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

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Nurturing happiness and health

Nurturing happiness

“Those who study happiness recognize that it is associated with states of satisfaction and good self esteem, and also with the traits of gratitude and compassion.” – Mark Roa, integrative health psychologist

This article originally ran in the LiveWell newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

How can we nurture our innate ability to experience happiness? How do we define this elusive emotional state for ourselves? These are questions that many of us have considered, especially when we face situations like chronic stress, serious illness or loss.

“Just as pain serves as an alert for our bodies, we can be guided by being aware of commonly learned but ‘painful’ ways of thinking – or being with our feelings – that lead to unhappiness,” said Mark Roa, MA, LP, CBC, an integrative health psychologist at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

In his work, Roa helps people who are facing health challenges, a disability, or significant anxiety or stress regain a sense of wholeness and happiness. “Those who study happiness recognize that it is associated with states of satisfaction and good self esteem, and also with the traits of gratitude and compassion,” Roa noted.

For Roa, happiness is strongly connected to our thoughts and our views of self. He has observed that all of us have learned thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, others and the world around us. Some of these are helpful and deserve our reinforcement, like maintaining the view that we are loveable. But others are very unhelpful, especially self-criticism or fear-based assumptions like, “I’ll never be good enough,” “They think I am weak and foolish,” or “I don’t fit in.”

“These seemingly automatic negative thoughts and beliefs require our gentle rethinking,” said Roa. This is the basis of cognitive therapy, but Roa believes that we can each incorporate some self-nurturing practices (see below) into our daily lives that can help foster feelings of happiness.

Nurturing happiness

  • Be aware of self-talk. Frequently ask yourself: What am I thinking? What am I feeling? Are these thoughts or feelings helpful to me or to others?
  • Strive to adopt an intentionally compassionate, gentle and understanding view of yourself. This influences every aspect of your life positively.
  • Practice mindfulness or being in the present moment. Learn how to let go of processing the past or anticipating the future.
  • Consider, as needed, which is more detrimental to yourself: resentment or forgiveness.
  • Don’t try to manage difficulties alone. Reach out to friends, loved ones and readily available supportive community resources. People truly want to help.
  • In times of great distress, know that anxious and fear-based thinking increase the intensity of feelings, and intensity always passes.

Mark Roa, MA, LP, CBC, sees patients at the Penny George InstituteAbbott Northwestern Outpatient Clinic and the Allina Health Mental Health Clinic. Call 612-863-3333 for an appointment.

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Health benefits of turmeric

Tumeric.455656335By Mary Beshara, MSN, APRN

If you haven’t already heard about the wonderful health properties of turmeric― the main spice in curry―let me educate you.

Here are results from research showing turmeric’s possible health benefits:

  • The brain – Researchers are exploring the link between turmeric and its positive effects on certain brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Circulation –  A 2007 study showed that curcumin, the yellow pigment that is the active compound in turmeric, may aid in reducing levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or “bad cholesterol.”
  • Inflammation Researchers at the University of Arizona have found evidence to support turmeric’s reputation as an anti-inflammatory agent for joint inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Cancer – A recent study showed turmeric to be effective in slowing the growth of breast cancer cells in mice and in delaying the progression of the disease into the lungs. The study is being conducted at the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
  • The gut – Turmeric may help people with the digestive disease ulcerative colitis stay in remission, according to a 2006 study.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I get very excited to see that simple food choices can make a big impact on healthy living. It can be a challenge, though, to get turmeric into your diet. I was raised on a lot of wonderful foods and spices, but turmeric wasn’t one of them. It can be tricky if you are not used to this flavor.

I want to share with you two recipes that are easy ones for getting some turmeric in your diet. They are from the Web site of Arjan Khalsa, a chiropractor.

The first of the recipes is for Turmeric Paste. Once you have this made, you can store it in the refrigerator in a glass container for up to three weeks. You can use it by the teaspoon in soups, yogurt, or eggs ― anything you choose. Experimentation can be your guide. But don’t be surprised if you walk away with a yellow-colored tongue. It’s perfectly harmless and goes away quickly.

The second of the recipes is for golden milk. It is amazingly calming. You can drink it right before bedtime to help with falling asleep. I also enjoy it in the morning while I drive to work. It calms me down, and I like knowing that it is reducing inflammation in my body.

