No Pressure. No Diamonds.

By Geoff Heppes, Sports Blogger

The famous slogan “no pressure, no diamonds,” made popular by former Baylor and Washington Redskins quarterback (now currently with the Cleveland Browns), Robert Griffin III, describes how athletes cannot achieve greatness and be true champions without enduring some hard pressure. This idea definitely applies to arguably the two best Olympic athletes out of the staggering 555 that the United States sent out in swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Simone Biles.

First, Phelps, 31, is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, and possesses the most gold medals by any Olympic athlete in Olympic history. Phelps is the proud owner of 23 medals overall with 19 of them gold…currently. Currently because he will likely add to both of these large totals. While American golden boy Phelps carried out the flag leading the Americans into the Olympics, has a beautiful fiancé and child and seems very well put together overall, his past is sad and troubling.

After hauling in eight gold medals in a sweep of every event he swam in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Phelps thought about walking away from swimming completely; this lead to Phelps losing his purpose in life. Phelps had a meltdown and since then accumulated two DUI offenses, used marijuana, still had not spoken to his father since he was nine years old and thought about taking his life. Then, a special friend came along and spoke to Phelps.

After talking to close friend and soon to be Hall-of-Fame Ravens linebacker, Ray Lewis (also an amazing motivational speaker and Christ-follower), Phelps turned his life around. Phelps checked into rehab and spent 45 days there and cleansed himself of temptations of marijuana and alcohol abuse. Phelps later recommitted himself to Jesus, and he also spoke to his dad and mended that relationship after decades of tension. Phelps is now swimming again for gold medals in Rio and looking better than ever.

Biles, 19, is probably the best gymnast in the world with former American Olympic great, Nastia Liukin, calling her “untouchable.” Biles most recently won gold for best female all-around gymnast, and is favored to take home up to five gold medals. Biles has competed with great power, serene grace and elite poise, but her haunting past is hard to deal with.

Biles biological mother, Shannon Biles, 44, gave Simone up for adoption when she was six years old due to Shannon’s addiction to drug and alcohol abuse. Simone and her younger sister, Adria, were put into foster care in Ohio until they were adopted by Shannon’s biological parents, Simone and Adria’s grandparents, Ronald and Nellie Biles. Simone refers to Ronald and Nellie as her parents.

Simone now has a more open dialogue with her mother, as she has been sober since 2007, and both her and her former struggling as well father, Kelvin Clemons, both are incredibly proud of their accomplished biological daughter, and have tremendous respect for Ronald and Nellie and how well they have raised Simone and Adria.

Both Phelps and Biles have overcome a tremendous amount of adversity in their lives, and are brave enough to let the world know about it; their challenges they have overcome have made them stronger than they ever could have been without it. With great support systems, hard work and dedication to their respective sports and a little pressure, these two elite athletes are true diamonds, gold diamonds might I add.



“…because I am determined.”

We’re only three days in to the Olympics and every morning is like a holiday gift waiting to be ripped open! Running. Rowing. Cycling. Volleyball. Swimming. Gymnastics. Where do we start? There’s simply no end to the athleticism on display in each new Olympic hopeful and returning competitor.

And while we’re off to a great start (as of writing this blog, the U.S. is leading with 19 medals), there have also been some horrible accidents.  Sunday took a turn for the worse when a scary crash took out leader Annemiek van Vlueten of Netherlands in the final stages of the women’s cycling road race. And then there’s the head-turning, face-cringing, scream-out-loud moment when French gymnast Samir Ait Said broke his leg on impact when vaulting during the men’s team qualifications.

From her hospital bed yesterday, Van Vleuten tweeted, “I’ll be fine,” adding, “most of all super disappointed after best race of my career.”  And what about Said? In an act of complete resolve he said in an interview, “I knew instantly that it was over. I need to accept it. So immediately, I thought about the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Not to keep hope, but because I am determined.”

“Because I am determined.” Just let those words simmer in your mind for a minute.

The man just broke his leg on the world’s stage doing what he has done thousands of times before. I can think of 313 million reasons (number of current Twitter users) why I would NEVER jump on that vault.  Yet, there he is. Planning for his next Olympic Games.

