“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” --John Muir
Even if you were a city kid, chances are that at some point, as a child, you played in the dirt. Maybe you made mud pies, or dug for hidden treasures. Maybe, if you were a science nerd like me, you commandeered your brother into helping you create a mini earthen volcano whose explosion wiped out a carefully staged village of Star Wars and GI Joe figures.
Whatever you did, there are certain things you remember: How if you dig down the earth is cool even in summer. How worms make a home in a subterranean world bereft of sun but populated with all sorts of fantastical creatures and crawly wonders. How weird it is that dirt is, well, where the word “dirty” comes from, but something about it on our hands feels so right and pure.
We used to play in the dirt. We used to experience the cool and the odd and the pure.
Why did we stop?
Maybe it’s because they have special homes for people who make mud pies in their forties. Maybe it’s that, in between work and house and family we don’t have time to dig for magical rocks. Maybe it’s that we’re too busy building careers to build volcanoes.
Whatever the reason, when it comes to the natural world, all too often our interaction with it is about containment rather than enjoyment: mowing lawns, killing “weeds” (who decides what a weed is, anyway?), covering up green grass with grey cement. We ignore the dirt, and go straight to our grown-up mission to abolish the dirty, the unkempt, the wild.
Nature isn’t neat. But it’s the stuff of life; we all come from it, and we’re all going back to it, so why exert so much effort in between trying to erase the connection?
Spending time with nature opens up a world of goodness to us. The wisdom of our childhood selves comes to the fore again, and we’re able to revel in wonder and feel ourselves part of an even wider family--one that includes fantastical creatures and crawly wonders.
Spending time in nature has actually been shown to be therapeutic--the Japanese even have a word for being mindfully present in a forest: shinrin-yoku means “forest bathing,” and it’s a scientifically proven form of eco-therapy.
Whether you walk in a forest, on a beach, through a mountain pass, or through your neighborhood park, we invite you to join us this month in a conversation about how our connection to nature is essential to our well-being and happiness. Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.
It’s May, and after having hit the snooze button way too many times, the world--or at least our little corner of it--is waking up from its winter slumber. Things that are new and green are making their way to the surface, reaching for the light.
It’s the same with us.
There are things, fresh and tender and alive with promise, just below the surface, aching for sunshine. Maybe it’s finally putting pen to paper and writing the poetry that lives in your soul. Maybe it’s finally putting one step in front of the other to start walking everyday. Maybe it’s finally putting to rest an old habit of negative self-talk to embrace compassion.
Whatever it is, Spring reminds us that the barren status quo doesn’t have to be, on either count. It’s a time to look with fresh eyes at the habits in our lives--to honor the ones that honor us, to release the ones that no longer serve, and to consider with optimism the beauty that can blossom if we let one or two of those green shoots take firmer root and grow.
We invite you to join us this month in a conversation about habits--how to celebrate them, let them go, or nurture new ones. Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”--Hippocrates
How many of us think of food as medicine? How many of us think of medicine as something icky and unpleasant to be ingested as quickly as possible?
The irony here is that food really is meant to be our medicine, but so often we settle for an icky and unpleasant version of it that brings us harm instead of benefit. Oh, it may taste good--but the effect on our physical, mental, and emotional health is where the real ickiness and unpleasantness comes in: processed foods, foods laden with preservatives and refined sugar, lead to a host of issues ranging from sluggishness, poor digestion, brain fog, headaches, and, perhaps most significantly, inflammation, which lies at the root of so many debilitating conditions.
The icing on the metaphysical cake is that, in order to deal with the dis-ease brought on by not choosing to relate to food as medicine, we have to….take medicine.
This blog is not meant to disparage the legitimate usage or possible value of pharmaceutical medicines. It is meant to say that if we pay attention to the food we eat as our primary source of ingested medicine, we will very likely need less of the pharmaceutical kind.
And so this April, as we wait for Spring to finally make her presence known, we’re turning our #chronicwellness focus to one area that can give most of us a whole new lease on life--not just survival, but life--vibrant, healthy, full of vitality and energy, purposeful and capable of fulfilling purpose.
We’ll be chatting with you this month about all things nutrition: whole foods, kicking the sugar habit, fruits, veggies, hydration… We’re looking to share quick tidbits, little bites of inspiration, recipes, and practical advice that will help us all rethink our relationship to food, and we’re looking for you to join in the conversation!
