The start of the New Year marks a time when people feel uplifted and excited about “starting again.” At Fourth Street Clinic, we embrace positive change and starting anew.
Every day for the month of January, we shared one of our favorite “resolutions” or ideas for positive change.
DAY #31: YOU BE YOU! ♥
Embrace, accept, and love who you are with all faults and deficiencies. By definition, self-acceptance is ”an individual’s satisfaction or happiness with oneself, and is thought to be necessary for goodmental health. Self-acceptance involves self-understanding, a realistic, albeit subjective, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses. It results in an individual’s feeling about oneself, that they are of “unique worth.” According to a Psychology Today article, a positive self-esteem arises out of self-acceptance. Further, self-acceptance is “crucial to our happiness and state of well-being.” A first step in self-acceptance is to develop self-compassion. Repeat: everything is OKAY! I am OKAY!
If we determinedly focus on the positives rather than the negatives, it is far easier to see that, in fact, you are okay and everything is okay. So, like we said on day #7, be a pal to yourself. But go further, pardon your faults and accept every part of your being! Just like every snowflake is different, so are we as humans. Celebrate how unique and wonderful you are!
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
DAY #30: REFLECT & RESET
Well, January is almost over. How are your so-called resolutions going? Perhaps it is time to reflect a bit on how you are doing. The thing about “resolutions,” is that if your original expectations were high, then you might be feeling a bit low right now. The trick to making positive changes is to recognize that you might fall off the wagon or you might need to readjust and reframe your strategy rather than just throwing in the towel. Life is full of changes, so setbacks are expected, being flexible will help with those setbacks. Revisit your goals, reexamine your intentions, and start again. Positive changes means positive you, and being gentle with yourself is part of the process. If you have ever been to a yoga class, you might have noticed that at the beginning of class, the instructor often suggests creating an intention for yourself. Creating an intention allows us to connect with our desires so that we can gently nudge ourselves in the right direction. Intentions are meant offer a moment to reset. By definition, an intention is an aim or a plan; something you aspire to do. Aspirations take time, small steps, and desire.
Our intention creates our reality.
— Wayne Dyer
DAY #29: EARTHLY LOVE
Environmental health—what is it? There are varying definitions, but think of it this way: As humans, we are in contact with our environment at all times, right? So, whatever is happening in our environment can affect us.
Here is the WHO definition:
Environmental health addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviors. It encompasses the assessment and control of those environmental factors that can potentially affect health. It is targeted towards preventing disease and creating health-supportive environments. This definition excludes behavior not related to environment, as well as behavior related to the social and cultural environment, and genetics.
In Salt Lake City, one of the biggest environmental issues affect our health is air quality. But what can we do about air quality? What can we do overall for environmental health? There are actually so many ways to reduce your environmental footprint, it would be impossible to list them all here!
For us Utahns and our poor air quality, we must stop idling our cars when stopped for more than 2 minutes. If possible, ride mass transit or bike or carpool.
For more ideas on how to reduce your ecological/environmental footprint, look to Reset.org.
It is easy to ignore the day-to-day activities impacting our environment, but every day adds up. Let’s be responsible for our health and the health of our planet. Much like everything is life, “it takes a village…”
The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.
—Lady Bird Johnson
DAY #28: Ready?…BREAK!
Kids, work, stress, bills, tasks, errands…so much to do. It’s true that a day can feel like too little time for too much to do, but really, slow down, and disconnect at least once a day. Take 5-10 minutes to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and slow down your thoughts. This exercise acts as a mini reboot for your mind and body. Need a nudge? Try an app to help give yourself a “time-out”. There is an app called, Headspace that provides guided meditation. This is in no way an endorsement or advert for Headspace, but simply a suggestion—it’s free and pretty great! Whatever it is that you have going on, make sure you reserve a time-out every day—no excuses!
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.