It’s true that everyone’s fitness is a journey and not a destination. And that means that at some point in our journey – like Said and van Vlueten, we’re going to fall down (hard) and get hurt. We’re going to gain the weight back that we lost. We’re going to miss a few workouts. We’re going to get injured.

Disappointment, however is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity. The late boxing legend Muhammad Ali said of his own struggles, “I hated every minute of training. But I said, don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”  And that is what determination is. It’s doing what needs to be done, even when you don’t feel like doing it. It’s planning for the next Olympic Games from your hospital bed.

If you’re discouraged with your fitness goals, welcome to the club. You’re certainly not alone. But this is not your season to give up. Please give us a call – our Life Development team can help you stay resolute in your fitness goals. Because a healthier you, can be a happier you.


The Heart of an Olympian

In just a few short days the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio will begin! Athletes from around the world will take the field in their quest for the ultimate reward – the Olympic gold medal.

Their performances will seem effortless. For some, their competitions will only last a few minutes. But their preparation and training has taken a lifetime. It will be 3 weeks of high intensity, awe-inspiring athletic performance.

But for some us, it may also be a time of pause and reflection.  A time we look at these amazing athletes from the comfort of our Laz-E-Boy recliner with our bowl full of ice cream and wonder, “wouldn’t it be great to be that amazing?”

Well, let’s find out! This month, let’s channel the hopes and dreams of each Olympic hopeful into our own lives. Why? Because being active is not only good for our physical health, but our mental health as well!

Research has shown over and over again that physical exercise has enormous mental health benefits. Addictions can be replaced with a goal to finish a marathon. Anxiety can be channeled into a rigorous exercise routine. Depression can be offset with a supportive partner, coach or training group.

Finding motivation to get moving eludes even the best of us. But we don’t have to have the same schedule or resources as an Olympian to achieve incredible fitness success. We just have to have the heart of an Olympian.

Ready to change? Let the Olympic spirit fuel that readiness. Here are a few steps to get inspired:

  • TEAM UP– We don’t have to be alone in our efforts to get healthy. Find a fitness partner who shares your goals. There are running groups, cross training teams, rock climbing gyms and city leagues with all kinds of opportunities to get moving. There really can be strength in numbers.
  • REMEMBER – It can be so hard to get up at 6 am for that early morning run. But if you remember how amazing it feels when you’ve finished, you’ll be more likely to get up and get moving. This is true with any kind of physical exercise. The power of positive thinking is underrated.
  • BE INSPIRED – Simone Biles. Michael Phelps. Usain Bolt. Agile. Fluid. Fast. Find someone who inspires you; someone who’s already doing what you want to do better. There are endless sources of inspiration that you can lean on when getting off the couch seems impossible.

If you need help getting a physical routine started, give us a call. We have an excellent Life Development team who can help you set and achieve your fitness goals.


On New Year’s Resolutions: Your Goal is to Be Healthier. Period.

I’m big on resolutions. I’m big on pick a date to start an event. January 1, unfortunately, is a random date that a lot of people line up for that, and it kind of matches where they’re at in the change process. They’ve been thinking about starting it for months. But there are a lot of people that line up mid-December and go, “Yeah, me too. I’ll join the gym,” with the guy who has been thinking about it for three, four, or five months and doing a little bit of thinking and mulling over a little bit of activity. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.

But here’s the catch: the “me too” crowd on January 1 will be out of that gym by February. Go to any gym the first month, January, and you’re going to see people you’ll never see again. You’ll see them wearing their brand new clothes, doing stuff on machines that they shouldn’t be doing. And they’ll be gone by February. Why? Because they were “me too.”

Here are a couple of keys on picking dates because picking dates is valuable. Pick a date and start to prepare for that date. Make some little changes, some adjustments, and know that you’re going to make that day, that you’re going to step into it that day.We also know we’ll meet those dates if we share it with a few people.Not on the internet, but share it with a few people. Be accountable. Step out and try it. That mindset helps us achieve goals.

