(S)he enjoys true leisure who has time to improve his soul’s estate. - Henry David Thoreau
If you are anything like me, you’ve worked yourself to the nth degree and are in need of rejuvenation. After all, your soul’s estate is only as valuable as its upkeep, right? However, is there any proven benefits to a spa retreat beyond that incredible boost of endorphins that feed an overall sense of wellbeing?
Evidently, there really is! In fact, contrary to what many believe, newly-published research in Integrative Medicine suggests that the combination of caloric restriction, colonic therapy, meditation and yoga may provide the body with actual physiological benefits beyond the feeling of wellness. Mind you, certain practices like caloric restriction can be downright dangerous if not effectively carried out, reducing much needed vitamins and minerals, resulting in a loss of lean body mass and even taxing the heart. Colonic hydrotherapy, i.e. removing toxins from the intestines, has likewise been questioned, namely because there are few data to support claims of therapeutic benefit and without proper guidance, may result in nausea, vomiting, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
However, in this very small study of 15 healthy women and men, a one-week, intensive spa program that focused on three main areas – calories, toxins and stress management — yielded some surprising results. Roughly three to four days before a week at the spa, the participants switched out their normal eating habits for fruit, raw and steamed veggies, salads, juices and herbal teas, 2 tablespoon of olive oil at bedtime, 8 oz of prune juice every morning and laxative teas at night. They were also asked to avoid potatoes, bananas, all grains, pasta, meat, dairy, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol.
At the spa, all received at least four colonic treatments and did 800 calorie juice-fast cleanses (all herbal teas, veg/fruit juices, probiotics, digestive enzymes, herbal laxatives, olive oil, vegetarian liquid protein supplements, vegetarian soup and water with lemon). They also participated in daily structured meditation and yoga programs as well as personal meditation to boost deep breathing, heightened awareness and calm.
The findings? Clearly, all participants dropped weight, which is to be well expected from caloric restriction; this weight loss averaged about 7 pounds. Likewise, there was expected decrease in blood pressure. Blood fat levels, namely total cholesterol, also benefitted, and levels of mercury declined in some participants, which supports the hypothesis that this type of program can help clear the body of certain toxins. Not surprisingly, the researchers also noted a significant decrease in stress, depression and anxiety and saw improvements in anger levels, tension and fatigue. Spirituality scores also improved, probably as a result of meditation and the group appeared to be more intensely unified than before the spa visit.
Researchers say that while the study is quite small, it appears that intensive spa programs may have some real benefits. One thing to note is that the participants experienced changes in sodium and chloride levels. This indicates that some of these interventions do affect electrolyte levels and therefore, can be risky in people who are predisposed to imbalances or on certain medications like diuretics. The researchers also recommend that before participating in ‘extreme spa,’ that you have a complete physical to insure that your body is up to the task.
Extreme spa or gentle spa that focuses on health, balance and internal (re)connection. All may hold the key to estate management. Your soul will thank you!Read More
L’Chaim. To life!
Several years ago, my mother shared a story about a dear friend’s mother dying the day before the friend’s daughter was getting married. In Judaism, those who pass are typically buried with 24 hours. This is dictated by the Torah. Kabbalah teachings also suggest that immediate burial brings closure to the soul in terms of its relationship to the physical body, thereby allowing it to pass over. In this particular situation, the rabbi told my mother’s friend to have the wedding first, and then the funeral.
Life before death.
Although my mother told me this story within another context, I relate it to connections and their growing importance in our lives as we age.
Data from a study published in Psychological Review in 2000 suggests that women’s inherent response to stress is to ‘tend and befriend’ rather than ‘fight or flight;’ in other words, there is a biologically-defined strategy or pattern that involves caring for offspring, joining social groups, and gravitating towards friends under stressful circumstances. This is driven, at least in part, by the release of the hormone oxytocin, which coupled with endogenous opioids and other sex hormones, promotes maternal behavior as an alternative to the male-oriented fight and flee response.
Findings from the Nurses Health Study have also shown that friendships help prevent the development of physical impairment and facilitate a more joyful existence. What’s more, having a strong social network can lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve cholesterol levels.
Our community is ever more important as we begin to lose family members to illness, our children begin their own journeys and our hormones start to wreak havoc on our bodies and our minds. Nature has provided us with a built-in prompt to maintain those ever important bonds. Our inherent tendency to nurture completes the picture.
