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.
‘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
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.