• 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.

  • Scholarship Recipient Transforms Body, Mind and Spirit: Gina K’s amazing comeback over Breast Cancer

    When one receives a daunting health opportunity, having a strong support system is key. For Gina Klingelhoets of Phoenix, who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, that encouragement first came from her boss. She connected Gina with a holistic wellness coach, who urged her to check out Optimum Health Institute (OHI). A former body builder, Gina had always been conscious of what she ate. She was interested in how OHI offered her not just nutritional support, but classes and fellowship opportunities to nourish her mind, emotions and spirit. The next wave of support came from Gina’s mother. Her mom totally supported her OHI decision, and signed up for a week, as well. They made the 6-hour drive to OHI together and shared a room—and a bathroom.

    Her first day at OHI, Gina discovered still another support system. Initially she found the welcoming nature of the OHI community, in her words, “A little bit alarming!” Gina had been a medical researcher, which can be a pretty solitary pursuit. Finding herself in the center of a group of people who warmly welcomed her into conversations and activities at first stretched her outside her comfort zone. Being embraced by the community was a big deal for her, and she soon blossomed into really enjoying and appreciating the closeness.

    Her inner “science nerd”—again, her words! — loved learning the biology of the holistic 3-week program. The classes also made her realize she had been ignoring her emotional and spiritual health. When her application was accepted, and she received the gift of the second and third week, Gina said she felt like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. The extra time gave her the healing opportunity to be more forgiving with herself and become a “recovering perfectionist.” Besides helping Gina bring a healthier balance to her life in body, mind and spirit, OHI transformed her relationship with her mom. She is SO grateful for her scholarship, and said it’s already made a huge difference in every possible way. As a reminder OHI’s mission is to transform lives, which we do through our Scholarship Program. In many small and large ways, you can help us provide more Scholarships to people like Gina, for example buying gifts for your friends through The Optimum Health Store generates proceeds for the OHI Scholarship Fund.

    The Greatest Gift of Love is the Gift of Healing

    The OHI Scholarship Fund was established to help those who have a life-threatening health opportunity and require financial assistance. The OHI community relies on acts of kindness and generosity to support those in need.

    Thanks to your support last year, we were able to provide 94 scholarships. Our overarching goal for 2018 is to raise $500,000 in scholarship funds. You can give the gift of healing for those who are ill and in need by supporting the OHI Scholarship Fund by making a:

    • One-Time Donation
    • Sustainable Monthly Contribution

    Donate Now!  [link to: http://optimumhealth.org/supportOHI/]

    Optimum Health Institute is a non-profit, religious organization. Your donation is tax deductible.

  • Get to Know Jana Peterson: Missionary Heals Her Past, Embraces Her Future

    Jana Peterson first leaned about OHI in 1992, when her Godfather returned from a 2-week stay, “Thirty pounds lighter in body and about a million times lighter in spirit,” Jana said. He never regained the weight, and frequently credited his spiritual experience at OHI San Diego mission for having a transformational impact. When she was dealing with systemic candida a decade ago, she decided to try OHI’s holistic healing program for herself.

    It worked beautifully, Jana said, but a string of traumas and stresses in the intervening years triggered the symptoms all over again, along with leaky gut, Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder, and chronic fatigue. “I was ‘life paralyzed’ my brain stopped working, and I couldn’t process or leave the house,” Jana said. “The prospect of brushing my teeth seemed akin to climbing Mount Everest, and I was completely out of resources.”

    It was at that point her landlord, a frequent OHI guest, became concerned. He suggested she consider applying for the 3-month missionary program, and told her he would even let her out of her lease if she was accepted. Jana immediately applied, and was approved. She sold her car and took her 22- lb Maine Coon cat, Mongo, to stay with her best friend. The healing transformations began for her body, mind and spirit.

    Jana said that the bonds missionaries develop with guests are extraordinary.

    “It’s everything,” she said. “There is this unexplainable kind of sacred intimacy, a real trust and love that transpires between people in a week’s time and it’s totally authentic. I have shared things with people here I have never shared with another living soul. “People who find themselves in a physical, emotional or spiritual crisis can turn to OHI. Everything in the program works in conjunction, and I don’t know how it would be possible to find better community than what we share at OHI.”

    “This is the happiest and most at peace I have ever been,” she said, “and if it were not for my OHI community, I would not be here. It’s natural to look at someone who is always smiling and assume they are the happiest person ever. But some of the kindest people hold the most pain.”

    “I had cut myself off from a world that just seemed too unbearable, and I lost all sense of connection and community. I also lost sight of how thoughtful and beautiful people can really be. My OHI community constantly reminds me of this with their unfaltering support, love and validation. OHI is the family you get to choose for yourself.”

    “My every waking moment has purpose,” Jana said.

    It’s not just the mental, emotional and spiritual parts of her that are coming into balance.

