Mindfulness Around the Globe

From forest bathing that relieves stress and boosts mood to cacao ceremonies for inner awakening and creative guidance, cultures all over the planet still guide and influence us.

It was the trailblazer Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, who coined the textbook definition of mindfulness: “Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Mindfulness is not a new concept. Buddhism has extolled the powers of mindfulness for thousands of years. Many of these practices—especially meditation, mindful movement (yoga, tai chi, etc.) and healing breathwork (pranayama)— have migrated to the West and become standard fare in our quest for accessing deeper levels of relaxation.

For a lot of people in the western world it’s a means to escape the stresses of modern life, but what does mindfulness mean to other communities? Learning about the different forms we see around the globe opens our eyes and hearts to cultures and traditions beyond our own.

Thanks to technology, we are all global citizens with access to many inspiring and powerful practices, rituals, traditions. I’ve had the opportunity to access many firsthand, through my career traveling to every corner of the globe and immersing myself in other cultures. From the Native American sweat lodge to Japan’s tea ceremony, from vibrational healing in the Yucatán Peninsula’s sound temple to Bali’s holy water purification ceremonies, we have something to learn from each authentic method practiced. Let the possibilities inspire you.

From Burma: Sweeping (or Body Scanning)

The traditional Burmese meditation practice called “sweeping” is essentially body scanning, and can be an effective way to begin a mindfulness meditation practice for anyone. It’s so effective that it’s become an integral part of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program founded by Kabat-Zinn. (MBSR has become the gold standard for mindfulness training in the medical/psychotherapy communities in the U.S. and worldwide.)

The practice involves mentally “sweeping” through the body from head to toe bringing an affectionate, openhearted, nonjudgmental and interested attention to its various regions. The awareness of sensations in the body provides insight into deeper emotions without requiring you to judge or try to change them. It trains you to stay present in your body even if, in the case of pain and discomfort, you don’t like what you’re experiencing.

As we train our mind to be more aware of sensory experiences, we become more intuitive and accepting. We learn how sensations in our body are tied to emotional states. Stress and the resultant emotions like anger, sadness, anxiety, fear (among others) cause physical symptoms like tightness/constriction in body tissues, hypertension, chest pain, headaches and more. Bottom line, body scanning builds your ability to focus, tune into bodily afflictions (with the hope that you can ultimately work on assuaging them) and ultimately be more present in your life.

How to? Sitting or lying down, breathe deeply throughout. Starting at the top of the head, slowly and evenly scan through the body, all the way down to the toes, noticing every part of the body and what feels comfortable or uncomfortable. Remember, you’re not trying to change anything. Be curious and open to what your body is telling you without judgement. Ask yourself what each body part is feeling. Is there pressure, tension, heat, pulsing, tingling, heaviness, lightness?

If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to breathing and exploring sensations in your body until you’re done with the practice.

From the Himalayas: Metta (or Loving-Kindness) Meditation

Taught by Buddha 2,600 years ago and consistently practiced in the Himalayan region of Asia to this day, this healing practice has become a mainstay in the U.S. and globally. Metta translates to “loving- kindness,” with the practice focused on growing a sense of kindness and goodwill by directing positive thoughts to self and others.

How to? It involves repeating a set of phrases as a mantra of sorts that you, and all beings, be safe, happy, peaceful and healthy. Possible phrases could be:

“May I (you/we) be safe and protected from harm.”

“May I (you/we) be joyful.”

“May I (you/we) be peaceful.”

“May I (you/we) be strong and healthy.”

You may also create your own phrases that resonate with your heart.

Say or think these phrases to yourself (repeat as desired). Then “say” them to someone you feel close to, then someone more neutral, then someone who may be having a difficult time, and finally expanding outward to all of creation.

When we open our hearts and send loving-kindness without distinction, we’re more apt to include instead of exclude, to connect instead of overlook, to care instead of be indifferent.

Shinrin means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.

From Japan: Shinrin-Yoku (or Forest Bathing)

One of my important teachers, Deepak Chopra, MD, says, “Harmonizing your biological rhythms with the rhythms of nature minimizes entropy and reverses aging.” Enter the practice, shinrin-yoku. Shinrin means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. It is incredibly simple: Breathe intentionally while taking meandering, meditative walks through the forest.

Japan’s Forestry Agency recommends forest bathing as a stress-reliever and mood-booster and says it encourages clearer intuition, increased flow of energy, deepening of friendships and overall higher levels of happiness. It helps you unplug from technology, be in the present moment and slow down. Extensive studies have found this practice can help with everything from depression and anxiety to fatigue and hypertension. It is said to lower stress hormones, balance the nervous system and boost immunity.

How to? Take in nature through all of your senses: Breathe deeply and taste the freshness of the air. Listen to the gentle wind dancing around you and notice the different birdsong. Look closely at the different colors and textures of the trees and the sunlight filtering through their branches. Smell the vibrant, earthy fragrance of the forest and breathe in its natural aroma-therapy. Place your hands on the trunk of a tree—hug it even! Feel the textures of bark, moss, stones. See the universe in a leaf. Dip your fingers or toes in the local stream, pond or lake. Lie on the ground and feel your nervous system connecting with the nervous system of the forest. Drink in the flavor and mood of the forest as boosting your sense of joy and calm.

From Africa: Ubuntu – “I Am Because We Are”

In African culture, Ubuntu is a holistic and long revered way of life emphasizing the interdependence and interconnectedness of all people.

The word Ubuntu means “I am because we are.” It’s an expression of appreciation for others, an acknowledgement that we’re all part of the same family and we’re in this life together. This sense of community manifests itself as kindness, compassion, caring, sharing, fairness and honesty.

The Ubuntu greeting, often translated as “I see you,” carries a profound meaning. It’s a shared salutation to our divinity. It extends beyond superficial observation and signifies a deep recognition and understanding of others. When one says, “I see you” in the context of Ubuntu, they’re acknowledging and affirming the inherent worth, dignity and value of the person before them. It goes beyond physical appearance and encompasses seeing someone’s essence, their emotions, struggles and joys. It’s an act of embracing and honoring their humanity, regardless of any external factors or differences.

“I see you,” reminds us to see others not only with our eyes but with our hearts and minds, acknowledging the richness and diversity of the human experience. It inspires us to build bridges of compassion and understanding, contributing to a more harmonious and inclusive world.

How to? Say the greeting “I see you” when communing with others, or silently repeat as a mantra to remember to look beyond surface-level appearances and understand the deeper essence of others—treating every individual with respect, kindness and empathy; embracing your shared humanity; and fostering a sense of connection and understanding. Practice generosity. Focus on interacting with others with care, supporting those who need you. In turn, allow yourself to be supported by friends and family.

At the heart of the Ho’oponopono spiritual tradition is the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation as a means to improve one’s relationship with self, with others and the world at large.

From Hawaii: Ho’oponopono

Ho’oponopono means “to make things right.” This ancient practice has long brought healing and reconciliation to families, community members and individuals through Hawaii as well as all islands of Oceania. The concepts and rituals continue to this day.

At the heart of this spiritual tradition is the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation as a means to improve one’s relationship with self, with others and the world at large. And it all starts from within: by restoring self-love and inner balance. This is the powerful peace-making mantra at the center of this practice: “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.”

How to? You can recite, chant, sing as a prayer or meditation—directing to yourself, others, as well as situations where transgressions (unintentional or not) have occurred. As you recite it repeatedly— anger, sorrow, shame, disappointment or any guilt you may feel loosens its grip on you. It opens your heart, releasing negative thoughts or emotions, giving you and others a clean slate. It’s a powerful way to cultivate empathy, heal old wounds and let go of grudges. And always with loving-kindness, compassion and grace. The physical and emotional benefits for our wellbeing are profound.

The best-known part of the ritual is the mantra, but it includes a lot of “authentic relating” as well. Everyone in the family or community—often guided by a wise elder— takes their turn to speak their “truth,” until everyone feels harmonious and at peace. This is conscious, compassionate communication at its best.

If you’re about to enter into a difficult conversation with someone, reciting this mantra to yourself beforehand can help you remain calm, empathetic and understanding. A better outcome may be achieved.

From Costa Rica: The Cacao Ceremony

Originating with the Mayans, cacao ceremonies have been around for thousands of years, and although originating in Central and South America, they’re now practiced in many parts of the world. The scientific genus name for cacao is theobroma, which translates to “food of the gods,” and the Mayans believed that cacao was a key ingredient in restoring balance and connecting to the divine. Costa Rica is a particularly high vibration place for this practice.

Used for medicinal and spiritual purposes to achieve inner awakening and creative guidance, this ancient ceremony elevates our energy, grounds us, and connects us to our heart and feelings. Cacao has long been used to heal and harmonize mental, physical and spiritual layers of our being, creating wholeness. As a shamanic practice, it opens the spirit world for us to journey through and can awaken ancestral memory—remembering and honoring our ancestors.

How to? This sacred ritual involves gathering with others to drink cacao in a warm liquid form, while opening our heart to unconditional love, sharing thoughts of gratefulness, setting intentions and creating a space for connection, healing and inspiration. Praying, chanting, singing, as well as shamanic tools like ancestral sounds, drumming and smudging, may be used as well. A traditional ceremony may last for several hours.

You can also enjoy this daily ritual as a simple yet unique mindfulness meditation to deeply transform the way you encounter the world. Peacefully sit for 10-20 minutes every day, say what you’re grateful for, set an intention for the day and mindfully drink ceremonial-grade cacao.

Enjoy these practices that cultures around the world have developed to be more present, more engaged, more connected, more loving and compassionate toward self, others, community, environment and their divinity. When connected to something larger than ourselves, our lives take on heightened meaning and purpose, with our world becoming a kinder, more loving, more joyful and beautiful place.

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Top 10 Wellness Resolutions

Expert tips for setting goals and achieving them in the New Year.

We’ve all done it. Setting ambitious goals for everything you want to change and accomplish in the New Year is an age-old tradition. And so is disappointment, when you realize that those goals are far too ambitious to achieve. But if you enlist the support of family and friends, according to wellness expert and The 5-Day Real Food Detox author Nikki Sharp (nikkisharp.com), you are much more likely to succeed.

“The New Year is a great time because you are not doing it alone,” says Sharp. “It is more motivating to stick to a new, healthier lifestyle when you know that there are family, friends and others in your community that are doing the same. We succeed when we do things together, so come January 1, it’s a perfect time to gather a group of people and achieve your goals together.” Here are her top tips.

1. Set realistic goals that you will still be as excited about in June as you are in May. There’s no point in setting a goal if you drop off by the end of January, so instead of saying “I’ll lose 20 pounds,” break it into smaller weekly goals.

