The LiveWell blog will no longer be available starting in late March 2022. If you’ve enjoyed our content, visit Healthy Set Go or subscribe to our Healthy Set Go enewsletter for more great wellness tips from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.
This is the last post of the LiveWell blog, but it is not the last post for practitioners of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.
They will be offering the same great, wellness and prevention expertise with a holistic twist at Allina Health’s new digital destination Healthy Set Go.
This new digital hub offers health advice, tips, recipes and inspiration from Allina Health experts, including Penny George Institute practitioners, along with other primary care doctors, specialists, physical therapists, nurses and more. Healthy Set Go covers these topics:
- Nourish: Tips and recipes for healthy eating.
- Move: Inspiration and how-to articles to get moving.
- Thrive: Support and insight for mental and emotional well-being.
- Heal: Knowledge to deal with illness.
- Prevent: Information to prevent illness and injury.
- Care: Advice to care for yourself and others at life’s unique stages.
Here are just a few new stories by Penny George Institute practitioners that you can find on Healthy Set Go:
- Wake up your Wei Qi and put seasonal allergies to rest
- Is an elimination diet right for you?
- Can a fitbit make you fit?
- The Mediterranean Diet: Travel the world one forkful at a time
Thank you for reading the LiveWell blog and enjoy Healthy Set Go. As T.S. Elliot said, “… to make an end is to make a beginning.”
When facing a serious illness, more people are turning to integrative medicine to help deal with the symptoms of their disease or the side effects of treatment. A recent KSTP-TV segment described how integrative medicine is making a difference in their health and well-being, and it included comments from Courtney Baechler, MD, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.
“Integrative medicine is truly combining Western and Eastern health [approaches] into one. That means if you are going through a cancer process, you get the best surgical and chemotherapy, along with the best Eastern processes, to make sure that we keep you well throughout this journey,” said Baechler.
Watch the entire segment: Inside your health: More than medicine.
By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC
February is a time when many people find their New Year’s resolutions are waning. If you are one of these people, you aren’t alone. The vast majority of resolutions fail.
Too often, it can feel like the obstacles you face to accomplishing a resolution are insurmountable. But there things you can do to break down these barriers.
Here are some tips for busting barriers:
- Have a plan and a backup plan.
- Create SMART goals (specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time dependent). If your goal is simply to “eat better,” dig into what that means by creating a SMART goal.
- Plan ahead. Maybe that means putting meditation time on your scheduler, keeping your gym clothes handy, or taking time each week to draw up a healthier meal plan. This takes a few extra moments on the front end, but will save you frustration on the back end.
- Know your backup plan. For example, keep healthy snacks on hand in case you don’t have time for lunch. If you exercise outside, have an indoor workout in mind for when the weather is bad.
- Know your barriers and break them down. To figure out what your barriers are, fill in the blank: “I’m too _______________ to exercise/manage stress/eat right, etc.”One common answer is, “I’m too busy.” If this is the case:
- Look at your schedule for a week. Does it reflect your values? Is there time anywhere to fit in your health goal?
- What is the least amount you could do to meet your goal? Perhaps 10 minutes of walking? 5 minutes of meditation? Bringing a healthy lunch 3 days a week?
- Consider if you been able to accomplish your healthy change in the past. If you have, think about how you did it. What support did you have? What else enabled you to meet this goal?
- Resist “all or nothing” thinking. This kind of thinking can cripple the best intentions. You may be succumbing to this if you hear yourself saying things like, “I blew my diet at lunch, so I’ll just start again tomorrow,” or “I can’t get to the gym today, so I’ll just skip my workout today.”If you are prone to this kind of thinking:
- Envision what it will feel like to take a step in the right direction. What would that do for your confidence?
- Remind yourself that every little bit counts. Repeat that phrase as often as necessary.
- Consider what happens when you do too much too soon? Could you sustain it?
- Don’t feel like you have to do it alone. We are a society that values independence, but when it comes to lifestyle changes, going it alone can be a recipe for failure. To deal with this, consider what good support would look like for you: a buddy? a class? a coach? an online community?
Regardless of the barriers you face, tackling them with intention and honesty will pay big rewards.
Mary Farrell, MS, PCC, is an integrative health & wellness coach and an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment with her.
