Showing posts with label wellness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wellness. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Affirmations to Create a Happier, Healthier You

By Sharon Yeskel, BA
Integrative Health Associate

Affirmations are phrases you repeat to yourself to help bring about positive changes in your life. They can also help you stop negative self-talk by choosing to state the opposite of what you believe is true. To create an affirmation out of a negative belief, change the thought:
  • I’m not lovable becomes I deserve to love and be loved 
  • I’ll never find an apartment I like becomes I trust that I will find the perfect place to live 
  • I’m always sick and tired becomes I am healthy and filled with energy to do the things I love
Affirmations should create positive images in your mind. Using words like scared, pain, or anxious make you think of those conditions. Make sure to use words like comfortable, safe, supported, and peaceful when writing your phrases:
  • I have no pain becomes I feel comfortable. 
  • I am not scared becomes I feel safe and supported. 
  • I’m not anxious becomes I choose peace in this moment.
Be sure you never start your affirmations with “I hope.” When you say “I hope this happens,” there is an underlying vibration of doubt. Say to yourself, “I hope I get the job and my boss respects me.” Now say, “I have a job that I love. My boss respects me and values my work.” Which phrase makes you feel better? Which phrase makes you feel that having that job is possible? Always chose statements that make you light up inside.

Have you ever thought about what would bring you joy and give you a reason to get up every morning? If you don’t know the answer, try using affirmations to lead you to your life’s purpose. Try these statements and see what shows up for you:

·         I am aligned with my life’s purpose.
·         My life’s purpose is being revealed to me now. I open myself to all possibilities.

When you first start saying affirmations, they may not be true or you may not believe they are true. As you continue to say them once or several times a day, they can change the way you think about yourself and the world. Make a commitment to repeat your affirmations every day for a minimum of 21 days. Keep a list of your affirmations on your night table and read them before you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning.

Overtime, you may find those statements that were once just wishful thinking, are true. Drop some and add others as the statements become a reality. Affirmations can be a powerful tool to help you let go of limiting beliefs and help you create the happier, healthier life you desire.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How Resilient Are You?

By Sharon Yeskel, BA
Integrative Health Associate

The late Dr. Wayne Dyer left a legacy of spiritual and practical wisdom through his many books and lectures. He always shared great stories. In his book “Inspiration, Your Ultimate Calling” he shares one about resiliency. Dr. Dyer notes that it’s not what happens to us, but how we respond that will ultimately define who we are and what kind of lives we will create. He calls this story “Carrots, Eggs and Coffee” and it goes like this….

A young woman is complaining to her mother how hard her life is. She says she feels like giving up. The mother takes her to the kitchen. She fills three pots with water and puts them on the stove to boil. In the first one she puts carrots, in the second she puts an egg, and in the third she puts coffee grounds. After 20 minutes, the carrots are soft, the egg is hard-boiled, and the coffee is ready to drink.

So what does that have to do with overcoming difficulties? The mother explains that each of the objects faced the same adversity: the boiling water. The carrots went in strong, hard and unrelenting. After boiling, they became soft and weak. The egg started out fragile, but after boiling, it became hard. The coffee grounds mixed with the water and actually changed the water itself.

We all get thrown for a loop sometimes. We can’t control what happens to us. What we can do is choose how we will respond. Adversity can weaken us and harden our hearts or it can propel us forward. New possibilities await if we open our hearts to change. It is a key to becoming resilient.

Resilience is one of the Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being (Sleep, Activity, Purpose, Resilience and Nutrition). Learn more about Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine’s Five Pillar approach to optimize your health by calling 732-263-7999, visiting our website at or following us on social media on Facebook: Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine or Twitter: @HMIntegrativeHM.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How to Really Know Your Health Coach

By Kathleen Welshman RN-BC, BA, NBC-HWC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

Health Coach? Wellness Coach? Life Coach? All trendy titles these days that catch people’s attention. But, what do these titles mean and what is the education and credentialing behind them?  If you google “health coach”, you will find varying information from how to become a health coach to where you can find a local health coach.  Consumer be aware. Because this is a new field, anyone can hang a shingle out calling themselves a health or wellness coach.  This does not mean they have any formal training or expertise.  There are many folks out there calling themselves by these titles, some with very little, if any, educational background in the healthcare field.  At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we set the bar quite high.  All of our health coaches are Registered Nurses first. Our nurses have varying backgrounds and areas of expertise, all with at least 10-20+ years of nursing experience before becoming a health coach.  This background has given these nurses a solid foundation on which to build. 

Our registered nurse health coaches have all attended and graduated from coaching programs in “integrative health coaching,” not just “health coaching.”   Their knowledge in integrative approaches to health and well-being are based on evidence-based practices.  Our health coaches have attended programs at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and The University of Arizona, Center for Integrative Medicine.  Both of these schools have met all the standards and requirements by the International Consortium of Health and Wellness Coaches (ICHWC).  The ICHWC has joined with The National Board of Medical Examiners to develop a national standard for Health and Wellness Coaches.  They have set a measure of foundational competencies, knowledge, tasks, and skills essential to the practice of health and wellness coaching.  The application of coaching knowledge is assessed by the Health and Wellness Coach Certifying Exam.  Our health coaches have sat for the very first qualifying exam, have passed and are now National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coaches. They are among the elite, approximately 1,000 NBC-HWC in the country.  Add to this, the requirement of coaches at Hackensack Meridian Health, also are Registered Nurses.  So, when seeking out a coach to partner with on your wellness journey, do your research first and turn to Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine for highly qualified and credentialed RN/Health Coaches. 

