• How Quieting the Mind Heals Body and Spirit

    When Dr. Wendy Schlessel Harpham was a practicing internist in Dallas, Texas, when she learned she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an incurable cancer of the immune system. Over the next 15 years, Dr. Harpham underwent treatments and relapsed eight times. But rather than allowing herself to get lost in hopelessness and despair, she focused on happiness and hope.

    She surrounded herself with people who lifted her spirits, kept a daily gratitude journal, made a concerted effort to do good things for others, and watched funny, uplifting movies.

    Her cancer has been in remission now for more than 15 years. “Fostering positive emotions helped make my life the best it could be,” Dr. Harpham says. She has devoted much of her professional life to writing books for people facing cancer, including Happiness in a Storm.

    The link between our mental and physical states is so profound and closely integrated scientists have even coined a term for it – the Mindbody. The late Dr. Candace Pert, a globally respected neuroscientist and pharmacologist, broke new medical ground with her research on the connection between the body and the mind. She discussed this research in her 2000 book, Your Body Is Your Subconscious Mind.

    When our brain is stressed with worries, fears, and visions of all the things that could be or are wrong in our life, our body will respond accordingly. Back and chest pains, high blood pressure, insomnia, constipation, fatigue, headaches and weight gain or loss can frequently become physical manifestations of poor emotional health.

    So much of what causes us worry or stress is the meaning we choose to give things that happen in our lives. If we’re passed over for a promotion at work, for instance, is the boss intentionally sabotaging our chance for success, or do we have more time to develop new skills, or even move our career in a direction that brings us more joy and satisfaction?

    We get to decide if the experience is a demoralizing snub, or an exciting new opportunity. Our body will likewise reflect the emotional charge – either positive or negative – of the meaning we choose.

    Besides making a conscious decision to choose positive, optimistic meanings for things unfolding in our lives, adopting a meditation practice is another excellent way to quiet the mind, increase our optimism, and nurture the body and spirit.

    Meditation advocates from spiritual teachers to cardiologists encourage us to make the practice a regular part of our daily lives. MRI brain scans show that taking time daily to enter into a deep meditative state measurably changes the brain’s structure. Meditators had increased gray matter in the area of the brain for learning and memory. They also experienced a reduction of gray matter in the region associated with anxiety and stress.

    Practice quieting the mind and feel your body de-stress during your visit to the OHI missions in San Diego and Austin, Texas. At OHI, you can learn how to relax, develop a positive attitude, and focus on what matters most to achieve a happy, fulfilling, and healthy life. During your stay, our caring team will support your journey to optimum health and share the tools you need to continue the holistic healing lifestyle program at home.

    Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Missionary Spotlight: Get to Know OHI Missionary, Dr. Pannell Carr

    Dr. Pannell Carr is a frequent guest at OHI, having stayed at the San Diego campus more than five times.  “I come to OHI every time I am ready to make a major life transition,” laughed Pannell.  “When I first visited in 2000, I was looking to transition from practicing internal medicine to incorporating psychotherapy into my practice.  I now have a Jungian-oriented, spiritual centered, mind-body psychological counseling and coaching practice, where I guide and coach others to heal to their spiritual core, master themselves, express their full potential, and manifest their greatest and highest good.  Presently I am transitioning into becoming an author of self-help books.  My intention was to do a very deep and thorough cleanse to support my body’s ability to remain healthy and happy in this next phase of life.  Taking an extended stay at OHI as a missionary seemed like the perfect choice to accomplish that.”

    Pannell’s devotion to the OHI program is evident.  “My first visit to OHI was nothing short of miraculous,” said Pannell.  “At the age of 40, I started waking up to a body full of aches and joint pain.  I knew if I didn’t do something deeply healing, my future would be filled with worsening physical pain and probably disease.  After my first week at OHI, all my pain was gone.  I also got rid of brain fog, allergies, and eczema, and my energy level was off the charts.  I felt so alive, clear, energized, pain-free, and motivated to pursue my vision, it was astounding.  20 years later, I have maintained a healthy diet — I became a vegetarian/70% raw foodist, and took wheat, sugar, and meat out of my diet.  Because of that, my body aches, allergies, and eczema have never returned.  At the age of 60, I don’t experience my body aging or limiting me in any way.”

