Q&A

Q&A with Elizabeth Markle, Founder of Open Source Wellness

According to Elizabeth Markle, Psychologist, the experiences of isolation and disconnection are some of the top drivers of mental illness. Below is a Q&A where we discuss the values and resources of connection, abundance, and purpose, and how they apply to health and wellbeing.

The current health care delivery system is fundamentally lacking in its ability to deliver on the personal and collective behaviors that underlie health and well-being. Doctors and mental health professionals make “behavioral prescriptions” on a daily basis: Get more exercise! Eat healthier food! Reduce your stress! But there’s no pharmacy where patients can ‘fill’ these prescriptions.

Imagine if your doctor could prescribe you a membership to a community that facilitated health and wellness behaviors (healthy food, physical exercise, stress reduction, and social support) while also cultivating the enduring foundations of human flourishing like belongingness and opportunity to contribute to others? What if there was that behavioral pharmacy where we could actually get the lifestyle medicine that we need?

There is! It’s called Open Source Wellness, the future of healthcare and it is Powered by Connection.


August 25, 2016 @ Berkeley, SF

T: What is the mission of OSW?

L: Our mission is to facilitate the practices of wellness (exercise, nutrition, stress reduction, social connection) and to make healthy behaviors accessible, enjoyable, and sustainable.

T: What are the 5 Core Values behind OSW? How do these align with your mission?

L: Open Source Wellness aspires to be these five things:

  • Accessible- Willpower only gets us so far. People at the end of the day will do what’s easy. We need to remove the barriers of them doing things that are healthy.
  • Experiential- Instead of endless classes or lectures, we need to DO the behaviors that lead to health.  We aren’t lacking knowledge, we are lacking the social structures to make the actual enactment of healthy habits possible.
  • Sustainable- Changes to health and well-being take place over time, and fad diets or one-day workouts won’t do it. Healthy behaviors need to be built in to our social structures and culture so that they easy, rewarding, pleasurable, and efficient
  • Collective- In our society, there are tons of trapped and untapped resources. Part of what we do as an intentional community is liberate those resources. At Open Source Wellness, we give people an experience of generosity – we put high-quality attention on our guests and members, while offering them the opportunity to participate in movement, family-style meals, and stress reduction. This creates a collective experience of abundance. When people experience that type of genuine abundance, the natural response is to want to be a contribution – to give back, to pay it forward, to offer up whatever they can to others. We find people are actually happiest when they have the opportunity to be not only receiving, but contributing as well.
  • Powered by Connection – Connection is the fundamental driver and reward in life. No web app, book, video, program has the power to transform behavioral patterns, health, or humanity than human connection does. The quality of attention we have and offer people in generosity is the most important technology we have.

T: How did you get the idea for OSW?

L: I was inspired by my early days living in cooperative houses, which are basically communities that are very values-driven.  Basically, I cooked dinner once every 2 weeks, and the rest of the time I came home to a home-made, healthy, cooked-from scratch dinner – and I was free to unwind, play, and connect. There were massive efficiencies because we bought food in bulk. By sharing, everybody works less and we all get to live in more abundance. That was 10 years ago that I had this experience of abundance living in an intentional community.

When I started working as a therapist, I saw how much isolation and disconnection drive people’s distress, and how fundamentally unsustainable it is to meet that need with psychotherapy/counseling. It’s expensive. We can’t pay for therapy for every member of the population. We need structures placed in society to meet people’s needs for connection and support.

Finally, I have worked in integrated primary care mental health in low-income public hospitals, where I see how much disease is related to behavior. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression – the list goes on. A lot of these things are related to people’s behaviors but we don’t have good structures to support people in unhealthy behaviors. I wanted to create that structure.

T: When was OSW created and how has it evolved?

L: We formed one year ago and starting in October 2016 we will be operating at one night per week. People show up and we have movement, dinner, stress reduction, and connection for one night a week.

There’s a space we are trying to move into in Oakland and our aspiration is to have centers nationwide. We want Open Source Wellness to be a branded, known entity (just like Wallgreens), that any physician can prescribe to: “Hey, you’re having a hard time with your diabetes -  I’m going to prescribe you membership to Open Source Wellness so you can get some support with your health and wellness behaviors.”

