Tag Archives: mindfulness

Think about health AND wellness when making your New Year’s resolutions.

“Be healthier” is a common New Year’s Resolution, and almost everyone makes some effort to achieve and maintain good health. For many, this simply means not being sick. But being healthy goes beyond feeling good and involves actively talking steps to reduce the risk of disease and promote wellbeing. This is why not smoking, eating well, and being active are so important—these habits can improve your health now and help you maintain good health as you age.

But good physical health is only part of being truly “healthy.” This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

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The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This is consistent with concept of wellness that is not limited to physical health, exercise, and nutrition and integrates physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. While wellness models vary, they almost all include a range of components associated with living a good life. The National Wellness Institute presents a concept of wellness that includes six dimensions that act and interact to contribute to quality of life. They include:

Social Wellness is the ability to relate to and connect with other people in our world. Our ability to positively interact with people and establish and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers contributes to our social wellness.

Emotional Wellness is the ability to understand ourselves and cope with the challenges life can bring. The ability to cope with stress and acknowledge and share feelings of anger, fear, sadness or stress; hope, love, joy and happiness in a productive manner contributes to emotional wellness.

Spiritual Wellness is the ability to establish peace and harmony in our lives. It includes the ability to link personal values and actions and to realize a common purpose.

Intellectual Wellness is the ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that can be applied to personal decisions, group interaction and community betterment. Engaging in creative and stimulating mental activities to expand your knowledge and use information effectively desire to learn new concepts, improve skills and seek challenges in pursuit of lifelong learning are characteristics of intellectual wellness.

Occupational Wellness is the ability to get personal fulfillment from our jobs or our chosen career fields while still maintaining balance in our lives. Our desire to contribute in our careers to make a positive impact on the organizations we work in and to society as a whole leads to Occupational Wellness..

Physical Wellness is the ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows us to get through our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. Adopting healthful habits while avoiding negative habits will lead to optimal physical wellness.

Other models also include additional components of wellness, including:

Environmental Wellness is the ability to recognize how your behavior impacts your surroundings, be it your home, community, and planet, how the physical world impacts you, and how to you can make a positive impact on the quality of our environment.

Financial Wellness includes managing your money effectively, living within your means, and making wise financial decisions now and for the future.

Obviously, these are all important for achieving health and wellness. Unfortunately, many programs which intend to promote health or wellness actually only prevent or treat disease. As you make your New Year’s Resolutions, be mindful that wellness is an active process through which we become aware of, and make choices toward, a more vibrant and successful life and take steps to look beyond fitness and nutrition to embrace wellness.


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Mindfulness matters for making meaningful and lasting health behavior changes

Mindfulness can be described as an awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. This is most commonly explored through mindful meditation, a practice that is credited with improving physical and mental health. Beyond meditation, being mindful can help to improve attention and focus in nearly every aspect of life. This is important for making meaningful and lasting health behavior changes. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Mindful brain


Thinking about your actions and the effect they have on your health and the health of others can be good for you and those around you. It turns out that we engage in many health behaviors that are driven more by habit than conscious decision-making. This includes what, when, and how much we eat as well as how active we are, two of the most important determinants of health.

When was the last time you thought about what you were eating? Not just which restaurant to go to or what time to eat, but really thought about what and how much you ate? Chances are, at least some of the time you eat when you aren’t hungry or keep eating even when you are full. You probably also eat foods you know you shouldn’t or don’t intend to, sometimes without even realizing it.

This concept was explored in-depth by Brian Wansink in the 2006 book, Mindless Eating. Based on his research, this book helped to explain the hidden reasons behind what, why, and how much we eat, often without being aware of it. This includes marketing tricks as well as environmental factors, many of which operate outside of our consciousness, that drive our food choices and prompt us to eat.

This is where mindfulness comes in. By making an effort to be cognizant about your own thoughts and sensations as well as the environment you are in, you can at least decrease the instances of overeating and making poor food choices.

Furthermore, we should be aware of how our food choices influence others around us. Research shows that children of parents who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to eat more of these foods than kids without such influence. Mindful eating includes accounting for how our actions and choices can influence the decisions of other family members and friends.

The same is true for how active or sedentary we are. Being active is a choice, sometimes a difficult one, that is influenced by other people and the environment. Most people spend the majority of the day sitting at work and at home, often without thinking about it. This sedentary lifestyle has been linked to an increased risk of obesity and heart disease, so it is relevant.

Sure, it feels good to sit on the couch to watch television. Think about it: is that really the best way to spend your time? At work, taking short breaks to get up from your desk and move can make you feel more alert and energized. Isn’t that worth it?

Similar to eating, our activity choices can influence the actions of those around us. A suggestion to walk to lunch can increase your own activity and that of your friends. Planning to go for a walk or bike ride with your family after dinner is a great way to share the benefits of activity.

When it comes to health, mindfulness matters. Being mindful about what you eat and making a choice to be more active allows you to have a positive effect on your health and the health of those around you.


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Being mindful of eating habits, according to Shannon.

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Shannon earlier this week that fit with the topic of being mindful of health habits. (I have written about Shannon previously, but not for some time) 

She was telling me that one recent evening she drove to three fast food restaurants to get dinner for her family. Apparently, she wanted food from a different place than her husband, neither of which worked for her kids. As they sat down at the dinner table she became mindful of how ridiculous this was.

First, she spent almost an hour driving to fetch the food. This was time she could have spent doing any number of things, including actually preparing a meal for her family. Second was the cost, including the food itself and the gas required to drive to three different restaurants. Third, looking at the food they were eating made her realize that it wasn’t healthy. In fact, their meal included no fruits or vegetables (beyond french fries) at all!

What struck me was that the quality of the food they were eating was the last thing Shannon mentioned to me, almost as a afterthought. What got her attention was the time and money she sent on the food. Cooking at home could have taken less time and certainly would have cost less. It would have been healthier, too.

At least they ate dinner together

 

Being mindful of eating habits, according to Shannon.

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Shannon earlier this week that fit with the topic of being mindful of health habits. (I have written about Shannon previously, but not for some time) 

She was telling me that one recent evening she drove to three fast food restaurants to get dinner for her family. Apparently, she wanted food from a different place than her husband, neither of which worked for her kids. As they sat down at the dinner table she became mindful of how ridiculous this was.

First, she spent almost an hour driving to fetch the food. This was time she could have spent doing any number of things, including actually preparing a meal for her family. Second was the cost, including the food itself and the gas required to drive to three different restaurants. Third, looking at the food they were eating made her realize that it wasn’t healthy. In fact, their meal included no fruits or vegetables (beyond french fries) at all!

What struck me was that the quality of the food they were eating was the last thing Shannon mentioned to me, almost as a afterthought. What got her attention was the time and money she sent on the food. Cooking at home could have taken less time and certainly would have cost less. It would have been healthier, too.

At least they ate dinner together