• For Real Results, Affirm – Don’t Resolve

    New Year 2015

    The first week of January, gyms across the country are packed with well-intentioned people who resolved on December 31 at midnight to lose weight, eat right and get healthy in 2015.

    By Valentine’s Day, most of them will be back home in front of the TV with snacks and fast food wrappers on the end table next to the couch.  What happened?  it’s actually quite predictable, say scientists.

    When we make those annual New Year’s Resolutions, we’re really focusing on all the things we’ve messed up in the past.  We’re embarrassed about our bodies.  We’re ashamed that we skip healthy meals for nutritionally bankrupt and guilt-inducing processed drive-through fare.  We anguish over the expensive and neglected gym membership we bought last year.  Every resolution we make reinforces each weakness we hate about ourselves.  Even the word “resolve” has the tentative energy of, “Well, I’ll try it.”

    If we truly desire to shift into healthier lifestyle habits, suggest neuroscientists, instead of trash-talking ourselves, switch those brain circuits so we’re focusing on the best parts of who we are.  Self-affirming our goodness and strengths can provide lasting motivation for making those positive changes we desire.

    It was two studies in Great Britain that brought the effectiveness of “affirming” rather than “resolving” to light.  Smokers were the focus of the first study. 

    After finding a number of people who desired to stop lighting up, researchers divided them into two groups. 

    The first was asked a series of random questions, while the second group was asked about things that let them recall times they’d been compassionate, or made effective choices.  They were then asked to further elaborate on their positive actions, which made them feel even better about their past victories.  Both groups were then given information about how to stop smoking.

    The group which received the self-affirming questions was able to take that renewed sense of self-esteem and self-respect, and effectively nip their smoking habit in the butt.  Unfortunately, the smokers who did not experience the ego and confidence boosting questions failed to make progress. 

    A second study, dealing with poor eating habits, was conducted the same way, and provided the same results.  Participants who shared self-affirming behaviors from their past were much more able to use that positive reinforcement to motivate them to make the healthy lifestyle changes they desired.

    “Affirmations” are more effective than “resolutions” because those bad habits we want to exorcise hide in the basal ganglia, an unconscious part of the brain.  Only when the prefrontal cortex creates new habits can those old neural pathways be changed.  Self-affirmation, which makes the brain spurt out ‘happy chemicals’ like serotonin, can make that change happen.

    Experience the positive, powerful and lasting changes that happen when you embark on a life-affirming visit to the Optimum Health Institute (OHI) in San Diego or Austin, Texas.  Our caring team can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.



    Winter — The Season of Reflection

    “It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth; You made

    both summer and winter.”                 ~ Psalm 74:17

    God, in His wisdom, created the seasons, each bearing unique gifts, strengths and insights. As we get in balance with the rhythms of nature, we see how our own lives reflect the energy and purpose of the seasons.

    Spring, the time of planting, and summer, the season of patience and growth, called on us to initiate projects and work towards specific goals. We nurtured seeds of ideas, discarded “weeds” of distraction, and persistently tended to the goals we set, anticipating positive results.

    If we grew impatient with our own spiritual progress on our life path, we had only to look to the fields for reassurance. The slow but steady growth of an acre of corn showed us that true transformation

    can’t be rushed. We saw the divine timing in the need to first create deep roots to gather nourishment; then a sturdy stalk to withstand the strong winds of storms.

    In the same way, we, too, needed to dig deep into our hearts to find the spiritual nourishment we needed to grow. Through prayer, meditation, journaling and expressing gratitude, we developed strong roots to anchor us, and the courage and self-esteem to stand tall in our truths. Confident in our growing awareness of God’s presence in our lives, we could weather any challenge to our faith. Because we’d taken the time to focus on the things we considered important for a purposeful life, we began to experience more of them each and every day.

    Then, in God’s divine order, came the fall. Just as a single stalk yielded bushels of corn, it was the time to celebrate our accomplishments, express deep gratitude for all the blessings we harvested, and share our bounty with others.

    “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”     ~ Edith Sitwell

    Now, winter completes the circle of seasons, bringing us to the time for slowing down, deep introspection, and a chance to replenish body, mind and spirit.

