By Miranda Massie on July 16, 2019
Over the past few weeks, a number of friends and colleagues have shared news articles, stories and recommendations with me, all related to time and technology. Perhaps there are new research results circulating, or maybe summer activities are inspiring folks to think more about how they spend their time. No matter the reason, these topics have been floating around in my head.
A fine line exists between supportive technology and digital overload. Programs and apps are constantly emerging, most designed to theoretically make our lives easier and enable us to do more with the time we have. And yet, we know our devices can leave us feeling lonely, overwhelmed and disconnected. So is technology making us more efficient or creating further distance between us and those around us — and potentially even distancing us from our true selves?
This month, I’m sharing suggestions — both digital and human-centred — for bringing more awareness to our use of technology.
The above actions will help you:
- Relax your eyes, neck and wrists
- Increase feelings of closeness and connection through social time with others
- Create space for increased mindfulness, less multi-tasking, and a greater attention span
This summer, I encourage you to try using “smart technology” more intelligently. Focus on connecting with yourself and your communities in ways that will support and rejuvenate you for the busy fall months ahead.
Signing off until September!
All my best,
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 Miranda Massie on April 2, 2019
Travelling is top of mind for me right now. On spring break, I spent two weeks chaperoning teenagers across Italy and Greece. And though the dust hasn’t even had time to settle on my suitcase, I’m already dreaming of my next adventure and my next destination. Unfortunately, a major barrier to my wanderlust is always the associated costs. Travelling is expensive and requires discipline both prior to and during a trip.
This month, I’m sharing some money-savvy hacks to support your frugal and fruitful travel.
Keep your eye on the deals
Take breakfast to go
Book hotel stays that include breakfast. Start your day with a big meal and pack extra snacks so you can save money on food throughout the day.
Avoid on-the-road prices
Pack your own food on travel days so you can avoid paying for pricey food on flights and trains or in airports. With healthy options on hand, you’ll be able to avoid the drive-through.
Find the free days
Many museums and galleries have free days or visiting times throughout the week. Some also offer discounts for students, children and families. Check their websites in advance.
Double check your coverage
Be sure to check your travel insurance coverage, or the coverage of a spouse or dependent. If you’re already covered through work or a credit card, you can avoid paying additional insurance costs. If you are enrolled in UBC’s extended health befits, be familiar with your coverage while travelling outside BC or Canada. Visit the UBC travel benefits site.
Take a staycation!
A vacation does not always need to involve travel. Take advantage of the amazing sights, eats and activities available locally. This will also allow you to save your dollars for a future trip. Read more about staycation ideas for Metro Vancouver on Daily Hive and Miss604.
Wherever your travels take you, I encourage you to prioritize taking time off. Breaks are important for building resilience and promoting mental and physical health. Allow yourself time to breathe, relax and be present without the threat of an incoming credit card bill looming in your head. Have any savvy travel hacks of your own? Share in the comments below!
All my best,
Photo credit: Miranda Massie
By Miranda Massie on March 4, 2019
Nourishment goes beyond nutrition, beyond food labels, calories and superfoods. Nourishment is a mental, physical and even spiritual state where we feel fulfilled, satiated and whole. Our modern lives often have us running to and from commitments, engaging with fast-paced technology and navigating personal and professional demands. This leaves little time to think of food as anything but the fuel to help get us there. In the spirit of Nutrition Month, I’m providing a little ‘food for thought’ (pun-intended), some simple steps to support feeling nourished.
1. Practice gratitude
At the start of a meal, take a quick moment to consider where your food came from. Picture who had to work in order for the food to land on your plate. In that moment, pause and say thank you.
Why: Gratitude supports mental health and wellbeing, and slowing down supports healthy digestion.
2. Don’t forget your liquids
The body needs food to function, but it needs hydration to survive. To ensure that you are hydrated throughout the day, try water tracking and reminder apps, incorporating beverages into your daily routine (before breakfast, before bed, with all meals), and using a favourite water bottle.
Why: 60% of our bodies are made up of water, which needs to be replenished in order to support many important health functions.
3. Prioritize sleep
Set up a sleep routine and do your best to keep it consistent. Try setting a reminder to go to bed at the same time each day, invest in comfortable sheets, limit caffeine consumption and avoid technology before bed.
