By Miranda Massie on October 3, 2017
I came across this tweet from UBC Public Affairs last week:
“New UBC research explains why you think everyone else has more friends than you do”
It piqued my interest because the theme for this month’s newsletter is social health. In preparation, our team has been reflecting on what social health looks like and how it takes shape within our relationships and connections with others.
This new research reflects a widespread belief that people think their peers are more socially connected and have more friends. However, the reality reveals this to be untrue. Essentially, we are convincing ourselves that everyone else is getting invited to the party but us, and this is resulting in negative consequences on our self-esteem and mental health.
The word social can be intimidating, particularly for those who identify as introverts, but we can still reap the benefits of social connections even when we keep our circle small.
Top five reasons to stay connected this fall:
- Improve your thinking. We are more likely to think in positive and empowering ways when we have meaningful connections with others.
- Protect yourself. Social support and associated boosts in self-esteem are protective factors against life’s stressors.
- Get well and live longer. Being emotionally supported by others leads to improvements in physical health and longevity. Allowing yourself to seek this support during stressful times can improve a person’s overall wellbeing.
- Boost self-esteem. Social support impacts self-esteem. Higher self-esteem is associated with lower levels of anxiety, depression and distress.
- Find more satisfaction. Self-esteem is also associated with higher levels of overall life satisfaction and happiness.
Check out this TED Talk about the power of human connection:
More than ever, I’m convinced that FOMO (the fear of missing out), is a real thing — I have a major case of it most of the time — but I am comforted in the fact that research has now confirmed that it is mostly in my own head.
This month I invite you to reflect on, and appreciate, the friendships and social opportunities that you have instead of those that you don’t. Whether your social circles are large or small, we can all benefit from continuing to connect with others.
If you are interested in practical ways to create and deepen connections with others, check out the following links:
- The Chopra Centre’s 10 Ways to Deepen Your Connections With Others
- TED Talk’s How to connect with others
- Entrepreneur.com’s How to Immediately Connect with Anyone
Photo credit: UBC Communications and Marketing
Kawachi, Ichiro and Lisa Berkman. (2001) Social Ties and Mental Health. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 78:458-467.
Steinhardt, Mary and Christyn Dolbier. (2008) Evaluation of a Resilience Intervention to Enhance Coping Strategies and Protective Factors and Decrease Symptomatology. Journal of American College Health, 56: 445-453.
Thoits, Peggy. (2011). Mechanisms Linking Social tied and Support to Physical and Mental Health. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, 52:145-161.
By Miranda Massie on September 13, 2017
Welcome back! The familiar September hum, indicative of the start of another academic year, is all around us and faculty, staff and students are as busy as ever. In particular, for those of our colleagues working in front-facing, advising or instructional roles, this time of year can be challenging as they are often required to put the needs and priorities of others well ahead of their own.
Our dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic staff and faculty are a huge part of what makes our UBC communities so unique, and in order to ensure that we remain at the top of our game for others, we must not forget ourselves.
Have you taken a lunch break this week? When was the last time that you stood up from your desk and stretched? Did you drink any water yesterday? Have you socialized with colleagues today?
The truth about caring for others is that it can leave us feeling amazing and exhausted. We can feel positive, proud, fulfilled and rewarded, yet experience anxiety, fear, resentment and frustration at the same time. These emotions are natural and even have names :
- Burnout: Gradual mental and/or physical feelings of detachment, exhaustion and negative feelings associated with frustrations or a perceived inability to make a difference
- Compassion Satisfaction: Positive emotions and satisfaction received from helping others
- Compassion Stress (a.k.a. Secondary Traumatic Stress): Negative reaction experienced by a caregiver in response to an indirect event (something experienced by someone else)
- Compassion Fatigue: State of burnout or exhaustion as a result of prolonged compassion stress
When our roles are so tightly tied to the successes and achievements of others, it can be challenging to remember to care for ourselves. To be the most effective and successful in our work, we need to continually maintain our vitality and resilience. 
So how do we find the time to look after ourselves and recharge in meaningful ways? The key is to find small, manageable and affordable things that can be done on a daily basis to promote renewal while reducing immediate stress. A note of caution: we run the risk of setting lofty self-care goals that may not be realistic or attainable. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure or make it easy to send goals to the bottom of the to-do list.
This month I invite you to consider your own needs along with those of the people that you are working for and working with. Reflect on what you do for your own self-care and try to find ways to incorporate these things into each day.
Self-care ideas :
- Read a book on your own or with your child
- Listen to a favourite playlist/song
- Savour a bath or shower
- Find ways to laugh
- Keep your work environment bright and cheerful (plants, flowers, pictures, art)
- Snuggle with a pet
- Write in a journal (try The Five Minute Journal!)
- Meditate, reflection or prayer
- Take breaks
- Spend time in nature
- Establish a sleep routine
- Check out this video of people sharing their self-care routines (BuzzFeedBlue)
- Use the Self-Care chart below (@instadoodles)
Here’s to an exciting and resilient September!
All my best,
 Mental Health Commission of Canada (3rd ed.). (2016). Mental Health First Aid.
 Skovholt, T. M., Trotter-Mathison, M. (2016). The resilient practitioner: Burnout and compassion fatigue prevention and self-care strategies for the helping professions (3rd ed.). New York; London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. doi:10.4324/9781315737447
 Riordan, M.M. Self-Care Advice for Caregivers. Human Development, 22(4), 27-31.
