By Miranda Massie on January 7, 2014
Fitting in Fitness
Like many others, January is the time when I reflect on the habits –good and bad– that I have adopted over the past year. January is also when I set new goals for the year to come, particularly around nutrition and physical fitness. We tend to get a bit overzealous with our New Year’s resolutions and this can often leave us feeling inadequate and disappointed with our progress, or lack thereof.
According to the Canadian Psychical Activity Guidelines, adults between 18 and 64 should get 150 minutes of moderate (biking, brisk walking) to vigorous (jogging, skiing) physical activity per week. This equates to only 2.5 hours out of a total of 168 hours in a week. I must admit, I was taken aback by this number — it actually appears manageable!
2.5 hours is less than the length of one hockey game, about the same amount of time as a movie, or slightly longer than two undergraduate lectures. The best part of it all is that it breaks down to 20 minutes per day; a timeframe that I feel is realistic and manageable.
To give us a boost of confidence going into the New Year, I have included a list of ways to fit fitness into your day, relieving the pressure of having to set aside dedicated time to exercise.
Take a brisk 15-minute walk after two meals each day. It could be breakfast and dinner, or lunch and dinner, but adding a walk to the end of a meal makes it easy to remember and can help to dispel any lingering post-food grogginess.
Walk the stairs on your break. Most buildings on campus have a set of stairs that are most likely infrequently used. Plug in some headphones and walk up and down to get your blood flowing. A great alternative if the weather is lousy!
Capitalize on chores and housework. Perform regular tasks like mopping, scrubbing, raking or mowing at a vigorous pace to get your heart pumping. Offer to help out a neighbor for more of a workout.
Exit the bus early. For those who use transit to commute, exit the bus or train a few stops early. You can reach your 20-minute quota before you even get home. Or, come prepared to walk to meetings on the other side of campus instead of driving.
Hydrate with a little help. There is a great free App called Waterlogged that helps you track your daily water intake and will even remind you to hydrate throughout the day with an alarm that sounds like running water.
Ultimately, we are working towards reducing our risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity. Physical activity is one of the largest preventive factors against chronic physical illness, and these chronic conditions are also risk factors for poor mental health. Improved physical health can promote social connectedness and self-efficacy, as well as support a sense of belonging and empowerment. As a result, we can experience elevated mood, clearer thinking capabilities and improved self-esteem, all of which are crucial to our overall positive mental health.
Here’s to a healthy New Year!
All my best,
Craft, L., Freund, K., Culpepper, L., Perna, F. (2007). Intervention study of exercise for depressive symptoms in women. Journal of Women’s Health, 16, 1499-1509.
De La Cerda, P., Cervello, E., Cocca, A., Viciana, J. (2011). Effect of an aerobic training program as complementary therapy in patients with moderate depression. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 112, 761-769.
Eriksson, S. & Gard, G. (2011). Physical activity and depression. Physical Therapy Reviews, 16, 261-268.
Yonca Bicer, S., Asghari, A., Kharazi, P., Shaygan Asl, N. (2012). The effect of exercise on depression and anxiety of students. Annals of Biological Research, 3, 270-274.
By Miranda Massie on December 3, 2013
I find that the stresses associated with the holiday season can often make it easy to focus on the things that drive me crazy about this time of year. The never-ending line ups, the throngs of cranky people, and an increased level of expectation placed on consumers that seems to run counter-intuitive to the ‘spirit’ of the season.
The real challenge at this time of year is not surviving the mall or a weekend with the in-laws, but instead, in reflecting on the true meaning of what that ‘holiday spirit’ signifies for each of us. For many, the holidays are a time closely associated with religious beliefs and traditions, and these often shape seasonal practices. For others, it may simply be a time to connect with family and friends or to get some much needed rest. Personally, though I am not particularly religious, I have always felt a very deep connection to something larger than myself, especially at this time of year.
It can be difficult to distinguish religion from spirituality, especially since these terms can mean something different to each individual. An article in the Journal of Advance Nursing provides the following definition:
“Spirituality is an inherent component of being human, and is subjective, intangible, and multidimensional. Spirituality and religion are often used interchangeably, but the two concepts are different. Spirituality involves humans’ search for meaning in life, while religion involves an organized entity with rituals and practices about a higher power or God. Spirituality may be related to religion for certain individuals, but for others, it may not be.”
