July Newsletter

Doctor selected as 2nd recipient of Insight Prize

CHICAGO, IL – Bruce Richardson, M.D., Ph.D., of The University of Michigan, has been selected as the second recipient of the Lupus Insight Prize. The award provides $200,000 for use in innovative research on lupus, an unpredictable and sometimes fatal autoimmune disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans.

The prize is a collaborative initiative among the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR), the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), and the Lupus Research Institute (LRI) to recognize and honor the achievements of an outstanding investigator in the field, and whose research efforts have a high likelihood of generating further advances in understanding of the causes, biology, treatments, or cure of lupus.

Dr. Richardson received the honor in June at FOCIS 2014, the Annual Meeting of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies in Chicago, where scientists will present their findings on lupus and other diseases affecting the immune system.

Many researchers believe that lupus flares are triggered by environmental agents such as ultraviolet light, infections, silica exposure and cigarette smoking as well as certain drugs. How these agents cause lupus flares though, has been unclear. Dr. Richardson discovered that some lupus-causing drugs alter gene expression in normal “helper” lymphocytes, converting them into autoreactive “killer” lymphocytes that attack other cells and cause lupus in mice. He also found the same changes in gene expression in lymphocytes from patients with active lupus, and that many of the environmental agents implicated in lupus, as well as diet, contribute to the changes by altering gene expression. With the award funds, Dr. Richardson will identify the genes affected by these environmental agents, and determine how environmental agents and diet cause these changes in lymphocytes.

“I have dedicated my entire career to solving the problem of lupus. This award will enable me to take one of the most creative and innovative steps in my journey to have an impact on understanding and treating this difficult disease,” said Dr. Richardson in response to the award announcement. “I am tremendously honored to receive this award that has been initiated cooperatively by these three outstanding lupus advocacy and research organizations.”

Dr. Richardson was chosen to receive the Lupus Insight Prize by an independent review committee composed of leading lupus scientific leaders from across the country and representatives of the three lupus organizations. The selection committee based the award on a variety of criteria, including academic achievements, creativity, insight, and potential for future advances that will improve the lives of people with lupus.

Lupus Research Institute’s Scientific Advisory Board member Peter Lipsky, M.D. commented, “The Lupus Insight Prize recognizes the novel insight of Dr. Richardson, who made the unexpected discovery that lupus-causing drugs change gene expression in immune cells. This insight provides a unique opportunity to develop new approaches for potential novel therapies for human lupus.”

Additional information about the Lupus Insight Prize and Dr. Richardson’s work in lupus are available online at www.lupusinsightprize.org.

 

CSU walk for lupus raises awareness and dollars

Lupus Colorado's Michael Sauter helps spread awareness about lupus by speaking to students at Colorado State University.

Lupus Colorado’s Michael Sauter helps spread awareness about lupus by speaking to students at Colorado State University.

Lupus Colorado was proud to be represented at the Colorado State University’s RAMBITION lupus awareness walk by our own Michael Sauter, who manages the Lupus Colorado Facebook page for Teens and was featured in a Living with Lupus profile.

“I truly was honored to be able to speak at the event and I was touched by the amount of support, it was inspiring,” Sauter said.

The event raised about $1,400 in honor of Erica Johnson, the younger sister of CSU track & field student-athlete Ashley Reid. Johnson lost a battle to the disease last October.

Johnson was diagnosed with lupus last summer. After a grueling three-month battle, she passed on Oct. 25, 2013. Reid admired her sister’s courage and strength through it all and said Johnson never lost her sense of humor.

The walk was free of charge, but donations were accepted for Lupus Colorado.

“Though this event stemmed from tragedy, it is comforting to know that Erica’s memory lives on and that more people were made aware of the disease of lupus because of the efforts of her sister, Ashley, Michael Sauter and RAMBITION.”

Watch an inspiring video of the event!

Martha Beck’s Formula for Reversing Bad Fortune (As Applied to Chronic Illness)

By Carie Sherman

Carie ShermanIt’s been a rough couple of months as it relates to my health. Nothing serious–thank goodness–but annoying nonetheless.