And to keep it manageable and achievable, you’ve got to be able to measure what it is you’re trying to do.Picking a date helps you accomplish it. It also helps to shift your mind to, “No, I’ve started,” and you’re more likely to accomplish it because now you’ve got some skin in the game with yourself. You’ll say to yourself, “No, I’ve set a goal. This is where I’m at and I’m going to do that.” And if you’re not able to achieve it, then you need to step back and think, “Maybe I wasn’t as ready to change this as I thought. Maybe there are some other things at play that I really had not thought about.” It doesn’t mean that’s still not a goal, but maybe your approach needs to change a little. So, if you pick a date in January to start…and you’re not really ready, don’t do it.

Instead, come back to the goal you’re setting for yourself.Understand that we do better when we have short-term goals and long-term goals that are objective, that can be measured.You want a plan that anybody can look at and say, “Okay, I see how you are going to measure success.” Just “feeling better” is something you can’t measure.“Looking better” is something you can’t measure, either.

But I know I’ve made progress when I can now wear the new suit I bought or I can now fit into the dress I bought. That’s an achievable goal. It doesn’t always have to be numbers. The short-term goal may be that you’re going to eat less or drink less. For the month it may be that you want to be in a place where you’re eating more nutritious foods and being more physically active. Maybe buy a Fitbit.

Those short-term and long-term goals and things that you can actually measure are ways that you can keep your goals realistic. And they have to be realistic. Sometimes we doom ourselves for not being successful because we set a goal that’s ridiculous.

If you finally have come to a place where the doctor says, “Look, you’ve got to start these medications for diabetes or for your hypertension because of the way you eat and your lack of physical activity,” and you’re like, “I need to lose 100 pounds,” well, that can feel daunting.

Instead, break it up into pieces. This week, reduce your calories by X amount. This week, increase your walking steps by 500 steps. Don’t look at that “I’ve got to lose 100 pounds” and get overwhelmed. Just take that off the table. Your goal is to be healthier. And if your goal is to be healthier, let’s look at a short-term and a long-term. Let’s look at a goal for this week,and maybe a goal for a month. Do a goal for today and a goal for the week. Start small and build on it, because success will build on success.

-Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation360


Fitness: A Journey

During my time in recovery and working at i360, I’ve come to realize the importance of giving attention to the  different facets of health. One area of my life that anyone could see was deficient was my physical health. My potential seemed poor at best after several fractures in my back at the age of eighteen and my prior lack of physical activity. Yet here I was with a newfound interest and motivation to experience new things in life. So I set out on a course to explore the world of fitness.

After a few years of being the lone wolf at a local corporate gym, trying my best to emulate what other people were doing around me, I started to really enjoy myself. Exercise offered me a mental oasis. It was a time for me to just “do” and not “think.” It was an opportunity for me to continue to push myself and grow in a new and exciting way. Yes, I was sore; and yes, doing the same old thing gets boring after a while. But I was sleeping better than I had in years. I was gaining confidence both inside and outside of the gym. And most of all I felt good! I know it sounds backwards, but experiencing these brief periods of discomfort, which most people refer to as “workouts,” seemed to give me a little more joy in my life; and then life took a turn as it often does.

One September night after leaving work, the front wheel of my motorcycle got wedged in a trolley track while I was traveling 30 miles an hour and I went face first over the handlebars, effectively totaling my bike and leaving me with injuries which would keep me from returning to weightlifting for well over a year. I truly believe that these types of events hold such purpose in our lives. My “therapy” had been taken from me, and yet again I learned to live without something that I loved, and found joy in other places in my life. This was, as painful as it may have been, a Godsend.

As I regained mobility and enough strength to return to my hobby of picking up heavy things, I met a guy named Kevin. Now this was no normal introduction as I walked up to my bearded, tattooed, across-the-street neighbor while he was throwing around large cement stones, and running down his driveway with what looked like a thousand pounds on his back. Needless to say I was intrigued… Kevin and I became fast friends and he shared his passion for the sport of Strongman with me, offering me instruction, a training program and free use of his equipment, day or night. After training for the last 10 months, I recently took second place in North Texas Strongest Man, and I plan on continuing to train and compete in the years to come as I have much to learn about the sport and myself.

