By Miranda Massie on June 4, 2019
Baby schema is a scientific theory presented by ethologist Konrad Lorenz that describes the human instinct to perceive small or miniature things as cute. We are not only attracted to the playfulness and craftiness of other mammals (babies and animals), but also to that of inanimate objects (think toy cars, dollhouse furniture and ‘mini’ food). Could the same be true for meditation?
In addition to being small and bite-sized, mini meditations don’t require huge amounts of our time. They are approachable, easily digestible, and perhaps even more likely to make it into our daily routine than other practices.
There are a wealth of mini meditations available online for free, including:
- 30-Second Meditations (Psychology Today)
- 50 mini meditations (Wanderlust)
- STOP acronym meditation (mrsmindfulness.com)
Or, try this mini meditation now:
- Inhale deeply through your nose, as though you are smelling flowers.
- Exhale deeply out through your mouth, as though you are blowing bubbles.
Easy, right? If you’re looking for more mini meditation inspiration, select one of the Headspace options from the list below. They serve as a perfect, mindful snack that can be sampled on a coffee break, after lunch or before bed.
- Let go of stress (1:07)
- Unwind (1:11)
- Finding balance in the mind (1:06)
- Find your focus (1:11)
- Understanding dark thoughts (1:33)
Photo Credit: Melissa Lafrance
By Miranda Massie on May 2, 2019
The spring edition of Healthy UBC is always my favourite because I get to talk about a subject I’m passionate about: sex. As a community sexual health educator and health promoter, I see the critical importance of unbiased education, inclusive health care, and safe spaces for discussing a topic that’s often kept behind closed doors.
This month, I’m sharing some helpful hints, tips and information to support your sexual and reproductive health journeys.
Check under the hood regularly
Whether you’re sexually active or planning to conceive, regular checkups are important. Annual physicals or sexual health screenings help ensure that you’re free from health risks associated with your reproductive system, like infections or cancer.
To find a comfortable, supportive environment for all your needs, check out this list of sex-positive sexual health service providers across the province1. Click here to explore transgender and gender-affirming health care services in BC. (learn more about sex positivity and how to tell if your health care provider is sex-positive here).
Know your rights
Historically, many aspects of sexuality have been controlled, limited or prescribed by law. Supporting sexual health can sometimes involve knowing your rights and understanding how to advocate for them. Check out the following resources:
- Rights critical to the realization of sexual health (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights)
- Understanding abortion law in Canada (Options for Sexual Health)
- Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment (Human Rights in BC)
Avoid Dr. Google
The internet can be a scary place, especially when you type “sex” into the search bar. For accurate and unbiased information, try going directly to one of the following sources:
- Sex&U (The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada)
- Options for Sexual Health (BC member of International Planned Parenthood)
- Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
- Sexual and Reproductive Health Week
- Sexual Violence Prevention and Response (UBC resource)
The body-brain connection
Mental health can impact our ability to lead the sexual lives we want (both positively and negatively). Conversely, difficulties like illness, injury and challenges with conception or sexual function can take an emotional toll on our wellbeing. The following resources explore the connection between the brain and sexual health:
- UBC researcher Dr. Lori Brotto’s work on mindfulness and sexual pleasure
- Sexual Health and Disability (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights)
- Pregnancy Loss Resources (BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre)
Learning is a lifelong process
It’s never too early or too late to learn more about sexual health. Body science is a great way to teach young children about consent and prevent abuse. Older adults might try dating again, or learn about the physical changes that come with age. Regardless of age, there is always more to learn!
- Sex-Ed: What is it and why does it matter? (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights)
- Understanding your child’s sexual development and information and resources for children with differing abilities (Alberta Health Services’ teachingsexualhealth.ca)
- Sexuality and Aging (Centre for Sexuality)
- Sex and Seniors (Canadian Public Health Association)
- Why we need to talk about menopause — candidly (Globe and Mail)
I encourage you to consider one thing you might do to support your sexual or reproductive health. Have fun exploring what sexuality means to you and how it connects to your overall sense of wellbeing.
Don’t forget to “heart your parts”!
All my best,
Posted in Editorial, Mental Health, Miranda Massie, Physical Health | Tagged age, ageing, brain, care, editorial, mental health, physical health, reproductive health, rights, Safety, sex, sex positivity, sexual health, sexuality, Support, transgender | Leave a response
By Melissa Lafrance on March 4, 2019
Guest contribution by Dr. Thara Vayali
Did you know that humans have three brains? There is the central nervous system (CNS) that originates in your cranial cavity (the “brain”) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) that is based out of your brain, spine and pelvis. The PNS has multiple functions, two of which are the “fight and flight” response and the “rest and digest” response. The third, less-commonly-discussed one is the enteric nervous system (ENS) that originates in your intestinal tract — also referred to as the “gut brain”.
As far as we know, these brains are linked by only one vital nerve, the vagus nerve, by which they send their messages of joy and warning, back and forth. What’s astounding is that even if that vagus nerve is severed, the ENS keeps functioning without direction from the CNS brain headquarters. It is a “brain” on its own.
Mindfulness impacts the vagus nerve and thus the ENS directly. The ENS is a major factor in digestion and mental state. A mindfulness practice crosses both mental and physical aspects of health.
Let’s first learn about where the nerve hubs are:
- Origin of thoughts and reactions
- Over 85 billion neurons and 100 neurotransmitters
- 5% of serotonin, 50% of dopamine
- Origin of fight, flight, freeze and fall – the responses to situations of danger, fear and pain
- Slows digestive processes to direct attention toward managing threats
Brain, Pelvis and Vagus Nerve (PNS)
- Origin of rest, repair and digestion
- Directs digestion and bowels
Gut Tissue (ENS)
- Origin of “gut feelings”
- 100 million neurons and 40 neurotransmitters
- 95% of serotonin, 50% of dopamine
While the CNS certainly has the most influence on daily life, the vagus nerve is a two-way information highway connecting the gut to the brain. It delivers messages about the state of affairs between the brain and the gut. When the mind is at ease, the body can follow suit. Likewise, when the gut is at ease, the mind receives messages of calm. The gut brain is the group huddle for the body’s health and wellbeing.
