• Overcoming Suffering

    There is a certain transformation that can happen after someone experiences a traumatic situation. Those who experience suffering often see and feel positive growth afterwards.

    Bill Gates’ first business, a data processing company, failed miserably. Stephen Spielberg was rejected – twice – by USC, the nation’s top film school. Bethany Hamilton was just 13 and starting to surf competitively when a shark bit off her left arm. Benjamin Franklin’s family didn’t have the money to keep him in school after he turned 10. Jewish Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was interred in a Nazi death camp during WW II. Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was 3.

    The one thing all of these people have in common was their refusal to give up when faced with horrific odds. Being able to tap into deep emotional resources in challenging times and not only survive the obstacle, but actually thrive, is such an important trait that psychologists have even coined a name for it – “post-traumatic growth.”

    It’s something deeper than “resilience,” the ability to rebound from setbacks and resume your life. Of course, resilience is a positive reaction to negative situations, and represents a healthy ability to stay mindful in the present moment and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    The difference, though, is people who exhibit the quality of post-traumatic growth actually end up using the major setback – personal injury, betrayal by a trusted acquaintance, losing everything in a devastating storm or fire, the tragic death of a loved one – as a steppingstone to redefining ‘normal,’ and creating a more purposeful life path.

    Frequently, too, the person will re-dedicate themselves to being of service to others in a similar situation. For instance, Dr. Frankl counseled other prisoners in the concentration camps, and saw proof that those who had deep meaning in their lives – something purposeful left to do – survived. He created the equation, “Suffering without Meaning equals Despair,” and after his release wrote the ground-breaking book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  Bethany not only resumed an award-winning surfing career – she is at the heart of the non-profit foundation, Friends of Bethany, that offers spiritual support to those in need. Franklin, Einstein, Gates and Spielberg all helped elevate and change the nation, and the world despite their early bleak experiences.

    If you find yourself emotionally overwhelmed after an unexpected challenge, there are ways to cultivate the powerful and positive road to post-traumatic growth.

    1. 1. Remind yourself, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Acknowledge the hurt, but also know you have the power to gradually move through it, into a space of acceptance, and then growth.
    2. 2. Don’t define yourself by the challenge. You endured something intense, but that doesn’t detract from who you are.
    3. 3. Realize healing, and growth, take some time. Even if the incident was instantaneous, coming back into optimum balance isn’t. Be gentle with yourself.
    4. 4. Rely on spiritual disciplines. Meditating, prayer, journaling – all are essential for helping you process your emotions, and guide you in a positive new direction.
    5. 5. Consciously choose foods and beverages that nourish, replenish and fuel you. A healthy, positive, balanced mind and spirit require a healthy body.

    Find the support you need to experience your own personal growth with a visit to the Optimum Health Institute. Let go of past old hurts and embrace positive new experiences with an extended stay at one of our healing missions. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • The Upside of Optimism

    Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “look on the bright side of life.” But if you’ve ever been a tricky situation, say, sitting in traffic, waiting a long line at the grocery store, or worse, the loss of a job or the death of a loved one, you know that finding a silver lining can be challenging.

    While it may be our first reaction to get down and feel sad, evidence suggests that taking an optimistic view is important for coping and recovery.

    In short, optimism provides healthy experience in body, mind, and spirit. Rather than being a simplistic “Pollyanna with rose-colored glasses” approach to life, optimism is realizing that things will have the significance we give to them, and then choosing the most positive, constructive meaning.

    Some very good news to emerge from scientific studies recently is that optimism can be learned. Even people firmly entrenched in a pessimistic mode can consciously shift into a happier, healthier frame of mind. Here are a few exercises proven to raise your joy level:

    • Breathe! Any time we feel stressed, angry, or overwhelmed, the first thing we unconsciously do is start shallow breathing. A brain starved for oxygen negatively impacts body, mind, and spirit. The minute you realize you’re not breathing normally, just stop, and take several deep breaths. With restored clarity, you can more realistically observe the situation and choose the most appropriate positive resolution.
    • Start asking yourself at least one time daily, “How can it get any better than this?” It’s an effective way to reverse our culture’s preoccupation with the question, “What else can go wrong?” While it might seem awkward at first, you’ll soon start to develop a habit of pondering what the next good thing in your day will be – and it will begin to appear.
    • Healthy foods = a happy and healthy mind. When your body is struggling to digest processed foods and animal products, your mind can get as sluggish as your intestinal tract. Choose live, raw, organic vegetables and fruits as much as possible, and see how your happiness level immediately begins to rise.
    • Realize that choosing to give a positive meaning to things changes your body chemistry for the good. A negative mental state can potentially create more acidity in the body than poor food choices.
    • Train your brain to think optimistically. Psychologist Marty Seligman, one of the architects of the field of Positive Psychology, suggests that before we fall asleep, we take a moment to review the three most wonderful things that happened to us that day. Besides putting us in a positive frame of mind that sets us up for a night of peaceful, restorative sleep, the practice subtly rewires our brain. When we arise, we’re immediately starting to anticipate the first of the three most positive things we will experience that day. Of course, negative things will still unfold – but now, instead of endlessly ruminating over them, we’ll acknowledge them, and then refocus on seeking out the positive. Doing this exercise for just one week results in measurably raising your level of optimism for a full six months.

