4 Mood and Energy Boosters

Your energy levels can be depleted by many factors. The external world is full of distractions, noise, sadness, and stress. It is valuable to remember that you, and only you, are responsible for your mood. Here are some helpful tips to keep your mood and energy levels in check so you can build them back up when they are depleted.


A quick way to inject feelings of happiness and positivity is to include music. Music can provide an instant energy boost and has been used therapeutically in clinical settings for both pain management and emotional well-being. When you are feeling down or just need a dose of happiness, put on your favorite upbeat tunes, and groove your way to a better mood.


It is true, laughter really can be the best medicine! Laughter has been shown to elevate mood, enhance immunity, and even prolong life. These benefits come from hearing laughter, having expectations of laughter or fun, and by the act of laughing itself.


Affirmations are phrases that you repeat to change, increase, or improve your state of mind. The power of affirmations is not in the words themselves, but the practice of visualizing a different reality. When you combine intentional actions with the refreshed mindset from your affirmations, you will find you can accomplish great things.

Good Deeds

When you do something nice for someone, it turns your focus away from yourself and your concerns and allows you to focus on helping somebody else feel good. Spreading kindness is the best way to spread happiness. Something as simple as a compliment, a kind word, or an act of generosity can start a positive domino effect of positive feelings.

Source: WELCOA’s COVID-19 Employee Education Toolkit: “Acknowledging and Lifting Your Mood and Energy Level

Parent CRAFT Newsletter

Parent CRAFT (Community Reinforcement Approach Family Training) is a fast-paced interactive video-based course designed to help cope with tough topics such as youth substance abuse. The course is based on the proven CRAFT method, offers professional guidance throughout, and provides real-world examples of parents interacting with their child, before and after applying the CRAFT method.

This is a great opportunity for parents or caregivers throughout Idaho to learn techniques that may help them better communicate with their children when addressing issues like substance abuse. Counselors, juvenile services, youth advocates, etc. can offer this absolutely free resource to parents that they can access from the comfort of their own home.

Visit drugfreeidaho.org and follow the Parent CRAFT link to gain access. As of now, this access will be available through 2022 so please share this information and encourage as many parents as possible to take advantage of this great opportunity.  

Radon: Fact or Fiction?

Did you know radon is present in many Idaho homes? The Idaho Environmental Health Program within the Division of Public Health manages the Idaho Radon Program. Below is information to separate radon facts from fiction and help keep your family healthy.

FACT: All homes should be tested for radon.

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell, or taste. It enters homes through gaps or cracks in the foundation. All homes, including new builds, existing homes, and those with and without basements, can have high levels of radon gas. With more people working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of radon exposure may be increased as more time is spent within the home. 

Testing is easy and is the only way to know if you are being exposed to radon in your home. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends testing your home every two years or after any remodeling.

 You can order a FREE short-term test kit from www.radonidaho.org or call the Idaho Careline at 2-1-1 or 1-800-247-2435.

FICTION: Radon is not an issue where I live.

Two out of every five homes tested in Idaho have higher than the recommended levels for radon. In fact, high radon levels have been found in every county in the state. To learn more about radon test results and recommended actions, visit www.radonidaho.org.  You can also view Idaho radon test results by zip code on an interactive map and order a FREE short-term test kit.

FICTION: Radon is not harmful to my health.

Long-term exposure to radon gas is known to cause lung cancer and is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. To learn more about the health effects of radon, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Health Risk of Radon website at epa.gov/radon/health-risk-radon.

FACT: Winter is the best time to test a home for radon.

Radon levels can change by season and with the weather. The highest levels of radon are found during the winter months when homes get less fresh air. To learn more about radon testing and how to respond to a radon problem, visit www.radonidaho.org.

FACT: A radon problem can be solved!

Radon mitigation systems can effectively reduce the levels of radon in a home. The Idaho Radon Program recommends hiring a nationally-certified radon professional to fix your home. To locate a radon professional, visit www.radonidaho.org.   

