Introducing OHI guest, Patricia Ramsay. She has led an extraordinary life, and at 75 years old is still striving for a deeper connection with God every day. Her spiritual journey has taken her around the world — from Jamaica to London to the United States and India — even to the doorstep of OHI. We are so grateful to be a repeat stop on her travels.
Q. How did you hear about OHI?
In October 2017, I felt there was a cloud between myself and the mentee I was working with, so I asked God for guidance. The phone rang, and it was my girlfriend calling to tell me about OHI. Clearly, this was the answer God was sending me. When I have meditated on something, I listen to what the voice inside me says, and I never question it.
Q. What was your first visit like?
It was simply amazing! I felt like it got my body-mind-spirit back into alignment. I was a vegetarian when I went there, but after completing the 3-day juice cleanse, I said to myself that this is how I want to feel all of the time. So I became a vegan, and I’ve never felt better in my life.
Q. In 2014, you were accepted as a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard University in their Advanced Leadership Initiative. Tell us about that experience.
The former CEO of the International Women’s Forum (IWF) recommended me for the Harvard program. I was just approaching turning 70, and thought I was a bit too old to be going back to college, but Harvard invited me to interview, so I went. I met with the Deans of three schools — Business, Law, and Education. I was accepted into the program, and Harvard awarded me a full scholarship. It was God’s plan, and He most definitely provided! I spent a lovely year sharing ideas with the most amazing minds. God has given me the courage and support to do his work. I am just a vessel and cannot do otherwise.
Q. You make time for prayer and meditation every morning. Are there any spiritual experiences you would like to share?
About 6 months ago, a voice came to me clear as a bell, and told me to go to Bali. I knew in my heart this would be a spiritual retreat that would further develop my being. I booked passage to Ubud but didn’t schedule too much. I feel that you always have to leave space for grace. Too much structure shows a lack of faith, and ego managing everything. I want room in my life to let the Divine enter. I met with a sacred healer, and when he laid his hands on me he told me that I harness a tremendous amount of energy. I am only able to balance it all because my faith is so strong, and I listen to God without ever second guessing. He told me I needed to share my spirituality with others more freely instead of holding back so that my energy can flow. That conversation marked a quantum leap in my faith. I felt a complete shift in my consciousness. I realized that I need to share my story with the world, because in that way I share God with the world.
Q. Have you come back to OHI since you first visited last October?
Yes! I returned in August 2018, this time for 3 weeks. I felt like my body was out of alignment again, but after completing the 21-day program and juice fasting each week, I felt my body was where it needed to be, linked with my mind and spirit.
Q. What classes spoke the most to you in this visit?
Each Vocal Toning Class was magnificent. I could feel the trees and the energy of the ground. Wednesday’s Release Ceremony was also quite moving for me. God always puts me in the right place for the nourishment my body, mind, and soul, and OHI will always be a place that nurtures me back into alignment.
Q. Looking back on your life, what advice do you have for others?
At 75 years old, I feel like life is a total adventure. Every day is better than the last. Yes, I’ve had bad times, but they all brought me to exactly where I needed to be. The mantra I use most often in my meditation is “Be still and know that I am God.”
When Natalia Eric was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2010, it was not her first experience with cancer. Two years earlier, she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and her thyroid was removed. This time, the health opportunity was even more aggressive. Doctors removed her spleen, which had swollen to seven pounds, and started her on chemotherapy. They also gave her only five years to live.
Natalia was not one to passively surrender. She had been born in Russia, and navigated challenging situations before. Now a resident of Toronto, Natalia realized if she wanted to take charge of her health, she was going to have to change things dramatically.
While scouring the internet for information, she came across YouTube videos of people sharing their transformational experience at Optimum Health Institute (OHI) San Diego. Natalia booked a three-week stay.
“Those first three days, I got so sick,” Natalia said. She realized her body was purging toxins she accumulated during her chemo treatments, but that didn’t make the process any easier. She was ready to quit the program right then and there. Compassionate OHI team members and fellow guests convinced her to stay.