2. Focus on what you do each day, instead of looking long term. You will lose the weight you want or get the health you desire when you make a good choice day after day. It’s too easy to throw in the towel when we feel we aren’t seeing results and still have such a long way to go.

3. Set mind goals as well as body/health. The more you focus on changing your mind and doing things like a gratitude log each day, the more likely you are to achieve your other health goals. The mind and body go hand in hand!

4. Find a friend to keep you both accountable. You’re more likely to stick to your goals every day when someone else knows if you don’t follow through, plus you get to celebrate together.

5. Eat three-plus colors at every meal, which is the simplest way to change your lifestyle and achieve your goals.

6. Don’t do things that you don’t like. We all set exercise goals in the New Year, but many of us sign up for a gym that we never go to. If you know that you do not like a certain exercise, find something that you do like, without judgment.

7. Reflect on the past year. What resolutions did you not follow through on and why? By figuring out what happened that prevented you from success, you are more likely to succeed.

8. Step up your organic beauty game this year. Don’t worry about throwing everything you own away. Start with one product at a time, and as you run out, get an organic or nontoxic replacement. By the end of the year your beauty cabinet will be changed and your body and face will thank you!

9. Increase your beauty sleep with one simple change. Put your phone in another room for all of January and see how that affects your day. Not only will you fall asleep more easily, you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed, which helps your weight goals, along with making your face look radiant with no makeup.

10. Upgrade your coffee to increase energy while drinking less. Superfoods are all the rage, and in 2018 we will see the rise of using them in drinks like coffee. Blend maca powder along with coconut oil to reap the benefits while decreasing your dependency on your cup of joe.

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Nurture, Balance and Heal Your Womb

I do a womb meditation in the morning before getting out of bed. I connect with myself, place my hands over my womb, breathe into this area and tune into whatever intuitive messages are speaking to me. 

Arriving into consciousness with our womb is done through meditation, healing breathwork and movement, massage and, in essence, energy work. There are many powerful yogic methods to heal and transform our sacred womb.  

Our womb is above the pubic bone and below the navel. The energetic center that relates to the womb is Swadhisthana or the sacral chakra, and can be translated as “the dwelling place of the self,” or the home of one’s sweetness! A woman’s body predominantly creates from the divine energy living in her womb. Our creativity, sexuality and deepest desires (birthing human life/a new you/dreams) are all conceived in the womb and nurtured into form.

We can nurture, balance or heal the womb by awakening and balancing our sacral chakra. Learning to flow with life, experience our emotions and pleasure and open up to creativity support this. 

There can be such pain, trauma and energetic blockages stored in our wombs from painful menstruation, childbirth, pregnancy loss of any kind, fertility challenges, sexual trauma and much more. The cellular memory from this woundedness can leave us disconnected from the sacredness of our wombs. Until we’re able to process this, our brains may numb this space until we’re ready and have the support needed to remember. As you awaken to this woundedness, and listen to what your womb has to say, you begin your journey into healing…

The first step in healing the womb is feeling the womb. Begin here:

Create a sacred space. Light a candle, enjoy aromatherapy for the sacral chakra (rose, sandalwood, sweet orange, ylang-ylang to name a few), play ambient music. 

Get comfortable in yoga’s goddess pose with hands by your side or placed over your womb. 

Breathe, soften and center yourself. Intend to consciously take time for honoring your sacredness. Bring your awareness to your belly, the seat of your womb, and consciously breathe deeply and fully, with the knowing that your breath is your most intimate connection to Source. 

Allow yourself to listen with your whole being, to feel, to sense and fully experience your womb center. Do you sense constriction or blockages? Feelings you haven’t felt in a long time or have never felt may arise. That’s okay. Just breathe deeply in and out of your sacral chakra, listening to every facet of your sacred womb. 

Allow yourself to hear—to see—to experience what your womb has to say, without judgment, blame or shame. Be the witness without attachment. Let your womb know you’re ready to restore balance and harmony to your sacred center. Visualize this. Honor the wisdom, magic and mystery retained within your womb—her life-giving potential, your moon bleeding, and the wisdom and power of your womb to hold her blood as you’re ushered into your wise elder years.

Recite womb/sacral chakra healing affirmations like “I release all that no longer serves my highest good from my womb.”

Give thanks for the opportunity to honor your womb in such a reverential way.

After this journey, perhaps write in your journal any messages you have received and want to rememberDo this ritual periodically to keep your womb centered, balanced and clear.

You may want to consider additional energetic healing work by an experienced energy/body worker to further support healing.

MARY BETH JANSSEN, CAyur, RYT, CMT, is president of the Janssen Source, wellness director for a large Chicagoland Health Care Organization, and certified Ayurvedic and mind-body health specialist for the Chopra Center for Wellbeing

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Mental Detox

In need of a mental detox? Here is a road map to declutter the mind.

Perhaps there is nothing more powerful than our relationship with our thoughts. Our thinking can be as constructive as it can be obtrusive. And the messages we tell ourselves can convince us something is divine or nudge us to confront a deep affliction.

Sometimes the very nature of our thoughts can become overwhelming. Clutter in the mind can resemble that of a shaken-up snow globe. Each flake represents a thought. So, when the flakes fall simultaneously it can make seeing things with clarity a bit of a challenge. And while waiting for the snow (our thoughts) to settle, we can feel anxious and insecure not knowing how or when things may settle down.