    OHI didn’t just inspire Pannell to change her diet.  The program also taught her to let go of ego as well.  “I have learned that my ego is a heavy, untrustworthy burden to carry,” she said.  “When I put down my ego, it allows room for a greater good to show up.  When I let go of fear, it leaves room for the spirit’s loving presence to come into my life.  I have learned to recognize that the spirit is behind all change.”

    So when did OHI’s missionary program factor into Pannell’s life plan?  “Being a healer at heart,” said Pannell.  “I receive great joy supporting others on their healing journeys.  I like being of service, and taking on the role of missionary has helped me to align and center my entire nature in support of the worthy goal of mind, body, spirit healing of self and others.”

    Pannell was seeking a spiritual evolution for herself, and found a way to pivot her journey in a more productive direction.  “I found that I use food to run away from the negative thought patterns and feelings that keep me from my spiritual realizations,” said Pannell.  “So I came to OHI to do the reverse, and use food to cleanse and support my efforts to become more attuned to my spiritual nature, helping me to move through what is blocking my conscious connection with the spirit.”

    What is Pannell’s advice for others considering a stay at OHI?  “Whether we realize it or not, most of our lives we are making a mess of things,” said Pannell.  “Coming to OHI gives you a jumpstart on cleansing and clearing up that unconscious mess on all levels, and begin to consciously co-create a life of health and well-being in harmony with the highest good for self and others.”

    Optimum Health Institute is here for you! We will motivate you to stick with your commitment to health and discover new ways to empower yourself. Explore the holistic healing program offered at OHI. This program offers three week-long sessions, where you will learn to cleanse the body, quiet the mind and awaken the spirit.

    Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • The Power of Resilience: How To Cultivate Resilience During a Pandemic

    Resilience – the new superpower for 2021.

    Let’s face it, 2020 was challenging, and 2021 is starting out with more of the same.  Between social distancing, job uncertainty, and child care stress, life has been dishing out lemons for months now.  Mental health professionals say the key to weathering any storm is RESILIENCE.

    So what is resilience, why is it so important, and what can you do to cultivate it within yourself, particularly during the pandemic?

    What does it mean to be resilient?

    Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity, and bounce back from difficult life events. Resilience is what gives people the emotional strength to cope with trauma and hardship, and find a way to move forward with their life.

    “Quite simply, resilience is the ability to grow despite life’s downturns,” said Amit Sood, MD, the executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being, creator of the Resilient Option program, and former professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

    Why is resilience important?

    People who lack resilience are more likely to feel overwhelmed or helpless, and rely on unhealthy coping strategies such as avoidance, isolation, and self-medication.  Resilient people accept a situation and adapt to its parameters, and that’s what gives them the ability to move forward.

    “Resilience is the core strength you use to lift the load of life,” said Dr. Sood.

    What are the traits of resilience?

    Dr. Brad Smith, Medical Director of Rogers Behavioral Health in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, is an expert on resilience.  “I have been studying resilience in those with mental health challenges,” said Dr. Smith.  “For individuals who have experienced severe trauma, I want to understand why some suffer from severe PTSD long after an event, while others are able to move past it.  I think the clear difference is their individual sense of resilience, and the coping strategies of a resilient person are directly applicable to what all of us have been dealing with during the Covid19 pandemic.”