“Just three days later,” Natalia said, “Everything changed for me. The sun was shining, the grass was green, the birds were singing — it was wonderful. I was so happy to be there!” Natalia celebrated every day of the rest of that first stay, relishing the instant closeness of the OHI community. She felt fantastic, and shed 17 pounds those three weeks.
When she returned to Toronto after that first visit, her oncologist was amazed at the dramatic changes in her body. Her bloodwork was fantastic, no lymph nodes were swollen, and her bone marrow looked good.
“I started thinking,” she said. “If three weeks at OHI could do this for me, what could three months do? I applied to become a missionary.”
Since then, Natalia has been a proud part of the missionary program five separate times. With each visit, she continues to learn more about herself while she’s also meeting new guests, and making new friends. “I find I can help people by sharing my own stories. I tell them how I incorporate the OHI teachings into my life.”
Russian guests in particular immediately connect with Natalia. Many time their return visits to coincide with hers. Some of the older Russian guests don’t speak English, and Natalia is happy to translate for them, and help them reap the benefits of learning new ways to eat, think, meditate and move.
Natalia said that with each new missionary assignment, she’s able to go deeper into the heart of OHI’s healing program. Her biggest personal transformation is emotional healing. For the first time in her life, Natalia said, she is truly loving herself. “We’re told that to think of ourselves first is selfish,” Natalia said. “But until you can love yourself enough to make time for yourself, you can never really love anyone else. I know that everything about OHI is to make sure the body, mind and spirit are all taken care of. You can’t heal the body if the mind and spirit are still doing the same old stuff. To heal your emotions, you have to make changes.”
Those changes don’t just happen during a stay at an OHI mission — they continue to transform lives when people take the program home with them.
“My grown children will ask me about the food I eat now, and I help them understand emotionally how important it is. They start to eat more raw foods, and have salads at every meal. And that means my grandchildren are getting healthier, and learning healthy habits at such a young age. It makes me so happy.”
We sat down and chatted with Evie Edington and Karen Labat, an amazing Mother-Daughter duo, who have worked at OHI Austin, teaching almost every class over the years. Here are Evie & Karen’s thoughts on the wonders of witnessing healing daily and what Community means.
Q. What do you like most about working at OHI?
The most rewarding part of the work we do is that it is not just a job to us; it is a calling. Witnessing the impact that this program has on the body-mind-spirit, and to be a part of that impact is a blessing that we gratefully acknowledge every day. We love being able to inspire others to live healthier lives. We are very passionate about food-as-medicine, so when we teach Elimination I and II, this is the message we convey. Guests become empowered to change their lives and take back control of their health. This is why we love OHI. We aren’t trying to sell people magic pills. We are providing them with real tools that can boost their wellness quotient. All of it can be done at home after re-entry!
Q. What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in yourself since you started working here?
The funny thing about being a part of transformation is that it pulls you along with it. We have been challenged over and over to grow beyond our small thinking. Since working at OHI, we have added more fresh foods, more fermented foods, more wheatgrass shots, and more veggie juice to our own daily diets when not at the OHI campus. This has taken our brains to a whole new level! Working on this team, we are joined together to be a transformative and healing force in the world.
Q. What OHI class has had the most impact on you?
For Karen, who has had the privilege of teaching every class in the OHI curriculum, she has had the benefit of seeing the way all of the classes build on each other to create a beautiful, healing outcome. She is very partial to the Alpha Classes, especially Alpha I, Emotional Detox and Mental Detox.
For Evie, the classes that she loves most are Elimination I and II. She is constantly learning more about the impact of nutrition on the body, and it never ceases to inspire her. She recently taught the Mind-Body Connection class, and the content blew her mind. She was so excited to talk about the power of the mind to influence messages to our body. We live in a world where daily news program messages can be quite negative, but we don’t realize how these messages impact our health. Having this class on our schedule is wonderful because we help people understand that unique aspect of wellness.