    Shorter days and falling temperatures bring us indoors, encouraging us to share warm fellowship with like-minded friends and enjoy the reassuring and familiar comforts of family.

    As we seek escape from winter’s chill, we find solace in the unchanging progression of the seasons, each coming in divine order, and offering us a unique opportunity to nurture our own “inner garden” in harmony with God’s plan.

    Now, in the relative quiet of winter, we instinctively shift our focus more inward, and take stock of where we are in our lives, and where we desire to be.

    It’s the time to be even more mindful of what our bodies need in terms of rest and nutrition. Stretching, drinking more water, taking a brisk walk in the chilly air – listen to what your body wants to do, and honor it.

    Simple pleasures with friends and family seem richer by the warm glow of firelight or candles. An old-fashioned game night can get the brain humming and the laughter flowing. Music truly does bring people together on many levels. Share an inspirational movie to warm the heart on frosty nights.

    While simple fellowship is particularly sweet this time of year, the a strong spiritual foundation for the coming seasons. Winter invites solitary pursuits that enrich us, like journaling, meditating, and reading inspiring books. If you’re going on a long drive to gather with family or friends this season, consider getting an audio book to enjoy on the way. The time will fly by as you deepen your spiritual awareness.

    “The holidays are only holy if we make them so.”     ~ Marianne Williamson

    No matter what your religious beliefs, relish the transcendent energy of joy and unity this Holy season brings to all. Let your spiritual light shine, and be a beacon for others with your happiness, compassion and gratitude.

    “If you asked me for my New Year Resolution, it would be to find out who I am.”     ~ Cyril Cusack

    Just on the other side of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, we greet the arrival of 2015. This time of looking forward prompts us to mindfully reflect on our past. Looking back on 2014, it was a year of transformation and growth for OHI, and all those we touched.

    On the physical level, we made significant upgrades in guest rooms, classrooms, and the grounds to create the most nurturing space for your transformative stay with us. New classes we introduced at OHI San Diego quickly won your overwhelming approval. “Pray, Eat, Live,” with delicious maintenance recipes and raw food preparation tips, is already a new favorite.

    Another change we implemented in 2014 that will definitely continue in the New Year is a one-minute Alpha experience included in every class. Expressing gratitude, conscious breathing or a brief guided meditation all serve to quickly uplift guests into a state of higher consciousness, where it’s easier to touch into God’s grace.

    Being in gratitude for the opportunity to be of service to you, our guests, has been a Nees family tradition for the past 38 years. My parents, Robert Sr. and Pamela Nees, together with my uncle, the Rev. Russell Nees and Raychel Solomon, were thrilled and humbled to see their idea for a place to detoxify the body, quiet the mind and renew the spirit take form in 1976.

    When I was called to take over the leadership of OHI after my father and uncle died in 2002, it was an honor to be the second generation in my family to continue OHI’s mission to be a change agent for human kind by improving the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of everyone we touch.

    I am proud to say my son Andrew has joined the OHI team this year, becoming the third generation to continue the tradition of service.

    Reflecting on how far all of us have come this year by working together, I am excited and humbled to continue to lead OHI into a bright and promising future. May the divine grace, joy and peace of the season be with you and yours throughout the New Year.


    Yours in prayer,

    Robert P. Nees, Jr.


    Optimum Health Institute

    of San Diego and Austin

  • Helping Others Helps You

    Helping Others Hands

    ”Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
    Isaiah 6:8

    Every holiday season since it was written in 1941, the iconic Christmas song, “Little Drummer Boy,” strikes a chord.   It tells the story of people laying their finest gifts before the infant destined to become the King of Kings. The humble drummer boy has just one thing to give – his talent.  He plays his drum, and is rewarded with Jesus’ divine smile.

    Whether we have millions or just our time and talent to give this season, every gift from the heart is bestowed, and received, in grace.

    Donating and being of service doesn’t just enrich our spirit.  Research suggests every time we give, our physical, mental and emotional selves also receive measurable benefits.