Meet our health coaches and learn more about health coaching here. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spring Renewal

By Pamela Jansky, RN-BC, CDE, AAACN

Spring is just around the corner! Signs of life are blooming all around us as the crocuses begin to emerge from the snow. Days are getting longer, temperatures are rising and the air is fresh and clean. Our excitement begins to build as we anticipate the annual renewal of life, symbolizing new beginnings and growth. We begin to think about the areas in our personal lives that may need a breath of fresh air. Our homes await their spring cleaning and our yards need to be tidied and prepared for spring planting. All in preparation for the summer when we will enjoy the fruits of our labor.

So too, we think of our internal housekeeping and renewal. Many of us wholeheartedly committed to our New Year’s Resolutions as we began the annual celebration of a new year, full of promise. We start off with great zeal but as the coldest days of winter descend upon us, we may fall back into hibernation mode. Such are the cycles of life. But what is the key to sustained change that brings about the results that we can enjoy in our renewed health and vitality?

What are the areas that you are looking to take to the next level or even find yourself struggling in? At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we are committed to supporting people in their quest for health and wellness through many different modalities such as acupuncture, nutritional counseling, health coaching, health psychology, massage therapy and more. Integrative health and medicine focuses on the health and well-being of the whole person—mind, body and spirit. Our approach is based on the Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being which are Sleep, Activity, Purpose, Nutrition and Resilience. Every person is a unique individual with needs that change throughout the different seasons of life.

Our diversified team offers the support we all need to strengthen these five pillars that help us to form the habits needed for sustained health and vitality. This of course is what we all desire. Motivation gets you started, but habit keeps you going. Our summer gardens continue to need our time and attention if they are to continue to be vibrant and fruitful. An Integrative Nurse Health Coach can partner with you to help you identify the areas where you are blocked and strategies to overcome any obstacles or barriers you may face. They will work alongside you in setting personalized, realistic, sustainable goals that can become new healthy habits so that you too may remain vibrant and fruitful. Click here to learn more about health coaching or call 732-994-7855 to make an appointment with someone on our team.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How to Stay Healthy According to a 9 Year Old

By Isabella Kerris, age 9

Ice cream, cake, brownies, cupcakes, lollipops, smarties, skittles, jolly ranchers! 

I am sure I have named one of your favorite desserts but all of these things I listed are not healthy and they are loaded with sugar. They should not be on your plate! Maybe once in a while you can have one or two or maybe three, but it is not healthy. Keep on reading if you want to learn more about staying healthy.

My first way to stay healthy is you should LIMIT SUGAR! It is not good to eat food with sugar in it for your whole life. If you eat too many sugary foods you can develop diabetes. For breakfast you can have eggs with a side of fruit. For lunch you can have salad and some grilled chicken. For dinner you can have whole wheat pasta or maybe more grilled chicken. And always, always, always try having more fruit and veggies, they are better for you. One time I was sneaking candy when I wasn't allowed to, it was early in the morning and I did not have breakfast yet. My dad caught me and said, “Sweetie I know chocolate is very addicting but we can’t have it all the time because it is not good for us.” He was right! My favorite healthy foods are carrots and toast with sun butter. Now you know all about why you should limit sugar. On to the next way to be healthy.  

The second way you should stay healthy is by eating a lot of fruits and veggies. Here are some of the healthy things you can eat: carrots, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, kale, tomatoes, banana, olives, kale, pickles, coconuts, salad, greens, apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, celery, fennel, pumpkins, blackberries, almonds, cashews, and more. My mom and dad drink a gross smoothie every day with broccoli, greens, spinach and kale. It is the color green. One time my mom made extra of that smoothie and she asked me, "Do you want some?," so I said, “NO PLEASE NO I WANT NONE!!!!!! Please no, I don't like that.” I didn't have any but I should have tried it. Now you know why you should eat fruits and veggies.

My third and final way to be healthy is that you need to exercise. To exercise you need to warm up your muscles so you can do jumping jacks or splits. You can even run around the gym. One time my coach said it was very important to warm up and if you don't your muscles will be cold so when you are trying to stretch it won't work all the way. Now you know why you need to exercise and now you know how to be healthy and you can go try it yourself! 

You are practically an expert now! Go try it! Remember stay healthy and you will feel great. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Self-Care: It’s Not a Luxury, It’s a Necessity

By Paula O’Neill, M.S., RN-BC
Clinical Program Manager

Quick…name the top 5 individuals who are most important to you. If you are like most people you did not include yourself in that list. You stay late at work, care for loved ones, drive the kids to activities… the list goes on and on. We often think of ourselves last, if we think of ourselves at all. But caring for ourselves is so important. Anyone who has flown on a plane is familiar with the safety directions given at the beginning of the flight: put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help someone else with theirs. If you can’t breathe you certainly cannot help anyone else. Likewise, if you don’t take care of yourself, you certainly cannot care for others.

According to Dossey and Keegan (2013), self-care is defined as the “practice of engaging in health related activities and using health-promoting behaviors to adopt a healthier lifestyle and enhance wellness.” Many people think of self-care as a luxury or "fluff." Nothing could be further from the truth. Taking time to care for yourself can help to decrease stress, help you feel calm and relaxed, support your physical, mental and emotional well-being, and help you to be at your best so you can be present for your loved ones. It is a necessity, not a luxury.

