Category Archives: Uncategorized

Heart Rate Variability Webinar

#Heartratevariability (HRV) training is based on significant medical research and can promote better health in all conditions. In this webinar, Dr. Donald Moss explains applications of HRV #biofeedback and how individuals can use HRV enhancing practices for #wellness and #longevity. This webinar was from #Saybrook University’s #Mindfulness series.

For upcoming Saybrook Mindfulness Moments workshops in May, see

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Presenting on Mindfulness and Integrative Mental Health, May 19, 2023

I am proud to be alongside esteemed leaders in our field when I present on Mindfulness Meditation and Mindful Living with Dr. Donald Moss at Saybrook University’s upcoming President’s Symposium on Integrative Mental Health, a virtual event on May 19, 2023. There are CE credits being offered too! Registration is at

Symposium flyer

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Mindfulness Moments

Join us at #Saybrook on Friday, March 24 at 9:15am PT/12:15pm ET for a special #Mindfulness Moment (15 min) with Dr. Maryam N. Tafreshi and #MindBodyMedicine faculty. Dr. Tafreshi will lead us through #Faradarmani: A Persian/ Iranian Meditation + Visualization to honor #Nowruz and the beginning of spring. All are welcome!

We proudly offer these complementary guided meditations each Monday and Friday at 9:15am PT. Join by zoom…

Yesterday I was clever,

so I wanted to change the world.

Today I am wise,

so I am changing myself.

– Rumi

For more info see

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Upcoming Mindfulness Talks

At Pacific Oaks College I am speaking about Mindfulness for Peace on Sept 21, sponsored by their student government.  It is a virtual event and open.  The flyer contains details on how to register.

Another event is for the National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) on Mindfulness as Mind-Body Medicine on Tuesday 27 at 1pm ET. This introduction to mindfulness in the context of Mind-Body Medicine.  This will be an experiential introduction and its approach to wellness and presented virtually to the NUHS community.

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Luann’s Interview with Unbound

UNBOUND Saybrook Insights: Mindfulness, Integrative Health, and Healthcare For The 21st Century

This podcast episode features Luann Fortune, Ph.D., faculty in Saybrook University’s mind-body medicine program and coordinator for the mindful leadership in healthcare specialization. Dr. Fortune has vast experience in systems, mindful leadership in health care settings, and complementary healthcare techniques that support whole health and healing. This episode explores how we can evolve systems and practices to support a more systems-based approach to health care, how to develop mindful approaches to leading and more. For the whole episode see

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“You Put Your Whole Self In” – Embodied Research, A new publication by Luann Fortune

Luann Fortune, PhD (MBM) has published a chapter (Fortune, 2021).   In an edited book on Transformative Phenomenology (Bentz & Marlatt, 2021), the movement in phenomenology meant to transform and heal the world. In her publication, Dr. Fortune presented a model for incorporating embodiment perspectives and mind-body methods into qualitative research.  Drawing from her own research and her years as an educator at Saybrook, she described using and teaching embodiment techniques to enrich questions, findings, and interpretations. Her examples include multiple Saybrook dissertations that she has guided over the past 10 years. 

Bentz, V. & Marlatt, J. (Ed.) (2021). Handbook of transformative phenomenology. Fielding University Press. 

Fortune, L. D. (2021). “You put your whole self in”:  Enacting embodiment in research. In V. M. Bentz & J. Marlatt (Ed.), Handbook of transformative phenomenology (pp. 161-180). Fielding University Press. 

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The power of meditation

By Luann Fortune, Ph.D.

This article was previously published on UnBound magazine at

Many think that meditation is simply closing your eyes, clearing your thoughts, and breathing for about five minutes. Many do not know about the plethora of options when it comes to meditation.

Maybe being home more during the pandemic has offered you the opportunity to welcome meditation into your life. Or maybe you are looking into meditation to help you deal with new anxiety that has arisen. Either way, meditation is free, easy to start, and has many benefits.

