Ornish Living: Feel better, love better


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For all of our lives we’re given advice from family, friends, teachers, doctors, dentists, mechanics, etc. — year after year, along with our life experiences, this advice accumulates, ultimately comprising our sense of common sense, a set of good practices, even a compass throughout our daily lives.

Let go of the need to feel responsible for other adult’s choices.

There comes a time in our lives that we face a life-altering situation, one which calls for a radical shift of one sort or another.  Ultimately, we are the only ones who can chose to lead our lives in one fashion or another, for this reason or that.  And yet on occasion, people who face a health predicament illicit quite a lively landscape of commentary and advice.

Participants of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine are often able slow, stop, even reverse the progression of heart disease — and in the process, avoid re-vascularization, reduce their angina, and improve their overall sense of well-being. After one year on the Ornish Program, 87.9% participants remain committed.  Despite courageously choosing to change their lifestyle, in hope of a better tomorrow, participants can face doubt and criticism. 

One moment they’re feeling triumphant for empowering their own health, the next, they’re feeling confused and upset when they encounter a negative response from others about their new choices.  “I don’t get it!”  Our participants will ask, “How am I offending anyone because I choose to be a vegetarian?” “What’s up with the snide remarks, or worse, attempts that seem to be trying to sabotage what I’m working so hard to achieve?” “I don’t get it!” they lament in discouragement.

Like all great pioneers,  stepping outside the box gets attention. Some will applaud us and cheer us on. Some will be threatened for any number of reasons because they feel ‘left out’ or ‘left behind’ as we forge a new road for ourselves. Many act out because they feel jealous of our resolve and the wonderful results we are achieving. Often these criticisms are because the person feels inadequate, insecure, and guilty about their own unresolved health issues.

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Walk the Path of Compassion

I find it helpful to remember that people are never unkind out of inner strength. Unkind actions usually result from fear of vulnerability, insecurity, and a person’s own power struggles within. Remembering this does not excuse their unkindness. It does, however, mean that you have the opportunity to walk the path of compassion. Practicing compassion in lieu of reactive resentment can become the foundation upon which you make many choices.

Time to start thinking in a new way. You need not feel responsible for other’s choices. Say to yourself “I’m only responsible for mine.”

Your Great Leap Forward

It’s all about choices. When we listen to our health’s call for help, adopting a lifestyle change takes fortitude. When we turn towards the issue and not away from it, that choice offers a great leap forward. What we couldn’t know, as with any daring decision, is what often follows. When we follow our own inner wisdom and common sense, we possess the clarity and strength to honor our intentions with daily behavioral choices.

Despite feeling socially disruptive and revolutionary to some, the choice to eat healthfully, exercise consistently, deeply relax, and let ourselves love and be loved is our prerogative. Is it doable? Yes! Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program is the result of thirty-seven years of scientifically proven research.

Will it always be ‘easy’ to change our lives this way? Will everyone in our lives always like the choices we are making? Not so likely! In our shared journey toward progress, not perfection, chances are pretty good that we will occasionally encounter the naysayers. And as a result, we may feel slimed with anger, disappointment, and sadness. But don’t worry. Our feelings must never be feared, and they always deserve to be heard.

Don’t waste your precious energy on what anyone else is saying or doing. We need our resources for healing. Come back home to the soft and galvanized truth of your heart. Share it with a trusted other, like those of us in this supportive community. Respond to yourself as a best friend would; remind yourself of how proud you are of your choices; and that nobody gets to vote on them but you.  The results speak for themselves!

Have you faced a life-altering situation, one which calls for a radical shift of one sort or another?

Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

Hearts linked, together we heal…

Better Health Begins With You...

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