The pandemic, health concerns and negative thinking combined led Navy Veteran Rick Smith to the conclusion that he needed some help to get back to living his best life.

Retired in Venice, Florida, he is surrounded by nature and wildlife, and of course beautiful beaches where he and his husband of 37 years enjoy life. Yet, there was some room for improvement, which is what prompted Smith to explore the Living Your Best Life class at the Sarasota VA Clinic.

He hadn’t realized how much the pandemic and some personal challenges had been affecting him until he was able to talk with the group virtually every week.

“We met weekly and talked about all areas of health ranging from healthy eating to spirituality,” Smith said. “I was getting depressed on lock down and opening up in the group made life easier.”

Smith discovered some new health tools and traded ideas with other members of the 15-person group. He has increased his water intake to ¾ of a gallon a day. He also has shared some of his healthy cooking suggestions with others.

Happy to share knowledge with the group

Food and drink are an important component of the Circle of Health, and Smith was happy to share his knowledge with the group.

One element of health he most enjoyed was the power of the mind sessions where he learned to manage negative thoughts. “The sessions taught us to live our best life with the conditions that we have,” he said. “I didn’t even realize how automatic the negative thinking had become. Now when negative thoughts come, I ‘catch them, check them and change them.’”

One of the best

Working with Wellness Coach Lindsey Higdon has made this process easy for Smith. “VA here is outstanding and Lindsey is one of the best,” he said. “I appreciate how well she does her job.”

Through the program he lost 12 pounds and says he used to think he was in good shape but now he knows he is. For those who are interested in Whole Health options but are skeptical, Smith encourages them to check out what is available, take what works, and leave what doesn’t.

He will soon be starting a Mind-Body skills course that focuses on helping with exercise and managing his diabetes. And he is looking forward to getting into in-person whole health activities.

The Living Your Best Life offering is a 10-session group. Each session is devoted to one area of the Whole Health Circle. The group is led by a psychologist, social worker, whole health coach, and other experts based on the topic, such as dietician, chaplain, recreation therapy.

Each group consists of education, a hands on/skill-based activity, and goal setting/motivational enhancement strategies to help make meaningful and lasting behavior changes to support your Whole Health.

A Women’s Live Your Best Life group is also offered.

For more information on Whole Health and how you can get started on your journey, visit

By Andrea Young is a field implementation team consultant with the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation

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Published on Sep. 29, 2021

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