• Scholarship Recipient, Hiba Zananiri, Finds a Change of Perspective through OHI

    Born in Jordan, Hiba Zananiri came to San Francisco with her family before the age of 2.  She works as a makeup artist, and also with an association for au pairs, supporting them and their host family on their 1-2 year cultural exchange commitment.

    “Coming to America can be a big adjustment for young people,” said Hiba.  “Embracing change really is a journey.”

    In 2018, Hiba was rear ended in a serious car accident, and was left with tremendous back pain.  “My friend told me about OHI.  I became a Christian at the age of 21, and my friend told me that OHI’s Christian values would set the tone to take advantage of this health opportunity.  But even working my two part-time jobs still left the cost out of reach for me.  I applied for the scholarship, and was thrilled when my application was accepted.  The scholarship gave me the chance to do something no one in my whole family has ever done — take time for ME!”

    Hiba immersed herself in the OHI program.  “I learned so much about food, healthy body treatments, and lymphatic exercise,” said Hiba.  “The breath work exercises were life-changing — so simple, yet so effective!  The amazing teachers made all the difference.  And the most unexpected outcome from my time at OHI is that I met my best friend.  It was the first stay for both of us, so we really bonded.  Outside of OHI, we happen to live very near each other, so we hang out all the time now.  It has been a huge blessing in my life.”

    OHI helped Hiba change many habits for good.  “I do the lymphatic workout all the time,” smiled Hiba.  “I practice my breath work, and make it a point to incorporate raw foods into every meal.  I know I’m getting real health benefits from every raw veggie I eat.”

    But OHI’s biggest gift was an adjustment to Hiba’s perspective.  “I used to walk around carrying the burden of trying to share my love of God with every single person I met,” said Hiba.  “But OHI showed me that everyone is dealing with different challenges.  I needed to give up the burden of responsibility, and trust that God will take care of everyone Himself.  That trust means when I share my love of God with people I feel more loving and relaxed about it.  I know that God is sovereign and I’m grateful to be led by Him, and trust His plans for everyone.”

    Please consider contributing to the OHI Scholarship Fund to help those in need experience the benefits of the OHI program. Over the course of our 44 years, OHI has provided scholarships to individuals who 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. OHI invites you to join with us in celebrating our healing mission with a tax-deductible gift. Your contribution will help to make our community stronger, healthier, and more vibrant.

    Provide the Gift of Healing today by supporting the OHI Scholarship Fund with a tax-deductible:
    • One-Time Donation, or
    • Sustainable Monthly Contribution

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

    Thank you for your generosity!

    Optimum Health Institute is a non-profit, religious organization. Your donation is tax-deductible.


  • Staff Spotlight: Introducing Pharon Wilson, Kitchen & Growhouse Manager at OHI Austin!

    Pharon Wilson laughingly says he ended up working at OHI by accident.  “I have been a guest at OHI seven times,” he said, “and I’ve loved every minute of it.  I was strongly considering applying to be a missionary at OHI, but when I went on the website for the application, I noticed that they had a job opening for a Kitchen & Growhouse Manager.  I thought, why bother becoming a missionary for three months when I could take this opportunity to work at OHI full time.  I’ve now been at OHI for 2 years, and I couldn’t be happier!”

    Pharon had an impressively diverse work history leading up to OHI.  He graduated from the University of Texas, Austin, with a degree in Communication Disorders.  He worked at Procter & Gamble for 19 years in sales and product supply, then moved on to attend culinary school in Manhattan at the Natural Gourmet Institute of Food and Health.  He took his newfound culinary certification to New Orleans, and started his own catering and wellness business.  He also opened his own healthy café, and taught cooking to kids.  After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Pharon moved to Los Angeles and worked as a chef for a healthy home meal delivery business, creating custom meals for clients with specific dietary needs (heart-healthy, diabetes-friendly, etc) for two years.  He then moved on to Cincinnati to start an early childhood school for students aged 6 weeks -14 years old.  The school was based on restorative practices, and focused on empathy and creativity.  He had been in Cincinnati for five years when his father suddenly got sick, so in 2017 Pharon moved back to Texas to care for him.  After a year of care, his father recovered, and that’s when Pharon felt ready to take on his next adventure, and began working at OHI.  “I had a deep desire to work in the wellness sector,” said Pharon.  “OHI is a great fit for my passion and values.”

    As the Kitchen & Growhouse Manager, Pharon manages the kitchen and growhouse operations (preparing food for guests, and growing wheatgrass and sprouts), and also teaches food preparation classes.  “I teach four classes — Sprouting, Dehydrated Foods, Fermented Foods, and Wheatgrass Growing,” said Pharon.  “Each week, guests come to OHI with varying health opportunities and needs, so each teaching experience is different depending on what the guests’ interests are.  It’s never boring!”