We’re just starting to understand how turmeric can benefit our health.

I do recommend that if you are going to integrate turmeric or curcumin supplements into your diet, please check with your physician or health care professional first. And always consult with them before making any significant changes in your diet or lifestyle.

Mary Beshara is a board certified Clinical Nurse Specialist in adult health and pain management who sees patients at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Abbott Northwestern Outpatient Clinic. She integrates into her practice complementary therapies such as relaxation techniques, integrative imagery, aromatherapyreflexologyhealing touch and breath work.





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How can measuring quality of life lead to better health?

CoupleOnBikesBy Jeffery Dusek, director of research, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

In medicine, we’re very focused on measurements – blood pressure, weight, cholesterol levels – values that are easily understood by the medical community. One thing that we have not focused on as much is how quality of life affects health.

A person’s quality of life is influenced by a variety of factors including their physical, mental, and social well-being. Numerous studies have shown that low quality of life is related to increased rates of illness, chronic disease and death.

In June 2012, a team at Allina Health began implementing a tool called the PROMIS-10 questionnaire developed by the National Institutes of Health to assess quality of life in Piper Breast Center patients. Since then, this initiative has expanded across other Allina Health patient groups – touching 1,500 patients.

Our goal is to engage patients and help them achieve their health objectives. Questionnaires like PROMIS-10 have been found to:

  • improve patient satisfaction and communication between patients and their health care providers
  • support efficient patient visits, guiding visits without lengthening overall visit time.

Allina Health is in good company as our colleagues at major health systems such as Partners HealthCare (Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Cleveland Clinic are also using PROMIS-10 to measure patients’ quality of life.

Specifically within Allina Health’s Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, clinicians use this questionnaire as part of every visit at the outpatient clinic. I asked Courntey Baechler, MD, at the Penny George Institute about using the tool with her patients. She said, “It really helps me understand how they gauge their own quality of life. It’s easy as a physician to quickly tie medical numbers to a patient and arbitrarily rate their quality of life. With the questionnaire, I can quickly see how the patient rates their own indicators of health. This is yet one more way to hear the patient’s voice.”

Other areas of Allina Health that are using the questionnaire include the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute®, the cardiac rehabilitation program, Healthy Communities Partnership, and others.

Knowing that quality of life is important to health, you can take some simple steps to improve yours:

  • Take time to focus on what brings you joy.
  • Talk to your clinician about what’s most important in your quality of life. Perhaps being able to play with your kids or grandkids in the park is what brings you joy each week.
  • Ensure that during each visit with your clinician, there is time to concentrate on aspects of your health that are affecting your quality of life. An example would be poor sleep hindering your ability to be active.
  • Take time to speak to family or friends about what affects your quality of life. This could be physical and emotional pain, stress, being rushed, or having limited time to sit and connect with them.

Check out our previous blogs for information on how to improve stress management, sleep, nutrition, social connection, spiritual connection, and physical activity. All are key to improving quality of life.

Jeffrey Dusek, PhD, is the director of research for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. Prior to that he was with Harvard Medical System at Harvard Medical School as the director of Behavioral Sciences Research of the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine of Massachusetts General Hospital.

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Art of Healing exhibits this spring


Illustration by Nancy Carlson

Art is powerful. It can nourish the mind, body and spirit, and it can support healing. That is the inspiration behind a bimonthly Art of Healing exhibit offered by the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

You can view the following exhibits on the Abbott Northwestern Hospital campus this May:

  • The paintings and drawings of Ken Moylan are on display at the Penny George Institute’s outpatient clinic – Abbott Northwestern. Moylan combines many traditional and historical styles, materials and techniques of painting, sculpture and architecture within his finely crafted images and objects. His work has been published by Landmark Editions of Minneapolis, and his art has been exhibited extensively across the United States in galleries, museums and art fairs.
  • The illustrations of Nancy Carlson are on display in the Wasie Building lower level gallery, outside the Livewell Fitness Center. She is the author and illustrator of more than 60 children’s books. She believes that life should be fun for everyone, especially for children. This optimistic message permeates her picture books which help kids learn to cope with different challenges.

The displays are part of the Penny George Institute’s Art of Healing Program, which provides arts-based wellness intervention and education, and supports a healing environment. For more information, call 612-863-9028.