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Everyone knows walking is good for you. It’s plain common sense, backed by a wealth of recent medical research. In fact, a major new study found that lack of physical activity is twice as deadly for us as obesity.

Health data shows that as little as 30 minutes of walking a day cuts the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease in half, lowers the likelihood of diabetes by 60 percent, limits colon cancer by 31 percent for women and reduces risk of dementia, heart disease, depression, osteoporosis, glaucoma and catching a cold.

This kind of evidence prompted U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to issue a call for Americans to walk more. “Physical activity – such as brisk walking – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” Murthy explains. “Even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”

“Walking is the most common form of physical activity across incomes and ages and education levels,” adds Thomas Schmid of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s because it’s free, easy, relaxing, available right out your front door and easily incorporated into daily schedules. Plus it’s fun. The CDC’s most recent research shows the number of Americans who take a walk at least once a week rose six percent in the last decade.  Still, less than half of all adults meet the minimum recommended guidelines for walking, rolling in a wheelchair or other physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week), according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even worse, only a quarter of high school students today reach the mark (one hour a day, seven days a week), according to the Surgeon General’s report.

What can be done to ensure the health of our country? The Surgeon General encourages everyone to walk and work to make their hometowns more safe and inviting for people on foot. He lauds the new walking movement that’s emerged over the past few years for getting Americans moving again. Health care professionals are on the frontlines of this effort, and many are bringing the message back to their clinics by including physical activity as one of the vital signs — like blood pressure and tobacco use — they check on with patients. Some MDs even write prescriptions for walking.

Several health care systems track physical activity in their health care records, including Greenville Health in South Carolina, Intermountain Healthcare in Utah and Idaho, and Kaiser Permanente, an integrated health care delivery system, in California and seven other states.

If Walking Were a New Drug, It Would Make Headlines

“What if there was a pill you took one day that lowered your blood pressure, prevented diabetes, improved your mood and protected against depression, increased bone density and prevented fractures, helped you remain independent as an older adult, enhanced your ability to think, and gave you more energy?” ask Dr. Robert Sallis and Dr. Karen J. Coleman in Sports Medicine Bulletin. “Would you be asking your doctor to prescribe it for you?”

Such a drug already exists, Sallis notes — it’s called walking. “If walking was a pill or surgical procedure, it would be on 60 Minutes.”

Sallis, a family practitioner at a Kaiser Permanente clinic in Fontana, Calif., keeps special walking RX prescription pads in his exam rooms, which he fills out for some patients saying, “This is what I want you to do to treat your high blood pressure or depression or diabetes, etc. If it’s not enough, then we will consider using a medication.”

What are patients’ reactions? “They respond very well to this message,” Sallis says. “This approach really frames for them how important exercise is to their health and treating their disease.”

Sallis first spoke up about walking and other physical activity being recognized as a vital sign in 2007, when serving as president of the American College of Sports Medicine and helping launch the Exercise is Medicine initiative with the American Medical Association.

The aim of that project is to highlight the mounting research proving that physical activity should be seen as essential to health and the treatment of disease. It’s obvious that doctors, nurses and other clinicians should raise the idea of walking during medical exams, when people are paying particularly close attention to their health and how to maintain it.

Putting the Plan into Action

In 2009, physical activity was designated as a vital sign for Kaiser Permanente facilities in Southern California and the idea was quickly adopted throughout the rest of the non-profit organization — the nation’s largest integrated care health system with 10.2 million members 17,000 physicians, 50,000 nurses, 620 clinics and 38 medical centers on the West Coast, the Mid-Atlantic region, Colorado, Hawaii, and Georgia.

Patients are asked how many days a week, on average, they engage in moderate or strenuous physical exercise, such as a brisk walk, and for how many minutes? These two simple questions frequently spark conversation about the value of walking (or yoga, Zumba classes, bicycling, gardening and other physical activity) in treating and preventing disease.

A follow-up study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that 18 months after Kaiser Permanente adopted physical activity as a vital sign in Southern California, 86 percent of all adult patients had a record of their activity levels included in electronic medical records. In 2013, Kaiser Permanente’s Exercise as a Vital Sign program was honored with an Innovation Award by the National Business Coalition on Health.

“Asking an individual about their daily physical activity helps our providers learn what matters to our patients and prompts our patients to think about healthier habits,” explains Lisa Schilling, vice president for Healthcare Performance Improvement with Kaiser Permanente's Care Management Institute. “It also allows us to connect the individual to resources and habits that promote better health.”

