The National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH) | Pioneers of Whole Health Education® and Whole Person Care
October 10, 2017

Being Happy With Yourself

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

Being Happy With Yourself

With such a strong emphasis on achievement, accumulation and recognition in our society, it is easy to become discouraged or disappointed with who or what we perceive ourselves to be, especially in how we stack up in the “pecking order” with those around us. Being happy with yourself is a choice that each of us can make every day by taking simple, practical steps to develop habits of happiness.

Take the first step towards happiness right now. It starts with creating an environment to work and live in that reduces stress and workload and brings order and ease, making your work and living easier. This uplifting environment can also provide the experience of soothing tranquility rather than focusing on the disorder and chaos that often become the working and living environments we find ourselves in.

Start With A Clean Slate

Clean out your desk drawers and closets, discarding excess. Redefining what is important to keep and what feels good to get rid of is a first step to creating a peaceful and happy living or working space. Creating an environment that truly resonates with your values is like building an oasis in the desert. By eliminating the need to accumulate more and more “things” around us, we can unburden ourselves and have a more orderly, relaxing and peaceful space to live and work in.

Review Your “Friends List” 

This same philosophy can be applied to your circle of friends and acquaintances. Just like with material things, we can also accumulate unnecessary or unwanted relationships that can make demands on our time and energy and often insert negativity or sap our physical or financial resources. Clearing out the toxic or unhealthy relationships we may have can bring personal renewal and further our sense of happiness and contentment.

Embrace Family

Take the time to appreciate family. For most of us there are few individuals who have done more for us than our family members. This includes the people in our family who support us, are there when we need them and provide a “safe harbor” throughout our lives.

Losing loving family members can be devastating but no more so than when we fail to appreciate them as they are helping us along life’s bumpy road. Take the time to give back and express your gratitude to those who care and nurture. Not only will this bring them pleasure and a sense of being appreciated, but it will become a reminder of how loved and cared for we are. That allows us to feel more content and happy with being who we are.

For more information about this topic, you can access a free excerpt from the bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by visiting www.ChangingBehavior.org

Join the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to follow NIWH on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates filled with useful information for holistic nurses and whole health coaches or advocates.

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October 3, 2017

How Your Food Choices Affect Your Mood, And Vice-Versa

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

Food Affects Your Mood

Have you ever stop to consider how your food choices affect your mood? It’s interesting that the emphasis is usually on how things from the outside of us affect our insides. In reality so much of what is going on inside of us affects our outsides. That’s right, our mood and our food are intimately connected.

This is really evident in terms of weight loss and weight gain. The way we feel about ourselves, work, life, if we are fulfilled or dissatisfied, has more to do with what or how much we choose to eat than how eating a food has to do with how it “makes us feel.” Our food decisions are often linked to our level of emotional wellness.

One of the reasons diets don’t work is because the “work” is being done on the outside of the problem instead of the inside. I have been a nutritionist for over 30 years and have seen tens of thousands of patients who want to change the way they look or the way they eat.

When we start to “work” on the goal, within a relatively short period of time, they become aware that there are underlying feelings and emotions associated with not eating foods that help them to “medicate” or mask their feelings.

They often become discouraged because the feelings are uncomfortable and sometimes painful. It is our human nature to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. It takes courage to truly tackle and confront the underlying issues of “food and mood,” rather than focusing on the outside of the problem, to focus on the inside instead.

Here is an exercise you may find to be of value. If you are dealing with mood or food issues, keep a journal for 10 days. Write down everything you eat and how you feel when you don’t eat what you want, as well as how you feel when you DO eat what you want.

Just becoming more aware of what you are putting in your mouth and how it translates to how you feel after you eat a particular food, can be the start of a healthier and happier relationship with food and your mood. You can apply this knowledge as a holistic nurse or health coach too. Next time you meet with a patient, consider how their food choices may be affecting their overall mood, and vice versa. Consider ways to encourage wellness through a nourishing and wholesome diet paired with emotional support.

 

Join the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to follow NIWH on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates filled with useful information for holistic nurses and whole health coaches or advocates.

 

 

 

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September 26, 2017

Are Patients Who Belong To A Spiritual Community Inherently Healthier?

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

Are Patients Who Belong To A Spiritual Community Inherently Healthier?

Stuff happens — especially as we age. Our lives and health generally change. The usual causes include children leaving the nest, divorce, the loss of a spouse or partner, changing financial circumstances or any one of a dozen other events. Often the outcome of these changes can lead to sadness, loneliness, depression and decreased immune function, with the resultant lowered health indicators. Our immune system is an essential key to our longevity and as we age it becomes more important to preserve its function and integrity, especially for those of us over 55 years old. One common question I have encountered is whether patients who belong to a spiritual community are inherently healthier.