―Old Zen Saying
DAY #27: [DON’T] WANT A LITTLE SUGAR IN MY BOWL
The new dietary guidelines that came out this January have urged even tighter restriction on sugar intake to only 10% of daily calories. If you are on a 2,000-calories a day diet, that is 12 teaspoons of sugar per day. According to health.gov, most of our sugar comes from beverages such as soda, fruits juice (not 100% fruit juice), sugary coffee & tea, and snacks and sweets. Dietary guidelines warn about added sugar—stay away from beverages with added sugar and opt for 100% fruit and veggie juices or when in doubt, choose water! Additionally, choosing no-added sugar options for sauces, canned fruits, beverages, and snacks can aid in staying within the daily limit. Studies have shown that too much sugar can increase risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found a direct link between high sugar diets and increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. Sorry, folks, the science is telling us that no matter how yummy sugar may be, it’s a killer! Further, research cited in a Harvard Health Publication article, has shown that no matter how great someone scores on the Healthy Eating Index, those who eat more than the recommended sugar still have higher cardiovascular mortality.
What to do? One great tip to decrease sugar intake is to become a pro at reading food labels and ingredient lists! If sugar is one of the top 5 listed ingredients, steer clear! Labels also can give you your per serving grams of sugar—do the math!
Knowing the risks of sugar makes it not seem so sweet.
So, “eat less sugar, you’re sweet enough already!” – Unknown
DAY #26: SET BOUNDARIES
Setting boundaries is not selfish nor is it to say that we are shutting off our altruistic nature. It is simply knowing our limits and staying true to ourselves—it is actually an emotional skill. Many of us find ourselves saying yes to everything at a cost. Learning how and when to say ‘no’ saves us from committing to something we know to be outside of our limits and it helps the other person from feeling let down. It also helps the other person to understand you and your limits better. Recognizing where you stand is the first step in setting boundaries. Once you know your true limits, you can tune into your feelings. If a boundary is crossed, you might begin to feel resentment, anger, or disappointment. There’s you signal to change the situation. Setting boundaries is often really difficult, but try to be direct and assertive. Know that you have the right to your feeling and limitations.
Setting boundaries leads to an improved self-esteem because you have more control in your life. You begin to define who you are rather than letting others dictate. You also can communicate better and thus, your relationships improve. Setting boundaries, though difficult, really is a win-win for everyone.
At Fourth Street Clinic, one of the first things we recommend for patients struggling with substance abuse and/or domestic situations is setting boundaries. It is all too common that learning to say ‘no’ and defining limits can be the first step in recovering from a difficult situation.
To begin, start small. Pinpoint something that is causing you to feel overwhelmed and practice setting boundaries. This may be at work, at home with kids or a partner, or with friends. There is no need to place blame, instead focus on your needs and be direct. Give it a whirl—and if you need help, ask for it! Perhaps help may be professional counseling or seeking support from a friend or family member.
Setting boundaries is a skill, so take it slow and remember that practice makes perfect!
The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.
DAY #25: MAKE OR BREAK A HABIT
You may have heard, it takes 21-30 days to break a bad habit. Well, it is hard to find studies that actually prove this, but psychosomatically speaking, maybe believing that can help. What is definitely true is that the more repetitive and frequent a behavior, the more likely it is to become a habit. Also, every person and every habit is different! For some, it may take 30 days while for others it may take 230 days! So, if you are looking to break a bad habit or make a new habit, write it down and what steps you want to take to reach it. It is also helpful to think about what needs a habit is a response to. A terrific article in the Guardian cites a great example of how we tend to not realize why we have a habit in the first place. “If you eat badly, you might resolve to start eating well, but if you’re eating burgers and ice-cream to feel comforted, relaxed and happy, trying to replace them with broccoli and carrot juice is like dealing with a leaky bathroom tap by repainting the kitchen. What’s required isn’t a better diet, but an alternative way to feel comforted and relaxed.” Looking at our needs can help define a realistic plan.
Whether you are making a new habit or breaking a bad one, remember that in the end, you are really replacing one bad habit for a good one or one less than ideal habit or ritual with a better one. We are habitual creatures! In our smoking cessation classes, we know that for our patients, the habit must be replaced with something better! Our patients have to really think about why they smoke, and once those triggers are identified, then a better habit can take it’s place. Smoking is a really tough one, but the principles are the same. Regardless of the habit, you can change those neuronal synaptic pathways—our brains love habits because they are efficient!
