Posts by: Carly Barrett

What is Qi?

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what is qi

By Jeanie Free, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctorate of Acupuncture student at MUIH on What is Qi?

From the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, Qi is the life force in the universe that moves constantly. It may sound mysterious, talking about something invisible. However, Qi, the vital essence, manifests in both physical matter and energy.

Think about the universe and the constant gravitational forces that have kept the planets in orbit around the sun for billions of years. It is the power of Qi energy. 

“Qi is energy produced by each cell, the binding force between those cells  

and the work they produce: the sum of all metabolisms.” – Dr. Daniel Keown.  

Qi energy is in all living organisms and manifests to support the function of each organ in humans and maintain the intrinsic energy that supports the homeostatic mechanism (e.g., regulating body temperature, hormones, or blood sugar in the body).  

TCM also looks at the balance between Yin and Yang where Qi is the Yang quality in the body and blood is the Yin counter part. The nutrients in blood nourish and support Qi while Qi takes the lead and directs the blood flow. When Qi and blood are sufficient and work well together, an optimal health state may be achieved. 

One way to conceptualize Qi and blood flow balance is to think of water pressure (Qi) and water supply (blood) in your home. When the water pressure (Qi) is insufficient, you experience weak water flow. With sufficient water pressure and low water supply (blood), you will also experience low water supply and hear air in the pipes. This is the concept of “internal wind.” The internal wind causes disharmony of the physical health with manifestations such as tremors, vertigo, severe dizziness, and numbness. 

How to help regulate and boost Qi? 

Qi Gong means “energy work” or “energy exercises.”  The Qi Gong exercises strengthen the circulation within our body with our mindful intention to achieve health, spiritual clarity, and longevity. You might have heard of the saying “Where the mind goes, the Qi follows.” This means that where we place our intention, awareness, and focus is where the Qi energy will settle.  

In other words, everyone has the capacity to regulate their own energy in the body. It takes practice to strengthen the body, mind, and spirit coherence with the Qi energy.  

How can Acupuncture Help? 

Acupuncture is a technique using hair-thin needles to access various acupoints on the body to promote natural healing by clearing blockages and stimulating the flow of Qi and blood based on the diagnosis. Some acupoints are used to promote relaxation which is very important to optimize whole-person healing.  

MUIH offers auricular treatment to the community at no cost. For individualized in-depth care, the Natural Care Center (NCC) on campus offers affordable treatment options as well. For more information, please visit: or contact 

Jeanie Free, is a licensed acupuncturist currently studying for the Doctorate of Acupuncture program at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH). She is on a mission to deliver self-care awareness to help clients restore and maintain harmonious health on a whole-person level. 

Yoga Therapist vs. Yoga Instructor. What’s the Difference?

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Dr. Suzie Carmack PhD, MFA, MEd, NBC-HWC, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, who serves as the Department Chair of Yoga and Ayurveda, and Assistant Professor at Maryland University of Integrative Health, is an award-winning yoga therapist and #1 best-selling author who conducts presentations all over the world.  

In a recent interview, Dr. Carmack unpacks the differences between a Yoga Therapist and a Yoga Instructor: 

What is the difference between the training required for Yoga Therapists versus Yoga Instructors  

As their names imply, there are fundamental differences between Yoga Therapy and Yoga Teacher (Instructor) training programs.   

Yoga Teachers are trained to be educators — to lead groups in studio, gym, school, and community settings in the teachings and practices of yoga, much like a guide leads you through a museum. The timeline of a Yoga Teacher training can vary, ranging from a one-weekend workshop to a 200-hour or a 500-hour program.  

Different programs are available because there is no nationally accredited certification for yoga instruction; however, there is a registry that is run by the Yoga Alliance in which teachers can register as an RYT 200 or RYT 500. These designations imply that the registered yoga teacher has completed a Yoga Alliance-approved program of either 200 hours (RYT 200 Teacher) or 500 hours (RYT 500 Advanced Teacher). Although Yoga Alliance has curriculum standards that their approved programs must meet, each program has some flexibility in how they deliver their training program based on those standards. Each program can also choose to focus on a unique style or practice of yoga – for example, one program may focus on bringing yoga to schools while another program may focus on yoga for athletes, or supporting mental health.  

Most RYT’s (Registered Yoga Teachers) have been trained to become an expert in a particular style of yoga and may or may not have been trained to modify and adapt that style’s choreography and communication for the unique health, medical, and well-being needs of each individual student.  

