• Change Your Wellness Habits to Change Your Life

    What does “wellness” mean?  “Wellness” is a personalized approach to living life in a way that allows you to become the best person you can be, balancing physical, mental, and spiritual well being.  Achieving that complex balance means going beyond diet and exercise to include other health touchpoints like managing stress, reducing the risk of illness, and more.  “Wellness” is the process of actively choosing to change individual habits to achieve a truly healthy and fulfilling life.

    Types of Wellness

    Let’s break down “wellness” to study each dimension — occupational, spiritual, physical, and intellectual wellness.

    Occupational wellness means finding your calling in life by participating in activities that are meaningful and provide purpose to your day.  Your job encompasses so much of your time and energy, so it’s important to pursue something you love.  So how do you feed your occupational wellness?  First, focus on the benefits and positives of your current job, and create connections with your co-workers.  Not every day will be a great day, but there are great moments to be celebrated in each day when you work with people you care about.  Second, increase your skills and knowledge to expand what you’re able to give of yourself while at work.  And finally, establish a healthy work/life balance so every wellness dimension gets your attention.

    Spiritual wellness represents your personal beliefs, principles, and values, and how you integrate them with action toward bettering yourself and the world around you.  It is a self-reflective practice that asks you find joy in everyday life as you look inward to discover the deeper meaning life should hold for you.  So how do you feed your spiritual wellness?  First, analyze patterns in your life to help you see that you have control over your destiny, and that your choices directly impact your ability to lead a happy and healthy life.  Second, make time for self-care to relieve the physical and emotional tension that can block your path to spiritual wellness.  Try meditation, journaling, or yoga to cancel negative thinking and leave space for positive change.  And finally, take time for travel.  Being in a new space that allows you to relax will increase your ability to connect with your inner self on your journey to find the deeper meaning in life.

    Physical wellness means caring for your body through regular physical activity, proper nutrition, and supportive mental health practices.  So how do you feed your physical wellness?  First, make daily exercise a goal.  Whether you take the stairs instead of the elevator or workout at the gym, the point is to move your body frequently.  The proven benefits of physical activity include strengthened bones and muscles, reduced risk of disease and stroke, and more energy.  Second, nurture your body with a well-balanced diet packed with fresh, healthy food.  A diverse diet with foods rich in vitamins and nutrients will not only help prevent illness, but also keep your body functioning at its best.  And finally, make sure you get enough sleep and enough water each day.  Rest and hydration are the very foundations for maintaining good physical health.

    Intellectual wellness means engaging in creative activities that expand your knowledge and skills — embrace life-long learning!  When you open your mind to new challenges and experiences, you improve your existing skills as you learn new concepts and ideas.  These new understandings help you become more mindful, more well rounded, and better able to understand the relationship between yourself, others, and the environment.  So how do you feed your intellectual wellness?  First, read, read, read!  Reading improves your memory and vocabulary, and increases your capacity for empathy.  Second, explore the world around you.  When you put the book down and go to a museum or take a nature walk, the experiential aspect of learning deepens your understanding.  And finally, create something.  Whether it’s playing an instrument or painting a landscape, tapping into your creative side helps anchor your emotional stability so your mind is free to learn new things.

    At OHI, our entire program – including our classes, diet, and community fellowship – supports all dimensions of wellness. Remember, wellness is a life-long pursuit.  Strive for balance, control what you can (diet, exercise, stress), and surround yourself with supportive care for the rest of it.  May the changes you make to your wellness habits change your life for the better! Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.

  • Guest Spotlight: Meet Paula Hansen, a “frequent flyer” at OHI San Diego!

    Sometimes your life takes a fortuitous turn by the smallest of chance encounters.  “I went to a personal growth workshop, and spent a lot of time talking to this other workshop participant,” said Paula Hansen.  “OHI happened to come up in our conversation.  We both knew a little about it, but neither of us had ever done the program.  He and I kept in touch over the course of the next year, texting every now and again.  One day I texted him to say hi, and he texted me back just two sentences.  ‘I’m at OHI.  YOU SHOULD COME!’  I felt like those words just reached out and grabbed me.  I had been thinking about how to take better care of my body and my life, and I was really drawn to the OHI program.  Now here was someone that was actually on the OHI campus telling me to come.  I felt like I just had to do it right then.  So I did.”

