• Celebrate!!

    By definition, a celebration is the act of engaging in a happy activity that marks the pleasure of an important occasion.

    In other words, celebrations are joyful, happy events! They’re also one of our most natural impulses.

    Think about some of the things you’ve celebrated in your life.

    Perhaps you’ve celebrated a “first” — a baby’s first steps or the first day of school.  Perhaps you’ve celebrated a “milestone” — a high school graduation or a wedding anniversary.  Or, perhaps you’ve celebrated an “achievement” — earning a driver’s license or a spouse’s job promotion.

    In fact, you’ve probably celebrated all three types of occasions throughout your life.

    So if celebrations are joyous, happy occasions…why don’t we bring “celebration” into our daily life more regularly? 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 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.  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!

    At the Optimum Health Institute, program attendees will experience many firsts, milestones, and moments of achievement throughout their time with us. Along the way, we’ll celebrate these accomplishments as part of our daily wellness routine. Come to learn more about why it’s important to incorporate daily celebrations into your everyday life while experiencing the holistic healing program at either our San Diego or Austin campus. Call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.

    (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”

  • Be Thankful for the Good Things

    The Greek philosopher Plato once said: “ A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.”   By being thankful for the good things you have, you’ll automatically attract more good things into your life.

    Gratitude isn’t just a warm feeling – it’s considered the parent of all the spiritual virtues in Judeo-Christian tradition.  Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are filled with verses encouraging the faithful to have grateful hearts, and express gratitude for their many blessings.

    It’s also a key component of Native American spirituality.  When the Wampanoag Indians at the First Thanksgiving presented the pilgrims with cornucopias of vegetables, they were illustrating the Law of Gratitude.  They believed when people on earth thanked the Great Spirit for their blessings, even before those blessings materialized, they were creating the sacred space for those blessings to come to them.  The pointed tip of the woven cornucopia represented the place where the Great Spirit dwelled.  By expressing their gratitude to their Creator, the Indians felt they created an energetic cone that extended from the Great Spirit down to them on Earth, and showered them with abundance, as evidenced by the “horn of plenty” brimming with food.

    Gratitude does more than nurture the spirit – it has mental, emotional, and even physical benefits.

    Scientific studies have shown that grateful people are happier and more satisfied in both their personal and professional lives, have more positive relationships, and are quicker to forgive.  They’re less stressed, jealous, depressed, and anxious, and more likely to “not sweat the little things.”

    Those who choose to feel and express gratitude in general experience greater psychological well-being over those who focus on the negative.  This gives grateful people better ways of coping with challenges, and more ability to learn and grow from these experiences.  They tend to have more self-respect and a greater sense of purpose in their lives, which fosters a more positive attitude.

    The body also benefits from a conscious attitude of gratitude.  Those who are more optimistic and grateful experience fewer sleep disorders, better immune function and even a healthier heart rate – all measurable side benefits of thankfulness.

    If you want to turn your life into a happier, healthier, more loving adventure, try this trick. Every night before bed, A quick, daily exercise guaranteed to help you turn your life into a happier, healthier, more loving adventure is to think of the three most wonderful things that happened to you that day.

    That’s it.

    When you lock in even a few minutes each night to review the best moments of your day, you automatically begin to cultivate a constant “attitude of gratitude.”  Instead of waking up thinking, “What can go wrong today?” you’re already focusing on what’s going to go right. It’s the positive things you’re consciously choosing to dwell on and remember – in fact, you’ll be actively looking for them for the next 12+ hours.  Sure, other more challenging things will happen in the day, but those won’t be the moments you’ll keep churning around in your mind.  Instead, you’ll be anticipating, and then experiencing, a steady flow of things to feel grateful about – day after happy day.

    Prove it to yourself, and tonight, review the three things for which you felt the most gratitude today. You’ll probably immediately experience a deeper, more restful sleep tonight, and eagerly start your day tomorrow on the lookout for still more positive things to reflect on tomorrow night.

    It’s just another way to confirm that when your body, mind, and spirit are aligned, you can achieve good health. If you are looking for a holistic healing program, visit  Optimum Health Institute in San Diego or Austin, TX. We can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual goals for optimal health. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Unplugging for a Weekend

    What if I told you there was something you do every day that can have a serious impact on your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being? It can lead to issues like eyestrain, poor sleep, and difficulty concentrating on tasks. It can also lead to depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation.

    What if I also told you there was a cure…and it was free? You’d want to know what to do, wouldn’t you?

    The issue is technology overload. The cure is simply unplugging.

    As simple as that sounds, for most people, literally going off the grid for a weekend by turning off electronic devices and focusing on real people and nature seems like too big a challenge to tackle.  But here’s why you should.

    Stop unhealthy conditioning!   Pavlov used a bell – your cell phone uses a notification tone or vibration.  Both, however, cause the same response.  You’ve conditioned yourself to stop focusing on whatever you were doing and jump to answer the text or a call.  Pure and simple, you’re constantly interrupting your life for the instant gratification of being acknowledged by someone – even when that someone could just be a mass-distributed ad from your grocery store.

    You’ll be more focused and mindful. Despite the apparent panache of being able to “multitask,” technically, you can’t.  The human brain cannot process more than a single thing at a time, according to a study at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.  When you’re talking on your cell phone while you’re driving, or chopping onions, or finishing a report, you’re not doing either activity as well as you could.