Why: Sleep and nutrition go hand in hand. Our diet can positively or negatively impact our quality of sleep, and our sleep patterns can result in irregular or overindulgent eating habits.
4. Identify what brings you comfort
For me, comfort food includes cheesy pasta, salt and vinegar potato chips and wine. We all deserve to indulge once in a while: it’s important. However, we should also be aware that we define these foods as ‘comfort’. We often use these foods as a way to avoid dealing with challenging people, situations or emotions. By identifying the foods that you crave the most, it brings awareness to the emotions driving the eating.
Why: Being more mindful of why and when we reach for certain foods can interrupt habits and enable portion control and increased self-awareness.
5. Listen to your body
Pay attention to subtle signs your body might be telling you about your diet. Consider writing them down or tracking them over time. Have a headache? Your body might need more water or perhaps you’ve been drinking sugary beverages. Experiencing a gastro-intestinal issue? This could indicate an allergy or a need for more fibre-rich foods. Skin inflammation? This might indicate a food intolerance.
Why: Getting to know your body’s rhythms can help catch an issue, challenge or allergy early, leading to increased physical comfort and piece of mind.
This month, I encourage you to look beyond nutrition and reflect on what helps you feel nourished. This may mean eating meals with friends, establishing a new bedtime routine or even indulging in your favourite comfort foods (just to make sure they’re still as delicious as you remember).
You can also read more about strategies to help you feel nourished.
All my best,
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie, Nutrition | Tagged comfort, editorial, gratitude, mental health, nourishment, Nutrition, nutrition month, physical health, sleep, tips, tricks, UBC, water | 2 Responses
By Miranda Massie on February 5, 2019
Recent life events have reminded me of just how fragile our health can be. It is something we often take for granted, until it fails us in some way. These setbacks can leave us feeling betrayed by the very vessel that is supposed to protect and sustain us.
Sometime we don’t want to move. Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes it hurts. And sometimes, our minds are focused on other things. It can be easy to focus on all of the things that are going wrong, and not leave space for what might be going right.
Regardless of where we are in our individual journeys towards health, there are lots of ways to spark inspiration and progress. Below is a diverse list of ideas to prompt some acts of love for our bodies and minds.
- Try 20-Body Positive Affirmations (Popsugar Fitness)
- Take a Virtual Health Check-up (UBC Health, Wellbeing and Benefits)
- Use a stretch prompter recommended by UBC Ergonomics or download a break reminder like Stretch Clock, Stand up! or Workrave.
- Wear Your Active Wear on February 28
- Connect physically with others (The Guardian)
This month, I encourage you to find a way to show your body some love. Try focusing on the parts of your body that you love instead of loathe. Perhaps change your routine to allow for more sleep. Maybe book a check-up or a massage. You might indulge in your favourite foods.
However you go about it, aiming a little gratitude towards your body can go a long way to supporting your physical and emotional health.
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on January 8, 2019
Welcome to a new term and a brand new year. By the time some of you are reading this, your work will be well underway. My typical day jumps from one workshop to the next and one project to the next, seldom leaving time for pause, reflection, or celebration.
Before things get too hectic and we really start to feel the pressure, I’d like to take a moment to arrive – where we have the space to take a deep breath, to reflect and to pat ourselves and others on the back for a job well done. Try it with me.
Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
Exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
Exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
If you’re looking to incorporate a moment to arrive into your day, or even your team meetings, follow the instructions below:
- Pause before you begin a meeting, group activity or task.
- Invite everyone to take 1 minute to focus their attention on breathing.
- Allow the body and mind to settle and focus on what you are about to begin.
This month, I encourage you to take a moment to arrive – whether it’s at your desk, for a meeting or to connect your mind and body. Acknowledge the past and allow yourself to start fresh and anew.