Even health care professionals sometimes need encouragement to live healthier. Zendi Solano, a research assistant for Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, Calif., admits that she knew the importance of exercise but “really didn’t take it seriously” until her doctor asked about it during a checkup.

Diabetes runs in Solano’s family, and she was obese with elevated blood sugar. Right then and there, she decided to take up running. At her next physical, Solano had lost 30 pounds and her blood sugar levels were normal. Being asked about exercise as a vital sign, she says, “is a great reminder.”

About 2/3 of Sallis’s patients fall below the minimum federal guidelines for exercise, and half of those report no moderate physical activity at all during an average week, he says. ‘Talking about physical activity can have an impact on everyone,” he says, especially high-risk patients with diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis or other chronic diseases.

“Anyone who is at risk for chronic disease should consider exercise an essential vaccine to greatly lower risk of illness and…extend life,” he wrote in a guest editorial for The British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The power of exercise to heal really hit home for Sallis after meeting Valerie, a 68-year-old patient with Parkinson’s Disease who came into his office with a walker. She was desperate and depressed because her medication was no longer working. He recommended she visit a fitness professional to walk on a treadmill at one mile-per-hour speed along with some resistance training and stretches.

“In a month-and-a half, she came back to my office without the walker, and telling me she had more energy and a more positive outlook,” he remembers. This convinced him, “if something so simple and inexpensive as exercise can have such a profound effect, shouldn’t we try to prescribe this powerful medicine to all of our patients?”

Something You Can Say ‘Yes’ to For Better Health

For Liz Joy, Medical Director for Community Health at Intermountain Healthcare based in Utah, the “a-ha” moment about physical activity as a vital sign came in 2008 at a meeting focused on preventing obesity among youth.

“It was a roomful of physicians, health care directors, scientists and coaches,” she remembers, “and one speaker got up and asked: ‘What is health care doing about this crisis?’ That’s when it came to me that physical activity needs to become a vital sign.”

Intermountain adopted the idea in 2013 in its electronic health record for use by clinicians in Utah and Idaho. “It’s a way to bring discussion of physical activity into the exam room,” Joy explains.

“Even if it’s just a brief conversation about how important it is to your overall health. I can let patients know it’s as important as blood pressure, and more important than obesity and cholesterol to your overall health.”

“I generally start by talking about walking, because it’s free and everyone knows how to walk,” she adds. “I’ll tell them just start with 10 minutes at a time — and no one has ever said they can’t do that. Do that three times a day, and you have your 30 minute daily minimum.”

Joy notes that doctors have been charting people’s weight for generations, telling them to lose weight while watching the national obesity rate continue to rise. “Talking about physical activity is a positive conversation — something people can do to improve their health. And when they take that first step, sometimes their eating habits begin to change, too. You’ve helped enhance their self-efficacy.”

Some of her patients don’t consider walking real exercise, so the conversation can offer new motivation to get back on their feet. “I saw a patient and was surprised his records showed that his physical activity was zero. I knew he had a dog, and I asked if walked the dog? Yes, he said 30-60 minutes a day. But he didn’t think of it as exercise.”

“The physical activity vital sign is a great prompt to have a conversation with patients about activity and exercise — to let them know things like gardening and dog walking count,” she adds.

Joy points out that health care systems have a strong incentive for adding physical activity to their lists of vital signs. “Physical activity is stressed in Medicare reimbursements as one of the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures, which Medicare and others use to assess the quality of health care delivery to determine level of payments. It’s a huge financial driver.”

Spreading the Message into Exam Rooms Everywhere

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has joined with other groups in the walking movement to alert health care professionals about the promise of adding physical activity to their list of vital signs.

“One strategy is to get influential medical organizations to formally adopt physical activity as a vital sign, and then activate their individual members,” says ACSM CEO Jim Whitehead. They’re already working toward that goal with 10 medical societies, including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Cardiology and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association.

“This is for all health care providers, not just physicians. Nurses can often make a greater impact because they typically spend more time with you,” notes Brenda Chamness, ACSM Strategic Health Program’s Senior Director.