Q. What are the pros & cons of working together as mother-daughter?
One positive of working together is the way that we support one another in both our private and work lives. We love bouncing new ideas for classes off of each other. We sub for each other when one is on vacation, sick, or has an emergency. Working together has brought us closer and deepened our friendship. The only downside of working together is that we give each other very honest feedback, which isn’t necessarily what you always want to hear. But we get to see each other’s talents and contributions to the program, and that is very bonding.
Q. What does community mean to you?
For us, community starts with the OHI team. They are our friends as well as co-workers, and we have a deep, abiding respect for all of them. That respect radiates out to the guests that join us at OHI, and then beams out to the broader world. “Community” has come to mean a great deal to us. There is no greater feeling than being part of a community that we can trust and depend on.
Q. What’s OHI Heartbeat?
We are passionate about empowering people to live healthful lives. Being part of the wellness community as a whole is very life-affirming. There is also a giant self-confidence boost that comes with all the appreciation and acknowledgement for simply being a teacher and counselor. But the bottom line is, our job here is a calling to do God’s work on Earth. And we are honored to do God’s bidding.
Q. What inspires you?
Healing inspires us. Living a healthy, active life that is full of the little things we love is also very inspiring. We only get one life, and helping others as we make our way on own journey lifts everyone up.
When the countdown is finished, and the ball in Times Square has dropped… when the fireworks show is over, and the champagne bottle is empty… when the last kiss is given, and the final stanza of Auld Lang Syne is sung… what do you do next?
You’ll be tempted to reflect. It’s okay to look back and take stock, enjoy a sweet recollection of a good time, review a lesson learned from a difficulty you faced, but you don’t want dwell in the past.
The new year reminds us that time is moving forward, and so should we. As businessman, Michael Altshuler says, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” Honor the past, but prepare yourself to meet new people, go on new adventures, and make new memories.
Staying focused on the present and living in the now is a habit that will serve you well. Too often we allow ourselves to recall past mistakes or missed chances. Letting negative thoughts occupy your mind only works to depress your good feelings. Conversely, worrying about the future only serves to waste your time and make you feel anxious.
Whenever you find these types of thoughts creeping into your brain, train yourself to immediate return your thoughts to the present. When you focus on what you can do today, you will get more done, you will move closer to your goals, and you will feel better.
Start your new year with some positive affirmations. Say to yourself, “For 2019, I choose love and joy and peace. I release my fears: of failure, of change, and of not being good enough. I let go of anger, and carry no grudges or resentment. I feel healthy and full of energy. Everything in my life is getting better. I allow myself to take risks. And, I take bold steps toward my goals.”
You may want to take the advice of Tom Peters, the author of In Search of Excellence, who says, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” In other words, do that which makes you feel good about yourself.
If you like to make New Year’s resolutions, and you are able to keep them, then making them can be a good thing. However, if you are unable to keep them, and that makes you feel depressed or guilty, then don’t do it. As an anonymous comedian once quipped, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”
A better method is offered by Helen Keller, who said, “Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”
Is it a Crisis or an Opportunity?
With the new year, expect to see new obstacles and challenges, but for 2019 make a conscious decision to see them as opportunities instead of crises. It’s fascinating that in the Chinese language, the symbol that is used for the word “crisis” is also the symbol used for the word “opportunity.” Crisis and Opportunity are in essence simply the opposite sides of the same coin depending on your perspective. When you can look for the opportunity in every crisis, you will prosper.
The new year is a great time to make new commitments to yourself. A commitment to better health, and healthy habits. Author, C.S. Lewis, once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
A new year is a time to renew, refresh, and rejuvenate. And, a great place to do that is right here at OHI. Begin your journey of the next 365 days with your special community of loving supportive people. Start your new year off right by honoring your body, mind, and spirit with our yoga classes, delicious recipes, and the heartfelt camaraderie of the OHI community.
As we say goodbye to 2018, we at OHI thank you for giving us another great year! We’ll be sharing lots of hugs here on New Year’s Eve, and we’d love it if you would join us in the celebration.