Stay strong, stay motivated, and stay focused! Here’s to healthy habits!
Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
DAY #24: FORGIVE AND REGRET NO MORE!
Whoa, this is a big one. Do you feel hurt but haven’t forgiven? Let this be a time to forgive so that you don’t end up with regret. Forgiveness is a conscious decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or persons who harmed you. A key word there is release, forgiveness releases us from negative feelings. It really is a gift to ourselves so that we can heal. According to the American Psychological Association, “the benefits of forgiveness are:
- aids psychological healing through positive changes in affect
• improves physical and mental health
• restores a victim’s sense of personal power
• helps bring about reconciliation between the offended and offender
• promotes hope for the resolution of real-world intergroup conflicts “
One thing to note: While many often say, “Forgive and Forget,” forgetting is not a reasonable part of the process. Through forgiveness, we may let go, but it is neither reasonable nor necessary to forget. So forget about forgetting!
For more information about forgiveness and how to cultivate it, visit: UC Berkeley Greater Good
Whether you are a victim or an offender, let today be a day of giving and asking for forgiveness. Let all of the negativity flow out of you so that you may be filled with positivity!
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
― Louis B. Smedes
DAY #23: SMILE OFTEN!
Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose father told her that no matter what is happening inside, if you just sport a smile, you will begin to feel better. Give it a try, it works. Further, the thing about smiles is that they are contagious, so be a dear and spread some cheer.
A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.― Denis Waitley
DAY #22: BE HOPEFUL!
Sometimes we see patients that have lost all hope, and this is dangerous if not deadly. Hope isn’t talked about enough, but hope is something that can drive passion, motivation, and life itself. In fact, hope is something that all humans can share regardless of faith or race or gender. According to psychologist, “Charles R. Snyder and his ‘Hope Theory,’ hope consists of agency and pathways. The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.” (Psychology Today, 2011, Scott Barry Kaufman)
Hope, even of the slightest dose, might just be enough to see the light in the dark. We like to believe that at Fourth Street Clinic by providing health, we are providing hope—Hope that better days are near. NEVER LOSE HOPE!
DAY #21: THOU SHALL NOT JUDGE
Empathy is your friend here—remember that every person has a story and that saying “try walking in someone else’s shoes” is a pretty good reminder. Everybody judges from time to time, but consider how you feel when you are judged—it feels unfair and creates feelings of anger and/or sadness. Practicing empathy, on the other hand, allows us to put perspective on the person or situation we might otherwise judge. According to UC Berkeley Greater Good, “empathy is a building block of morality…” In other words, empathy is the first step in making a fair and just assessment of the world, and in doing so, our relationships are more ethical and compassionate. In a Psychology Today article about reasons to stop judging, the author cites several ways to become less judgmental, such as, pausing before reacting, depersonalizing, reframing, looking at your own behavior, giving the benefit of the doubt, educating yourself, and remembering that we are more alike than different.
By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
DAY #20: CUT BACK ON BOOZE
Sipping some bubbly or a nice wine can be fun and relaxing, but according to the NIH, safe drinking levels are defined as 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men, beyond that short-term and long-term risks increase. Having a glass of wine or beer with dinner or at a social gathering is completely healthy. In fact, there are studies suggesting that moderate drinking decreases the risk of heart disease, gallstones, and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, apéritifs and digestifs aid in digestion, and of course, a drink at the end of the day can be relaxing. “The social and psychological benefits of alcohol can’t be ignored…the occasional drink with friends can be a social tonic,” according to Harvard School of Public Health. However, there is a fine line between healthy moderate drinking and unhealthy excessive drinking. Once the line is crossed, health benefits become health detriments. Excessive drinking is related to heart problems, liver disease, and cancer. Further, excessive drinking may set the stage for alcohol abuse. Genes often play a role in how a person responds to alcohol, everyone is different, and everyone handles alcohol differently. Be aware of your family history and your alcohol consumption. There is really only one rule to follow, and that is, keep it moderate!
