The National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH) | Pioneers of Whole Health Education® and Whole Person Care
December 20, 2016

Building Fulfilling Relationships

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

It’s a fact: Lack of effective communication is a leading cause of divorce and the breakdown of relationships between parents and children, as well as between employees and their employers. There is no doubt that communication in all types of relationships can make or break them, but changing how we relate to one another is easier said than done. This is because of inherited or past communication patterns that can quickly lead to hurt feelings or emotional disconnection. What’s more, most people don’t have the knowledge, skills or the time to invest in changing how they behave.

Recall that in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, social fulfillment is the third most most prominent tier. So how do we go about building and shaping relationships that fulfill our needs? And, more important, how do we repair dysfunctional dynamics to restore relationships that fail to do so?

First, let’s understand the source of discontent. Most behaviors in relationships have been developed over time and are the result of several types of conditioning. The family we were raised in, the environment we grew up in and our experience of important relationships in our lives all craft how we learn to “do” relationships and how we behave in them.

Our Value

We all want to be valued. And in the deepest part of ourselves, we know that. But we often forget that when we encounter each other. Many of us are unfulfilled in our lives, and many of us have hungry hearts. Yet we are not sure why our relationships are unsuccessful, and the cruelest cut is that we seem to repeat the same patterns and behaviors in relationships over and over again — even when we think we are making different choices in the friends or partners to whom we are attracted.

Fortunately, we can  transform our behavior to create the deeply satisfying relationships we want.

Origins Of Behavior

Let’s understand where our behaviors come from. By the time we are 7 or 8, billions of sensory motor stimuli and messages have informed us how to respond and adapt to our environment in order to provide the best possible chance of survival. From these neurological feelings or responses come our protective strategies of how to live and survive, what to believe and value, and, ultimately, how we form our worldview.

These psychological perceptions are drawn from what we experience within the environment in which we are raised. Our environment is both external and internal, made up of incoming stimuli from outside the self and internal stimuli — biochemical or physiological — that send messages to our brain. These developed adaptation patterns become integrated with personality and have a significant effect on our behaviors.

The self consists of three components: emotions, beliefs and worldview. These components strongly influence our behavioral choices, as well as our attachment to those choices. This is why it is so difficult to change anyone else’s behavior, much less try to change ourselves.

Only when our thinking mind and our emotional mind recognize information that can enhance or improve our survival — or enhance how we experience our self — does a psychological opening occur that allows change to take place.

Communication Patterns

The way we communicate in our culture today runs completely against the type of communication necessary to create self-discovery or self-awareness. The American Psychiatric Association has de-classified Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a psychological condition, because approximately 25 percent of the population is manifesting narcissistic behavior. This behavior of self-absorption and self-centeredness does not bode well for creating fulfilling relationships if the relationship is all about us or if it is all about them.

Understanding that we all want to be valued and cared about is the first step to changing our relational behavior. We are so busy trying to get our own needs met that many of us take our partners, friends, family or other significant relationships for granted. We don’t stop and think: “This person wants the same thing I do from a relationship.”

Pure Presence

The simple, proven communication skills of Pure Presence will start you on the road to transforming your relational behavior and ultimately transforming the quality of your relationships.

Step One of Pure Presence™ is to begin any exchange with the decision that you are going to be fully present to the person you are speaking with. You will clear out all forms of distraction and will no longer be looking over their head at who else might be coming in the room; absentmindedly playing with your eyeglasses, watch or jewelry; thinking about what else you want to be doing; or interrupting what the other person is saying so you can say what you are thinking about while you are not listening to what they are saying.

The first step to changing your relationships is to change your own behavior and then to understand how important relationships are in your life — to your health, success and happiness.

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Published in Holistic Health, Whole Health, Whole Health Living | Comments (0)

December 13, 2016

Loneliness and Isolation Affect Our Health

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

Naturally, everyone feels lonely at one time or another. It may seem harmless, but loneliness and isolation are part of a fast-growing epidemic in this country. At any one time, 60 million Americans report feeling alone. It’s an invisible discomfort that can lead to physical disease. New research suggests that social isolation creates so much stress and strain that it might be a bigger threat to your health than obesity.

Necessities To Survive

This shouldn’t be surprising. Abraham Maslow, MD, PhD, ranked belonging as the most important necessity to our survival after food, water, shelter and our immediate safety was taken care of. Relationships, or the belonging component of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, is also the most difficult imperative that most of us experience as human beings.

Unhealthy Trade Off

Being in relationships that feel bad is unhealthy and unhappy – and not being in relationships with others can also feel bad, unhealthy and unhappy. This is why many individuals, especially females, will remain in unhealthy situations even though they do not want to continue in a dysfunctional relationship.

Depressed Functioning

In numerous studies, loneliness (especially in the elderly) has been shown to have a significant impact on an individual’s health and well-being in addition to their feeling of being valued or loved. Depression is a real problem for those experiencing loneliness. Depression has an immediate impact on an individual’s health and ability to function.

