All about the Edgewood Neighborhood of Washington, DC

Questions/Comments/Story Ideas - email me at

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guest Post: Introducing a Neighborhood Healing & Arts Practice

Introducing a Neighborhood Healing & Arts Practice
By Melanie St. Ours

As a little girl, I accompanied my mother on more than one occasion to welcome a new neighbor who'd just moved in to our subdivision. Mom would always bake something and walk over to the our new neighbor's house with kind words and a treat. It was an early lesson that building community and a sense of trust in a neighborhood begins with kindness, sharing, and consideration. It was a lesson in giving.

So today I am practicing what I learned from my Mom all those years ago and writing to introduce myself---and to share something with you, too. I'm a brand new neighbor at 4th and Franklin NE. My life's work is as a healing & arts practitioner and I've just opened a beautiful home studio here where I practice massage therapy, herbal medicine, personal training, and community-based theater arts. You can learn more about me and my practice at . Instead of bringing over a tin of cookies, I'd like to share with you five of my best tips for healthy living. My goal is to be a resource for the community. Please let me know how I can be of service through
my newsletter, blog, and through my practice itself. I'm looking forward to meeting you and sharing this neighborhood with all of you.

So with no further ado, here's the list!

Melanie's Top 5 Natural Health Tips:

Get enough sleep. Chronic sleep debt causes incredible hormonal shifts in the body that affect everything from our metabolism to our mood and mental performance. Going without sleep sets you up for weight problems, depression, anxiety, poor performance at work, increased stress hormones and a decreased tolerance for pain. The average person needs 8.5 hours of sleep each night. Our chronic lack of sleep (under 6 hours for most Americans each weeknight!) contributes directly to the epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and mood disturbances like anxiety and depression.
Take action. Make an effort to get to bed just 15 minutes earlier aach night. Work up to getting enough sleep so that you wake up feeling rested. If you have a hard time winding down and getting ready for sleep, drink a cup of chamomile and lavender tea with dinner and another cup about 30 minutes before bed to help aid with relaxation.

Add before you subtract. When people decide to clean up their diets, they often start aggressively, removing every food and drink that could be considered unhealthy. They clean their cabinets of packaged treats, skip their morning doughnut, cut out coffee, swear off sugar and dive headlong into dietetic purity. Even the most resolute of dieters will almost inevitably succumb to cravings or overeating on these same foods that they've banished. To make a real change we have to address why we reach for those foods in the first place and slowly transition away from them. Fatigue, stress, nutrient deficiencies, insulin resistance, and emotional eating are often at the root of poor eating. If unhealthy foods, cigarettes or caffeine is a crutch for you, the way to permanently recover is to build up your strength so you don't need the crutch anymore. It's no use to throw your crutches away when your legs are still broken; you have to recover your strength first.

Take action. Increase the nutrient dense foods in your diet. Add as many green leafy veggies as you can, and be sure to include a wide variety of natural foods that are brightly colored. Consult with a qualified provider to see if you could benefit from any supplements or special foods. Get the good stuff into your diet each day and after a few months of better nourishment you'll be amazed at how much easier it is to let go of the cookies, chips, and soda. When you are ready to start letting go of unhealthy foods, start with the ones that you're least passionate about. Love chocolate but can live without chips? Then let the chips go and let yourself enjoy small servings of chocolate.

Move your body every day. You already know how beneficial exercise is for almost every parameter of human health. Why is there such a large gap between our knowledge about the benefits of exercise and the amount of exercise that most of us do on a daily basis? I think it comes down to one thing: joy. When we exercise because it's another obligation, another “must do” to check off the list, it's easy to want to skip your workouts.

Take action. Find an activity that you enjoy---and that's challenging enough to bring a flush to your cheeks and some sweat to your brow. Focus on how good it feels to move your body---or how good you feel when your workout is over. If you still don't look forward to your workouts, build in some social support. Try something new with a friend. You can motivate each other and enjoy spending time doing something that's good for both of you.

Give and receive nurturing touch. The cascade of “feel good” hormones that your body releases when you give and receive nurturing touch is truly impressive. Massage, hugs, back scratching, light touch with the fingertips---all of these produce major benefits in terms of mental health, feelings of love and acceptance, and even boost your immunity. Don't wait to be in a romantic partnership to get the benefits of nurturing touch. If you're single, find a friend to trade backrubs with or get a professional massage.

Take action. Give and receive hugs. Get a  massage. Exchange massages with your partner. Give your best friend a backrub when her shoulders hurt and ask her to do the same for you. And yes---petting your dog or cat counts, too!

Connect to something larger than yourself. This is by far the most important of all. Human beings are seekers, meaning-makers. We naturally long to be connected to something larger than ourselves, whether that is a Higher Power as we understand it, an inspiring project, or a sense of service to others. Health is not an end in and of itself; the purpose of health is to allow us to be as strong as we can be in order to make a difference in the world and give the unique gifts that we are here to give.

Take action. Remind yourself of what matters most to you. Connect to your spirituality. Seek out activities, people and places that make you feel whole and alive. Enjoy the beauty of the natural world. Play with a puppy or a child. Embark on a creative project that excites your spirit. Dance. Give generously of yourself. Remember your ancestors, your mentors, the people who have supported you. Practice gratitude for all that you have, all that you are, all that you've
learned, and all that is coming.

Thank you for welcoming me into our neighborhood and for taking the time to read this post. I hope that you've found something here that will inspire you to take even better care of yourself and I look forward to meeting and working with you in the near future. 

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the neighborhood! Was nice meeting you at Social Justice Camp a while back :) Me and my house mate have been living on the 300 block of Bryant for a little while now and dig it. We have great neighbors like Sally! Hope to see you around the neighborhood :)