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 May 2, 2019
Guest contribution by Dr. Thara Vayali
Pleasure is associated with many different things. It can occur beneath the sheets, at the finish of a difficult project or with devotional work. Occasionally, pleasure is associated with hedonism, the unrelenting pursuit of self-indulgence.
More often, pleasure is associated with instant gratification, but it’s important to differentiate between the two. The body and mind don’t have to exert much effort to achieve instant gratification; the reward is small, and the chemicals that signal pleasure are fleeting. Pleasure itself, however, is simpler: it’s a mental or physical sensation of joy and has longer-lasting effects in the body. The sensation of pleasure is the result of a well-deserved “win” in the context of feeling safe and calm. For example, finishing a race at your fastest pace can feel well-deserved and safe – if you’ve trained regularly and the race course was filled with people who support you.
Human beings are continually searching for pleasurable experiences, yet it is a state that can only exist under two circumstances that may not be easy to achieve: reward and safety.
Reward is a journey of effort and achievement. Safety is both a physical and emotional necessity. While physical safety is occasionally out of our control, we can speak about ourselves more positively, which can help develop a safe, emotional environment where pleasure can exist.
Mindful awareness of our habits in daily life can allow us to open up to pleasure when we want to. While reward and safety may be complex concepts to understand, I offer you some ideas for exploring these concepts to help you increase your capacity for pleasure.
Create a challenge deadline and give yourself meaningful challenges. For example, if you’ve always wanted to publish a book, set up a schedule to write each morning. Challenge yourself to read aloud from your book draft by the end of a season and invite anyone you feel supported by.
The “effortful” work of creating a reward challenge means that:
- it is important enough for you to stay committed even when someone else’s needs filter in.
- it exists in a timeline you set solely for yourself.
- the timeline realistically recognizes all your other responsibilities.
- the challenge requires effort, whether physical or mental.
- the desired result requires you to work just beyond your current skill level.
It is not easy to tick all these boxes quickly and you may notice you can realistically only do one to three genuine challenges a year. Creating effortful challenges allows for reward to contribute to a lasting sensation of pleasure.
Notice the language you use to speak about yourself. Do you undermine your efforts or minimize your achievements? Do you defer compliments or gratitude? Do you blame yourself when things don’t work as planned? Learning to speak positively to yourself takes time, but by becoming aware of your own language, you can begin to create a safe mental space for yourself.
With daily practice, you can increase your capacity for pleasure.
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.
Photo: Sean McGrath (Flickr)
By Miranda Massie on October 1, 2014
I am a person who likes options. I savour the enjoyment that comes from sampling a variety of dishes when eating out with friends. I have a cupboard at home filled with more variations of green tea than most people know exist. I keep more than three thousand songs on my phone at any given time, just in case I’m in the mood to listen to something specific.
Perhaps this comes from a childhood spent pouring over “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, or more likely it stems from a fear of missing out on something exciting. Regardless of the reason, I like to explore my options and ultimately select the meal, item, situation or path that is the best choice for me at the time.
The more work that I do at UBC around mental health and wellbeing, the more I think about the concept of community. What defines communities? Are they created with intention, or do they happen organically? What can we as individuals do to connect with the people around us and the environment in which we live and work?
5 ideas for building community at UBC
1) Schedule a social meeting. Far too often we meet with colleagues, discuss the issues at hand then hurriedly part ways without leaving ourselves time to connect on a social or personal level. Try adding 10 minutes to the end of your next meeting to chat with your colleagues about their most recent vacation, their family or their latest work project.
2) Join in. Join a class, leisure activity or committee that interests you. This will provide a new group of people with whom to interact and you are sure to already have interests in common.
3) Use children or pets as a way to connect. I know a number of new parents who have created wonderful and supportive communities as a result of chatting with other parents at the park, daycare or classes. You can try the same thing at the dog park or the beach with your pets.
4) Get friendly with your surroundings. Research shows that exposure and familiarity with our surroundings leads to increased feelings of safety and social connection. Knowing the ins and outs of the campus a bit more can help us feel connected to our physical space. (Zajonc, 2001)
5) Reach out when in need. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable or asking for assistance can be daunting, yet we all know how great it feels to help others. Next time you need support, express that to someone else and it might bring you closer to those around you.
Check out UBC’s Community Engagement Initiative for more ideas.
This month, I invite you to build your own community on campus and to choose the path that suits you the best; whether through involvement, learning, wellbeing, leisure, or a smorgasbord of other options.
We work together at UBC and some of us also live within these gates, and we will be better served and able to better serve others if we start to reimagine ourselves as being part of a supportive and caring set of communities.
Zajonc, R.B. (2001). Mere exposure: A gateway to the subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 224–228.