    Learn more about the power of optimism at the Optimum Health Institute (OHI). Your body, mind and spirit will be happy with a week, or two, or ideally three, at the OHI holistic health missions. Our caring team will give you the tools, encouragement and inspiration needed to improve your outlook on life, quiet your mind and rejuvenate your spirit while you are surrounded in serene beauty. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809  or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Create More Mindful Meals

    As you know, mindfulness is a critical aspect of healing. But have you heard of mindful eating? In a world where most accessible foods are processed, it can be tough to eat mindfully by choosing healthier, more nutritious options.

    Processed foods lack nutrition

    When you eat a diet primarily consisting of processed foods, you may not be getting optimal nutrition from your food. Processed foods have also been tied to an increased cancer risk, so you might be ready to change the way you think about preparing meals for your family. Start by eliminating processed food and appreciating the natural flavors of fresher choices. Below you will get a look at the ways to bring out the best flavors in your food and ensure better health through more nutritionally dense meals.

    Be aware of food texture 

    The various textures of foods should not be overlooked when it comes to creating pleasing flavors for your palate. Foods without much textural variation like soup can be livened up with the addition of crunch from chia seeds, flax, and hemp hearts. Adding textural variation can enhance the flavors of your food and keep you interested in eating healthier foods and increase your awareness of what you are eating.

    Explore pairings of distinctive flavors 

    Knowing how to match flavors with one another will let you get more creative with the same set of ingredients so that you enjoy every meal you prepare. To get a better understanding of how flavors pair with one another, you might experiment with some contrasting elements like hot peppers and sweet fruits. Fresh herbs can also liven up foods by infusing earthy, aromatic flavors into each dish and reducing the need for salt and fat to flavor your food.

    Use ingredients in their purest form 

    Simplifying recipes and using only whole, organically produced foods will be the healthiest strategy for making more mindful meals at home. When you are more aware of where your food comes from, you will be better able to ensure good nutrition for yourself and your family.

    Take control of your health by starting with mindful meals. When you have greater awareness of your body and what you’re eating, you create a clearer pathway to living healthier. At the Optimum Health Institute, mindful eating is a core aspect of our holistic healing program. We use 24 ancient spiritual disciplines to design a curriculum that promotes natural healing from the inside out. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Strengthening the Spirit Through Prayer

    Prayer is an incredibly powerful act and a spiritual discipline we at Optimum Health Institute (OHI) practice to create and nurture our connection to God. Prayer is talking to God and meditation is patiently waiting, listening for God’s answer. Because we’ve been given the divine gift of free will, prayer is actually our first step in reaching out to God and affirming the existence of a Higher Source.

    There are thousands of ways to communicate with God. Some people get out in nature; others use music, a candle or incense to silence mental chatter. There are others who can pray anywhere, any time. When we connect to God on a heart level, we can stay mindfully in the moment without mentally over analyzing the experience.

    When you learn how to quiet the mind, you become more aware of God’s healing presence and your direct connection to Him. It can be particularly powerful to open all your prayers with an expression of gratitude for God’s many blessings.

    While we encourage individual prayer at OHI in the manner that’s most comfortable for each guest, we also cherish our tradition of prayer circles before meals and ceremonies.

    There’s great symbolism in prayer circles. When two or more are gathered in the name of the divine, their prayers generate powerful, purposeful energy and there’s a deep spiritual fellowship. While a group prayer may be more general, there is an undeniable healing energy that enfolds everyone. A circle symbolizes eternity, the perfection of creation without beginning or end. We hold hands and appreciate our community of caring, mutual respect for individual differences, and fellowship in our love for and surrender to God.

    Another OHI group prayer tradition is our Friday morning testimonials, where guests and adherents share their experiences. I remember when a young woman told how God had answered her prayers, but not as she anticipated. She endured a tough childhood and was raised by her grandmother. The girl fell in with a bad crowd and got involved in drugs and destructive relationships. Each time she began to straighten up, she sabotaged herself.

    She prayed for help and found a substance abuse recovery center. When she still didn’t feel whole, she kept praying for assistance and met a person who suggested she come to OHI. Her first few days she was sick as a dog while her body released years of toxins. By the middle of the week, she turned the corner and was transformed in time for Friday morning testimonials. She developed a personal connection to God and resumed her spiritual path with clarity and joy.

    What made the difference? She had to just trust that God really WAS answering her prayers, even though the first days at OHI were tough.

    Sometimes God responds to our prayers in ways we didn’t anticipate. Other times He responds so much more magnificently than we could have possibly imagined. The bottom line is this – the only true prayer is the sincere desire of the heart. And all true prayers are answered.

    Strengthen your relationship with God through prayer and discover a clarity that can’t be achieved through your works alone.

    And remember, Optimum Health Institute is here for you! We will motivate you to stick with your commitment to health and discover new ways to connect to a Higher Power. 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.