Photo by Jackie Krage of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.
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.
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
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.
After the rush of the holiday season, the first few weeks of the New Year can feel like the slate has been wiped clean. As winter deepens, life in the natural world slows down, too.
Take this opportunity to enjoy the stillness and consider what’s important to you, said Mary Beth Lardizabal, DO, psychiatrist, Allina Health Mental Health – United Clinic, and a group leader of Resilience Training at the Penny George Institute.
Better yet, find a way to bring that calming stillness into your everyday life.
LIVING IN THE PRESENT
One way to do that is to practice mindfulness. “Mindfulness is simply paying attention and being present. It’s not thinking about the past or what might happen in the future. It’s living in the here and now,” Lardizabal explained.
For many of us, living in the present is surprisingly difficult. “Increasingly, we are overscheduled and don’t have time to relax and reflect,” she said.
Technology may be partly to blame. “Endlessly checking your email or social media newsfeed becomes a conditioned habit. You end up missing out on everything else going on around you.” Patterns like this become automatic. “Until you become aware, you can’t interrupt the pattern,” said Lardizabal.
“It’s like unconsciously eating. We keep walking to the refrigerator without thinking about it. Once we catch ourselves, we can make decisions about the behavior.”
HOW MINDFULNESS HELPS
But practicing mindfulness can have an even deeper impact on our lives.
“Self-acceptance and self-compassion is an important part of mindfulness and being self-aware. In this culture, we always want to be more than what we are without really accepting who we are right now,” said Lardizabal. “It’s good to strive for improvement, but if the motivation is because you dislike yourself, it’s a set-up for failure.”
Research confirms the value of mindfulness, said Jeff Dusek, PhD, director of Research at the Penny George Institute. “People who practice mindfulness see normal life events such as illness as a challenge to overcome rather than a roadblock to good health. They also experience a greater sense of self-control in their lives, have increased commitment to daily life, and believe the world is comprehensible, manageable and meaningful.”
HOW TO BUILD MINDFULNESS INTO YOUR LIFE
The Penny George Institute offers a variety of programs to help you explore mindfulness and put it to use in your daily life. To learn more, call 612-863-3333.
|Program||Best suited for:|
|Resilience Training – Eight-week intensive program that teaches mindfulness-based coping skills in combination with an individualized program of exercise and nutrition.||Individuals who have experienced depression, anxiety or other stress-related mental health conditions and are currently in recovery or wish to prevent relapse.|
|Mindfulness Training – Four-week experiential program offering tools to help manage stress and achieve a higher state of well-being.||Individuals who wish to explore new ways to manage stress and optimize their health and well-being.|
|Guided imagery MP3 albums – Three guided imagery albums focusing on pregnancy, stress management and pain management.||Individuals who would like to learn how to benefit from the mind-body connection using electronic tools to improve health and well-being.|
The toy catalogs had just been located, and I overheard several of my grandchildren discuss what they wanted for holiday gifts. It took me back to a simpler time when my stocking contained not only a toy and some candy, but also an apple, orange and banana. It was a special day, and those were treasured treats.
Today, healthy food options are readily available. However, these foods often aren’t included in holiday spreads due to a lack of planning, time, know-how or dollars.
We become victims of seasonal weight gain ― controlled by the food, beverages and treats that are placed in front of us. But what would happen if we took control of our nutrition this holiday season?
I know it can mess with a person’s mind to think of the holidays and nutrition at the same time. But one way to do this is to place an emphasis on nutrition, eating less and enjoying food more.
Seasonal nutrition means focusing on healthy foods in your diet that help you avoid mood swings, maintain energy, and improve your ability to handle whatever the season brings your way.
Here are seven tips to get you started:
Barb Brower, RD, LD, CTC, is a registered dietician and integrative health and wellness coach. She sees patients at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – WestHealth and LiveWell Fitness Center.
Resiliency and its connection to good health was highlighted in a Star Tribune article earlier this year. It explained that resiliency, the ability to bounce back despite life’s challenges, is being embraced for its role in promoting wellness through the mind-body connection.
In the article, Jeff Dusek, PhD, Research director at the Penny George Institute, said that resiliency is becoming more popular “as people are looking to accentuate the positive and improve resiliency as opposed to just reducing depression, anxiety or stress.”
