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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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Art of Healing exhibits this spring

Art_May

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.


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Breaking away from unhealthy American ways

AmericanWays.57300728By Megan Odell, LAc, MS

My professor was new to our school and the United States, having only recently left China. I had the privilege of observing this brilliant acupuncturist as he assessed patients’ concerns and composed treatments.

As he worked on a patient chart one day, he paused and with a big sigh asked, “Why does everyone here have this pattern?”

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the word “pattern” is used instead of “diagnosis.” Where conventional Western medicine works to whittle an illness down to a single cause, TCM instead looks at the whole body-mind ecosystem and attempts to find a pattern to what is happening. A treatment plan is created to restore balance and health.

My professor had noticed that Americans appeared in our clinic with one predominant pattern―Liver-Spleen disharmony. This doesn’t (necessarily) mean there is anything structurally wrong with a patient’s liver and spleen. The issue lies in the functions that the Chinese medical system attributes to those organs.

Patients with Liver-Spleen disharmony might express concerns such as headaches, high stress, digestive difficulties, menstrual pain, irritability, fibromyalgia, or a host of other symptoms.

So, if my professor’s observation was right, what is it about living in the United States (or perhaps an urban area of the Upper Midwest) that makes it so common? In my experience, this pattern is all about four things:

  • Stress: According to TCM, the liver is in charge of the free flow of Qi.  Qi is energy that moves through your body along channels. When you are healthy, the Qi moves freely. When you are in pain, sick or emotionally upset, the Qi can become stuck. When you are in a state of stress, the qi often stagnates (which you might express by clenching your jaw, stopping breathing or tensing your shoulders).
  • Emotions: In TCM, we believe that emotions come and go like water in a stream. If we let them come and express them, everything should be fine. However, sometimes we deny or “stuff” emotions, such as anger, sadness, grief or jealousy. I often speak to people who have semi-successfully hid from emotions for months or years with unintended physical results.
  • Exercise: If we aren’t physically moving, Qi is less likely to move.
  • Food:  In TCM, the spleen is largely attributed with the transformation of food into energy. Some foods, such as soup and lightly cooked vegetables, are easy to transform. Other foods, such as dairy, sugars, and fried foods, are difficult to transform. Eating too much of the latter can bog down the digestive system. And if we do other things while eating (working, reading, driving), the body’s ability to focus energy on digestion is hindered.

Does any of that look familiar? Do you see it in your life or our culture? I would offer that the “American way” often encourages stress, overworking, emotion-stuffing, screen-watching, and food-as-stomach-filler. Even when we try to avoid these things, it is easy to feel pulled in a number of directions in our daily lives. And usually our self-care is the first to go.

So what do we do? TCM offers solutions like acupuncture and Chinese herbs that can help. But improvements from those therapies will only be sustained if lifestyle changes are made, too.

  • Meditate or find another way to manage your stress. Biofeedback and Mindfulness Training are available at the Penny George Institute and offer excellent approaches to handling stress.
  • Feel. Know that your feelings are right, and they are temporary. If you feel you need help processing your emotions, please consider seeing a therapist to help you.
  • Move. It doesn’t have to be high-intensity interval training. Any time you move your body in a way that you enjoy, that is good.
  • Savor. Experience and enjoy your food. Experiment. Slow down. Smell it. Taste it. Eat only enough to feel 70 percent full.

Good luck – together we can work to change the American pattern to one of balance and harmony.

Megan Odell, LAc, MS, is a licensed acupuncturist and offers services at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Abbott Northwestern.


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Tips on eating well to sleep well

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

The notion that in order to be fit and healthy, your body needs good nutrition applies to more than your waking hours.

“To prepare your body for a good night’s sleep, what you eat throughout the day can have a positive impact on overall energy, mood and the ability to achieve a restorative sleep,” said integrative nutritionist Jeannie Paris, RD, LD. “Good nutrition and good sleep go hand in hand.”

Tips on eating well to sleep well

  • Be careful with alcohol. Alcohol can disrupt sleep and cause fatigue the next day. Limiting alcohol may improve sleep. If you do have an alcoholic beverage, follow it with a glass of water to help rehydrate the body.
  • Serotonin is important to sleep. Serotonin is the “deep sleep neurotransmitter.” It is depleted in the body by alcohol, sugar, stress, caffeine and processed foods. If you are having trouble with sleep, try avoiding caffeinated beverages after lunch. Also try boosting intake of magnesium-rich foods, such as green, leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Magnesium is necessary for the body to process serotonin. Vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folic acid are also needed to synthesize serotonin.
  • Incorporate nutrient-rich foods to help achieve a healthy, restorative sleep. Along with avoiding foods that deplete serotonin, try incorporating foods that give your body tryptophan—an essential amino acid and a precursor of serotonin. These include: cheese, yogurt, eggs, poultry, meat and fish, and also nuts such as pecans, almonds or walnuts. In order to boost serotonin levels, tryptophan needs the help of a complex carbohydrate, such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, barley or yams.
  • Fight fatigue with food. There are many hidden causes to fatigue. Don’t ignore it. It’s important to have chronic fatigue checked out in order to rule out any medical causes. When the body is deficient in certain nutrients, it loses its ability to fight fatigue. These include vitamin D, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, iron and magnesium. Seek professional help from a nutritionist to learn more about incorporating these nutrients into your diet.
  • Try natural remedies to help with sleep. Certain teas such as chamomile before bedtime or scents such as lavender may help calm the body. Melatonin supplement may also be helpful for falling asleep, however be sure to talk with a health care professional before taking any supplements.
  • Know that sleep challenge changes as you age. Many people experience sleep issues during their 40s or 50s. For women, menopause and perimenopause are often factors. Hormonal fluctuations may cause sleep disruptions or hot flashes during sleep. Good nutrition plays an important role in dealing with these changes. The recommendations on how to address these issues are so individualized that it’s important to talk to a health profession.