Sunshine on your bare skin helps your body make vitamin D – an essential vitamin that builds strong bones, supports the immune system and reduces inflammation. But if you’re like most adults, you probably aren’t getting enough vitamin D, especially during a Minnesota winter.
WCCO-TV’s Heather Brown invited integrative medicine physician Debra Bell, MD, to discuss the sunshine vitamin during a recent segment of Good Question. “It’s hard to know that you’re vitamin D deficient. The symptoms are really very subtle,” said Bell. “The best way to know whether or not you have a vitamin D deficiency is to get a blood test.”
Watch the entire segment here. Good Question: Can you get enough vitamin D from the sun?
Maybe you have gotten complacent about your health and need help setting a new direction. Maybe you have tried losing that 20 pounds more times than you can count. Or maybe you’ve struggled with an injury or illness and don’t know where to start in order to regain your health.
These are all good reasons to devise your own wellness vision with the help of an integrative health and wellness coach.
Coaching sessions begin with an in-depth assessment, said Karen Prieto, MSN, APRN-CNS, clinical nurse specialist and certified wellness coach, Penny George Institute – Abbott Northwestern. “We start by having you identify what you want to achieve and then setting goals with you.” The assessment also helps you identify your strengths and resources, as well any obstacles that you may face.
Wellness coaching is a key component of the Penny George Institute’s tobacco cessation program, Quit to Live Well. Whether you want to quit smoking or make other lifestyle changes, a health and wellness coach can help you bring a fresh perspective on how to meet your goals.
“We often look for examples of where you’ve been successful in the past and explore why that worked for you,” said Prieto. “We also try to identify motivators and help you find ways of using these motivators to support behavior change.”
Coaching sessions can occur in person or on the phone, and you can determine the number of sessions depending on your needs. “We help you create a clearer awareness of what you want and develop a plan of action to get there.” Prieto said.
Karen Prieto, MSN, APRN-CNS, sees patients at several Penny George Institute locations, including Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, Abbott Northwestern – WestHealth in Plymouth, and Unity Hospital
in Fridley. For appointments, call 612-863-3333.
If your New Year’s resolutions have already begun to wane, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach.
Sometimes New Year’s resolutions are set for the wrong reasons. Are you trying to make changes for yourself, or because of society’s or someone else’s expectations of you? “If we don’t take time to reflect on where we are in life, what is working and what is not, the goals we set can reflect more of a superficial layer than our authentic self,” explained Lana Abboud, integrative psychologist and acupuncturist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. “This is the time to think about what you are ready to let go of and what you want to step in to.”
If you are trying to change habits, think about what is contributing to the behavior you want to change. Unhealthy habits can sometimes be a reflection of something deeper.
For example, if your goal is to rein in poor eating habits, Abboud suggests taking some time to consider what makes you eat unwisely. “Maybe it’s because of loneliness, stress or because your relationships are not going well,” she said. Accessing and addressing the root cause will help you make lasting change.
“It’s kind of like trying to fill a void in your life with buying new clothes or a red Mercedes. You buy those things thinking they will make you happy, but you still feel like something’s not quite right. That’s because you are trying to fill the void with external things when the work is more internal.”
Another reason that resolutions don’t stick is because we take on too much all at once. “What you want to focus on is building mastery,” said Abboud. “Think about it like steps on a staircase.”
Instead of making a resolution to lose 50 pounds, break it down into smaller goals that are more sustainable. Skip sweets during the week and enjoy a small treat during the weekend. If exercising every day proves impossible, walk three times a week. As you achieve these smaller goals, move on to the next level.
As you build mastery, your self-confidence and sense of empowerment will increase. That means you’ll be less likely to give up when you experience minor set-backs.
Tips to make resolutions stick
- Focus on adding positives rather than removing negatives. For example, instead of eliminating all sweets from your diet, find ways to add more protein, or choose more foods with naturally occurring simple sugars (fruits, vegetables and dairy products) instead of processed sugars.
- Choose resolutions better tailored to your own environment and capacities. Don’t commit to going to the gym six times a week when the nearest gym is an hour away.
- Surround yourself with circumstances, people and images that support you and that feel good to be around.
- Provide yourself with gentle reminders of the benefits of accomplishing your resolutions to boost your motivation.
- Remember, New Year’s resolutions offer an opportunity for change. You are not broken, yet what is an area that could use more refinement in your life? What potential have you yet to evoke? Even if you’ve been locked into the same pattern for years, begin to welcome change.