By contrast, Yoga Therapists are trained in 800-hour programs to be patient- and client-centered in their delivery of yoga therapy in one-on-one and smallgroup settings. Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga” (IAYT Website) All Yoga Therapy programs are approved by our nationally accrediting body, the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), and yoga therapists who complete these programs and take a national board-style exam earn the Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT) credential. Although there is also some variety in the ways that IAYT-approved programs deliver their training, in terms of format and style or focus, all programs are required by IAYT to train Yoga Therapists to develop a program of care that is tailored to their clients’ unique health, medical, and well-being needs 

Is there an overlap between these two career paths? 

All Yoga Therapists are also Yoga Teachers, but not all Yoga Teachers are Yoga Therapists. Allow me to explain: 

All IAYT-approved Yoga Therapy programs require trainees to begin with at least 200 hours of Yoga Teacher (Instructor) training and 100 hours of experience teaching yoga. So, one can’t become a Yoga Therapist without first becoming a Yoga Teacher. On the other hand, not all Yoga Teachers continue their training after their RYT 200 or RYT 500-hour credentials to become Yoga Therapists.  

Although some Yoga Therapists move out of Yoga Teaching once they earn their C-IAYT credential, others choose to overlap their Yoga Therapist and Yoga Teacher roles. In the latter scenario, a Yoga Therapist may dedicate several days per week to their private practice of Yoga Therapy in a community or healthcare clinic setting and dedicate additional hours weekly to teaching yoga (as a Yoga Instructor) in studios, gyms, and schools.  

How much time does a client typically need to practice with a Yoga Therapist and Yoga Instructor to note a difference in their health? 

It may sound toogoodtobetrue, but it has been my experience as a Yoga Therapist and as a Yoga Teacher that clients immediately notice a difference in how they breathe, move, and engage with the day. Although people tend to think of yoga as a practice that requires a yoga mat, there are many ways to practice yoga in our lives and this means that it is a practice of transformation that creates change within the practitioner in how they feel and how they live. 

That said, beginners (first-time yoga practitioners) are advised to start with a well-trained Yoga Instructor or certified Yoga Therapist and not try to go it alone and on their own. I have friends who play golf who say you should only start playing golf with a trained golf professional so you can avoid common mistakes and make the practice your own. The same holds true for Yoga! 

What are some common health needs where a Yoga Therapist is recommended? 

We know that 70 – 80% of the public has at least one chronic health condition, and yoga therapy can be helpful for all of them! That said, most Yoga Therapists focus their private practice on working with clients and patients with a particular medical condition, such as heart disease, anxiety, or chronic pain 

Is it often the case that a person who benefits from Yoga Therapy can also improve their health by  participating in Yoga classes? 

This depends on the client/student. In some cases, Yoga Therapy can help the client modify their practice of yoga so that they feel more empowered to adapt their practice to their own needs when taking a yoga class. In other cases, yoga classes may be contra-indicated for the client. For example, a prenatal client should not be attending a hot yoga class, because she is practicing for two, and her unborn baby does not yet have the same ability to thermoregulate (deal with extreme differences in temperature) as Mom does. In a similar way, a client with anxiety and depression may need a trauma-informed practice adapted to their unique mental health needs, and not all classes are trauma-informed. In addition, yoga teachers guide a group, so they do not always have time to give individual attention to participants. And, because of health privacy concerns, many students in yoga classes may not feel comfortable sharing their unique health needs in the ‘open forum’ of a class setting. 

What personal aspects contribute to the success of a yoga therapist or instructor? 

We are living in an exciting time for yoga. In the last five years, the number of yoga practitioners has grown to 20% of the U.S. population alone, and in the last three years, the number of research articles focusing on yoga has grown exponentially too. With all this demand comes the need for yoga instructors and yoga therapists with a wide variety of skill sets and demeanors, who can meet the clients they are meant to serve in their own unique way. As I say in my book Genius Breaks, every person has a genius within them, including Yoga Therapists and their clients as well as  Yoga Instructors and their students. Both fields focus on integrity, inclusivity, and the willingness to meet clients where they are. For example, I am a “type A” person, and I love working with senior and servant leaders who struggle with perfectionism. Yoga and its gift of self-compassion help me with my perfectionism daily, and I love paying this forward for my clients. In this way, every yoga teacher and yoga therapist can bring their full selves forward, and their students and clients will benefit! 

How would you compare the costs between a Yoga Therapy session and a Yoga class?  

I am glad we can bring this difficult but important topic up and out into the open here. 

Because yoga is a practice that helps people to “let go of stress,” it may be surprising for anyone reading this to hear me say that pricing is an issue that causes significant stress for both Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists. Some Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists choose to offer free or discounted classes or sessions as part of their service (philanthropy) to the world. Meanwhile, other Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists choose this field as their career and charge anywhere from $10 per class or more (teaching) to $150 per session or more (yoga therapists). Some yoga teachers and yoga therapists fall somewhere in between – charging for most of their sessions and classes and donating or discounting a portion of them. (This is like most small businesses – who must earn revenue to stay afloat but also believe in giving back). 

It is my belief that we should be charging more for both services, and that is why I do. About 20 years ago, I attended a talk with author and speaker Carolyn Myss, where she gave an example, “If you wanted to hire a lawyer that had 20 or more years of experience and specialized training in your unique problem, you would think nothing of paying $500 or $1000/hour — if you had the means to do so, right? So why do we healers not ask for what we are worth?” Before hearing this, I had burned myself out giving yoga away for free to clients and in community settings. Although I enjoyed helping, I realized I was undervaluing my worth and the worth of this yoga practice. I took this as a personal challenge and started asking for more of an investment from my yoga class students and yoga therapy clients. Years later, I learned that this was good not only for me but for them; the science of consumer behavior teaches us that as people invest more financially in a problem, they are more committed to solving it.  By asking for more from my paying clients, I also have more ability to ‘give back’ through my service work and philanthropic efforts. 

MUIH’s Master of Science in Yoga Therapy Program

MUIH offers the first and only master’s degree in yoga therapy in the U.S. Graduates are prepared with the comprehensive foundation in the theoretical, scientific, and experiential training of yogic teachings and practices needed to provide a therapeutic relationship in conventional health care and medical settings. Graduates apply and integrate the teachings and practices of yoga with contemporary science and evidence-informed practice to evaluate the needs of clients and to design balanced and effective programs tailored to address their individual health challenges. This program is accredited by the Accreditation Committee of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Gratitude and Resilience: Being Thankful Builds Our Resources

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“Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier.” – Sheryl Sandberg 

If you want to build your resources, become mentally stronger, and dedicate yourself to self-improvement, science is precise: practice gratitude. 

When we practice gratitude regularly, it changes our approach to the world around us. We can better see the positive in life. We start looking for the positive instead of being distracted or overwhelmed by the negative. And when we start looking for the positive, we find it—along with other helpful resources. 

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore found a significant link between gratitude, resilience, and well-being.1 Not only did gratitude improve students’ resilience and well-being, it also helped them relate to others better, which further contributed to higher resilience and well-being. 

Noticing and being thankful for what we have makes us more open to learning experiences and relationships with others, which are powerful resources for us to draw from. If you want to be more resilient when life gets tough, give gratitude a try 

Gratitude Action Step 

Practice noting what you are grateful for daily. Set a goal to express gratitude to at least one person a day. A gratitude attitude will boost your resilience and make it easier to weather the storm when it inevitably comes.  



Top 10 Easy Ways to Stay Healthy This Winter by Amy Riolo

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stay healthy this winter

In our recent live discussion, How to be Healthy This Winter, Sean Rose, Sarajean Rudman, and Sherryl Van Lare from the Maryland University of Integrative Health shared numerous ways to feel healthy in winter.  This blog reveals 10 easy ways to use herbal medicine, Ayurveda, and nutrition to stay in top shape all season long and beyond!  

As temperatures turn colder, strategies to stay healthy become even more critical. The global medical community is currently challenged with curing new viruses and conditions without known cures. Boosting our immunity is a powerful way to take charge of our health and prevent illnesses. Whether you are looking to stay healthy or recover from an illness, herbal medicine, Ayurveda, and good nutrition can help. 

Try making the following tips a part of your daily ritual: 

  1. According to Ayurvedic principles, consume more warm and oily foods during winter to balance the cold, windy, and dry season. It is essential to eat at the warmest time of day – at midday – when the sun is brightest.  
  1. Make meals a ritual – mindful and intentional eating will aid your body’s digestion and allow you to absorb nutrients. 
  1. Herbal Medicine tries to counteract the coldness and dryness of winter by boosting metabolism and increasing circulation to stay warm. If you often have cold hands and feet, boost your circulation by moving your body, and drink warm foods and tea or tisanes to warm yourself from the inside out.
  1. Food provides our body with the nutrients and information it needs to function. Carotenes, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, and Vitamin D help to stimulate our immune response in several ways. Eat foods that contain all colors of the rainbow to receive the variety of nutrients that you need to stay healthy, and consult your nutritionist or health care professional to see if supplements are right for you. 
  1. Use herbs in steams and potpourris. Simmer a mixture of cinnamon sticks, citrus peels, clove buds, and star of anise on the stove and let the scent permeate your space. Evidence shows that the volatile oils released into the air from steam could have antimicrobial effects if someone feels sick.
  1. Cinnamon and ginger are spicy and warm, and those tastes tell us they will warm us up. They can be used often in your daily winter recipes or as needed!
  1. Drink warming herbs and spices! Cardamom, black pepper, rosemary, and turmeric have warming qualities and can be blended into tisanes. Adaptogens such as holy basil, ashwagandha, and medicinal mushrooms can help the body’s immune response.
  1. Control excess mucus with cooked oatmeal, flax seed tea, cinnamon, and mullein which contain mucilage and can help reduce excess mucus.
  1. Slowing down is important in winter. Nature goes dormant in winter because there is less energy in the air. It is important for us to do the same.
  1. Eat foods that are in season. If you reside in a colder environment, these might include onions and garlic, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, winter squash, apples, and citrus. Pumpkin seeds, elderberry, citrus peel, and rose hip also provide a variety of components that help us stay healthy in winter.

