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.
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?
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
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.|
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.
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.