LiveWell®

Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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Attend Monkey Mind Pirates musical – a fun, family event promoting mindfulness

Attend Monkey Mind Pirates in Search of the Island of Calm, an award-winning, nationally touring musical performed by Z Puppets Rosenschnoz  and Twin Cities families affected by cancer, chronic illness and autism.
Two free performances will be held Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.
These special shows are the result of a six-workshop series taken by families living with cancer and families living with autism. Z Puppets artists lead the workshop using the story of a sea captain on the Quest for Calm. Mindfulness techniques, song writing and puppetry are woven into the workshop.
Come and see the results of the families’ work at one of these events:
  • Sensory-friendly performance with families affected by autism: Saturday, Feb. 15, 2:30 p.m.
  • Performance with families affected by chronic illness and cancer: Saturday, Feb. 15, 7 p.m.

Doors open one hour before each show for Z Puppets’ free, family, happy hour of creative activities on the “Island of Calm.”

For reservations or more information, contact 612-724-1435, ext. 9, or zpuppets.org.

The event is presented by the Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing and Z Puppets Rosenschnoz with the generous support of the Minnesota State Arts Board.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation or the arts and cultural heritage fund; and a grant from the National Endowments for the Arts.


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Celebrating International Integrative Medicine Day

By Debra Bell, MD

Today, Jan. 23, is International Integrative Medicine Day. The mission of the day is to “inspire worldwide dialog, education, collaboration, research initiatives, and programming about medicine that is patient-centered, holistic, economically and environmentally sustainable, and open to a global palette of care options.”

Integrative medicine ― sometimes called holistic or complementary medicine ― has been evolving for many years and is now utilized by more than 50 percent of the general population. It is becoming more accepted by main stream medicine every day.

A good example of this is the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, the largest integrative health center embedded in a health system in the country. The Penny George Institute is part of Allina Health.

At the Penny George Institute, we are engaged in the national and international forum of those committed to integrative medicine research, education and clinical services.

I have been involved in the field for 30 years, long before it was ever called integrative medicine. I am thrilled that there is now a designated day to recognize this valuable aspect of health and healing.

To honor this day, I invite you to take a moment today to pay attention to your health ― to the way you live, how you feel, and the choices you make. Reflect on what is contributing to your wellness and any changes you might make for better health.

Debra Bell, MD, sees patients at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. She offers an integrative medicine, or holistic, approach, to women’s health, fibromyalgia, fatigue, allergies, chronic disease and nutrition.


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Live well, live happy

56460615.HappinessPhotoBy Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

One thing I enjoy about working for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing is giving talks on a variety of subjects.

Over the last year, “happiness” has been by far the most requested topic. Of course, the obvious reason for that is people want to be happy. Behind that reason is its antithesis ― many folks are unhappy and don’t know why.

There’s a lot of science behind happiness and a lot of good news to share about what determines it:

  • About 50 percent of our happiness is genetically determined.
    We have a happiness “set point” that we return to, regardless of what is happening in our lives. You can probably think of folks in your life who are upbeat all of the time and others who are more melancholy.
  • What about circumstances?
    By circumstances, I am including where you live, your health, your job, your appearance, and how much money you have or don’t have. Research shows that these things account for only 10 percent of happiness. Most people are surprised by this. After all, so much of our lives can be consumed in pursuit of them.

    So, why do we pursue these circumstances if they don’t much matter? Because they work – for a while. I remember the day I picked up my car. I was thrilled. I loved my new car, and I didn’t mind driving at all. I kept it meticulously clean and banned young children or adults with food. My car seemed to make me happy, until one day it didn’t.

    Suddenly, I didn’t look forward to driving as much. Instead of people checking out my car, I was checking out theirs. In fact, I can’t remember the last time driving was a pleasure.

    Scientists call this the “Hedonic Effect.” Something or someone can make us happy for a while, until normalcy makes it just ho-hum or until the next best thing ― or person ― comes along.

  • So what’s the good news?
    The good news is about 40 percent of our happiness has nothing to do with things, jobs, money, appearance, genetics, or even health. That huge chunk of happiness comes from what we do with the lives we have and how we think. Our daily intentional activities have everything to do with our happiness.

In coming blog posts, I will walk you through evidence-based strategies that lead to lasting happiness ― the things that happy people do and the way they think.

For now, think about the time(s) in your life when you were the happiest. Consider:

  • What was I doing on a day-to-day basis?
  • What made life meaningful to me and what motivated me?
  • What practices or ways of thinking stand out?

These questions help you understand what you value and what actions will contribute to renewed happiness. I look forward to sharing more happiness strategies in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a quote: “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln

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.

Past LiveWell blog entries on happiness:


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Responding to health headlines on the value of multivitamins and supplements

Vitamins.162362665An editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month suggested that multivitamins and supplements are a “waste of money.” The editorial bases its opinion on the results from three recent studies on the effects of these supplements.