You can use Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine’s Five Pillars of Health & Well-being as a guide to self-care. By selecting activities in each category you will be on your way to a great self-care plan. Below are some suggestions, but it is important that you find things to do for yourself that you enjoy. That way you will be more likely to continue doing them and maintain your self-care routine.
  1. Exercise—The benefits of exercise include improving your physical and mental health and well-being and it can help reduce stress. Try a yoga class; take a walk or a run; dance; garden; when you shop park at the parking spot furthest from the store. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes, 4-5x per week. Remember to check with your physician before starting an exercise routine. 
  2. Nutrition—Food provides the nutrients for a healthy body and mind. Therefore, the quality of the food we eat has a tremendous impact on how we feel, physically and mentally. Eat three meals/day; eat a variety of fruits and vegetables (a rainbow of colors); limit the amount of sugar you consume; prepare your own meals (make meals on the weekends and freeze them so you have them readily available during the week); limit your salt intake; use herbs and spices (which have health benefits of their own) to flavor your food. 
  3. Sleep—Good quality and quantity of sleep benefits your body and mind. According to the National Sleep Foundation, being well rested contributes to being more productive and happy, and being in a better mood. Lack of sleep can contribute to heart disease, inflammation, and depression. They recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults and 7-8 hours per night for adults over 65 years of age. Create and stick to a sleep schedule; dim, or better yet turn off, electronic devices-even small amounts of light can interfere with sleep; try Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Relaxation Breath Exercise to help you relax and fall asleep: inhale through your nose for a count of 4…hold your breath for 7 counts…exhale for a count of 8…Repeat 3 more times. 
  4. Resilience—The ability to adapt to adversity and respond to stress. Managing stress is key to well-being and self-care. Try yoga; meditate; 4-7-8 Relaxation Breath Exercise; listen to music; exercise. 
  5. Purpose—“There’s no greater gift than to honor your life’s calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.” - Oprah Winfrey. Knowing your purpose leads to a more meaningful, fulfilling, and satisfying life. Determine your life purpose. 
There is no better time than now to start your self-care plan. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones.

“The best health care plan is a self-care plan.” ~ Nina Leavins

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Living Purposefully in the New Year

By Kathleen Welshman, RN-BC, BA, NBC-HWC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

As we enter another new year, we often think of a new year’s resolution. What will I resolve to do this year? “New year, new you” is often a thought. This is a common time of year for people to join a gym, vow to lose weight and eat healthier. These are all great ideas and important to consider in terms of making healthier changes in our lives. BUT, have you ever stopped and thought about the reason behind these resolutions? What is the reason you want to lose weight or exercise more? Why do you want to be healthy? What is the driving force behind these ideas of change? Think about what is important in your life, your values and beliefs. Think about why you get out of bed in the morning!

At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we explore the Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being: sleep, activity, purpose, nutrition and resilience. Perhaps try a different approach to your new year’s resolution this year by exploring your purpose first. Purpose is what gives your life meaning, your reason for being. Purpose is the essence of who we are and what makes us unique. It is a source of direction and energy. By tapping into a clear sense of purpose, often everything else follows naturally.

Christine Whelan, Ph.D., author of The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life, suggests you ask these questions:
  • What are my values? 
  • What are my strengths? 
  • Who do I want to impact? 
Then fill in the blanks: Because I value ___, I want to use my strengths for ___ to impact ___.

It is important to re-evaluate our purpose as we journey through life, as it may change at different phases of our lives and with changing life circumstances. As we change, our priorities and values shift; our confidence grows, may dissolve into doubt and return once again. When we make choices that are in line with our purpose or our values, it gives greater meaning to the reason we are doing something.

An integrative health coach can partner with you as you set small, achievable goals. With your purpose in mind, those goals are more likely to be sustainable. So as we journey into another new year, learn to embrace the “why” of purpose before selecting the “what” of your goals. Live intentionally – live ON PURPOSE. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to answer the question “Why do I get out of bed in the morning?”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Start the New Year With a Mindful Morning

By Judson Chaney, ND, LAc

Winter Greetings everyone! As the New Year approaches, many of us begin the age old tradition of thinking of New Year’s resolutions to help improve and advance our lives. In my world, the most often encountered New Year’s Resolution has to do with improving health - exercising more, losing weight, making healthier food choices. These are all wonderful of course, and if they work for you, then please have my best wishes in the New Year. If you are searching for a different type of resolution for the New Year to improve your health, I would suggest the following goal: Start each day with a mindful morning.

What do I mean by this? The morning is an excellent way to start each day in a healthy, energized, mindful way. When you currently think about your daily routine in the morning, are your thoughts pleasing, or are they stressful? For many of us, mornings are a hurried and stressed time, we rush to get things done and prepare for our day. More often than not the mornings can leave one feeling tense or drained before the day has even begun. Therefore, I propose the following challenge to you: think about your morning, and think of three ways you can make it less stressful, more calm, and a healthier start to your day. Write them down on a note and tape it to the mirror you use to get ready in the morning as a daily reminder. When you consider these three things and how to accomplish them daily, you will begin to shift and prioritize your life towards living well every day, and starting off each day in a mindful and healthy way. Simple changes such as eating a healthier breakfast, to an extra 15 minutes to walk the dog, or a 5-minute daily stretching and breathing routine can cause a wonderful ripple effect throughout your entire day, and well into the New Year. Start simply and aim for consistency, and I wish you a healthy and happy 2018!

We are offering several Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes in the New Year. Check our website, or call 732-263-7999 to learn more and register. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Big Rocks

By Richard Lund, M.S.
Integrative Health Associate

An expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and to drive home a point, told a story these students will never forget.

As he stood in front of this group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” He pulled out a large wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more would fit inside, he asked, “Is the jar full?”

Everyone in the class agreed, “Yes.”

“Really?” he teased. He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some in and shook the jar, causing the gravel to work itself down into the spaces between the rocks.

Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

“Probably not,” one brave student ventured.

“Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He dumped the sand in the jar and it filled the spaces between the rocks and the gravel.

Once more, he asked, “Is the jar full?”

Now the whole class was on to him. “No!” they shouted.

Once again, he replied, “Right you are!” Then he grabbed a pitcher and began to pour water in until the jar filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager student raised his hand and exclaimed, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you work hard, you can always fit some more things in!”

“No!” the teacher replied, “That’s not the point. The truth is, if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all.”

Friends, what are the “big rocks” in your life? What are your priorities, the most important things in your life, which only you can decide? If wellness is a priority, are you putting your life’s purpose, exercise, good nutrition, sleep, and stress-management into your schedule? Connect with us digitally to learn about our Five Pillars of Health & Well-being and how to optimize your whole health – mind, body, and spirit.