“Mindfulness and meditation—tools for wellness and self-care—can provide calm and restoration,” says Luann Fortune, Ph.D., a Mind-Body Medicine faculty member at Saybrook University. “Research shows that related practices contribute to improved immunity and mental well-being, as well as better quality of life. Evidence also has shown such practices can connect us as a community to support health and healing.”

Dr. Fortune has been instrumental in the start and continuation of Saybrook’s Mindful Moments, a program offered since March 2020. She has presented many different types of meditation, including progressive muscle relaxationguided meditationguided imageryabhyanga (self-massage), and loving kindness meditation.

To help others find peace during this stressful and chaotic year, Dr. Fortune offers further tips and explorations on how to practice meditation—and what kind might be best for you.

What is meditation?

According to The New York Times, meditation is a way to train the mind.

The origins of meditation can be traced back to as early as 5000 BCE, to ancient Egypt and China and tied to the religious practices of Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. Spread along the Silk Road, it moved throughout Asia. Before the 20th century, meditation spread from Asia into the west. In the past few decades, doctors and scientists started studying meditation for its medical and other health benefits.

Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard Medical School professor, found that people who meditated used 17% less oxygen, had lower heart rates, and produced increased brain waves found to help with sleep. Years later, he said the following about his research: “All I’ve done is to put a biological explanation on techniques that people have been utilizing for thousands of years.”

Who can practice meditation?

Meditation is available to all, requiring only a few minutes of quiet, an openness to try, and a willingness to let go. The mind is powerful—meditation is called a practice because its practitioners always have room to grow and try again. When you begin meditation, it is important to refrain from judgment of yourself and your process.

Before you meditate, find a quiet spot. You can either sit down in a chair or on the floor. You can even lay down if that is more comfortable to you. As you begin your practice, be patient. If your mind wanders, take a moment to pause and reflect and bring your attention back to center. And remember, the more you do it, the easier meditation becomes. With some commitment, you will be able to focus more deeply each time you practice meditation.

How do I start incorporating it into my daily routine?

Meditation draws from a vast array of traditions, histories, and methods. Selecting the “best” method depends on personal preference and background. Most practices are cultivated to bring emotional calm and mental clarity and involve setting aside time each day, from a few minutes to an hour for intentional practice.

Here are a few of the more common forms with an example of each.

Guided Meditation is the collection of techniques and practices that focus one’s thoughts on a particular object or invite suspension of thoughts, so it is often associated with our mental life. In guided meditation, a leader provides verbal prompts or instructions to direct the individual or group through the practice.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) was developed to help people suffering from tension and stress and can provide many benefits. The practice, which can be considered muscle-body based, focuses on relaxing specific muscles in a directed protocol, tightening specific muscle groups and then releasing. Research shows that PMR can help reduce anxiety and reverse stress as well as help release tight muscles. In a recent study by Liu and colleagues (2020), PMR was found to improve anxiety levels and sleep in COVID-19 patients.

Guided Imagery, also called guided visualization, involves directing thoughts and sensations to engage positive mental images and sensory recall, meaning conjuring smells, tastes, sounds, and textures as well as visual images. Because it is multi-sensorial, it draws on our creative selves. Strong research supports many benefits, from invoking calm, improving performance, and healing trauma. Guided imagery can be conducted in individual or group settings. Multiple quality audio recordings are available that provide guided imagery, which makes it a suitable form for use in clinical settings where access may be restricted.

Abhyanga (Self-Massage) is one active form of mindfulness practice that draws on the ancient (ayurvedic) practice of self-massage. It is meant to be practiced daily to stimulate the immune system and promote circulation and body-mind awareness. It can also bring calm and vitality. It is especially helpful during times of sheltering and isolation.

Loving Kindness Meditation, a gentle guided meditation, is widely used to support emotional and mind-body wellness as well as prevent compassion fatigue and build mindful leadership. Based on supporting research, it has gained prominence in clinical settings, particularly to prevent burnout for health care workers. It involves sending out thoughts and intentions for unconditional love toward oneself, outward to others, and to bring peace and healing. It is sometimes considered a “heart-based” form, drawing on feelings and thoughts of pure love

Learn what meditation practice is best for you

The examples provided are appropriate for mindfulness experts as well as those who are new to meditation and mindfulness practices. You can explore more practices as well by listening to Saybrook’s Mindful Moments. Faculty from the Mind-Body Medicine program provide these live guided sessions during the week and are open to the public. They are recorded and available at Saybrook’s website or through Spotify.