Alternative Solutions

Relationships with pets has increased dramatically over the last 10 years in the U.S. Pets can eliminate the sense of being “alone” or lonely and have proven to have healing effects on individuals of all ages and all stages of illness.

Even our relationships with plants can help us to feel less alone and caring for them provides a sense of purposeful work and fulfillment.

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Published in Whole Health Living, Whole Person Health | Comments (0)

December 6, 2016

A Recipe For Peace And Goodwill

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

Looking at the state of the world at large, it can be difficult to see a reflection of the upcoming holiday sentiment: “Peace on earth — goodwill towards mankind.” In its place we find conflict, hostility, divisiveness, political mistrust, crime, greed and pending financial collapse.

Daily news headlines dampen the message of the Yuletide. Thankfully there are, and always have been, organizations and individuals that are focused on peace-making and global welfare. They demonstrate that we as a world community can live together in harmony.

Food has often been a starting point for community building as well as peace-making. Many decades ago, in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the “Public Law 480”, which was expanded and renamed under President Kennedy as “Food for Peace.” In 1961, Kennedy redefined the program and set the tone for food as peace-keeping by saying, “Food is strength, and food is peace, and food is freedom, and food is a helping to people around the world whose good will and friendship we want.”

Food as we know it is one of the critical factors, along with water and shelter, for our survival. Yet, it nurtures us in ways beyond the physical. It is also a central part of human relationships and cultures. The holiday season is well-marked with food as the centerpiece of our festivities, celebrations and gatherings. This year, choose foods that nourish inside and out.

Nutrition is powerful. In keeping with the theme of food as a reality and metaphor for our survival, a remarkable organization, Chefs for Peace, is showing us once again the power of food as an effective agent for social and political change. A Jerusalem based multi-cultural group of chefs use food and cooking to demonstrate that living together peacefully is possible for all, no matter what faith or culture one comes from. The group includes Arabs, Jews, Christians and Muslims all working together to prepare meals for celebrations, galas and culinary competitions. They share their love of food and nourishing others to transcend any differences between them and have created a respectful and trusting partnership within this visionary group.

Chefs for Peace began in Jerusalem in 2001, by its founder Kevork Alemaian and a group of Jewish, Muslim and Christian chefs. It is a non-profit organization “committed to exploring cultural identity, diversity and coexistence through food…[that] understands food — its preparation, sharing, and enjoyment — as a powerful means of creating a bond with others and revealing that which is valued by all three faiths: food, family and friends… peace happens every day, in the kitchen and around the table!” The members believe that rather than leaving it to politicians to enact change and bring about peace, it will take “real people living and working together to create peace.”

Their unique cuisine reflects their belief in the value of blending various cultures and that sharing a simple meal is an act of peace and community. While the notion of “breaking bread” or sharing the nourishment of food as peacemaking is not a new one, the Chefs for Peace actively demonstrate how peace and goodwill-making, through shared nourishment, is a welcome and refreshing example of how this basic human need can heal and unite.

As the holiday season comes upon us, it is good to reflect upon on our family and community celebrations can serve to nourish and foster goodwill for all. In this spirit, here is the Chefs for Peace recipe for Fresh Figs stuffed with Mushrooms and Pecans — something healthy and new to serve up for the holidays. Figs are filled with essential A and B vitamins in addition to calcium, potassium and a generous amount of fiber. Furthermore, this recipe celebrates various cultural appetites with its unique combination of seasonings.


1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup minced onion
1/3 cup minced cremini mushrooms
1/3 cup minced toasted pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
Pinch of cloves
1/4 cup tamarind paste
1 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
12-14 fresh figs


1. In a medium sauté pan, heat butter and olive oil. Add onion and mushrooms and sauté until golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Add pecans and half of cardamom, allspice, and cinnamon. Add a pinch of cloves, plus salt to taste. Stir well, cooking until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Add remaining cardamom, allspice, and cinnamon to pan (without cleaning it), plus tamarind paste, water, and sugar. Blend well with a whisk, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring often, until sauce becomes smooth and velvety, about 5 minutes. Whisk in mascarpone cheese until smooth and sauce is heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more sweeteners, if desired.

3. Slice top 1/2 inch of figs almost all the way through, but still attached. Use a 1/4-teaspoon measuring spoon to dig out fig flesh; put in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons fig flesh to mushroom mixture and mix well. Stuff figs with mixture, overfilling slightly. Place stuffed figs in pan with sauce, spooning sauce over them. Bring to a gentle boil; then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.

PER SERVING (1): 103 cal, 38% fat cal, 5g fat (2g mono, 1g poly, 1g sat), 5mg chol, 1g protein, 16g carb, 3g fiber, 8mg sodium

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Published in Holistic Nutrition, Integrative Nutrition | Comments (0)

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