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.