Taking a few minutes from the stress of daily responsibilities through a structured mindfulness practice can support wellness and a stronger immune system and help restore balance in these challenging times.

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Self-Massage: Guided Instructions for Body & Mind

Here are the instructions to follow along for the May 2 workshop on self-massage.  Consider printing it out for future reference.

The recording of this offering is now available by clicking here.

Massage Series

Neck , Shoulders, Back                                                           

  • Stretch & Shrug: Gently nod head back and forth, up and down, side to side, letting chin drop to chest and then to neutral; shrug shoulders to ears and roll shoulders.
  • Neck cradle: Place flat of hands on either side of neck, placing fingertip at base of skull.
  • Occiput circles: Find the ridge at the base of your skull (occiput). Using fingertips, press fingertips into the ridge, make circles, work outward toward the ears.
  • Stroke neck sides: Using flat of hands, stroke down sides of neck to shoulders.
  • Knead shoulders: Place hands on shoulders (same side); using fingers and palms, squeeze and knead outwards to shoulder joint. One side at a time, place hand across onto opposite shoulder, kneading across, reaching fingertips to top of scapula.
  • Glide: Place flat of hands on same side of torso and stroke down to waist. Reach down and around lower back and use fingertips to make circles along back of pelvis.
  • Hug: Bring hands and arms across front of chest and give yourself a hug.
  • Self-massage tool: Lie supine and position tennis balls tool on either side of spine at neck. Gradually roll your body over the tennis balls, working the pressure points down along either side of the spine to reach the lower back. Pause over tender spots and allow your body to release into the tennis balls.  When done, roll to one side to release tennis balls and, when ready, use your hands to slowly push up to sitting.

T-Ball tool


  • Hold: Add a few drops of oil to hands and rub together, then hold one hand with the working hand. Take a moment to notice temperature, texture, weight.
  • Spread: With pad of thumb pressing into palm and fingertips around the top of the hand, spread open the hand.
  • Finger twirls: Using thumb and forefingers, gently massage each finger from base to tip.
  • Glide fingertips between hand bones (metacarpals) on top of hand, from knuckles to wrist.
  • Palm spread: Interlace fingers of both hands and stretch outward. Relax stretch, and keeping fingers interlaced, reach working thumb into palm, making circles. Release interlock, use fingers to support top of hand, and continue pressing thumbs into palm and base of thumb pad.
  • Knead wrist area with fingers and thumbs.
  • Glide up forearm to elbow, gently circle inside and outside of elbow, and continue gliding up upper arm to shoulder.
  • Stroke underarms (armpits).
  • Brush lightly down the arm with fingertips over the forearm and off ends of fingers.

Pause, breathe, and notice how the massaged hand feels.

Repeat series on the other hand.

When done, allow both hands to rest, take a few deep breaths.


Foot Self Massage                                                                            

  • Position your foot in your lap or in front of you; hold with both hands.
  • Place a small amount of oil on your hands.
  • Slide, with one hand on top and the other on the bottom of foot.
  • Spread, with thumbs side-by-side into sole and fingers wrapped around top.
  • Toe twists: using thumb and forefingers, gently pull and twist from base to tip. Weave fingers between toes.
  • Thumb press into entire sole of foot, working to cover the entire surface from base of the toes to the heel.
  • Ankle circles: Using fingertips and thumbs, circle around the bones. Then hold the foot with one hand and rotate the foot around the ankle.
  • Wringing: Wrap the foot with both hands and rotate back and forth around foot.
  • Tapping: Using fingertips, tap the entire bottom of foot and then lightly brush surface.

Reflexology points can be affected. See one foot reflexology chart at

Pause, breathe, and notice how the massaged foot feels.

Repeat series on the other foot.