Starting January, 25th, National Drug and Alcohol week begins. The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has some great resources. For fun, you can check your knowledge with their 12-question quiz: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/quiz/national-drug-facts-week/take-iq-challenge/2014
For more resources on alcohol, please visit The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
As Aristotle often opined, “nothing in excess.” Cheers!
DAY #19: GET YOUR STRESS IN CHECK
Some have gone as far as to say that stress is the new smoking. Stress in small doses is healthy, but when it becomes chronic, it heightens your risk of heart disease, obesity, insomnia, and depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are different types of stress: routine stress from daily pressures at work, with family, and the daily grind; stress from an event such as death of a loved one, illness, divorce, or job loss; and traumatic stress from a major event such as natural disasters, accidents, war, or assault. All of these types affect overall health. Learning to cope with stress is the first step, and if possible, seek ways to eliminate the source of stress.
If you are stressed to the max, find ways to decompress, such as take a bath, go to bed early, turn off your work email, take a vacation, exercise regularly, meditate or do yoga, and get professional help.
Untreated chronic stress is linked to a host of dangerous ailments. It is common that people look to drugs and alcohol or overeating to cope. Further, research has shown the untreated chronic stress can “lead to the development of mental disorders, such as schizophrenia.” In another study at UC Berkeley, findings suggest “chronic stress predisposes the brain to mental illness.” This helps explain why and how so many of our patients end up with mental ailments. When a person is living on the streets, they experience stress 24-7, and this extreme stress eventually leads to a mental break or breakdown in the ability to cope. Learning to manage stress is essential for our patients’ recovery to better health.
Stress affects everyone! Take inventory of your stressors and coping mechanisms and relax.
For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
DAY #18: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR OTHERS?”
Today is Martin Luther King Day, aka. Civil Rights Day, aka. Day of Civil Service
Today is the perfect day to reflect on that which Dr. King posed, “ Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
Did you know that Utah is #1 for volunteering for the 10th year in a row? So many organizations, such as Fourth Street Clinic, rely on volunteers. In fact, we have a network of approximately 150 volunteers, many of which are doctors and medical students. We simply could not do what we do without our volunteers! Volunteering is good for the individual, the community, and the organization.
Could you give some time to the community? Pick a place that aligns with something you enjoy or step out of your comfort zone—either way you will be helping and learning. Nowadays, many companies have volunteer days. If your company doesn’t yet have a volunteer program, perhaps suggest one!
To get started, perhaps check out Pledge 10 for some ideas on ways to help in the community. And of course, please check with us to see if we have a volunteer opportunity the piques your interest and/or skills!
Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
―Martin Luther King, Jr.
DAY #17: THE SECRET IS IN THE SAUCE!
Eating out can be fun, but let’s get real, if you want to ensure proper nutrition and a fatter pocketbook, then cooking at home is the only way! It’s a really nice luxury to eat out and as far as ease, eating out might be more convenient, but it doesn’t pay off. Eating out is expensive, portions are too large, and sodium, cholesterol, fat, and calories are always higher because nutrition is not the chef’s concern. Cooking at home allows control over nutrition, money spent, portions, and temptations are limited to what you have rather than what’s on the menu!
So, what about convenience? There is a myth that home-cooked meals require a lot of time and energy. But is that really true? If you eat out at a restaurant, you can expect to be there for about the same time that it would take to make a meal. What about fast food? Okay, that probably is faster unless you are waiting in a long line. However, nutrition-wise, you lose.
To start cooking at home more, look to Google. Seriously, the number of free recipes available on the Internet is astronomical. Do you want a fast and nutritious meal, Google “fast & healthy recipe.” There are even 5-day meal plans that provide recipes and ways to use leftovers.
Now, some people prefer to cook all weeknight meals on the weekend, hey, if that’s your thing, awesome, you will be set for the week! The idea here is to have a home-cooked meal at least 5 days a week.