    Having been a guest at OHI many times helps Pharon connect with guests.  “I understand that there will be low and high points throughout a detox,” said Pharon.  “I can definitely empathize with that because I’ve done it myself.  I know that I have to be present in the moment and put the guest’s needs first.  On a personal note, my mother passed away from colon cancer several years ago, so I think differently about life now.  I know how fragile it is, and yet how amazingly strong and resilient people can be.  I am so happy to support guests on their individual journeys of growth and change while they’re here at OHI.”

    Pharon’s personal wellness journey has led him to consider his own habits, and what he should let go.  “I have become much less attached to the outcome,” said Pharon.  “I now see the value in the journey itself.  Goals are so important, but when you’re working on yourself, you can’t be so invested in achieving the outcome that you try to tackle too much change at once.  That’s setting yourself up for failure.  If you can find one thing that really speaks to you and work on that, then you’re more likely to embrace that change for good.”

    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 Impact of Breath Work on Your Health

    Breath work is at the very foundation of self-care practices.  Let’s explore the importance of breath, learn how it impacts the body and mind, and then discover the techniques of how to breathe correctly.

    Deep breathing is the very foundation of good health.  So how does our body respond to oxygenation?  It all starts with the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.  They are the two branches of the autonomic nervous system that regulate internal organs and glands.  The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work together to keep our bodies functioning,  but they have very different functions.  The parasympathetic nervous system takes our body into “rest and repair” mode.  It slows our heart rate and our breathing, increases blood flow to organs of digestion to stimulate the digestive process, and allows the body’s immune systems to function optimally.  The sympathetic nervous system takes our body into “fight or flight” mode.  It increases our heart rate and our breathing, increases blood flow to skeletal muscles to give you the strength needed to fight or flee, and it suppresses immune function.  Focusing on deep breathing enables us to down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to become dominant.  In other words, taking deep belly breaths using your diaphragm “turns on” your parasympathetic nervous system, allowing you to go into rest and repair mode and release stress and tension from the body.

    In contrast, when you fall into a pattern of shallow breathing, breath holding, or hyperventilating, that triggers the sympathetic nervous system, kicking off “fight or flight” responses throughout your body.  When your body is subjected to chronic stress you go into fight or flight mode, depressing your immune system and resulting in conditions like high blood pressure or constipation.  So if you find yourself in a stressful situation, take a long, slow, deep breath.  Let your parasympathetic nervous system take over before you do long-term damage to your body.

    Deep breathing also improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, helping you clear out mucus and other fluids and improving overall lung capacity.  Deep breathing also works to strengthen the diaphragm, a major respiratory muscle located under the lungs.

    Athletes often use deep breathing techniques to bring much-needed oxygen into the bloodstream to improve performance, i.e.: speed and endurance.  Deep belly breathing delivers the maximum amount of oxygen to your cells.  When your cells are fully oxygenated, it increases your energy, stamina, and physical performance.

    Deep belly breathing also helps reduce both chronic and acute pain.  When we hurt, our first instinct is often to hold our breath to still our body.  But deep breathing through the pain is actually a much more effective choice.  For example, the Lamaze method teaches breathing techniques to reduce pain during childbirth.

    Deep breathing to increase cell oxygenation is also important for helping to heal health opportunities.  Many diseases, like cancer and viruses, are anaerobic.  That means they cannot survive in an oxygenated environment.  When you oxygenate your cells, toxins are discharged through the breath.  Research on heart patients indicates that certain breathing techniques can help prevent repeat heart attacks.

    How does breathing impact the mind?

    The organ in the body that uses the largest amount of oxygen is the brain.  Taking slow, deep breaths whenever attention drifts oxygenates the brain, and brings back focus.  Shallow breathing often feels tense and constricted, while deep belly breathing helps restore a sense of calm and relaxation.  That calm brings about an emotional awareness and allows you to release negative and/or suppressed emotions that are connected with health opportunities like low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, or addictions.

    The Techniques of Breathing

    Effective deep breathing just takes a little practice.  First, put one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button.  Feel your hand rise about an inch each time you inhale and fall about an inch each time you exhale.  Your chest will rise slightly, too, in concert with your abdomen.  Remember to relax your belly so that each inhalation expands it fully.  As you exhale slowly, let yourself sigh out loud.