Follow our social media for daily health & wellness info:

Twitter: @HMIntegrativeHM

Facebook: Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Question May Not Be Why Do We Come To Yoga…But Why Do We Stay?

By Debi Heptig, RYT
Specializing in yoga for cancer, restorative yoga, yoga and mindfulness for children

According to the Sports Marketing Survey, 8.7% of Americans are practicing yoga…that’s 20.4 million people! The survey goes on to note that 44% that do not practice said they would like to.

If you are one of the 20.4 million who practice yoga, maybe, like me, you were initially drawn to yoga because of a physical injury - or maybe you wanted to be more flexible or physically strong - or to get bendy like the people on the cover of yoga magazines! But after a while you discovered that what kept you coming back to your mat was not just the physical benefits, but how yoga made you feel in your mind, heart and soul.

Yoga, a Sanskrit word meaning “yoke” or union, is an ancient Indian practice of aligning the physical body (Asana) with the breath (Pranayama) and the mind (meditation) to awaken the awareness of the inner divine self. We spend most of our day reacting to the external demands of life. We are checking off our “to-do” list for work and home, managing life’s chores and people’s expectations. These activities require our constant attention to everything outside of our self. It’s no wonder so many of us are stressed and fatigued at the end of our day!

Yoga is a dive inward. A time of letting go of the “to-do” demands of our everyday life and taking a much-needed pause to just be present with yourself – your whole self – with total self-acceptance, unconditional love, curiosity and non-judgement. No place to get to, no competition. Your mat is your sanctuary for self-discovery.

And if that isn’t enough to convince the other 44% to try yoga, just google “health benefits of yoga” and read the research! Thanks to advances in science and technology we now have research showing that a regular yoga practice can help alleviate a variety of ailments. An impressive list that includes lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation and cardiovascular health, enhanced memory, better focus, improving balance and strength, and helping to alleviate insomnia, depression and anxiety.

Take yoga’s diaphragmatic breathing. This deep long inhale and exhale controlled breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system telling the brain that the body can rest and digest. The mind calms, the heart rate and blood pressure slow, and blood flow is directed to digestive and reproductive organs and to the endocrine and lymphatic systems of the body.

Now add meditation. MRI’s and EEG’s have shown that regular meditation activates areas of the brain that deal with concentration and memory while decreasing gray matter in areas related to fear and anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2011 concluded that mindful meditation can even reduce sensitivity to pain.

Combine this with the asana or physical practice and we learn body alignment, balance, flexibility, range of motion and build strength. From activating our parasympathetic nervous system and increasing the neuroplasticity of our brain, to aligning our body, we can almost say yoga is our fountain of youth!

So why not add “yoga practice” to your to-do list and make time to stop time and just be….you may just discover yourself and increase your health and well-being!


Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine offers many yoga classes, including Survivor Yoga for Those Living with Cancer and Yoga…The Mind Body Happy Hour. Visit our website to view the class schedule.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Winter Is Coming!

By Amy Grutzmacher
Licensed Massage Therapist

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan or beach enthusiast like me, then there’s a chance the phrase, “Winter Is Coming!” sparks some feelings of apprehension and unease. As autumn fades and we settle into December, it’s not uncommon for our energy levels to decrease, we tend to eat more and exercise less, our joints stiffen and our skin dries out. No wonder why many of us dread the winter! 

Of course, winter isn’t all bad. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge a few things that I enjoy about the cooler months: delicious warm and spicy drinks, twinkling snow covered lights, cozy slippers, hearty stews, thick comforters, toasty fires, my beloved winter boots and the quiet calm after a snow fall. You see? Winter isn’t all bad.

But despite the enjoyable parts of winter, as we transition to shorter days and colder temperatures the winter blues and additional body aches are common for many of us. Massage therapy may be an effective method for easing these common seasonal challenges. Some studies have shown that massage therapy increases levels of serotonin and dopamine (the hormones that make us feel good and help us sleep), while decreasing cortisol (the hormone that makes us feel stressed).

Massage therapy is known to boost our immune systems and increase lymphocytes, the white blood cells that play a large role in defending our bodies from disease. This can help our bodies fight off the many communicable diseases that are common during the winter months. Massage is proven to stabilize the collagen in our skin and it also helps to maintain our skin’s elasticity. This, coupled with moisturizing massage lotion or oil can improve our overall skin health-especially during winter.

Cooler months can bring on stiff joints, our muscles and fascia tighten, and aches and pains can increase. Massage therapy increases circulation while warming the body, hands and feet. Massage, when coupled with warming elements such as a heated pad, can help bring new and healthy blood to tight areas and help muscles perform more efficiently and with greater ease.

Skiing is another joy of winter for many. But skiing and shoveling snow are two of the top activities that cause injuries during the winter. Massage can help ease sore muscles and speed the healing process. Speaking of shoveling, remember to protect your back by using good posture--bend at the knees and use a wide stance! 

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that self-care is important no matter the season. Even though winter can be a busy and challenging time, continue the habits that help you stay healthy and happy.  

And even though winter can seem like it lasts forever, we’ll be back on the beach, soaking in the warmth (and precious vitamin D) of summer before you know it!

Schedule your winter massages with Amy by calling 732.994.7855.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Achieving Ultimate Wellness

By Lisa Wielgomas
Community Outreach Manager

Having grown up, attended school, and lived in Toms River for over 30 years, you could say there is a special place in my heart for this community. When I was asked to represent Hackensack Meridian Health’s Integrative Health & Medicine program on the Toms River Family Health and Support Coalition, naturally, I was honored and up for the challenge.