If you are interested in learning about the food cost, nutrition facts, portions, and dietary guidelines, the USDA has loads of information.
One last piece of advice, have fun with cooking—experiment with new ingredients and recipes! Bon appetit!
DAY #16: YOU SNOOZE, YOU WIN!
Get 7-9 hours of quality zzz’s per night for a healthy mind and body. For anyone aged 18-64 years, the number of hours needed is 7-9, but the key is that those hours be quality sleep hours. Sleep depravity is directly related to cognitive function, obesity, depression, and a host of other ailments. In fact, quality sleep in young and middle adulthood affects cognitive function in later adulthood. So, the sleep you get in your teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s “promotes better cognitive functioning and serves to protect against age-related cognitive declines,” according to a study by Scullin and Bliwise. To promote quality sleep, The Sleep Foundation suggests several tips:
– Create a routine for going to bed and sleeping
– Create a relaxing environment for sleeping—think temperature, light, and sounds
– Avoid sleep inhibitors like caffeine, alcohol, and electronics
– If you have a sleep disorders, seek treatment—these often do not go away without help
If you have a lot of sleep debt, the bad news is that you likely cannot make up for it. On the bright side, you can make changes today to start getting enough quality sleep. It’s the weekend, a perfect time to begin a new sleep routine! Sweet dreams, everyone!
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?
DAY #15: GET SOCIAL!
A 2010 study in the journal PLoS Medicine suggests that a lack of social bonds can damage your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking, and even more than obesity or lack of exercise! Further, in 1979, Berkman and Syme found that the risk of death among men and women with the fewest social ties was more than twice as high as the risk for adults with the most social ties. Wow, dare say, isolation or lack of a social network can be deadly! There is a caveat: in another study, it is noted that the benefits of social relationships are only tied to positive relationships. If a relation is negative in any way, it then morphs into a stressful unhealthy social tie, which zaps any positive health and psychological benefits. The takeaway is to choose your friends and partners wisely!
If you have a social network, give someone a buzz and make plans to enjoy some time together. If you do not have a social network, perhaps join a club or interest group. Have you ever wanted to learn French or how to knit or do you enjoy a sport? Google groups that match your interests. There are people out there who share your same interests. YOU AREN’T ALONE!
It’s Friday, folks, get out there and cultivate relationships! Remember that everybody needs somebody. We are social beings J Happy weekending!
Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
DAY #14: PREVENTION IS KEY!
Go to the doctor, get your preventative health checks, and make time to take care of yourself. There have been numerous studies focused on the economics of preventative health. It is true that some preventative health care measures do not end up being cost-effective; however, there are several that not only are cost-effective but also increase quality of life and longevity. According to the WHO, CDC, Health Affairs, and countless other studies, the following preventative care always saves money, comes at a low cost to begin with, and increases longevity:
– Smoking cessation & alcohol abuse screening and counseling
– Mental health programmes for diagnosis and treatment
– Childhood immunizations
– Low-dose aspirin and preventative care for cardiovascular disease
– Breast and colorectal screening
– Healthy eating & exercise programs (obesity screening & prevention)
– Woman wellness exams
Speaking of costs and quality of life, the Surgeon General notes how preventative medicine saves companies money by avoiding employee poor health and consequent poor productivity. On an individual note, taking care of ourselves directly leads to fewer sick days and overall well-being.
DAY #13: CULTIVATE AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
In the past few years, therapists and psychologists have really emphasized the importance of gratitude as a way of reflecting on the positive, even if it’s something tiny. The act of giving thanks activates the pleasure center in the brain. In one study at Berkeley, Robert Emmons, found that those that kept a gratitude journal for only 3 weeks reported back the following results:
|•Stronger immune systems|
•Less bothered by aches and pains
•Lower blood pressure
•Exercise more and take better care of their health
•Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
|•Higher levels of positive emotions|
•More alert, alive, and awake
•More joy and pleasure
•More optimism and happiness
|•More helpful, generous, and compassionate|
•Feel less lonely and isolated
So, where to start? The most common recommendation is to start a gratitude journal. However, UC Berkeley’s Greater Good project has loads of ideas focused on gratitude and how to cultivate it.
Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
―Ralph Waldo Emerson
DAY #12: WRITE ON!
Write for 5 minutes a day—write your personal thoughts in a diary, write a short story, write whatever comes to mind. The possibilities are endless, just put pen to paper and let your mind guide the way! Research has found that writing is linked to a variety of benefits. In an article, The Psychological Benefits of Writing, Gregory Ciotti cites research showing that writing:
– Makes you happier & more grateful
– Leads to better thinking + communicating + learning
– Can help during tough times (i.e., by way of processing emotions and feelings)
– Helps to keep a sharp mind + aids in juggling too many thoughts and ideas
The great thing about writing is that there aren’t any rules. If you worry about grammar and spelling, then you have missed the point. Unless you are planning to publish your writing, don’t worry about language rules and style guides, let your fingers be moved by your inner voice!
Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.
― Hunter S. Thompson
DAY #11: HAIL-FELLOW-WELL-MET
What does Hail-Fellow-Well-Met mean? Well, in short, in means to be neighborly, heartily friendly and congenial, comradely. Doesn’t it feel nice when someone/anyone acknowledges you with a smile or hello? Sometimes, just a simple nice gesture can really warm the heart.
So, think about it…Is there a person at work, school, your neighborhood, the café you go to every morning, the homeless guy or gal on the corner that is obviously very alone or in need of a smile or hello? Go ahead, take the leap, and be a pal to someone. At the clinic, we have heard time and time again from patients that if/when people actually acknowledge their existence, even with just a glance and smile, it can change their entire day! So, “won’t you be my neighbor?”
Each of us is a being in himself and a being in society, each of us needs to understand himself and understand others, take care of others and be taken care of himself.
― Haniel Clark Long
DAY #10: DE-CLUTTER
Practice a bit of feng shui and de-clutter your life. Who knows you might find you have stuff you don’t need that someone else could really benefit from! Or maybe de-cluttering for you means auditing other, nonmaterial things in your life, either way, clutter is clutter, and de-cluttering feels amazing! Recently, Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has been all the rage. She describes the instant gratification that comes from de-cluttering and organizing by tackling not room-by-room but rather by category. Further, she recommends auditing belongings by only keeping things the bring you joy. This is a great way method because it forces you to really think about why you have what you have. We tend to buy things and collect items with reckless abandon, but if you always have the why in mind, you might find that being more minimalist is best—and not only is that good for the environment because let’s face it not everything can be recycled, but also for us as individuals. It comes down to seeking what is truly important in life and recognizing whether possessions really hold meaning or not. Well, it’s time for us to go de-clutter for a more blissful week ahead. Happy Sunday!
The more things you own, the more they own you.
― Chuck Palahniuk
DAY #9: WONDERMENT IS WONDERFUL
Children are often full of wonder; things that seem commonplace or uninteresting can be something of complete awe for a child. Take a moment to find interest in your surroundings—look, listen, reflect. It’s Saturday, take a break from being “adult” to marvel at your environment and the people around you! If this whole idea seems far out, take a cue from kids, watch how they find excitement and interest in the simplest of things—we can re-cultivate and learn a lot from imitating that child-like sense of wonder, and boy oh boy, it is so fun and freeing!
The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
― Marcel Proust
DAY #8: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Choose an issue you care about and learn about it, seek to be informed. There is so much information and misinformation these days, truly understanding an issue requires some digging and sifting, but all that work does pay off because ‘Knowledge is Power’! At Fourth Street Clinic we research and collaborate with many partners to understand the issues of homelessness and health. Understanding the issues helps us provide the best care and resources to our community. What is something you are interested in? What could you do to learn more?
In the words of Noam Chomsky, “There’s no way to be informed without devoting effort to the task, whether we have in mind what’s happening in the world, physics, major league baseball, or anything else. Understanding doesn’t come free. It’s true that the task is somewhere between awfully difficult and utterly hopeless for an isolated individual. But it’s feasible for anyone who is part of a cooperative community – and that’s true about all of the other cases too.”