Spiritual health is an integral component to our overall wellbeing; however, we often avoid talking about it because of how deeply individual and personal our spiritual beliefs can be. Spiritual factors can benefit our health through positive impacts on health behaviours, increased social support, and a sense of control and self-efficacy.
I like to think of spirituality as the ability to discover meaningfulness in our lives through happiness and self-awareness. Are we open to new experiences? Do we take time out to be grateful for what we have? Do we try our best to be non-judgmental? Do we reflect on how we treat others? Are we connected to our beautiful natural surroundings? The UBC Live well to learn well site provides a wonderfully open definition to spirituality: “take the time to discover more about yourself by writing in a journal, playing music, or painting as a way to let the creative juices flow and become more comfortable with yourself. Community involvement and volunteering are also great ways to foster spiritual growth.”
This December, I invite you to reflect on what the holidays mean to you personally. What is this time really about? Are you using it in the most productive way? For me, the holidays are a time to heal and to restore a part of myself that has perhaps been forgotten over the course of the year. I welcome the holidays, as I use this time as an opportunity to restore my faith in humanity, to allow me to slow down, and to remind me that there is hope and light and good in the world.
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.
All my best,
Tanyi, R. A. (2002), Towards clarification of the meaning of spirituality. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 39: 500–509.
Thorense, C.E. (1999) Spirituality and health: is there a relationship? Journal of Health Psychology, May; 4(3):291-300.
By Miranda Massie on October 30, 2013
This month, I would like to use this editorial space to talk about Thrive. UBC Thrive is both a mindset and a week-long series of events, focused on building positive mental health on campus. Our office has spent the last six months assisting with the preparations for this year’s event.
Each year, our organizing committee struggles to find ways to communicate our message about Thrive and to provide the campus community with tools for success. It is easy to talk about the initiative and the statistics that support the promotion of mental health, but it is far more challenging to create tangible connections for individuals in order to leave lasting impressions on behavior change and campus culture.
This is the fifth annual Thrive, and in reaching this milestone year, we have tried to provide UBC with a little inspiration, in the form of personal stories, key messages and our theme of “Try Something New”.
As staff and faculty, it can be difficult to get inspired and to conceptualize what thriving on campus might look like. It can also be a daunting concept that leaves us feeling inadequate as we strive to overhaul our entire lives in the hopes of emerging on the other side as healthier individuals.
In the spirit of trying something new, I have decided to catalogue some of the little things that I do to help me Thrive at work each day.
I book myself into my calendar: I book off space within my Outlook calendar when I have a long to-do list, so that no one can schedule meetings or appointments with me.
I listen to music when I need to focus: I find that a little additional noise at my desk drowns out the chaos that goes on around me. I love Songza and often rock the “For Shame: 80’s & 90’s Guilty Pleasures” playlist.
I eat lunch with colleagues: At least three times a week, I try and make this a priority. It breaks up the day and leaves me feeling more connected and supported. No need to go out; we all bring lunch from home.
I keep a plant alive (or at least I try!): I have a plant that sits at my desk. I named him Jeffrey, and caring for him gives me a sense of purpose that is not work related.
I read the paper: Sometimes my workload can be overwhelming. Opening up the Vancouver Sun or the Metro for as little as five minutes helps me refresh. It also keeps me up to date on current events!
I fill my cubicle with beautiful things: I am a very visual person and have put up posters, photos of loved ones, and colourful postcards. If I am unable to be engaged in my work 100% of the time, at least I can enjoy my surroundings.
The truth of the matter is that we can do small things every day to enhance our mental health. These small changes can add up to a lifetime of resiliency and positive mental health.
Interestingly, creating this list has helped boost my mental health already. I hope that I have inspired you, and I invite you to try and list the ways that you thrive.
I invite all UBC staff and faculty to participate in UBC’s 5th Annual Thrive, November 4-8, 2013.
The best that we can ask of ourselves is to try. Happy Thrive Week to all!
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on October 1, 2013
Whether at the UBC campus or across the Lower Mainland, being a member of any large community can be isolating. It can be difficult to establish connections with others while balancing our daily responsibilities; however, these connections are an integral component of our social health. Being socially healthy is just as important to our overall wellbeing as exercising or eating right. However, this idea of social health is definitely more abstract than knowing to eat 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
After doing some reading, I have narrowed the list down to one tangible thing that we can do to foster social connections, and in turn, bolster our wellbeing: give back through volunteering.