The Idaho Radon Program is offering a free two-hour interactive radon workshop that will explain what radon is, how it enters your home, and what you can do to help prevent excessive exposure and reduce your risk of lung cancer.  To register, please visit www.radonidaho.org.

  • January 18, 2022 at 1pm-3pm MT Virtual Online
  • January 20, 2022 at 9am-11am MT City of Hailey, Council Chambers (*in-person masks required)
  • January 25, 2022 at 9am-11am MT Virtual Online
  • February 3, 2022 at 9am-11am MT Idaho Falls Building Department (*in-person masks required)
  • February 17, 2022 at 1pm-3pm MT Virtual Online

If you have questions or need more information, contact the Idaho Radon Program at 1-800-445-8647 or radon@dhw.idaho.gov.

The 12 Ways to Wellness

The 12 Ways to Wellness

Sung to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas

The first way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The second way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The third way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The fourth way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Move your body daily, drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The fifth way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Prioritize your sleeeeeeeeeep, move your body daily, drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The sixth way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Eat fruits and veggies, prioritize your sleeeeeeeeeep, move your body daily, drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The seventh way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Understand your value, eat fruits and veggies, prioritize your sleeeeeeeeeep, move your body daily, drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The eighth way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Make time for self-care, understand your value, eat fruits and veggies, prioritize your sleeeeeeeeeep, move your body daily, drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The ninth way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Get vaccinated, make time for self-care, understand your value, eat fruits and veggies, prioritize your sleeeeeeeeeep, move your body daily, drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The tenth way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Plan a vacation, get vaccinated, make time for self-care, understand your value, eat fruits and veggies, prioritize your sleeeeeeeeeep, move your body daily, drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The eleventh way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Use good ergonomics, plan a vacation, get vaccinated, make time for self-care, understand your value, eat fruits and veggies, prioritize your sleeeeeeeeeep, move your body daily, drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

The twelfth way to wellness said Health Matters to me,
Build a social network, use good ergonomics, plan a vacation, get vaccinated, make time for self-care, understand your value, eat fruits and veggies, prioritize your sleeeeeeeeeep, move your body daily, drink water, manage your stress, and wash hands to be safe and healthy!

Thanksgiving Veggie Sides

Small Steps, BIG Difference

November is National Diabetes Month!

Prediabetes is a serious health condition that puts you at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes affects more than 1 in 3 U.S. adults—that’s 88 million people—but most people don’t know they have it.

The good news is that by making healthy lifestyle changes, it is possible to manage or reverse prediabetes and prevent it from turning into type 2 diabetes.

Follow these tips to prevent/manage prediabetes:

01. Take small steps

Making changes to your lifestyle
and daily habits can be hard, but
you don’t have to change everything
at once. Start small.

02. Move more

Limit time spent sitting and try to
get at least 30 minutes of physical
activity 5 days a week. Start slowly by
breaking it up throughout the day.

03. Choose healthier foods and drinks more often

Pick foods that are high in fiber and low
in fat and sugar. Build a plate that
includes a balance of vegetables,
protein, and carbohydrates. Drink
water instead of sweetened drinks.

04. Lose weight, track it, keep it off

You may be able to prevent or delay
diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of
your starting weight.

05. Seek support from your doctor

People are more successful at
managing their prediabetes if they
have regular contact and support
from trusted health care professionals.

06. Stay up to date on vaccinations

The COVID-19 and flu vaccines are
important for people who may be more
likely to get very sick from COVID-19
or the flu, such as people with diabetes.

Source: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/community-health-outreach/national-diabetes-month#:~:text=November%20is%20National%20Diabetes%20Month!


Resilience is the ability to adapt and bounce back from stress, change, and challenge. Like a muscle, the more you exercise your resilience, the stronger it becomes. Being resilient doesn’t protect you from experiencing negative emotions, but it does help you embrace the opportunity to learn about yourself and prepare you for future challenges.