We accomplished a lot last year and many of you took the time to share your feedback and tell us how Healthy UBC supports your wellbeing. Here are some of my (and your) favourite articles from 2018:
- Five Secrets to a Healthier Heart: Ways to improve the physical and emotional health of your heart
- Learn How to “Heart Your Parts!”: A quick guide of sexual and reproductive health tips
- What Your EQ Can Do for Your Relationship IQ: Harnessing emotional intelligence to positively impact relationships
- Clear Space to Be Well: Ways to enhance your space for better wellbeing
- Self-compassion: The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Finding ways to be kind to ourselves
Thank you for your kind words, your support for our efforts in workplace wellbeing and for your brave examples of hard work and commitment to lift up the people of UBC.
All the best for 2019!
Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (“Minute to arrive”)
Photo credit: Miranda Massie
By Miranda Massie on December 5, 2018
Imagine you have a close friend who is feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and they ask for your advice. What words of encouragement and support might you offer?
- “You’re doing great.”
- “Look at what you’ve accomplished.”
- “Give yourself a break.”
- “Take some time for yourself.”
- “What can I do to support you?”
Now imagine it is you that feels stressed and overwhelmed. Would you say these same things to yourself? Chances are, probably not. Typically, we are much harder on ourselves than we are on others. Finding ways to be kind to ourselves is especially important at busy times of the year like this.
Self-compassion is strongly linked to our wellbeing. It can reduce negative mind states such as anxiety, depression, stress, rumination, perfectionism and shame. It can also increase positive mind states like life satisfaction, happiness, connectedness, self-confidence, optimism, and gratitude.1
Three ways to enhance self-compassion:
1. Reframe negative thinking patterns
Our minds produce a constant stream of thoughts, a large portion of which are negative. A key to reducing the impact that these thoughts have on us is to identify negative self-talk and to reframe it towards the positive. For example, when you are being hard on yourself, notice these thoughts and ask yourself if you would say these things to someone you love. If not, why would you say them to yourself?
2. Focus on your practical wisdom
Sometimes it can feel like we are coming up short in aspects of our lives. When facing these thoughts, focus instead on your practical wisdom.2 We are all experts in something so discover what it is that gives you a sense of mastery and play to those strengths. Often these are skills and character traits that go unrecognized or underappreciated like empathy, intuition, altruism and self-reflection.
3. Acknowledge your emotional labour
We give a lot of ourselves to others, to our jobs, and to our communities — often doing so without realising or acknowledging the emotional energy that it requires. The emotional labour and effort we exert in managing and regulating our emotions in our personal and professional lives can impact our wellbeing.3 Acknowledging these efforts is a way of cultivating compassionate towards ourselves.
Other easy ways to practice self-compassion:
- Watch this two-minute video for tips on practicing self-compassion.
- Listen to this 10-minute guided meditation for self-compassion.
- Get ideas for enhancing self-compassion with these articles: Give the Gift of Self-compassion, 5 Ways to Thrive Today, Tomorrow and Beyond and Treat Yourself: Why you Deserve a Gift this Holiday Season
This busy holiday season, I invite you to be kind to yourself as well as those around you. Find ways to see the common humanity amongst us all and treat yourself with the same compassion and care that you do the people you love.
Warmest wishes to you, your colleagues and your loved ones this season.
All my best,
2 Eastman, C. A. (2016). Improving Workplace Learning by Teaching Literature: Towards Wisdom. Switzerland: Springer Nature. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29028-7
3 Bierema, L. L. (2008). Adult learning and the emotional self. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 120, 55–64. http://doi.org/10.1002/ace
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged care, compassion, editorial, emotional labour, gift, Holidays, overwhelm, Relaxation, rest, self-care, self-compassion, thinking, wisdom | Leave a response
By Miranda Massie on October 3, 2018
Recently, I attended an engaging workshop hosted by a colleague on the topic of resilience. Beyond being a “wellness buzzword”, resilience is the capacity in each of us to draw on multiple sources of strengths, social networks and resources to overcome adversities.1 The great thing about resilience and overall mental health is that we can learn skills, tools and strategies that allow us to effect positive changes on our wellbeing.
One such strategy is social connection. UBC has identified social connection as one of the institution’s top five wellbeing priorities going forward. It is also strongly linked to resilience and is one of seven key strategies for building our ability to bounce back and overcome challenges.
Four ways to build social support:2
- Talk to someone. Use this connection to seek help, gain perspective and insight, or just to vent.
