Ornish Living: Feel better, love better


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Lifestyle change requires patience, perseverance and a plan for progress. It is an evolving daily process that requires our conscious attention and focused commitment. But that doesn’t mean we won’t experience inevitable setbacks. Because of that, this practice also involves compassionate flexibility and giving yourself ample wiggle room for making mistakes.

Guarding our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual resources will help us to persevere and succeed.


In spite of our best intentions, we are often disappointed to discover the gravitational pull of our old patterns. Initially, the over-developed, unhealthy-but-comfortable, old muscles try to bully the new lifestyle choices into turning over their lunch money. It is never too early to elicit additional love and support from others to assist us through these transitions and challenges. Learning how to ask for help, sooner than later, is never a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a viable sign of resilience and strength, inner fortitude and responsible self-care.

As we are learning how to open to the new, unfamiliar ways, and letting go of the old, entrenched ones, we will also need to cultivate patience. The exciting, albeit humbling, new plan will never “make sense” to “the way we’ve always done it.”

In the process of stretching, growing and expanding into our new lifestyle choices, some days will be easier than others. On certain days we may log only a few steps forward of growth. On other days we may surge ahead several miles. And then there are always the days when we don’t make any progress, and perhaps even slide back. At this point we need to whisper to ourselves: “Give it time.” We deserve to remind ourselves that this, indeed, is the purpose of time—to work mercifully for us, not against us. We are worthy of our own patience.


Focusing our attention on what the experts refer to as strategic renewal of our daily energy expenditure will aid us in persevering. This advice is in direct alignment with the heart-healthy balance achieved through the scientifically- proven four pillars of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine. This includes daily practice of: moderate exercise, nutrient dense plant-based eating, stress management, and the giving and receiving of love and support.

The stress management element of the Ornish Program, with its emphasis on relaxation and restoration, fosters the development of patience through its calming techniques of meditation and gentle yoga. In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers discovered that meditation practice helps to sustain our attention, which in turn, aids us in keeping our goals front and center. Meditation practice activates the same brain centers used in self-regulation, decreasing mental strain and increasing alert focus.

During the course of a workday, we naturally move from a state of alertness into physiological fatigue about every 90 minutes, according to Tony Schwartz, the CEO of The Energy Project, an organization devoted to changing the way we work. To override our body’s low energy signals, we often reach for caffeine or a sugary snack. Worst of all, Schwartz explains, we begin dipping into our energy back-ups, the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These are meant to be used as reserves, rather than sustenance. He cautions: “Humans are not computers. We are not built to expend energy continuously. We’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”

A Plan For Continued Progress

A plan to support continued progress will be more beneficial if it includes our willingness to monitor our energy levels and respond with attention and adjustments. We make countless decisions in a day, managing not only our own health, but the well-being of others at work and at home. Because of this mindset, we can become what has been referred to as “decision-fatigued.” At this juncture, we are inclined to take the easy way out: grabbing the unhealthy snack, skipping our exercise workout, scrolling the Internet instead of restoring with stress management, or cancelling our social time with friends because we are feeling spent.

Guarding our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual resources will help us to persevere and succeed. Unmasking procrastination, writing in our journals, validating our gains, and scheduling built-in time for our dedicated practices, will strengthen us by contributing to our staying power and sense of purpose.

Related Video play

Take a few minutes now to renew your energies through this healing, guided 6 minute video practice, titled “Feeling Harmony.”

Embracing the Ornish lifestyle prescription will provide us with the greatest and most treasured gift of all–the ability to savor and share our time on earth with those we love.

What helps you to persevere in your heart healthy lifestyle practices?





Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

Hearts linked, together we heal…

Better Health Begins With You...

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