    Paula made her first visit to OHI San Diego ten years ago in 2012.  “That first visit was amazing,” enthused Paula.  “I really felt like I had been struggling with an addiction to sugar and white flour, and even though I knew how bad it was for me, I just couldn’t kick the habit and eat healthily.  Being at OHI for a week made everything click for me.  I didn’t feel like the detox was difficult.  The cleanse made my body feel so much better, and the raw food diet just made sense.  It was such a relief not to feel bad about what I was eating.  And the OHI program was about so much more than food.  The classes helped me feel more connected to a spiritual life.  I was filled with gratitude.  My heart was more open and loving.  I just felt more at peace than I had in a very long time.”

    Paula has been back to OHI 20 times.  Wow!  Now that’s a true OHI Frequent Flyer!  “I go for a week whenever I feel like I need a healthy reboot,” said Paula.  “I absolutely love the biology classes on digestion and elimination.  Doing the cleanse helps my body reorient toward health – I actually crave salad instead of pasta, and the classes help me understand why!  The science information in the classes helps keep me in a healthy groove.”

    Paula also appreciates the mental health support at OHI.  She was already experienced in using journaling, meditation, and imagery in her practice on her personal path of healing, so the positive thinking and alpha state exercises really appeal to her.  “OHI has helped me grow to be my best self” said Paula.  “I use my weeks at OHI as a healing retreat to connect more deeply with my true nature.”

    One of the things that Paula loves most about OHI is the amazing people she meets.  “I don’t feel like I’m struggling on my own anymore,” Paula said.  “OHI has my back, and the other guests that I’ve met there are like my family.  OHI community members have such open hearts, and are so loving and supportive and accepting.  They’ve all taught me to love myself.  I am truly happier because of OHI.”

    Paula has two favorite ceremonies she looks forward to during every OHI visit.  “I absolutely love the Wednesday release ceremony,” said Paula.  “I feel so much stronger every single time I go through it.  And the Friday morning testimonial where healings are revealed and celebrated is such a blessing to be a part of.  Every story is a triumph of the human spirit.  I feel truly inspired with every testimonial that is shared.”

    Paula acknowledged that her sugar and white flour addiction may have been the impetus for first coming to OHI, but it wasn’t the only challenge she was meant to overcome.  “Through OHI I have learned so much about healing from trauma,” Paula said.  “Just as the body can heal, your psyche can heal as well.  I would never have thought that possible before now, but my journey has revealed that truth to me.  What a gift!”

    Paula was eager to share some closing words of advice.  “I would never have been able to grow as much as I have if it weren’t for OHI,” she said.  “If I have one piece of advice it’s to have the courage to do something you’ve never done before.  Be open to opportunities.  If I hadn’t listened when my friend said ‘YOU SHOULD COME,’ I can’t imagine where my life would be right now.  All the help and resources are just waiting here at OHI for you.  Say yes to it all, and be willing to be vulnerable.  When you open yourself up to healing, your life will change for the better!

    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.

  • How to Strengthen Your Immune System

    What is your Immune System and its function?

    Your immune system is a large network of organs, white blood cells, proteins (antibodies) and chemicals.  This system works together to protect you from foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi) that cause infection, illness, and disease.  The immune system includes:

    • Skin, Mucus Membranes, and Other First-Line Defenses: Your skin is the first line of defense in preventing and destroying germs before they enter your body.  Skin produces oils and secretes other protective immune system cells.  Mucus membranes line the respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive tracts.  Germs stick to mucus, and are moved out of the body.  Tiny hairs in your nose catch germs.  Enzymes found in sweat, tears, saliva, and mucus membranes as well as secretions in the vagina all defend against and destroy germs.
    • White Blood Cells: Serving as an army against harmful bacteria and viruses, white blood cells search for, attack, and destroy germs to keep you healthy.  There are different white blood cell types.  Each cell type either circulates in your bloodstream or resides in a particular tissue, and each cell type has a specific mission in your body’s defense system.
    • Lymph Nodes: You have hundreds of lymph nodes all over your body, including in your neck, armpits, and groin.  These small glands filter and destroy germs so they can’t spread to other parts of your body and make you sick.  Lymph nodes contain immune cells that analyze the foreign invaders, then activate, replicate, and send the specific lymphocytes (white blood cells) to fight off that particular invader.
    • Bone Marrow: Stem cells in the spongy center of your bones develop into red blood cells, plasma cells, and a variety of white blood cells and other types of immune cells.  Your bone marrow makes billions of new blood cells every day, and releases them into your bloodstream.
    • Stomach and Bowel: Stomach acid kills many bacteria soon after they enter your body.  You also have good bacteria in your intestines that kill harmful bacteria.  The good bacteria in your gut are essential to a healthy immune system.
    • Spleen: Your spleen stores white blood cells that defend your body from foreign invaders.  It also filters your blood, destroying old and damaged red blood cells.
    • Tonsils & Adenoids: Located in the throat and nasal passage, tonsils and adenoids can trap foreign invaders as soon as they enter your body.  They have immune cells that produce antibodies that fight throat and lung infections.
    • Thymus: This small organ in your upper chest beneath your breast bone helps mature a certain type of white blood cell whose task is to recognize and remember a specific invader so that an attack can be quickly mounted the next time that same type of invader is encountered.

