The Wellness-Mindfulness Connection

The Wellness - Mindfulness Connection

How are you?

No, really, how are you? Do you really have the information to answer that question? Maybe this is a question you should be asking yourself more often. Anyone experienced in meditation will tell you–answering that question thoroughly can be the quest of a lifetime, and takes more effort than you might think.

We live in a distracted time, so much so that most of us have no idea how to be anything other than distracted–bouncing through our lives like a pinball from one obligation to the next, resorting to our mobile phones or some other bad habit when even the slightest boredom or discomfort threatens our equilibium.

Is this you? If so, what are you afraid of? What’s got you running to cheap thrills every time you feel uncomfortable?

This is how bad habits and addictive behaviors take root in our lives. Some experts think addiction and compulsiveness begin way back in the development of our brains. Inspired by this prospect, a kindergarten in Germany is experimenting with a classroom in which the children are given nothing at all to play with–a room with some simple furniture and some blankets and pillows. Teachers observe, but do not interfere. The children are given no direction in what to play or what to do.

Harsh, you might say, but it’s based on an addiction study which found that, for many, addictive behaviors began in early childhood. In many ways, toys do for kids what bad habits and addicting behaviors do for us: they thoroughly distract us from our bad feelings–at least for a time. The idea is to allow the children to come up with their own games–to give them a chance to find fun in themselves and in each other. The hope is that the children will develop key skills that will help them cope with the adult world–skills like empathy, critical and creative thinking, and above all, self care and healthy self regard.

Could you use a little more strength in any of these areas? (Is there anyone who couldn’t?)

Are you trying to kick a bad habit, lose weight, or just be happier with yourself generally?

Your journey begins with an understanding of how your brain really works as it does its best to keep you happy and breathing. You’ll need a sense of curiosity–adventure, even. Mindfulness isn’t as much a destination as it is a journey into the unknown.

Are you ready? Let’s go.

First, you should understand that your brain is wired to flee pain and seek pleasure. It’s not bad. This instinct helped our ancestors survive. For example, when you find good food–especially high-calorie food–your brain goes out of its way to remember what you ate, how good it was, and where you found it. It doesn’t care that the food is cheap and easy to get, that too much of it might kill you, or that it’s filled with additives that might harm your health. Survival is the priority.

From there, it’s not a big leap to go from satisfying hunger for the sake of survival to soothing other kinds of pain or discomfort. Before you know it, there’s no bad day that can’t be made a little better with pizza or a slice of chocolate cake. The same mechanism works for other kinds of bad habits or addictions. Your body receives a visceral, memorable payoff for engaging in the behavior, and eventually you’re going to it without even thinking.

And the grownup “toys”? They’re everywhere: cheap high calorie foods, social media, alcohol, gambling, narcotics, TV, pornography, and that’s just the beginning. It’s not to say that all these things are bad all the time–there’s nothing wrong with giving a child a toy once in a while. But these distractions, if mistaken for something essential to survival, can destroy your life.

So what’s the solution? Practice mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?
When was the last time you ate a meal–and focused only on the food in front of you and maybe the company you’re keeping in that moment? That’s mindfulness.

Meditation is one method of developing mindfulness. The task in meditation–what makes it such a challenge for so many–is doing and thinking literally nothing. It’s tougher than it sounds. No sooner have you tried to clear your mind than a jingle for laundry detergent or a bill that needs to be paid soon comes flooding in to fill that void.

The trick is to observe yourself calmly and with a sense of curiosity. When mastered, you’ll be able to observe your body and mind working, holding your own consciousness at arm’s length for a moment.

While meditating, one way to gently dismiss thoughts is to picture yourself by a small stream with fallen leaves drifting by on the water. When an intrusive thought comes into your mind, pin that thought to one of the leaves and watch it drift away. When another thought inevitably intrudes, pin that thought on a leaf and watch it drift away.