I know that this will likely never become more than a hobby for me. When I look at this sport, it would be easy for me to get discouraged by comparing myself to the many out there who are bigger, stronger, or faster than I. But then that’s not what this is all about. For me, competing Strongman is about pushing myself to new limits. It is a tangible way for me to enjoy making progress and sharing my passion for fitness and fun with others around me. It is a place to enjoy community. It has taught me discipline, and respect. And it has given me the opportunity to dream… More than all of that is has taught me that with hard work one can do what they never thought possible. This is hope. And this hard work can be applied to my marriage, my recovery, my work, my friendships, my spiritual life; the list goes on.

I want to challenge all of you to get out there and try something new. Get out of your comfort zone and enjoy some being active in a new way. Do it alone or do it with someone you care about. You just might find open a new and exciting chapter in your life that you never would have imagined.

– David Mullins, Life Development


Inside Out: One of the keys to lasting change

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
– Francis of Assisi

It’s one of those unique qualities of being human — regardless of what it looks like to the outside world — the majority of people have a deeply rooted desire to improve, to get better at something, to transform an area of their lives. Whether that’s related to work, relationships,or our health — some things we need to stop doing and some things we want to start doing. Change is one of the key ingredients that allow us to grow and mature.

It’s only taken me about 20 years to get that idea settled into my life. It’s rather embarrassing to say what I originally thought about change when I started working with people. I actually thought that if someone took the time out of their schedule and paid me to talk about things that are very difficult in their lives,then they must be ready to change. I began to realize over time that it actually told me very little about their desire to change, their motivation to change, or even their belief about the possibility of change.

I’ve learned a few things about the process of change from therapy and research, and I’ll share some of them in the blogs to come. But first, we need to be more honest with ourselves. We need to start the process of change with where we “are”, not where we think we “should” be.

Take, for instance, New Year’s resolutions. A lot of people think they need to get healthy in the New Year, probably because of the excessive eating and lack of exercise during the holidays, so every health club in the month of January is packed to the brim. But most of the newcomers at the gym don’t really want to change; they just feel bad about the choices made over the past couple of weeks. Rather than over-committing, it would be better if they would start walking or jogging a couple of times a week.

Second, there is a difference between compliance and change. Usually, compliance is somebody trying to change us. I often say “I’m not sure where in the city my wife is right now, but if she’s talking to a friend about something that she thinks I need to change, I can feel that conversation 20 miles away and I’ll start my resistance.” People hate being forced to change, and compliance is just a strategy to get them to quit talking to me about what they think I should do. But if I’m actually open to change, if I’m the one doing the work, then I just might end up starting a change process that lasts. Compliance and change are two very different things. For lasting change, at some point, there has to be something that happens internally as well as externally.

Even though we are well versed on the subject, it’s still both fascinating and mysterious to not only observe the process in others, but to experience it first hand. If you’re willing to risk, then you will never be, as Teddy Roosevelt once said “A cold and timid soul that knows neither victory nor defeat. ”


“Exploring our Diet from the Inside Out: Why Gut Health Affects our Mental Health” Guest Blog by Alicia Galvin Smith

We often think too narrowly about what success in treatment looks like. Whether you are struggling with mental health or substance abuse, it’s a common mistake to think that the only goal is treating the primary problem – and getting that to disappear. At Innovation360, we don’t just focus solely on the presenting issue. i360 intervenes in all areas of life to rebuild a healthy foundation. One of those areas is physical wellness, which includes taking a deeper look at our diet. Today we are bringing in an expert in this area, someone we have collaborated with frequently to help our clients uncover some of the issues they might be experiencing in the realm of diet, so that we can address wellness from a bigger picture. Alicia Galvin Smith, MEd, RD, LD, CLT was generous enough to share her expert insights, talking about why gut health matters:

“All disease begins in the gut” was a statement spoken by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, over 2000 years ago, but recent research is confirming that this is very true. Your gut houses 70-80% of your immune system and you have over 10 trillion bacteria that call your intestines  home. In fact, there are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than there are human cells. It therefore makes sense, and research is emerging to show, that when there is an imbalance in the gut it can directly impact and throw off the rest of the body. Research showed significantly altered behavior when one mouse’s gut bacteria was swapped with that of another. Researchers transplanted microbes from one group of mice, which were characterized by timidity, into the guts of mice who tended to take more risks. What they observed was a complete personality shift: timid mice became outgoing, while outgoing mice became timid.  What’s happening in our gut can truly determine how we move through life.