    Why is the immune system important?

    When your immune system is working properly it prevents germs from entering your body, and destroys them or limits their harm if they do get in.  Your immune system can tell which cells are yours and which substances are foreign to your body.  It learns about germs after you’ve been exposed to them, developing antibodies to protect you from those specific germs.  When your immune system is not working properly, it can’t mount a winning attack against an invading germ, and an infection develops.  You need a healthy immune system to create white blood cells to attack and kill bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi.

    What weakens the immune system?

    Diet affects the immune system to a great extent.  “70% of the immune system is located in the gut,” said David Heber, MD, PhD, professor emeritus of medicine at UCLA Health.  “Nutrition is a key modulator of immune function.”

    Immune cells in the gut interact with the microbiome, the diverse array of bacteria and fungi that live in the gastrointestinal tract and are directly influenced by an individual’s diet and lifestyle.  The foods we eat affect the diversity and composition of bacteria in the gut, which in turn affect immune cells.  Those gut bugs are healthiest and support strong immunity when their hosts (that’s us) consume plant foods that are high in fiber.

    “The microbiome and the immune system are critically intertwined,” says Jonathan Jacobs, MD, PhD, a professor of digestive diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.  “What’s present in the gut determines what education immune cells get.  Dietary diversity and microbial diversity go together.  The typical Western diet, which is high in animal proteins, sugar, processed foods, and saturated fat, results in less-diverse gut bacteria and promotes inflammation and chronic disorders.  Healthy gut bacteria subsist on complex carbohydrates and fiber that our own cells are unable to digest.  Those fibrous sources are plant foods, from apples and broccoli to yams and zucchini.”

    What BOOSTS the immune system?

    Just like the rest of your body, your immune system needs nourishment, rest, and a healthy environment to stay strong.  Certain lifestyle changes can BOOST your immune system and help you avoid illness.  To keep your immune system healthy, you should:

    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Drink LOTS of water
    • Exercise regularly
    • Eat nutritionally rich whole foods (fruits & veggies)
    • Focus on fermented foods
    • Maintain a healthy body weight
    • Manage stress

    How OHI program can help BOOST your immune system?

    OHI’s program directly supports better immune system health in so many ways:

    • Cleansing and nourishing the body: Wheatgrass juice and a plant-based, organic, raw food diet at OHI set the foundation for a strong immune system.  A healthy diet is absolutely essential to a healthy immune system, and an eating plan that focuses on plants and fiber will help your immune system heal the body faster when it gets sick.  By eating a raw plant-based diet and eliminating sugar, your immune system is purged of toxins and has all the fuel it needs to produce white blood cells to fight off illness.
    • Include fermented foods: A fiber-rich diet supports your gut’s microbiome, and fermented foods packed with live bacteria are great for your gut health.  OHI’s Fermented Foods & Recipes class and Sauerkraut Instruction class are terrific ways to learn how easy it is to make fermented foods like sauerkraut and seed cheese.  YUM!
    • Regular exercise: The gentle exercise and stretch classes stimulate the lymphatic system to eliminate toxins, boost the immune system, and contribute to the healing process.
    • Reduce stress: The Mental Detoxification and Emotional Detoxification classes are absolute musts to help reduce stress.  Developing a mindfulness practice of gratitude, affirmations, visualization, journaling, and living in the present all contribute to a healthier stress-free life.  And OHI’s weekly Wednesday Release Ceremony gives you a transcendent moment to purge your life of whatever stresses have been plaguing you.

    Overall, the immune system is integral to your body’s efforts to stay healthy.  The more we can do to support a healthy immune system, the stronger our body will be when under attack from bacteria and viruses.  So eat your veggies, include fermented foods, drink your water, and get lots of sleep, and you’ll be doing your part to NATURALLY boost your immunity!

    Our caring staff members are eager to give you all the unconditional support, inspiration, and transformational tools you need to bring your body, mind, and spirit into healthy balance in a serene, peaceful setting. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.