Please visit for more information about our herbal medicine, nutrition, and Ayurveda programs. Be sure to access our recipes for more nutritious and delicious ideas as well.  

Gratitude and Team Dynamics

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You probably know that expressing gratitude to others can improve your well-being and your relationships, but did you know that it can also improve your productivity and effectiveness at work or school? Showing gratitude to others is not just about making us feel good—it affects how we work together. 

A study published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal[1] tested the differences in team performance with a neutral condition, a gratitude condition, and a positive emotion condition. Those in the neutral condition received a prompt to spend 5 minutes writing about a typical day. Those in the gratitude condition received a prompt and spent 5 minutes thinking and writing about why they were grateful for their team members. In comparison, those in the positive emotion condition wrote for 5 minutes about things that made them happy.  

The researchers found that those in the gratitude condition elaborated on their ideas more, valued different perspectives, and ultimately showed significantly more team creativity than the other groups. Priming the teams with gratitude made members more open to each other’s ideas and improved information processing. 

These results show that gratitude is not only a good way to improve our mood and relationships; it can also help us improve our performance. 

Gratitude Action Step 

The next time you meet with a team to work on a project, take a few moments in the beginning to share a little gratitude for one another. It will get your meeting off on the right foot and improve your final product! 


Gratitude and Relationship Satisfaction

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Thousands of coaches, therapists, courses, and programs focus on improving relationships and strengthening marriages. These sources allow you to learn many different ideas, techniques, and approaches. Still, one thing you are sure to find in all the places worth visiting is this: having gratitude for one another leads to better relationships. 

When we actively practice gratitude for the good things in our life, our significant others generally find their way onto the list sooner rather than later (if not, perhaps the relationship needs to be reexamined). People bring our lives meaning and happiness and add to our day-to-day in ways that delight and comfort us. It is easy to be grateful for those we love, contributing to an even better relationship. 

Research from the Family Institute at Florida State University [1] showed that gratitude prayers significantly impacted relationship satisfaction. A further study from Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the J&L Research and Consultancy Group found evidence that practicing gratitude alone can boost relationship satisfaction but that expressing it to one another authentically improved satisfaction beyond practicing gratitude alone.​​​​​​ 

The bottom line? When we are more positive and thankful for our loved ones, we both benefit. 

Gratitude Action Step 

Take a few minutes today to consider why you are grateful for your spouse or significant other. List the things that you are grateful to them for, and share that list with them. 

If you do not have a significant other right now, think about a dear friend or family member instead—gratitude can help strengthen all kinds of relationships! 



Submitted by Courtney E. Ackerman,

Positive psychologist, Researcher, and Author

Why It’s So Difficult to Keep New Year’s Resolutions –and What You Should Do Instead

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Looking for ways to make and keep New Year’s Resolutions? The start of a new year is an excellent opportunity for reflection, evaluation, and recharging ourselves with the memories of all we have accomplished and learned during the last twelve months. This is also the perfect time to rethink, evaluate, and set new goals. In other words, it is the ideal time to build new habits and improve in many aspects of your life. So why do resolutions get such a bad rap?

We often struggle to keep our new year’s resolutions. Sometimes we get discouraged because setting resolutions can be easy but maintaining them and achieving them throughout the year can be tricky.  Still, setting a vision of what you want to accomplish during the new year can give us a clear map and guide us to a self-care plan. We must make time for ourselves to nurture our bodies and minds.

Why is it challenging to keep new year’s resolutions?

Often our resolutions are based on what we think we should do rather than what we really want to do or what is possible for us to do. We set goals that are impossible to achieve or that don’t align with our values. We may raise our expectations too high and wind up disappointed when we can’t meet them. Our brains are programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so it is difficult to modify old habits that are hardwired, fulfill a purpose, and generate satisfaction, even if they are no longer serving us. It is important to remember that change is challenging and staying motivated and disciplined can take time. 

Nowadays, there are many distractions, and maintaining a focused mindset to prioritize our goals can feel like you are swimming upstream. Some distractions generate joy and pleasure (hello, social media!). In this case, we must be strong and determined to overcome them, knowing that achieving our long-term goals is more important and meaningful.

