Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a stress management technique that focuses on purposely tensing and then relaxing muscles as a form of removing tension from the body. The goal of PMR is to scan our entire body and systematically remove excess tension that can be left over from stress. During PMR, an individual will focus on specific muscle groups and go through two phases: a tensing, or tightening, phase and a relaxing phase. Typically, we focus on tensing a muscle on the deep inhale and then focus on relaxing, or letting go, during the deep exhale. Eventually with sustained practice, the goal is for an individual to notice tension in the body and be able to engage in the relaxing phase to remove the tension and stress.

Follow along to the video below to practice PMR. Remember to engage in deep breathing throughout! Never tense or tighten a muscle group to the point of pain. Additionally, avoid areas of the body with sustained injury or soreness. Enjoy!

By Matt Lewandowski

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a stress management technique that focuses on the present moment. The ultimate premise behind mindfulness practice and meditation is to consciously bring each moment into our awareness. One key emphasis of mindfulness is using a nonjudgmental awareness of our thoughts and emotions. There are a number of positive benefits to incorporating mindfulness into your life including improved psychological outcomes and improved cardiovascular health outcomes.

The following video is an excellent example of mindfulness practice. Follow along as you work to help relieve stress!

By Matt Lewandowski

Fruits and Vegetables for Improved Mental Health

It has long been known that fruits and vegetables are good for our physical health. Recent research has revealed that increasing fruit and vegetable intake can also increase our mental health. They found that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables can improve mental health and well-being. Further, increased consumption can improve short-term well-being. Additional research revealed that consuming two additional portions of fruits and vegetables per day for two weeks led to improved psychological outcomes. These include increased social-emotional well-being and more energy.

The effects of increased consumption of fruits and vegetables on mental health.

The effects of increased consumption of fruits and vegetables on mental health.

Researchers explain that a majority of people are consuming below the benchmark amount of five portions of fruits and vegetables per day. They found 85% of people consume less than three daily portions of fruit and 60% consume less than three daily portions of vegetables. What’s so important about adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet? It can be a low-cost way to improve both physical and mental health. As fruit and vegetable consumption increases, personal well-being increases.

It has been found that increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables by one portion, on days when at least one portion was consumed, led to a 0.133 unit increase in mental well-being. That's the same increase as eight extra days of walking at least 10 minutes per month! This finding helps to illustrate the effect of eating more fruits and vegetables on mental health and life satisfaction. The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing healthy lifestyle consultations specific to nutrition for increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. Additionally, we can help by providing support for adhering to living a healthier life.

By Matt Lewandowski

Sources: Higher Fruit, Vegetable Consumption Tied to Well-Being. Michael Vlessides,Medscape, February 14, 2019.; Ocean, N., Howley, P., & Ensor, J. (2019).  Lettuce be happy: A longitudinal UIK study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being.  Social Science & Medicine, 222, 335-345.; Conner, T., Brookie, K., Carr, A., Mainuil, L., & Vissers, M. (2017).  Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial.  PLoS One.

New Year's Resolutions - "I want to be healthy...this time I mean it."

Every year, millions of Americans set New Year’s resolutions related to improving their overall health.  Often times, poor planning and commitment result in failed resolutions.  In fact, 46% of people who make resolutions are able to keep them for at least six months.  Further, only 8% of people are able to keep their resolutions through the end of the year!  Why do people fail at achieving their New Year’s resolutions?  One of the main reasons is that people set their resolutions for the wrong reason.  Often it is the case that resolutions are set for externally motivating reasons, such as, “I want to look good for my class reunion.”  In order to promote more successful resolutions, practitioners encourage people to set resolutions that are internally motivating, such as, “I have a desire to be healthy and see my kids grow old.”  Another reason people often fail is they expect their resolutions are going to be easy.  Further, they may not plan for discomfort or barriers and give up when faced with adversity. In fact, 71% of successful resolvers at six months said that their first slip-up strengthened their efforts.  One final reason why people may fall short of achieving their resolution is a tendency to focus on the short-term satisfaction rather than seeing the long-term pay out.

The percentage of individuals who kept their New Year’s resolutions throughout the year.

The percentage of individuals who kept their New Year’s resolutions throughout the year.

So how can we ensure success for our New Year’s resolutions?  First, start by creating a specific action plan.  It is important to set a realistic, attainable goal.  Using SMART goal setting strategies can be an effective way to outline a specific New Year’s resolution plan.  Second, it is important to approach your resolution with confidence. Facing challenges and barriers with the confidence that you can handle and overcome them will help ensure that any slip-ups only further your desire to achieve your resolution.  Finally, social support can play a huge role in a successful resolution.  Publicly declare your resolution, whether it is through social media, telling a friend, significant other, or family.  It is important to incorporate successful strategies in order to improve self-efficacy, self-esteem, and a healthy lifestyle.  The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing consultations specific to nutrition, exercise, stress management, and goal setting.  Further, we can assist in helping you develop a specific action plan that will help you achieve your New Year’s resolution.