4 Ways to Revive Your Resilience

Get back to basics to boost your resilience. 

Practicing positive lifestyle habits like good nutrition, sleep, hydration, and regular exercise can strengthen your body to adapt to stress and reduce the emotional impact.

Try to focus on what really matters to keep frustrations in perspective. 

Focusing on the bigger picture can help you avoid blowing day-to-day annoyances like traffic and dirty laundry out of proportion.

Improve your mental health by leaning into positive social connections. 

Work to keep relationships with friends, family, and co-workers strong so that you can be there for one another when times get tough.

Counteract the physical and mental side effects of stress by doing something that makes you feel good!

Laugh with a friend, move your body, or get to bed earlier. Doing just one thing that makes your body and mind feel a little better can help minimize the impact of stress.

Talk it Out

Talk to a mental health professional if you feel like you are unable to cope. The Employee Assistance Program [E.A.P.] provides confidential, short-term counseling services for benefit eligible employees and their dependents. You can call anytime to discuss marital, relationship or family problems; stress, anxiety and depression; grief and loss, job pressures and substance abuse.

Prevent Burnout

25 Ways to Improve Your Day

Download printable pdf

Simple self-care strategies to help you feel better
  1. Put things into perspective [What is truly important?]
  2. Take a quick walk
  3. Laugh at something silly
  4. Do a random act of kindness
  5. List three things that make you smile
  6. Take a power nap [less than 20 min]
  7. Drink water
  8. Call or text a friend
  9. Check your posture and readjust
  10. Unplug
  11. Listen to calming music
  12. Change up your environment
  13. Take three deep breaths
  14. Get some fresh air
  15. Eat a balanced meal or snack [focus on protein and produce]
  16. Do just one thing at a time
  17. Draw, doodle, or create something
  18. Tell yourself you’re doing a good job
  19. Take a break
  20. Stretch your body
  21. Write down what is frustrating you and/or causing you stress
  22. Pet a dog or cat
  23. Ask for help
  24. Set a boundary
  25. Organize or tide up something [a drawer, a file, your desk, etc.]

Idaho Family Dinner Night 2021

Celebrate Idaho Family Dinner Night on September 27!

Eating together regularly as a family is one of the best ways to build and maintain strong relationships with your children. Frequent family dinners are linked to positive benefits for youth, including lower rates of substance use, decreased stress, higher self-esteem, and better academic performance in school.

That’s why the Office of Drug Policy (ODP) is kicking off an Idaho Family Dinner Night campaign to encourage parents across the state to celebrate Idaho Family Dinner Night on the fourth Monday of September which falls on the 27th this year. Let’s make family meals a regular event in your homes all year round.

Idaho Family Dinner Recipe Guide

To help families celebrate and connect around the dinner table, ODP created the Idaho Family Dinner Recipe Guide, which is filled with conversation starters, games and activities, and simple, budget-friendly recipes, including:

  • Slow Cooker Chicken Santa Fe Soup
  • Quick Trick Chicken Tacos
  • 5 Minute Easy Egg Fried Rice
  • Build Your Own Baked Nachos
  • Baked Chicken Parmesan

To develop the Recipe Guide and share resources with parents, ODP has partnered with The Family Dinner Project, a national nonprofit initiative that champions family dinner as an opportunity for family members to connect with each other through food, fun, and conversation about things that matter. ODP is encouraging Idaho parents to sign up for The Family Dinner Project’s free online program – Food, Fun, and Conversation: 4 Weeks to Better Family Dinners – for tools and resources to help make family dinners a household staple in just four weeks.

For more information about Idaho Family Dinner Night, download the Recipe Guide, and learn how to become a family dinner pro in three easy steps, visit https://odp.idaho.gov/family-dinner-night/

Move More

How to Move More at Work

Download infographic

Take 5 to 10!

