Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Healing is a lifestyle

by Beth Nolte, L.Ac.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.  –Aristotle

No matter the specifics of our healing journey, whether working to heal a physical condition, old patterns that no longer serve us, or a trauma that we have experienced, we often hear an inner voice telling us that some part of our life is out of balance. That voice is our intuition, our body wisdom, sending us a message about what we can do to support and further the healing process. However, making changes can seem daunting, and we often procrastinate doing those things we know we really should do.

The good news is that change doesn’t have to be drastic to promote healing – in fact, even small adjustments to our daily life can have a huge impact. Rather than making sweeping changes to our diet or exercise program, just a few healthy choices, made repeatedly and consistently, can create a truly healing lifestyle.

So what are the things your intuition is urging you to do? It might be…

Exercise & Go outside ~  Did you know that 10 minutes of exercise per day has been shown to improve cardiovascular and heart function and overall health? If you haven’t been exercising regularly, 10 minutes per day is the perfect way to begin: there will be noticeable improvements in energy levels, sleep, cognitive function and mood, with a minimal risk of injury. If you're ready for more, exercising vigorously for 40 minute workouts, 3 times per week confers additional benefits for blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

You don’t need exercise equipment or an established program to get started. Walking for 10 minutes and a few basic stretches is an easy way to achieve balanced exercise for the whole body. YouTube is a great resource for free instruction with videos of many different exercise programs. There are phone apps as well that can help you get started. Also, many at-home exercise programs include 10 minute options, such as Yoga Tune-up’s At Home DVD program, and Barre3’s online workouts

In addition to exercise as part of a healing lifestyle, research shows that spending time outside in natural light promotes feelings of happiness and well-being, improves concentration and also speeds the healing process. Best of all, you can combine outdoor time with exercise by taking a walk around the neighborhood or through a park. It’s truly good for body, mind and soul.

Express your creativity ~  The creative force is an important part of being human, and studies show that it benefits our health when we explore it. In The Connection Between Art, Healing and Public Health, researchers examined over 100 studies and concluded that engaging in creative art (painting, writing, dance, music, and more) improves immune function, reduces stress, anxiety and depression, promotes feelings of well-being, flow and spontaneity, and improves medical outcomes.

If you haven’t explored your creative side recently, pick up an old hobby or try something new: make a collage of pictures that inspire you, use a camera or your cell phone to document your life, spend some time journaling, or express life's frustrations and joys with some paint or modeling clay. Whether you create something simple or complex, expressing yourself creatively can be profoundly healing.

Massage therapy ~  Massage therapy  is an integral part of the healing process for many conditions. The professional massage therapists at Radiant Health Center are skilled at identifying and treating areas of muscular tightness, structural imbalance and fascial restriction. Massage improves blood and lymph circulation, promotes hydration of muscles and fascia, breaks up adhesions/scar tissue, reduces pain and tightness, and improves structural (and postural) balance. Through these actions, massage therapy can help each of your body systems function more efficiently. And it feels great too!

Self-massage strategies ~  Between professional bodywork treatments, it can be helpful to do regular self-massage with foam rollers, therapy balls and other tools. Some areas of tightness and adhesion make significant progress with gentle manual therapy on a regular basis. It can be especially helpful after exercise and in times of increased soreness and pain to treat yourself daily. Here at Radiant Health Center, we LOVE self-treatment with rollers and therapy balls. We’re working on a series of how-to videos on self-massage and stretching strategies, so stay tuned to our blog and YouTube channel for more on these topics.

Acupuncture ~ According to traditional Chinese medical theory, the body, mind and emotions are one interconnected whole with each part affecting the others. An imbalance that develops in one aspect of our physiology will cascade across body systems in ways that are predictable, and in patterns that have been studied for thousands of years. This system views the body as having pathways of communication (meridians and acupuncture points) that can be stimulated to create specific effects in the body, mind and emotions.

Modern research shows that acupuncture reduces pain and inflammation locally and also along neuromuscular pathways (i.e., not locally, but in an area that is connected through the fascia). It stimulates immune response, vasodilation and blood circulation in targeted areas. It can be used to release tight muscles and reduce stress. And, studies show that acupuncture communicates through the nervous system, sending signals to the brain, causing numerous changes such as the release of endorphins, stimulation of the parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system, changes in perception of pain, and more. Acupuncture is gentle yet powerful medicine and can be used successfully for many different conditions, such as pain, inflammation, injury, allergies and other immune issues, digestion, reproductive issues, and more.

Food & nutrition  ~  This area of our lives can get compromised during times of  tight finances or a busy schedule, but even small changes are often all that is needed to promote healing. Listen within: what is one change you know you should make? Do you eat a healthy breakfast? Should you eat more vegetables or more protein? Should you eat fewer sweets or less processed food? Do you have patterns of addiction that need to be addressed?

If you find resistance coming up within, just make one simple change, perhaps adding healthy snacks to your daily routine, like raw veggies, nuts and fruit. Do that every day and you are promoting healthy nutrition and a healing lifestyle.

If you are interested in a more thorough assessment, our nutritionist, Ellen Syversen, offers clients holistic nutrition counseling, therapy and education with the goal of correcting imbalances in body chemistry, and achieving optimal wellness naturally. Some of her areas of expertise include chronic fatigue, food sensitivities, pre-pregnancy optimization, hormonal balance through diet, digestive problems, blood sugar issues, childhood nutrition and weight management. Ellen loves to practice what she preaches, and enjoys getting people excited about expanding their food horizons and using natural supplements to restore health and wellness.

Get some alone time, and moments of silence  ~  Modern life is abundant in fast-paced, high stress activities. To support our ability to be dynamic and take action, we need to nourish the other side of the coin as well: silence, rest and some time alone. The Chinese tai ji (yin-yang) symbol demonstrates this“Activity and stillness alternate; each is the basis of the other.” We need both action and rest, movement and stillness, communication and silence. With all the demands of modern life and of family, it can be a challenge to take time out just for ourselves, but for many of us it can be a very important addition to our life.

Give back to the community  ~  It takes a village, as the saying goes, and we are truly, at a deep level, interdependent. Repeated studies show that helping others makes us happier and also promotes healing in ourselves. It is also found that witnessing others’ difficulties can put our own troubles into perspective, and reduce our feelings of anxiety and depression. Even a small amount of time each month dedicated to helping others can be deeply healing for ourselves.

So, what is your inner voice urging you to do?

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