By Zena Kocher, LAc, MaOM
What was on your mind during the holiday season? Did you have visions of sugar plums dancing, or were you preoccupied with making lists and checking them twice? As a mother and as a health care provider in a busy hospital, it was imperative for me to make lists and check them twice. However, my 9-year-old son reminded me of another way to be.
One of our holiday traditions is to use an Advent calendar to celebrate the marvels of the world in expectation of Christmas Day. Passed on to me by my mother, I remember loving it as a child. Now, as an adult witnessing my son’s experience, I see it as an important lesson to carry with me beyond the holiday season.
Every morning during December, there was a small gift magically waiting for him in the shallow pocket of the calendar. Unlike the drowsy mornings in November when I practically had to pull my son out of bed, on those December mornings, he popped out of bed immediately to see what lay in store. No matter what he found – chocolate toffee almonds, a stone from the North Shore, or something he would normally find mundane, like a pair of wool socks – he received it as something special and treasured it.
Watching my son’s excitement and seeing his eyes widen with possibilities brought my own attention to the bounty of each new day. I saw that each day presents us with a myriad of potential. This wonder naturally leads to a sense of fascination. When the gift is revealed, its marvelous qualities are also brought to the surface.
Starting the day like this set the tone for the rest of the day. Rushed mornings smoothed out into a sense of luxurious peace from which we were able to float off to school and work, as if being carried by a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Over the month of December, the anticipation of the night before built up into the next day, providing a wonder-filled cumulative effect. Since this tradition has been repeated for generations in my family, it is like my ancestors carved a path for us. If I pay attention, it can be easy to move into this state of wonder.
It’s a wonder-filled life
As a parent and a professional, I am in a world that I think I control and understand, one in which I have expectations and deadlines. Though that can result in the satisfaction of lists checked off, there is something wonderful about living in anticipation of the unknown. What if I lived as if something magnificent was coming my way every day? That would change everything. The waiting becomes magical rather than the means to the end. It slows me down, allowing me to see things I hadn’t before. It opens my mind, making me curious about what is to come.
As adults, how often do we create this for ourselves? I wonder how I could extend this state of awe further into the new year. What about you? Any ideas?
Zena Kocher, LAc, MaOM, is an integrative health practitioner with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing and provides integrative health therapies to inpatients at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Believe it or not, exercise builds brain power in a way that not even thinking does. Exercise seems to positively change the brain, and slow or reverse its physical decay.
Studies show that exercise:
- builds a brain that resists physical shrinkage
- enhances cognitive flexibility
- increases your heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain
- aids your body’s release of a surplus of hormones, which supports the growth of brain cells
- stimulates brain plasticity by repairing old connections and stimulating new connections between brain cells.
Many studies suggest that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus to those who don’t.
Exercise also has benefits for our mental well-being. For example:
- The “runners high” is associated with a drop in stress hormones.
- Another effect of running is more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Interestingly, antidepressant medications also work by stimulating the growth of neurons in the hippocampus. At times exercise is even prescribed as an antidepressant “medication” with positive side effects unlike most medications.
- Exercise may help improve sleep and mood, and help reduce stress and anxiety.
Here are some tips for exercising to boost your brain power:
- Try activities with both physical and mental demands, such as ballroom dancing and martial arts. The best brain health workouts involve those that integrate different parts of the brain such as coordination, rhythm and strategy.
- More intense exercise usually provides more benefits. However, if you are just starting to exercise, it is important to work your way up to higher intensity work outs to avoid setbacks and injuries.
- Exercise in the morning. Exercise before going to work not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for mental stresses, but also increases retention of new information and improves your ability to react to complex situations.
- The amount of exercise required to see benefits is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (think walking) most days of the week or 150 minutes a week. If that seems overwhelming, start with a few minutes a day, and increase the amount you exercise by 5-10 minutes every week. If you don’t like to walk, any activity that gets your heart rate up will achieve positive benefits for your brain.
Remember, it’s never too late to start exercising, and the best thing you can do is avoid physical inactivity. Whatever exercise you choose, commit to establishing exercise as a habit, almost like taking a prescription medication. After all, they say that exercise is medicine.
Steve Moore, MS, is an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. He is available for exercise physiology consultations, fitness assessments and personal training appointments. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment.