SkinCare as the new HealthCare: the new mind-skin connection to health and disease

Do you know your skin is like a crystal ball?  Our skin is a window to your inner health, immunity, and psychology.  

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Emerging research is demonstrating that meditation and mindfulness practices can improve emotional, spiritual and mental wellness.  The skin is the largest organ of the body, and the research is revealing the complexity of the biological process of the skin is a gateway to the mind-skin-body connection.

It makes senses.  Using a system thinking approach, we can see that our skin is connected to emotional, intellectual, and mental wellness. When you feel ‘stress,’ do you notice a cold sore, a pimple,  or dry skin? Or when you are feeling under the weather, does your skin feel ‘warm’?  Or do you have a habit of pulling hair, picking at dry nails, and scratching an itch?  Mind-Skin connection is probably more real than we had expected.  Nowadays,  public health professionals, health providers, and wellness managers are working together to develop and support wellness programs for patients with dermatologic conditions.  With this integrative approach, we can examine a type of skin-related disorders, biologic factors, environmental (external) factors, epigenetic biochemical changes, and demographic factors.

This is the beginning of a new conceptual framework to explore how our skin is connected to our mind-body-soul using complementary, integrative health practices.  Instead of focusing on the best cream for skin care, focus on providing nutrients through food, positive thoughts, and mindfulness to your body, which then can provide care for your skin.

Work is a Social Determinant of Health

How’s Work Treating You? 

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I was reviewing the film “Unnatural Causes,” which highlighted the five social determinants of health: 1) economic stability, 2) education, 3) social and community context, 4) health and health care, and 5) neighborhood and built environment. As a health economist, I started to wonder how does the context of ‘work’ impact economic stability and health, or is it the other way around?  How does salary influences one’s status of health and well-being? Or does one’s health, well-being, and wellness impact one’s capacity to work more effectively, creatively and healthier, and thus impact economic stability (bringing home the bacon)? Perhaps, work and health are actually more closely linked, knitted in a cyclic way to well-being and to the other social determinants.

Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory Pyramid, at the foundation of the pyramid model, we need and value ‘physiological needs’ (such as food and water to keep the body functioning), then the need for ‘safety’ ( a home to keep you warm), then ‘sense of love and belonging’ (family, friends, and community such as ‘work’), then ‘esteem’ (respect for oneself and others), and then finally at the top of the pyramid – self-actualization (finding purpose and meaning).  Work and health are not only cyclic and feedback to each other, but also a part of the fundamental human values of existence.

In the last decades, Schools of Public Health have been addressing social of determinants of health by focusing on the cross-cutting knowledge in systems thinking, professionalism, health communication, bioethics, public health biology, and cultural competency. Perhaps, using this inter-disciplinary approach in public health education, we can better define work wellness, occupational health, and employment well-being, thus move forward to creating a culture of health and well-being.  While we cannot change a social norm moving from unhealthy work to healthy work overnight (or even within a decade), we can make micro-changes for ourselves, starting today, every day, any moment. Feeling empowered now, huh?

Empowered Mind = Empowered Body = Empowered To Work Toward A Greater Cause.

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Tips for Healthy Work Well-Being:

  1. Stop multi-tasking. Overstimulation of your mind with your too many tasks doesn’t allow your body and mind to tune into one thing. It takes actually between 10-20 minutes for your mind to transit from one task to another task. Become effective by focusing on ONE thing.
  2. Focus on 25 minutes Chunk.  Concentrate on your task for 25 minutes. Turn off the email notification, cell phone, and don’t have more than ONE internet browser window opened.
  3. Take 5 minutes to reflect, walk and stretch.
  4. Reflect on how much you have completed, how do you feel (little less stressed?) how does your body feel (less tension on the neck)? Did you mind wander off, and if so, how many times? Did you try to open more one window browser, check email, or text during the 25 minutes?  Try another 25 minutes chunk of time, and keep those social media distractors turned off – “out of sight, out of mind”.
  5. Integrate one-minute meditation throughout the day.  Clear your mind of clutter before going to next big project.  Meditative state activates your mind for creativity.