Working with Kaiser Permanente and the Every Body Walk! Collaborative — a coalition of organizations ranging from the CDC to AARP to NAACP to the PTA — ACSM hosted a two-day scientific roundtable on the subject last April, which detailed recent research and presented best practices used by working physicians, including Robert Sallis and Liz Joy. In October, several hundred health professionals around the country took part in a webinar on “Making Physical Activity a Vital Sign.”

“All this can have a major impact by showing people that they all don’t have to go to the gym to be healthy,” says Adrian Hutber, Vice President of Exercise is Medicine at ACSM. “They can just go out and take a walk.”

Jay Walljasper writes regularly about public health and healthy communities. The former Editor-in-Chief of Utne Reader, he is author of The Great Neighborhood Book. He has a personal website and you can read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


MOTHER EARTH NEWS facilitated a pilot test over the summer and early fall of 2015 to examine the fatty-acid profiles of 32 grass-fed, free-ranged and pastured cows, lambs, pigs and chickens. At this point in the omega-6, omega-3 fatty-acid testing program, we’ve analyzed results from about 30 samples. Overall, pastured products are several times richer in beneficial omega-3 fats, and, at the same time, those samples are much lower in problematic omega-6 fatty acids when compared to the USDA Nutrient Database numbers, which reflect levels found in industrial products. Therefore, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is much lower in grass-fed products, thus more nutritionally favorable, than the USDA standard. Additionally, we’re learning how reducing omega-6 intake might be even more beneficial than increasing omega-3 intake; please see Richard Manning’s Omega-3s and More: The Importance of Fat in a Healthy Diet for more information.

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are “essential nutrients,” meaning that they must come from a person’s diet; however, a skewed dietary ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 disrupts the body’s natural inflammatory balance. For this reason, select foods with a fatty-acid ratio as close as possible to 1 to 1. As we continue to learn more about the relationship between omega fatty acids, the link between increased consumption of omega-6-rich corn and soy products, and obesity in the United States makes more sense. For more information on this topic, please see our recent article, Linoleic Acid in Soy Strongly Linked to Obesity Epidemic. For those reasons, we are convinced that it is best to avoid corn- and soy-fed animal products, whenever possible, opting instead for those products carrying labels like the American Grassfed Association, the Food Alliance Certified Grassfed, USDA Grassfed + USDA Process Verified, Animal Welfare Approved Certified Grassfed, or USDA Organic. (Please see Which Grass-Fed Beef Labels to Trust.) Better yet, get to know your meat, egg and milk producers, visit farms, ask the right questions, and let farmers know that you are willing to invest in healthful and sustainable animal farming operations.

Summary of Data Analysis

Fats Chart Ratio 

We are still studying the data for lamb, pork, milk and cheese, and will report more on them later. You can look up the USDA nutrient values for other foods at Self Nutrition Data. We are incredibly thankful for those farmers who sent in samples—on their own dime!—to enable our work at MOTHER EARTH NEWS. We’ve provided a list of participating farms below. If you are a producer, and would be interested in participating in future testing, please email us.

List of Participating Farms 

Arrow K Farms
Black Diamond Farms
Brady’s Beef
Bush Creek Farm
Coonridge Organic Goat Cheese
Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill and Farm
Cozi Farm
DS Family Farm 
Eggs by A Man and His Hoe
Five Bar Beef
Hopeful Farms
Ledamete Grass Farm
Mesteño Draw Ranch
Ode to Joy Farm
Old Narrow Gauge Farm
Polyface Farms
Riverview Farms
Spring River Farm
Straight Arrow Bison Ranch
Sunbird Farms
Taylor-Wright Farm
The Medina Farm
Valley Fall Farm

Josh Brewer is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS who covers Renewable Energy, Green Homes, Omega Fatty Acids Nutrition, and Nature and Environment.


Urea Skin Cream

I know many people, myself included, who start to get dry, scaly skin in the winter months. And for many, dry skin isn’t just a bit of a bother – it can be a big issue. The symptoms can get so bad that the skin cracks, causing itchiness, pain, and even infection.

If you deal with dry and cracked skin on a regular basis, you don’t have to continue to suffer. It’s time to not just find relief, but to prevent your symptoms from occurring in the first place. One of the more effective ways to do this is to use moisturizing creams with an important ingredient: urea.

What is Urea?

Urea is a compound naturally found in the body, where it plays a major role in the metabolism and excretion of nitrogen. Urea is also present in the layers of the skin, where it is important for maintaining the balance of moisture in the skin. This allows it to have beneficial effects in dermatology.