    “6 Ways to boost your immune system naturally before you get sick,” Allina Health, www.allinahealth.org

    “5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System,” Gundersen Health System, www.gundersenhealth.org

    “6 Immune System Busters & Boosters,” Web MD, www.webmd.com

    “If you want to boost immunity, look to the gut,” by Sandy Cohen, March 19, 2021, UCLA Health, www.connect.uclahealth.org

    “How to boost your immune system,” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, www.health.harvard.edu

    “Immune System,” www.myclevelandclinic.org

  • Staff Spotlight: Get to know Danielle Demko, new Executive Director at OHI Austin!

    Danielle Demko is making the leap to Austin, TX.  “I have been on the OHI San Diego campus since January 2019,” said Danielle.  “I absolutely love it there, but when the chance to transition to the OHI Austin campus presented itself, I just had to say YES to the opportunity.  The team at the Austin campus has done a great job.  I can’t wait to jump in.”

    Danielle had a long and prosperous career prior to OHI.  She spent 14 years at a non-denominational mega-church in San Diego where she started in accounting, then moved over to spiritual counseling, leadership training, and teaching.  Her last five years at the church were in HR as the Director of Training & Development.  “I have a master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology which is focused on the psychology of developing people and building teams,” said Danielle.  “Whether I am teaching, training, mentoring, or leading, my heart is full when I can offer another perspective and encourage growth physically or emotionally through life’s opportunities.”

    When Danielle joined OHI, her talents and skills made a big impression, and she naturally took on numerous responsibilities. “When I first joined OHI, I was a Senior Facilitator, teaching and counseling guests,” said Danielle.  “Four months later, I took the reins of the OHI Missionary Program.  I am certified to teach 27 of the 40 different classes in the OHI curriculum.  I am passionate about the contemplative classes, Emotional & Mental Detox, Alpha I & II, Conscious Breathing, Stretch, etc.  Everyone is on their own journey in life.  These classes get to the heart of the healing journey, peeling back the layers and opening up how guests see themselves, life, health, even food.  It is such an honor to be a part of this.

    As part of her interview process in 2018, Danielle went through the program at OHI Austin, where she fell in love with the campus and staff.  “I always wondered if one day I’d end up there,” said Danielle.  “OHI Austin holds a special place in my heart.”  In 2021, Danielle was brought in to cover classes for Cheryl Green, OHI Austin’s current Executive Director, while she was out of town.  “Cheryl is just amazing,” said Danielle.  “It’s easy to see why the OHI Austin guests, missionaries, and staff love her so much.”

    Cheryl decided to take a sabbatical from her OHI position, and Danielle has stepped up to fill her shoes.  “Cheryl won’t be gone for long,” said Danielle.  “She’ll return to OHI Austin and continue her connection with the guests in spiritual direction and teaching classes part-time.”

    While Danielle is connected to her “OHI family” in San Diego, Austin is quickly becoming family as well.  As she gets to know the culture at OHI Austin, she is enjoying bonding with the staff and greeting each new guest on Sundays.  “My goal is to simply enhance what is already working so well at OHI Austin,” said Danielle.  “I feel like I’ve been called to help others through OHI, and it is my honor to be able to contribute to the OHI Austin campus.  I have every intention of embracing the current culture and traditions, while looking ahead to see what the future holds for us here.  We intend to expand the staff so I’m able to get out in the community and raise awareness of all that we have to offer at OHI.”

    As OHI Austin’s Executive Director, Danielle will be responsible for overseeing the OHI Austin community of guests, missionaries, and staff, the program classes, and the property.  “I am also in a 2-year ordination program,” said Danielle.  I will graduate as an ordained minister in 2023.  As both a teacher as well as a minister, I hold a safe and sacred space for guests.  I look forward to teaching them, being an advocate for them, and counseling them with an open heart.  Every guest that walks through the OHI doors comes in with an opportunity for growth.  I try to meet each guest in the space where I am most needed, and support them as they learn the deeper meaning behind how they got to where they are in life.  It’s an honor to help them figure out that they can take charge of their own outcomes.  The transformation that guests undergo when they change their mindset is nothing short of miraculous.”

    Danielle recently bought a house in the neighboring town of Bastrop and is already in love with her new community.  “What a gorgeous place to live,” said Danielle.  “The people are super friendly, the historic homes are breathtaking, and the downtown has so many things to do.  I couldn’t be more proud to join this community, and I look forward to spending many happy years here.  Thanks for extending me such a warm welcome, OHI Austin!  I feel like one of the family already!”

    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.