- Reach out. Family members, friends, colleagues or professionals can support you in different ways, depending on what you need and what their strengths are.
- Connect with your community. Try being active in a community-based group or organization. Already a part of a community group? You’re already increasing your social support and building resilience!
- Identify five or more meaningful connections in your life. Evidence shows that having five or more meaningful connections indicates a strong social support network. Try making a list of who you would turn to for different kinds of support (friend, resource, fun, mentor, challenger, appreciator, etc.)3
This month, I invite you to reflect on your social networks both at work and in your personal lives. Within these communities lies a wealth of knowledge and support that can be shared in order to strengthen our wellbeing.
Interested in learning more about the power of social connection? Watch this TEDx Talk “Connect or Die: The Surprising Power of Human Relationships” (12 minutes). Or, consider registering for our Building Resilience Workshop (Nov. 1) to discover more contributing factors to our mental health and resilience. Lastly, I’ll leave you with an infographic of top tips for creating a support system from our EFAP provider Morneau Shepell.
Wishing you a wonderful start to the fall.
All my best,
1Youth Resilience and Protective Factors Associated with Suicide in First Nations Communities, 2014.
2Building Resilience Workshop, UBC HR Health, Wellbeing and Benefits, 2017.
3Adapted from Neilson, M. 2012. Complete Workplace Wellness
Photo credit: UBC Brand & Marketing
By Miranda Massie on August 7, 2018
Did you know that indoor spaces can enhance our wellbeing just as much as the natural outdoor environment?1-2 I learned this first-hand when I embarked on a long overdue spring cleaning of my cubicle recently.
I was experiencing higher-than-typical levels of stress this fall and my naturopath suggested that the physical clutter at my cubicle might be creating mental clutter, making it difficult to concentrate and exacerbating my stress. Now, I’m no Marie Kondo, but I decided to try changing my physical space. Here’s the process that I used, and I hope it inspires you to look for ways to enhance your space (work or otherwise).
Start from Scratch
Instead of picking and choosing what I wanted to keep, I started by taking stock of everything at my desk. It created more mess at the start, but it was easier to rebuild my space from scratch.
Be Ruthless (or at least paperless)
By physically removing everything from its place, I had an opportunity to purge. Get rid of those pens that don’t work any longer. Scan paper files to reduce the amount of space needed for storage (in or on your workstation).
Build It Back Up
This step might take some extra time and require a field trip to Staples or an organization supply store. Pick items that are visually pleasing for you without taking up too much surface area. I chose a container for pens, a decorative photo frame and a bamboo tray. Alternatively, save your dollars by reusing or upcycling items your colleagues don’t want anymore.
Make Your Photos Count
Rather than refill my cubicle with endless photos again, I carefully selected a few: some nice travel pictures and family photos. By limiting the number, I was more selective and ended up choosing pictures that are meaningful and that I don’t mind looking at again and again.
Add Something Green
Proximity and visual access to plants are great for boosting mood and reducing stress (check out this Netdoctor article on “5 Ways Office Plants Can Improve Your Health”) 3. Because I don’t have the greenest of thumbs or direct access to natural light, I went with two small, potted succulents. I also changed my computer background to an image of a forest. Photographs of nature can provide the same health benefits as the real thing.4
Give Yourself a Treat
My final touch was adding a bit of preemptive self-care to my new space. I knew there would be times of stress and I wanted to be prepared, so I bought some fancy tea, a new tea mug and a lavender aromatherapy roller. Ideas you can consider include a funny picture, a stress ball, yummy snacks, noise-cancelling headphones or playful magnets. Have fun personalizing this!
I recognize that not everyone’s work environment looks the same (and some of us may have more autonomy over this than others), but even small changes can have a big impact. This month, I invite you to think about small changes that you can make to your workspace (or a space at home) that might help you clear some of that mental clutter.