    Once you have practiced deep breathing, you can move on to regular practice of breath focus.  As you sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery and a focus word or phrase that will help you relax.  Imagine that the air you breathe in washes peace and calm into your body.  As you breathe out, imagine that the air leaving your body carries tension and anxiety away with it.  As you inhale, try saying this phrase to yourself: “Breathing in peace and calm.”  And as you exhale, say: “Breathing out tension and anxiety.”  When you first start, 10 minutes of breath focus is a reasonable goal.  Gradually add time until your sessions are at least 20 minutes long.

    Here are three different deep breathing techniques you can try:

    Deep Belly Breathing (diaphragmatic breathing). You can do this breathing exercise while sitting or lying down.

    1. 1. Relax your face, neck, jaw, and shoulder muscles.
    2. 2. Rest the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth.
    3. 3. Straighten your back.
    4. 4. Close your eyes.
    5. 5. Breathe normally for several minutes.
    6. 6. Place one hand on your chest and one on your lower abdomen.
    7. 7. Breathe deeply through your nose, feeling your chest and ribs expand when you inhale.  Your stomach should expand outward against your hand.
    8. 8. Exhale, feeling your stomach gently contract inward.
    9. 9. Breathe slowly and deeply in this manner 9-10 times.

    Yawn-to-a-Smile Breathing. This breathing exercise opens up the muscles in the chest, which allows the diaphragm to fully expand.  It also strengthens the arms and shoulder muscles.

    1. 1. Sit upright with a straight back.
    2. 2. Stretch your arms up to shoulder height.  You should feel the muscles in your back stretching.
    3. 3. While your arms are at shoulder height, open your mouth wide, as if you were yawning.
    4. 4. Bring your arms back to rest on your thighs, while turning your yawn into a smile.

    Humming While Exhaling Breathing. Humming or chanting “om” can help pull oxygen into the lungs with each breath.  Many also find it can be calming.

    1. 1. Sit upright with a straight back.
    2. 2. Place each hand on the sides of your lower abdomen.
    3. 3. Keep your lips closed, and gently rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
    4. 4. Breathe deeply and slowly through your nose, keeping your lips closed and your tongue in position.
    5. 5. Allow your fingers to spread wide on your stomach as it expands.
    6. 6. Keep your shoulders relaxed.  Do not let them rise up.
    7. 7. Once your lungs feel full, exhale while humming or chanting.  Make sure to keep your lips closed.
    8. 8. Repeat for several breaths.

    At OHI, we believe the benefits of deep breathing are so important that we teach guests the principles of breathing in a variety of classes — Alpha Class, Conscious Breathing, Emotional Detox, Mind-Body Connection, and Vocal Toning.  Each class incorporates deep breathing in different ways, so whether you use it as a relaxation technique, a meditation technique, or a vocal toning technique, incorporating deep breathing into your wellness journey is easy to do. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.


    Relaxation Techniques: Breath Focus, July 2008, Harvard Women’s Health Watch, health.harvard.edu

    “The Best Breathing Exercises for Covid-19: Before, During, and After Infection”, written by Corey Whelan, medically reviewed by Angelica Balingit, MD, healthline.com, April 13, 2021

    “What is Breath work?”, healthline.com

  • Moving Forward in Our New Abnormal

    I bid bright and buoyant summer greetings to our OHI community. As the season fully opens in all of its splendor, the world is beginning to open up as well. People are getting out more and more each day, as some states are relaxing their Covid-19 restrictions. And, yet we are still struggling to make sense of the future before us.

    As I write this, the CDC is reporting that Covid-19 cases and deaths have been in a steady decline since January. They also report that 48% of adults in the U.S. have received both doses of the vaccine, and 60% have received one dose. The goal of herd immunity is stated to be 70% of the population with antibodies from either the vaccine or from having recovered from the infection, which might be achieved over the summer. And, here at OHI, we now have the ability to conduct Covid-19 testing in-house which means we can test our entire on-campus community three times per week, get results within hours, and if everyone tests negatively our guests will not have to wear masks (except when receiving a massage or colonic). Our staff will continue to wear masks.

    You may recall from our January newsletter, how we looked at two ways of protecting ourselves during our current circumstances and beyond by using Situational Awareness and Self-Care. In the spring issue I expanded on how we can remain safe by keeping mentally and physically healthy by staying socially connected, and doing so by utilizing Safety Bubbles. In this issue, I want to address how we can intelligently and safely move forward into our new abnormal.

    How to Move Forward in the Era of Covid-19

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

    I share this Bible verse with you because we are indeed entering a new era, but there is no need for us to do so in fear. There are several ways you can cope successfully. I will share four tactics for moving forward in this article.

