QUEER WELLNESS

[ 0 ] January 9, 2018 |

Wellness: (well·ness weln s/ noun) the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.

by joel martens

 

Mind, Body and Spirit: In the holistic healing world, they are the three essential pillars of well-being. When someone is ill, it isn’t necessarily just the body that needs healing, it may be the mind and/or the spirit that is wounded and also in need of repair.

Indigenous people have also believed for thousands of years that if one is out of balance, then work must be done to realign all of them in order to fully restore all three. They understood that a healthy mind, helps create a healthy body and that a healthy body is important if you want a healthy mind…and your relationship to both, spiritually is as important as either.

This year for something different we decided that instead of doing a fitness issue on which we focused solely on the physical, we would give you words and conversation from three different professionals, experts in their particular field, who loosely fall under our three catagories: Mind, Body and Spirit. Something to maybe make you consider what you might need to do to restore a little balance in the new year. After all, isn’t that what new beginnings are all about?

We don’t presume to know there is one “right” approach for every person who might read this when finding a path that works for them. Certainly, there are as many ways to experience such things as there are stars in the sky—maybe that’s a tiny exaggeration—but you get the picture. The world and experiences are as vast and as different as they can be, but one thing is for sure, the better care we take of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually, the better off we are in the world at large.

It’s just a little food for thought and not a hard and fast set of rules. If it makes you think a little about what might serve you better in your day-to-day life, then all the better. If it doesn’t, then you’ve lost nothing by reading about another unique and different perspective.

Like they say in another of those places of healing, growth and restoration—the one that includes a 12-step process—“Take what you like and leave the rest.”

FIRST: The Mind

Five Easy Ways to Cope And One Not-So-Easy

by dr. greg cason
drgreg.com & @drgregcason

I don’t know about you but I had trouble getting into the holiday season this year. I usually like getting dressed up, putting on some Nat King Cole, and spiking every liquid in the house just to celebrate the birth of after-Christmas sales and celebrating the beginning of a new year. But 2017 was one helluva roller-coaster ride with a lot of terrifying dips and sickening turns, and it shows no signs of coming to a close for 2018. Sadly, but weirdly comforting…at least I know it’s not just that way for me.

A recent Gallup Poll said that 79 percent of Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently during their day. Another poll, this one by the American Psychological Association, reported that nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say the future of the nation is a significant source of stress. And according to an analysis by Pew Research Center, Democrats post angry faces to Facebook news articles nearly twice as much as Republicans (18 percent vs. 10 percent). So clearly, people are not thrilled with the current moment.

For my peace of mind, I decided to reach into the reaches of my own bag of tricks based on two phrases currently banned at the CDC. You know, things like “evidence-based” and “science-based.” Here are five easy (and one not so easy) things you can do to keep yourself relatively sane during a rather insane time.

1. Friends, Friends, Friends: I’m not talking the re-run (though it did have some funny moments), we’re talking about those people around you that make fun of you, laugh with and at you, talk about you behind your back and enable your addictions. We all need a person or group of persons who we can be around and let our hair down to be inappropriate and have fun with. (A little caveat: Make sure you don’t share a work relationship or power differential when telling your naughty jokes. It’s much better to sit on the side-lines than to become a headline in the latest cultural war.)

2. “Morning Paper” Rule: Your parents (or grandparents) lived in a world that didn’t include a 24-hour news channel and news alerts on a pocket computer that they carried everywhere they went. News came in two distinct packages: A) newspaper and B) television. The newspaper was delivered once a day and you would read it to catch up on the events of the previous day. Then later that night, you could catch a nightly news program on television. Do the same now! Give yourself a set time in the morning and evening to read or watch the news. Otherwise, have yourself a personal blackout the rest of the day.

dr. greg cason

3. Laugh Hard and Laugh Often: Freud labeled humor as one of the most sophisticated defense mechanisms. The man may have been obsessed with sex, the size of his cigar, and the advantages of cocaine (it’s real, look it up), but I’m glad he took time out of his busy snorting schedule to share the therapeutic value of laughter. Personally, I love to get out my political demons by laughing about them. Comedians and talk show hosts such as Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and Samantha Bee all have come to my personal rescue this last year, by validating the fact that I am not going completely crazy and that there is something to laugh about in this dark ditch of a moment in time.