By Matt Lewandowski

 

Sources:  Keeping New Years Resolutions:  What Works for Your Patients?  John Watson, Medscape, January 4, 2017.

Understanding and Managing Stress

Stress can play a significant role in negatively impacting an individual’s life. Physical and mental health approaches to stress management should be adopted to help reduce the negative effects of stress and improve overall health. The Healthy Lifestyle Center incorporates an interprofessional approach to helping individual’s take ownership and control of their health.  Stress is a normal response that occurs in the body when presented with a real or perceived threat.  Stress can be dangerous, however, when it interferes with the ability to live a normal life.  Typical symptoms of stress include exhaustion, loss of concentration, irritability, muscle tension, headaches, and ulcers.  Anxiety disorders are the most diagnosed mental illness worldwide. Additionally, the US, researchers have found that 39% of people are more anxious this year than last.  Further, 86% of their sample believe that our mental health affects our physical health.  It is important to address and manage stress to live a healthy life.

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 10.00.50 AM.png

Clinicians outline a few tips for helping to manage stress.  First, it is important to understand how you stress.  Do you experience more physical or mental symptoms? Where in your body do you carry your stress?  Second, we have to identify our sources of stress.  If we can identify the triggers or causes of stress, we can better approach positive ways of managing the stress.  Third, it is critical to learn our own stress signals.  When do we start noticing that we are experiencing stress?  This will help give us an idea of when it is appropriate to use different stress management techniques.  Finally, we need to recognize how we deal with stress and whether we use positive or negative coping strategies.  Negative coping strategies might include drinking alcohol, over eating, or staying in bed all day.  We want to work to identify positive coping strategies for deal with stress so we can promote a healthy life.

We can help manage stress by practicing and adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors. These include eating right, practicing good sleep hygiene, getting regular physical activity, taking appropriate medication, and practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction.  By adopting these healthy lifestyle behaviors, we can help manage our stress more efficiently and effectively as well as living a healthier life.  The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing education on healthy lifestyle behaviors and can help teach and guide you through healthy stress management techniques.

By Matt Lewandowski

 

Sources: American Psychological Association, retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/index.aspx; Brooks, M. (May 7, 2018). High anxiety in America: APA poll highlights nationwide worries. 

Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/896319?nlid=122308_3901&src=wnl_newsalrt_180508_MSCPEDIT&uac=27500FN&impID=1627683&faf=1; How Stress Affects The Body. Retrieved from: https://adrenalfatigue.org/stress-and-your-health/got-stress/stress-affects-body/

Promoting Positive Behavior Change - Adopting Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors

Goal setting can be an appropriate first step in promoting positive change to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors.  Using a goal setting strategy, such as SMART goals, can help increase motivation, self-efficacy, and self-esteem for behaviors.  The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help an individual set appropriate health goals and create an effective strategy for promoting behavior change.

SMART goals can be used to help an individual set appropriate, specific goals that can help with the adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors.  Often times, we fail to set appropriate goals and therefore set ourselves up to fail.  SMART is an acronym that can be used to outline our goals in an efficient and meaningful manner.

Specific – what specifically will you achieve?

Measurable – how will you know when you’ve completed your goal?

Action-Oriented/Achievable – something you can do; is this goal attainable?

Realistic/Relevant –will I realistically be able to achieve this; why is it important?

Time-Based – set a deadline to complete your goal

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 9.54.24 AM.png

Once we set a SMART goal there are several strategies that we can take to help ensure success in adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors.  First, we want to write our goal down.  Writing it down helps make the goal concrete and hold us accountable.  Second, we want to consider long-term and short-term goals.  Long-term goals are great because they function as the big prize we are working towards, but they lack immediate feedback.  Short-term goals can be used as a path to our long-term goals and help provide motivation and feedback along the way. Additionally, it is important to evaluate and revise our goals along the way.  Finally, we want to consider the potential barriers we might right into during our journey to achieve our goals.  If we plan out the barriers and solutions ahead of time, we will be much more inclined to overcome these barriers when they pop up.

Using SMART goals and goal setting strategies can help to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors and promote positive behavior change.  The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by discussing your specific health goals and working with you to develop a goal setting plan.  We can assist by providing specific strategies and education that will help you adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors.

By Matt Lewandowski