    A study by the National Institutes of Health discovered that the parts of the brain linked with trust, social connection and pleasure are activated when we give to charities or volunteer.  The brain releases endorphins, producing a “helper’s high.”  In fact, as unlikely as it may seem, A Harvard Business School study showed giving money to someone else is actually more satisfying than spending it on ourselves.

    We don’t need to be in tip-top shape to reap these benefits from our charitable contributions.  In fact, research discovered that chronically ill people facing health opportunities, like multiple sclerosis and HIV, actually became measurably healthier after giving.  Volunteers tend to have lower blood pressure, stress levels and incidents of heart disease and depression.

    A University of California, Berkeley, study proved that the elderly, in particular, stand to benefit.  Even factoring in variables like age, general health, non-healthy behaviors and exercise habits, volunteers were 44% less likely to die over a 5-year period than non-volunteers.  Those statistics also applied to people helping spouses, friends, relatives and neighbors.

    Giving and volunteering strengthen ties to community, and fosters a sense of belonging.  It also has the effect of “elevating” others, as Thomas Jefferson called it.  When we see someone doing good for someone else, our brain actually creates a chemical reaction that inspires us to do likewise.  Kindness truly is contagious.

    Start a wave of compassion, connection and gratitude in your community this season.  To find opportunities to give and volunteer in your community, go on-line and check out:

    ·         V olunteermatch.org : This site has a list of specific needs in your area during the holidays, and year round.

    ·         Unitedway.org :  Find out how you can be a mentor, reader or tutor in your city.

    You can also Google “holiday volunteering” in your city to receive a list of options.

    Another opportunity to help others is to become an OHI Missionary. The OHI Missionary Program is a 90-day volunteer extension program for OHI program graduates who want to continue on their spiritual path to heal themselves. OHI missionaries immerse themselves in the OHI holistic healing program while being of service to OHI guests. We encourage all who have a calling, passion and commitment to serving others to apply. For more information, visit our website: OHI Missionary Program .

    Experience the beauty, serenity and fellowship of an OHI holiday retreat at the OHI missions in San Diego or Austin. Achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health, and get your New Year off to a healthy start. Visit us online at www.optimumhealth.org , or call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.

  • Serving up “Sunshine!”


    With its shorter days and cooler (or biting cold!) temperatures, a winter of optimum health demands some changes in what we’re putting on our plates.

    First of all, dwindling light means we’re not getting nearly as much natural vitamin D from the sun as we can in other seasons.  We count on vitamin D to help prevent cancer, bone fractures, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, and even anxiety and depression, both of which can be triggered by those shorter days.  That lack of sunlight can cause serotonin levels to drop, potentially leading to lethargy and food cravings. 

    While 10 minutes outside daily with the winter sun in its highest position will definitely be beneficial, consuming foods rich in D, like portabella mushrooms and almond milk, will also help boost vitamin D levels.

    You can fight back with healthy carbohydrate-rich foods that can boost serotonin production, like sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, and squash.

    Another essential vitamin for a happy, healthy winter is C, which supports the immune system and adrenal glands.  Year round, but particularly in winter, reach for vitamin C-rich foods like yellow, red and green bell peppers, guava, kale, kiwi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, papaya and pineapple.

    A big challenge during the winter can be a never-ending parade of sugary treats supplied by well-meaning friends and relatives.  Sugar overload crashes the immune system, leaving you much more vulnerable to winter’s colds and flu.  Factor in other risks, like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease – is a sweet “treat” worth the potential dangers?  Yes, those cookies, Yule logs, cakes, pies, candies and eggnog can seem tempting at first, but take a deep breath and take control. 

    Maybe this is the season you start a brand new tradition – like bringing a tasty, crunchy kale salad to the family holiday dinner or office party.  Pomegranates are in season during the winter – introduce people to the exotic sweet-tart scarlet fruit that could quickly become a healthy favorite.

    Another smart plan to help you stay on track during events where you know unhealthy foods will be offered is to eat before you go.  Whip up a tasty smoothie with a cup of plain almond milk, a handful of raw spinach, a peeled and frozen banana, 5 frozen strawberries and a teaspoon of chia or flax seeds.  Place all ingredients in your Vitamix or high-powered blender, and process until smooth.  The smoothie is tasty, filling, and packed with nutrients to fuel a fun holiday evening with friends and family.

