By Miranda Massie on October 25, 2017
It can be challenging to stay resilient in the face of life’s challenges, but the good news is that we all have the capacity to make small improvements to boost our mental health. These strategies and changes are individual, and what works to boost your positive mental health may not work for someone else.
It is nearly Thrive week at UBC and what is unique about Thrive are the variety of engaging and diverse events, activities and experiences to help each person thrive in their own way. Find a full list of the week’s events here.
For those unable to attend a Thrive event, participate online in the #LetsThriveUBC social media challenge. Each day of the challenge is centred around a theme based on UBC’s five wellbeing priorities.
Inspired by these themes – and because I get asked this a lot by folks across UBC – I created a list of suggestions to help you get started. Check out my tips for small actions you can take to thrive each day of the week.
Fifteen Ways to Thrive (in Five Days)
Day 1: Feel Good Foods
A well-balanced, nourishing diet helps us all to thrive, fueling important academic and professional work.
- Eating breakfast or adding protein to your breakfast (egg, peanut butter, cottage cheese)
- Trading your caffeine for flavoured (lemon, cucumber) or fizzy water
- Buying yourself a small, feel-good treat
Day 2: Active Movement
Moving more can improve both mental and physical health, and impact academic and professional success.
- Walking briskly for 10 minutes today
- Standing for five minutes at the top of every hour
- Dancing around your house for the length of one song (suggestions)
Day 3: Thriving Spaces
Environments, both built and natural, play an important role in facilitating physical, mental, social and ecological wellbeing.
- Breathing in fresh, outside air for five minutes
- Making your bed with fresh sheets
- Spending 30 minutes somewhere with exposure to natural light
Day 4: Resilience
Reducing stigma, a supportive campus culture, and access to resources are key to improving resiliency and coping skills.
- Writing a gratitude Post-It (list three things you are grateful for in two minutes or less)
- Taking five deep breaths, counting to five on each inhale and to five on each exhale
- Laughing at a funny movie, meme or video
Day 5: Key Connections
Diversity, equity, inclusion and respect are key values in building and sustaining environments where we can all thrive and be well.
- Putting away or turning off your phone (and other electronic devices) during all meals today
- Talking to a friend (or a pet if they are a better listener)
- Asking for or accepting help from someone else, even if it is for something small
You may not feel the results immediately, but over time all of these small actions can pave the way for improved resilience and help fine-tune our mental health.
We are well into the fall semester, and I know of many staff, faculty and students who are feeling the impact of work, academic and personal pressures. This month, I encourage you to take the time to care for yourselves so that you may be at your best to support those around you. Consider attending a special Staff & Faculty Pop-up Wellness Lounge (Nov. 2, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.).
All my best,
References and further reading:
Photo credit: UBC Thrive
Posted in Editorial, Mental Health, Miranda Massie | Tagged action, environmental health, gratitude, inclusion, mental health, Nutrition, physical activity, resilience, self-care, thrive, Thrive week, UBC, wellbeing | 1 Response
By Melissa Lafrance on August 3, 2017
We often don’t stop to reflect on how our environment is interconnected and influences our own personal health and wellbeing. Read on to discover connections between our natural environment and its positive impacts on health and wellbeing.
Engaging with nature
Activities that promote engagement with the environment allow us to connect with nature in constructive ways, both for ourselves and for the greater good of our environments.
Research shows that we need nature to nurture our psychological, emotional and spiritual needs. It is also believed that being in nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity. Study results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. 
Being around nature also has interpersonal benefits. There is evidence indicating that people prone to perceiving natural beauty report greater prosocial tendencies, perspective taking, empathy, generosity, trust and helping behaviours. [2, 3]
In return, caring for the environment can develop into something more and can benefit our own wellbeing. Showing gratitude to nature can strengthen spiritual growth. According to a new study by UBC Assistant Professor Catherine Broom, protecting the environment can be as easy as telling children to go play outdoors. Children who play outside are more likely to care about nature.
Outdoor physical activity and mental wellbeing
Being alone with nature has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety.  When paired with physical activity outdoors, the benefits are even more significant. Research has shown that walking in forested areas decreases stress and anxiety, and inspires better moods when compared to walking in busy urban areas. Findings from additional studies indicate that walking in nature can spur positive emotions and improved performance on memory tasks. 
Green spaces and health benefits
A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report co-authored by Dr. Matilda van den Bosch, Assistant Professor in UBC’s School of Population & Public Health (SPPH), summarizes the health benefits of urban green spaces. Urban green spaces have shown various health benefits, including improved mood, stress relief and promotion of physical activity.
Whether you work at UBC Vancouver, UBC Okanagan or one of UBC’s many off-campus sites, we are so lucky to work in locations situated by the ocean or surrounded with greenery. Nature is basically at our fingertips. Explore the natural environment around you by taking a walking meeting or joining a walking group. Also, check out hidden gems on campus during your lunch break.
We know what influence the environment has on our personal health and wellbeing, which is another reason to care for our beautiful planet. We cannot care about personal health without incidentally caring about the environment. Now that we’ve made the connection, let’s find ways to sustain one another.
Other Related Information & Resources:
- City of Vancouver tips for sustainable living at home
- City of Vancouver green programs and volunteer opportunities
- UBC’s sustainable purchasing guide
- UBC’s glossary of green product labels and certifications.
- UBC’s Recyclepedia, an A-Z listing of items that can be recycled or composted on campus
 Zhang J et al: An occasion for unselfing: beautiful nature leads to prosociality. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2014; volume 37 pages 61-72.
 Atchley R, Strayer D, Atchley P: Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning Through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLoS ONE. 2012; 7(12): e51474.
Photo credit: Melissa Lafrance