It appears that as women, we possess the strongest alternative strategy to aging in existence. Our friends.
Ready to burst a bubble, as in, your own?
When was the last time you asked for help? Better yet, how easily do you ask for and receive help?
Reading Karen Rosenthal Hilsberg’s “Lessons in Living” and her struggle to make sense of a life unraveled as her husband dies, I can’t help but reflect on a close friend who was ill several years ago. Despite a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude, he had trouble acknowledging the seriousness of his condition and even more trouble asking for support. Quite honestly, he doesn’t do too well in that department and neither do I. However, like him, I readily offer assistance to those I love and care about, whenever I can.
So, why the divide between offering and taking?
Hilsberg writes that “what I learned during this intense time of life was profound. I learned to ask for help from others.” Utilizing the mindfulness practice of the Zen Master, Buddhist monk and scholar Thich Nhat Hanh and the Buddhist Master Thich Phuoc Tinh, she says that she discovered that asking for help really wasn’t much different than providing it, that the helper and ‘helpee’ were intertwined, unable to exist without the other. By allowing assistance, she was able to provide others who cared about her and her family an opportunity to “be of service and to practice generosity” and in doing so, make a shift away trying to do everything on her own. Most importantly, by reflecting on how much she personally enjoyed being of service when loved ones needed her, she was able to accept how appropriate and okay it was to actually ask for help from others — to allow them to “do” as much as she did. The result? Her “wellbeing improved as [she] felt [her] burden shared by many hands.”
As caretakers, many women often do not adapt well to being on the “receiving end.” And yet, most of us are aware of the importance of social ties, friendships and support to our health and wellbeing, particularly as we age. So why do we find it so difficult to ask for and receive help? How do we acknowledge that be cared for does not equate to losing power or control but actually improves outlook, wellbeing, and ability to deal with any challenges that we might be facing, that allowing others to “do” empowers and does not ‘de-power?’ Is it fear of refusal? Or fear of letting go?
Mastering the art of asking for help is difficult. However, it behooves us to do so, not only for our wellbeing but for the wellbeing of those around us who wish to help.
My friend deserves the kind of care that he has provided to others in his life for most of his life.
So do you.Read More
This week is dedicated to wellbeing. The wellbeing of the collective “we.”
According to the National Accounts of Well-being, wellbeing (hyphen optional) means having a sense of vitality, enjoying and undertaking activities that have meaning and most importantly, possessing “a stock of inner resources to help cope when things go wrong,” resources that create a thicker skin and the ability to bounce back when life happens, the type of life that is beyond our immediate control.
When was the last time you took stock of your wellbeing and your resources?
While I am taking care of my wellbeing from afar, I would like to resurrect a few posts dedicated to wellbeing. Because you’re worth it. We all are!
Laughter. It’s never to late to remind ourselves of the lighter side.
Several years ago, researchers discovered that humor therapy and anticipation of laughing or being amused (also known as mirthful laughter) positively affects immunity. In fact, findings from a series of five separate studies among healthy men demonstrated that just anticipating watching a funny video could increase beta-endorphins (hormones that elevated mood) as much as 17% and human growth hormone (which contributes to more optimal immunity) by as much as 87%. Elevated hormones levels were maintained throughout the video and as long as 12 hours after. Conversely, hormone levels did not increase in men who who did not anticipate watching a humorous video and instead, browsed magazines.
Similar results were seen in another study among healthy adult women; this time mirthful laughter was associated with significant declines in stress hormones and improvements in natural killer cells, which contribute favourably to immune function.
Over the past two years, researchers have been examining the effects of mirthful laughter on actual disease states. Findings of a year-long study presented two years ago at the Experimental Biology Conference suggest that watching a funny, 30-minute video on a daily basis may impart a long lasting impact on health that includes:
- Lower stress hormones (epinephrine and norepinephrine) and related stress levels
- Lower levels of inflammation that can contribute to disease
- Significant improvements in HDL cholesterol
- Significant reductions in harmful C-reactive protein levels (a protein that increase the risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke and death)
This particular study evaluated laughter in patients with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol who were also taking medication. Notably, similar positive outcomes were not seen in patients who did not have the benefit of watching the funny video.
What can we take away from this work and what does it have to do with menopause? Actually, I’d like to ask, what doesn’t it have to do with menopause and midlife?