Creams containing urea can effectively prevent and treat a variety of skin conditions, such as the following:

Athlete’s foot
Toenail fungus
Dry skin [1]

Urea as a Dry Skin Remedy

Urea is known to be especially effective in treating dry skin, even in severe cases.[1] It is known to aid in the healing of dry skin by a variety of mechanisms:

1. Improving hydration of skin cells[1]
2. Reducing water loss through the skin[1]
3. Enhancing antimicrobial action to protect against germs and infection[1,2]
4. Regulating genes that help skin cells form a protective barrier[2]

These qualities of urea help to keep your skin hydrated, moisturized, and protected from external sources of injury and infection. Urea isn’t just a treatment tool; it can help to prevent dry skin from occurring in the first place.

How To Use Urea for Dry Skin

Urea can work wonders on dry skin, and it can help you to stop it from happening in the first place.

Find a product with 10 percent to 20 percent urea that uses natural ingredients. Common moisturizers often have ingredients like parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrance, and other ingredients that are toxic in the body, disrupt hormones, cause reproductive problems, and even cause cancer. So be sure to consider natural alternatives that include healthy ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, ceramides, or other natural products.

Urea is considered a safe product, and adverse affects are uncommon. Mild irritation is the most common side effect; if you experience any irritation, stop using the product.[1]

To read about other effective dry skin remedies, read more here.


[1] Dermatol Online J. 2013 Nov 15;19(11):20392.
[2] J Invest Dermatol. 2012 Jun;132(6):1561-72.

Natural Health Advisory Institute contributing editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Risks of Antibiotic Overuse

In my own experiences, I’ve found that antibiotics are prescribed left and right for various conditions. But are they always necessary? And are they always safe to use, especially for kids? Learn about some of the health risks associated with frequent antibiotic use in children below.

Antibiotics Kill Both Good and Bad Bacteria

Antibiotics work to rid the body of infections because they kill bacteria. But they don’t just kill the particular type of bacteria causing your symptoms; they aren’t specific, and so they kill the other bacteria in your body at the same time.

And guess what? Not all bacteria are bad. In fact, a lot of the bacteria living and growing in our bodies are essential to good health.

The community of bacteria living in our bodies is termed the microbiome. A healthy, well-balanced microbiome is necessary for many functions in the body, including those related to immunity, digestion, metabolism, and more. An unbalanced, unhealthy microbiome can translate into an unhealthy body; disrupted microbiomes are associated with things like asthma, obesity, and irritable bowel symptoms.[1,2]

So when you take antibiotics, your microbiome can be significantly altered, taking away some of the beneficial bacteria your body needs to function properly. It can take several months for the bacterial population to return to normal after changes made by antibiotics.[3] And in some cases, it seems that lasting harm can be caused by antibiotic use, especially during childhood.

Researchers are uncovering more and more evidence that the development and maintenance of a healthy microbiome in childhood is essential to a child’s health in youth and as they age.

Health Conditions Associated with Antibiotic Use in Childhood

Antibiotic use has been associated with a number of health problems in children:

1. Juvenile arthritis. A study involving over 450,000 children looked at how many antibiotics were prescribed to each child and the incidence of juvenile arthritis. After adjusting for other confounding factors, the researchers found that children who had been prescribed antibiotics were more than twice as likely to develop juvenile arthritis compared to those who were not prescribed antibiotics.[3] Previous studies found a similar association between antibiotic use and juvenile arthritis.[4]

2. Crohn’s disease. Researchers found that kids who had more than seven antibiotics purchased for them during their lifetime were at double the risk of developing Crohn’s disease, compared to those kids with six or fewer antibiotic purchases.[5] A review of 11 studies came to the same conclusion, making a strong association between antibiotic exposure and the odds of being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.[6]

3. Obesity. Kids who are repeatedly prescribed antibiotics (especially broad spectrum antibiotics) before the age of two are at a higher risk of developing childhood obesity than those who aren’t.[7]

4. Asthma. Antibiotic use in the first few years of life has been repeatedly associated with increased odds of developing asthma. And the more antibiotics used, the higher the risk.[8-10]

Avoiding Antibiotic Overuse for Your Child

In some cases, antibiotics are necessary, and they can literally be lifesaving. But in other circumstances, they might not be necessary, or even helpful. Many common childhood infections are viral, meaning they are caused by viruses and not bacteria; in these cases, antibiotics won’t even help. And some mild infections, even if caused by bacteria, can resolve on their own without medication.

