Social activities and community. There are numerous studies that show how important it is for our health to be a part of a community. For one, it’s probably the strongest common factor among the Blue Zones. There are 7 Blue Zones on the planet where the residents live longer, healthier, happier lives. A community brings a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives and it could be through exercise classes, religion, spirituality or mindfulness. When we retire, we have become to a part of a group if we don’t yet are a part of one. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee two times a week with some friends. It is important for your overall well-being to have somewhere you feel that you belong.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sebastian Kverneland DC. Kverneland holds a Doctorate in Chiropractic from Southern California University of Health Sciences and is in the process of being certified by the Institute of Functional Medicine. He is the founder of the Scandinavian Health Institute and has worked as a chiropractor in the US, Germany, and Norway. Kverneland is originally from Stavanger, Norway, and currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife. For more information — visit
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Thank you for this opportunity to talk about this important topic!
I have been interested in fitness and wellness since my early childhood years in Norway. Being a very active athlete playing soccer, I learned that I have to take care of my body to continue the activities that I love. The older I get, the more appreciative of staying healthy I am. When it was time to choose a career, I decided on a profession in healthcare which led me to the US and the chiropractic profession. Later on, I expanded my practice to include functional medicine to better assess patients’ integrative health. I feel very grateful and fortunate to help people with their pain and improve their quality of life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
No day is the same in my profession and interesting moments happen all the time. Some stand out more than others. Early on in my career, one experience had a great impact on me and really solidified that I had found the right career.
A man who had been retired for a couple of years visited my office and he said that he was having pain in his neck and having issues with his vision. It affected his life but also his passion. He had been to several ophthalmologists and could not get any answers. He loved reading books in his free time and now he was unable to do so. I told him I didn’t know if I could help him with the vision but that I could help get movement back in his neck. So I started working on his neck to get mobility back. After two treatments, his eyes started to focus again. He could see things properly and read again. He cried as he told me the news. Experiences like these make the long days worthwhile and I feel very lucky to be able to help people.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I started my career in Germany, and I had only basic German and had to have a medical interpreter. Sometimes, my interpreter wasn’t available to assist me, which created some humorous moments where patient history and instructions were lost in translation. Luckily no harm was done. We had some good laughs and if anything it brought me closer to my patients. And it proved to be a valuable lesson in communication and how I need to make sure that instructions are given more than once.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Countless people have impacted and keep impacting my career.
Both professionally and personally, the person who has impacted me the most is my father. Who fittingly to this interview recently retired and has taught me a lot about that stage of one’s life. From an early age, he instilled in me how important hard work and good work ethic is. And how the work you do will have your name on it and it reflects your integrity. Even now after he retired, he continues to find ways to contribute and find new ways to challenge himself. He has definitely motivated me to always stay focused on quality and always expanding on my knowledge to best serve my patients.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
This is a great question and something that definitely needs more focus in our industry. I would suggest to always remember your own health comes first because if you are not healthy you can’t help patients in the long-run. Also, remember to not bite off more than you can chew. In healthcare, quality is always better than quantity. Taking your time with the patients will be better for both you and your patients. And always remember to have fun. Be grateful for what you do and that you are able to help people live better lives.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Work culture is important. I always try to keep in mind that what I do as a leader sets an example for my team. My advice is to focus on doing a good quality job, it’s more fulfilling and will cause you less pain, this way you will avoid the stress that can affect those around you. Have considerations for others and make it your policy to treat people the way you yourself wish to be treated.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In some cases, retirement can reduce health, and in others it can improve health. From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?
It can be a dramatic change for many people. All of a sudden you have all this time on your hands and nothing to do. It can take away a sense of purpose. Our minds need to constantly be occupied with learning and growing and needs visual stimuli. This stimulation often disappears when we retire. We will all be victims of aging and when we hit the age of retirement, it becomes even more critical to take care of our health so that we can have a good quality of life.
Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Sleep. My first advice is maybe the easiest one to implement, but it can also be the hardest. We all need sufficient sleep for a healthy body and mind. It plays a much bigger part of our overall wellness than what most people think. Like Matthew Paul Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley says, we don’t make memories with lack of sleep, it’s like the memory inbox of your email is shut down and incoming emails will bounce off. Studies also show that 6 hours sleep or less gives a 200% increased risk of having a fatal heart attack or stroke in your lifetime. In the spring when we lose one hour of sleep to the daylight saving, there is a subsequent 24% increase in heart attack the following day. At any age sleep is crucial, but especially in the age of retirement as there is less time for stimuli of the brain in the first place.
- Move and keep active. Exercise is beneficial for so many things. It’s not just for muscle building, but it also plays a big part in your mental wellbeing. It’s often prescribed as the first line of treatment for depression, and for good reasons. When we retire, it’s important we find new things to keep us busy and have a change of scenery. Exercise is also preventative medicine. By doing that, we can avoid, delay or even treat numerous biomechanical related pain syndromes that can take away so much of the quality of life and the happiness of being functional.
- Social activities and community. There are numerous studies that show how important it is for our health to be a part of a community. For one, it’s probably the strongest common factor among the Blue Zones. There are 7 Blue Zones on the planet where the residents live longer, healthier, happier lives. A community brings a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives and it could be through exercise classes, religion, spirituality or mindfulness. When we retire, we have become to a part of a group if we don’t yet are a part of one. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee two times a week with some friends. It is important for your overall well-being to have somewhere you feel that you belong.
- Diet. This is often hard to implement, because we are such habitual animals and we tend to instinctively resist any change. The foods we eat become increasingly meaningful as we age. Our body needs nutrients for the systems to work and building blocks made from nutrients we absorb into the blood plays a vital role. As we age the gut becomes less efficient in absorbing what it needs so we need to make sure we give the body sufficient nutrients so that we can meet the demands. Proteins become more important to maintain muscle mass and strength, good fats for nerves and brain health, etc. Having a healthy diet is important for brain function. For example, plant-based diets are associated with healthier mood. The more fruits and vegetables people eat, the happier, less depressed, and more satisfied they are with their lives. A good diet also means putting fewer calories and a less burden on our systems.
- Laugh. Find time to laugh and have fun. There is something to the expression — laughter is the best medicine. You have had a full life and deserve to enjoy and celebrate your retirement!
In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?
It is different for everyone. But there are some common themes that I have heard from my patients. One is that they wish someone had told them to have a more overarching plan for how to spend their time. Second that they had incorporated better diet and exercise routines to carry into the years of retirement. And lastly, that someone told them to set greater goals to create a sense of purpose. As I stress to my patients, all these three things are achievable at any time of one’s life, so it is never too late to incorporate.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
There are many books that have had a significant impact on me, but there is one book that especially stands out. It is the Stress of Life by Hans Selye and it changed the way I look at stress and how it impacts the human body.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am very passionate about getting people to put their phones away more often. It is something I emphasize to all my patients. It is something I truly believe our society would greatly benefit from. Less phone time is healthy for your mind, your posture, your sleep, and your social relationships. I also believe you can only truly appreciate the world and its beauty if you look up more!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My all-time favorite quote is “The dancing people were considered insane by those who could not hear the music.’’ Just because something is considered normal does not make it right. It is often hard to realize this, which is something that I have to remind myself of when new findings and studies come out and challenge common thinking. It has also helped me continue to do the things that may not be industry norms and push my own practice in the right direction for my patients. I think we have a lot to learn from history and how being the first to state something might not always be the most popular.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
There are so many people I would like to meet that are doing amazing work. One is Dr. Dale Bredesen. He is a pioneer in research on Alzheimer’s disease and has dedicated his career to finding ways to reverse the disease. To me, that is both impressive and inspiring. Having worked with many patients who have been affected by the disease, I know how it affects not only the patient but also the surrounding family.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@drkverneland on Instagram and blog posts on drkverneland.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!