While this coalition has identified quite a few issues that Toms River faces, as well as potential solutions, in our upcoming blueprint for action, I believe that an upstream approach to wellness is as important as individual mental health challenges and substance abuse needs in the community. While our subgroups address these needs, an overarching theme of wellness fits across all of these focus areas.

Many call themselves “healthy,” making statements such as “I got my flu shot – I’m healthy,” “I don’t have a cold – I’m healthy,” and “I eat my veggies – I’m healthy.” This is what I grew up knowing as the definition of health: “I’m not sick. Therefore, I’m healthy.”

Not so. The World Health Organization defined health in 1948 as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

While we need to address the critical issues and treat those affected, we also need to teach the current and next generation how to swing the pendulum in the other direction and move toward awareness, education and growth to achieve ultimate wellness as a community. This will ensure that there will be less chronic illness, food insecurity, senior isolation and substance abuse – because it’s all connected. An overall wellness initiative works across a continuum to impact all of the challenges that Toms River faces and ensures a lasting healthy future.

It all begins with making the healthy choice the easy choice. The people of Toms River want to be happy and healthy. We can start with promoting the definition of health, then offer education, meet people where they are by refreshing our parks and making them more accessible to encourage community members to participate in physical activities. We can appeal to businesses to provide healthier choices, offer programs, collaborate and partner with our coalition. The possibilities are endless. We need to consider sustainability in our work – that what we are doing will last. We need to address the underlying challenges that prevent our community members from the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. We need to rally together to be the healthiest community in NJ. And we will.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Being A Part of the Journey Towards Health

By Dean Nelson
Owner/Founder, Dean’s Natural Food Market
Guest Blog

None of us know where things will lead. Thus, when my natural food journey started some 20 odd years ago, who knew where it would take me? The initial premise was simple: provide people with nourishing food, free from artificial ingredients and toxic additives, and provide them with genuine warm service--the level of attention and respect every person deserves.

Though those have always been the core basics of our mission at Dean’s, truth be told, the path has taken a much more meaningful direction. I have the privilege of providing people with employment, which means I get to create an environment I believe coaches, inspires, and brings out the best in people. I have the opportunity to shape the work ethic of young people, employ minorities, and show them the respect all people have a right to.

I have the amazing opportunity to serve people -- great people -- who understand the “why” of what we do. I serve conscious people and get to create consciousness for those willing to discover it. Our customers are changing the world. Having the opportunity to play even the smallest part in that is humbling beyond question.

Our success through customers’ support allows us to influence change in the food system. We get to raise awareness about GMOs, encourage food manufacturers to provide better choices, encourage better farming practices, and ultimately, provide food that nourishes the body and spirit.

Most importantly, I have learned that all things are connected. We are no better or worse than anyone else and are but a part of the whole. I have learned there are amazing people in the world. People dedicated to positive change. People willing to make sacrifices for the sake of humanity and our planet.

I for one am blessed to be a part of the journey.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Minding your Spirit

By Sara Scheller, BSN, RN, CPN, CCRN
Integrative Health Coach

What part does our spirit play into how we move through our life? Spirit is the essence of our being. It is what lights us up and makes us feel alive. We cannot see it, but we know it is there. Spirituality is not the same as religion but it is in religion; it is the connection to something bigger than us. One formal definition from a group of experts defines spirituality as, “…a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose and transcendence, and experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions and practices.” (Puchalski et al., 2014). In an environment overrun by technology and constant stimulation, it is important now more than ever to have a connection to our human spirit because it can keep us grounded, motivated and living our lives on purpose. It can help us feel peace when we cannot answer some of the big why questions we have in our lives. It can help us heal when we are faced with challenges in our lives. So how do we build or improve our connection with our human spirit? Here are four ways to get started:
  1. Practice presence. We are human beings not human doings. Are you taking time to just be?When we are present, we are paying attention to what is happening in the here and now. We aren’t rehashing the past and we aren’t anticipating the future. It is estimated the average person only spends about 10% of their time in the present moment. If you find yourself in this category, start with the simple action of awareness. Are you aware of how often your mind is wandering in conversations with others, while driving in the car, or while taking a shower?When we take time to simply be present, we calm and balance our nervous system which can build our resilience and allow our mind and body to do what it knows how to do best. In doing so, we can tune into our body, mind and spirit, and what we truly need in order to live our best life.
  2. Live life on purpose. Do you know your purpose? Why are you here? Purpose is fundamental; it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. It’s what keeps us going when times get tough. It may change throughout our lives and even one simple moment can split our path and send us in an entirely new and different direction. When we know our purpose and we make choices in our lives that are aligned with that, we can develop a deeper sense of meaning that can keep our spirit alive.
  3. Get out in nature. Most of us probably spend the majority of our days inside. We are working, the weather isn’t ideal, or we are just too busy to get out. Did you know that exercising in nature can release hormones that make you happier and improve your overall well-being? Fresh air has more oxygen which can help our brains think more clearly. When we can appreciate the beauty in nature, we activate primal regions in our brain. Can you feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin and appreciate the unlimited view of the sky? Spending time in nature helps us connect with our spirit.
  4. Find support. Maybe you get in touch with your spirit in your community -- church, synagogue, ashram, or other religious structure or organization. Or maybe you feel more at one with your spirit in conversation with a friend or loved one. Caring for our spirit in this way is fulfilling one of our core human needs -- social connections. While alone time to reflect is also important, we were placed on this earth as social beings. Experiment to find a balance of alone time and together time with people who can support your spiritual needs.