Declutter Negative Thoughts That No Longer Serve You

When you decide to clear and declutter obtrusive and negative thoughts from our head space, it helps prepare us for an inner journey of creativity and open ourselves to new growth experiences.

As an author, writer and life coach, I know that some of my brightest ideas and smartest solutions come during a run or after a meditation. When I’m traveling, I often visit an art museum. This tends to eliminate any travel stressors as well as expose me to powerful pieces of art. Just being in a gorgeous space amplifies both my thoughts and work.

Another approach to decluttering the mind is to manage work-related things, like emails, with a file system. While it may seem overly simplistic, in reality it can help to keep things, including our minds, organized. C-suite business executive and seven continent marathoner Michael Silvio says, “When I close an issue that arrives via email, I delete the email or place it in a file right away. At the same time I close it in my mind, and move on.”

For some, moving on can be a bit of a struggle, while for others it comes with ease. Dr. Deepak Chopra, author of the recent, best-selling book, Metahuman, says that observation can be helpful. Dr. Chopra explains, “I’ve never tried to clear negative thinking! It’s very stressful! I just observe thoughts as they float across the screen of my consciousness like clouds in the sky. I identify with the sky, not the clouds.”

Actually, getting outside to see the literal clouds can be an important way to open up the mind. Creativity expert and author Lisa Tener says one of her favorite ways to declutter her mind is to walk in nature. “Within minutes, I feel the stresses fall away, creating the space for creativity to flow,” she says.

mental detox

For those who are wondering how to activate the flow of creativity, Dr. Chopra says, “Creativity unfolds in the following steps: intended outcome, information gathering, information analysis, incubation-thru-meditation, spontaneous insight, inspiration, implementation, integration, incarnation.”Dr. Chopra adds, “It’s a shift in context, meaning relationship and story.”

When the student is ready the teacher will come…
And the story we tell ourselves about a situation can shape the way we handle future conversations and thereby impact outcomes. If we tell ourselves, “There is no help available,” we tend to view the world with a constricted lens. Things can feel very troubling. Yet, if we tell ourselves there is guidance available and we just need to find the right person, we will tend to try to sort through our thoughts logically. We will then see things as possible opportunities instead of obstacles.

It is also important to remember that exploring new ideas can be driven with a sense of purpose and child-like wonder. Journaling offers a safe way to examine thoughts and desires. Silvio adds, “Creativity is fueled by passion.”

The six inches between our ears is valuable territory. Instead of embroidering this space with frets and criticisms, perhaps, make an effort to be gentler and kinder with the words we speak to ourselves. This angle keeps the space open, which enriches new visions and amplifies the creativity process.

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How to Be Happy

Happiness doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but these expert tips can certainly help.How to Be Happy

If you are reading this, you are most likely longing for a life full of meaning, connection and bliss. In other words, you want to be happy. But instead, you may be in a personal crisis or feel overworked, underpaid, or all of the above. Perhaps the current political situation rattles your nerves, or the climate change worries you. Whatever it is, you want to know what you can do.

Happiness is a hot topic. There are thousands of studies on happiness; hundreds of articles and books written about it; colleges and universities now teach happiness courses; and on Instagram, #happiness and #happy have a combined 655 million mentions. The prescriptions for happiness are just as abundant: tips, hints and secrets, ready-to-manifest formulas that promise to help us attain a happier life. But does this all actually make us happy? And can looking for happiness actually lead to unhappiness?

“If you focus too much on your own happiness, just focusing too much on yourself in general, that can lead to unhappiness,” says happiness coach Tia Graham, founder of Arrive at Happy, in Los Angeles. “There are a lot of myths and misconceptions around happiness.”

One example is that kindness and gratitude can make you happier.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist, leading researcher on happiness and author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, says that some happiness strategies can backfire: “Like expressing gratitude, which studies show might make some people feel awkward or it might make people feel guilty for not having repeated that kindness that you are grateful for, or for not having to thank the person; it might make you feel indebted.”

“Expressing gratitude, which studies show might make some people feel awkward or it might make people feel guilty for not having repeated that kindness that you are grateful for…it might make you feel indebted.”

Generosity and giving to others are also supposed to make you happier, but Lyubomirsky says her research shows that not all acts of kindness are appreciated or welcome, because “they can come off as patronizing or make a person feel vulnerable, or not self-sufficient.”

“People who are too generous often neglect their own self-care and focus too much on other people,” she explains. “[They] can be harmed by that, or feel that it’s a burden.”

Are we doomed? Is attaining happiness an impossible task? Is there actually a recipe for a happy life?

Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and best-selling author of Blue Zones of Happiness, studied happiness and longevity in the happiest places in the world for the past 15 years. He says that the happiest people don’t pursue happiness.

“About 40 percent of your happiness or lack thereof is dictated by genes, 15 percent dictated by chance and 40 to 50 percent is dictated by what you do with your life,” explains Buettner. “And I argue that the most important thing you can do if you want to maximize that 50 percent within your control is to shape your social surroundings, your work surroundings, your home, the place where you choose to live so you are more likely to be happy.”

In other words, there are things you can do to stack your deck in favor of happiness. 


Happiness is an ephemeral thing and we often have a hard time recognizing it when we have it.

Do you know what happiness means to you? What do you want your life to look like? Graham defines happiness as acceptance of the journey and commitment to joy, and then poses a question: “What would you do if no one was watching, taking photos or even aware of you?”

