Alia Crum, PhD is this genius of a human who has cracked the code on "mind over matter." Dr. Crum researches the placebo effect and how mindset influences human experiences.
In one study, she measured ghrelin - the "hunger" hormone - after research participants drank milkshakes. One group was told that their milkshake was indulgent while the other group was told their milkshake was good for them. Ghrelin was lower in the group that thought their milkshake was a yummy treat, meaning that they were more satisfied by it than the other group.
In another study she conducted, Dr. Crum educated housekeepers at a hotel that their job was physically exerting. Prior to that conversation, the housekeepers really just thought that everyday they went to work, not that their work was exercise. After their mindset shifted, they lost weight.
If thoughts can change hormones and promote weight loss, what else can they do? Can changing your mindset be the piece missing from your wellness plan?
Could your thoughts be the root cause of your dis-ease?
If you have an autoimmune disease, how you can mute your inner critic?
If you suffer from constipation, what do you need to let go of?
If you have acid reflux/heartburn, what are you forcing yourself to swallow? What are you not saying/expressing?
If you have heart disease, how can you free the emotions you have repressed?
If you have eczema/psoriasis/acne, what experience have you had that you need to talk about? That thing you went through that's trying to get out?
If you experience any physical symptom, what mindset do you need to adapt to change it?
To watch a 5 minute video from Dr. Crum, follow this link.
Sometimes I feel like the most courageous woman in this world. I have no hesitations when I leave my house: I know exactly who I am and what I'm doing here. I have value. I add value.
And then other days, I feel like I'm role playing in my life. Just pretending to know my stuff and have it all together. On these days I suffer from full on Impostor Syndrome and would rather curl up in a ball than engage with someone looking to me for answers. Every question feels like an inquisition, every celebration of someone else's success, a reflection of my failure.
(I'm going to just take a pause right here to acknowledge that my experience is NOT unique and I would put money on it that most of the people who read this are going to nod their heads and say, "me too.")
There are so many parts of my life that I navigate effortlessly. I find it easy to connect with people and have an elephant memory for them all. I'm that creep that remembers everything about anyone I have ever had a conversation with. I'm besties with all the baristas at my local coffeeshop and can't go anywhere in my neighborhood - scratch that: anywhere in Mpls - without running into someone I know. I have a big heart and I love with abandon.
There are also parts of my life, parts of me that I really struggle with. You know the saying, "you are your own worst critic?" I major in self-criticism. I get an A++. If I ever actually overcame self-criticism, I would graduate with honors. I never know enough. I'm never smart enough. I'm never good enough.
The positive side of this characteristic is that I am always open to learning and constantly striving to do better. But I'm frozen in this space of "never enough" that (to use a concept from my newest shero, Brene Brown) gets between me and wholehearted living.
I'm trying to reframe. To actually live the message I want to leave on this world. One I want to model for the young people in my life...and for everyone else too. Because here's the sad truth: lacking self-confidence is the biggest creativity killer there is.
Consider all the greatness you've witnessed in your lifetime that would never have happened if the creator of it gave into self doubt. You can buy a ticket and fly anywhere in the world, for crying out loud. Imagine if the Wright brothers sat on their porch one day and talked themselves out of building an airplane because they hadn't gone to college or done it before. We would still be traveling by boat and railway.
Smaller acts of greatness need also be mentioned. I mean creating airplanes is pretty cool, but I can think of endless examples of day-to-day greatness that have impacted me much more personally and profoundly. The generosity of strangers (who frankly have other things to do), the patience of parents, the commitment of teachers who just will not give up on a student. What would we miss if our mentors and leaders were too afraid to share their little nuggets of magic with us?
And what would the world - be it the microcosm of your neighborhood or the world at large - miss out on if YOU didn't share your little nuggets of magic?
I've started thinking about my tombstone as of late, and what message it was I wanted to leave on the planet when I died. It's kinda morbid, I know, but it's really helped me get over some lingering body image junk I was getting tired of. When I felt down on my body, I would remind myself that I didn't want "she was thin" to be the memory I leave on this world. So why was I spending so much of my energy trying to be that?
What is actually important to me? Loving people up and helping them find ways of loving themselves too. Do I need to wear a size 0 to do that? Nope. I can love at any size.
So I'm re-writing some tombstones these days and in so doing letting go of some limiting beliefs about myself.
This whole being human thing is kinda hard, huh? Good thing we've got each other.
I spent the last week sharing my story with a bunch of strangers. It was totally awesome.
I completed an advanced training through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine - a righteous (in a good way) organization that is bringing self-care skills to people all over the world to support them in times of crisis and facilitate their healing process. CMBM is a really remarkable organization not just because of their mission but because the entire faculty practices what they preach. They walk the walk. They are a crew of the most empathic, open and loving people I've even met. I want to move in with them all.