    1. Move Forward with Purpose. I have written about this before because it is key to living a meaningful life. The first step is to stay focused on your objectives and intentions – your purpose. Covid-19 is just an obstacle, don’t let it throw you off course. Move forward without fear which can shut you down, and damage your health. Next, ask yourself, “What can I do today to move toward my goal?” Visualization is a great way to stay focused on your purpose. Imagine seeing yourself reaching your dream. The best way is to practice mindfulness which I will discuss below.

    Rediscovering and working on your purpose awakens the spirit within you. Find your purpose by asking these guiding questions: “What inspires me?”, “What gives me hope?”, “What gives me joy?”, and “What touches and heals my heart?”

    Sure, Covid-19 is a problem, but other than practicing your safety techniques, it is one that is out of your hands. Identify the issues you do have control over, and work on those. It would be wonderful if everyone followed the safest guidelines for bringing the world back to normal, but the best we can do is to live them ourselves, or as Mahatma Gandhi observed, “Be the change you want to see.”

    2. Practice Mindfulness to Stay Focused on your Purpose. Mindfulness is about living in the here and now, releasing the past, and allowing the future to stay in the future. There’s an old saying, “Wherever you are – be all there.” In other words, be in the present and live that moment fully even if it’s a simple task. Being mindful eliminates fear, anger, depression and anxiety while opening the door to peace and happiness.

    Here are some techniques for practicing mindfulness:

    • Focus on your breathing without thinking of anything else, if your mind wanders come back to your breathing.
    • Focus on a particular object such as the pen on your desk or the leaf on a plant, if your mind wanders come back to the object.
    • Practice body scanning. Mentally visit each part of your body from head to toe and pay attention to how it feels. Relax and release any tension before moving on to the next part.
    • Pay attention to whatever you are doing without allowing thoughts to go elsewhere. For example, when washing your hands observe the feel of the soap, and the warmth of the water.
    • Instead of doing common activities by rote, such as driving, eating, or showering focus on the activity itself.
    • Take your shoes off and feel the ground.
    • Practice listening to people instead of thinking about what you want to say. Mindful conversation is giving someone your full relaxed attention.

    Don’t judge yourself for where your thoughts may go, just bring them back to the present.

    3.Cultivate Your Critical Thinking Skills. In our new abnormal it is becoming more and more important for us to validate information. Critical thinking means you make a judgment call after examining and evaluating the information you have received. It means testing it, applying scientific methods, and then interpreting it.

    Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22

    If a story in the news makes you frightened, angry, anxious or depressed, your emotions are a signal that someone might be manipulating you, and that you might want to investigate further. If someone tells you something that triggers your emotions, here are some key questions you should ask: “Will you be more specific?”, “Can you give me more details?”, “Can you show me an example or give me a demonstration?”, “How can I verify that?”, “Why is this a problem?”, “What is your proof?”, “Is your evidence based on scientific method or is it anecdotal?”, and “Can this situation or condition be duplicated or is it coincidental?”

    When you hear something that raises a doubt in your mind, resort to logic. Ask yourself if all the premises are true. Premises are the reasons from which a conclusion is drawn. When you are presented with an argument, make sure you aren’t being distracted or confused with logical or rhetorical fallacies.

    Thinking critically also means questioning the purpose, the goals, and the objectives of the source of the information. Some questions to ask are, “Who funded this study or research?” or “Who gains the most from this issue?” The bottom line is that you must decide what to believe.

    In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

    Here at OHI, we prefer a reserved approach to safety. Many of our guests have health opportunities they have overcome or are in the process of handling. For this reason we recommend taking the greatest cautions: continuing to mask, social distancing, and handwashing.

    Being cautious doesn’t mean staying home. Experts are recommending outdoor activities as long as social distancing can be maintained; such as going to the beach where you can spread out. The CDC says, “Vaccinated individuals can gather indoors, without masks or social distancing, with other vaccinated people.” (OHI does not promote or discourage vaccine use).

    4. Come to OHI. One of the best ways to move forward is to visit OHI. We are constantly improving the cleanliness and sanitation of our facilities. We are your home-away-from-home safety bubble. And, we have taken every conceivable precaution to provide a safe and sacred environment for our community.

    Refreshing your OHI training will enable you to move forward by positively influencing the state of your health. You will rediscover the body, mind, and spirit connection while using your positive thoughts and emotions to promote healing and good health.

    Schedule a visit to OHI where you can revive and renew your purpose, practice mindfulness, and cultivate your critical thinking skills – all while reconnecting with the special friends who understand you and your goals like no one else. Because OHI is STILL the safest place you can be outside of your home.