Now, knowing this, what would you do differently?


Friends are important to your happiness. It’s no wonder the expression, “Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are,” is so widely used. But it’s not just about having friends you’ve accumulated through life, cautions Buettner. It’s about curating a group of friends. “They have to be people with whom you would trust to have a meaningful conversation, talk about your relationships, be vulnerable, talk about your struggles, not just happy face and fluffy talk. They have to be people you can call on a bad day and they’ll care. The type of people who’d loan you money when you hit rock bottom, and you actually have to like them.”


“Just like exercising your body leads to endorphins and builds muscle, exercising your brain creates new cells,” says Graham. Recent studies on neuroplasticity suggest that we can rewire the neural pathways that regulate our emotions, thoughts and reactions. But we have to practice it daily. So instead of feeling angry when you are in traffic, for example, you can consciously switch your attention to something joyful in your life or remind yourself of a moment that brought you joy. “Theory doesn’t make you happy, practice does,” teaches Graham and recommends creating rituals to help you on your own path to happiness.


Who hasn’t felt guilty about feeling something you believe you shouldn’t be feeling? You can swap the habit of feeling guilty by simply observing your emotions or writing them down. “All emotions are acceptable and are part of being human,” reassures Graham. The challenge is that we judge difficult emotions by calling them “negative” instead of acknowledging them and watching them pass. Graham recommends asking yourself a question: “I would be even happier in my life if I was more fully honest with myself about…”


“If happiness were a cake recipe and the ingredients would include you need enough money, you need food and shelter, and healthcare, you need some mobility and enough money to treat yourself once in a while; you want to have meaningful work and you want to have something to give back. These are all important ingredients, but the most important ingredient to happiness is where you live. We know if you live in an unhappy place, you are most likely to be unhappy,” says Buettner.

Buettner’s research followed immigrants from unhappy places like poorer countries in Eastern Europe to happy places (for a list of happy places to live, go to gallup.com) like Denmark, for example, and within a year with no other changes except for the move, they were reporting increased happiness levels in their adoptive homes.


Think back to when you were a kid, and remember the small things that got you excited and feeling happy. “I believe in the idea of awe and wonder, a perspective like ‘Wow, I’m alive and I wake up every single day, and noticing and savoring the small things in life.’ And when you take that time and look at everything that’s around you, it sounds so simple. I believe that’s also a path to happiness,ww too,” says Graham.


Lyubomirsky’s quest to find out why some people are happier than others led her to realize that the old cliché that happiness lies within us is actually supported by her research.

“Changes in our lives probably won’t make a huge difference in happiness, it’s really what’s inside, how we behave, how we think in our daily lives that’s going to matter,” she says. “Unless we are really bad off, like if we are in an abusive relationship, for example, getting out of that relationship will make you happier forever.”


Do you know your top values? Do you know if the activities you do daily are aligned with your top values? “Your behavior needs to be aligned with your values,” says Graham. “If it doesn’t, you will be unhappy.”

“So often we mistaken the idea of something for the thing itself,” Graham cautions. “Ask yourself if you really like the thing you think you like, or you simply like the idea of it.”

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Beauty Sleep

Getting plenty of rest is an essential component to overall physical and emotional well-being. From soft bamboo sheets to a mattress devoid of nontoxic materials, here are 10 items we’re eyeing for a dreamy, sanctuary-like bedroom.

Rest and Relaxation
Made entirely of upcycled beechwood in an FSC-certified facility in Los Angeles, the Wood Slatted Bench is ideal draped with a throw blanket at the foot of the bed.

Nap Zone
Transform the bedroom with the multifunctional Fez Upholstered Room Divider made of tropical hardwood and 100 percent woven cotton upholstery. anthropologie.com

Ambient Light
Brooklyn-based fragrance maven Chrissy Fichtl, founder of Apotheke, concocted the hand-poured, soy-wax blend Black Iris Oak Candle with notes of black pepper, cinnamon leaf, iris and musk. apothekeco.com

Lights Out
Conceived by owner Fiona Stewart and her partner Justin Dubois of Slip, the hypoallergenic Slip Silk Pillowcase is made of the brand’s signature pure silk, slipsilk. anthropologie.com

Fresh Take
Infuse soothing hints of herbs and aromatherapy with Vitruvi’s portable Move Essential Oil Diffuser. anthropologie.com

Soft Touch
Echoing the art of basket weaving, the Manzanita Organic Handstitched Shams are crafted in India with 100 percent organic cotton. coyuchi.com

Bed Time
Made in a family-owned factory in Portugal, the Percale Pillowcase Set in Moss is comprised of long-staple Egyptian cotton. parachutehome.com

Sleep On It
Naturepedic’s Elysium Mattress features a premium plush pillow top, double-layer organic wrapped coils, and is manufactured without glue, adhesives or flame-retardants. naturepedic.com

Make The Bed
The Organic Linen Duvet Cover in Indigo comes with two shams and is loomed in France with 100 percent GOTS-certified organic linen and Corozo nut buttons sustainably procured from Tagua trees in Central and South America. avocadogreenmattress.com

Rest Assured
Cozy Earth’s Bamboo Sheet Set is designed with ultra-soft, breathable and moisture-wicking viscose from bamboo fabric; each set includes one flat sheet, one fitted sheet and two pillowcases. cozyearth.com

Rethinking The Mattress with Industry Expert, Barry A. Cik
“You sleep on a mattress for six to eight hours every day, which is a huge percentage of your life,” says Barry A. Cik, a board-certified environmental engineer and technical director of Ohio-based company, Naturepedic Organic Mattresses & Bedding. “So, if there is any product in your home that needs to focus on wellness, it’s your bed and mattress. You want healthy sleep experiences. You don’t want to be sleeping on toxic or questionable chemicals.”