    “I have lost a considerable amount of inflammation in my body,” Jana continued. “My joints are starting to heal and I am gaining flexibility. My stomach no longer feels like I ate a steady diet of shrapnel. I feel safe. I can remember things. The only tears I cry here and often are tears of gratitude and joy.”

    The OHI missionary program is a volunteer extension program for those who have graduated from the OHI holistic healing program and desire to continue on a spiritual path to heal themselves and others. Missionaries immerse themselves in the healing process 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We encourage those with a heart for service to apply.

  • 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

  • Celebrating the Divine in Everything

    Affirming Your Life

    “It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.”

    — Eckhart Tolle

    Affirmation: Today I will mindfully celebrate all my blessings, knowing that each positive thing is more proof of God’s presence and love.


    A butterfly lands on your hand for a fleeting moment.  You just finished reading Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life.  Your best friend comments on how healthy you’re looking now that you’ve shifted to a primarily raw, plant-based diet.

    All of these little things are — quite literally — a cause for celebration.

    Reveling in the moment when positive things happen is an on-going opportunity to acknowledge the infinite good, and the infinite God, in our lives.

    “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise,” commands Psalms 98:4.   Throughout the Bible, we’re told of celebrations marking everything from baptisms and weddings to feasts, dedicating the wall at Jerusalem, and Jesus’ birth.

    “Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines,” writes Richard Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline.

    Celebrating the small things helps us stay in the moment; we become more mindful of seeking out the positive.  And that which we seek, we find.  Our joy is contagious; those around us, too, will start to discover delightful reasons to celebrate throughout their day.  We strengthen the bonds within our spiritual community through celebrating together, honoring each other’s successes and growth.

    There’s still another benefit to choosing to celebrate just about everything.  The spiritual discipline of celebration itself is a form of thanksgiving.  Science shows us that shifting into an attitude of gratitude actually prompts positive chemical changes in our brains and bodies.  We can more easily release stress, boost heart health and lower blood pressure.  We feel fewer aches and pains, heal more quickly and can enjoy deeper, more restful sleep.

    When we expect to see the divine in everything, we will find it.  That’s when we truly begin to live our lives in constant celebration, doing all things with great love.

    Show yourself great love with an extended stay at Optimum Health Institute missions in San Diego and Austin.  Celebrate with your spiritual community to link up with old friends, and make some wonderful new ones.  Call us at (800) 224-2620 to book your reservation.  Be sure to ask about our current promotional discounts.

  • Celebrating the Divine in Everything

    Affirming Your Life

    “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”

    — Mother Teresa

    Affirmation: Today I will mindfully put love in everything I think, say and do.


    A four-year-old girl’s parents returned home from the hospital, proudly carrying her baby brother.  She stared at her new sibling for a very, very long time, then told her mom and dad she wanted to speak to her brother — alone.

    Her parents were a bit hesitant, but knew the baby monitor was right by his crib, and they would be waiting just outside the door.

    As soon as she and the infant were alone, the girl approached the crib with purpose.  She rested her hands on the railings, leaned in close to her brother, and said wistfully, “Tell me what God looks like.  I’m starting to forget.”

    The late author, speaker and spiritual philosopher Dr. Wayne Dyer shared that true story to illustrate what too many of us experience daily.  When we seek it out, we can see God’s grace and love in everyone, and everything.  When we start to forget, a little piece of our heart goes into a kind of suspended animation.

    Dr. Dyer wrote prolifically on the concept that things will have the emotional meaning we give to them.  If we’re passed over for a promotion, it can mean we’re in a dead-end job; or it can mean we have more time to develop our skills, and fine-tune our aspirations for our future.  When our last child leaves the nest, it can mean our life no longer has any purpose; or it can mean we are now free to focus on those spiritual and creative pursuits we put on hold for years.

    If each day becomes something to endure rather than celebrate, it’s time to shift gears.

    Always searching for the deeper meaning in things, and choosing our response from a place of love and compassion, will enrich every aspect of our lives.

    When we put God on “speed dial,” constantly checking in for a more enlightened way of understanding and being, we start to come into a place of balance and contentment.  We can quickly access an Alpha state, which means releasing stress, bolstering our immune system, and experiencing more mental clarity and emotional stability.

    From that mindful place of deeper spiritual connection, it’s easy to stay in a heart-centered space.  We automatically begin to say and do the things that matter, and are steeped in love.

    When we expect to see the divine in everything, we will find it.  That’s when we truly begin to live our lives in constant celebration, doing all things with great love.

    Show yourself great love with an extended stay at Optimum Health Institute missions in San Diego and Austin.  Celebrate with your spiritual community to link up with old friends, and make some wonderful new ones.  Call us at (800) 224-2620 to book your reservation.  Be sure to ask about our current promotional discounts.