    Dr. Smith believes that resilience is created by the combination of seven unique characteristics.  The resilient person is able to:

    • CHOOSE realistic optimism:  Without being naive to your circumstances, you want to look at a situation clear-eyed and try to put it into perspective.
    • EMBRACE behavior change:  Set up a schedule, and fill your days with activities and pursuits that best support positive mental well-being.
    • EXPRESS gratitude:  It’s easier to foster a strong sense of optimism with an attitude of thankfulness.
    • WELCOME social support:  Spend time engaging with supportive individuals that take an active interest in your success.
    • CONNECT to a higher power:  Spirituality takes many forms, so whether it’s via organized religion or private meditation, create a bond with something greater than yourself to help you feel less isolated.
    • CULTIVATE a sense of purpose:  Helping others, exploring new interests, and giving back to your community are all ways to tap into your value system and give your life meaning.
    • MAINTAIN physical exercise:  Exercise staves off depression, and a healthy body and mind make for a more resilient person.

    How can you build and cultivate the characteristics of resilience?

    The good news is, resilience and its associated characteristics aren’t fixed traits.  Each of these characteristics can be strengthened and deepened by changing certain thoughts and behaviors.  It takes flexibility, adaptability, and perseverance, but you can become more resilient!  Here are some ideas how:

    Developing Optimism:  If you’re a “glass half empty” person, now is the time to flip the switch on that thought pattern.  Cognitive behavior therapy works to help break depressive cycles by challenging negative perceptions and thoughts.  No one is suggesting you become a Pollyanna, but actively choosing to focus on the positive jumpstarts your sense of resilience.

    Developing Behavior Change:  When your day is structured, it helps prevent you from slipping into isolation, anxiety, or depression.  Establish a new routine that makes it easy for you to engage in activities you find enjoyable, and bring purpose and meaning to your life.  When faced with bad times, resilient people stick to their productive routine.  The OHI Focus Class directly speaks to this topic.

    Developing Gratitude:  Gratitude reduces stress, so taking an active approach to gratitude can be an effective stress reliever.  Write in a gratitude journal, or reach out to thank individuals that have had a positive impact on your life.  The point is to make the connection between your life and all the good that already exists within it, so your attitude of gratitude will buoy your sense of resilience when faced with adversity.

    Developing Social Support:

    Without social support, it’s easy to slip into isolation and depression.  Intentionally seek out those who will speak truth to you, and you will feel yourself becoming more resilient with every conversation.  Whether you text, call, or video chat, now, more than ever, you need to feel you are part of a community of friends, and that mutual social support builds a sense of resilience in everyone.

    Developing Connection to a Higher Power:

    No matter how you practice spirituality, it is the simple act of taking time for prayer or mindfulness meditation that gives you perspective on your place in the universe.  Strong spirituality validates your value system, which feeds your sense of resilience in the face of challenges.

    Developing a Sense of Purpose:

    Focusing on yourself often leaves you feeling like a victim.  When you focus on helping someone else, it leaves you feeling useful and important.  Helping others solidifies your own sense of resilience.  There’s no better time than in the middle of a pandemic to find a cause, and make a meaningful contribution to it.

    Developing a Physical Exercise Routine:

    Exercise strengthens the body and quiets the mind, both of which are absolutely essential to resilience.  Any exercise will do.  It’s the routine that is most important.  With a strong body, a calm mind, and an optimistic attitude, you’ll feel resilient enough to face any adversity.

    The 7 Characteristics of Resilience Mirror OHI’s 5P’s to Optimum Health

    Dr. Smith’s 7 characteristics of resilience map directly to OHI’s 5 P’s to Optimum Health — Purpose, Positive mental attitude, Persistence, Patience, and Prayer.  OHI has been contributing to your sense of resilience all along!

    You are RESILIENT!  What now?

    There are three things to remember in the face of adversity:

    1. Keep your POWER.

    Yes, there are many elements of this pandemic in which we are powerless.  Do not let that sense of powerlessness generalize to all of life.  Focus on what you do have control over rather than what you do not, and commit yourself to a reasonable course of action to deal with the stressor.

    2. Resilience is ACTIVE.

    Action is a powerful stress-reducer.  Research shows that the body lowers its production of epinephrine, a powerful stress hormone, when a person shifts into action.  Don’t avoid taking action because you fear you’ll make the wrong decision.