During the transition, women are subject to hormonal stressors that affect mood, functioning, wellbeing as well as disease risk. If there are simpler, more natural ways to improve healthy states, for example, by daily laughter, shouldn’t we reach for them? I’d rather take a dose of funny over pharma any given day.
Here’s my gift to you: laugh today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And spread the joy. Nothing like a deep belly laugh to take some of life’s challenges away.
When you think ‘Bootcamp,’ you probably think fitness or the military, right? But what about a boot camp geared towards helping you grow professionally as a speaker, boost your self-confidence or develop new skills? All within the safety and support of two of your most trusted colleagues or friends? That’s what is so intriguing about my longtime friend Jill Foster’s Unleash Your Talk program.
I contacted Jill when I first heard about Unleash Your Talk, namely because I was so intrigued. And when we started to delve into exactly what it was, format resonated deeply — not only because of the deep respect I have for Jill and her skills — but also because it reflected on of my long time goals to encourage women to support one another.
No matter our age, situation, relationship status, creed, religion, or color we rely on our friendships and networks to raise us up and bring us out of the darkness into the light, to fully blossom, thrive and grow, to create, express and love.
- Data from a study published in Psychological Review in 2000 suggests that women’s inherent response to stress is to ‘tend and befriend’ rather than ‘fight or flight;’ in other words, there is a biologically-defined strategy or pattern that involves caring for offspring, joining social groups, and gravitating towards friends under stressful circumstances. This is driven, at least in part, by the release of the hormone oxytocin, which coupled with endogenous opioids and other sex hormones, promotes maternal behavior as an alternative to the male-oriented fight and flee response.
- Findings from the Nurses Health Study have also shown that friendships help prevent the development of physical impairment and facilitate a more joyful existence. What’s more, having a strong social network can lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve cholesterol levels.
The bottom line is that Mama Nature has provided us with a built-in prompt to maintain those ever important bonds. Our inherent tendency to nurture completes the picture. It appears that as women, we possess the strongest alternative strategy to aging in existence: our friends.
So, let’s get back to Unleash your Talk. Jill has taken the premise of achieving long term gains in health and wellbeing, i.e. strengthening friendships and support networks and has applied the same philosophy to public speaking. Unleash Your Talk provides a means for women who want to explore new facets and avenues for growth in their professional lives to do so in an intimate, supportive environment. The ultimate goal is not only to identify your personal, professional beliefs that drive you but also to provide a strategy that allows you to share those skills with others in a meaningful fashion. And Jills says that whether or not participants select a four-hour or full-day intensive, they will achieve, at minimum, a stronger ability to assert and present themselves in a public setting,an approach to communicate persuasively in power situations (e.g. client/boss scenarios) and means to break through the barriers that keep them from achieving success, whatever that looks like (e.g. what if I look or sound imperfect?). The more intensive full day also includes three take-away speaker proposals, a video content/performance project and review, and ongoing access to a coach for 30 days.
For women in midlife, reentering the job force, changing careers or delving into more professional speaking roles can be paralyzing. I love that Jill has taken the basic tenets of health and wellness, i.e. support, caring for one another, trust and communication, and applied them to a strategy to empower and enable. When we think about it, most of us have one or two people we bounce ideas off of consistently, whether they are personally or professionally-oriented. Unleash Your Talk promotes the medical and social concept of trusted peers and utilizes this dynamic as a means to move us forward in a professional, structured capacity.
Jill says that “public speech is public power.” I would like to add that public speech is personally empowering and personal power.
Check out this recap of a bootcamp that Jill conducted a few weeks ago. Isn’t it time to unleash your power? And Unleash your Talk?
Based in the Washington, DC region, she is a speechwriter and delivery coach, helping people develop distinct message & voice as public speakers.
Cited by ForbesWoman as one of 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter, Jill Foster is principal of Live Your Talk. Based in the Washington, DC region, she is a speechwriter and delivery coach, helping people develop distinct message & voice as public speakers. Believing strong communities come from strong conversations (and public speaking skill) — Jill works with award-winning entrepreneurs, CEOs, and innovators makin’ it happen as public speakers — on stages likeTED and TEDx, Ignite, plus a variety of keynotes around the globe. A social technology advocate, her work has been in conversation in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Guardian UK, Washingtonian Magazine, and a range of media outlets.Read More