Lynda Solien-Wolfe, LMT, has been a cheerleader for the massage industry since earning her license in 1993.
Known for her dedication to massage, ability to create relationships and trilling laugh, Solien-Wolfe has been a contributor to massage conferences around the world, where she has presented on the benefits of massage therapy.
“Her vivacious laugh, her giving spirit, and her unparalleled passion for massage therapy and massage therapists make Lynda a standout leader in the massage and spa industries,” said CG Funk, senior vice president of Culture and Industry Relations for Massage Heights. “For 30 years, her work and contributions have had a tremendous impact on elevating the work of massage therapists, supporting association growth and sustainability, and leading vendor product and service innovation. She is simply amazing.”
Among her many contributions to the massage industry, Solien-Wolfe volunteered with the Florida State Massage Therapy Association, the AMTA-FL Chapter, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and the Massage Therapy Foundation, and was appointed to the Florida Board of Massage Therapy for eight years. She promoted massage to the Florida Chiropractic Association and shepherded the group’s annual Massage Therapist of the Year award. She organized colleagues to provide massage to the Florida State Legislature to raise the profile of the profession.
“Lynda has been beyond instrumental in launching so many people’s success in the massage industry,” said orthopedic massage and integrated therapy educator James Waslaski. He told MASSAGE Magazine that Solien-Wolfe helped him launch his Seminar at Sea cruise-ship retreats, which ran for 18 years, and helped him move into international speaking. “She connects so many of us to other industry leaders to take the health care industry to a whole new level,” Waslaski added. “I am honored to call Lynda my close friend and an amazing mentor.”
Solien-Wolfe co-created the Successful Start program for new massage therapists, held at conferences nationwide. She launched, along with Cherie Sohnen-Moe, classes on selling retail in a massage practice.
“I have known Lynda for more than 20 years, first as a colleague and then a dear friend,” Sohnen-Moe told MASSAGE Magazine. “Of all the many things I admire about Lynda, the top is her tenacity. Regardless of the challenges she has faced professionally or health-wise, she approaches them with optimism and perseverance. Plus, her generosity of spirit and dedication to the massage field are inspiring. I am honored to be considered her friend.”
Solien-Wolfe held the position of vice president–massage and spa with Performance Health from 2009 to 2018. She created the Massage Makes Me Happy project 15 years ago, and in 2017 cofounded the Massage Makes Me Happy initiative with the Global Wellness Institute, and Massage Makes Me Happy Day, which is celebrated annually on March 20, the same day as the International Day of Happiness.
Tiffany Field, PhD, founder of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, has worked with Solien-Wolfe on Massage Makes Me Happy Day. “Lynda is not only a genius for novel ideas,” said Field, “she is a very loyal friend, lots of fun [when] collaborating, and has a very contagious, unforgettable laugh.”
Solien-Wolfe is also a Type-1 diabetic, and in 2017 she experienced kidney failure and began dialysis treatments three times a week, five hours at a time. Even then, her optimism won out.
“I would always thank God for allowing me to get dialysis, instead of dwelling on not wanting to be in the chair, or not being happy over the situation—and was grateful and blessed that I had a treatment that keeps me alive,” Solien-Wolfe said.
She received a kidney transplant in December 2020. Through her challenging health care journey, many massage industry colleagues stood by her. They traveled to be by her side, started a GoFundMe page, provided massage therapy—and two people in this field even offered to donate a kidney.
Solien-Wolfe has written an inspiring essay about her journey and the massage and bodywork that have helped her stay on the path to health, “Difficult Roads Often Lead to Beautiful Destinations.”
Difficult Roads Often Lead to Beautiful Destinations
By Lynda Solien-Wolfe
I graduated from massage school in 1993. This accomplishment brought great joy and happiness into my life. I knew the massage and spa industry was where I wanted to be. Being able to help people and playing a role in getting people out of pain, bringing relaxation and stress reduction to my clients, would truly make me happy.
I jumped right into the industry. I opened a massage therapy practice, started volunteering for the massage industry in many organizations, became the chairman of the Florida Board of Massage Therapy, and started a business development consultancy—all within the first few years after becoming a licensed massage therapist.
I was truly enjoying my new career and making wonderful relationships and friendships along the way. I traveled the world to promote the massage therapy profession and took my famous Lynda giggle everywhere I went.
I started the Massage Makes Me Happy Project over 15 years ago and in 2017 cofounded the Massage Makes Me Happy initiative with the Global Wellness Institute and Massage Makes Me Happy Day, which is celebrated annually on March 20, the same day as the International Day of Happiness.
My philosophy has been to be happy no matter what is happening in my life.
I decided to bring a positive attitude to the massage table, to the dinner table, and to the conference table.
I once read a passage by happiness researcher and New York Times best-selling author Shawn Achor, that became a part of my philosophy and gratitude beliefs: “Once you embrace the idea of optimism there’s much you can do to cultivate it. You can choose happiness and pave the way to success each and every day if you begin by working within the circle of happiness you have and eventually it will grow larger.”