I’ve been sick with acute illnesses (shingles and strep throat) as well as the “same old same old” (big-time fatigue and fibro-pain top my complaints). On top of that, it’s summer, and I’m one of those “live for summer” types who hates being stuck inside. I’m so anxious to feel well.

But since I don’t, I’m thankful to have read an article by Martha Beck in the most recent issue of Oprah magazine. She’s a life-coach who uses humor, self-deprecation, and a fine writing style to discuss various topics of enlightenment. This article, Reversal of Bad Fortune, describes how we can use our experiences in one of two ways: As a catalyst for hopelessness or a catalyst for growth.

I can’t recall the last time I felt well physically. And despite my best efforts, it’s wearing on me mentally. Clearly I need help weathering my “accident.” So I decided to use her formula. And though publishing this will make me feel more exposed than Janet Jackson at the Superbowl, I’m sharing it with the hopes it makes someone else feel better, too.

What follows is the example Martha used of her friend who experienced a serious, life-changing car accident as well as my own assessment.

Martha Beck’s Accident Formula

First, write down the pertinent info about your “accident.”

Annette wrote: “I was crossing an intersection when a driver, high on meth, ran a red light and hit me at 70 miles per hour. My car rolled three times and stopped with me hanging upside down. I was able to call my husband, and help came right away.”

I wrote: Just after the birth of my first child and the beginning of a new career as a freelance writer, I was diagnosed with an incurable chronic illness.

Next, isolate the key components of the above statement.

Annette wrote: 1) Intersection. 2) Meth addict. 3) Red light. 4) 70 miles per hour.

I wrote: 1) Birth. 2) Child. 3) Writing career. 4) Diagnosed. 5) Incurable chronic illness.

Third, pretend you are each component of your accident. Use free-association and talk about yourself as if you were the individual component.

Annette’s first word was “intersection.” She said: “I’m a crossroads, a place where Annette can make an important choice.” For the word “driver,” she said “I’m a speeding driver, high on meth. I’m the insanity of humans and of the world. I’m here to teach Annette not to be afraid because fear is useless.” So on and so forth.

I’ll admit it–this part was hard. And I’m not sure if I did it correctly. But here’s what I wrote:

1) Birth. I’m the beginning of a new life. In life there are highs and lows.

2) Child. I am a child. I am a new life. I’m learning to navigate a new world with the help of many wonderful people.

3). Writing career. I’m a writing career. I’m flexible. I’m creative. I’m challenging and fun. I’m an opportunity to learn. I am filled with rejection, yet joyful with acceptance.

4). Diagnosed. I am a diagnosis. I am a suggestion of what is. I am not a definition.

5). Incurable chronic illness. I’m a chronic illness. For Carie, I am not a death sentence. Yet I am difficult and challenging and require change. I am here for the long haul. Carie can learn to live with me or fight me. I require a focus that Carie has never before had. I require Carie to focus on what’s most important.

Finally, read your original description again and incorporate the meaning you’ve created through the free association exercise.

Annette discovered this: “The story of her accident turned out to be a pivotal moment when she could choose to release her fear of death and go on with greater serenity.” Martha says, “Actively choosing to look for meaning in her accident left her happier and more vibrant; seeing it as meaningless would have caused her to contract in terror.”

And here’s what I learned: Even though I’ve spent the better part of this week moping around because I can’t raise my arms above my shoulders, this process helped me remember what’s positive about my illness. (Which is some feat, given I’ve complained to my husband at least once an hour about how miserable I feel.)

My “accident” (aka, my health issues) requires new beginnings. I can choose to fight my new reality, or I can learn to accept it with the help of my support network. It reminds me that life is challenging and constantly changing, and if I hadn’t gotten sick, I might still be focused stuff that’s not important (like an unfulfilling career that would have required far too much time away from my little girl). My life has changed. And during weeks of pain and uncertainty, it’s bound to be frustrating and depressing. But it’s not hopeless.

Thanks, Martha Beck, for the much-needed perspective.

I hope you found some, too.

What helps you? Leave a comment below.

Lupus Research Institute Launches Industry Council to Accelerate New Treatments for Lupus

NEW YORK, NY. – The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) launched the LRI Industry Council, a collaborative initiative founded with 13 leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies involved in lupus drug development. The LRI formed the new group to facilitate active collaboration among companies, research leaders, and patient advocates to overcome common obstacles in developing new treatments for lupus.