Cik’s Checklist:

• Stay Aware. Avoiding getting hot and sweaty is a priority, and the way to achieve this is to avoid petroleum-based materials in the mattress. Then, an equal priority is to get the firmness and feel that you are most comfortable with. This is done by adding a zipper to the side of the mattress that allows for the top to be opened, and then allows for changing the firmness of the components. The regular Naturepedic EOS provides soft, medium and firm latex options, and plush or firm encased coil options. You have six different firmness options, from very soft to very firm.

• Steer Clear of Chemicals. Avoid polyurethane foam, flame-retardant chemicals or barriers (which are all full of chemicals), formaldehyde, pesticides, glues/adhesives, GMOs, vinyl, perfluorinated compounds. For baby and kids products—since you don’t generally know if they may be or may become allergic to latex—it’s best to avoid mattresses filled with latex. This includes organic latex, since being organic does not in any way reduce the allergenic issues.

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Guide to a Socially Distanced Fourth of July

After months of self-quarantine and social distancing, many of us are craving human contact with our loved ones. Zoom calls just don’t seem to do it anymore. As the days get longer and the sun heats up, summer parties are typically in full swing. But right now, our world is anything but typical. Here’s some good news: by following social distancing and other Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, we can think about hosting small get-togethers, and the Fourth of July is a great time to start.

In June, the CDC shared their “Considerations for Events and Gatherings.” Obviously, events carrying the lowest risk, according to the CDC, are virtual-only, such as Zoom or Skype. Those with “more risk” are considered to be “smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).”  

To help you find a balance between hosting a fun summer party and maintaining the safety of your guests, here are a few things to think about beforehand. 


As cute as they are, paper invitations can become contaminated by anyone who physically handles mail. For a gathering during this uncertain time, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Consider using online invitations such as Evite and Paperless Post, or simply call and text your guests, which is more eco-friendly, anyway! 

Think about the nature of your get-together. Do you want to have a cookout and serve dinner? Or would you be more comfortable simply having drinks with family and friends? Do you want your guests to congregate inside your house or would you prefer that they stay outside? Gently but clearly communicate your expectations beforehand. 


Limit the number of guests attending. The more people you and your guests are exposed to, the higher the risk. Consider whether potential guests have recently traveled, work in a public setting such as a grocery store or have been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID. Clearly, this is not the time to invite your out-of-state relatives and everyone from the soccer team! Be mindful of your immuno-compromised or elderly guests, who are at a much higher risk. Be sure to check the news in your local area to see any restrictions on guest count.


The CDC states, “There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by food. However, people sharing utensils and congregating around food service areas can pose a risk.” Choose to opt out of a traditional BBQ buffet, where guests will be in close quarters and touching the same surfaces over and over. Encourage guests to bring their own food and drinks. Or hand over the role of designated server to the cook (or Master Griller), who will wear gloves while cooking and serving. 

Encourage guests to bring their own plates and utensils–bonus points if you use biodegradable options, such as Susty Party or Transitions2earth! Ask guests to bring their own cups or reusable water bottles. They can even color-code them with tape or stickers. Or serve single-serving canned or bottled drinks. Provide disposable paper napkins or ask guests to bring their own reusable napkins. Try: Tea North Organic Carbonated Iced Tea, Kitchen Crafted Non-GMO Project verified and gluten-free Grill Spices and Dips. 

Here is a light, summery cocktail recipe–made with award-winning organic vodka!–for you and your guests to enjoy.

Organic Vodka Lemonade

Humboldt Organic Vodka

Mix 1.5 ounces Humboldt Organic Vodka with lemonade to taste. Enjoy!


The most important goal for you (the host) and your guests is to reduce the spread of the virus during your get-together. Generally, the risk is much lower when you’re outdoors because there is natural airflow and more space to socially distance.

Display several hand sanitizers throughout and encourage guests to wash their hands frequently. Make sure you’re stocked up on soap, paper towels and cleaning supplies. If guests will be inside, clean highly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, tabletops, fridge handles and  light switches frequently. For restrooms specifically, encourage guests to use disposable cleaning wipes or paper towels and cleaning solutions on high-touch surfaces, such as door knobs, faucets, toilet handles, and light switches after every use. Feel free to leave specific notes as a reminder. 

One of the most important things to remember is to enforce social distancing. Make sure tables and chairs are set up six feet apart before guests arrive. Remind guests to keep their distance as they are moving around. Don’t forget to wear a cloth mask and require your guests to do the same. (You can keep the holiday festive with a Fourth of July-themed mask!) Try: Indie Source Freedom Mask with a blue-and white stars motif, or an organic cotton version from Naturepedic or Avocado Green Mattress

 For the time being, typical hosting etiquette has gone out the window. Staying safe and being together is what counts.