The best thing you can do to protect your child from unnecessary and excessive antibiotic use is to question your child’s pediatrician. Don’t let them prescribe an antibiotic without being sure that it is entirely necessary for the safety of your child. Ask them if the antibiotic is the only safe option, what would happen if you waited it out without using the antibiotic, and if there are any tests you can run to be sure the infection is bacterial and not viral.

To read more about the problems associated with antibiotic overuse, and how to protect yourself and your family, read What Do Antibiotics Do to Your Body? The Antibiotic Dilemma, Part 1 and Part 2. You’ll learn how antibiotics can increase your chances for developing diabetes by a shocking amount, and what to do when antibiotics are the only viable treatment option.


[1] PLoS Pathog. 2015 Jul 2;11(7):e1004903.
[2] Nutr Rev. 2015 Aug;73 Suppl 1:32-40.
[3] Pediatrics. 2015 Aug;136(2):e333-43.
[4] J Rheumatol. 2015 Mar;42(3):521-6.
[5] Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Apr 15;175(8):775-84.
[6] Am J Gastroenterol. 2014 Nov;109(11):1728-38.
[7] JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Nov;168(11):1063-9.

Natural Health Advisory Institute contributing editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



When the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors planted an herb garden at the magazine offices in the spring of 2015, our expectations were low. The weather stayed unnaturally cool, cloudy and soggy for weeks. So, we were pleasantly surprised that nature dealt us a bumper crop of calendula when the weather turned warm. Reluctant to let anything go to waste, we quickly researched calendula and found ways of dealing with an abundance of this skin-friendly herb, starting with easy homemade calendula-infused oil.

Calendula has been used medicinally for centuries. The flower petals contain high amounts of cell-protecting antioxidants. Calendula’s uses include topical applications to the skin to help heal wounds and to treat burns, cuts and minor infections. (Learn more about the herb’s beneficial properties on the Mountain Rose Herb blog.)

Drying Calendula 

In addition to soothing the skin, calendula flowers are also beautiful. The plentiful blooms — in shades of yellow and orange — brought a cheery appearance to our office garden. The flowers bloomed all summer and well into fall, although we stopped harvesting in mid-September in hopes the plants will reseed next spring.

Every couple of days during the growing season, we visited the herb garden to harvest new blooms. Calendula flowers easily pop off their stems when you cup your fingers beneath the calyx and pull up. Before we could use the flowers in homemade concoctions, though, the petals needed to dry thoroughly because their moisture could encourage the growth of mold in our homemade calendula-infused oil. To dry our harvest, we spread out the flowers on the tops of our computers. The low heat generated by the computer towers worked great, and each batch of calendula flowers took only a few days to dry sufficiently. After a few months of bountiful harvests, we began joking about starting a mail-order calendula business.

Calendula Jar 

Dried calendula flowers will keep in a dark, dry spot for many months. Most of us stored the dried blooms in glass canning jars until we were ready to use them. We poured olive oil over dried calendula flowers inside clear, clean glass jars, and then placed the jars on sunny windowsills to steep. The resulting calendula-infused oil was ready in about a month, after it had changed color to a vibrant orange-yellow.

Editor Hannah Kincaid mixed some of her infused oil with homemade sage oil and beeswax to create a healing calendula salve that’s shared by everyone in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS office. Making salves is simple: With a double boiler, melt a small portion of shaved beeswax in an herb-infused oil, and then pour it into a container for storage. The mixture will solidify into a salve as it cools. See A Quick Guide to Beeswax & Liquid Oil Ratios for advice on determining the amount of beeswax to use in your own calendula salve recipe.


I made soap using my own calendula-infused oil. The herb’s skin-healing properties appealed to me because I suffer from dry skin and rashes in the winter, and I also have family members who battle eczema. To make calendula soap, you can use this Echinacea Soap recipe from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS website, substituting calendula-infused oil for the extra virgin olive oil, and using calendula flower petals instead of echinacea. I omitted the essential oil to create an extra-gentle unscented soap.

Dried calendula flowers also can be sprinkled on top of salads, soups and other dishes to bring a cheery touch of summer to your meals at any time of year. And calendula is easy to grow: Just sow the seeds in your garden when the soil is warm. To get a jumpstart on spring, you can plant Calendula officinalis seeds indoors about six weeks before the last frost, and then transplant them to your garden. Your biggest problem will likely be keeping up with the harvest as the flowers start to bloom.