DAY #7: BE A PAL…
Resolve to be nice to yourself. The world can be mean, so make sure you do yourself a solid by being nice to yourself—this means no negative talk, listening to your mind and body, being optimistic, and taking time for you! Set yourself up for success by not setting expectations that are too high! Negative self-talk is one of the major challenges we all face that bars us from being kinder to ourselves. It’s that inner voice that says, “I’m not good enough” or “gee, nobody likes me” or “I can’t do this, it’s too hard” and so forth. As Anne Lamott in her hilarious book, Bird by Bird, describes it, there’s danger in tuning into your own personal radio staion “playing in your headtwenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo…Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all of the things one doesn’t do well, all of the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything that one touches turns to sh*t, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, icapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on.” She recommends recognizing the station is on, and then quieting that station through routine, breathing, prayer, whatever works..
Often when we let our inner voice say what it wants without filter, it can spiral. The trick is to stop those thoughts by recognizing that it’s happening, and then question the reality and validity of them. Once you begin to see these thoughts for what they are, you can spin them into positive thinking (tune into another station). For example, “I can’t do this, it’s too hard.” This is a common inner thought that many of our patients who are struggling with addictions hear. The spin and the reality is that, “yes, it is hard, but it’s not impossible, and I can do this.” Just a quick spin can alter your outlook and actions entirely! Challenging negative self-talk takes practice. Remember DAY #2? Mindfulness is a great way to begin to recognize your thoughts and feelings and challenge them, spin them, and enter moment by moment with a smile rather than a frown.
Carpe Diem, Seize the Moment—take every moment as an opportunity to tune into your needs.
Searching all directions with one’s awareness, one finds no one dearer than oneself. In the same way, others are fiercely dear to themselves. So one should not hurt others if one loves oneself.
― Udana of the Pali Canon
DAY #6: “JUST DO IT”
Like Nike says, “Just Do It.” Day #6 is the other “F” word—FITNESS! Yes, we all know exercise is fundamental, but fitting it in when you have a full-time job, kids to care for, dinner to make, chores to do, errands to run, and a million other tasks make it really hard to find the time. Moreover, the cost of a gym or fitness studio membership may be out of the question. So what can you do?
According to the CDC, to reap both the mental & physical benefits of exercise, aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity—to make it easy, work towards 30 minutes per day!
Here are a few ways to fit in fitness:
-Take a walk or a hike
-Try a winter sport such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, or traditional skiing/snowboarding
-Bike to work (when there isn’t snow or ice)
-Park further away or get off transit a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way
-Take the stairs
-Take a walk during work breaks
-Get into house chores such as mopping, vacuuming, or shoveling the snow
-Squeeze in a morning or evening stretching or yoga session at home
-Turn on some music and DANCE (like nobody’s watching)
…or whatever you like that gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping!
Did you know that we offer a Get Up & Move class at the clinic? Participants learn how to improve their lives through diet and exercise. The class aims to teach the importance of self-care and how it relates to mental & physical health.
The body is an amazing machine, but like any machine, it needs care and maintenance. The CDC reports that more than half of Americans are NOT meeting federal physical activity guidelines (that’s the 30 minutes a day), and consequently, obesity and diabetes rates are increasing. The cost of not fitting in fitness is now becoming dangerous for many Americans. So, with that, we leave you with a little motivation from Michelle Obama and her rap crew, with a video from her “Let’s Move” campaign!
DAY #5: THE ‘F’ WORD–FAMILY
Make time for family! The more time you spend together, the more opportunity there is to have quality experiences. For children, spending time with the family is essential to development in so many ways. When a child feels loves and feels that he/she matters, the risk of the child engaging in negative behavior decreases. Additionally, a child-parent relationship can predetermine health factors such as risk for obesity according to a study conducted by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. In short, family time matters, and children remember the time spent together and rely on it for their development. Our significant others rely on quality time, too—meaningful time together makes for a positive relationship.