The things that have been happening in my life since the beginning of my massage career include being a Type-one diabetic. I’ve had many challenges from this chronic disease. I did my best to never let it slow me down, and massage therapy played a huge role in me staying healthy and active. As my career took off, so did I. Twenty-five years of being on the road, on an airplane just about every week, eventually started taking a toll on my body. I often came down with pneumonia after returning home. My kidneys started to fail, but I stayed positive and kept working and continue to get bodywork at least two times a week.
In 2017 I went into kidney failure and had to start dialysis treatments three times a week, five hours at a time, I would sit in the dialysis chair. As much as I didn’t like it, I would always thank God for allowing me to get dialysis. Instead of dwelling on not wanting to be in the chair, or not being happy over the situation, I was grateful and felt blessed that I had a treatment that keeps me alive.
It took me three years to get on the transplant list. I had many obstacles keeping me off the list, but I was determined nothing was going to stop me. I continued to be positive, to journal every night, and most of all, I never gave up hope and never stopped believing.
My diabetes continued to get worse. Complications due to my disease included numerous hospitalizations and seeing specialists for vascular disease, cardiac issues, neuropathy and retinopathy.
I had near blindness in my eyes and some of the treatments included surgeries and needle Injections in my eyes that I still have to get to this day.
I had to have a partial amputation on one foot and then I lost a few toes on the other foot. I am now learning to walk again. I continue to be grateful and appreciate what I do have.
Through all my challenges I have learned to practice patience and gratitude no matter what comes my way. By practicing gratitude each day, you can take small yet concrete steps to reinforce your happiness choice. Journal, visualize positive scenarios, spend time with people who uplift you rather than those that drag you down, and end each day by making a gratitude list. Even on tough days, you have something to be thankful for. Remember, there is always a little happy while you are searching for the big happy!
My wellness and massage roots have helped me keep my eye on the prize. In my case it was a kidney transplant. I get massage treatments twice a week, I meditate and pray every day and do yoga, sound therapy, aromatherapy, chiropractic care and have a whole self-care regimen that includes massage that I do on a daily basis.
My network of family, friends, colleagues and clients really stepped up to the plate to be by my side and support me during my difficult times and challenges. I had friends and Industry colleagues fly in to support me, take me to dialysis treatments, hold my hand, make me laugh and help uplift me. I received phone calls every day, along with cards and letters, as well as love and support from the associations I belong to. One friend started a Go Fund Me page after I lost my job due to my illness. These funds supported my transplant expenses.
I was touched by the many people who donated. Some I had never met, as they shared they had just heard about everything I had done for the industry and they wanted to give back to me. Others wrote me notes and emails to tell me that my kindness over the years helped them, so they wanted to step up to help. You never know how much you touch others by just being kind. The love and support were overwhelming.
Two special Industry colleagues offered to donate their kidney to me. Their kindness made me cry. I was so touched by their unselfishness and generosity that I was being shown. I am so blessed to be in a caring industry where people really do care and step up to the plate for others.
After taking three years to get on the kidney transplant list, I finally got the call in December 2020 that I was approved to be on the list. I was working with the Mayo Clinic to get a donor for the transplant and was told it would take three to five years before I might get a kidney.
My son and others were getting tested to see if they were a match for a living kidney when just one week later, two days before Christmas, I got a call from the Mayo Clinic. They had a kidney for me! My son, Colton, and I unplugged the Christmas tree and loaded our English Bulldog, Toby Keith, into the car and headed to Jacksonville, Florida, for the next adventure of my life. My transplant was the next morning and all was a success! We lived at a hotel in Jacksonville for a month while I was monitored by the Clinic.
I was cleared 10 days after my transplant to start receiving massage therapy again—and of course, did self-massage every day starting the day after my transplant.
The support of the massage, spa and wellness community continues to overflow with their loving support for me post-transplant.
I left the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville on my birthday, Jan. 22, realizing I got the greatest Christmas and birthday gift anyone could ever ask for. I continue to heal with massage therapy, healthy eating, journaling and gratitude. Through this entire experience, I remember that difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations and life is too short to be anything but happy!
About the Author
Lynda Solien Wolfe, LMT, BCTMB, is board certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork, is a licensed massage therapist in the state of Florida, and is a Florida skincare specialist. She is the founder of the Solwolfe Resource Group, Inc., a business development consultancy specializing in the massage and wellness markets. She is the massage therapy liaison for the Florida Chiropractic Association. She founded the Massage Makes Me Happy Project, is the Chair of the Massage Makes Me Happy Initiative with the Global Wellness Institute and is the co-founder of the Global Massage Makes Me Happy Day, celebrated annually on March 20. Lynda calls the Space Coast of Florida home, along with her son, Colton, and their English Bulldog, Toby Keith.