We invite you to join us in saying yes to food as medicine for a healthy and vibrant life! Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”--Anne Lamott
Cell phones. Tablets. Laptops. Desktops. Fitbits. Echo. Alexa. Siri. The astounding array of electronics by which we stay synced to our vast network of connections and entertainment and knowledge and consumables grows daily, and daily grows more... personal. It’s almost as if humans have reached into the Ethernet, and the Ethernet has reached back, offering us the immediate gratification we seek in a smooth and unflappable (female) voice.
And it’s fun. And informative. And helpful. The only thing it isn’t is real. Real happens when out feet touch the ground, and our hand touches our dog’s wet nose. Real happens when our arms embrace a friend, and when our lips kiss a loved one. Real happens when we go down a road because it has a cool looking tree despite the repeated announcement of “Recalculating.” Real is when we sit down at a table for a home-cooked meal instead of scarfing down microwaved hot pockets over the kitchen sink.
The conveniences of life are wonderful, as long as we remember that they are conveniences, and not life itself.
This week, we invite you to revel in the Real and unplug. We may just find out one of modern life's best paradoxes: the more we disconnect, the more we connect. Stay tuned for tips & inspiration--and don't forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.
There are few things in this world more powerful than kindness.
Think back to the last time you were surprised by the kindness of another, and the effect it had on you. Or the last time you graced another person’s life with an act of kindness. Chances are, it made your day as much as it did theirs.
And the news keeps getting better, as athletic director and massage therapist Stacy Ford explains. “Many feel acts of kindness can cost too much--give money to this school fundraiser, give time to that charity event, donate to everyone who asks. But an act of kindness can be practiced for FREE,” says Stacy. “They can be as simple as a smile, a hug, a kind word, a phone call to check on a friend, quality time with family.”
For Stacy, growing up in a home filled with kindness, and seeing the example of her parents sharing love so freely with friends and strangers, has helped shape her as a person. She credits her dad with teaching her that “an act of kindness, no matter how small, can be monumental to those receiving. He was a genuine man and superior example of giving and kindness. It was how he was raised and paid it forward.”
Stacy’s mom gave her example through her “generous heart,” impressing upon Stacy that it “doesn’t cost anything to share love and listen to others.”
For Yoga instructor Deb Zobel, kindness is a way of life. “The adage, ‘Do good and good will come back to you always felt uncomfortable for me,” she says. “In essence, it was just giving to receive. I like being kind. It sends out good vibes, makes someone happy, makes me happy and gives me a sense of peace. It’s just a way of life.”
Deb describes the cyclical effect of kindness. “Recently, much kindness has been offered to me, unsolicited and given freely. The kindness I’ve offered to others has come full circle, not because I expected it, but because others like being kind, too. Kindness is like a ring, having no beginning and no end. It continues to grow larger with each act of kindness put forth. We all have the opportunity to be part of the ring of kindness, as a giver or the receiver.”
Reiki and reflexology practitioner and teacher Tracy McGovern appreciates small, everyday acts of kindness. “It is the little things that truly mean so much. When I think of ‘acts of kindness,’ the scroll through my head looks like this:
Tracy points out as well the very special quality of random acts of kindness. “The first time this happened to me was a long time ago in the Starbucks drive thru line,” she says. “The car in front of me paid for my coffee. “I’m sorry, What?????” Sat there at the window with my eyes wide open in complete misunderstanding. It was like she spoke another language to me. And kind as she was, she repeated herself slowly, ‘The car before you PAID FOR YOUR COFFEE.’
Wow. Scrolling in the brain. What car was in front of me? Was it someone I knew who saw me in the rearview? Can I remember the car? Wow. Who does that?! This is AMAZING!!!!”
For Tracy, the random act of kindness had a ripple effect.
“Ya know what? It made me want to do it too. I felt SO amazed and moved that a mystery person who doesn’t know me, doesn’t know if I’m a good person or a total bitch. Doesn’t know my political party, my beliefs, if I’m thin or not….this person has no way to judge me and yet…...Wow.
I’m doing that. I’m inspired. And that never went away. Anytime I can I will and yes, I feel good when I do it--but that’s not why I do. I do it because that move totally rocks someone’s day. That random act of kindness makes someone else go ‘wow.’ And if they feel it like I do….it’s a little renewal of faith of humanity. And if we can get that train rolling--hell yea! I’m in. (Oh please let’s get THAT train rolling!)”
This week we invite you to hop on board that train and join us in saying yes to acts of kindness! Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.
Connections. They’re the unseen threads that link us to everyone and everything around us--our families, our friends, animals, nature, people we don’t even know, our source, and our very selves. How we nurture these relationships can make all the difference to living a happy and fulfilling life.