When done, find a comfortable position, take a few deep breaths.


Integration: Abhyanga

  • Rub hands together and, one a time, use flat of hands and fingertips to brush down each arm.
  • Brush with fingertips down chest and torso. Tap fingertips on sternum (breastbone).
  • Flat hand brush down thighs and lower legs, front and back as you can reach.
  • Scalp massage with fingertips.
  • Rub hands together, place hands over eyes, allowing your head to gently rest on your palms.

Breathe.  Return your head to neutral, remove your hand, and take another dee

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Tilting Our Homeostatic Balance for COVID-19 Prevention (Part 1): Mechanisms from Mind-Body Medicine

By Luann Fortune, PhD & Shannon McLain Sims, PhD, MS


Not a person on the planet has been untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In these articles (Parts 1 & 2), we explain evidence for using mind-body practices to help minimize risk to COVID-19. We also offer an extensive collection of resources in the references list.  For the discerning and inquiry reader, we provide a platform for an interdisciplinary, integrative strategy to fight COVID-19 and also come out stronger on the other side.

As of April 26, authorities had reported 2,962,915 cases globally of COVID-19 infections, with 961,969 cases confirmed in the U.S. (Johns Hopkins, 2020).  While the numbers sadly change each day, Johns Hopkins reported a total of 205,936 deaths globally, with 53,755 of those in the U.S. alone.  With limited testing, experts assume there are far greater numbers of persons infected than reported (Fitzpatrick et al., 2020).  Also, early evidence indicates many people are asymptomatic or contract sufficiently mild cases so that they do not even seek medical help.  It is still unclear whether those who have recovered from the virus develop immunity.  Scientists project that a vaccine is at least a year away (Ercolano, 2020).  With the duration and long-term impact of this outbreak so unpredictable, this situation demonstrates more than ever that our world is VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

While scientists and public health officials race for a cure and vaccine, it is clear that every person needs to adopt a strategy of prevention and to optimize their ability to recover.  To boost immunity and mitigate the ever-present inherent stress, myriad self-care practices can be customized and adopted to suit each individual (Fortune, 2019).  Amongst the self-care repertoire lie a spectrum of mind-body practices that are evidence based (Fortune, 2019).


Mind-body medicine (MBM) is based on an inherent connection between mind-body-spirit, and includes practices such as mindfulness, biofeedback, and imagery. When faced with the seemingly gargantuan challenges of negotiating a COVID-19 VUCA environment, deep breathing, mediation, or yoga might seem insignificant responses.  Yet the benefits associated with mind-body practices could be exactly what we need to tilt our homeostatic balance to fortify resistance to infection and, if needed, more readily cope with an infection.  There is some growing indication that mind-body practices can support recovery in those already infected with the virus (Liu et al., 2020).  The key mechanisms appear to relate to reducing systematic inflammation and managing the stress response.

Research on Stress & Immunity

 The word stress often carries a negative connotation, but the experience of stress is a familiar and unavoidable feature of life.  Stress is a constellation of events, including a stressor (i.e., stimulus) and our perception of that stressor (i.e., the reaction on our brain), that activates the body’s natural biological reaction: the fight-or-flight response.  While short-term stress (i.e., lasting minutes or hours) is helpful, motivating, and protective, long-term stress (i.e., lasting several hours per day, week, or months) throws the body out of balance and causes unwanted inflammation, which is damaging to both the mind and body (Dhabhar, 2014; Straub & Cutolo, 2018).  As it turns out, a prolonged episode of stress will disrupt a wide variety of immune functions (Sapolsky, 2004).

But the good news is that we can reverse, or even prevent, the damage caused by chronic stress by engaging in mind-body practices.  Researchers now think they have identified the mechanisms that allow such practices to minimize the harmful effects of stress. The stress response also increases harmful pro-inflammatory cytokines.  In re-orienting our stress response, we can enhance our immune system (Dhabhar, 2014), balance our body’s production of cytokines, and be better equipped to resist COVID-19.


