Archive for the ‘Wellness for Parents’ Category

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

It’s helpful to receive comments on this blog. Comments often lead to new resource and connections. A recent Working Well Resource commenter, Julituli, directed me to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and her blog on Psychology Today, The How of Happiness.

I read through Dr. Lyubomirsky’s blog and found an intriguing post on Martin Seligman’s latest book, Flourish.



Dr. Lyubomirsky’s review summarizes the premise of Dr. Seligman’s book, that we should focus on “flourishing” versus the overused term, “happiness.” Dr. Lyubomirsky makes the convincing agreement that, “Research reveals that happy people are not self-centered, gratification-seeking hedonists lacking in meaning or fulfillment.  To the contrary, hundreds of studies have shown that happiness relates and leads to such positive outcomes as creativity, productivity, effective coping, satisfying marriages, close friendships, higher earnings, longevity, and strong immune systems.” and she cites this as reason enough to continue to use the term “happiness.”

I’ve followed Dr. Selgiman’s work since I first heard the term “positive psychology.” His research has led to the creation of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness which teaches  resilience training for our nation’s soldiers to help them prevent incidences of PTSD and suicide and to help them cope with, not only the impact of serving in wartime, but of coming home to a life so different from what they experience in the field of battle.

Merriam Webster defines the word “flourish” as to grow well: to be healthy; to be very successful: to do very well, and to thrive. According to Amazon’s summary of Flourish, Dr. Seligman asks, “What is it that enables you to cultivate your talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world? In a word, what is it that allows you to flourish? “Well-being” takes the stage front and center, and Happiness (or Positive Emotion) becomes one of the five pillars of Positive Psychology, along with Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment—or PERMA, the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment. ” In addition to stories of how the U.S. Army is now trained in emotional resilience, the book provides the reader with interactive exercises to help you explore your own attitudes and aims, with the goal of helping you get more out of life and to well, flourish!

If you want to learn more about how to Flourish, check out Dr. Seligman’s book, Flourish.

To read more of Dr. Lyubomirsky’s blog, go to The How of Happiness.

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky

Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.

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By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit an amazing toy store, the Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park. It was full of colorful, educational, and fun, toys, books, and games. With Winter coming around the corner, having interesting games, toys and activities for active kids who will soon be cooped up inside is a great strategy for parents. Magic Tree has crafts, magic trick sets, basic loom making kits, all kinds of clay and art supplies, educational coloring books (Color a dinosaur!), easy snow cone and ice cream makers, colorful chalk, frisbees of all sizes, candle making kids, superhero action figures and a few play areas for kids to play while mom and dad, or grandpa and grandma shop.


Magic Tree Bookstore's Helpful Friendly Staff

Magic Tree Bookstore’s Helpful Friendly Smiling Staff

And play isn’t just for children. Adults can benefit from play as well. In, The Benefits of Play for Adults, from Helpguide.org, authors explain how play can help adults reduce stress, be more creative and increase productivity at work. Magic Tree is one of the few remaining stores that sells games like Settlers of Catan and games that encourage cooperation instead of competition like Cauldron Quest.

Excellent books, cards and toys at Magic Tree Bookstore

Excellent books, cards and toys at Magic Tree Bookstore

There’s something for everyone, young and old. Bubbles, balls and building materials for your own kids or the kid in you. Play can be a great stress reliever, no matter how old you are.

Magical Toys from Magic Tree Bookstore

Bubbles and more!

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By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Image credit: mediumclay http://imgur.com/JibDPTV

Image credit: mediumclay

Dog owners (and veterinarians!) will tell you that dogs are loveable, loyal and great companions. Service dogs have been used as an aid to the visually impaired for many years, acting as a human’s eyes out in the world. Those with emotional expression impairments and traumatic experiences now increasingly use service dogs to allow them to feel a non-judgmental connection with another living being, which can aid in recovery from post traumatic stress disorder. Service dogs also help keep children with autism feel safe and feel a greater sense of freedom and responsibility as the dogs allow the children to interact more easily with other people, according to an article in NJ.com, Service Dogs Can Benefit People Struggling with a Variety of Disabilities.