Here are a few thoughts about making the most of the connections in our lives:
This week we invite you to join us in saying yes to nurturing the connections in your life, whatever they may be for you! Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.
t’s your passport to foreign lands. It’s a doorway to imagination. It’s a teacher of languages, and a caster of spells. It’s an escape, an accomplice, a confidant. It’s a friend.
A good book is all of these things, and more.
“Each book is a treasure, waiting to be uncovered,” says myofascial release practitioner Lisa Franklin. “What secrets does it reveal, what new piece of information does it hold, where will it take me?”
Lisa’s been an avid reader since the age of four. “I’ve read a wide variety of things, one summer I spent reading the bible and the entire World Book Encyclopedia (that dates me, doesn’t it?). I’ve read matchbooks, pamphlets, booklets, comic books, War and Peace, the Greek tragedies, romance novels, self-help, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, lots of insurance course books and so much more!”
For Lisa, reading isn’t just an intellectual exercise--it’s a complete sensory experience. “I love the smell of books, the feel of the paper, the weight in my hands, the endless possibilities they represent.”
In addition to the sheer enjoyment, there are many other benefits to reading, Lisa explains. “Did you know reading regularly improves focus and attention? It aids in relaxation, creates stronger analytical skills, helps with writing skills, improves memory retention, expands vocabulary and provides so much enjoyment. Children who are read to at a young age are generally better students when they get to school because you’ve already set them on the path.”
Massage therapist and athletic trainer Stacy Ford enjoys reading for relaxation, but stresses that for people to reap the benefits of reading, they need to do it on their terms, finding a genre and method that works best for them so that it’s about enjoyment, not pressure.
“I am one of those people who doesn’t comprehend well when reading,” she says. “I do better with the learning styles of kinesthetic (hands-on) or visual (seeing something being done) or auditory (being told how things happen.) Which makes sense that I am an athletic trainer and massage therapist. I learn by touch and manipulating the body to reduce pain and assist in healing. For me to enjoy reading, the subject has to be either an engaging or fascinating topic, or a fictional story I can follow easily.”
Audiobooks complement traditional books for Reiki and reflexology practitioner and teacher Tracy McGovern, who always has one in her queue to transform boring or stressful activities into chances to get lost in a story. According to Tracy, audiobooks are “an unbelievably enjoyable and complete cure to zenless driving” and can even “bring joy to dirty dishes, unfolded laundry and messy spaces.”
A friend who brings knowledge, stress relief, improved vocabulary, comfort, entertainment, AND joy to dirty dishes? Yes, please!
This week we invite you to join us in saying yes to reading, however it works for you! Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.
Soothing anxiety. Helping the skin to heal from burns and cuts. Cleaning your house. Clearing up your sinuses. When it comes to personal care and the health of your home, aromatherapy and essential oils can prove, well, essential.
But don’t let the fact that the oils come from dainty flowers fool you--this stuff works because it works--and just like any powerful tool, you need to know how to use it to safely reap the benefits.
The interest in aromatherapy has played a huge role Tracy McGovern’s life. “Over 20 years ago I became absolutely fascinated with essential oils and aromatherapy. I read tons of books by clinical aromatherapists from all over the world,” says the Reiki and reflexology practitioner and teacher. “It was the references to reflexology and these books that led me to be a reflexologist.”
Tracy calls essential oils “nature’s ‘farmamacy’,” explaining that “they are as potent as anything you can get in a drugstore. And so with their use comes the need for knowledge and understanding. No one should be afraid of essential oils, but everyone should learn the precautions and safety that goes with them.”
When it comes to essential oils, who is using them makes all the difference. “You never use essential oils the same way for adults as you do for children as you would for the elderly, and same goes for animals,” says Tracy. “And each different animal has different precautions and contraindications. You would not do the same for a dog as you would for a cat as you would for a horse.”
Tracy stresses the importance of using pure essential oils, but adds, “no matter how pure an oil is, it still has the chemical components of the planet came from. Plants are wonderful, but that does not remove the need to understand the effect of a chemical composition to each different kind of person, or different kind of animal.”
So how do you learn how to use essential oils safely? “It’s easy these days to research this information,” says Tracy. “Learn and compare information from unaffiliated, unbiased sources. And remember--always, always, always: less is more.”
OK, so we know essential oils and aromatherapy can do really cool things, and we can benefit from them if we learn about them and use them safely. But what exactly is aromatherapy, and how do we use it?