Being organized and choosing a day of the week to plan your schedule and think about what you need to do to accomplish your resolutions can be extremely useful. 

First, we must aim to set our sights on a longing or a dream that makes us want to achieve our goals. Then, set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely or that will help us make progress towards our goal. Think about setting short-term goals and ask yourself how and when you will achieve them. Consider rewarding yourself for accomplishing small steps to keep you motivated. We must also learn to recognize our own beliefs that limit us; and for this, meeting with a counselor or a health and wellness coach can be of significant help

The best thing about a new beginning is to start again, rethink past behaviors and experiences, deepen something we already like, or try something new.

Aspects of your life that may be good places to focus a New Year’s resolution include

  • Moving your body for energy and flexibility
  • Feeling safe and comfortable in the places where you work and live
  • Stepping out of your comfort zone for personal development
  • Consumption of food and fluids for nourishment
  • Finding ways to rest and recharge
  • Relationships with family, friends, and coworkers
  • Increasing your connection to spirit and soul
  • Harnessing the power of the mind for healing

In many ways, looking back on the past helps us understand ourselves better and make positive progress forward. It also aids in identifying skills we already possess but may not be aware of. Because of this, it’s never too late to get to know yourself and determine what changes may be good for you.

To deepen your personal development and help others along their journeys, Maryland University of Integrative Health offers two complementary master’s degrees. Our Master of Arts in Health and Wellness Coaching prepares students to aid individuals in introspection, goal setting, behavioral change, accountability, and goal achievement. Our Master of Science in Health Promotion prepares you to design, implement, and manage community and workplace health education programs and/or identify community health barriers and advocate for community health initiatives.

Top Things to Know About Recreational Marijuana Legalization in Maryland

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Last month, voters in Maryland and Missouri approved legalizing recreational marijuana in a constitutional amendment. In all, 21 states, including DC, have now approved the recreational use of marijuana. 

Maryland’s new legislation states that recreational marijuana will be legal after July 2023 for people 21 years of age and over.  The General Assembly, however, left matters of licensing and taxes for lawmakers to decide next year.

In a recent live interview, Dr. Bhodi Tims, Program Director of Cannabis Science Programs at MUIH, reviews the recently approved ballot measure to legalize marijuana in Maryland and the unique aspects of our Cannabis Science Certificate. 

What the new legislation does: 

  1. Collects data on poison control calls to prepare for potential adverse side effects to increased recreational use.
  1. Provides cannabis assistance funds to provide grants, loans, license application, access, and assistance with gaining capital to historically black colleges, and female-owned owned companies around cannabis programs.
  1. Defines legal limits of possession. Those 21 and older can possess 1 ½ ounces of cannabis or 12 grams of a cannabis concentrate.
  1. Creates usage parameters with corresponding fines and penalties. For example, you can’t smoke in public.
  1. Forms public health advisory councils  if there are united health concerns.
  1. Earmarks funding to benefit low-income communities, and that have been disproportionality harmed by cannabis prohibition.
  1. Researches home cultivation options for medical use.

Currently, laws do not regulate dispensaries or the actual product development. How it will be grown, manufactured, and distributed has yet to be determined.  

There is a large amount of job growth in this industry, and it will increase even more when federal legislation takes place. MUIH is currently preparing its students for new opportunities in the growing fields of dietary and medical use of cannabis by training them to meet the continually growing demand. 

According to Dr. Tims, the range of products, from traditional products (tinctures, flower buds, pre-rolls) to high-end artisanal consumer products (solventless extracts, edibles, beverages) to pharmaceutical products, provide a variety of entry points into the industry. The level of innovation, he says, is exciting and will have a lasting impact on the herbal supplement field.

Current growing and manufacturing practices produce end products that require extensive testing for heavy metals, residual solvents, pesticides, and adulterants. The growing process also creates unsustainable environmental waste. As the industry matures, consumers and producers will find success in demanding a high-level commitment to the quality of the product and how it’s produced, which is what MUIH programs are committed to.  

Click here to watch the interview and learn more. 

Moment of Gratitude: Gratitude and the Witnessing Effect

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Gratitude and the “Witnessing Effect”

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

When people hang out in groups (as people tend to do), they start behaving similarly. Different groups will form different norms and expectations for behavior, which is why we have distinct cultures, cliques, and tribes.

One powerful phenomenon that influences behavior in groups is called the ‘witnessing effect’. Essentially, people watch how others within their group interact and have an emotional reaction to what they see, impacting how they think and feel about themselves. This is a powerful tool for shaping behavior, and it can be used for good.

When we express gratitude to others, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum; other people are watching. They’re watching how we show our gratitude to others and how the recipients of our gratitude respond to us. Research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has shown that when a person expresses gratitude towards someone[1], third-party observers feel more positively about that person and are more likely to be kind and helpful toward them.