A new study sheds some light on the attachment between dogs and their owners. According to a study described in Science magazine,  “Comparisons of humans and dogs before and after they interact with each other have revealed notable increases in circulating oxytocin, as well as endorphins, dopamine, and prolactin, in both species.”

Dog comforts little girl.  - image credit: http://imgur.com/ql1pZ

Dog comforts little girl. – image credit: http://imgur.com/ql1pZ

Study authors, Nagasawa and colleagues, note that the changes in oxytocin levels in humans and their dogs as they gaze at each other may be similar to the effect that creates the bond between human mothers and their infants. Researchers posit that possibly one reason assistance dogs are able to help people with autism or post traumatic stress disorder is that oxytocin is increased through partly through this social gazing pathway.

Interestingly, while owners gazing in their dogs eyes increase oxytocin in both the dogs and their owners, female dogs show a stronger reaction to oxytocin effects by gazing longer at their owners when given oxytocin. However, pet wolves  and their human owners do not show the same reactions in oxytocin and gazing at each other.

For those with difficulties in healing from trauma tic events, or communication and social disabilities, service dogs are available. However, untrained dogs can benefit most anyone who wants to feel non-judgmental connection and puppy love!

Image credit: Elena Shumilova, Russian photographer

Image credit: Elena Shumilova, Russian photographer

For more in-depth details about this study and a similar study about dogs human and the relationship of oxytocin, click on this article from The Dodo: Dogs, Humans and the Oxytocin-Mediated Social Bond.

Where Do I Find a Service Dog?

To obtain a service dog in Illinois, contact Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, or check out the Service Dog Central website for links to other service dog providers and tips on selecting a provider.

Ami Moore, Chicago Dog Coach, from Ami Moore's website www.chicagodogcoach.com

Ami Moore, Chicago Dog Coach, from Ami Moore’s website http://www.chicagodogcoach.com

If you want dog training in Chicago, or to learn more about medical conditions which with service dogs may be used to aid humans, Ami Moore, Chicago Dog Coach has an excellent website and blog. She shares her knowledge about service dogs and children with autism here and about service dogs for those with PTSD here. 

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By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Massage & Fitness Magazine

Massage & Fitness Magazine

I am super excited to report that today the first issue ever of Massage & Fitness Magazine became available!  This magazine is the brainchild of Nick Ng, BA, CMT, and a host of other nationally known science-based massage therapists including Ravensara Travillian, PhD, LMP, Eric Keith Grant, PhD., Brett Jackson, BS, LMT, Alive Sanvito, LMT, and Rebecca Bishop, AS, CMT, (I’ve written about Nick’s work before, here regarding Cranial Sacral work,  and here regarding best sources for science based news. )

I am excited about this new magazine because, up until now, most massage therapy magazines provide frighteningly little science-based information.  I tend not to read them anymore because some of what is published supports myths that have been discredited in the past 5-10 years or is simply inaccurate scientifically. Health care providers have an ethical obligation to provide the most up-to-date, accurate information to clients and regurgitating pseudoscience or perpetuating potentially damaging myths does not serve massage clients well, nor does it serve massage therapists.

The first issue of Massage & Fitness has an excellent article by Alice Sanvito that explores some of the myths around massage and pregnancy. For many massage therapists, becoming certified in pregnancy massage has meant learning that massage can ‘accidentally” induce labor  yet there is no scientific evidence to support this). During my own prenatal massage training, I was told that it was best to avoid giving women massage in their first trimester  to avoid being sued if the woman miscarried. At least that instructor was honest about her reasoning. However, Alice points out that for many women, receiving massage helps them handle some of the symptoms of pregnancy including reducing feelings of nausea and giving women a feeling of being nurtured and supported

Other articles include an exploration of the science behind touch, explanations of when and how much exercise is acceptable for pregnant woman (quite a bit if already fit and the mom-to-be has no health complications), a truly wonderful explanation of massage education and the partnership of massage education and conventional medicine.