Photo Credit: Melissa Lafrance
Posted in Editorial, Mental Health, Miranda Massie | Tagged boundaries, burnout, compassion, fatigue, health benefits, Higher ed, satisfaction, self-care, Stress, stress management, UBC, work, workplace | 3 Responses
By Miranda Massie on June 8, 2016
This May marked the 5th annual David Suzuki Foundation 30×30 challenge, which encourages Canadians to spend at least 30 minutes in nature every day for 30 days. Sounds easy, right? It turns out it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
I regularly find myself outside (walking to the bus, heading to meetings, etc.) but rarely do I attempt to purposefully spend time in nature. I realize now that walking down a busy street is not the same as sitting under a tree in a park. Research shows us that exposure to nature is good for our wellbeing. It boosts our immune system, lowers blood pressure, increases creativity, builds empathy and fosters community.
Despite being aware of all of these benefits, consciously finding time in my day to get outside was tough. Truthfully, I ran out of ideas after going for a couple of walks and having my lunch on a bench on Main Mall.
That is where the 30×30 challenge daily tips came in handy! It provided a list of 30 different ways to inspire my ‘re-connect’ with nature. Here are some of my favourites:
Tips for taking a time-out in nature
- Read outside: Grab your coffee and a book and start your morning off with some fresh air
- Eat alfresco: Invite colleagues to take lunch outside or take your dinner to a local park
- Bring nature indoors: Enhance your home or workspace with plants, fresh flowers, shells, rocks or pine cones
- Get dirty: Exposure to soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae can act as a natural antidepressant, activating brain cells that improve mood, reduce anxiety and facilitate learning.
- Stargaze: Go outside on a clear evening and look at the sky. Stretch out on a blanket and relish the sense of perspective.
- Cloud watch: Look up! Cloud watching any time of the day clears the mind and calms the senses.
- Listen: Did you know birds have their own language? Instead of identifying species, pay attention to the behavior and communication of our feathered friends.
This month, I invite you to think about how to take advantage of the the warm summer weather and beautiful natural surroundings to re-introduce some nature into your life!
All my best,
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged 30x30, David Suzuki Foundation, eating, editorial, gardening, health benefits, Miranda Massie, Nature, outdoors, plants, reading, summer, time out, weather, wellbeing | 1 Response
By Colin Hearne on July 3, 2014
Summer is the time when the outdoors beckons; we go to the beach in droves, have picnics, barbecues, paddle , fish and swim. Some hike, others bike, and many do both .But these good times in the outdoors are really an exception to the rule. The reality is most of us spend the vast majority of our time inside – with one estimate, reporting that the average North American spends 90% of his or her life inside. So with July in full swing, lets remind ourselves that being outdoors can be amazing – Here are five potential benefits of spending more time outdoors:
Your vitamin D levels will go up
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight hitting the skin begins the circuitous process that eventually leads to the creation of the biologically active form of the vitamin. Over all, research is showing that many vitamins, while necessary, don’t have such great disease-fighting powers, but vitamin D may prove to be the exception. Epidemiologic studies are suggesting it may have protective effects against everything from osteoporosis to cancer to depression to heart attacks and stroke. More answers may come from randomized trials, such as the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL), which will enroll 20,000 healthy men and women to see if taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D or 1,000 mg of fish oil daily lowers the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. In the meantime the good news is that you’ll make all the vitamin D you need if you get outside a few times a week during these summer days and expose your arms and legs for 10 to 15 minutes. Of course, it has to be sunny out.
You’ll get more exercise
You don’t need to be outside to be active: millions of people exercise indoors in gyms or at home on treadmills and elliptical trainers. Still, there’s no question that indoor living is associated with being sedentary while being outdoors is associated with activity. According to Canadian broadcast measurement and consumer behaviour data, Numeris, The average Canadian adult may watch 30 hours of television a week – time that is spent mainly indoors and sitting down. Adults can go to the gym. Many prefer the controlled environment there. But if you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking, biking, gardening, cleaning up the yard, and doing other things that put the body in motion.
You’ll be happier
UBC Psychology professor Mark Holder leads a research team that identifies factors that contribute to happiness in children such as temperament, social relations, and spirituality. His team also investigates strategies to enhance happiness in adults. According to Dr Holder ‘There is no one-size-fits-all strategy. What makes one person happy may not work for another person. However, those who are happier are people who interact with and appreciate beauty in nature; people who exercise, volunteer, and have hobbies’. Additionally, researchers at the University of Essex in England are advancing the notion that exercising in the presence of nature has added benefit, particularly for mental health. Their investigations into “green exercise,” as they are calling it, dovetails with research showing benefits from living in proximity to green, open spaces. In 2010 the English scientists reported results from a meta-analysis of their own studies that showed just five minutes of green exercise resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood.
Your concentration will improve
Researchers have, in fact, reported that children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors. Researchers from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, found that children with ADHD scored higher on a test of concentration after a walk through a park than after a walk through a residential neighborhood or downtown area.
You may heal faster
University of Pittsburgh researchers reported in 2005 that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light. This is now also being addressed with the popularity of hospital gardens. Dismissed as peripheral to medical treatment for much of the 20th century, gardens are back in style, now featured in the design of most new hospitals. Much of this popularity has emerged from the research of psychologist Roger Ulrich, from the Texas A&M University. Ulrich and his team reviewed the medical records of people recovering from gallbladder surgery at a suburban Pennsylvania hospital. He found that patients with bedside windows looking out on leafy trees healed, on average, a day faster, needed significantly less pain medication and had fewer postsurgical complications than patients who instead saw a brick wall.
Your healthy outdoor lifestyle starts here! Attend a guided tour of UBC’s Botanical Gardens on July 20 @ 12.30pm. Click here for more information