Are you thinking “this is hokey and hippy-dippy and dumb”? Pin that thought to a leaf and watch it drift away. You can do this with sensory intrusions as well–that car alarm going off, the sound of the heat kicking on, your watch ticking, your phone buzzing at you–pin these to a leaf and watch them drift away. Set a timer and give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to practice this every day. This may feel like a waste of time; it’s anything but. It gets you ready to live in your skin for the rest of the day.

Out there in the trenches of your life, this exercise starts to pay off. You’ll find that when you get a phone notification while you’re driving, you won’t automatically have to check it. When you’ve had a rotten day at work and you suddenly crave cheese fries, you won’t automatically have to give in to it.

These occasions are opportunities to observe yourself, to be curious and collect data about how your body and mind react when a craving comes on. As you work at this, the more intense urge becomes not satisfying the craving, but curiosity about the craving to see what you can learn from it.

Even if you go for that dopamine hit, whatever form that takes for you, observe! You have an opportunity to watch your mind and body as you give in to a temptation. Pay attention to how those cheese fries really taste and how they make your body feel afterward. Ask yourself questions about whether that notification was really worth risking a car accident to check, and what you really got out of the experience. For extra credit, write down what you observe. Journaling adds an extra layer of self-awareness to the exercise which can help develop mindfulness even faster.

The ultimate payoff
Thinking in this way, over time, has a cumulative effect. Your brain is like a muscle. CAT scans of experienced practitioners of meditation show clearly that certain areas of their brains light up more than for the average person. Their ability to observe themselves has grown like a muscle after years of working out. It has an impact on their personality, and these individuals show lower incidence of compulsive behavior and addiction, better focus and concentration, and can better cope with stress.

While it’s true that meditation isn’t a one-and-done proposition, adopting it as a regular practice for even a short time can begin to show significant benefits. In this way, it’s a lot like massage: it feels great once or twice, and can have great benefits long-term, but you have to give it some time.

Honestly, this is just a toe-dip in a vast pool of what there is to know about meditation and mindfulness. There is so much to learn. What’s nice is that if you only want to take it so far, you can. This isn’t a panacea, and there are cautions to consider as you go forward, but just being more aware of your thoughts and your body’s needs is crucial to building more wellness into your lifestyle.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with your content marketing and social media by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com

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Massage and Weight Loss: Fact vs. Fiction

Massage & Weight Loss

Let’s rip a bandage off right now: there’s no miracle cure for weight loss. Any doctor worth their salt will tell you the truth: to lose weight, there’s no real substitute for exercise and diet. This easy to say, much harder to do. Most people need a strong social support system, and must be willing to commit to long term change to achieve permanent results.

Now for some good news: Massage can play a key role in helping you achieve your weight loss goal.

No miracles, just healing
While some have tried to find in massage some kind of miracle weight-loss cure, massage isn’t that. Massage does nothing directly to burn fat or calories or reduce your waistline.

But massage can be a great supplemental treatment to give your efforts a vital boost to your brain chemisty and morale as your body transitions to a healthier way of living. Massage can help you transition your mindset from self-loathing and punishment to self-worth and healing, all while providing real physical benefits that accumulate over time.

True recovery
As a mode of touch therapy, massage has been shown to have measurable mental health benefits. Studies have shown that regular massage can help improve body image generally, and can be an effective treatment for depression.

It’s been well established by multiple studies that massage reduces cortisol levels–the stress hormone–and helps increase production of dopamine and norepenephrine–the hormones that give us a feeling of happiness and well being.

This really isn’t all that surprsing when you think about it. Humans have evolved to be connected, social creatures. We thrive on personal connection, and struggle in isolation. Touch gives a sense that we’re going to survive, that we’re not alone, and that we’re an individual with value.

And for many, sugary and fatty foods serve as a way to medicate against feelings of isolation and depression. These foods can trick your brain into wanting more by releasing those pleasurable hormones as you eat. Massage can be a healthy alternative to get that dopamine fix as you try to get your brain chemistry back to a healthy balance.

And when you consider the fact that retaining body fat has been linked to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, massage is a no-brainer for helping you lose weight.

Reward yourself
It’s key to your efforts to set up rewards for doing the hard work of behavioral change. The challenge is to find rewards for yourself that don’t involve food–a reward that could derail your efforts to change.