An interesting study at Duke University Medical Center found that older people who attended religious services at least once a week were about half as likely as those who do not attend services weekly to have elevated levels of an immune protein, interleukin-6 (IL-6), which serves as an indicator of how well the immune system is functioning.

IL-6 indicates the presence of inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been implicated in most major chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. This decreased level of IL-6 translates into a healthier immune system enjoyed by those with regular attendance at their religious community.

The Research

The Duke researchers, Dr. Harold Koenig and Dr. Harvey Cohen, studied 1,718 older adults in North Carolina, factoring into the outcomes the health conditions experienced by the study subjects. These included depression, chronic illness, and negative life events — all of which the researchers identified as likely to affect immune status. Even with these conditions, the improvement to the immune system in those who attended weekly services was evidenced.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and first reported in the October 1997 issue of the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, updated in 2004. These findings identified and suggest that religion or participation in a spiritual life community may affect immune function through better coping skills, psychosocial factors and the mechanisms by which organized religion promotes positive thoughts and behaviors.

However, there may be other factors at play as well. Feelings of belonging to a community, shared values, as well as the togetherness of a shared meaningful activity, such as worshiping with others, may be at the cause and effect of these findings.

Dr. Koenig, the lead author of the study, states:

 “Perhaps religious participation enhances immune functioning by yet unknown mechanisms, such as through feelings of belonging, togetherness, even perhaps the experience of worship and adoration… Such positive feelings may counteract stress and convey health effects that go far beyond simply the prevention of depression or other negative emotions.”

This study also raises the theory that there may be a factor in participating in such a weekly ritual that derails the experience of loneliness, experienced by older Americans to a larger extend than younger populations, and that this factor may be part of the healing effect of the weekly spiritual community attendance.

While Koenig had found similar outcomes in a different study a year before this study, those outcomes were based on personal interviews as markers for wellbeing and health status. In the latest study, blood samples were measured for the body’s chemicals such as alpha, beta and gamma globulins, fibrin d-dimers, lymphocytes, and neutrophils, which regulate immune and inflammatory responses, providing a more accurate and scientific measurement to the findings and in calculating how healthy a person actually is.

Subjectivity In The Field

“There is so much subjectivity when people say they feel better that you can’t rely on self reports alone to truly reflect health status,” said Dr. Harvey Cohen, professor of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development at Duke. “By measuring blood levels of IL- 6, we were trying to put rigorous scientific parameters on the positive health effects of religion,” he said.

Dr. Cohen explains that the team selected IL-6 as it has been identified as contributing to a wide spectrum of various age-related diseases. Cohen’s own research identified a relationship between high levels of IL-6 and a “poor functioning ability, which is a term that is used for tasks of daily living such as dressing, cooking, bathing and so forth.

Other studies have also shown IL-6 levels are elevated with diseases such as cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure in older adults. It seems that as we age our bodies decrease the ability to overcome the many challenges to our immune system and this leads to a decrease in its function and a greater vulnerability to all forms of illness.

The Women’s Health Initiative follow-up survey based on 92,529 post-menopausal women, at 50 years or older, identified that attending religious services increased life expectancy. This survey was taken with a diverse group of women who varied ethnically, religiously and socioeconomically. The study was funded by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute; National Institutes of Health; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report was published in the Journal of Religion and Health in November 2011. The report states that “those who attend services frequently were 56 percent more likely to have an optimistic life outlook than those who don’t — and were 27 percent less likely to be depressed. Those who attended weekly were less likely to be characterized by cynical hostility, compared with those who did not report any religious service attendance.”

Different Shades Of Health

Another study, published in the Winter 2001 Annals of Behavioral Medicine reported that “weekly religious attendants in 1965 were more likely to both improve poor health behaviors and maintain good ones by 1994 than were those whose attendance was less or none. Weekly attendance was also associated with improving and maintaining good mental health, increased social relationships, and marital stability.” So in that sense, yes, patients who belong to a spiritual community may be inherently healthier.

While further studies to explore and more fully understand this data is warranted, for us longevity-focused boomers, a return to a spiritual or worship community could represent an opportunity for renewed connection with others in a shared environment, as well as potential discernment and insight into the importance of belonging.

 

Join the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to follow NIWH on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates filled with useful information for holistic nurses and whole health coaches or advocates. 

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