This means that sharing our gratitude with others is not only good for us and good for them, it is also good for our group. It turns out that everyone benefits from expressions of gratitude!

Gratitude Action Step

This week, be sure to share your gratitude with a friend, family member, or peer, and don’t be afraid to do it in a virtual group setting. Make showing gratitude the norm in your group, one “thank you” at a time.


Integrative Health Tips for Transitioning to Winter

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For many, November through December is the best time of the year. During the holidays, there are many special occasions for getting together with families and friends, like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve. It’s a perfect time for cooking, trying new recipes, sharing dishes, and exchanging quality time and gifts. 

Even with all there is to look forward to, this time of year brings some challenges as well. The days get shorter and shorter until the solstice on December 21. The transition of seasons, the change of weather, the fading of leaves, and the evolution of light can slightly affect your health and wellness balance. During this time, you can experience, for example, an increase in food cravings, a change in sleeping habits, mood changes, different allergies, and a lack of energy. 

Implementing self-care and learning to adapt to the time change are essential to feeling good at this time of year. Meditation and self-reflection can help you understand your body. Learning health and wellness tips can keep us active and healthy this time of year. 

Have you noticed how you perform in early spring as opposed to early winter? 

Think back to early spring. Chances are we were feeling more energetic, and more excited about going out, getting in touch with nature, and meeting some friends. But in early winter, we may be feeling more receptive and reflective. It is the perfect time to let go, end a natural cycle, and prepare for winter. We can get ready by eating locally grown vegetables, warming herbs, and feel gratitude for the warmth of family and friends during the holidays.  

To help you transition into winter, Maryland University of Integrative Health MS in Nutrition and Integrative Health student Maya Lechowick has prepared some helpful actions, tips, and recipes to keep you feeling your best during the season transition: 

  • Don’t go out with an empty tank. Before going to a party, eat something so you do not arrive famished. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, such as apple slices with peanut butter.   
  • Be buffet savvy. At a buffet, peruse the food table before putting anything on your plate. You might be less inclined to pile on items by checking out all your options.  
  • At dinner, serve yourself the standard portions. Once you have finished eating, take a 10-minute break to realize if you are still hungry before going back for seconds. 
  • Drink to your health – a glass of eggnog can set you back 500 calories. Wine, beer, and mixed drinks range from 150 to 225 calories.  Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach. 
  • Put on your walking or dancing shoes. Dancing is a great way to get your body moving. If you are at a family gathering, suggest a walk before the feast or even between dinner and dessert. 
  • Lower your expectations. Holidays don’t always look and feel like they do in the movies. Make it your own by doing the things that fit your lifestyle and make you happy. 
  • Cook from (and for) the heart. To show family and friends care and love, be creative with recipes that use less butter, cream, lard, vegetable shortening, and other ingredients rich in saturated fats. Prepare turkey or fish instead of red meat. 
  • Pay attention to what matters. Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter, and joy. But, if balance and moderation are your usual guides, indulging or overeating occasionally is okay. 
  • Make time for laughter. Laughter is the best medicine. So, make time for it just as you would for a healthy meal, exercise break, or deep breathing exercises. The great news about adding a daily dose of laughter is that there are no known side effects, and so far, we have not documented any allergies to our laughing breaks. 
  • Hydrate and warm yourself with healthy beverages like green teas, infusions, cinnamon, spicy, ginger, and lemon teas.  
  • Dress in layers to keep yourself warm and regulate your body temperature.  
  • Try to be active. Indoor exercising can be beneficial if it is too cold to walk outside. 
  • Get plenty of sleep to recover from stress and work.  

During the holiday season, nourish to flourish. Maryland University of Integrative Health Nutrition Outreach team created delicious seasonal recipes for your holiday meals including health benefits: 

Lemon Broccoli with Parmesan  

Broccoli is in the family of food known as Brassicas. These foods are anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, immune-supporting, and cancer-suppressing.  

Garlic contains a phytochemical called allicin. This sulfur-containing compound boosts immunity, stabilizes blood sugar, and is suitable for your heart and brain. 

Squash with Ginger and Cranberry 

Butternut Squash is rich in beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which are excellent for skin and eye health. This starchy vegetable is versatile for both sweet and savory dishes. 

Cranberries are native to North America. These high acid fruits are rich in Vitamin C. Their red pigment is high in phenolic acid and antioxidants with anti-bacterial properties. 

Dressed Carrots & Brussel Sprouts 

Carrots are a rich source of vitamin A, which is linked to eye health. This vitamin helps to reduce the risk of night blindness. 

Rosemary has been shown to boost cognitive function and performance. Rosemary may also help improve memory and sharpen understanding.  