    Dehydrate both raw almonds and apples, and have some with you all season long for healthy, energy boosting snacking.

    Experience the cleansing live, raw, organic vegan food at OHI missions in San Diego or Austin. Achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health, and get your New Year off to a healthy start. Visit us online at www.optimumhealth.org , or call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.

  • Stay Stress Free this Holiday Season

    Holiday Stress

    It started even earlier this year.   In September, on the store shelves, right next to the back-to-school supplies, were the flocked trees, reindeer and menorahs rushing the arrival of the holiday season.

    Big family gatherings, elaborate feasts with all the trimmings, office parties, gifts, shopping, cleaning and decorating the house – where to start?  And where will it end?

    Here’s an idea – let’s make this the year we focus on the “Happy” part of “Happy Holidays.”  With a few simple tweaks and turns, you can de-stress and make it less about “expensive stuff,” and more about “rich experiences.”

    To prove this is a smart move, quick – think of three gifts you received during the holidays last season.  Now, think of three fun or meaningful things you DID with family or friends.  Do you still have all three gifts?  Can you even remember three?  But those memories of quality time shared with loved ones – THOSE are the things that warm your heart, make you smile, and cause waves of gratitude to flow over you.  So listen up.

    Take it down a notch
    If you’ve always over-exerted yourself to make sure everything is perfect, rein it in.  The old joke about how kids are more excited to play with the box than the toy that CAME in the box?  It’s true – on so many levels.  So the house isn’t spotless.  So the dishes don’t match.  So you don’t have a blindingly bright front yard light display.  So what?  It’s your love, affection and good humor that will illuminate the event.  Everything else is gravy.

    What’s For Dinner
    ‘Gravy’ brings us to holiday meals.  Most of us have experienced more than a few post-dinner “food comas,” where we’re just too stuffed, uncomfortable and mentally foggy to do much of anything but collapse on the couch.  Besides the trauma this creates in our body, it doesn’t do a thing for our mind, emotions or spirit, either. 

    If you’re planning a big meal, take the opportunity to introduce live, raw organic vegan foods you’ve enjoyed during your stay at the Optimum Health Institute (OHI).  Suggest everyone bring a lighter side dish, and challenge him or her to use only unprocessed ingredients.  End the meal with a sweet but healthy treat, like dried dates, cashews and unsweetened coconut blended together in the food processor, pressed into a pan and cut into bars.  There’s a great possibility your guests will be so interested in the novelty of the tasty new foods, and how great they feel after the meal, that they’ll want to eat light and healthy again.

    Move It, Move It
    Finally, instead of planting yourself in front of a television, make it a point to get moving.  A brisk walk in the middle of the day will let you soak up the winter sunshine, and help offset the depleted vitamin D levels associated with shorter days.  Stretching, or yoga, will help you balance your energies and feel more grounded.  In colder regions, sledding, ice-skating or even a brisk snowball fight are great ways to let off steam and celebrate the season.

    Let’s DO Stuff!
    Instead of giving a gift card, a tie or something else that will have little or no real meaning, take a little time to think of something specific the person on your gift list would enjoy doing.  Maybe it’s a massage, or a football game, a movie or volunteering to help others that are less fortunate.  Make THAT your gift, and go along with them. Or perhaps donating in your loved one’s name to a cause that he or she wholeheartedly believes in! This is where you are building happy memories, and strengthening ties.  It changes things, in a very good way.  Research from the Mayo Clinic indicates that investing in your relationships by nurturing them will boost happiness for both parties.

    These tips, along with cultivating a constant state of gratitude for all your blessings, will definitely help you navigate the season with grace and joy.

    Experience the beauty, serenity and fellowship of an OHI holiday retreat at the OHI missions in San Diego or Austin, Texas. Achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health, and get your New Year off to a healthy start. Visit us online at www.optimumhealth.org , or call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.

  • Going Home for the Holidays

    Home for the Holidays

    “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
                                                                           — Hamilton Wright Mabie

    Unless August 16 is your birthday, chances are you don’t remember what you were doing August 16, 2004.   Sure, you might recall where you were living, and the people who were in your life.  But specific conversations?  What you ate?  Where you went that day?  Probably not.

    That’s why the holidays are such an important touchstone for families and friends.  We do remember specifics of a particular Christmas, or Hanukkah, or other special traditional observance.  The holidays are a time designated to come together as a family, and make new memories we’ll reminisce about during holidays to come.

    In the relatively new science of Positive Psychology, one of the three necessities for being happy in your life is having a “community” – a close knit group of one or many family members and/or friends who know you, and have your back.  Your community represents your safe space to retreat after a disappointment, or to celebrate a victory. 

    There’s a particular richness to this community during the holidays, and you can make this the year you add even more to the connections.  Here are some ideas for reinforcing the unity, caring and love for each family member.

    1. First and foremost, release all expectations.  There is no such thing as the “perfect” holiday.  But choosing to focus on the things that are positive, fun and interesting will keep you, and everyone around you, in the jolliest of moods.
    2. Start a new tradition of going around the table and sharing your happiest holiday memory.  Chances are, the memory will include at least one or two others gathered there, reinforcing the “family unity” theme.
    3. If someone introduces a topic that could erupt in an unpleasant exchange, gently – or not so gently – steer the conversation in another direction.  You can even make a joke of it – “How about those Mets?”
    4. Bring music to the mix. John Denver once said, “Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.”   A sing-along or informal concert, or even a holiday music mix on an iPod, can draw everyone into the fun.
    5. Express gratitude for coming together again in the circle of your family.  Even if old tensions start to run high, you can be authentically grateful that you now have the opportunity to create happier new memories. 
    6. Spend this holiday season, at OHI San Diego or OHI Austin. Experience the warmth of fellowship and spiritual community in a safe and sacred environment.
    7. Donate your time or treasure as a group. Bring family and friends together and volunteer your time as a group. Or pool your money together in order to give a larger donation to your favorite cause.

    May your holiday gatherings nurture and enrich you in body, mind and spirit.

    This holiday season, experience the fellowship and spiritual community at the OHI missions in San Diego or Austin, Texas. Achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health, and get your New Year off to a healthy start. Visit us online at www.optimumhealth.org , or call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.

  • Richness of Spirit


    Perhaps you’ve experienced it – that moment when someone walks into a room, and seems to fill it with light. Their warmth, good humor and charisma radiate to everyone around them. You may sense a welcoming energy emanating from them, which feels inviting and approachable. That’s what “Richness of Spirit” is all about.

    While material wealth is accumulating “things,” spiritual wealth transcends possessions to focus on values that nourish our soul. So many people claim they didn’t know they grew up poor until someone else told them. Their home was so full of love, laughter and compassion they always felt abundance. That’s what living with richness of spirit does – priorities shift, and material things aren’t as important.

    How does one enrich his or her spirit? There are many habits that you can form that cultivate happiness and contentment, which in-turn enriches your spirit. One of the quickest and easiest is expressing gratitude. Another is having faith in something greater than you. And other examples include: cultivating empathy and compassion; sharing your enthusiasm and joy; and creating positive, caring connections with others. All are guaranteed to raise your level of joy.

    Another profound way to enrich one’s spirit is to pay it forward by donating your time, touch, talent or treasure. For example, volunteering your time and services for a cause you whole-heartedly believe in, being a designated hugger at OHI, and donating goods or money to those less-fortunate than you.

    Colossians 3:16

    Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

    Many of tS he classes and spiritual activities offered at the Optimum Health Institute (OHI) were created to enhancing your spiritual richness: Emotional and Mental Detoxification, You Validation, Self Esteem, Your Life as a Gift, Body-Mind Connection and Prayer Circles, Friday Morning Testimonials and Friday Night Live.

    It’s the perfect time of the year to detoxify the body, quiet the mind and celebrate the spirit with like-minded people at the OHI missions in San Diego or Austin.  We can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health, and get your New Year off to a healthy start. Visit us online at www.optimumhealth.org , or call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.