Massage is the ideal reward for making progress towards your goals. Let’s say, for instance, that you set a goal to work out three times a week for a month. If, at the end of that month, you’ve reached your goal, go ahead and book a massage for yourself! You might even consider a session enhancement or two. (Who knows? Maybe, for you, aromatherapy will become the sweet smell of success.)

Whether your weight loss goals are major or modest, regular massage therapy could mean the difference between success and failure.

If you’d like to get regular massage, but are concerned about the cost, a pre-paid package can save you 10% or more, and can help ensure you’re getting the care you need over time.

If you’re struggling with weight, The Good Life Massage would love to be on your team, both cheering you on and giving you a supportive push along the way.

Book a massage today.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can learn more about his freelance writing and editing work by contacting him at marketstediting@gmail.com

You’re Invited: Mini Spa Night, 2016!

Mini Spa Night

On Saturday, September 17, 2016*, from 4pm – 6pm The Good Life Massage will be hosting a rare mini spa event, and you’re invited. You’ll have a chance to experience some spa services that we don’t normally offer, and certainly not in this way. We have giveaways planned, and will be able to accommodate groups of up to four in one room, so this is a rare treat.

Reserve your spot online by clicking the Vagaro “Book Now” button and opening up the Classes tab on the menu.

Just like our regular massage services, reservations are req

uired ahead of time, and you’ll want to plan what services you want to select for the evening.

You’ll be able to choose from

A picture of four friends enjoying their time in spa with facial masks over white background
Come alone if you wish, or come with a group! It’s up to you. We can accommodate up to four people in one room for this special event.
  • Chocolate Fudge Face Mask
  • Foot Scrub
  • Hand Scrub
  • Hot stone spot treatment
  • Scalp and face massage
  • Seated massage

Each service will take approximately 15 minutes. You can take just one, or up to four in a row for just $30 each.

Want to come with a group?
This can be the perfect way to start a night out together, either with friends or with a significant other. We can handle up to 4 people in the same room. You can also enjoy the serenity of a private room.

Free food
Need we say more? We’ll be serving fun treats (probably cupcakes!).

If you prefer your swag to be less edible, we’re also giving away specialty fragrances and sampler bags containing upcoming skincare products courtesy of This Side of Paradise.

Want to go?
It’s easy. Just log in to our website and select Classes from the menu. There, you’ll see our Mini Spa Night event listed. You can book up to four events in a row. Just add in the notes which services you want so that we can prepare accordingly, in addition to any preferences as far as being with a group or on your own.

We can’t wait to see you there!

Book your favorite services now.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and director of marketing at The Good Life Massage. You can find him online at www.TGunnWriter.com or on Twitter @ElManoRoboto.

*a previous version of this blog post announced the date of this event as August 20, 2016. The event has been postponed.

Know Your Practitioner, Part II: Amy Gunn

Know Your Practitioner is your chance to become more familiar and comfortable with your massage practitioner. If you aren’t sure which of our talented practitioners would be best for you to come back to regularly, this is a great way to meet them and get to know who they are both personally and professionally. This is part 2 of a series of posts. Click here to read Part 1.

Amy Gunn has been a massage practitioner since 2000 and is one of our most experienced employees. She’s the co-founder of our clinic, and is as passionate about business as she is about massage. She’s built a loyal following over the years, so she can be hard to schedule on short notice, but her clients will tell you her massages are well worth the wait.

We sat down with her and asked her a few questions about her life, her work, and what makes her particular brand of massage unique.

Tell us a little something about your personal life. Hobbies, interests, family, friends, etc.

Amy Gunn, LMP, Co-Founder of The Good Life Massage
Amy Gunn, LMP, Co-Founder of The Good Life Massage

I’ve been married almost 11 years. We have a superhero-obsessed son who is 3 going on 18. He definitely keeps me busy when I’m not at work, and I love it.

I’m a little embarrassed by my number of different hobbies. I really love to write novels (nothing published yet), and knit (always have a project or two in the works) I’ve also dabbled in several different musical instruments. I used to be a decent cellist, but I sound pretty rusty now.