  5. Studies show that spiritual distress often can have a negative impact on health. When we improve our spiritual well-being, it gives us an additional coping strategy to build our resilience and live a purposeful life. Spirituality can be found along the entire illness to wellness continuum; we can use it in times of illness and death, in times of great joy and thriving, or anywhere in between. At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health and Medicine, we believe in caring for a whole person--body, mind and spirit. We follow a patient-centered, team approach to caring for our patients. Our five pillars of health and well-being include sleep, activity, purpose, nutrition and resilience. Call us for more information at 732-763-7999 or visit our website at       

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tips on Reducing Environmental Toxins

By Vivian Kominos, M.D., FACC
Integrative Physician 

I thought I was doing a good job protecting the environment: I recycle, grow organic vegetables, try to walk for chores instead of getting in the car, and buy food that is locally sourced. Then I read that my dental floss was toxic! It is coated with PFCs - perfluorinated chemicals. These are man-made slippery compounds that help the floss glide easily between teeth. PFCs are also the substances that are used in many products to make them waterproof, stain resistant and non-sticky. They are found in clothing, cookware, carpeting and furniture that are treated with Gore-Tex, Teflon, Stainmaster, and Scotchguard.

So what is the problem with PFCs? They have been linked to thyroid and fertility problems, immune system damage and hormone instability. So if we are using dental floss, the PFCs can be absorbed in our blood. And when we dispose of articles that contain PFCs, they eventually enter the waterways where they pollute our environment. We are surrounded by many toxins besides PFCs --- bisphenol A and phthalates in plastics, pesticides in fruits and vegetables, and antibiotics in meat, to name a few. Luckily, there are just as many ways to reduce exposure to these poisons.

We each have a responsibility to care for our earth the same way we care for our bodies. Follow these 10 tips to make our homes and planet safer:
  1. Use dental floss that is made with natural fibers, such as silk or flax, which is coated with beeswax.
  2. Use only organic teas. Non-organic teas may contain toxins; the longer you steep non-organic tea, the greater the chance you will be drinking metals and poisons. 
  3. Store food in reusable, lidded glass containers to cut down on plastic, foil and paper.
  4. Recycle paper, glass and appropriate plastics. Do not put paints or electrical appliances in your regular garbage. Instead check with your town to see if they have a special and safe depository. 
  5. Buy local, seasonal and organic food. This decreases the amount of fossil fuels used to transport food. Organic farmers do not use toxic herbicides or pesticides. Shop at farmers markets. 
  6. Use public transportation, share rides, walk or bike when you can.
  7. Eat less animal protein. Raising meat uses more resources than plants.
  8. Turn off lights when you leave a room, unplug electrical appliances when not in use and turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Run the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads. 
  9. Use environmentally safe cleaning products for your body and your home. Refer to (Environmental Working Group) for specific product information. This site has a wealth of information regarding safety in everything from cosmetics to fish to sunscreens. 
  10. Start an organic vegetable garden if you have the space and time. It is easy to grow herbs and salad greens in pots even indoors by a sunny window. And if you garden, use organic pest and weed control products. Look at for a list of products.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Red Light, Green Light, 1, 2, 3: Notes From The Field On Coping With Chronic Health Conditions

By Judson Chaney, ND, LAc

It is no secret that I love what I do. As an acupuncturist, and naturopath, I am provided a unique opportunity to work with individuals to encourage greater health and well-being, to reduce stress and pain, and hopefully to improve quality of life. What I love the most about what I do is that it feeds my love of learning. I love to learn about new information and research regarding health conditions, and treatment approaches. More so however, what really impacts me is what I am able to learn from my patients’ experiences and challenges, as they share and communicate with me during the therapeutic process. Everyone has a story. These stories are all unique, and special in different ways. Through the stories my patients share, I am provided a unique window into other ways of experiencing and living this life, and what that can entail. It is both an honor and a privilege.     

A common reason why people come to see me as an acupuncturist is for chronic health conditions.  The most common and striking example of this of course is chronic pain, but there are so many other chronic health conditions that affect people on a daily basis. I would like to share with you an insight I have gleaned from my work, in hopes that it may help you, or someone you know. The title of this post is a reference to a children’s game involving a traffic light - the reason being is that a traffic light can be a wonderful metaphor to help us deal with the challenges of a chronic health condition.  

Most of us, whether we are in good health, or suffering from a chronic complaint, have good days and bad days. For most, we shrug off the bad days and move on. However, when someone is experiencing the challenges of a chronic health condition, those bad days can take a much greater toll. The return of a symptom, or the worsening of pain after it had been lessened for a period of time, can have a cascading negative impact. I have witnessed this effect and impact first-hand, as I have seen patients deal with the toll of a flare-up in pain or auto-immune disease after a period of improvement or remission. The resulting outcome at times is that not only does this affect them in the present moment, but it can also steal from their future experiences as well. People understandably start to wonder about the future, "What will I, or will not, be able to do?," "What can I expect tomorrow, or next week, or how might this affect the vacation I was planning?" The emotional impact of this process can be significant. As someone who has dealt with both auto-immune disease and chronic pain personally, I can empathize and understand this reaction. I also have worked to understand the reaction and to navigate around it. This is where the traffic light comes in….

When we are driving from point A to B, invariably we may be confronted with the ever present traffic light -- the wonderful red, yellow, and green moderator of traffic flow which keep our roads running smoothly and safely. The traffic light, however, does not consider your individual needs and destination when it changes from green to red. It just happens, it just is. You may be late for work, or just on a weekend cruise, it does not matter to the traffic light. It changes red to green, green to red, cars go, and cars stop.

How often, when at a red light, does this affect your outlook on the future? In the course of my lifetime, I cannot think of one example. It may be an inconvenience surely, but ultimately when the light turns green, we press on and continue down the road.  

The perspective I am trying to convey and share is that when dealing with a chronic health condition, there can be set backs, flare-ups, and even times when we feel like we have to start over.   It is helpful therefore to think of these occurrences in a way similar to how we experience a red light.  They represent an unexpected, yet understandable delay, and a temporary one. In a way, by doing so, we give ourselves permission to experience our lives in the present, even if it is unpleasant, without letting that experience cascade into our future. This perspective can allow our resources to focus on the challenges as they arise in the present moment. More importantly, in my opinion, is that it allows us to acknowledge and recognize the possibility of a positive change in the future. 