There's something else happening at CMBM beyond just their incredible ability to handpick rockstar faculty. The model, created by James Gordon, MD, is magical.
1) It is built around group healing, which is both powerful and effective. Participating in community gets us off our islands and out of our heads. We are forced to show up for others and, maybe more importantly, let them be present for us. Sitting in a room full of people who are there to make their lives better is so awesome.
That it feels good is enough of a reason to participate in group healing, but there's more. Research shows that participants of support groups reduced their blood pressure, improved health behaviors and increased their quality of life1. For cancer patients, support groups improve quality of life, prolong life and reduce disease recurrence2, 3, 4. Research on the effects of participating in groups have also shown that they help low back pain5, improve metabolism and energy production (i.e. anti-aging)6, and reduce risk of heart disease7. There are so many more symptoms and diseases that have not been included in this research, so just take note of this evidence and consider what group support could do for you.
2) The second reason I love this work is that there is a practice of deep listening incorporated into every group, giving each person a captive audience to share thoughts, feelings, fears, family drama, work disappointments, stories that show the best and the worst of you without fear of being interrupted, judged or gossiped about. The purpose of these groups is to teach self-care tools, like meditation and guided imagery but for me this sharing and being shared with is the most magical and compelling piece.
And here's why:
Sharing and listening proves to us each that we are not alone. And that gives us the comfort and courage we need to keep up the good fight.
My group this last week included 10 women and one gentle-man who traveled from as far away as Japan. We were social workers, receptionists, psychologists, mothers, wives, betrothed, bisexuals, self conscious, damaged, lost, struggling and thriving. Every time one of us shared a piece of our life story there was this unanimous nod that went around the circle that said, "me too!"
I'm invisible. I am struggling through my pain. I don't like my body. I'm not living my life's purpose.
There is so much comfort in that shared experience, even if the story line is unique. We all have loss and regret and disappointment. We all struggle. And for most of us those struggles weighs on us more than our successes can pull us up and out of. Life is tough! But we're in it together.
I plan to continue my training with CMBM just so I can soak up as much of their magic as possible and then bring it back to my community and clients. I'll be pulling the techniques and skills I've learned through my training into my individual and group coaching sessions. Self-care is the bedrock of all health and wellbeing. We all need to practice it every day, even just for a moment.
I hope to facilitate a mind-body skills group this fall, so stay tuned! Sign up for my newsletter to learn more and stay in the loop.
References: see in text links to citations.
Many years ago my beloved collaborator, Julie Kesti, made a sticker that so radically affected me that 7 years later I'm still thinking about it, writing about it. How revolutionary those four words are: I love my body. When you put that sticker on your chest you're telling everyone who can read that you love your body! But when they read it, they read "I love my body!" Woah, that's a powerful message! Do I love my body? Can I love my body? How can I love my body? What does it even mean to love my body? Does it mean losing 20 pounds? Does it mean I have to start running?
No. It means loving your body. Right now, just as it is.
It's just not that simple, though is it?
So I've been thinking about these things and chewing this message over for years. Recently, I realized that all the science I've studied, all the metabolic pathways of nutrients I've learned, all the supplements, diets, and conditions mean nothing if my client doesn't love themselves enough to get better. Every physical symptom is attached to an emotional experience.
Today my neck hurts. It hurts because I was at a show last night (Lake Street Dive: drool) and I slouch when I stand. Always have. Because I'm 5'11" (over 6' with shoes on) and I'm a woman. I'm not meant to take up that much space. I'm not supposed to be taller than men. I'm not worthy of "looking down" on someone when I talk to them. So I tuck my pelvis, I round my shoulders and I jut out my chin taking a good few inches off of my power. When I stand that way I also breathe into my chest, because my abdomen is compressed by my posture. So I'm not breathing into my organs and my neck pain is accompanied by bloating and constipation the next day. Rinse and repeat and it's no wonder at 20 years old I was diagnosed with IBS and all because I have low self-esteem.
My point in sharing any of this with you is to set an intention for myself and for this space. I co-opted Julie's brilliance in branding my tagline "love your body, love your food" several years ago when I opened my health coaching practice and in subtle ways that's the soul of the work I do. Yet, my exploration of body positivity, self-talk and self-care has been thwarted by other projects like opening Wellness Minneapolis last fall. It's time to take it on. I need to for myself and for my practice, but also because it's the mark I want to leave on this world. If I can teach one person how to genuinely, authentically, unabashedly love their bodies I can rest easy.
So. If there are specific topics you'd like me to take on, send them my way or leave a comment. This blog may look like a modern dance for a bit as I get into my flow with it. I have a laundry list of pieces I want to write, people I want to interview, projects I want to take on. Today, I start.