    3. Ask for HELP

    Sometimes your support group of friends and family aren’t enough.  Don’t be embarrassed to reach out to professional resources to ask for help.  They are experienced in guiding individuals to positive outcomes, and can help you build resilience to weather a lifetime of ups and downs.

    At Optimum Health Institute, we teach you how to cultivate resilience to support your health and well-being. During your visit, our caring team can help you achieve your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.

    “The Power of Resilience” by Dr. Brad Smith, Rogers Behavioral Health, youtube.com

    “Resilience is a Super Power” by Sule Kutlay Gandur, TedxBerlin, youtube.com

    “Resilience Strategies During a Pandemic,” by Bob VandePol, MSW, pinerest.org

    “What is Resilience?  Your Guide to Facing Life’s Challenges, Adversities, and Crises”, by Katie Hurley, LCSW, everydayhealth.com

  • Guest Spotlight: Meet Christy Silness, OHI’s Unofficial Guest Ambassador!

    As a hospice nurse, Christy Silness knows she has to take care of herself so she can better care for others.  “While hospice nursing is difficult, it has been the honor of my life to help guide and support patients and families through the transition of death.  Of course, the intensity of nursing takes its toll.  It’s challenging to keep myself healthy, strong, and open while supporting others on their journey.  Back in 2006, I knew I needed to get back into balance, so I gave the OHI program a try.  It has become a sacred refuge, and a place where I can reset my health and priorities.  Retreating to OHI has helped me feel more in tune with what I really need for nourishment.”

    Christy’s first visit was to OHI Austin.  “I absolutely LOVED my first visit!” enthused Christy.  “The staff are some of the most truly love-centered people I have ever met.  The program was like nothing I had done before, but I felt thoroughly guided and supported in the process.  I had originally signed up for a two-week visit, but by the end of the first week I felt called to stay and complete the entire 3-week program.  I attended every class, stayed true to the program, and the results paid off.  I felt lighter both mentally and physically in a way that I hadn’t felt in years.  The veils were lifted.  OHI really gets it right.  The classes, food, and fellowship with staff and guests have created a synergistic trinity of healing, a holy space where miracles happen.  I’ve continued to see those miracles happen over and over again in the last 15 years.  I’ve stayed at both the San Diego and Austin campuses of OHI more times than I can count.  I also took time off from my nursing job to be an OHI missionary TWICE.  That’s how life-changing I think this program is.  That’s why I consider myself OHI’s unofficial Guest Ambassador!”

    What does Christy look forward to experiencing most each time she returns to OHI?  “Everyone who arrives at OHI is looking for some aspect of healing,” said Christy.  “We stand before each other without our armor, ready to let go and move forward.  It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m amazed with each and every visit how powerful the experience is.  The love we have for each other is what I think brings about the true healing.  I experience this miracle of fellowship with every visit.  OHI really is my church.  It’s a holy place.”

    Christy has taken every class OHI offers multiple times, but there are a few that have truly changed her.  “The meditation, breathing, and toning classes are always so powerful,” said Christy.  “But my favorite is the Friday morning testimonials.  I am always moved and uplifted by the intimate and honest stories people share about the profound ways their OHI stay has changed their lives.  These stories are testimonials to the power of the OHI program, and a beautiful reminder of why we all keep coming back.”

    From OHI, Christy has learned to practice gratitude by being present in the moment.  “Being in the moment through music, meditation, and prayer helps me to heal and evolve in the right direction,” said Christy.  “It’s such a beautiful and challenging thing, this life.  As a hospice nurse, I am reminded of its duality of light and dark every day.  If there’s any advice I can give others is that it’s never too late to make a change.  Come to OHI.  And remember to love and let go with all of your heart.”

    Optimum Health Institute is here for you! We will motivate you to stick with your commitment to health and discover new ways to empower yourself. Explore the holistic healing program offered at OHI. This program offers three week-long sessions, where you will learn to cleanse the body, quiet the mind and awaken the spirit.

    Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.