The editorial was quickly picked up by national news organizations with headlines varying from “Studies say multivitamins don’t prevent disease” to “Research shows multivitamins provide some benefits.” Practitioners from the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing regularly recommend supplements to their patients and wanted to weigh in on the issue.

Two practitioners offered their opinions:

Bell_Debra_2013Debra Bell, MD, offers an integrative medicine, or holistic approach, to women’s health, fibromyalgia, fatigue, allergies, chronic disease and nutrition.

Bell questioned whether the original editorial really reflected the studies. Each study report cautioned against broad conclusions, while the editorial ended by stating the case was closed and that multivitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention.

Bell says: “I believe it is the summary of the editorial that generated the media buzz. This final sentence is a reflection of an important issue – the frustration of the medical community with the multi-billion dollar dietary supplement industry.  The large majority of supplements are poorly manufactured with the primary intent of generating revenue.  This irresponsible behavior undermines the dedicated work of professionals researching and developing good quality supplements.”

She added, “The various articles ignore that there is a respected group of professionals in Integrative Medicine who apply the large database of evidence demonstrating the efficacy of many natural supplements and vitamins.  Most Integrative Medicine specialists would agree that the best way to obtain nutrients is from diet, but sometimes multivitamins or supplements are necessary or helpful.”

Blair_JenniferJennifer Blair, LAc, MaOM, is an integrative, holistic provider with clinical specialties in acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary therapy and integrative health coaching. She is a licensed acupuncturist with a master’s degree in Oriental Medicine.

Blair agrees with Bell that the presence of poor quality supplements in the marketplace degrades a valuable asset to the health and well-being of patients.  “Appropriate nutritional supplementation, individualized to a patient’s unique needs and provided by companies who focus on quality, safety, efficacy and optimal absorption can benefit health and address nutritional deficiencies that contribute to diseased states and inhibit the body’s natural regenerative abilities. We miss the whole picture when we allow media sound bites to guide our beliefs and decisions.”

Additionally, Blair points out that multiple factors contribute to sub-optimal nutrition that may lead to the need for quality supplements.  These may include some industrialized agriculture practices, poor soil quality and over-processed foods. “Combine these factors with inhibited digestive function due to inflammation or an imbalance of intestinal flora, and it can be difficult to absorb the proper nutrition from food alone,” she said.

Debra Bell, MD, and Jennifer Blair, LAc, MaOM, see patients at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Abbott Northwestern outpatient clinic.


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Accumulating stuff and letting go – reorganizing to relieve stress

By Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, massage therapist, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

My wife and I consider ourselves to be thrifty folks who place a higher value on relationships and time spent together than on stuff.  Even so, it’s astonishing how many things accumulate in our home.

Perhaps you can relate. With three children under seven, our house was one busy place last summer. Like many families in Minnesota, we spend the summer months getting out as much as we can ― day camps, bike rides, camping trips, swimming, boating and climbing. These activities all require equipment that takes up space.

During the summer months, this stuff can live on the porch, in the garage, or even in the backyard.  But come autumn, we need to find places inside our home for it.  Enter my basement  … dah dah dah Daaah.

Because we had been so busy, our basement maintenance and storage system became overwhelmed to the point that you could barely walk down there. I found myself avoiding it so I didn’t have to look at it.

It wasn’t until a cold, rainy, Friday evening in October that I finally found time to sort, organize, and discard my way through that pile. The emotional weight lifted in putting my things in their place was startling. I remembered how valuable it is to feel this way.

In the Chinese calendar, autumn is about letting go. Leaves fall, summer fades. The harvest is in, and we look back on the year with appreciation for its fullness, and in some cases for its messiness.

Fall is a time to consider what is meaningful in our lives. Ideas, objects, relationships and habits may be reconsidered, revised or replaced with things that are more relevant and life-giving. When we take time to organize, sort, and care for our space and our possessions, we have an opportunity to consider what is meaningful.

For example, while sorting through my basement, I came across several crates of books that I’ve stored for almost 20 years in hopes that I would someday read, reread, or pass them on to my children. I overlooked them many times during these sorting episodes, but this year I found I was ready to begin letting go. I took nine grocery bags to Magers and Quinn, added $140 to my kids’ college fund, and freed up some space in my basement and my subconscious mind.

Now the holidays have just passed with the typical infusion of more stuff. It’s clear that my space and the things in it affect my stress level. When my home is organized, I feel more relaxed, creative, and able to plan, sort, and breathe. Still, I know that stuff is an essential part of living and raising kids.

I wonder, though, what it would be like if letting go of stuff became as enjoyable and habitual as acquiring it?

I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions:

  • What are your experiences with accumulation of and clearing out of stuff?
  • How do you balance acquiring and letting go?
  • How do you handle accumulation over the holidays? Are you happy with that approach?

Here’s to our stuff! Happy New Year from all of us at the Penny George Institute.

Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, is a massage therapist with the Penny George Institute. He works with hospitalized patients.