Science Agrees – Community Has Healing Power

It’s a beautiful transformational scenario that plays out at Optimum Health Institute (OHI) holistic healing retreats in San Diego and Austin on a daily basis. Guests, many facing significant health opportunities, arrive for the first time feeling anxious and rather isolated. They are immediately greeted warmly, and assigned an “OHI Buddy” to help orient them and answer questions. Before their first plant-based raw organic meal, they gather in a circle with other guests to share a few moments of spiritual fellowship and inspiration. In the dining room, they are immediately drawn into supportive and validating conversations with others.

Strong Bonds

Strangers become friends, and all are enveloped in the accepting, non-judgmental OHI community that supports and encourages them through each moment of their 21-day stay. During classes like Food Combining, Self Esteem and Conscious Breathing, guests assist and reassure each other, sharing their fears, their hopes and their laughter. Strong bonds are formed, and many coordinate return visits so they can enjoy “reunions” while rededicating themselves to strive for optimum health in body, mind and spirit. This community-building dynamic that has been at the heart of OHI since day one is now being corroborated by scientific research. Clinical studies show the validating experience of being accepted into a group of positive, like-minded people can set significant healing transformations into motion.

“Humans are wired for connection with others,” says Matthew Lieberman, UCLA professor of psychiatry and biobehaviorial science. “Life does not usually go well when we try to live it on our own. Oftentimes, when we face a problem or crisis, we feel as if we can and should handle it by ourselves, but it’s the opposite. We need to handle it with the help of others, even if only with one person.” 1 Dr. Lieberman is one of the founders of social cognitive neuroscience, a discipline analyzing how brain function underlies social thinking and social behavior.

Dr. Dean Ornish Says…

This healing power of community has such a profound and measurable influence that cardiologist Dean Ornish writes in his book Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy , “I am not aware of any other factor in medicine – not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery – that has a greater impact on our quality of life or incidence of illness. Anything that promotes a sense of isolation often leads to illness and suffering, while that which promotes a sense of love and intimacy, connection and community, is healing.” 2

One thing OHI guests mention repeatedly is how their interaction with others facing similar opportunities gives them strength and hope. Instead of feeling alone, they experience a powerful connection with others whether they’re on the same path or not. They can develop a sense of accountability to each other, which helps them collectively stick to their goals.

Hard Wired to Help

The cooperative dynamic that compassion for others helps the person providing assistance is also supported in clinical research. Dr. Sara Konrath, a faculty member of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan, writes, “Social connections can be good for us. We are hard-wired for face-to-face contact that includes lots of touch, eye contact, and smiles. Such interactions release a hormone called oxytocin, which helps us to bond and care for others, and also helps us to handle stress better.” 3

Experience the healing power of community during an extended stay at OHI San Diego or OHI Austin. Save throughout the month of February when you mention promotional code SELFLOVE when booking your 2 or 3-week stay. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.

1. Matthew Lieberman, PhD, Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, Crown Publishers, 2013.

2. Dean Ornish, MD, Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy, William Morrow Paperbacks, 1999.

3. Sara Konrath, PhD, EverydayHealth.com, Copyright 2013. See: http://www. everydayhealth.com/depression/how-volunteering-can-lessen-depression-and-extend-your-life/

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