Mechanisms to Fight COVID19 Using Mind-body Channels

As research continues to emerge, we are beginning to see the health effects this novel virus.  Data suggests that the major way in which the Corona Virus kills is by triggering a cytokine storm (Chen, Zhang, Ju, & He, 2020), a form of systemic inflammation that is triggered in the immune system.  In the case of COVID-19, this inflammatory response can attack the lungs and respiratory system leading to further, potentially lethal, complications (Prompetchara et al, 2020).  In most cases, this cytokine call to action is a healthy immune response, but a cytokine storm is a damaging overreaction by the immune system (Mau, 2020).

Given what we know about stress’ ability to increase harmful cytokines, one response to COVID-19 might be to use mind-body practices to help support the immune system.  Research suggests that mind-body therapies and practices can lower markers of inflammation and cytokine expression (Bower & Irwin, 2015; Creswell et al., 2016; McLain, 2019).  It is important to emphasize that such practices cannot replace conventional medical treatment.  Still, mind-body practices can prompt the body to respond in a more appropriate, balanced way.

Mind-Body Medicine for COVID-19

MBM focuses on the interactions between the mind and the body and the powerful ways in which you can participate in your own health and healing (NCCIH, 2018).  This occurs through the complex psycho-neuro-immunological system (PNI) where mind and body physiology mutually influence the whole (Litrell, 2008; Yan, 2016).  MBM remedies share a common function: they initiate a change in one realm to affect a positive change in equilibrium of the whole.  That is to say, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can affect and shape every aspect of our psychological and physiological functioning, and in turn, how we care for our bodies can affect how we think, feel and what we believe.  This means that we have many opportunities and can do many things to care for ourselves.

In Part 2 of “Tilting our Homeostatic Balance” we suggest specific mind-body practices to help manage the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Luann Fortune, PhD, LMT is on faculty at Saybrook University in the Department of Mind-Body Medicine, where she also coordinates the specialization in Mindful Leadership in Healthcare. Her research focuses on integrative health and wellness.

Shannon McLain Sims, PhD, MS holds degrees Mind-Body Medicine from Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences where she currently serves as a post-doctoral fellow.



Bower, J. E., & Irwin, M. R. (2016). Mind–body therapies and control of inflammatory biology: A descriptive review. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 51, 1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.06.012

Chen, C., Zhang, X. R., Ju, Z. Y., & He, W. F. (2020). Advances in the research of cytokine storm mechanism induced by Corona Virus Disease 2019 and the corresponding immunotherapies. Zhonghua shao shang za zhi= Zhonghua shaoshang zazhi= Chinese journal of burns, 36, E005-E005.

Creswell, J. D., Taren, A. A., Lindsay, E. K., Greco, C. M., Gianaros, P. J., Fairgrieve, A., … &Ferris, J. L. (2016). Alterations in resting-state functional connectivity link mindfulness meditation with reduced interleukin-6: A randomized controlled trial. Biological Psychiatry, 80(1), 53-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.01.008

Dhabhar, F. S. (2014). Effects of stress on immune function: The good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunologic Research, 58(2-3), 193-210.

Ercolano, J. (2020, April 16).  A coronavirus vaccine is in the works – but it will not emerge overnight.  Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.  Retrieved from

Fitzpatrick, S., Przybyla, H., De Luce, D., Strickler, L., & Kaplan, A, . (2020, April 17). Coronavirus testing must double or triple before U.S. can safely reopen, experts say. NBC News. Retrieved from

Fortune, L. (2019, September 13).  Self-care: Pursuing the ultimate path to optimal wellbeing.  UnBound. Retrieved from

Johns Hopkins University. (2020).COVID19 dashboard. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from

Littrell, J. (2008). The mind-body connection: not just a theory anymore. Social Work in Health Care, 46(4), 17-37.

Liu, K., Chen, Y., Wu, D., Lin, R., Wang, Z., & Pan, L. (2020). Effects of progressive muscle relaxation on anxiety and sleep quality in patients with COVID-19. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 39, 101132.

Mau, F. (2020). No need for a hammer A guided imagery process for patients suffering from COVID-19. Retrieved from

McLain, S. (2019). The impact of mind-body skills training on medical students: A mixed-methods research study (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global database. (Accession Order No. 27738770).

