sharing what’s going on with you will have a calming effect.

    Belonging to OHI’s Community Helps You Persist and Succeed

    Renowned psychologist, Albert Ellis said, “The art of love is largely the art of persistence.” Persistence is one of OHI’s 5 Ps to Optimum Health, and having the love and support of belonging to community makes it easier to stay the course and persist until you reach your goal.

    There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Galatians 3:28

    Each week when people attend our program there is a great balance in the community as some people return for a second, third, or fourth week. These returning guests help the newer up-and-comers by sharing helpful tips and how-to’s that enable them to quickly assimilate into the OHI culture and community. Veteran guests understand – physically and emotionally – what the first weekers are experiencing and, by giving them a hand up, help them achieve their goals and their sense of belonging even faster.

    I have found that when you have a sense of belonging, you want to give back or pay it forward. It’s not only lending a helping hand but also a sharing of wealth. So, as you enjoy your Autumn, and refine your sense of community and belonging, we ask that you remember us when you plan your year-end donations.

    Yours in prayer,

    Robert P. Nees, Jr., Senior Pastor and Chairman Optimum Health Institute of San Diego and Austin