Check out Massage & Fitness Magazine here!
Disclaimer: Neither I nor Working Well Massage benefits financially from Massage & Fitness Magazine, but I do know some of the people mentioned above from social media and massage therapy advocacy. from my interactions with the editorial group, I am pleased to see that they live up to my expectations of being well-informed, clear and professional in this first edition!

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By Susan Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Random Acts of Kindness Week

Random Acts of Kindness Week

This week is officially International  Random Acts of Kindness Week! And to celebrate, one of our corporate social media clients is treating his staff to 20 minute chair massages! We decided to join in on the fun and we will be randomly giving away free chair massage gift certificates in the Chicago area for use in our two Chicago area chair massage stations this week. We think that giving a massage is always a kind thing to do, but giving away a free massage to someone in need is one great way for WWM to do our part and practice what we are preaching!

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation encourages us all to take this week to step out of our normal routines or comfort zones and try a new random act of kindness each day of this celebratory week.

What are random acts of kindness? Spontaneous acts of generosity, sweetness,  or kindness done without regard to getting anything in return beyond the satisfaction of helping others and doing good. Beware, if you decide to participate, because your acts of kindness can be contagious!

How To Get Involved: The RAK Foundation gives great ideas for random acts of kindness and explains three ways you can get involved.

1. DO: an act of kindness. Follow the motto: “do what you can… with what you have… where you
are.” Simply think through your daily routine and find one opportunity for kindness each day.
Maybe it’s complimenting the first three people you talk to or surprising coworkers with treats!
2. POST: your act of kindness on social media using #RAKWeek2015 – Help us flood social media with kindness and reach our goal of 100,000 acts of kindness documented worldwide by Feb 15!
3. SHARE: spread the word and share #RAKWeek2015 with one other person.

How does being kind help the person being kind?

According to the RAK Foundation website: “Scientific studies show that performing acts of kindness actually improve health and life satisfaction. They increase: energy, optimism, self-worth and our sense of belonging and connection in the world. PLUS they decrease anxiety, depression and blood pressure.” At Working Well Massage, we call that stress relief!

For Idea on random acts of kindness you and your family and friends can do at home, at work, or at school, check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website here.
And keep in mind, you don’t have to wait for Random Acts of Kindness to do something nice for other people–and for yourself! You can make it a habit every day…and make yourself a little more energetic, feel a greater sense of belonging and connection to the world and decrease your anxiety, depression and blood pressure!

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By Susan Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Today a dear friend, who has a very generous spirit herself, shared a great resource,  The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose.” This  book that explores the science behind the relationship between giving and well-being. The book is timely in this holiday season with emphasis on giving and gifting.

The Paradox of Generosity Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose

The Amazon page describes the book as focusing not only on material giving to others, but on the many forms that giving can take. Authors Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson explore and illuminate the impact that giving has on people.  This book explains the The Paradox of Generosity study and uses data from an extensive survey of 2,000 Americans, over sixty in-depth interviews with people across twelve states, and analyzes  over 1,000 photographs and other visual materials. This study shows a consistent correlation between demonstrating generosity and leading a better life. According to the study, the more generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression than less giving individuals.

I appreciate that the study did not measure giving solely through monetary means. Anyone can benefit from generosity, even if a person has little material wealth. Giving one’s time and energy, sharing a kind thought or simply giving undivided attention to another versus being preoccupied with one’s self, can be a form of generosity.

Working Well Massage has many corporate clients who make generous donations to charities, schools and communities. We value our client’s privacy and so we do not divulge their names nor their giving records, but we are proud to ally with our corporate partners and we celebrate their generous spirits! We at Working Well Massage also give to organizations and individuals who are near and dear to our hearts such as Climate Cycle, massage research related organizations and to our clients, business partners and staff!  Giving helps us stay healthy as people and as an organization. (Being balanced, selective, and private about our giving allows us to remain in business so we can keep on giving.)

