Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Living Well: 10 Components of Health & Happiness

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind, with moving to a new city, setting up house, and starting residency. I've been struggling to find a healthy routine and feel that I need to make some changes. I've thought about what living well means to me, and am going to share these components that I think are important to healthy and happy living.

1) Healthy Eating

I feel best when my diet includes a colourful variety of fruits and vegetables. Of course, cost and time constraints can lead to days fueled by oatmeal and peanut butter sandwiches, but when I grocery shop I remind myself that I'll feel better consuming fresh non-processed meals. By letting grocery store sales direct my fruit and vegetable purchases, I can maintain variety in what I eat from week to week, while saving money.
healthy eating

2) Physical Activity

Though I know physicians recommended exercising for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, I'll be honest in admitting that right now I'm not achieving that. I think a better starting point is to aim to take a walk every day. And if you're busy, a ten-minute walk is better than no walk. The critical focus here is consistency -- to develop the habit of getting moving every single day. Internet consensus is that it takes 3 weeks to form a habit. Regardless of whether that time frame is accurate (it seems no one has really studied it), getting into the habit of taking a short walk every day will set you up for remaining regularly active in the long term.
try to walk for at least 10 minutes every day

3) Adequate Sleep

This is one that I struggle with. I love waking up very early to start the day on a productive note, but I'm also accustomed to sleeping quite late. The result is 5 hours of sleep and grogginess the next day. In residency I've been working at consistently trying to sleep earlier. I'm also trying to maintain consistent sleep-wake times from day to day, rather than abandoning all sleep discipline on weekends! I'm getting better at timing caffeine and exercise to not get into the way of sleep. And if it comes down to it, the occasional Gravol or melatonin isn't a bad idea.

4) Relaxation

It is important to find ways to relax that fit your lifestyle. When I get home from work I'll often relax by having a snack while sorting through my emails, reading the news, or perusing blogs. I also love reading through grocery flyers! I enjoy writing blog posts, playing guitar, and watching my favourite TV shows, and I find that reading a little before bed is a nice way to wind down. Even in the busiest of times, I try to remind myself to take breaks -- a ten-minute change of scene (or better yet, a twenty-minute nap) can be surprisingly refreshing.
my kind of relaxing

5) Connections -- Social & Environmental

It is important to make connections with others in our lives -- family, friends, colleagues, pets -- by spending time with them or say keeping in touch by email. Don't ignore strangers -- I try to smile and say good morning to people I pass on the sidewalk or in the hospital.
picnic with a friend
Connecting with the environment is just as important. Getting outdoors for some fresh air (and vitamin D, my northern friends) is both exercise and my favourite de-stresser.
spend time in nature

6) Keeping Meaningfully Busy

This is such an important one. Whenever I start holidays all I want to do is relax, but after two days of binge-watching Suits I start feeling so unproductive and down that I know it's time to change out of my pyjamas, put away (what's left of) the chocolate, and haul my butt off the couch. I think without remaining meaningfully busy any one of us starts to feel unfulfilled and unhappy. It's important to find purpose in our activities and do things that will leave us feeling accomplished. If I'm going to have a lazy Sunday, I like to get a load of laundry in the machine, prepare some food, and get a bit of exercise in early in the day; that feeling of satisfaction of having gotten stuff out of the way leaves me free to laze around without feeling the burden of the still-to-be-done.
Sunday meal prepping

7) "SMART" Goals

I learned about "SMART" goals in medical school. The acronym stands for "Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound" -- the components of a good goal. Though I think that the "A" and "R" overlap, it still makes a useful point of reminding us to be thoughtful in setting goals. We should remember to re-evaluate and modify our goals -- and should not hesitate to seek help when we need it.

8) Creative Expression

Bake, blog, play an instrument, have a bathroom dance party, garden, Instagram, rearrange your furniture! We're more creative than we give ourselves credit for.
try a new recipe
create a backyard garden

9) Curiosity

Explore your surroundings; look up words you don't know; try exotic foods; ask people questions because you are genuinely interested in their answers. I've taken a total of five different routes walking to and from work this week (and only partly due to getting lost). Try walking or driving to school or work a different way one day -- it's refreshing and exciting to experience new scenery.
try new foods (like durian!)

10) Mindfulness

I think that mindfulness constitutes being aware of your surroundings and cognizant of your thoughts and emotions in the context of that environment. I always do my best to be conscientious and kind -- things that we are all capable of, at no personal expense. I try to be mindful also of my own feelings as I move through my day (e.g. I stop to think about what I really feel like eating for dinner and if I have the ingredients I prepare that particular meal; when I'm feeling sad or frustrated I look around and find one nice thing -- like slats of sunlight filtering through the blinds -- to feel grateful for). When I'm feeling depressed in the midst of exam studying or anxious running late in traffic, I think "this too shall pass" -- and remind myself that life proceeds forward at a constant rate and if I'm frustrated in the moment, I just have to wait for time to move on and leave it behind.

find small joys: this pigeon kept me entertained while waiting for my bus 
be mindful

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I love the visuals and I will try follow at least a few of these start anyway.


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