What are you grateful for? Benefits of Gratitude

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus

Thanksgiving is a time where we emphasize gratitude more than at other times of the year, but it is best to consider being grateful at all times of the year. This talk by Robert Emmons explains how gratitude (and of recording gratitude in journals or some other form) can make us healthier in many areas of our lives.

  • Psychological – positive emotions
  • Physical – exercise more, take better care of their health, sleep better and longer
  • Social – feel more connected, feel more helpful, feel less alone

Watch the 10 minute video to learn about the benefits of gratitude, and then check out the resources below if you need some ideas on how to be more grateful.

Resources:


What are you most grateful for? Leave a comment below.

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Emotional Wellness (8 Dimensions of Wellness Series)

118/365 - meditate
Photo Credit: Lisa Omarali (lisadragon) on Flickr,
used unmodified under the CC Attribution license

The words “emotional wellness” sometimes makes me think of the stereotype of the meditating monk who seems to not be phased by anything, with a monotone voice and equally constant emotions. Actually, emotional wellness is recognizing, experiencing, and expressing the full range of emotions in healthy ways.

Some common emotions/emotional states

When people talk about emotional wellness and emotional health, one word that is mentioned a lot is “resilience.” Resilience is the ability to move forward after setbacks and major life events. It is a learned response, which means that anyone can become more resilient to life’s struggles, which will help to increase emotional wellness.

How resilient are you?

WebMD has a quiz to give you an idea of how resilient you are (click here to take the quiz).

If you want to increase your resilience or learn more about the concept of resilience, you can click through the American Psychological Association’s guide on the topic. If you want to talk with a psychologist, the APA also has a “Psychologist Locator” that allows you to search for someone near you.

This post is part of the 8 Dimensions of Wellness series focusing on each aspect of wellness and providing related resources. To get more free resources and information about wellness, click here to get each post by email.

New Series: 8 Dimensions of Wellness

Image from http://wellbeing.wsu.edu/what-is-wellbeing/ © 2012 Washington State University
Image from http://wellbeing.wsu.edu/what-is-wellbeing/
© 2012 Washington State University

Wellness usually means a wholistic approach to health and prevention of disease. The wellness wheel captures the idea that wellness isn’t only physical health, but includes many aspects of how you live your life and interact with people and situations. It is also called the wellbeing wheel, dimensions of health, etc.

There are multiple versions with varying number of sections, but since I first saw this wheel as an undergraduate student at Washington State University, I will describe the version they use.

Each section of the wheel represents a different part of wellness. The sections overlap and are all related, with one affecting the others, but to keep it simple, they are listed as separate sections:

(links in previous list go to the post about that aspect of wellness)

I mostly talk about physical wellness on this blog, but I am going to start expanding that focus to incorporate more information and resources from all parts of this wheel diagram. Over the next few months, I will write several posts that explain each of these sections of the wellness wheel and provide examples and resources for you to use.

I hope you will join me in learning more about health and wellness. Click here if you want to get each of the posts in your inbox for free and haven’t already signed up.

Second guest post (about Workplace Stress) published on CoreChair blog

Click to read my Workplace Stress guest post on the CoreChair blog!In case you missed it, the second guest post I wrote for CoreChair is now available. This post covers the topic of workplace stress. I share some what stress can do to us, some common causes, and one psychologist’s tips on how to deal with it.

Click here to read the post on the CoreChair blog.

Click here to see my writing and speaking experience, and click here to contact me about writing for you.

Lessons from leading online health challenge

Photo Credit: photostock via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo Credit: photostock via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In October, I had the opportunity to lead a health challenge for an online community group. It was my first time leading a health challenge and I tried to apply lessons from classes, as well as from webinars and other training on wellness programming. Overall, I think it went well, but there were some things I’d change if I did it again.

What worked:

Mixing it up: Every week there was a different way to get bonus points. People seemed to like the change and many chose to do the bonus activities each week.

Personal messages: When someone hadn’t posted activity or points in a while, I messaged them personally to remind them to submit activity for points. This was time consuming, but it was a smaller group so it ended up being okay. I wouldn’t do this for a large group, and I stopped doing this halfway through the month even for this small group. Instead, I sent a general reminder with the description of the new weekly bonus.

Incorporating many aspects of health: I tried to focus on different aspects of helath throughout the challenge when designing the activities that would earn points. I included physical health (physical activity, food tracking), goal setting (goals for the next month, motivation, setbacks, barriers), emotional health (stress), and social health (social support, physcial activity with people, recruiting a health buddy who will support goal for next month). Participants seemed to like these and find them useful and fun.