The need for safer and more effective treatments is critical. Treatment options for lupus are few, and most have serious side effects. Research funded by the LRI and others has identified many promising areas for new drug development currently being pursued by industry. But the complexity and unpredictability of the disease poses many challenges to testing new drugs.  Common difficulties in designing effective clinical trials include measuring responses to treatment and recruiting volunteers as well as identifying those compounds that may work best for specific sub-sets of patients.

“In the past, companies have wrestled with these issues independently which can impede progress,” noted Council Co-Chair and LRI Scientific Advisor Dr. Peter Lipsky.  “The LRI is affording companies the opportunity to work together to find solutions to their common challenges so each can move forward with drug development more quickly and efficiently.”

Founding Members:

  • AbbVie
  • Biogen Idec
  • EMD Serono, Inc.
  • Genentech, A Member of the Roche Group
  • GlaxoSmithKline plc
  • Janssen Research & Development, LLC
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • MedImmune
  • Nodality
  • Pfizer
  • Sanofi U.S.
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
  • UCB

Read more about these efforts.

Lupus Research Institute Launches Industry Council to Accelerate New Treatments for Lupus

NEW YORK, NY. June 10 – The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) launched the LRI Industry Council, a collaborative initiative founded with 13 leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies involved in lupus drug development. The LRI formed the new group to facilitate active collaboration among companies, research leaders, and patient advocates to overcome common obstacles in developing new treatments for lupus.

The need for safer and more effective treatments is critical. Treatment options for lupus are few, and most have serious side effects. Research funded by the LRI and others has identified many promising areas for new drug development currently being pursued by industry. But the complexity and unpredictability of the disease poses many challenges to testing new drugs.  Common difficulties in designing effective clinical trials include measuring responses to treatment and recruiting volunteers as well as identifying those compounds that may work best for specific sub-sets of patients.

“In the past, companies have wrestled with these issues independently which can impede progress,” noted Council Co-Chair and LRI Scientific Advisor Dr. Peter Lipsky.  “The LRI is affording companies the opportunity to work together to find solutions to their common challenges so each can move forward with drug development more quickly and efficiently.”

Co-chair Dr. Daniel Wallace of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center commented, “The new Council is already working on several ways to streamline and accelerate clinical trials aiming to bring lupus patients the safer and more effective treatments they need and deserve.”

Founding Members:
AbbVie
Biogen Idec
EMD Serono, Inc.
Genentech, A Member of the Roche Group
GlaxoSmithKline plc
Janssen Research & Development, LLC
Eli Lilly and Company
MedImmune
Nodality
Pfizer
Sanofi U.S.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
UCB

- See more at: http://www.lupusresearchinstitute.org/lupus-news/2014/06/10/lupus-research-institute-launches-industry-council-accelerate-new-treatments#sthash.ZYG4Fk1O.dpuf

Lupus Lessons from the Robins

sandy-kanowitz-731x1024By Sandy Kanowitz

Art and I have had an uplifting experience for the past month watching Mother Nature in action on our own back patio.

Atop a tall column, protected on two sides with a roof overhead, two mated robins worked endlessly to build a rather crude looking, but sturdy nest, far above harm’s way. It took about five days, after carefully selecting the perfect, safe spot.

It was built twig upon twig, plastered with mud and lined with feathers and other soft debris to cradle the fragile baby blue eggs. Mama seemed to wait patiently for two days, checking the nest, hovering over it, sitting in it, then leaving with a sense of knowing all was ready. Then she sat, practically statue-like for two weeks, never leaving longer than about five minutes, to find food and water and stretch her cramped legs. Papa Robin came to visit, brought her worms, and watched like a sentinel soldier from a nearby tree, occasionally dive bombing or chasing a threat that strayed into nest territory.

He stood guard, fiercely protecting his mate and eggs. Before the hatchlings were even visible to us, we knew they had arrived by the flurry of activity at the nest. Mama and Papa swooped up and down constantly, feeding their babies every five minutes or less. They worked hard from sunup to sundown, then Mama crawled in for the night, like a big fluffy blanket over her featherless brood, while Papa took his post nearby.