Here are a few ideas for family time:
– Eat dinner at the table as a family
– Use weekends for family activities
– Send letters to grandparents and relatives
– Talk about the day’s events—ask how the day went. In fact, talk, talk, talk! Did you know that talking to your infant significantly helps in their language development?
– Find hobbies to do together
– Read to your children…even as infants, reading builds language skills. Read more in this NPR story
– Play time, this is for adults, too! Make time to play with your kids, but also make time to play with your significant other…from board games to sports, fun time is quality time!
What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.
― Mother Teresa
DAY #4: FIVE A DAY TO KEEP THE DOC AWAY!
Guys & gals, trends come and go, but this one remains the same- we need to eat our fruits and veggies every day! We all know that we should be eating fruits and vegetables, but do you know why? As Harvard University simply puts it, “A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check.”
Further, variety is key! Every fruit and veggie has different minerals and vitamins, which means, to reach the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for essential vitamins and minerals, each day we should aim to consume a mix of fruits and/or veggies. One trick is to “eat the rainbow” by choosing fruits and veggies of every color. While the term “superfoods” is a genius marketing term, there is some truth to the hype. Fruits and veggies such as blueberries, kiwi fruit, acai, pomegranate, dark leafy greens (Swiss chard, kale, spinach), broccoli, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, squash, and garlic appear to be powerhouses of nutrients.
Sometimes, it isn’t easy to get all of your RDAs, but over time, finding a balance can make a big difference in health. Often our bodies tell us what we need through cravings. Have you ever desperately craved a cucumber or an apple for some unknown reason? That is likely your body telling you it needs those macro- and micronutrients.
For people struggling with homelessness, choosing healthy food is often not the priority, but rather getting enough calories tops the list. However, we always stress the importance of getting enough healthy food items in our Get up & Move as well as other Health Education classes. When possible, we provide fruits like bananas to our patients to help boost much needed vitamins.
It’s a known fact that a healthy belly makes for a healthy mind! So, next time you go shopping, consider using this table of powerhouse fruits and veggies from the CDC!
DAY #3: PAY IT FORWARD
Today’s resolution is short and to the point. Pay it forward simply means that whatever kindness or nicety someone gifted you with, you repay it by doing something nice for someone else. So, here it is, commit to at least on one random act of kindness a month! Obviously, if you feel like committing to more than once a month, that’s up to you! There aren’t rules here. The world can be a cruel place, so the more kindness, the better! As for what kinds of random acts of kindness, the possibilities are endless! Open the door for someone, shovel your neighbor’s walkway, help a person in need, volunteer…keep your eyes and mind open, you will see opportunities for kindness everywhere!
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, a compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
― Leo Buscaglia
DAY #2: PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Mindful-what? Mindfulness is the practice of living in the NOW. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment and accepting them. According to Harvard University’s collaboration with HelpGuide.org, mindfulness improves wellbeing and physical and mental health in a variety of ways, such as improving sleep, lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, reducing chronic pain, treating heart disease, as well as an essential component to treating depression, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive and eating disorders, and more! Mindfulness has been used for thousands of years in Buddhist practice, but not until recently have psychologists realized its many benefits. There is irrefutable science, particularly using fMRI, that demonstrates the amazing effects of mindfulness.
At Fourth Street Clinic, we have seen how the practice of mindfulness has helped individuals process challenges and find inner peace through our Zen Mindfulness and Mindfulness and Acceptance classes.
Are you interested in getting started? The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley University is a marvelous resource!
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. (21)
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
DAY #1: THE POWER OF ONE!
If you are trying to change something or give up something, make a plan to choose one thing at a time! By choosing to focus on ONE thing, you are setting yourself up for success. Nobody can quit smoking, lose weight, volunteer, blah, blah, blah all at the same time. We aren’t wired to have that kind of willpower. Micro goals, however, are attainable. According to Stanford University psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, “People often get lost thinking they have to change everything all at once,” says McGonigal. “But small changes can pave the way for bigger changes.” In her TED Talk, she recommends focusing on the process not the outcome.