It is recommended to get 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Remember that some is always better than none, so try adding more movement whenever you can!
Add a few 5- to 10-minute activity bursts throughout your workday to get your blood pumping and boost your energy. Getting ten minutes of continuous moderate activity three times a day can give the same health benefits as 30 minutes of nonstop exercise.

Get Your Blood Pumping
  • Use 10 minutes of your lunch hour to go for a brisk walk.
  • Walk up and down the stairs for 5-10 minutes.
  • Work off some stress by dancing to your favorite music.
Don’t Resist Resistance
  • Start your day with a few minutes of strengthening exercises, such as lunges, air squats, and bicep curls.
  • Between meetings, slowly and carefully lift and lower weights for a few minutes. Use dumbbells, resistance bands, or whatever heavy items you have on hand.
  • If you’re on a long phone call, try doing squats or calf raises to strengthen lower-body muscles.
Mix Up Your Workday
  • Take your breaks in a different area than your desk.
  • Stretch your muscles to help you relax and recharge.
  • Set a timer to move at least once every hour. Even if you are on a long Zoom meeting you can get up and move at your computer!
  • Form a virtual walking club with co-workers.
  • Try walking during one-on-one meetings or long phone calls. You may find you’re more creative on your feet!
Move for Your Mind

Physical activity has a significant impact on emotional, intellectual, and mental well-being. Something as simple as walking can boost yourself-esteem and help you feel more in control of your own self-care. Being active outdoors is particularly beneficial to mental health, so try to step outside whenever possible. However you choose to move, your body and mind will thank you!

More Resources for Moving More at Work

Be The 1 To

This page is not intended to and does not provide crisis intervention.
If you are currently in a crisis, or have immediate concerns about someone, call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-4357 (HELP)

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a time to honor loved ones lost to suicide and renew efforts to prevent suicide deaths. It is also important to focus our attention on hope, help, strength, and recovery! Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background.

We can all help prevent suicide. You can #BeThe1To save a life. The five action steps below for communicating with someone who may be thinking about suicide are supported by evidence in the field of suicide prevention.


Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks them in a caring way. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tough question. When somebody you know is in emotional pain, ask them directly:

“Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

Be There

Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful by speaking to someone who listens without judgment.

If this person is thinking about suicide, listen to their reasons for feeling hopeless and in pain.

Listen with compassion and empathy and without judgement.

Keep Them Safe

A number of studies have indicated that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline.

If this person is thinking about suicide, ask if they’ve also thought about how they would do it.

Separate them from anything they are thinking of using to hurt themselves.

Help Them Connect

Studies indicate that helping someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals for support and safety can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness.

Help this person connect to a support system so they have others to reach out to for help; whether it’s the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, family, friends, clergy, coaches, co-workers, or therapists.

Follow Up

Studies have also shown that brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention, especially for individuals after they have been discharged from hospitals or care services.

Making contact with this person in the days and weeks following a crisis can make a difference in keeping them alive.

Check in with the person you care about on a regular basis.

Become a QPR Gatekeeper to Prevent Suicide

Just like CPR, QPR is an emergency response to someone in crisis and can save lives. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer – 3 simple steps that anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide. QPR consists of three life-saving skills: recognize the warning signs of suicide; offer hope; get help and save a life. Learn more about free QPR Gatekeeper training opportunities in Idaho.

Mental Health Myths

Help bust the stigma about mental health by separating myth from fact!

MYTH: Mental health problems are rare and do not affect me.

FACT: Mental health problems are actually very common. In fact, one in four people experience a mental health issue annually. Suicide was the 8th leading cause of death among Idahoans in 2019, and Idaho has the 9th highest suicide rate in the nation. Even if you do not have a mental health problem, chances are you have a friend, family member, or co-worker who is affected.

MYTH: People with mental health problems are weak and should just “snap out of it.”

FACT: Mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak and many people need help to get better. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.

MYTH: People with mental health problems are violent.

FACT: People with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. This myth makes it challenging for people to talk openly about their mental health struggles. Many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.