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). (2018, July).  Complementary, alternative, or integrative health: What’s in a name? Retrieved from

Prompetchara, E., Ketloy, C., & Palaga, T. (2020). Immune responses in COVID-19 and potential vaccines: Lessons learned from SARS and MERS epidemic. Asian Pacific Journal Allergy Immunology, 38(1), 1-9.

Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Why zebras don’t get ulcers: The acclaimed guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping-now revised and updated. Holt paperbacks.

Straub, R. H., & Cutolo, M. (2018). Psychoneuroimmunology—developments in stress research. Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift, 168(3-4), 76-84.

Yan, Q. (2016). The translation of psychoneuroimmunology into mind–body medicine. In Psychoneuroimmunology: Systems biology approaches to mind-body medicine (pp. 121-129). Cham, SZ: Springer.

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COVID-19 Self Care Coping Strategies

By Luann Fortune, PhD & Shannon McLain Sims, PhD

Self-care is vital for wellness and quality of life in normal times and has special meaning in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. While science races to find a cure, a vaccine, and better testing, self-care has never been so important.  First and foremost, we all need to take care and precautions to minimize infection.  The Center for Disease Control provides regularly updated guidelines on reducing risk.  In addition, self-care routines can help manage the increased burden of emotional trauma and avoid burnout, especially for front line workers.  In addition to adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and various supplements and vitamins, mind-body practices to mitigate stress can be beneficial (Alschuler et al., 2020).

COVID19 self care figure

What about the role of the mind in protecting the body? Healthcare workers and the many who provide us essential services in these challenging times suffer the added burden of perpetual fight-or-flight response.  Those on the front lines need to adopt vigilance, but also stay calm. The ever-present threat of infection results in increased anxiety.  Stress and anxiety not only affect the quality of daily life, but can impact immune response and result in weariness, and eventually, burnout.  Burnout, emotional exhaustion, and empathy depletion are all related.

Previous research indicates that integrative practices can support prevention and healing.  Early research specific to COVID-19 found that mind-body practices that promote stronger immunity can reduce infection risk and promote recovery in those who become infected (Liu et al., 2020). Many mind-body practices that have already been demonstrated to support wellness can be used to manage stress and calm body-mind-spirit.

With many being forced to self-isolate, either away from family or within their own homes, options are appearing to help support a calm and relaxed state through online offerings.  Mind-body techniques and practices offer a rich tool box of in-the-moment remedies for emergency relief.  Many online resources are available to help mitigate the strain of isolation.  Even a few minutes a day spent to reverse hyper-stress can have long term effects.  Some of these are also offered live, providing the added benefit of connection and community to help deal with the disruption in social support.

One such example is a daily program provided by Saybrook University as a free public service.  The faculty of the Department of Mind-Body Medicine offer live mindfulness meditation sessions each weekday at 12:15pm ET/9:15am PT. The audio podcasts are also available at  The 15 minute guided interludes are open to anyone globally and can be joined live at

Hopefully, the COVID-19 pandemic crisis will soon be a chapter in our personal and collective histories. Refining our self-care practices and strategies will remain important to our continued health and well-being.  Building a bigger ensemble of mind-body practices can become one reward we carry forward.



Alschuler, L., Weil, A., Horwitz, R., Stamets, P., Chiasson, A. M., Crocker, R., & Maizes, V. (2020). Integrative considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic. EXPLORE, 26.

Liu, K., Chen, Y., Wu, D., Lin, R., Wang, Z., & Pan, L. (2020). Effects of progressive muscle relaxation on anxiety and sleep quality in patients with COVID-19. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 39, 101132.


Luann Fortune, PhD, LMT is on faculty at Saybrook University in the Department of Mind-Body Medicine, where she also coordinates the specialization in Mindful Leadership in Healthcare. Her research focuses on integrative health and wellness.

Shannon McLain Sims, PhD holds degrees Mind-Body Medicine from Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences where she currently serves as a post-doctoral fellow.


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