This process went on for days before we finally saw little beaks peeking up, waiting for food and chirping with excitement when it came. There were three babies, and the parents worked diligently to keep them safe, warm and fed. When the birds got big and the nest overcrowded, the fledglings fluttered their wings, practicing for their first flight.

We so hoped we would see at least one take off, but they apparently didn’t want an audience for what might have been an awkward moment, stumbling over the edge of the nest and clumsily recovering their balance mid-air. It was amazing to see their instincts at work, guiding every move they made, and their sense of timing, awareness of surroundings, and ability to protect and care for one another.

sandy kanowitz robinI wondered how this experience could help us care for ourselves and our families. There were surely lessons to be learned, and I thought of a few to share with you:

  • Trust your instincts.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Prepare for what’s coming next.
  • Put up your antennae to sense incoming threats.
  • Brace yourself against the wind.
  • Stay in protected areas out of harm’s way.
  • Take cover  from the sun’s rays and the cold rain.
  • Be patient when waiting for something to develop.
  • Take care of yourself while taking care of your mate and children.
  • Know when to work and when to rest.
  • Take time to sleep.
  • Cuddle up with others against the cold.
  • Eat well and at regular intervals.
  • Know when to get out of an uncomfortable situation.
  • Wait for the right time to jump into a new skill, new job, new adventure.
  • Step lightly into new situations to maintain your composure and balance.
  • Have faith that things will proceed as they should if you follow the laws of nature.

Mama and Papa Robin earned my respect and admiration. They did everything right, and had success because of it. We truly can learn from other species when we watch, wait, observe their behavior and apply the principles to our own lives. Once the fledglings took flight, I felt a familiar twang of emptiness. I told my husband  I was reliving my “empty nest syndrome.” He just laughed, but I knew he felt it too.

Upcoming events!

Pineda Walk, Aug. 3

Join us on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014 for the Fourth Annual 5K Walk to celebrate the life of Lisa Marie Pineda. All proceeds benefit Lupus Colorado, a non-profit dedicated to helping those individuals with lupus and their caregivers through education, advocacy and support.

Understanding Lupus, Sept. 6
This live presentation will cover the diagnosis, treatment and management of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. This interactive activity will attempt to provide a better understanding lupus for patients, caregivers and the community.

Click on event name for more details.

Lupus Research Institute Launches Industry Council to Accelerate New Treatments for Lupus

NEW YORK, NY. June 10 – The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) launched the LRI Industry Council, a collaborative initiative founded with 13 leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies involved in lupus drug development. The LRI formed the new group to facilitate active collaboration among companies, research leaders, and patient advocates to overcome common obstacles in developing new treatments for lupus.

The need for safer and more effective treatments is critical. Treatment options for lupus are few, and most have serious side effects. Research funded by the LRI and others has identified many promising areas for new drug development currently being pursued by industry. But the complexity and unpredictability of the disease poses many challenges to testing new drugs.  Common difficulties in designing effective clinical trials include measuring responses to treatment and recruiting volunteers as well as identifying those compounds that may work best for specific sub-sets of patients.

“In the past, companies have wrestled with these issues independently which can impede progress,” noted Council Co-Chair and LRI Scientific Advisor Dr. Peter Lipsky.  “The LRI is affording companies the opportunity to work together to find solutions to their common challenges so each can move forward with drug development more quickly and efficiently.”

Co-chair Dr. Daniel Wallace of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center commented, “The new Council is already working on several ways to streamline and accelerate clinical trials aiming to bring lupus patients the safer and more effective treatments they need and deserve.”

Founding Members:
AbbVie
Biogen Idec
EMD Serono, Inc.
Genentech, A Member of the Roche Group
GlaxoSmithKline plc
Janssen Research & Development, LLC
Eli Lilly and Company
MedImmune
Nodality
Pfizer
Sanofi U.S.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
UCB

- See more at: http://www.lupusresearchinstitute.org/lupus-news/2014/06/10/lupus-research-institute-launches-industry-council-accelerate-new-treatments#sthash.ZYG4Fk1O.dpuf

Lupus Research Institute Launches Industry Council to Accelerate New Treatments for Lupus

NEW YORK, NY. June 10 – The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) launched the LRI Industry Council, a collaborative initiative founded with 13 leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies involved in lupus drug development. The LRI formed the new group to facilitate active collaboration among companies, research leaders, and patient advocates to overcome common obstacles in developing new treatments for lupus.

