The physiology of thanks

As bodyworkers, we know empirically that gratitude can change the dynamics of physiology. We have felt it in our hands. In this week of Thanksgiving in the US there have been myriad articles where research has shown the same phenomenon: gratitude changes everything.

In his Seattle Times article, Giving thanks helps your psychological outlook,” Seth Borenstein quotes University of Miami psychology professor Michael McCullough who explains, “giving thanks is a potent emotion that feeds on itself, almost the equivalent of being victorious. It could be called a vicious circle, but it’s anything but vicious.”

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading scientific expert on gratitude, professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology gets specific on the psychosomatic and psychosocial benefits in his article, Why Gratitude is Good, and says,

“We’ve studied more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits: Continue reading

The Business of Massage – I mean CAM therapies

Originally published in WA State Massage Therapy Journal – Oct 2011 – Chase_WMTJ_2011-10_Business of Massage

This summer I have had the good fortune to work at the Samueli Institute in the Washington, DC, area. The institute, founded in 2001 by Henry and Susan Samueli, is a research firm dedicated to the scientific investigation of healing and its role in health care and wellness. Their focus includes complementary, alternative and integrative medicine, optimal healing environments, relationship-centered care, the mind and lifestyle in healing, health care policy, and military and veterans’ health. If you’re keen on industry findings, you may be familiar with them. If you’re new to the field or its emerging research, their name might be yet unknown to you. I would like to propose that the work of this institute and others like it is reshaping the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) around us in innumerable ways—and so it behooves us to pay attention.

While massage is often a standalone service in clinics or private practices (as in mine, I’ll admit), I’ve come to understand that research supporting the efficacy of our work is truly relevant if we are ever to be peers in comprehensive client/patient care. In short, I think CAM research is raising the bar for massage practitioners by generating quantitative and qualitative data meaningful to people outside of our field. Maybe you’re inclined to dismiss the importance of research regarding things you “already know,” e.g., that massage and complementary medicine are effective. I would suggest that the research isn’t necessarily for you, the practitioner. It’s for those who want nonnarrative-based support that CAM therapies work. Like it or not, the Western world craves scientifically validated results that go beyond empirical experience. So even if you yourself don’t need proof, are you willing to support agencies working nonstop to bolster our reputation to laypeople?

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Professional Training and Growth

Originally published in the WA State Massage Therapy Journal (Chase_WMTJ_Professional Growth_2011)

Professional growth can mean so many things in our industry. For example, we can take continuing education courses, participate in networking opportunities, or get bodywork from colleagues or mentors. But we all know the pitfalls of the first two options. After a CE class, we might not have the skills to integrate or market the new techniques. On the other hand, networking events can feel like a lot of small talk that we leave wondering how valuable the time spent was. I have a few recommendations for these, and at the end I’ll address receiving bodywork.

Like you, I have spent a great deal of time in continuing education classes. Over my first five years of practice, I took about 600 hours of CE. Naturally, I didn’t retain all of it. Even if I understood the concepts in class, I didn’t always allocate the follow-up study hours to bring the new learning to my table. But when I started taking Zero Balancing classes (and really found my stride), I discovered a tool that changed my post-CE routine: repeating a class. Zero Balancing’s first two classes are Core I and Core II; in my first four years as a ZB student, I took Core I six times and Core II twice. Because this material really excited me, I wanted not just to know it but to master it. With each class I learned something new, settled into a more mindful practice, and developed the language skills I needed to communicate what I was doing and why people should come to me. In the process, I got certified and am now in teacher training so that I can teach my own Core I and II classes.

Repeating the course was an experiment that worked beautifully! By developing an ongoing connection with the material, I created a pathway to success, and I know you can do the same thing. So take entry level CE courses until you find something that really turns you on, then repeat the class and dive in! There is more to gain than the modality itself. In his ground-breaking book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi gives us a window into the benefits of finding endeavors that feed us. “Contrary to what we usually believe…the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.” Recognize flow in your own pursuits, and you will find skills that serve your whole life.

As for networking, I admit I go round and round with best practices. But I’ve settled into a series of fun tasks you might find helpful in your own networking: 1) Ask innovative and fun questions that help people sparkle. So instead of a bland, “What do you do?” ask, “What excites you about being a (massage, finance, corporate…) professional?” You’ll invite an answer that starts a real conversation, for instead of merely hearing what they do, you’ll learn about their values; 2) Assume you’ll meet people again and invite them to participate in other activities you value. If they’re not interested in anything you love, they’re probably not great lead for you—so move on. On the other hand, when you discover a slew of mutual friends or common passions or values, get their card; and 3) CALL (not e-mail) them to connect. I’m not always available to pick up the phone, but since I get about 150 e-mails a day, I’m not looking for another pen pal—I want to get to know a colleague. So pick up the phone and make a specific proposal in your phone message: “Hey, it was great to meet you Monday. My practice is in the Eastlake neighborhood, and tomorrow I’m headed to a great coffee shop across the street to study in the early afternoon. Let me know if you’ll be in the area so we can connect.” It is unrealistic to always expect such meetings to occur on the first try, but initiating concrete communication creates momentum, and eventually the rendezvous happens—without feeling like a boring game of phone tag.