(Top) Photo by Rebecca Martin

(Second) Photo by Cheryl Long

(Third) Photo by Rebecca Martin

(Bottom) Photo by Rebecca Martin

is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like.


Ocean Waves

The following visualization engages the mind-body connection for the purpose of self healing, and can be used as a complementary therapy during many situations, i.e. injuries, chronic and acute illnesses, stress, depression, pain, and more. When my beloved friend found out she had a breast tumor, she spontaneously created and used this visualization with incredible results. Shannon's tumor shrank from 9 centimeters down to 6 centimeters in just two weeks after using this self-healing technique two or three times a day! As you can imagine, her doctor's were baffled; Shannon, her family, and friends were amazed and very grateful! Many believe that we all possess this mind-body healing potential, and through practice can learn how to access it. The scientific studies conducted so far on the topic of self-healing visualizations and guided imagery to effect a mind-body response show promising results.[1][2][3] The Mayo Clinic suggests a very similar visualization as one technique to relax and reduce stress.[4] Even tennis champion Novak Djokovic uses visualization to improve his performance.[5]

Shannon's Ocean Healing Visualization

Listen to the sounds of ocean waves

As with any visualization or intention, it's important to call in all of your senses. Since this visualization takes place at the ocean (in your mind’s eye), it helps to listen to a recording of ocean sounds. You want to hear the waves coming to shore, and then hear the waves receding. You can listen to one such audio clip at my website, Biofield Healing. If you have access to a secluded beach with waves, even better!


Find a comfortable spot that is free of distractions; silence your phone, etc. Shannon used to draw a bath and add sea salt, himalayan salt or epsom salt to the water - but you can also use this visualization while sitting or lying in another comfortable location. Prepare for this experience with reverence, joy, and gratitude; give yourself time so you are not rushed.  Connect with your "Higher Power" (Creator) and connect with your "Higher Self" - the part of you that knows and wants what is for your highest good. Anticipate the healing potential that your Higher Power and Higher Self can achieve when working together.  This is a joyous, playful, and creative process.

Clearly verbalize your intention out loud

Some people call this prayer, some call this putting it out into the universe, others call it stating your intention. Just be sure to state it out loud and make it clear what you are trying to achieve. Don't just say, "I want to be healed", instead try to be very specific.  For example, if you are trying to heal a sprained ankle your intention may be to reduce the swelling and inflammation, or to heal torn ligaments so they are normal again.

The visualization

Visualize yourself lying by the ocean's edge. Call in all of your senses.

Smell and taste the salt water spray.

Hear the sea gulls.

Feel the warmth of the sun.

Feel the wet sand beneath you

(all in your mind's eye).

And so you're lying by the water, and the waves roll onto shore and the warm water covers you with love, covers you with healing water. The water is a beautiful ocean green.

Then as the waves recede, visualize the water drawing out whatever needs to be healed.  Maybe the water draws out fatigue, pain, a virus, inflammation, a cyst, or even a tumor. Maybe the waves cover you with healing waters which mend a fracture, laceration, or surgical wounds. Maybe the waves cover you with peace and draw out anxiety, panic, stress or exhaustion. Be specific in what you are envisioning. You know what you need — make the visual yours.

Remember to breathe. Breathe in healing energy and breathe out the injury, illness, disease, emotional trauma, etc.

Closing thoughts

The more time you put into self healing techniques, the better the results. So not only is it more effective to use this visualization during a longer session, it is more effective if it is used multiple times a week, or even multiple times a day.

As you finish, remember to think of yourself as already healed.  And please remember to give thanks. Thanks for learning how to self-heal, thanks for being healed, thanks for your Creator's love and assistance, thanks for everything. Gratitude is important! And in that spirit, thank you Shannon for sharing this priceless mind-body technique with us, inspiring us to connect with our deepest wisdom, and teaching us the power of self love combined with the power of our Creator's love.


[1] Mind-body medicine: state of the science, implications for practice
[2] Effects of guided imagery on postoperative outcomes in patients undergoing same-day surgical procedures: a randomized, single-blind study
[3] Guided imagery: a significant advance in the care of patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery
[4] Relaxation techniques: Try these steps to reduce stress
[5] Champion Novak Djokovic Reveals the Power of Visualization 

Disclaimer:  All information is offered to assist one's innate ability to balance body, mind, emotions & spirit. Clients are encouraged to seek advice from medical doctors in addition to considering complementary and alternative practices. 