The need for safer and more effective treatments is critical. Treatment options for lupus are few, and most have serious side effects. Research funded by the LRI and others has identified many promising areas for new drug development currently being pursued by industry. But the complexity and unpredictability of the disease poses many challenges to testing new drugs.  Common difficulties in designing effective clinical trials include measuring responses to treatment and recruiting volunteers as well as identifying those compounds that may work best for specific sub-sets of patients.

“In the past, companies have wrestled with these issues independently which can impede progress,” noted Council Co-Chair and LRI Scientific Advisor Dr. Peter Lipsky.  “The LRI is affording companies the opportunity to work together to find solutions to their common challenges so each can move forward with drug development more quickly and efficiently.”

Co-chair Dr. Daniel Wallace of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center commented, “The new Council is already working on several ways to streamline and accelerate clinical trials aiming to bring lupus patients the safer and more effective treatments they need and deserve.”

Founding Members:
AbbVie
Biogen Idec
EMD Serono, Inc.
Genentech, A Member of the Roche Group
GlaxoSmithKline plc
Janssen Research & Development, LLC
Eli Lilly and Company
MedImmune
Nodality
Pfizer
Sanofi U.S.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
UCB

- See more at: http://www.lupusresearchinstitute.org/lupus-news/2014/06/10/lupus-research-institute-launches-industry-council-accelerate-new-treatments#sthash.ZYG4Fk1O.dpuf


Martha Beck’s Formula for Reversing Bad Fortune (As Applied to Chronic Illness)

Carie ShermanBy Carie Sherman

It’s been a rough couple of months as it relates to my health. Nothing serious–thank goodness–but annoying nonetheless.

I’ve been sick with acute illnesses (shingles and strep throat) as well as the “same old same old” (big-time fatigue and fibro-pain top my complaints). On top of that, it’s summer, and I’m one of those “live for summer” types who hates being stuck inside. I’m so anxious to feel well.

But since I don’t, I’m thankful to have read an article by Martha Beck in the most recent issue of Oprah magazine. She’s a life-coach who uses humor, self-deprecation, and a fine writing style to discuss various topics of enlightenment. This article, Reversal of Bad Fortune, describes how we can use our experiences in one of two ways: As a catalyst for hopelessness or a catalyst for growth.

I can’t recall the last time I felt well physically. And despite my best efforts, it’s wearing on me mentally. Clearly I need help weathering my “accident.” So I decided to use her formula. And though publishing this will make me feel more exposed than Janet Jackson at the Superbowl, I’m sharing it with the hopes it makes someone else feel better, too.

What follows is the example Martha used of her friend who experienced a serious, life-changing car accident as well as my own assessment.

Martha Beck’s Accident Formula

First, write down the pertinent info about your “accident.”

Annette wrote: “I was crossing an intersection when a driver, high on meth, ran a red light and hit me at 70 miles per hour. My car rolled three times and stopped with me hanging upside down. I was able to call my husband, and help came right away.”

I wrote: Just after the birth of my first child and the beginning of a new career as a freelance writer, I was diagnosed with an incurable chronic illness.

Next, isolate the key components of the above statement.

Annette wrote: 1) Intersection. 2) Meth addict. 3) Red light. 4) 70 miles per hour.

I wrote: 1) Birth. 2) Child. 3) Writing career. 4) Diagnosed. 5) Incurable chronic illness.

Third, pretend you are each component of your accident. Use free-association and talk about yourself as if you were the individual component.

Annette’s first word was “intersection.” She said: “I’m a crossroads, a place where Annette can make an important choice.” For the word “driver,” she said “I’m a speeding driver, high on meth. I’m the insanity of humans and of the world. I’m here to teach Annette not to be afraid because fear is useless.” So on and so forth.

I’ll admit it–this part was hard. And I’m not sure if I did it correctly. But here’s what I wrote:

1) Birth. I’m the beginning of a new life. In life there are highs and lows.