Often times the role of nutrition and gut health is overlooked when working with depression, anxiety, OCD, ADD/ADHD, bipolar disorder, and various other mental health conditions. Yet it can make all the difference in the world. For instance, about 90% of serotonin (yes, the same neurotransmitter found in the brain) is actually made in the digestive tract by specialized cells.  And a deficit in that same chemical can lead to depression. So yes, there is a link between our gut health and our mood, memory, sleep, etc.

Additionally, specific vitamins and minerals are required to produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. For instance, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B6, and omega fatty acids should be at optimal levels for the body to efficiently make serotonin. A deficiency in any of these can inhibit the pathway and production.  In addition, deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, vitamin B12, and folate have been linked with conditions such as depression and anxiety.  Evaluating for vitamin and mineral deficiencies is important, as is the consideration of a nutrient dense diet. What we eat influences the balance of gut bacteria – the proper foods and a nutrient dense diet will shift the balance toward good bacteria. As we examine our overall physical and mental health, these are critical factors to consider.

There is a lot to consider beyond therapy and medication when it comes to helping people overcome mental health issues. If you are struggling with mental health or addiction, it’s important to address the essential areas of life which often impact the primary issues. And diet, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and gut health should not be overlooked. There is a two-way street between what’s going on in the gut and what’s happening in the brain.  So reflect on what you are putting into your body, and maybe what you aren’t.  And see if a change in that area leads to change elsewhere. Because “my gut” says it will.


To learn more about Alicia Galvin Smith, visit her website here. She can be reached at [email protected] or 469.340.8449. She can help you experiment with some changes in diet and nutrition that could lead to positive changes in mental health.


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2. Bercik, Premysl et al. The Intestinal Microbiota Affect Central Levels of Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor and Behavior in Mice. Gastroenterology , Volume 141 , Issue 2 , 599 – 609.e3

3. Patrick, R.P., & Ames, B. N. (2015). Vitamin D and the omega 3 fatty acid control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior. The FASEB Journal, 29, 1-16

4. Swardfager. Depression Linked to low Zinc Levels in the blood. Biol Psychiatry. 2013;74:872-878

5. Hector M, Burton JR. What are the psychiatric manifestations of vitamin B12 deficiency? J Am Geriatr Soc 1988;36:1105–1112.

6. Coppen A, Bailey J. Enhancement of the antidepressant action of fluoxetine by folic acid: a randomised, placebo controlled trial. J Affect Disord 2000;60:121–130.

7. Skarupski, K. A., Tangney, C., Li, H., Ouyang, B., Evans, D. A., & Morris, M. C. (2010). Longitudinal association of vitamin B-6, folate, and vitamin B-12 with depressive symptoms among older adults over time. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92(2), 330–335.

8. Sartori, S. B., Whittle, N., Hetzenauer, A., & Singewald, N. (2012). Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology, 62(1), 304–312.


What’s Sleep Got To Do With It? Guest blog from Cooper Healthy Living’s expert Jill Turner

At Cooper Healthy Living, adults from around the country come spend a week on the Cooper Aerobics campus where they stay, learn and transform their health. Equal parts nutrition, exercise, and overall well-being, the common denominator among the people who come is a dissatisfaction or concern about some aspect of their health. Many people complain their life just isn’t as balanced as want it to be, that they are tired, stressed, and weigh more than they’d like. Sleep, or lack of sleep, is a big issue for many.

For well over a year, I wore a wrist activity tracker, and in addition to tracking activity the device also tracked sleep. With a job that keeps me seated (in meetings, on the phone, or behind a computer), the first thing I quickly learned from the tracker is that I need to walk (and at a pretty good clip) for 40- to 45 minutes in order to get the surgeon general recommended 10,000 steps per day. The fact that I need time for purposeful exercise wasn’t a surprise, but the data on sleep was. After a few months of use, I had enough data to realize I need to subtract a full hour for non-sleep time from however many hours I’m in bed each night to accurately count my sleep. This was frankly a shocking revelation as my husband has long claimed I’m like a baby doll with eyes that slap closed when prone! However, the device reflected the truth – that it still takes time to fall asleep, time for a middle-of-the-night bathroom break, time to return to sleep after the cat walks across my body or after the dogs awake to go investigate a potential critter in the backyard. So all those nights I was thinking I’d gotten 8 hours, it was really 7, as I wasn’t estimating non-sleep time very well at all. Looking at the statistics of my tracker buddies, I don’t think I’m that unusual.

