Pathways to Enhance Well-Being: Free Resource on Alternative Wellness Practices


This week we e-release a new free booklet, Pathways to Enhance Well-Being. The evolving story of its creation provides an example of how we can follow the life pulse that moves through us — in this case, it moved through the three co-authors and manifests something new that we hope will be helpful for many people. My co-creators and I, and seemingly the stars too, were aligned on this project. For each of us, our life story has in large part been about finding pathways to enhance our own well-being and to assist others in doing the same. We came together with heart-based and soul-based intention to share some of the practices that have transformed our lives, opening our bodies and minds which allowed joy and passion to flow through us. We don’t write about our transformative process in the booklet but make no mistake, this is the energy that flowed through us and we hope that you, the reader, can feel it in yourself as you expand or deepen your use of body/mind/spirit practices.

Our work, and our lives, give us many opportunities to recalibrate our steps to remain aligned with our deepest intentions. It is delightful to share with you one of the first responses to releasing the booklet. A senior manager in a large behavioral health organization stated, “Right now I am envisioning it being used in our Recovery Education Centers. I am going to present it to the team leaders and have them develop a class around it. Once this is done we will facilitate a class (usually 12 weeks long) in each center.”

The pre-birth of the booklet began with my colleague Linda Lentini sharing with me some of the barriers she experienced as she moved towards bringing alternative approaches such as meditation and breath practices into state psychiatric institutions. Perhaps, in part, it was because she was a peer, a person with lived experience of a labeled mental health condition, that she and her “techniques” were not taken seriously. Knowing that Linda had for some years been successful in bringing these approaches into the peer community, I suggested we ask Peggy Swarbrick to look at the research on the effectiveness of these approaches on people labeled with a mental health condition. Perhaps if there was hard data that Linda could present to the “professional” clinical staff it would help her make inroads to bringing these practices to a resistant institutional culture.

Peggy did a thorough review of the research literature on 13 different alternative approaches. Six approaches had the most significant data: breath practices, meditation, mindfulness, guided imagery, yoga, and tai chi. We created one-pagers that shared the data. Linda’s Advisory Board said they wanted a back page to have a specific example of each approach. All this was done, edited, printed and we were finished — at least we thought so.

Some months later we came up with the idea of putting the 6 one-pagers into a booklet. Now, around this time, one of the state psychiatric institutions where Linda had been trying to expand Toivo’s Healing From Within program very suddenly fired and/or put on administrative leave 50 of their staff due to very public allegations of abuse and neglect. Understandably this increased the stress level of both people working in and incarcerated in the institution. Linda continued reaching out to them to allow more people (patients as well as staff) to participate in the alternative approach healing sessions that she offered (at no cost) weekly on-site. This lead to them contracting with Toivo, Linda’s employer, to offer Healing From Within groups on their inpatient units to both people receiving services as well as staff.

Over some months the co-authors continued editing, making formatting and graphic decisions. Peggy brought in Patricia Nemec to put it all together into the booklet format you see (looks great on 8″ X 11″ paper, landscaped to a 4″ X 5.5″ booklet stapled in the middle). We share it here as a gift, and we hope you will find it helpful on your journey and share it with others who might benefit from information on alternative approaches.

Pathways to Enhance Well-Being


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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Lauren Spiro
Lauren’s vision of social justice and mental health liberation focuses on developing our capacity for feeling deeply connected, appreciating the vast creative intelligence of the human heart and mind, and inspiring compassionate action. Her life’s mission is to embody inner peace to co-create global peace, thus she curates transformative learning experiences. She co-founded two non-profit corporations and Emotional CPR ( a public health education program that teaches people how to support others through an emotional crisis. She is a multi-media artist, a 20+ year practitioner of yoga and meditation, the first Director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, has been featured on national media, and consulted on numerous federal projects. Her memoir paints a poetic picture of her journey into madness and her pathway home. She has an M.A. in clinical/community psychology. For more information see


  1. I appreciate this work very much, Lauren. I began learning and integrating a variety of these practices over the years as my healing path through psych drugs withdrawal. I went from 9 neurotoxins to 0 in 6 months, at age 40, after 20 year of diagnoses and some combo of psych drugs or another.

    My best guidance came from a medical intuit to whom I turned regarding how to free myself of all of this, as I was beginning to feel hopelessly entangled in the “mental health” industry, and seriously disabled from it. She started me on this path of energy and awareness. $45 for a 15 minute reading, the protocol of which I followed diligently, and it totally did the trick! Took years, and I learned patience and deep trust in the process. Layer by layer, my health and life came back into balance. In the process, life became a way different experience for me, and that is exactly what I was needing, and for what I’d been hoping. Biggest shift ever.

    I’d just finished graduate school, in student debt up to my eyeballs, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and terribly desperate, so I was open to anything at all. I’d never before meditated nor was I terribly familiar with any of this, wasn’t part of my life or reality.

    The truth is that this saved my life, and that is no exaggeration. I was in dreadful shape, and had been for a good long while, feeling profoundly hopeless from time to time, thanks to all the misinformation I’d been receiving, the damage that had been done by those psych drugs, as well as the energy it took to battle the plethora of negative projections from the system. No grounding, filled with dread, no sense of having a “center.” Thank God, that all changed, once and for all, and I completely credit things like grounding meditation, Qi Gong, etc., all leading to heightened self-awareness. Slowing down big time was hugely healing.

    Consciously grounding and centering is what allowed me to find a bit of inner peace for the first time in a good long while, and which, in turn, allowed for a new clarity to emerge, followed eventually by a new paradigm of living. For me, it was healing at the core, and sure enough, radical inner change led to radical outer change. I call it “rippling transformation.”

    So I’m with you completely on “healing from within.” Taking that perspective is what led to my own personal liberation, and for my life dreams to come into reach, finally. Very best wishes for distribution!

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  2. Alex,
    Thank you for sharing some of your journey and the benefits of deepening your consciousness, finding your truth and embracing your genuine self found beneath the brainwashing/ damaging conditioning so prevalent in our culture particularly the misinformation dispensed by the mental illness industry.

    I wish you joy, health and healing as your blossoming- your liberation – continues to unfold. I continue deepening my own conscious evolution and practice what I preach so to speak.

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  3. Hello Lauren,
    This is very helpful information. Thank you and bless you for the incredible work you do to help others who have been labelled and oppressed. After reading this recent blog I looked back at your previous posts and see I have much more good reading ahead! I just read this blog from July 2016, it was especially touching:

    After I began reading the blogs/articles on MIA what stood out to me is how psychiatry is really about ‘passing judgement’ on other human beings who happen to be suffering or in distress, by giving them a spurious DSM “label” (vs a scientific, legitimate diagnosis). This “label” is the catalyst that brings so much harm to people who really needed someone to hear their plight, to care and offer kindness and support, rather than be given a damaging “label”.

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    • Ironically Rosalee, many believe that these labels help people. That if only we could end “stigma” exacerbated or caused by these labels all would be well.

      I’m supposed to be “bipolar” but no longer meet the criteria. They get around this by using the last question: Have you ever been diagnosed as bipolar in the past? If the answer is “yes” your current behaviors and mental state don’t amount to a hill of beans.

      People change and grow. Psychiatry won’t admit this and therefore is dedicated to causing its subjects to deteriorate.

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      • I think you nailed it, Rachel. People do change, grow, and heal in all kinds of ways. Life experience brings clarity and personal evolution. I believe it is the nature of being human. The worst “stigma” that exists is that *some* people are “defective.” That is THE myth, imo–the big lie of tyranny and oppression.

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