2) Child. I am a child. I am a new life. I’m learning to navigate a new world with the help of many wonderful people.

3). Writing career. I’m a writing career. I’m flexible. I’m creative. I’m challenging and fun. I’m an opportunity to learn. I am filled with rejection, yet joyful with acceptance.

4). Diagnosed. I am a diagnosis. I am a suggestion of what is. I am not a definition.

5). Incurable chronic illness. I’m a chronic illness. For Carie, I am not a death sentence. Yet I am difficult and challenging and require change. I am here for the long haul. Carie can learn to live with me or fight me. I require a focus that Carie has never before had. I require Carie to focus on what’s most important.

Finally, read your original description again and incorporate the meaning you’ve created through the free association exercise.

Annette discovered this: “The story of her accident turned out to be a pivotal moment when she could choose to release her fear of death and go on with greater serenity.” Martha says, “Actively choosing to look for meaning in her accident left her happier and more vibrant; seeing it as meaningless would have caused her to contract in terror.”

And here’s what I learned: Even though I’ve spent the better part of this week moping around because I can’t raise my arms above my shoulders, this process helped me remember what’s positive about my illness. (Which is some feat, given I’ve complained to my husband at least once an hour about how miserable I feel.)

My “accident” (aka, my health issues) requires new beginnings. I can choose to fight my new reality, or I can learn to accept it with the help of my support network. It reminds me that life is challenging and constantly changing, and if I hadn’t gotten sick, I might still be focused stuff that’s not important (like an unfulfilling career that would have required far too much time away from my little girl). My life has changed. And during weeks of pain and uncertainty, it’s bound to be frustrating and depressing. But it’s not hopeless.

Thanks, Martha Beck, for the much-needed perspective.

I hope you found some, too.

What helps you? Leave a comment below.


A Quick Guide to Vitamin D and Lupus

Carie ShermanBy Carie Sherman

Have you had your vitamin D levels checked recently? If not–you should.

Last summer, I learned I was severely D-deficient. And recent blood-work confirmed that because of supplementation, I’m deficient no more. (I count it as one of the reasons I say “better” when someone asks how I feel.)

Why is this vitamin so important for lupus patients? To start, there are studies that indicate a link.

Low vitamin D levels might have some bearing on the development and severity of lupus.
Our D levels are low because those of us with photosensitivity avoid the sun (vitamin D is “sunshine vitamin”).
The drugs we take (steroids and hydrochloroquine) might interfere with vitamin D levels.
SLE patients who receive supplementation may experience less disease activity.

Lupus or not, researchers estimate that 1 billion people worldwide lack proper D-levels.

What’s the Big Deal about D?

This is so cool: The Mayo Clinic outlines what the science says about vitamin D, breaking down each piece of evidence and grading the science behind it. Not surprisingly, nearly every autoimmune condition listed is given a “C,” indicating more research is necessary (support lupus research and Lupus Colorado!).

The “A” list includes:

  • Bone disease: softening, weakening
  • Kidney disease Psoriasis
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Lung disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Stomach and intestine problems
  • Heart disease

The evidence isn’t fully in on these items, but there are also some indications that improved vitamin D levels could lessen joint pain, lower risks of certain kinds of cancer, improve brain function and improve blood pressure.

Could You Be Vitamin D Deficient?

You might be at risk if…

You don’t have much sun exposure (true of most lupus patients!).
You have dark skin.
You have kidney dysfunction.
You are obese.
You don’t eat meat or dairy.
Your digestive system isn’t functioning well, as in celiac disease or Crohn’s.

There’s only one way to know for sure: Ask your doc for a blood test (she’s taking so much already, what’s another test, right?). If your levels are low, treatment is as simple as taking a pill.

I saw my energy go up and my pain levels go down soon after treatment. You’re already seeing your doc, so I think it’s worth asking about.


Meditating for Better Health (by an Unlikely Meditator)

Carie ShermanBy Carie Sherman

My best girlfriends like to play a little game with me. Well, more like “at” me.

“We” first played a few years ago, while everyone was visiting me for a long weekend.

Here’s how they play: They decide it’s time to play (without informing me, of course). Whenever there’s a lull in the conversation, they purposely stop talking. They exchange glances, then sit, wait, and count.