All my best,
1 Rationale to Address Well-being through Physical Spaces in Post-Secondary Settings (Healthy Campus Community, SFU)
2 Environmentally Smart Design: Designing for Social Wellbeing Across the City and in the Workplace (UBC Library, UBC CWL login required)
3 Creating Wellbeing Through Physical Spaces (Healthy Campus Community, SFU)
4 Grinde, B., & Patil, G. G. (2009). Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being? Int. J. of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(9), 2332–2343
Photo Credit: UBC Communications & Marketing
By Miranda Massie on July 4, 2018
Emotional intelligence is something that’s been garnering attention in recent years. Magazine articles, research papers and leadership courses continue to emerge, touting the benefits of high EQ (your emotional intelligence score) on work performance, happiness, leadership capabilities and even love .
So what are the key components to emotional intelligence and how might we harness this information to positively impact our relationships with others?
Emotional Intelligence is the “ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” It is made up of the following components:
- Self-awareness: an in-depth knowledge of oneself (tendencies, emotions, behaviours)
- Self-regulation: our ability to manage ourselves (feelings, triggers, reactions)
- Motivation: how and why we reach our goals (values, setting intention, building resilience)
- Empathy: recognizing and understanding emotions in others (as separate from our own)
- Social skills: how we communicate and interact with others 
With this information, how can we build up these skills in ways that enable us to have healthy and satisfying relationships with others? Personally, I feel that it’s a bit of a “chicken or the egg” scenario. What comes first: successful relationships that lead to higher emotional intelligence or increased emotional intelligence that creates healthier relationships? Perhaps it is both.
Knowing ourselves, regulating our emotions, understanding what drives us, acknowledging and validating others’ feelings, and engaging in optimal communication are all ways that emotional intelligence can support us in building relationships with others. Sustaining these positive behaviours through healthy habits over time can help raise our EQ.
This month, I encourage you to try and be present in your interactions with others. Experiment with the different components of emotional intelligence to discover what resonates best with you. Hopefully your relationship IQ will get a boost in the process.
All my best,
Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)
 Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (Salovey and Mayer, 1990)
 Emotional intelligence: Why it can Matter more than IQ (Daniel Goleman)
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged communication, editorial, emotional intelligence, emotions, EQ, expectation, healthy relationships, IQ, judgement, Miranda Massie, relationships, UBC | 1 Response
By Miranda Massie on June 5, 2018
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, health literacy is “…the ability to access, comprehend, evaluate and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain and improve health in a variety of settings across the life-course.” 
In short, health literacy is our ability to take in and understand information in ways that enhance our health-related decisions and behaviours. This process sounds straightforward, but in the age of open and on-demand access to information, becoming health literate can be a challenge. The overwhelming amount of information that we’re exposed to can make it difficult to find both the time, and mental capacity, to sort through it all.
Remember when the media reported that chocolate could help you lose weight? Turns out it was all an elaborate prank by a group of researchers to demonstrate how easy it was to manipulate study results into ‘evidence’. (Read all about it here.) This is perhaps an extreme example, but it shows how easily health information can be misrepresented and how this in turn influences our behaviour.
This month, I’m sharing ways to help you build and flex your muscles in an effort to become savvier at discerning facts from fads (or falsehoods).
Your Health Literacy Workout Plan
Step 1: Get to the source.
Start with the domain name and URL. Look for sites that end in .ca, .com, or .org. Next, try to find the original source of the claim/information. In this era of content convergence and integration, many articles tend to reference another source. Check that the information is from a peer-reviewed article in an academic journal.
Step 2: Examine the evidence.
Even if a study is reporting significant findings, things like sample size, population demographics and researcher bias can lead to inaccurate information translation.
Step 3: Check for affiliations.
We are in the midst of a ‘wellness revolution’ with companies trying to sell wellbeing in a variety of ways (e.g. supplements, services, products, workouts). Before buying into a product or claim, find out if the author is affiliated with the company in any way or even receiving payment/sponsorship for their endorsement. Many magazine and online advertisements are commonly disguised as research-based articles.
Step 4: Think before you share.
You may not realize it, but people in your professional, social and family circles might look to you as an expert on health and wellbeing. In an effort to ensure we are passing along accurate health information, be mindful of where, and with whom, you are sharing.
Step 5: Repeat steps as needed.
This month, I encourage you to delve a little deeper when the next great health claim comes along. Put your newfound skills to the test and be sure to act or react based on solid evidence.
Wishing you a wonderful start to the summer season!
All my best,