Not taking lack of participation personally (but I should have explored it more): It was difficult for me at first to deal with the emotions of having someone be very excited to sign up and then never participate, even when I sent them a personal message. However, I realize that things come up and sometimes participation in an event or activity you thought you had time for isn’t possible. Reminding myself of this was helpful for my emotions, but I think I ended up forgetting about them, which wasn’t so good. Many of the people who signed up and didn’t participate were new to the group. I wonder if they had different ideas about how the challenge was going to go (I should have asked).

Discussion boards: Each team had its own discussion board to post what they did (to get points) and to discuss with their team. One team ended up really using their board and the other team did not. However, they didn’t really use the board to discuss until I incentivized it by giving bonus points in the third week.

What could be improved:

Discussion boards: As I mentioned, I didn’t think about giving bonus points for participation until late in the month. Had I started with bonus points for interaction, I think more people would have done it.

Maximum points per week: I had it set up so each week had a total of 14 points maximum, one from 20 minutes or more of physical activity and one from the week’s bonus activity. This seemed like very little after a while and I wonder if it did not seem like enough to get people to be inspired to do the minimum required.

Minimum time required to get point: One of the suggestions I received at the end of the challenge was to reduce the minimum time required to get the point for physical activity from 20 minutes (with a cap of 1 point per day for physical activity) to 10 minutes (with additional points per each 10 minutes, with no physical activity points cap per day). The reason I had originally done the points cap and 20 minutes minimum was because that was what was done in previous months by other leaders, but it ended up being that only a few of the people in those challenges were even in this challenge. (It was hard to know who was going to sign up because most people signed up late, after the rules were established. So I should have changed them partway through when I found out, but somehow it didn’t occur to me). I knew that there were many people new to exercise and I wanted to make sure they knew that any activity was good and that they had the potential to help their team get the same number of points as the other team, no matter their ability to sustain physical activity. However, following this logic, it would have been wise to do 10 minutes minimum for 1 point, with a maximum of 6 points per day (for 60 minutes). This follows the recommendation that it is okay to do moderate to vigorous physical activity 10 minutes at a time, and it still wouldn’t provide incentive for obsessive physical activity. It would have been realistic and more motivating.

Asking for feedback sooner: I asked people when they signed up to tell me what they wanted to see in the challenge, and only a few people answered. Most of them said they didn’t have any expectation because it was the first one they participated in. When I asked the next time, it was as part of the bonus activity in the last three days of the challenge, and by then, not too many people were still participating. However, those that did answer the questions gave very valuable feedback. I would ask more frequently and earlier to get feedback on things that could be changed, and I would ask the people who signed up but aren’t participating what could be changed to make the challenge more appealing.

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Have you led a health-related challenge? What worked for you? What would you change for next time? What is your advice for people just learning about designing and administering health programs?

How SMART are your resolutions?

Happy New Year!
Photo Credit: digitalart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

What kind of New Year’s Resolutions did you make? Was it something vague, like “Eat better,” or does it pass the SMART test?

When setting goals (resolutions included), many people use a technique I learned in school: make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely).

Specific

Put details in your goal so that you have a clearer idea of what you are planning on doing.

Measurable

Phrase the goal in a way that you can easily tell if you’ve accomplished it or not.

Attainable

Make a goal that you have the ability and resources to meet (or, make sure you have a plan to get the skills and resources you will need).

Realistic

Write your goal so that you do not have to be a miracle-worker to achieve it.

Timely

Include a deadline or time frame in your goal so that you know when to evaluate your progress.

Here are some generic examples with a few of the many possible changes to making SMART goals.

Generic or otherwise non-SMART SMART examples
  • Eat better
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Drink more water
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day
  • Drink a glass of water before each meal or snack
  • Substitute a glass of water in the place of one soda every day
  • Work out
  • Do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week
  • Attend an exercise class three times a week, after work
  • Be a better person
  • Volunteer for one hour on Tuesdays at the local food bank
  • Compliment a stranger every day
  • Lose weight
  • Lose 25 pounds, at a rate of 1 pound each week, through portion control and exercise
  • Meet with the dietitian monthly to discuss and plan realistic weight loss goals and progress
  • Get a better job
  • Apply to 3 jobs per week, until a new job contract is signed
  • Save money
  • Save $100 per month for the 2014 European summer vacation
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Host a monthly movie party for close friends
  • Eat Sunday family dinner each week

What are your resolutions? Do they pass the SMART test?

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