The article also described the experiences of Deb Hitt, whose struggle with chronic pain led her to enroll in the Penny George Institute’s Resilience Training program. The program helped her gain a new perspective and learn new ways to deal with her pain. As Hitt explained in the article, “For a long time I focused on what I couldn’t do and what was hard for me. Today, I define my life by the positives that exist within me — my strengths, my talents and most importantly my resilience.”
The eight-week Resilience Training program is offered regularly at several locations in the Twin Cities. The next session begins Monday, Jan. 19. Call 612-863-0041 to register, or check the Resilience Training schedule for additional sessions.
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.
The following exhibits are at the Abbott Northwestern Hospital campus through the end of January 2015:
This is the last month to catch the art quilts and haiku of Janet Hovde on exhibit at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Unity Hospital. Hovde is an occupational therapist and certified healing touch practitioner. In her own experience with breast cancer, Janet found it useful to create a personal health plan. In this plan, she used art, haiku writing, energy healing, and affirmations to support herself.
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.
By Pauline Marie Buller, BS, NCTMB, CMLDT, CPMT, CIMT
Gratitude takes practice, but we do get better at it over time. Building it into our daily routine is important because thankfulness is one of the many components of a healthy spirit, mind and body. As the research studies below demonstrate, there is an association between gratitude and well-being.
Techniques for enhancing gratitude are relatively simple to incorporate into your routine. November is an especially good time to practice being thankful. As we move toward the holidays, extend your thanks-giving with these simple techniques for gratitude and well-being.
How to incorporate gratitude into your routines:
Pauline Marie Buller, NCTMB, is an integrative health practitioner with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. She provides integrative health services to inpatients at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, Minn., through a partnership with the Penny George Institute.
If Nancy Van Sloun, MD, could get one message across to all women, it would be this: Love the body you’ve been given.
In appreciating your body, Van Sloun, an integrative medicine doctor at the Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing-WestHealth, believes you are more likely to take care of it.
And rather than seeing aging and different stages of life as something to fear, Van Sloun advises women to embrace their life’s path. “It’s easy to focus too much on how we look,” she said. “Instead, we should be thinking about what’s next on our life’s journey: How can we best go through it, remain content and do the things that are most important to us?” Van Sloun identified some ways that women can live well throughout their lives.
Twenties and thirties
Whether or not you have children, this is a time when finding balance in your life can be a challenge. Van Sloun encourages women to recognize the importance of balance and to be thoughtful about building it into their lives. “Know what it is that fills you back up, and be deliberate about making time for it,” she said.
If you are planning a pregnancy, check in with your doctor to see what you should do to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Talk about whether vitamins and supplements might be helpful, and discuss any pregnancy risks you may face. If you already have children, remember that you’re a role model. “How kids eat, how physically active they are and how they respond to stress is reflected in what they see in you,” said Van Sloun. “Give your kids the gift of modeling a healthy lifestyle.”
Changes in your menstrual cycle and mood may be signs of peri-menopause. “These changes are easy for some women and harder for others, but overall, women tend to do better if they are exercising and eating a plant-based, whole food diet,” said Van Sloun.
Because we all lose muscle mass as we age, Van Sloun recommends that women include strength training in their exercise routine. “Maintaining muscle mass also makes weight gain less likely,” she said.
This is also a time when your family life may be changing. “It’s time to refocus on yourself and think about what’s next in your life,” said Van Sloun. Don’t overlook the emotional and spiritual components of health. “Maintaining social connections and having a sense of purpose is important to your health. If your focus has been on your kids or your job and that’s changing, you may need to cultivate new interests.”
Fifties and beyond
As we age and after we go through menopause, we are at higher risk for many diseases. At the same time, women are living longer after menopause. These are two important reasons to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight.
While women tend to focus on breast cancer, heart disease is a much bigger threat. “As much as 80 percent of heart disease can be prevented through modifying our lifestyles,” said Van Sloun.
With a longer life expectancy, you want to age well, said Van Sloun. “Investing now in eating an optimal diet, staying active and learning how to handle stress will reap benefits as you get older.”
Nancy Van Sloun, MD, sees patients at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – West Health in Plymouth. For appointments, call 612-863-3333.