Rhonda Yeoman was just such a person. In the Fall of 2017 she weighed over 300 pounds, and was diagnosed with cancer. Her naturopath guided her to lose weight and eat a vegan diet. He also recommended OHI, but high medical bills made it so she could not afford it.
By August this year, she had lost 80 pounds, but was still struggling with health opportunities, so the naturopath sponsored her for a week at OHI.
Ms. Yeoman responded dramatically to our classes and teachers, she said, “It was so exciting, and a privilege to be with a whole family of people who want to heal!” But because of her medical debts she could not complete the three week holistic healing program.
Guests Like You Helped Rhonda Succeed!
Here’s where our guests came to the rescue – their donations made it possible for her to attend two more weeks! Today, Rhonda has lost over 100 pounds, and her tumors have stopped growing.
She says, “I’ll never forget the gift of scholarship for the rest of my life. Because of OHI, I now have a different respect on what my body is doing for me.” Rhonda has become an outspoken cheerleader for OHI, and has even been invited to speak at a conference on natural healing alternatives where she will share her OHI experience.
What Does OHI Mean to You?
As you reflect on how OHI has touched your life, please consider how our healing mission has made a difference in the lives of those who cannot afford our program. The OHI Scholarship Fund, has made it possible for people with life-threatening health opportunities to begin the process of healing body, mind and spirit.
As the year comes to a close, would you consider helping with a tax-deductible gift that will help even more people next year?
OHI Scholarship Helped Reunite a Mother and Daughter in Good Health
When Gina Klingelhoets learned she had breast cancer, she realized she needed supportive people in her life to help her get through this health opportunity. However, her solitary job as a medical researcher rarely put her in contact with people, which meant she didn’t have anyone to draw on from work.
When she received her diagnosis, her holistic wellness coach recommended OHI. She then told her mother. Upon hearing the news, her mother was immediately ready to provide support to Gina. She even signed up for the OHI program where they shared a guest room and bath.
Our Guests Provided the Welcoming Arms that Helped Gina Open Up
Then as Gina found herself warmly welcomed into our community – the open communication, the love, the acceptance – she felt her relationship with mother growing stronger as well.
Gifts, from guests like you, not only helped Gina with her health opportunity, but it also helped her grow emotionally and spiritually so that she was able to bond with others like never before, and to develop deep and meaningful relationships.
You see, guest donations truly help people heal body, mind and spirit. And, these are just two of the amazing stories of the many people our guests have helped with their contributions to OHI.
Share the Love, Share the Feeling, Share the Gift of Healing
As you remember the spirit of peace, love, and camaraderie that you felt here at OHI, please remember those who have life threatening health opportunities and need financial assistance.
The OHI community relies on acts of kindness and generosity from people like you to support those in need. Last year your donations made it possible for OHI to provide 97 scholarships. This year we’ve increased our goal significantly. Word has spread of the good work we’ve been doing, and many more people with serious health opportunities are reaching out to us for help. Our goal is to provide 350 scholarships which means we must raise $500,000 by year end. Your backing will make this vital effort possible.
And, as the year comes to a close, I am asking you to help out with a year-end, tax-deductible gift that will help even more people next year.
Celebrate Your OHI Community with a Contribution Today!
Since 1976, friends of OHI like you have helped thousands of people like Rhonda and Gina. And, since all of our scholarships are for people who otherwise could not afford our program, their healing has been possible because of our guests’ generous support. Thank you.
Would you be willing to make a special year-end gift today of $50, $100, $500 or whatever you can afford to help hundreds of people with life-threatening health opportunities?
Please make your donation now by:
- calling us at (800) 993-4325
- online at www.OptimumHealth.org
- mail donation to:
Optimum Health Institute
ATTN: OHI Scholarship Fund
6970 Central Avenue
Lemon Grove, CA 91945
Your tax-deductible gift will be IMMEDIATELY put to use providing needed scholarships. Thank you in advance for your kindhearted assistance.
Reverend Robert Nees Jr.
Senior Pastor and Chairman Optimum Health Institute, San Diego and Austin
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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”
“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.