The post Guide to a Socially Distanced Fourth of July appeared first on Organic Spa Magazine.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton: Self-Care Tips

Dr. Jennifer Ashton

Dr. Jennifer Ashton

Photographer: Michael Benabib

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, chief medical correspondent
at ABC World News, shares tips to make
well-being attainable

When it comes to the word “well-being,” a yoga class, soothing spa treatment or walk in nature may come to mind. For Dr. Jennifer Ashton, the chief medical correspondent at ABC World News, self-care equals well-being. In fact, she sees them as interchangeable. “When you have well-being, you’re practicing self-care,” she explains.

As a solo parent with a high-profile job, a thriving medical practice and demanding travel schedule, Dr. Ashton is the first to admit that carving out time to practice self-care isn’t always easy. For her, “it is about the little things, like drinking more water or adding different types of stretching,” which are easy to integrate into one’s lifestyle to improve well-being.

One of Dr. Ashton’s favorite wellness practices is a cardio workout, but she also knows it is important to be kind to yourself if sticking to a particular routine is hard. “I’m a big believer that things in wellness should be done in moderation. You have to be flexible and can’t expect or require perfection,” she explains. 

For the most part, Dr. Ashton’s well-being practices were a style of living until early in the year of 2017 when she divorced her physician husband of 21 years. Things seemed to be going well with co-parenting their two teenage children when the unthinkable happened. Eighteen days after the divorce, detectives arrived at Ashton’s New Jersey home delivering horrific news. Her ex-husband had died after jumping off the George Washington Bridge. “It shattered my world,” she says.

In Dr. Ashton’s powerful book, Life After Suicide, she writes that she also blamed herself for the tragedy. During the days and months following, she did everything she could to support her children’s healing. And she never took time out for her own well-being, because she thought it would be selfish to make herself a priority.

However, in December of that same year, Ashton knew she needed to help herself as well. “I was coming out of the worst year of my life. Healing a tragedy makes people introspective, and it was out of that I decided to experiment with myself,” she reflects.

Ashton’s first experiment came in the form of “Dry January”: no alcohol for the month. To her surprise, the results were stunning. Not only did she feel reinvigorated, she felt a significant and positive impact on her mind, body, mood and attitude. When January came to an end, Ashton decided to extend the dry days into part of February because she felt so good, physically and mentally. She writes in her recent best-selling book, The Self-Care Solution: A Year of Becoming Happier, Healthier, and Fitter—One Month at a Time, that she continued the challenge because she became
“hooked on the idea and practice of challenging myself to be healthier.”

As a practicing OB/GYN and nutritionist, Ashton says she also took on this self-experiment because she tells her patients to practice healthy habits. “I wanted to use myself as the experiment and do the things I’d ask someone else to do, and see if I would feel any different doing them,” she recalls.

In February, Ashton decided to take on “another bite-size goal to target.” After carefully considering various options for her second goal, Ashton decided upon the challenge of push-ups and planks because not only would it produce quick visible results if “only done for minutes,” but they could be done anywhere.

Dr. Ashton’s self-experiment continued through the calendar year as she focused on 12 separate challenges, one for each month. She writes about her year-long journey in The Self-Care Solution, where she is both researcher and subject as she guides the reader through each challenge. The book brims with anecdotes about how Dr. Ashton integrated the self-care goals into her daily routines, and the science behind each one. Some days were more successful than others. Ashton says the only month she completed with 100 percent success was January. And it is these imperfections that make her approach realistic and approachable.

The Self-Care Solution

Self-Care Success

Like any well-being journey, challenges happen, and sometimes it is difficult to stay motivated. While carving out time and energy for a new or improved
well-being habit may appear to be overwhelming, it can ultimately make a huge difference. Dr. Ashton reflects, “I’ve got a lot of balls in the air, and I can’t do those things when I’m not healthy.” 

Here are some of her tips to help you stick with a well-being goal.


If you’ve struggled with sticking to a healthy habit, like Ashton did at times, she suggests using a calendar to track progress: “It is a good way to hold yourself accountable and recognize the accomplishments.”


Instead of trying various well-being activities, be choosy and select one thing that you enjoy that you can do the same way each day.


Giving yourself time to adjust to trying new things helps when exploring something different, like eating more plant-based meals. “I wasn’t a diversion eater, so this challenged me. I knew I wanted to eat less meat. It takes time. It doesn’t happen in a week. Be patient in our taste buds,” Dr. Ashton offers.


If you’re re-entering the world after being immersed into a spa retreat where relaxation was simple, Ashton suggests bringing small parts of the spa experience home with a scent or tea, or being in a quiet state. “Maybe it is no tech or doing more stretching. Think about everything that involves the five senses in the spa and try to replicate some of that in your home,” Dr. Ashton suggests.


Dr. Ashton says making the well-being habit you’re trying to adopt be “new to you” is helpful. For example, “If you’re already drinking lots of water, you can add a citrus,” she adds. Or if you’re already in the habit of walking, try a different path.


When you’re trying something new, like a new meditation, and deciding if this is the right fit for you, remember you’re discovering what works best for you. You’re figuring out what helps you to be happy and healthy.


A slight shift in how you see your schedule can make a significant impact. Dr. Ashton writes, “I know that self-care isn’t a matter of having time; it’s a matter of readjusting what you do with that time…And as I’ve learned, spending just a few minutes every day to take care of yourself actually creates more time.”


Keep in mind, perfection isn’t necessary for well-being. This is a kinder and gentler approach to not only how you look at your results, but how you speak to yourself along the way.