Knowing this, let’s not only consider what we are eating, but also how we feel while we eat. A mindfulness practice is a tool that allows messages of restoration and digestion to flood the gut. An enhanced capacity for digestion can send messages of calm back to the mind
Take 10 to tame your breath and tame your gut
Before each meal, take 10 deep inhales and long exhales. This process changes your chemistry enough to signal to your vagus nerve that you are willing to go into a digestion phase of the day. Ten deep breaths is a short amount of time in relation to a day’s work – about one minute – but it can certainly feel long or inappropriate in your current rhythm.
Until it feels natural, perhaps do this by yourself, looking out a window or on a slow walk down the hall. Oftentimes, once we sit down to eat, our minds have already moved on to either hunger, conversations or time pressures.
Allow yourself the space and preparation to welcome your meals and let the nourishment begin.
Dr. Thara Vayali is a Vancouver-based naturopathic doctor and yoga teacher, UBC alum and popular guest contributor to our Healthy UBC newsletter who specializes in intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. For more information about Thara, visit www.tharavayali.ca
By Guest Contributor on January 7, 2015
Guest contribution from Dr. Geoffrey Soloway
Last year, UBC HR launched an exciting six-week Mindfulness@Work program for UBC faculty and staff. The response was overwhelmingly positive as four programs ran from March through June. After going through the program, one participant said “I am happier and empowered to deal with difficult situations. I am now better able to let things go.” Mindfulness@Work is back, with MindWell Canada offering another round of programs beginning April 2015.
What is Mindfullness?
From the Globe and Mail to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal; and even the February, 2014, cover of TIME magazine, mindfulness is everywhere. But it is not new – mindfulness, a systematic training of the attention, is rooted in wisdom traditions more than 2,500 years old. Today mindfulness is being taught in modern settings with an evidence base rooted in neuroscience. Rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen, we learn to respond skillfully to whatever is happening right now, be that good or bad.
This evidenced-based training of the attention has become a crucial skill for those hoping to succeed in an increasingly frenetic, multitasking and connected environment because it allows them to slow down and focus on the task at hand. As Bill George from Harvard Business School says, “leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals. It also enables them to be less reactive to stress, more compassionate, and better equipped to approach challenging issues.”
Mindfulness@Work consists of a six-week program with a two-hour session once a week, as well as a four-hour silent mini-retreat between weeks four and five. Modeled off the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1990), the program consists of mindfulness practices including mindful breathing, movement, eating, and loving kindness, as well as applications in the workplace such as communication and conflict.
As part of the Mindfulness@Work offering in 2014, Dr. Daniel Skarlicki, UBC professor in the Sauder School of Business, and his team conducted a research study with UBC participants. Results from the study showed:
- Mindfulness@Work training program significantly increased participants’ overall levels of mindfulness and creativity.
- The training had a significant impact on interpersonal conflict style. Specifically, as compared to those in the control group, trained participants were less likely to report feeling powerless and withdraw from conflict situations.
- Participants in the training showed significant improvements in emotion regulation as a result of the training, which was found to mediate the effect of the training on interpersonal conflict style change.
UBC staff and faculty who went through the 2014 Mindfulness@Work program reported:
- “I have been able to stay relatively calm in a crisis situation.”
- “I am no longer being too quick in responding to emails; instead I am really thinking things through.”
- “I had a terrible relationship with a co-worker who was under my supervision. By not reacting, my role became clearer to me, and I was able to invite her to cultivate joy at work. I am happy to see that there is no more tension between us, even though there are problems to solve in the project.”
- “Mindful listening and speaking helps to sort out conflict, not just between two people but in also in relation to the work. Seeing a larger picture and not letting emotions take over the task, makes the task easier, and leads to better outcomes.”
Registration for the six-week program will take place at the Orientation on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 12:00-1:00pm. (Sign up here).
The Orientation is free and will provide a comprehensive overview of the program. There will be two programs running in April/May 2015.
Mindfulness@Work Program 1 will run from 9:00-11:00am on:
- April 1, 8, 15
- April 20, 27
- April 25 (10am-2pm)
- May 4
Mindfulness@Work Program 2 will run from 2:00-4:00 pm on:
- Wed April 1, 8, 15
- Mon April 20, 27
- Saturday April 25 (10am-2pm)
- Mon May 4
MindWell Canada is a leader in helping people integrate mindfulness into their personal and professional lives, by working with executives, athletes, health care professionals and teachers helping them create a more joyful, less stressful and more connected career and life. MWC has a network of partners around the world and has worked with companies and organizations throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
Geoffrey Soloway has been working in the area of health promotion, mindfulness and wellbeing for over 12 years. Geoff completed a PhD on Mindfulness at OISE of the University of Toronto, as well as a Master’s of Education on Holistic Education. Geoff has worked as an Instructor at the University of Toronto, teaching in the area of Stress Reduction, Health Promotion and Enabling Learning as well as offering Mindfulness-based workshops and programs with human service professionals in the workplace. Geoff has also worked as Health & Wellness Specialist within Human Resources at University of British Columbia focusing on faculty wellbeing and developing new mindfulness programming. Geoff is also an Organizational Coach, completing his certification through the University of British Columbia. Currently, Geoff is a Partner MindWell Canada, and Instructor for UBC Continuing Studies.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Random House.