I also did martial arts for several years and really enjoyed it. Lately, I’ve been getting my aggression out at the gym running on a treadmill and doing strength training.

Tell us about your career in massage. How did you get started? What events lead to you working here?

I was actually getting ready to go back to school on scholarship for business marketing back in 1998-99 when I suddenly realized that I didn’t really love the things I was doing and couldn’t imagine doing them for the rest of my career (I mean seriously – I still can’t understand why people enjoy working at a desk all day long!).

I took a break from school instead, and I guess heard one too many commercials for a local massage program. I thought “Hey, I could do that…” Yeah, honestly–that was about all the thought I put into it at first.

I happened to live a few miles away from the Utah College of Massage Therapy, which had such a great program that many people regularly came from out of state, and even out of the country, to study there. I had some great teachers and learned a lot of different modalities, but especially loved my training in deep tissue and other treatment work.

After I graduated, I hung up my shingle with a massage room out of my home. I did that for a few years, and then moved to only outcall sessions for awhile.

Most of my early career, though, was spent doing additional work with hospice agencies, which was rewarding, but stressful. I drove a lot. By the time I left Utah in 2009 I had put over 120,000 miles on my 4 year-old car, and I was pretty burned out too.

I took a few years to go work for someone else at a local franchise. I actually enjoyed a lot of it: mostly the fact that I was working with a team of other LMPs for the first time in my life. But I missed being in the driver’s seat and feeling like I had control over the direction of the business. When I started working there, I’d actually thought that I was just winding down my massage career before doing something else completely. Instead, I found it got me excited to get back out on my own again, this time with even more knowledge under my belt.

I started my own practice called This Side of Paradise in early 2013 and initially just rented space from Kylee and her business, The Good Life Massage. We were technically completely separate businesses. But because we were sharing a single treatment room, we ended up making a lot of business decisions together.

This pretty naturally morphed into an official business merger a year later, though we had no idea that would happen when we first started sharing the space. It’s been awesome to see all the growth we’ve had in the past year since we merged.

What’s your favorite part of this job? What gets you excited to come to work?

I love working one on one with my clients. The most rewarding moments are when someone walks out of the treatment room with a completely different outlook on life because they finally found relief from something they thought was going to plague them forever.

What is it about your massage that keeps your clients coming back? What makes you stand out from the other GLM practitioners?

I enjoy giving serious treatment work, partly because the body is a puzzle and I’m trying to work out how to put it back together. I love a challenge! I can go deeper than many therapists do, but in a controlled way. Don’t ask me to go as deep as I can unless you know what you’re really asking for.

Pick a superpower: flying or turning invisible. Explain your answer.

I would probably have to pick flying. Which is maybe ridiculous considering that my ears hurt like crazy when I get on a plane.

We’re all about wellness here. What’s your favorite health habit? This can be something that you’re working on, have mastered, or just feel like our clients should be doing.

I’ve been into having vegetables with every meal lately. I’m not perfect at it, but I work at it. What I like about trying to live this habit is that it has challenged my creativity and sense of adventure.

I’ve gotten very good at sneaking spinach into things like protein shakes and pancakes–where my family and I get the benefit, but they don’t feel like they’re just eating rabbit food.

Finish this statement: I wish my clients knew …

… that I don’t judge their bodies nearly as harshly as they judge themselves. They may look in the mirror and see flabby this or saggy that–imperfections they see above all else.

To me, the human body is a sacred thing–a miracle of nature. And I think that, no matter how the bodies of real people measure up to the ideal body images that are in the media.

I honestly don’t remember those things my clients may hate most about their bodies. What really stays with me is who they are as a whole person. My hope with every massage is that my clients come away feeling more complete, more comfortable in their own skin–more in harmony with the world around them.

Thanks, Amy!

Click here to book a massage with Amy today!

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

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Tom Gunn is the official blogger and social media marketer for The Good Life Massage. You can follow him on twitter @tomgunnpoet.