Squash-Sweet Brittle 

Seeds from squash and pumpkin are small and powerful bites of energy. They are high in both zinc and magnesium, two minerals that are often lacking in the Western diet and that are important for heart health. 

Ginger is a great ingredient to utilize on feast days as it stimulates healthy digestion and keeps food moving, as well as reduces uncomfortable gas and bloat. 

Change old habits, break the routine, and try new things in the kitchen. It is healthy to experiment with new recipes and ways of eating. Christina Vollbrecht, MA, MS, Cooking Lab Manager & Recipe Book Project Manager explains, “While we offer plenty of tips and recipes for health and wellness this season, we mostly want you to remember that food is not supposed to be stressful.” Vollbrecht continues, “Whether you are doing the cooking, the eating, the hosting, the travelling, or all of it – treat yourself with kindness and grace and cook and eat from a place of love and you will derive the most benefit both nutritionally and emotionally.” Learn more and check out different recipes for every occasion. 




Skerrett, P. (2019). 12 tips for holiday eating. Harvard Health.

Jones, L. (2020). 7 Simple Holiday Wellness Tips and Quotes to Lower Your Stress. Living 

The Power of Gratitude Meditation

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“It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.” – Eckhart Tolle

Meditation is a powerful tool for enhancing our well-being and helping us create a sense of peace in the mind. It’s a great tool for anyone looking to boost their mindfulness and feel more calm and collected. But you might not know that you can also use meditation to feel more gratitude.

Gratitude and meditation go hand in hand. Some say that meditation and mindfulness are inherently grateful acts; when we are present in the current moment, we can’t help but be grateful for that moment.

Whether meditation is inherently an act of gratitude or not, it’s certainly connected. A 2016 study from Ohio State University found that people who meditate regularly enjoy greater well-being, self-compassion, and—you guessed it—gratitude. It turns out that being present in the moment and present in our bodies is key to enjoying all of life’s little pleasures.Gratitude Action Step  Give gratitude meditation a try to boost your mindfulness and your gratitude. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Sit in an upright position with your eyes closed and your hands resting on your legs or knees.
  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your nose as you settle into the present moment.
  3. Think about all the things you have to be grateful for in your life. If you have trouble thinking of things to be grateful for, start with this list: life itself, your five senses, shelter to protect you each night, food and water to sustain you, and people who love you.
  4. Focus on the feelings of gratitude that arise, and build on them by adding to the list.
  5. Sit with these feelings of gratitude and let them wash over and through you.

10 Top Tips for Eating Better, Eating Together

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By Amy Riolo 

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was known for saying “We should look for someone to eat or drink with before looking for something to eat or drink.” Each October, National Eat Better, Eat Together Month promotes the health, social, and communal benefits of eating with others. Since enjoying food with others is key to my culinary philosophy, I have chosen this symbolic month to encourage others to enjoy the pleasurable and beneficial ritual of communal dining. 

The world has a long history of giving importance to eating together. Everything from biblical verses to Ancient Egyptian texts and the Renaissance  into modern times underlined this important tradition. Many modern health and wellness research confirms the importance of Epicurus’ quote as well. In modern times, however, when our economies became more industrial and less based on agriculture, communal eating no longer coincided with urban workdays, and the trend fell out of fashion. 

Nowadays, many American families enjoy the luxury of eating in large groups only on major holidays. Incidentally, according to MDLinx, a news service for physicians, “The newest epidemic in America (loneliness) now affects up to 47% of adults – double the number affected a few decades ago.”  Eating together doesn’t mean that you need to change your social status, move, or go on a date. It does, however, involve getting creative, especially if you live alone or have work schedules that vary greatly from the people you live with.  In many modern nutrition debates, we discuss only what we are eating, not who we are eating with, in stark contrast to Epicurus’ advice.   

When I wrote my 10th book, Mediterranean Lifestyle for Dummies, I had the opportunity to research the health benefits of communal eating. Here’s what I learned and included in the book: 

  • According to a study that appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health which was based on more than 18,000 adolescents, even teenagers who eat regularly with their parents developed much better nutritional habits.  
  • Cornell University research revealed that even coworkers of diverse backgrounds who ate together performed better at work. They found that “companies that invest in an inviting dining room or cafeteria or shared meal space may be getting a particularly good return on their investment.”   
  • Research by Brain Health shows that communal eating not only activates beneficial neurochemicals, but also improves digestion. When you bond with others and experience a sense of connection, endogenous opioids and oxytocin (pain and stress-relieving hormones) are released. 

There are many other psychological and physical rewards that eating communally fosters as well.  For example, residents in Sardinia are ten times more likely to live past 100 than people in the United States. Researchers attribute this to daily communal eating and the psychological security of being surrounded by loved ones. But every country and culture in the Mediterranean region has its own way of encouraging people to plan meals and eat together, and this tradition also has been linked to improved digestion and eating less overall. 