One way to combat feelings of isolation or loneliness is to get involved with an organization that gives back to others. Volunteering not only serves as a way to expand our social network, but it lets us to spend time with people who have similar interests.
The Health Benefits of Volunteerism
• Volunteering positively impacts our psychological wellbeing as it can help us feel better about ourselves.
• Volunteering provides opportunity for meeting new people in new settings, which results in positive mental health effects.
• Helping others is a self-validating experience: knowing we can make a difference in the world can serve as protection against depression.
• Community participation through volunteering has been shown to boost self confidence and self-esteem
• Giving back to the community through volunteering can reduce feelings of alienation and lead to greater feelings of social responsibility.
The benefits do not stop there, nor are they limited to individuals. According to the United Nations, “volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation”
As Canadians, we seem to be headed in the right direction when it comes to our social health. In 2010, 47% of Canadians 15 years and older were involved in volunteer work. Statistics also show that people who are involved in community activities as children are more likely to become involved in volunteering and service organizations as adults. This provides a great motivation for involving our children and family members in our volunteer activities.
Visit the Go Volunteer site to find listings of opportunities in your area, or start now by participating in the My Health My Community Survey project.
Jones, F. (2000). “Community involvement: the influence of early experience.” Canadian Social Trends. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-008. No. 57.
Miller, K. D., & Schleien, S. J., Rider, C., Hall, C. , Roche, M., and Worsley, J. (2002) Inclusive Volunteering: Benefits to Participants and Community. Therapeutic Recreation Journal. Vol. 36, No. 3, 247-259.
Piliavin, Jane Allyn, & Siegl, Erica. (Dec., 2007). Health Benefits of Volunteering in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 48, No. 4 pp. 450-464.
Wilson, John. (2000). Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 26, pp. 215-240.
By Miranda Massie on September 3, 2013
Our long time readers may notice that our newsletter looks a bit different this month. Our Health Promotions team has been hard at work this summer renewing and refreshing the content and design. We feel that it is important for this newsletter to grow and develop in order to continue to bring the most up-to-date, relevant and accurate health information to UBC staff and faculty.
Summer is typically a quieter time for those of us working on campus; however, this summer has gone by in a flash and I expect things to continue picking up as September begins.
In working to put together this newsletter, and in planning our staff and faculty programming for the year, we thought it was a good reminder to ourselves to prepare for what awaits as the new school year begins. As staff and faculty on campus, we work daily to support others and to facilitate learning, teaching, administration, maintenance and more. However, we can be of no help to others if we do not first look after ourselves.
For a lot of us whose workload will increase this week with the influx of energetic students on campus, it might be valuable to put some healthy habits into practice before our work gets too hectic. Building up our capacity for resiliency before we experience stress can enable us to manage our stressors in more productive and successful ways.
Factors involved in building resiliency and managing stress: *
Appraisal of the situation: How we perceive a stressful situation and how well prepared we are for the situation will affect how well we deal with stress. Managing our thoughts and preparing for potential stress leads to more successful coping.
Acting vs. Reacting: Being proactive in managing stress leads to more resiliency in difficult situations. Levels of stress can increase if we are consistently reacting instead of acting proactively.
Normalizing challenges: It is normal for everyone to experience challenges; working to overcome these challenges can build self-esteem and self-efficacy. This increase in self-confidence will serve as a protective factor when faced with future stressors.
Recently, the Canadian Mental Health Association released a free e-course aimed at helping people better recognize signs of stress in themselves and others, and to provide strategies to address and cope with stress in the workplace. This quick course is a great resource that can serve as a way of preparing for the school year ahead.
Seeking out support through relationships and resources is also another great option for managing stress. UBC has a wealth of support for staff and faculty on campus and in the community.
Wishing everyone a healthy and happy September!
*Rutter, Michael. (1985). Resilience in the face of adversity: Protective factors and resistance to psychiatric disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 147: 598-611.
Steinhardt, M., & Dolbier, C. (2010). Evaluation of a Resilience Intervention to Enhance Coping Strategies and Protective Factors and Decrease Symptomatology. Journal of American College Health, 56:4, 445-453.