    You’ll sleep more deeply and peacefully.  Dr. Andrew Weil, founder, professor, and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, refers to the importance of “sleep hygiene.”  Doing a sweep of the bedroom to get rid of electronic devices, from TVs to cell phones to iPads, will effectively “clean” the room of artificial and LED lights that interfere with the quality of your sleep.  Watching TV or checking the internet before you try to fall asleep causes your brain to fire off an arsenal of electrical activity and triggers the body’s cortisol production for a “fight or flight” response to stimulus.  Artificial light from screens can also suppress the release of melatonin, which helps us get deep, restorative sleep.

    You’ll improve your social skills. Despite the fact we have more access to information than ever before, we can be woefully unprepared to carry on a pleasant conversation, in person, with an actual person.  The late Dr. Candace Pert, an American neuroscientist who discovered the opiate receptor and medically proved the concept of “chakras,” reported that people are hard-wired for human companionship.  We can’t substitute cyber connections for essential face-to-face interactions.  Mindfully sharing space and spending time with one, several or many others nourishes our emotions, mind, and spirit in a way a technological link-up never will.

    You’ll feel more grounded.  The relatively new science of Green Therapy has proven that spending even a few minutes outside daily will reduce symptoms of ADHD, stress, and depression.  Hospital patients with just a glimpse of a tree outside their window need less pain medication, heal more quickly, and are discharged earlier than those without a visual connection to nature.  Imagine the sense of well-being and groundedness you could achieve with a weekend of digging your toes in the grass or sand!

    You’ll rediscover yourself.  Without any technological distractions for an entire weekend, you’ll have the opportunity to plug back into the magnificent being that is YOU.  Listen to the music you love.  Get together with friends and family you haven’t seen for a while.  Read that book you’ve been hearing about.  Watch a sunrise or sunset from the porch, or the beach, or the mountaintop. Meditate, and feel your heart and soul expand as you journey inward.

    Do a complete “technological cleanse’ at the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego or Austin, Texas.  We can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual goals for optimal health, and give you practical tips to use when you get back home. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Missionary Spotlight: Get to Know OHI Missionary, Jane Jones

    Jane Jones is matriarch to a BIG family.  “I’m a mom of three grown children, seven adult step-children, twenty grandkids, three dogs, and six chickens,” said Jane.  “We moved a lot for my husband’s job as an insurance executive, so I’ve lived on both coasts, in the Rocky Mountains, in the Midwest, and in London.  I received a culinary degree from le Cordon Bleu, I’m certified in sports therapy, and I am currently finishing a sociology degree.  I am an empty nester for the first time since I was 21 years old!”

    Jane has visited the San Diego campus eight times over the course of her life.  “My acupuncturist told me about OHI twenty years ago,” said Jane.  “The first time I visited, I only stayed a week because my kids were young.  I thought I was there to lose a bit of baby weight, but after a few days I felt so happy and peaceful I realized I was really there for my spiritual and emotional well-being.  Each time I stay I discover something new about myself as a flawed human committed to improvement.”

    It took almost two decades before Jane felt ready to be part of OHI’s missionary program.  “I had always been interested in the missionary program,” said Jane, “but the 3-month stay didn’t work with managing a large family.  I booked a two-week stay a year ago after being diagnosed with Lyme disease.  I met Tamara, who was serving as a missionary at the time.  She also had young adult children, and I talked with her about the worries I had about being away from my kids for three months.  The next day, Tamara found me and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about our conversation, and I want you to know that one of the reasons I decided to become a missionary was for my children.  I need them to know that it’s okay to put your health and well-being first.’  That really struck a chord with me.  If I wasn’t at my best, I couldn’t give my family my best.  OHI is a place where I am not someone’s mom or wife.  I am just me.  I get time to reconnect with myself.”

    During Jane’s time as a missionary, she balanced working with guests with some intensive work on herself.  “I really wanted to work on overcoming some personal flaws,” said Jane.  “I spent time reading books by experts, and praying for guidance.  What I came away with is self-compassion.  I’m not always going to get it right in life, but I am doing my best.  Forgiving myself and self-love are the most profound spiritual exercises in my life now.  Also, my missionary buddies love me, and helped me to see the good in myself.  For that, I will always be grateful.”

    When Jane was a guest, she made it a point to go to as many classes as possible.  As a missionary, she encouraged all guests to do the same.  “I have two ‘favorite classes’ at OHI,” said Jane.  “I love the Vocal Toning class.  Sometimes I have so much energy after the class I feel like I could levitate!  I also love the Focus class.  I’m not a naturally organized person, and this class really gives you tools for living successfully.”

    Whether she’s at home or at OHI, Jane makes her diet a priority.  “Our bodies hold our spirits” she said.  “When we feed our bodies nutrient dense foods, we feel better.  When I eat well, I’m more in tune spiritually.  I eat more raw food than I used to, and I eat out less.  A restaurant just can’t compare to what you can make at home with organic produce.  Also, I always have homegrown sprouts in the fridge.  They’re so easy to sprout yourself.”

    In addition to her food choices, Jane keeps her daily celebrations simple yet meaningful.  “I meditate every morning,” she said.  “I read scriptures, and spend time in prayer.  I also have affirmations, and a positive mantra I repeat during stressful times.  I also spend time in nature as often as possible to help myself heal.  I’ve been mostly sedentary the last couple of years battling Lyme Disease and Epstein-Barr.  After my 3-month stay at OHI, I’m back to mountaineering.  This week I climbed two 14,000ft peaks in Colorado.  I am amazed at how well I’m doing!”

    While serving as a missionary, Jane shared a simple piece of advice with guests.  “Make time for quiet daily,” she said.  “The world is so noisy, and we often buy into the rush — that somehow our lives have more meaning if our days are overflowing with tasks.  Time in meditation and prayer opens our hearts to inspiration.  If there’s too much noise in our lives, we can’t hear the quiet whisperings that are there to guide us.”

    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. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.