Massage therapist and myofascial release practitioner Lisa Franklin explains that “aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of plant-derived, aromatic pure essential oils to benefit both physical and psychological well-being.”
She points out that aromatherapy has been around for ages. “Aromatherapy has a long history dating back thousands of years when herbs and spices were burnt for ritualistic purposes as well as for the health benefits, or a tea was made to obtain the benefits. Perfumery was the next major application of aromatherapy. It was used to hide body odor as well as to benefit the body and mind.”
Nowadays, says Lisa, aromatherapy is all about essential oils, which arrived on the scene “around the 10th century with the advent of the still. The distillation process allowed for the pure essence of the plant to be concentrated into a small, dynamic preparation.”
Once the essence of the plant is distilled, there are two basic ways to use it: the essence can be inhaled, or applied to your skin.
Lisa points out that inhalation is the simplest way to experience aromatherapy. “You can simply open the bottle of your favorite essential oil and breathe deeply to enjoy the benefits. Or if you want a longer exposure to the essential oil, diffusion is another method,” she says. “Diffusion is the dispersion of essential oils via an atomizer or vaporizer. Both are safe methods to use when using essential oils.”
Applying essential oils to your skin is the other method. “With appropriate precautions,” Lisa says, “essential oils are mixed with a carrier oil or lotion and applied to the skin. Body lotions and massage are the most common ways people experience aromatherapy.”
So just how effective is all of this? Turns out it’s so effective that, in some countries (France and Germany among them), there are “specialized physicians and pharmacists that prescribe and dispense essential oils for a variety of conditions. Their research and studies indicate that essential oils can be a definite benefit to treating illness.”
This week we invite you to join us in saying yes to healthy, effective, smart, and safe use of aromatherapy and essential oils! Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.
“I don’t meditate. I shop at Giant, not Whole Foods.”
This statement was actually overheard during the writing of this blog. It was supplied, like a gift from the Universe, at the perfect time. Our #chronicwellness theme this week is perhaps one of the most misunderstood topics we’ll explore this year, so we’re just going to jump in and get straight to it, because trust us, this stuff is worth it.
Myth #1: Meditation is something New Age people do in between hugging trees and swapping recipes for kombucha.
Truth: That actually happens. Not gonna lie. BUT, that doesn’t mean those are the only people who do or should or can meditate.
Massage therapist and athletic trainer Stacy Ford runs into this myth a lot. “As a massage therapist, I talk with people daily about relaxing. There are stretches and self-massage techniques I show clients, but many need to de-stress. The looks I get when I ask them to consider meditation!”
A lot of people dismiss meditation as something only a certain type of person does. You know, the type with Bernie Sanders bumper stickers on their Prius. But according to Stacy, “There is a huge misconception about meditation. Many people have the vision of sitting cross-legged on a giant pillow with their hands on their knees and chanting ‘ohmmmm.’ They can’t get past the ridiculousness they would feel in such a position making an obscure sound,” she says.
“Then I ask if they pray, or daydream, or would like to find five minutes for only themselves. Sure they do. At least one of those is something most of us do every day, or strive for every day.”
And guess what? Those are all avenues to meditation.
Myth #2: There’s only one way to meditate, and it has something to do with a lotus. Not sure what, but there’s gotta be a lotus; it’s in all the posters.
Truth: Lotus position is one of an infinite number of ways to meditate.
“Meditation can take many forms,” explains massage therapist Lisa Franklin. “It can be a silent, contemplative practice while sitting in the lotus position. It can be chanting a special word or phrase over and over. It can be a moving meditation such as yoga, tai chi, or even walking with a purpose of being in the now.”
Lisa, who specializes in myofascial release (MFR), finds that she can achieve a meditative state when she does MFR on a client. She stresses the wide range of styles, postures, and options for meditation. “Meditation does not require you to sit like a pretzel (you can lay down or sit in a comfy chair). If you choose a solitary meditation practice, there are audio files you can purchase that guide you into a meditative state. Some of them are specific to things like stress reduction, weight loss, fear of flying, public speaking and much more. Others are more general and simply guide you through a meditation to get you to relax.”
Myth #3: Meditation is about emptying your mind and not thinking--there’s no way I can do that!
Truth: Life is busy, and our minds go a mile a minute. Thankfully, meditation does not require us to perfectly rid our minds of all thought. It simply asks us to be open to letting those thoughts go by without dwelling on them, so that we observe them come and go, without judgement. As we do so, the mind may start to quiet, and stillness may sneak up on you, just when you thought it never would.