T: What is an evening at OSW like?

L:  The doors open at 5. Exercise starts at 5:45 and lasts for 30-45 minutes. It’s fun, playful – there’s music, and lots of laughter, and there’s a brief welcome-intro-orientation, where everyone gets to speak and be welcomed to the community. Then we do a 10-minute mindfulness meditation, followed by dinner. At dinner, we have people sit in groups of 6-7 per table and we eat family style with shared food. The only rule about dinner is that there’s only one conversation per table at a time. Everyone at the table is paying attention to the same conversation. There are no side conversations.

And then there’s cleanup. Everyone cleans up together. There is also an evening activity that is optional and varies at night. We can play communication games. Have a dance party. Watch a movie. The idea is that its social and generative at some way.

Imagine that after work, instead of trying to shop cook eat clean do the dishes take care of the kids meditate and see friends - you can just come to this and have the majority of your family’s basic wellness needs met in a fun, connected, and sustainable way!

T: Very awesome! I can see how OSW is clearly accessible and experiential in practice and that the culture of community drives the sustainability. Can you speak to how being part of a collective can promote growth?

L: The core element to this collective is that everybody is invited to contribution in some way. people find themselves open to being leaders in ways that they didn’t expect to.

I led an Open Source Wellness pilot event last Tuesday in Boston and invited someone to lead a fitness class. She’s a lovely young woman who loves to dance yet was scared initially because she’s never had the experience of leading a fitness class. It’s cultivating her leadership in a way that’s so important.

We also invite people to help with food preparation, lead the meditation - “Come help lead this workshop, or chop vegetables!” We are drawing people into their own leadership in a way they feel good. Basically, we are leveraging the resources we have that are creating the experience of abundance and physical wellness.


Thank you Liz for sharing how your inspiring life lessons turned into your purpose! It’s amazing to see Open Source Wellness providing a sustainable structure for lifelong wellness - healthcare powered by connection!

We, the sole proprietors of our own body, are the only ones responsible for keeping our wellness in check. Sometimes this process can be hard and not so easy to do alone. Behavioral health that can be managed by leveraging the power of community can be transformative to change. What are other ways we can take care of ourselves in a sustainable and socially enjoyable way?

We are all human and regardless of whether we share the exact same values or not, connection and love is still at the core of our very existence. If we can find a way to access that abundance and rejoice in our intentions, what difference can that bring to YOUR life?

The values I'm being nourished and guided by right now are DREAM and INTENTION. In founding Open Source Wellness, I'm pursuing a massive dream. A vision. A sense of what's possible in terms of health and community that doesn't yet exist. And it's by nurturing andstaying connected to that dream that I have the power to live with intention. Intention is commitment, declaration, and action. It's the day-to-day choices that move dream or vision from the realm of the possible to the manifest.  A dream is a compass and a power source; an intention is the backpack, the boots, the map, and the willingness to walk as long as it takes to get there.

The values I'm being nourished and guided by right now are DREAM and INTENTION. In founding Open Source Wellness, I'm pursuing a massive dream. A vision. A sense of what's possible in terms of health and community that doesn't yet exist. And it's by nurturing andstaying connected to that dream that I have the power to live with intention. Intention is commitment, declaration, and action. It's the day-to-day choices that move dream or vision from the realm of the possible to the manifest.  A dream is a compass and a power source; an intention is the backpack, the boots, the map, and the willingness to walk as long as it takes to get there.


Show Off Your Organization's Values

I regularly do Q&A sessions with organizations that are committed to mindful values. You can be a brand, a company, a non profit, or even a passionate individual doing cool things. The most important thing is that you're committed to your values. Sharing how your values align with your mission and expressing your intention in such an open and raw way has the ability to inspire others to do the same. 

“If a value-driven organization or person can successfully drive impact and influence hundreds of people within their community, what is preventing you from coming up with your own 5 and being the change you want to see in the world?” — Tiff Lin, Founder

If you'd like to be featured on the blog, please get in touch and email contact@remindmevalues.com with the subject line Q&A