As most of the people I encounter don’t get enough sleep, I was fascinated to read about a study conducted by Matthew P. Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California. It looked at the impact of sleep deprivation on our brain. In the study (reported in 2013), Walker recruited 23 healthy young men and women to come spend the night at the lab on two separate occasions, separated by about a week. On the first visit, the individuals arrived at the lab, slept for approximately 8 hours, and then after a small breakfast of toast and strawberry jam, had a MRI (brain scan) while looking at 80 pictures of a variety of foods and rating how strongly they wanted the food in the image. (As part of the experiment, the subjects were promised that at the end of the test they would receive one of the foods that they had rated the highest.) About a week later, the individuals returned to the lab, but this time stayed awake the entire night. (While up, the individuals had snacks like apples and peanut butter, to offset the extra calories they burned being awake rather than asleep.) After being up all night, they repeated the exercise from the previous week – rating the same 80 food pictures while undergoing an MRI.

What Dr. Walker found was really interesting – when the individuals were rested, they chose healthy items to eat, but when they were tired, from just a single night of no sleep, they chose fattening foods, like salty treats, fried foods, or desserts. In fact, the caloric difference between the food choices of the well-rested subjects and the tired subjects was about 600 calories! In comparing the “rested” and “tired” MRIs of the individual, the MRI in a “tired” state showed a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex, a higher-level part of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made.

“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” said Dr. Walker. Moreover, he added, “high-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep-deprived. This combination of altered brain activity and decision-making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.”

It’s not our imagination – Dr. Walker’s study scientifically shows how our brain is physically impacted by the level of sleep we have.

In Cooper Healthy Living I talk about this study to hone in on the importance of sleep. Firsthand, I know that if I’m rested, I have better impulse control, and if someone walks into my office bearing treats, there’s a much better chance I will focus on my long term goal of being able to continue to fit into my pants. On the other hand, if I’m tired and someone walks into my office bearing treats, regardless of whether I’m physically hungry or not, there’s a very good chance I’m going to accept, and hope they offer me seconds! When it comes to mental health, sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Furthermore, it doesn’t seem implausible that if, when tired, I have difficulty making good, healthy decisions about what I should eat, the same might be just as true for the tired person who has an addiction – be it shopping, alcohol, drugs, or gambling.

Last month, the National Sleep Foundation released new sleep duration recommendations, after an expert panel of eighteen leading scientists and researchers reviewed more than 300 current scientific publications to determine how much sleep we really need. A chart was created that gives “rule-of-thumb” recommendations for all stages of life. Adults, age 18 and up, are now divided into three categories (young adults 18-25 years; adults 26-64 years; and older adults 65 and up), and currently all three categories have a recommended average of 7- to 9 hours of sleep. The chart also reflects that for some of us, fewer hours are needed, and for others, more. Interestingly, both too little sleep and too much sleep isn’t good for our health. I hope you’ll look at the chart, consider your own particular circumstances, and evaluate if some additional shuteye (or perhaps less), might be helpful in your overall health goals.

Written by Jill Turner, President of Cooper Healthy Living. Individuals interested in Cooper Healthy Living can call us at 800-444-5192 or by going to the website at



Yoga and the 12 Steps

I don’t fit in with the yoga scene. I mean, I appreciate health and homegrown, organic things. But I’m not much for silence. Being still and quiet can be tough…And then there is the stretching. I was always the athlete that got yelled at for getting injuries that stemmed from not stretching enough.

However, when I stumbled into a prenatal yoga class after being basically peer-pressured by my doctor, I found out that yoga isn’t just for yogis. And now, long after my wise MD all but shoved me down this path, I’ve realized that it’s also not just a form of exercise for pregnant women.