Read an in-depth article about the book by the study authors, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, in Fast Company here.

Read a really intriguing article from PBS NEWSHOUR about the alleged stinginess of Americans and the reasons why so many of us having difficulty giving.  In the PBS article, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson state that: “When it comes to generosity with money, time, skills and relationships, we know that relaxing, letting go, and giving away is not often automatic or easy. This is especially true in American culture, which from all sides constantly pounds home messages of scarcity, discontent, insecurity and acquisition. These messages may serve to grow the consumer economy, but they are often not good for the consumers.”


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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

It’s cold. It’s winter. It’s Chicago. Children (and parents!) can get antsy sitting indoors with nothing to do. Here are some mostly free events and activities for Chicago area parents and children to do when it is cold outside!

Windy City Hoops

Free basketball at Chicago Park Districts For Boys and girls ages 12-18. Fridays 7-10pm and Saturdays from 5-10pm available at ten Chicago park district locations. Click here for more info or to sign up.
Windy City Hoops
Windy City Hoops

Chicago Park District Ceramic Studies

Chicago Park District has Ceramic locations throughout the city that offer the opportunity to play with clay from casting to wheel and hand building. Click here for more info and list of the ceramic studios.

Chi League Parks

Offered by Nike, free basketball skills clinics in citywide parks, giving Chicago’s children a safe, healthy place to play. For kids ages 9-12 and 13-18 years of age. Saturdays from 10am to 2pm the free clinics take place before Chicago Hoops in Chicago area indoor gyms. Click here for more info. (Note dates on the website are for 2013. Call the park District for dates for 2014.)

Chicago Public Library

Chicago area libraries have all kinds of events, from Toddler time and story time events to LEGO time to lessons on learning how to crochet and knit. Teens can attend the FUSE workshops which gives them opportunities to  complete challenges in robotics, electronics, biotechnology, 3-D printing, and Android app development. And families can attend “Game Night” to play board games and card games in a  warm comfy environment. Click here for the Chicago Public Library event page. (Note: each day lists events so you may want to use narrow your search by selecting the event type and your zip code.

Free Days at Chicago Area Museums

Chicago Parent magazine provides a listing of free days at our local museums here.

Chicago Area Art Spaces For Kids

Jeanette Nyberg’s Artchoo Blog here provides a listing of all the Chicago area Art spaces that cater to kids or provides kid friendly classes and events, Some of them may be free, others may have a fee, but this is the best list of art for kids in Chicago I’ve found. And her blog is really great for parents that want to expose and involve their  kids in crafts. Great for kids that are hyperactive or diagnosed with ADHD.

Photo from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photo from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago website
Call or check the web sites first for unexpected closings or events.
 Time Out Chicago‘s Liz Plosser created  a great list of a few really fun places for parents to take kids during the winter here.

Her list includes:

Broadway Armory Park

Chicago Park District’s Indoor recreation building at 5917 N Broadway. Gym and track open Mondays-Fridays 7am to 9pm. Indoor climbing Wall open 6:30pm-8:30pm (Register online at chicagoparkdistrict.com)

Grounds For Hope Café

Three themed  play rooms in Lisle, IL: Treasure House, Wonder House and Tree House for kids to explore. Grounds offers  craft classes, Spanish lessons and music courses as well as the big play rooms. Free Wi-Fi for parents. 2701 Maple Ave, Lisle (630-390-1290, groundsforhopecafe.org). Free. Ages 10 and under. Open Mon–Sat 9am–7pm; Sun 9am–1pm.

Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens

Chicago Park District building in the South Loop boasts a climbing wall and a jungle gym and playhouse with padded floor. Located at 1801 S Indiana Ave (312-328-0821). Free. Ages six months–12. Open Mon, Fri 9am–6:30pm; Tue noon–6:30pm; Wed noon–5pm; Thu, Sat 1:30–4:30pm.

Related articles
• CBS Chicago’s Best Bad Weather Activities For Kids In Chicago click here.

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