Reiki and reflexology practitioner and teacher Tracy McGovern describes it this way: “The most important thing I ever learned about meditation is that it is NOT about emptying your mind--instead it’s about learning to let your mind do its thing without paying attention to the babble.”
Myth #4: Meditation sounds like a nice way to relax, but there’s no evidence it’s good for anything else.
Truth: Here’s the cool thing about meditation. Science gives it a big old thumbs up. And not just for relaxation (which would be a huge benefit even on its own). No, science takes it a step further to say that meditation promotes physical and emotional health.
“In the past 15+ years, meditation has been scientifically studied and the data is starting to roll in,” says Lisa Franklin. “The data shows measurable biological changes including possibility of meditation changing the brain and how it functions so that it supports healthier behavior, reduces stress hormone levels, reduces blood pressure, reduces symptoms of PTSD, reduces headaches and much more.”
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent article in Psychology Today explores 20 scientifically-validated reasons meditation boosts your health, happiness, and success. Each of the reasons has a link after it to the supporting research,
So, it turns out meditation isn’t just something for yogis on mountaintops. Scientific research actually supports the fact that meditation is good for your mind and body, promoting more robust physical and emotional health. Who knew? The yogis on mountaintops for one, but we digress.
The point is, science has done what it always does if we give it time: dispelled misconceptions and supplied new knowledge. And knowledge is knowledge, whether you shop at Giant or Whole Foods.
This week we invite you to join us in saying yes to meditation--however it looks to you! Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.
What if we told you there was a magical object, full of nutrients and vitamins, jam packed with immune-boosting and disease-fighting goodness? And that you can eat it, and it tastes good, too?
“Yeah, yeah” you might respond, “What are you going to say next--it grows on trees?”
Behold the power of fruit! Not every fruit grows on a tree, but whether you’re picking them from a vine or a bush or a branch, they’re a vital component of your overall #chronicwellness.
Yoga instructor Brenda Gober explains it this way:
“For smooth functioning of the body, you need a good amount of nutrients that are supplied by fruits in a natural way. When you become ill or develop health disorders, these can be avoided or treated with a healthy diet rich in fruits.”
Brenda notes that fruits are especially important in our modern, fast-paced world. “With a busy lifestyle, our eating habits have become packed with preservatives and processed foods that are not only deficient of essential nutrients but can also cause some harm to the body. Fruits boost your immune system and keep you in better health, she says. “When you eat fruits, your supply of energy increases in no time; this is one of the prime benefits of fruits that we can utilize in our busy schedules. This is the reason why athletes often eat fruit during and after exercising and why diets for pregnant mothers almost always involve fruits of some kind.”
So how exactly does an apple a day keep the doctor away? Massage and myofascial release therapist Lisa Franklin explains that eating fruit can:
Lisa adds that fruit juices can also be good, although it’s important to stay away from preservatives and added sugar: “While whole fruit is your first choice, fruit juice that is made at home without flavoring or preservatives is an alternative way to get fruit in your diet. Juice bars generally provide juices or smoothies that are made only of fruit or they can add veggies for an event bigger boost! Stay away from any fruit juices with sugar or additives.”
What about dried fruit, you may ask? “ Easy, portable and not messy, dried fruits can be another source of fruit intake,” Lisa says. “ Just be careful with any additives. Many fruits have sugar added during the drying process, so read your labels! Or dry the fruits yourself!”
Massage therapist and athletic trainer Stacy Ford addresses a common fear people have about eating fruit.”Many people are hesitant to eat fruit due to the sugar content. Bah!” she says. (Yes, she really said, “Bah!”) “If you have a specific health concern with sugar, consult your dietician, otherwise - Let them eat Fruit!”
Stacy explains that “Fruit has a naturally occuring sugar, fructose. Usually, the more ripe the fruit, the more sugar has been produced, making it taste sweeter to eat. Being a natural sugar and unrefined, your body welcomes it and uses it for fuel. With the added benefit of fiber, it helps to balance the total sugar (carbohydrates) your body uses, not to mention the cleansing effect of fiber in your digestion. Win, win!”
OK, so now you’re convinced that this magical object is tasty and good for you and easy to get… So how do you incorporate them into your diet?
Reflexology and Reiki practitioner and teacher Tracy McGovern calls fruits “nature’s sweets.” Here’s a few of her favorite ways to eat fruit:
This week we invite you to join us in saying yes to yummy, healthy fruit! Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.