I wish you patience and understanding when waiting for the red light to change. May you encounter many green lights ahead farther down the road. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Let Me Share a Secret: It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It

By David C. Leopold, M.D. 
Medical Director

As our elected leaders continue to struggle with healthcare, we need to remember that all of us directly affect healthcare in our country by the way we approach our own health. As I discussed in my previous blog, we have a tremendous burden in this country for diseases that are largely preventable and modifiable. One of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves and for the healthcare system in general is to become proactive with our own health, to optimize our wellness and to prevent disease conditions from ever establishing.

In this blog, I will continue to discuss ways that anyone can improve their health. But first I want to take a slight detour to talk about some things that directly affect our ability to make healthy life choices.

Here is a secret you may not be aware of--something that healthcare practitioners do not like to discuss or even whisper among ourselves: the reality is most of these interventions are not easy. Most take some work and some actually take a considerable amount of work. Let’s admit it, exercise is hard! Trying to come to terms with what is causing you stress is hard, let alone doing something about it once you actually identify your stressors. Eating right is hard and we are constantly barraged with messages of instant gratification and satisfaction coming from food and food-like substances. Starting a lifestyle that focuses on physical activity, healthy nutrition, and stress management all require work and constant effort in the choices we make. 

I believe we do a disservice to people when we imply that these difficult changes should be easy and simply "flow." There is vast misinformation and messaging that these interventions and these changes should come naturally; that they are simple. Nothing could be further from the truth. These lifestyle changes are decidedly better for you, but they are not easy. This misconception places an undue burden on a person to succeed immediately which is something that is almost always not going to happen. This leads to people ultimately feeling even more frustrated, discouraged and it actually increases their stress. Who needs one more thing to try to do and to fail at it? So most people never even try, or they try and then after not succeeding immediately they go back to their old habits, more entrenched in those bad patterns than before. The reality is doing the right thing is almost always hard, and this is especially true when it comes to taking care of our own health.

I remind my patients all the time that medicine is an art, not a science, and therefore there are really very few guarantees in patient outcomes. I also tell my patients that something I can virtually guarantee is that most, if not all, of these interventions and lifestyle changes will make you feel better and significantly improve your health if you incorporate them into your daily lifestyle.

Are you ready for another secret? Everyone fails at these things before they ultimately find a way to make them work. Failure is the rule, not the exception. We know that almost no one makes changes and sticks to them without many failures along the way. The trick is to recognize that this is normal, it’s not just you and it does not mean you cannot do what you have set out to do! Failure at lifestyle change happens to everyone; in fact it usually takes about 12 weeks of doing something new before it even starts to become something that is incorporated into your "new lifestyle." So when, not if, you fall off the path, don’t be too hard on yourself--it’s totally normal. First and foremost, congratulate yourself for the courage to even try to make changes in the first place, and then really think about and examine why you fell off. Then get yourself back on the path, and try to be just a little bit better, more aware next time. "If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again."

I’ll end my blog today with one of my favorite quotes, one I have relied on since I was an overworked, underpaid, and thoroughly exhausted medical resident. I would often not want to even let it come into my consciousness because it inevitably meant I was going to do more work and probably go home much later. But it never let me down, and because of it I was able to sleep at night knowing I had done what I could.

“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” --- Norman Schwarzkopf

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Learning Garden

By Nina K. Regevik, M.D., FACP, ABIHM

Co-Director, Division of Integrative Health
Medical Director, Division of HIV Services

Gardening is a passion of mine. I like to think of the garden as our “farmacy” because there are so many nutrients in the veggies and herbs we grow. We started The Learning Garden, an on-site vegetable garden at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center - Perth Amboy, to educate children and adults about container gardening and growing vegetables and herbs. It gives us a way to encourage healthy eating for our team members, patients and the community. The Learning Garden is overseen by the Integrative Health Services team and a Master Gardener. We are serious about gardening, but we have a lot of serious fun!

This is our hospital garden’s third season and it’s off to a great start. Before we even began planting this spring, we noticed a bunch of red and purple-fleshed potatoes sprouting from spuds we must have missed harvesting last year. If this happens to you, no need to worry because the potatoes will probably re-seed over the winter and grow into a whole new plant the next year. Our mixed lettuces did the same thing. They went to seed and re-sprouted early this spring, just as our Master Gardener, Connie Elek, predicted they would.

Besides a variety of vegetables and herbs, we planted Nasturtiums with edible flowers and leaves to add a bright orange color to our garden and a peppery taste to salads. They are also high in Vitamins A, C, and D. Sunflowers line the perimeter of the garden. Those large edible heads are filled with super nutritious seeds rich in bone-healthy minerals magnesium and copper and cancer fighting selenium.

You may have pulled this “weed” in your garden (see photo) from between your patio stones. Well pull no more! It’s a mega-nutrient. Purslane is its name and huge doses of omega 3’s is its game! My sources say there is not another plant that has more of these healthy heart oils than purslane. It also has six-times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. Toss it in your salads for a crunchy nutrient boost.

Unfortunately, most of our commercially available fatty fish have a lot of toxins. If you are going to eat them, do some damage control. We planted cilantro, a flavorful herb which is used in many cuisines. Try it in your fish dishes. It helps to prevent the absorption of heavy metals, especially when eating large fatty fish such as commercially available canned tuna.

How you water your garden is just as important as the amount of sunlight and the soil you use (by the way, we like organic mushroom mix soil). We chose an under-soil soaker system to save the planet’s water as well as to get the water directly to the roots where it is needed. And remember to water even if it rains. Rainwater slides off the leaves and misses the roots.