In fact, as I’ve allowed myself to explore this type of exercise, I’ve come to realize that yoga for me has been the missing piece. It’s always been immensely important for me to work towards living a free and abundant life. I have also chased after a theme of recovery in all areas of my existence through mind, body, and spirit; not wanting to ignore any of the three, thus becoming unbalanced.  I have sought out exercise, healthy [& delicious] eating, counseling, education, church, community, good sleep hygiene, etc… But it was yoga that finally brought the mind, body, and spirit together.

Leading a full and busy life – a new mother, a wife to an amazing man, a counselor and client advocate at Innovation360, a member of a home group at my church – I’m all about efficiency. Yoga is perfect. In one yoga class, I can focus on all three areas of mind-body-spirit. And it just may be the missing piece for your journey as well, whether you struggle with addiction, difficult relationships, depression, an eating disorder, or if you are on a spiritual journey of your own, or are purely pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

To speak specifically to one population, those walking through an addiction and/or striving towards a full life of recovery, I am grateful for yoga’s ability to address the biology, psychology, and spirituality relating to an addict. Not only does yoga provide this population with a physically healthy activity offering both flexibility and strength, but it also floods its pupils with opportunities to directly impact the struggles of an addict.

For starters, addicts often define themselves by their profound sense of being internally out of control. In my experience, yoga very directly addresses this, requiring you to become mindful, focused, centered, and internally quiet and controlled from the moment you slip off your shoes and step on your mat.

I’m also drawn to yoga’s application to the ol’ “first thought wrong” understanding of addicts – the knee-jerk, guttural, impulsive, and instinctive reaction of addicts – as it quiets the mind and teaches you to breathe through your experience. Whether that experience is a pose, the birth of a child, undesirable instruction, an uncomfortable emotion, a tough conversation, or a trigger/craving….yoga allows its students the opportunity to learn how to stay present and balanced, and also how to work through the up and downs of a given situation.

And in a manner that few other recovery approaches can offer, yoga teaches its students how to turn their focus inward to feel physical sensations otherwise unnoticed or previously ignored – to honor and recognize your body. How tattered, beaten, and ignored the body of an addict (every variety of addict – food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, risk…) can be!! Engaging in self-awareness and returning your thoughts to that of honor and respect and awareness of your physical self –what a gift!

As such, yoga provides a very profound detoxification. A detox of mind, body, and spirit; offering time to meditate, center, pray, and heal. This daily (or even weekly or monthly) practice for release and healing is so necessary to continue growing and moving forward in your recovery.

And last, but possibly most importantly, addiction can easily be seen as the ultimate “leaving the moment” – checking out. Yoga at its core is checking in. Checking in with the reality of your spirituality, your physical body, your breathing, your thoughts, your emotions, and your present self.

At Innovation360, we encourage our clients to add this incredibly efficient tool into their pursuit of recovery. As we work towards cultivating spiritual and physical wellness, our therapists incorporate yoga into our Intensive Outpatient Program, an 8-week program for those struggling with addiction or mental health issues.  Even while working with clients through our individualized life development, our team can help clients plug into a yoga practice, and we can practice right alongside them! No need to be nervous if it’s your first time, we will try to touch our toes with you too!

Blog written by Nicki Cochran, LPC.


What are the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle?

Having a healthily lifestyle can be a challenge – busy work schedules, large quantitates of processed foods, and little margin in our lives for “down time”.  Making matters worse, we hold onto the myth that our physical health is unrelated to our emotional health.  Our physical health does impact our emotional health and our emotional health impacts our physical health (think about professional athletes that have struggled and why they pay for sports psychologists to help them improve that area of their life).

Research shows that people who exercise are happiersleep better, have better marriages, and have lower rates of taking antidepressants. Data says that exercising is just as beneficial to our mental health condition as it is to the outside physical body. Most people exercise to look good, or lose weight. It does much more than that. This is why its important to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

We try to “practice what we preach” and recently visited Austin and participated in the Gorilla Run. Not only was it a great activity, it was for a wonderful cause as well. Providing meaning and purpose to our lives while supporting the silverback gorillas. No matter what your calling or purpose is, its good to explore different avenues of staying healthy.