Judy DeLorenzo is a micro-farmer, holistic health practitioner, garden foodie, and daycare founder. She completed a 3-year course in Transformational Energy Healing, studied homeopathy, earned a certificate from eCornell in Whole Foods, Plant-Based Nutrition, and is currently studying herbalism. Her approach as a holistic health practitioner is to carefully look at the complete picture and suggest solutions that promote the person’s innate ability to self-heal and maintain vibrant health. You can learn more about Judy DeLorenzo and her healing practice at Biofield Healing and find Judy online at A Life Well Planted. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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A few months ago, I noticed that I’d developed some weird habits surrounding my social media use. I was checking my Facebook and Instagram accounts at least 10 times a day, but I almost always logged off feeling disappointed or slightly depressed. (Apparently, I’m not alone. See How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms.)  I follow a number of news organizations on my social media accounts, and, as a result, my newsfeed is a strong mix of political and environmental news, advertisements, and updates from friends and family. Despite the occasionally interesting or inspiring post, I still felt bogged down by news of mass shootings, scathing political remarks, and updates about the declining state of our environment – not to mention the slew of mediocre food pictures and narcissistic “selfies” that seem impossible to escape.

Why did I continue to spend so much time on a platform that I wasn’t enjoying? I have no idea. It was as though I would black out and then wake up to find myself blinking at my Facebook profile.  How did I get there? What was I looking for? The apps on my Smartphone allowed me to check Facebook notifications at stop lights and skim through Instagram photos while waiting in line at the check-out counter. Every potential moment for quiet reflection was in danger of being interrupted by a strong pull to comment, like, share or respond.  The more I became aware of this nagging desire, the more uncomfortable I felt about it.

The day of the Paris terrorist attacks was the day I logged off.  I’m fully aware that turning something off doesn’t make the problem go away. But, for our mental health and sanity, it’s OK to take a break. Take a breath. The world won’t stop turning if you temporarily tune out.  It’s been a little more than a month since I decided to log off, and I couldn’t be happier with the awareness and centeredness that I’ve gained since then.  Here are the self-imposed rules I created, and the steps I took to establish healthier digital habits. You can choose to follow any of these recommendations that seem inspiring, and tailor them to fit your needs.

Log off social media for one month. I uninstalled the Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone to prevent myself from logging in during brief “dull” moments.  I logged out of Facebook on my desktop, but accidently kept it bookmarked on my toolbar. This bookmarked toolbar was how I found myself unconsciously blinking at the Facebook login page about 10 times a day for the first week. I discovered that I’d been treating my Facebook page like I would an afternoon walk, or a refill of coffee. While working at my computer, if my mind needed to switch tracks or take a short break, I automatically clicked the Facebook icon to start mindlessly browsing. I would only browse for 2 or 3 minutes (I think …) but all those short minutes add up.

I finally broke the habit by removing the bookmarked icon from my toolbar and creating access barriers (the need to physically type my login information before accessing my accounts). It took nearly two weeks for me to quit reaching for that icon when I felt bored or restless.

You can tailor this rule to fit your lifestyle. Maybe you’re happy with the time you spend on Facebook, but Twitter and Snapchat seem to consume your time. Also, if a month is too long, try a week, or even a weekend. The goal is to gain awareness about your social media habits, and to cut back on “zombie browsing.”

Be grateful for the privilege to disconnect. Whenever I became tempted to log in and break my detox, I repeated this mantra to myself: “Unlike millions of people around the world, I have the privilege to disconnect, however temporarily, from news of violence and exposure to language that is negative, racist or fueled by hate. I choose to be grateful for that privilege, to appreciate the beauty of this unique moment, and to be here, now.”  

This became my favorite part of the entire process, and it really helped me gain appreciation for my fortunate circumstances.  

Don’t check email at home. Only check your email from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. When I started my digital detox, I was in the habit of checking my work email once or twice each evening, just to make sure nothing crazy happened that needed my immediate response. This is just unnecessary; I’m not a cardiac surgeon who needs to be on-call to save lives. It can wait.