To make an appointment with Paris, call the LiveWell Fitness Center at Abbott Northwestern Hospital at 612-863-5178 or the Penny George Institute – Unity Hospital at 763-236-5656.


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Live well, live happy: The role of relationships in happiness

83496526_mother_daughter_web.happiness.relationships.blogBy Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

This is part two in a LiveWell blog series on happiness that launched in January with  “Live well, live happy.”

Studying what makes us truly happy is a fairly recent endeavor. For decades, scientists studied unhappy people and mental illness.

Then along came positive psychology with the notion, “Hey! Why don’t we study people who are really happy and satisfied?” Just as wellness is not merely the absence of disease, so happiness is not simply the absence of mental illness.

The good news is that your happiness depends a tiny bit on circumstances and vast amounts on what we do with those circumstances.

One of the most overwhelming findings is that happy people are deeply connected to others and conversely that deeply connected people are happier. These folks have rich, strong and soul satisfying relationships. It’s important to note that anyone can attain this.

Think for a moment about the best times in your life— your high points and proud moments. If you are like most people, these moments were spent with others, such as a wedding or the birth of a child.

Now think about receiving some good or bad news. What is your first impulse? I’m guessing that it is to share this news with someone close to you. Remember the saying that a close relationship can multiply the joys and halve the sorrows? It turns out to be true.

At the time of this writing, one of my best friends is in hospice with days to live. He is not surrounded by his many degrees, a bank account statement, his car or other stuff. He is instead encircled by family members, friends and loved ones who in turn are blessed by each other and by his strong yet gentle spirit. He has led a good and satisfying life and though there is sadness, there is celebration at what his life has meant.

As you look to boost your happiness through relationships consider that not only will they support your happiness, they may enhance your health through:

  • an enhanced immune system
  • reduction in inflammation
  • reduction in heart disease and high blood pressure
  • lower mortality
  • significant reduction in stress.

Here are some proven and practical ways to build relationships:

  • Make time. In our hyper-scheduled world, this may feel impossible. If that is the case, consider how much time you spend each week on your computer, smart phone or watching TV. Can you spare any of that time for a relationship?
  • Be present. For many of us, our phones have become an appendage. Are you fully present for your loved ones? Research shows benefits of being together even without talking, such as walking together or listening to music.
  • Express admiration, appreciation and affection directly. Even though “I love you” is the most obvious, other phrases can go a long way including: “I appreciate that you make coffee every morning for me,” “I am so proud and excited about what you are doing with your art,” or “I love knowing that I get to have lunch with you!” Additionally, resolving to react actively and constructively to your friends’ news will build strong bonds. “I am thrilled for you — that promotion is well deserved and you earned it!”

Here’s to building your health and happiness through your relationships — what a joyous route!

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.


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Exercise tips for sleeping well

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

According to Sue Masemer, MS, sleep is usually not the primary reason that leads people to seek out exercise programs at the LiveWell Fitness Center, but that doesn’t mean that sleep isn’t related to overall fitness.

“Our clients often aren’t aware of the significant connection between quality sleep and exercise, and how great of an impact poor sleep may be playing in derailing their fitness efforts,” said Masemer.

Although the science of how exercise helps you sleep better is not fully understood, researchers do believe that it may have to do with temperature changes in the body that occur during and following exercise. The body’s temperature normally increases slightly as the day progresses and starts to decreases in the evening. It is assumed that this decrease in temperature may signal the body that it is time to sleep.

“The idea of exercising to gain more energy is somewhat counter-intuitive to people,” said Masemer. “After becoming more active, people often find that they have more energy throughout the day and actually feel more sluggish when they aren’t physically active. Consistent exercise has been shown to lengthen, deepen and improve the overall quality of sleep.”

Tips on how to incorporate exercise into your day to achieve a better night’s sleep

  • Figure out what suits your body best. As a general rule, people are usually encouraged to avoid high-intensity exercise within two to four hours of going to bed. This may make it more difficult to sleep as well as not allow the body enough time to cool itself down. Research suggests that for most people exercise in the late afternoon or early evening may work best for sleep enhancement. The key is to remember that exercise at any time is better than not exercising at all and you need to determine what works best for you with your sleep schedule.
  • Give yourself time. For people with significant sleep issues, it may take months to establish a quality sleep pattern. The benefits of exercise may not be seen right away, but they are there. Work with an exercise professional to determine the type and intensity level of an exercise program that works best for you.
  • If you can’t sleep, try gentle movement. If you suffer from insomnia and restlessness, you can try getting up and doing some light stretches, gentle yoga, or movement such as tai chi or qigong. Try this in a dimly lit place so that you don’t over stimulate your body.
  • Winter months are difficult for many. Really listen to your body. Try to think in terms of 10- to 20-minute blocks of exercise instead of half-hour or hour-long timeframes. Know that the benefits of exercise are cumulative. Research has shown that three, 10-minute activity sessions spread throughout your day are as effective as one 30-minute session.
  • Discover the hidden benefits of exercise through a fitness profile. At the LiveWell Fitness Center, a fitness profile includes a health history including complete muscular strength, flexibility, body fat and muscular endurance tests, along with a cardiovascular fitness assessment to establish ideal exercise levels and heart rate. The power of exercise is evident even during the assessment, as many people will discover that it is much easier to meet their goals and health needs when it is approached safely and is customized to meet your lifestyle. The results from a fitness profile are helpful to determine the best fitness plan for you, which may help you with sleep issues.

Sue Masemer, MS, is an exercise physiologist and manager of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. To make an appointment or learn more about the programs and services offered by the LiveWell Fitness Center, call 612-863-5178.