Stop by any Thursday from noon – 1:00 p.m. with your gardening questions and to learn from our Master Gardener. Registration is required by calling 732-324-5257.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Massage is a Necessity, Not a Luxury

By Amy Grutzmacher
Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT)

When I think about massage, I can’t help but be reminded of the Tinman from The Wizard of Oz – specifically the scene where Dorothy finds him rusted and stiff in the forest. I really identify with the relief he expresses when Dorothy oils his shoulder and arm and he’s finally able to drop the ax he’s been holding up for a year. While we don’t sit in the same position for a year without interruption, the stagnant repetitive lifestyle of desk work or unhealthy sleeping patterns can make us feel stiff and tight - just like the beloved Tinman’s rusty body.

“Oil my arms please. Oil my elbows. My neck. Oil my neck.”

Throughout the movie, the Tinman requires regular doses of oil so he can move properly. Our bodies benefit from regular massage in the same way. I like to picture myself as Dorothy with the oil can.

Massage Therapy is commonly associated with a relaxing treat or a luxurious add-on to vacation plans. It has been framed as an “extra” instead of a “necessary” part of the healthcare system. I’d like to try to change this perspective by letting people know how beneficial and valuable regular massage therapy really is for your mind and body.

It’s easy to see why massage is commonly described as a luxury - it makes you feel amazing! I love a good massage too! The feel-good emotion that we love is due to the release of endorphins that give us a feeling of well-being. Stress-causing hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol are reduced. Massage is not a long-term or sole treatment for depression, anxiety, or stress but this therapy can help to temporarily alleviate some symptoms leaving you feeling full of wonderful endorphins.

Pain is one of the most common reasons people book a massage. Many careers require you to sit or stand for long periods of time. A repetitive routine with minimal movement means our muscles don’t get the nourishing effects of good blood flow. Our bodies are not designed to sit for long periods of time and this can result in stiff, sore and achy bodies. Regular massage increases blood flow to the muscles, which helps them feel better. Think of a dried up sponge. Once water is added, the sponge becomes supple and pliable. This is what blood does for our tight muscles. Massage brings the blood to the tight muscles while delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients.

In addition to increasing blood flow, simple massage can help alleviate neck, shoulder and back pain. Improving the flow of the circulatory, lymphatic and digestive systems allows the body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to other areas of the body while removing toxins and access fluid more efficiently. This can make our bodies feel cleansed.

Here are a few personal experiences from our very own Integrative Health & Medicine team:

“I’ve actually only had a few massages in my life and they were pretty life changing. Besides feeling extremely relaxed afterwards, I also felt fatigued and my body felt achy a day or two after. After doing some research I learned that this is the body’s way of releasing toxins to promote healing in the body. It’s amazing to think that a simple relaxing massage can also help improve my energy, digestion, and mental health! A massage used to be a treat but now I combine regular massage with the cleanse that I do at the start of every new season.” - Nikki Cerillo, RN, LDN, CHNP

"I thought I hated massage until Amy told me massage therapists appreciate honesty and said that it’s ok to ask for more or less pressure. I thought that by asking this I was hurting the therapist’s feelings and not getting the best benefit from the massage. Amy was truly concerned with my massage experience and checked in with me but was not obtrusive.” - Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN

“This was my first massage ever. Since seeing Amy, my body awareness is much more on point. I didn’t realize how often I was clenching my jaw. I also learned that I’m not stretching enough after working out. I’m much more in tune with what my body needs now more than ever!” - Casey Gothelf, Medical Assistant

While massage is a really great way to treat yourself, I’d like for you to consider incorporating massage therapy into your monthly health regimen. A single massage can do so much for you but getting a massage regularly can do even more. This is the beauty of bodywork: the more you do it, the greater improvements you’ll see in your body and wellness. Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you’ll be. Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health. And remember, just because massage feels like a pampering treat doesn’t mean it’s any less therapeutic. Consider massage appointments a necessary piece of your health and wellness plan and lets work together to establish a treatment schedule that best meets your needs. Call our clinic in Jackson at 732-994-7855 to schedule your appointment today.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How to Start a Vegetable Garden…It’s Not Too Late

By Paula O’Neill, M.S., RN-BC
Clinical Program Manager

Just imagine. You decide you would like a salad for lunch. You walk out to your back yard or terrace and pick a ripe, juicy tomato off the vine. Next, you select tender, succulent lettuce leaves and crisp red radishes. Delicious! There is nothing like the taste of fresh picked vegetables. And this is just one of the many benefits of having your own garden. Other benefits include:

1.     Exercise. When you are weeding, digging and planting you are also stretching, bending, and moving...all forms of exercise. 
2.     Stress relief. Studies have shown that gardening can help lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and improve mood.
3.     Connection to nature. Putting your hands in the dirt and working with the earth, nurturing life through the growth of plants, herbs, and spices has been reported by some to be a spiritual experience.
4.     Improved health. Growing your own vegetables provides you with fresh, nutrient-dense food. And an extra benefit is helping to reduce your grocery bill.

It’s not too late to start your own garden. All you need is a small area in your yard or a few containers. Choose a location that gets a lot of full sun and has good drainage. Vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. If you are planting in containers, make sure that the bottom has drainage holes. Next, select your soil. If you are a beginner you may want to start by purchasing commercial soil made specifically for growing vegetables. Now you’re ready to plant. Make sure you space your crops properly. You can follow the directions on the plant tab or seed packet. Lettuce, radishes, kale, Swiss chard and broccoli are some examples of vegetables that can be planted in August. At this time of year, it’s best to plant seedlings.

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” - Alfred Austin

If you would like more information about gardening, including how to start your own garden or maintain your current garden, join us and our Master Gardener at The Learning Garden at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center - Perth Amboy every Thursday, weather permitting, from 12 pm- 1 pm. Call 732.324.5257 for more information and to let us know you’re stopping by.