I was in the habit of using my phone to check work-related and personal emails in the morning before I even got out of bed. I can’t believe I was doing this. It even hurt my eyes to look at a screen so early in the morning, but I did it anyway. I told myself I was preparing for the work day, but I was actually stealing from that wonderful, early-morning alone time when the rest of the world is still asleep and coffee tastes better than ever.

By cutting back on time spent looking at my laptop and phone screen, I started sleeping better. After two weeks of quality sleep, I finally developed an early-morning yoga routine. Instead of lying in bed, hitting snooze and lazily scrolling through email and Facebook, I now stretch by the fireplace and sip a cup of coffee while the sun rises. I can’t believe it took me so long to make that change!

Turn off the TV. I don’t have a TV or Netflix account, but I’m including this “rule” for those of you who do. If you feel like you spend too much time in front of the tube, a digital detox is a great time to cut back. You may decide to only watch 30 minutes a night, or to never watch TV during dinner.

 Think about what your perfect week would look like. Where does TV factor in? Design your detox rules around that vision. I watched a few DVDs on my laptop during my digital detox, but because TV time isn’t a problem for me, I didn’t feel like I needed to limit my consumption to form healthier habits.

Don’t look at your phone while at dinner or with friends.  With our Smartphones, we have the incredible ability to search online for the answer to any question that arises during conversation. But I’ve noticed we often reach for our devices before we really think things through. What happened to old-fashioned debates — and the ability to actually use our memories?  

It’s also just rude to be on your phone when someone is trying to share a meal or participate in a conversation with you.  After I decided to keep my phone safely tucked away during meals and outings, I began to offer a more engaged, tuned-in version of myself. (Warning: After you initiate this change, you may start to really lose patience with other people on their phones.  You’ll start noticing this rude behavior more and more often.)

These last three recommendations are not rules that I imposed on myself, but small ideas for moving forward:

Wear a watch. After gaining newfound distance from my Smartphone, I realized that I was still digging through my purse to find it whenever I need to check the time.  Wearing a watch will cut back on the number of times you need to reach for your phone each day, plus it looks classy.

Keep reading material close at hand. There are definitely situations where you find yourself waiting longer than expected. Maybe you’re in a doctor’s waiting room, or picking up a friend who’s stuck in a meeting. Whatever the situation, you can deter pulling out your Smartphone by having a copy of an interesting book or magazine close at hand.

 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reported that the average U.S. consumer spends 40 minutes per day on Facebook.  In comparison, readers of a median speed take about 4 hours to read a medium-sized book (64,000 words – think “Brave New World”).  If every U.S. consumer substituted time on Facebook with time spent reading a book, they could read one book every 6 days – that’s 60 books a year. Can you image how well-read we would be if we spent 40 minutes a day reading?

Send a postcard or hand-written letter. It doesn’t seem like many people do this anymore, but receiving a beautiful, hand-written postcard or letter is so exciting! Walking to my mailbox is one of my favorite household chores; I always hope for a small, heart-warming note tucked among the bills and coupons. I have a bundle of letters that my brother wrote me while stationed in Iraq, and they’re one of my most treasured belongings. Like wearing a watch, sending a hand-written letter just feels classy and timeless. Have fun and use some special stationary. Print off a few pictures to share, or include a beautiful dried leaf or flower that stands out to you.  A letter or postcard written with love is truly a keepsake.

Looking Back on my Digital Detox

I definitely had a few slip-ups during my digital detox, and I didn’t do a perfect job of sticking to my rules. But just because I slipped up a few times didn’t mean my whole plan was shot. I effectively changed the way I interact with and use my social media accounts, I’ve cut way back on screen time, and I’ve replaced a few negative habits with healthier ones.

I also had a great realization about my personal relationships. By weeding out the white noise and distractions, I narrowed in on the people who I really wanted to talk to. If I missed somebody or wanted an update, I called them (and vice versa). I ended up having a 3-hour-long phone call with a friend who recently moved to Seattle, and I placed more phone calls to long-distance family members than ever before.

This experience helped me realize that Facebook is a binky for loneliness, but that time spent with a loved one— or a dedicated phone call if you live far apart — is a cure.  If you do a digital detox, the people you engage with regularly will still be in your life, but, judging from my own experience, the interactions you have will be warmer, more genuine and better focused.

Hannah Kincaid is an Associate Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. She works on the magazine’s natural health beat, and in her spare time she focuses on restoring her century-old farmhouse, studying native plant medicine and practicing yoga.

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