Faced with overbooked schedules and increasing demands, most of us treat mealtimes as an afterthought. For many people, it’s a challenge just to make sure that they eat, and perhaps that their food is nutritious. With just a little extra effort in the beginning, however, your overall wellness will improve.  Luckily, starting your own tradition of eating with friends and family is easy to do.   

Here are ten simple ideas to help you enjoy more meals with others:  

  1. Schedule meals with others into your weekly planning. 

Just as we plan going to the movies, working out, carpooling, the theater, or spectator sports with one another, we should also plan our meal times and physical activity. Even if you start with just one meal a week, it is worth it to pencil it into your schedule so you can plan accordingly.  

  1. Remember, communal meals don’t have to mean dinner. 

Some people work really long days or have schedules which don’t permit them to get out for dinner. If that’s the case, plan other meals when you do have time with friends, family, co-workers or neighbors, even if it needs to be virtual. A lot of people I know enjoy meeting for breakfast or lunch, and then, of course, there’s always the days off which can be more flexible. 

  1. Make breakfast the new dinner. 

You can bond just as easily over breakfast as you can over dinner. Busy couples and families are taking advantage of a communal breakfast to enjoy a bit of time together before their hectic days begin.  

  1. Allow cooking to be part of the communal eating experience. 

Some people refrain from entertaining because they believe that they have to have everything “ready” for whomever they’re eating with, and busy schedules don’t allow for prep work. If you can relate, keep in mind that it can be fun and efficient to work as a team. Assign one person the responsibility to pick up the groceries—or order them online—and cook together. It allows for more communal time in the kitchen. 

  1. Brunch is Better

Brunch is an easy meal to fit into weekends, and it involves less rigid “dining rules” than other eating times. Try planning  a group brunch for you and your friends, invite the whole family to your place for dinner and a movie, or help your kids plan a fun and healthy food-themed party. You’ll be starting your own tradition and gaining a lifetime of health and happiness. 

Be sure to check out our recipe section from our Nutrition students here at MUIH or my blog for more inspiration. 

  1. Enjoy Lunch with colleagues

Many people have the most interaction with others during their work day—so lunchtime is a great time to eat together. Ask your coworkers or fellow students to join you for your midday meal or invite a friend to lunch.   

  1. Make technology work for you

One of the positive things that came out of the recent lockdown was our ability to use technology to help us feel connected to loved ones. Since some of my work (the writing portion) was always done at home even prior to 2019, I became accustomed to “eating” with others over the phone or internet. If I know I am going to be alone writing or testing recipes, for example, I’ll set up a phone call with a friend or family member during lunch or dinner. Even though they are not in person with me, we still enjoy each other’s’ camaraderie while eating, and therefore, many of the same psychological benefits that dining together offers, without ever leaving our homes or places of work.  

  1. The heart seeks a friend

There is a Turkish proverb that says “The heart seeks neither the coffee nor the coffee house, the heart seeks a friend, coffee is just an excuse.” It’s a beautiful reminder of how important company can be. Even if regular meals are impossible, be sure to schedule in some regular coffee or tea times with a loved one. 

  1. Make like-minded acquaintances

We all go through transitions in life. Maybe you just moved or are experiencing a breakup, or have welcomed a new member in the family which makes socializing more challenging. Nowadays, there are many virtual and in person meet-ups for like-minded people who enjoy various themes such as wine, gardening, books, sports, languages, music, art, etc. Try joining one that appeals to you. You could, at a bare minimum, meet friendly people who would also enjoy dining together. 

  1. Change the rules

Our society has a social stigma around dining. Asking someone who isn’t a romantic partner, close friend, or family member to dinner is synonymous with asking someone on a date. But it doesn’t need to be that way. 50 years ago carpooling wasn’t a thing either, and the idea of signing up online for a tennis partner would have seemed outlandish. Nowadays, however, we sign up for carpools with people and play sports with others who we may not know very well and definitely don’t have romantic feelings for. Eating should be viewed the same way. If friends and family are not available, we should be able to comfortably mention to acquaintances that we value the health benefits of communal eating and would like to start a breakfast, lunch, or dinner club with them. Many of my friends have done this, and the tradition has become of one of the most anticipated events on their social calendar. 

Recognizing the benefits of eating together reminds us that the field of nutrition is more than counting calories and studying vitamins. MUIH’s programs approach nutrition from an integrative, whole-person perspective to understand the multifaceted role of food in our lives. Even though it can be difficult to arrange more shared meals, it’s totally worth it when you think about all you will gain. For delicious, nutritious, and fun recipes to share, check out our MUIH recipe resources as well as those on my personal blog