Regarding bodywork: Yes, do it! As regularly as possible. Receiving regular bodywork or psychotherapy or spiritual guidance or whatever crosses your path is quite probably the best professional growth available. Anything that aids you being fully present in your own work is a worthwhile project that nurtures you professionally and personally. Getting to know ourselves is a lifelong job, and the more clarity we have as we move through the world, the more we bring to our work. Besides, it feels good!

Want to know more? Read The Four-Fold Way by Angeles Arrien, Ph.D. Happy growing!

What does “green” really mean?

Here is an editorial I wrote for Massage Magazine regarding “green” initiatives in massage and bodywork practices.

What steps has your company taken to be “green,” or environmentally responsible, in terms of how you run your business?
Building a community is one of the greenest things we can do, and to do this, we need to stay healthy—and stay in business. My business plan incorporates balance across the triple bottom line: social responsibility, environmental stewardship, and equitable fee structures. One key area for environmental stewardship is paper reduction. I recycle the minimal paper I use, but in fact most of my operation is online. I do all scheduling online and keep chart notes electronically. Also, most of my clients see me for Zero Balancing, which is received through clothing and thus doesn’t use sheets that need laundering.

What can massage therapists do to help Earth stay healthy?
We need to take care of ourselves mentally and physically, putting ourselves first. Like our clients, we take shortcuts when we get tired and worn down. These shortcuts typically have a negative impact: trash, food packaging, sugar, and so forth. Corporate Social Responsibility as business owners also commits us to as close to Zero Waste as possible!

How can massage therapists promote their healthy environmental practices to clients?
Most directly, by setting a good example in our offices regarding environmental, social, and economic choices. Provide recycle/compost bins for used paper towels, use mugs rather than disposable cups, use refillable and pure lotion/oil. Taking care of ourselves so as to model good health and be more effective therapists. Snacking on (and providing, if desired) healthy, whole foods rather than anything processed. Having solid business skills so we can leverage more than our hands in facilitating change.

How do your products or services promote or support a healthy environment?
By facilitating mental and physical health, I support my clients in making better decisions in their lives.

Anything else would you like to tell our readers, related to green or Earth-friendly environmental practices:
Earth-friendly means a lot more than environmental care for the Earth. Beneficial choices regarding food, attitudes, and whom we associate with are just as important in nurturing a healthy and growing community of practitioners.

Pain Management for Your Pocketbook

Let’s do some numbers – and I’ll tell you now they’re not pretty. The average bodywork session in the Northwest is about $75, from which we need to pay expenses and only after that try to get ahead. For a self-employed bodyworker, overhead includes rent, utilities and Internet, laundry service, insurance, lotion, tools, magazines, and tea, after which you finally get paid. Let’s look at an example of $800/month overhead for a one-room treatment space. Estimating revenue of $75 and taxes of approximately $6.75 per session (based on a 9 percent rate), where x = the number of sessions needed to cover overhead, ($75)x – ($6.75)x – $800 = breakeven. This comes out to slightly less than 12 sessions. For employers, whose overhead also includes wages to therapists, the breakeven is much higher—about 24 sessions. 24 sessions! This simple example accounts for just the basics; other expenses and higher taxes would increase these numbers.

As Daniel Pink explains in his national bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, “Too many organizations – not just companies, but governments and nonprofits as well … continue to pursue practices such as short-term incentive plans and pay-for-performance schemes in the face of mounting evidence that such measures usually don’t work and often do harm.”[i] Applying Pink’s theory to our industry reveals what I think is an important yet shrugged-off topic within the industry: demotivating remuneration plans.

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The wonder of the hashtag – #mccsm

It’s been a whirlwind day at the Mayo Clinic Social Media Residency. We did a fly-by of major social media tools and then dove in to get beyond the nuts and bolts and understand how it can really serve us and our personal or business goals.

While the overview of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Internal Social Networking sites (like Yammer and Jive) was interesting what really piqued my interest was the ubiquitous use of hashtags to tie it all together and keep the conversation salient.

You can use a hashtag in your posts, particularly in Twitter, for a couple of reasons. By using the same hashtag today, the participants (or anyone) can go to Twitter and find all of the notes and comments attendees shared via Twitter  – to the tune of 10K+ – with #mccsm. (It might take you as long to review the notes as it did for us to take the summit and residency. What a gift – you practically get to attend the class for free). The course participants didn’t accidentally or magically settle on using #mccsm as the hashtag – we were instructed to do so.  Since there are no hashtag police or “issuers” it’s the job of the sponsor (or whoever is posting) to choose a tag that is both unique and, if you ever want it to be found or used again, relevant to the topic. They asked us to use #mccsm which stands for Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.

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