Repeat. Reflect. Repeat.

Try one of these tips toward work wellness.
As the saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” by Lao Tzu. 

 

 

Mindful Micro-Moments

I ask my students, “When you think of the word ‘mindfulness,’ what words appear in your mind?”

Their Responses:  A man/woman on the mountain top, yoga, zen, prayer, silence, and impossible.  The last word struck out at me. I ask why do you say “impossible.”  In our technology-driven society where we are constantly being pulled in multiple directions at the same time and battling for attention on too many social media channels (i.e. should I check into my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat Like this or that, or thumb down this or that), it may seem impossible to be mindful about anything since our mind is ‘mind full of stuff’ already!

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Within the chaos of noise, white noise, the noise of the buzzing tones of our phone, text, or notifications, finding mindful moments may seem impossible or does it only appear to be impossible to provide an opportunity of possibility?

My response:  “There is More to Than Meets the Eye” – (also, one of my favorite quotes from the “Transformers Cartoon series in the ’80s).

Mindfulness is not about finding solitude, retreating to a haven from the noise that makes up life (your boss asking for a report, your family wanting your presence), or going to a remote, beautiful island where the water is crystal blue, and it’s just you and the seagulls.  No, mindfulness is more about finding mindful micro-moments throughout our day that reminds us that we are alive, breathing, and still here today.  I think mindfulness is a great gift to oneself when you can take a few seconds in the midst of the chaos, screaming background, or piles of deadlines, and take a breath, and be still even for a second. The awareness of these beautiful mindful micro-moments can help drive us through the mud and is probably (in my opinion) more effective and long-lasting in permeating to all your senses than taking selfies sitting (and probably freezing in all your five senses) on top of a mountain.

Design Thinking For Creativity’s Strength

Our traditional educational paradigm focuses on building strength in literary, critical and analytic thinking. To solve our current public health issues globally, I believe that design thinking is the new, integrated approach to developing our creativity’s strength in our community of learners.

Design thinking is boundless, infinite, and undefined – an adjustable toolkit to create innovative solutions for any public health problems in the future.

As I take on this new role to co-direct our online Master of Public Health program at the University of Illinois, Chicago, School of Public Health, I am engrossing myself into the literature of instructional, educational, and program design. How do we educate and lead students to be creative problem-solvers for public health issues, especially the complexity of these issues can be transgenerational, global, and systemic?  The MPH program is often divided up in solo programs (Epidemiology, Biostats, Health Policy/Administration/Management, Environmental Sciences, and Behavioral/Community Sciences), and collaborations can be formed across the different fields. Rather than using a transdisciplinary manner, I’d like to adopt a new approach using design thinking to not only create solutions but also to create a new perspective on problems from ‘inside-out.’

The five principles of design thinking are: 1) empathy, 2) observations, 3) ideation, 4) prototype, and 5) experiment. 

Empathy – Before diving into suggestion solution and offering any recommendations, as public health professionals, we need to understand, feel and see the problem from ‘inside-out.’ Cultural competency becomes important.

Observation – With an openness to listen and hear, we do need to stop doing, and observe, take notes, and digest what are the needs and behaviors that are elicited from these public health problems.

Ideation – Using your observation and open heart to listen, brainstorm ideas (not solutions) with others. No judgments, no playing devil advocate, and no negativity.

Prototype – Try out your ideas, your hypotheses, and your suggestions with empathy. If ‘this’ was your community, would your idea be acceptable given the circumstances, conditions, and culture? Give and receive feedback before you test it.

Experiment – With the buy-in from the community, experiment and gather information. The key is to co-create new ideas to foster change for a culture of health and well-being for all.

Design thinking allows us to embrace our creativity muscle to move across different realms with one key feature – inspiring for a better change.