Why? Because they know I’ll break the silence. I find it impossible to sit in quiet. I compulsively seek chatter.

Many laughs have ensued at my expense. They’re well-deserved.

So, no one will be more surprised than them to find that I have a new habit. And it’s all about me…being quiet.

And I think you should adopt this habit, too.

Finding Better Health through Meditation

As humans, we’re conditioned to experience stress. Evolutionarily speaking, it’s what kept us from getting eaten by saber-tooth tigers. Those days may be long gone, but our bodies are still wired for stress.

Most of us begin our days like this: We burst into action as soon as we hear the starting gun (aka, the alarm). We race and race and race until our day is done, and we collapse into bed wondering where the hell the day went and why our bodies hurt.

Most of us are chronically stressed. It makes our stomach hurt, our blood pressure sky-rocket, and our energy tumble. (And that’s how stress impacts “healthy” people.)

The Basics of Meditation
Meditation is an ancient practice that can positively impact health. There are many types, like mantra meditation, relaxation response, mindfulness meditation, and Zen Buddhist meditation. Most types involve four elements: A quiet place, a comfortable posture, a focus of attention, and an open attitude.

Meditation and Chronic Pain
One of my biggest fears in life is that my health issues are “all in my head.” So my worst fears have been realized, as research has shown that pain originates in our brains. It’s not a condition; it’s a perception. But it doesn’t make pain less real. Psychotherapist Eric Garland was quoted in the May/June issue of Spirituality and Health magazine as saying, “The whole idea of pain being in your head is ridiculous, because anything that’s in your mind is in your brain, and anything that’s in your brain is in your body.”

Garland goes on to say that patients need to think of the mind as a powerful tool in controlling chronic pain, citing meditation as a component of treatment.

What Meditation Can Do For You

So What’s Your Excuse?
You don’t have time. BS. Unless you’re an ER nurse on an 18-hour shift who literally can’t find time to use the restroom, you can find a few minutes in your day that are just for you. Try this: Set the timer on your phone for 45 seconds, then close your eyes. Breathe in for 7 seconds, breathe out for 7 seconds. Congrats–you just meditated.

I can’t stop my mind from racing. This is correct! But it’s not an excuse. In fact, it’s exactly why you should practice meditation. First, note I said “practice.” It’s a skill that you develop over time. Second, your mind will be filled with thoughts. All you’re trying to do through meditation is let those thoughts flow without getting caught up in them. You don’t need to follow every thought down the rabbit hole.

It’s not for everyone. Do you breathe? Yes? Then it’s for you. Breathing is both voluntary and involuntary. Mostly, we breathe without thinking. When we consciously breathe, we can improve our immediate situation (there’s a reason we say “take a deep breath” before you face a challenge) as well as long-term situations.

I’m not a stinky hippie. Of course you’re not and neither am I. You don’t have to follow Phish or wear Birkenstocks or smell like patchouli to reap the benefits of meditation. It’s a practice that executives, celebrities and professional athletes also embrace.

I can’t sit like that (in reference to the position my daughter calls “criss cross applesauce”). Then don’t. You can still get the benefits of meditation sitting in a chair or lying down. Sometimes, I go for a “mindful” walk, where I focus my energy on the present moment (i.e., what I’m hearing, what I’m seeing, what emotions I’m experiencing, where I feel my emotions in my body, etc.).

Try It, You’ll Like It
Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Try a quick 3-step brain hack for happiness, specially designed for the skeptic.
  • Visit meditationoasis.com. Check out the free podcasts for guided meditations on a variety of topics ranging from “work breaks” and “creativity” to “pain” and “grief.” I use their app daily, and it’s helped me realize this: I spent 36 years desperately trying to NOT feel any emotion other than happiness. Humans are meant to experience our emotions.
  • Download an app. I’ve tried Headspace, which is narrated by a fabulous Brit who walks you through the process.

Chronic pain is no joke. I started meditating daily about six months ago–and I can vouch for its positive effects. I don’t have a special routine and I try different methods. But I am consistently quiet a few times a day. If I can do it, anyone can (just ask my dang friends!).

The evidence is there. Isn’t it worth a shot?