4. “Best, Worst, Most Likely:” When bad news comes our way, it’s natural to wonder, “What’s next?” And then to answer that question, by expanding the catastrophe. Our problem is not that we generate terror-inducing thoughts, our problem rather, is that we firmly hold on to these thoughts and then believe them. To loosen the grip of these thoughts, just come up with two alternative possibilities. You’ve already come up with the worst, so also think of the best and the most likely. Example for thought: “President Trump is becoming a dictator.” If you make that the worst thought, you can also think of the best possibility such as “It is more likely he is making mistakes born out of ignorance rather than malice. As time goes on, he’ll improve.” And then the most likely, “Some of his actions may mirror those of dictators in other countries, but our government has checks on the abuse of power by a president.” Best. Worst. Most Likely. Try it!

5. Act “As-If:” This is one of my favorite behavioral change mechanisms in all of psychology. It is also often used in 12-step recovery programs under the slogan, “Fake it, ‘til you make it.” The key here is to act according to the way you’d like to be. If you wish to be happy and calm, then figure out those actions or recall a time that you were happy and calm and act in those ways. Right now, we are in uncharted territory. Don’t let the chaos in Washington trickle down any more than is unavoidable. Having said that, remember that is also important to not deny your true feelings! You can smile, laugh, and joke about the lies and corruption coming from the highest reaches of our government, but still be upset that it is happening at the same time. It’s not about lying to yourself, it’s about helping yourself through a difficult time even with very bad feelings underneath.

And Finally, The “Not-So-Easy” One.

6. Get Off Your Ass: Most of us are lazy and would rather spend time framing a perfect selfie than designing a poster or writing a letter to a senator. Well, too bad. As you can already see, our future is at stake. Besides, taking action will help you feel more powerful because you are actually doing something. If you want some glory for making a sign or writing a letter, by all means, post your humble-brag. But if you don’t do anything else, please remember to get out and vote in 2018. Your vote truly matters. Look at the election for Senator in Alabama or the Virginia election where a single vote changed the entire power structure of the Virginia state house. The power brokers don’t want you to vote, because when you don’t, their candidates win. Don’t believe the lies. Your vote does count, to our country and to your future.

SECOND: The Body

How to Successfully Get Started on Your Own Quest to Fitness And Health

by blake beckcom

You know that you want to be ______ (enter any number of positive adjectives that are plaguing your mind at the moment: healthy, fit, strong, confident, muscular, thinner), but like any change, it can be so hard to get started. How many cycles of “tomorrow’s the day” or “I’ll start on Monday” or “next month when things aren’t so stressful,” have you gone through with your get-healthy goals? If the number is uncomfortably high, trust me, you are not alone. We’ve all heard the adage, “It takes 21 days to start a new habit,” right? Well, according to a study completed at University College London of 96 “habit-hopefuls” who wanted to add a new healthy routine such as a run every night after dinner, including fruits and vegetables with our lunches, or doing 50 crunches every morning after breakfast, it wasn’t that easy. While some more feasible habits, such as drinking a glass of water in the morning, did seem to get established after 20 days, the average habit-forming time span was 66 days, with some folks in the study still trying for habit status after the better part of a year! Yikes, nothing is ever that simple, now is it?

Before you throw in the gym towel and decide that you’re doomed, here are some tips on how to successfully get started on your own quest to health.

1. Start and continue, with an attitude of self-compassion. Aside from sounding very gentle and kind-hearted, there is actually scientific backing to this. If you exercise or diet from a place of guilt, or from a fixed mentality, then every time you slip up (which we all do, many times) you’ll view it as a character flaw. Whereas an attitude of self-compassion will help you to think of your diet changes and exercise attempts with a growth mentality, or something you can continuously improve on, without the guilt.

2. Remember that every positive decision you make is a gain, but remember too, that you have to keep moving forward. One long walk isn’t going to fulfill your requirements for a week, just like one super food salad isn’t going to “carry” you through the next five meals. The long walk and salad are however, great steps in getting you to where you want to be and need to be acknowledged.

blake beckcom

3. Want to know the very best exercise for you, the one to guarantee results? It’s the one you like and the one you’ll want to do. Aim to do this exercise, or another enjoyable one, for around 30 minutes, most days of the week. The good news is that exercise can take many forms, from dancing, to swimming, to aggressive house cleaning. And remember, every time you choose activity and health over poorer choices is a gain for
your wellness.

4. Slow and steady wins the race and perseverance is the key to meet your goals. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Over exuberance in the beginning is a great way to sabotage your long-range goals. Either you get burnt out mentally, or your body gives out because it’s not used to doing what you’re asking it to. Start slow, and celebrate each gradual gain.

5. Try a little of everything. The exciting thing about beginning a physical health routine is that there are so many choices and options to sample. You never know what might strike your fancy and find a permanent place in your regiment. Under the instruction of your trainer, give weight training a try, as well as biking, yoga, stretching, and jogging. Many people just getting started enjoy walking or using the elliptical machine—the choices are yours—just get out there and try it!