    Call us to book your reservation today: (800) 588-0809. Or visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org.

    Wishing you health and wellness in this blessed Summer season.

    Yours in prayer,

    Robert P. Nees, Jr.

    Senior Pastor and Chairman

    Optimum Health Institute of San Diego and Austin

  • Can a Healthy Lifestyle Be Contagious?

    We’ve heard countless stories from our guests about how their stay at Optimum Health Institute has had a powerful, life-changing effect on their lives. What’s unusual, however, is to hear about someone whose life was transformed by OHI’s program … and the person had never stepped foot on the grounds. We heard such a testimony from OHI missionary, Doug Fulwider.

    Doug’s wife had been a staunch advocate of OHI’s healthy lifestyle program for decades, and had even studied with Ann Wigmore, the founder of Hippocrates. She insisted on following the plant-based, live, raw organic food plan to such an enthusiastic extent that Doug playfully named their home, “OHI West.”

    When his wife tragically succumbed to pancreatic cancer after a two-year battle, Doug was heartbroken. Yet even in his deep grief, he knew that emotionally giving up and reverting to old, unhealthy eating habits was not an option. He decided to honor his wife’s legacy, and maintain his own health, by signing up for an OHI stay. By his second week there, he knew he wanted to apply to be a missionary. The support from the OHI staff and other guests, the healthy plant-based meals, and the beautiful surroundings were the perfect prescription to heal his aching heart.

    Doug applied and was thrilled to be accepted into the missionary program. Before leaving, he had to find someone to house-sit for three months, and he chose the son of an acquaintance. The young man, Mikey, was at a crossroads in his life, and he expressed his desire to live at Doug’s while pondering his future direction. Doug had just one rule for Mikey – there could be NO meat in the house.

    While Doug continued his deep healing during his months as an OHI missionary, Mikey threw himself into completely changing his diet. He’d been inspired by Doug’s no-meat rule and the delicious plant-based OHI recipes Doug left for him.

    What began as a “house rule” quickly blossomed into a brand-new, healthier and happier life path.

    Mikey learned how to ferment foods, grow sprouts, and make seed cheese. He prepared delicious plant-based meals for his mother and uncle – and both of them saw such radical improvements in their health they were soon able to get off nearly all medication.

    Mikey even took a raw foods course and is studying to become a vegan chef. He’s developed quite a social media following, too, posting photos of his beautiful and delicious culinary creations online. While Doug was healing his heart at OHI, Mikey was healing his life – and preparing for a fantastic new future – using the transformational tools OHI provides.

    So the answer to the question posted in the title is a resounding YES! A healthy lifestyle most certainly can be contagious. We invite you to come to OHI and experience this sort of transformation in your own life. Bring body, mind, and spirit into a healthy balance with an extended stay at OHI San Diego or OHI Austin. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.

  • Celebrating the Divine in Everything

    Brilliant sunshine breaks through the clouds after days of seemingly endless rain. A butterfly lands on your hand for a fleeting moment. A phone call you’ve been dreading from your doctor brings unexpectedly good news – the answer to your prayers.

    All of these are, quite literally, cause for celebration.

    Reveling in the moment when positive things happen is an ongoing opportunity to acknowledge the infinite good – and the infinite God – in our lives.

    “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music,” we’re told in Psalm 98:4. Throughout the Bible, we read about celebrations marking everything from baptisms and weddings to feasts, dedicating the wall at Jerusalem, and Jesus’ birth.

    “Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines,” writes Richard J. Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.

    Celebrating the small things helps us stay in the moment; we become more mindful of seeking out the positive. And that which we seek, we find. Our joy is contagious. Those around us will also start to discover delightful reasons to celebrate throughout their day. We strengthen the bonds within our spiritual community through celebrating together, honoring each other’s successes and growth.

    There is another benefit when we choose to celebrate just about everything. The spiritual discipline of celebration itself is a form of thanksgiving. Science shows us that shifting into an attitude of gratitude actually prompts positive chemical changes in our brains and bodies. We can more easily release stress, boost heart health, and lower blood pressure. We feel fewer aches and pains, heal more quickly, and enjoy deeper, more restful sleep.

    When we expect to see the divine in everything, we will find it. That’s when we truly begin to live our lives in constant celebration, doing all things with great love.

    We invite you to start this celebratory journey with an extended stay at Optimum Health Institute missions in San Diego or Austin. You’ll be able to celebrate with your spiritual community by linking up with old friends and making some wonderful new ones.

    Call us at (800) 588-0809 to book your reservation, and be sure to ask about our current promotional discounts. We look forward to seeing you … and celebrating the divine with you.

  • 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.