With social media it is easy to look at someone else, who is doing something similar, and feel like you’re not making progress. “Keep going. Your life isn’t someone else’s selfie,” Dr. Ashton encourages.

The post Dr. Jennifer Ashton: Self-Care Tips appeared first on Organic Spa Magazine.

Building Resilience: How To Emerge Stronger

Facing adversity such as a pandemic, illness or financial uncertainty, while challenging, offers us the opportunity to grow resilience. We pull from our inner resources to cope, and bounce back from sudden, unexpected change. We find fresh ways to respond, emerging stronger as we support our health and well-being. 

Resilience empowers us to remain present, flexible and adaptable, to move forward and find creative solutions while supporting the health of our family, community and the planet. At-home self-care has become essential to maintaining health during social-distancing. Here are five practical tips to help build resilience through self-care:  

1. Design your day to include pause breaks

Take 10- to 15-minute pause breaks often. Enjoy a cup of chamomile tea to relax, gaze at nature, turn off technology or listen to relaxing music. Such breaks help you gain a new perspective and lead to more restful sleep.

2. Exercise for fun 

Embrace some form of movement that you enjoy for 30 minutes a day, even in 10-minute intervals. Take pleasure in the movement, which decreases tension and increases serotonin levels, improving mood and well-being. Find creative ways to exercise, like walking in your home or in nature, taking stairs or joining an online class. When movement brings you some level of joy, it helps clear your mind and energizes you.

3. Eat a mostly plant-based diet

Experiment with a variety of fruits and vegetables or “colors of the rainbow,” preferably organic, adding high-quality protein, such as broccoli, lentils or chickpeas. Cold water wild-caught salmon, organic chicken or turkey, grass-fed beef in small amounts helps satiation and stabilizes blood sugar, calming the nervous system.

4.  Take time for meditation

Meditation, contemplation or prayer helps you access inner resources for calm and clarity. Regular meditation helps rewire the brain and boosts the immune system.  Even 10 minutes of meditation facilitates accessing different parts of the brain to increase insight, reduce stress, and reset your system for a more positive outlook. 

5. Give yourself permission to relax 

Experiment with various relaxation strategies. Taking hot baths with lavender or rose essential    oil relaxes both your body and mind, and can also help insomnia. Apply naturally fragrant hand lotion to restore skin hydration after frequent hand-washing. Self-massage using a nurturing body oil to increase circulation. Reading inspirational articles helps calm anxiety.

Above all, self-love and appreciation for who you are and what you bring to your family, community and the world will fortify your resilience for coping with the challenges of the day and life’s ever-changing new normal. As we emerge from these unprecedented times with a foundation of self-care, we move forward with increased agility to create a more joyful life. In this way you may find treasures within yourself for sustained health, radiance and even greater resilience.

Gayle Myers, MD is a board-certified Integrative Medicine physician, speaker and wellness expert. In private practice in Vermont for over thirty years, Dr. Myers integrates the wholeness of mind, body and spirit to help her patients restore and maintain their optimum health. Her own healing journey and resilience empowered her full recovery from a serious car accident in 2011. Dr. Myers is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Intuitive Awareness Center in Georgia, VT. 

The post Building Resilience: How To Emerge Stronger appeared first on Organic Spa Magazine.

Voices from the Spa

There is a lot of talk among spa owners about when and how to reopen the spa industry these days. With COVID19 top of mind, spas are working around the clock on plans to keep staff and clients safe. The International Spa Association (ISPA) recently collaborated with close to 100 volunteer spa leaders, medical professionals, resource partners and more to develop the “ISPA COVID-19 Spa Reopening Toolkit,” link below,  a consolidation of resources that are designed to help spas reopen safely and successfully, and establish the proper levels of sanitation and hygiene. 

Meanwhile, scores of individual spa guidelines are flooding my inbox, as everyone in the industry is trying to figure out best practices moving forward. Melissa Joy Olson, owner of Euphoria Spa and Salon, in Frenchtown, NJ, is not the only one asking herself, “What is the new normal? And how are we going to walk through this?” 

Some proposed changes that owners talk about include limiting appointments to fewer per day, shifting spa menus to feature less touching, renovating spa spaces to make it easier to enforce the flow of social-distancing. “We’re already governed by so many rules from the Board of Health,” says Olson. “The biggest challenge to reopening is what I call ‘staying in your lane,’ or staying true to your spa culture. Taking your knowledge, knowing what you already do, and weaving it through the regulations and guidelines, on a state-by-state basis.” 

Olson, who has been in the spa and salon industry for 25 years, and an owner for 22,  just launched a very smart podcast, “Salon and Spa Coffee Talk with Melissa Joy Olson,” and you can sign up and listen HERE. “I want to connect spa and salon owners to other spa and salon owners to let their voices be heard, share their stories, and help inspire others,” she says. “I’ll be able to reach more people and share my knowledge on the podcast. If I can take a point of pain away from someone so they don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made, that’s worthwhile.” 

She intends to chat with other spa owners and other industry leaders on the podcast, sharing her expertise and mentorship. “Salon and Spa Coffee Talk with Melissa Joy Olson,” is lively, chatty, engaging, smart–just like what we all want any good coffee date to be! Says Olson,  “I want to help owners level-up their skill set. It’s all about connection.” 

(The ISPA COVID 19 resources are available to all, whether members and non-members. To learn more or to download the toolkit, click here.)

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