In the end, decide that you want to change, but make it for the right reasons. Focusing on the scale, or your pant size, or your appearance may motivate you temporarily, but that fuel will often burn out, and cause damaging self-reproach. Instead, decide that you want to be healthier because you love and respect yourself, and deserve to be the best you can be. The resultant feeling of the chip away, chip away, one work out, one meal, “one day at a time” approach, resonates through all aspects of your life helping to balance the Mind, Body, and Spirit connections.

Fitness Together Mission Hills offers personal training with qualified professionals by regular appointment in private suites. Exercise and nutritional programs are custom designed to fit your needs and abilities. Call 619.794.0014 for more information or to schedule a free fitness diagnostic and private training session. See what others are saying about us on Yelp.

 

THIRD: The Spirit

Feeding the Spirit

by the reverend christopher montella

A new year often means resolutions to get in or get back into shape. At this time of year, we’re bombarded with all kinds of promotions that seek to help us realize those resolutions. There’s so much focus on our physical well-being that it is easy to think that taking care of the physical is all that really matters.

I don’t mean to imply that taking care of our bodies isn’t important, though I do believe that the physical is only one aspect of our total well-being. That can sometimes be hard to understand, especially in LGBTQ contexts, where the extreme emphasis on physical beauty often means that we neglect other aspects of our total wellness.

Most people will also agree that we should also tend to our mental health and finding productive ways to do both of these things is essential to building and living well balanced lives. However, if we consider ourselves a cohesive trinity of mind, body and spirit then we must also make a special effort to tend to our spiritual health.

But, when was the last time we felt encouraged or even motivated to do it?

The spirit, like the mind, is an intangible. You can’t see it (necessarily), but you know it’s there. Many of us think of feeding and expanding our minds to gain knowledge, get ahead and keep sharp as we age, but what do we feed our spirits?

This can be a complex thing, especially for any of us that may equate “spirituality” with “religion,” even though they are not the same thing. Religion may indeed be a channel for spirituality but it is not spirituality in and of itself and there are many different ways to connect with our spiritual selves.

In my role as an Episcopal priest I spend a lot of time with people seeking the nourishment of their spirits within our church life. Through ritual, study of scripture, prayer and the experience of community we give spiritual food to our souls, in order to enrich our lives, live more peacefully and connect with God.

That God part can be tricky for a lot of LGBTQ people, especially, since for many of us, our experiences with “The Church,” no matter the denomination (or any organized religion for that matter), have been confusing, hurtful or worse, abusive. As a result, many of us have shut down our spiritual selves. But the unconditional love of God is bigger than any organized or disorganized, religion.

reverend christopher montella

That said, over the course of history there has been no shortage of people who use religion, The Bible and God as weapons against LGBTQ people. While we have made incredible strides, there is clearly more work to do. This is especially evident in this last year where anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has been ratcheted up and phrases like “Christian Values’ and “religious freedom” are being touted more and more as a means to hold us down.

All of this can be unsettling to say the least. The relentlessness of a 24-hour news cycle, endless ranting on social media, the unpredictability of many of our elected officials and what seems like growing instability around the world, can lead to feelings of despair, hopelessness and fear. This is especially true for people living lives that are considered outside the mainstream and the systems that have been built to support it.

That’s why tending to our spiritual well-being is essential. Much like our physical core, a strong spiritual core is a critical component to staying strong and resolved in the face of all that is being thrust at us. It’s the metaphorical life-vest that can keep us from getting pulled under by the tides of hate, racism, homophobia, transphobia or any other human endeavor that seeks to separate, oppress or otherwise, diminish the light of a person or people based on demographics.

January finds us beginning the Christian liturgical season of Epiphany. It’s a period where we reflect on the revelation of God made manifest in Jesus to the world. It’s a time when the miracle of what God has done for us is revealed to us through the scripture we read and the prayers we pray. It’s a time of wonder, light and hope.

I encourage you-whatever your faith tradition is or even if you don’t have one to use this season by resolving to spend time feeding your spirit: Meditate, reflect, pray, seek. You might do this in a church, mosque or synagogue, on a hill, at the beach, in a yoga studio, on the sofa in your living room or in any number of those places.

Wherever it is, do it. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.

The Reverend Christopher Montella is an Associate Priest at St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach, CA and is the Chair of The Bishop’s Commission for LGBTQ Ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. He is originally from New York and currently lives in Burbank with his partner Erick.

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