MYTH: There is nothing you can do to help someone with a mental health problem.

FACT: Friends and loved ones can make a big difference. If someone you know is experiencing a mental health problem, just staying in touch can be very helpful. You can be an important influence to help someone get the treatment and services they need by:

  • Reaching out and letting them know you are available to help
  • Helping them access mental health services
  • Learning and sharing the facts about mental health, especially if you hear something that isn’t true
  • Treating them with respect, just as you would anyone else
  • Refusing to define them by their diagnosis or using labels such as “crazy”

Sources: https://www.bethe1to.com/ / https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/promote-national-suicide-prevention-month/ / https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts

Building Healthy Relationships

Strong, healthy relationships are important throughout your life. Your social ties with family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others impact your mental, emotional, and even physical well-being.

“We can’t underestimate the power of a relationship in helping to promote well-being,” says NIH psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Valerie Maholmes. Studies have found that having a variety of social relationships may help reduce stress and heart-related risks. Strong social ties are even linked to a longer life. On the other hand, loneliness and social isolation are linked to poorer health, depression, and increased risk of early death.

As a child you learn the social skills you need to form and maintain relationships with others. But at any age you can learn ways to improve your relationships.

NIH funds research to find out what causes unhealthy relationship behavior. Researchers have created community, family, and school-based programs to help people learn to have healthier relationships. These programs also help prevent abuse and violence toward others.

What Is Healthy?

Every relationship exists on a spectrum from healthy to unhealthy to abusive. One sign of a healthy relationship is feeling good about yourself around your partner, family member, or friend. You feel safe talking about how you feel. You listen to each other. You feel valued, and you trust each other.

“It’s important for people to recognize and be aware of any time where there is a situation in their relationship that doesn’t feel right to them or that makes them feel less than who they are,” Maholmes advises.

It’s normal for people to disagree with each other. But conflicts shouldn’t turn into personal attacks. In a healthy relationship, you can disagree without hurting each other and make decisions together.

“No relationship should be based on that power dynamic where someone is constantly putting the other partner down,” Maholmes says.

If you grew up in a family with abuse, it may be hard as an adult to know what healthy is. Abuse may feel normal to you. There are several kinds of abuse, including physical, sexual, and verbal or emotional. Hurting with words, neglect, and withholding affection are examples of verbal or emotional abuse.

In an unhealthy or abusive relationship, your partner may blame you for feeling bad about something they did or said. They may tell you that you’re too sensitive. Putting you down diminishes you and keeps them in control.

In a healthy relationship, however, if you tell your partner that something they said hurt your feelings, they feel bad for hurting you. They try not to do it again.

Abuse in an intimate relationship is called domestic or intimate partner violence. This type of violence involves a pattern of behaviors used by one person to maintain power and control over someone that they are married to, living with, or dating now or in the past. A pattern means it happens over and over.

In an unhealthy or abusive relationship, you may not be allowed to spend time with family, friends, and others in your social network. “One of the signs that’s really important in relationships where there is intimate partner violence is that the partner that is being abused is slowly being isolated from family and friends and social networks,” Maholmes says. “Those social networks are protective factors.”

How to Help Someone in an Unhealthy Relationship

  • Let them know that you’re worried about them.
  • Listen without judging or blaming.
  • Tell them that it’s not their fault.
  • Offer to go with them to talk to someone who can help.
  • Visit www.thehotline.org for more tips on how to help.

Social Ties Protect

Studies have shown that certain factors seem to protect people from forming unhealthy relationships over their lifetime. The protection starts early in life. NIH-supported research has shown that the quality of an infant’s emotional bond with a parent can have long-lasting positive or negative effects on the ability to develop healthy relationships.

“The early bond has implications that go well beyond the first years of life,” says Dr. Grazyna Kochanska, an NIH-funded family relationships researcher at the University of Iowa. The goal of Kochanska’s research projects is to understand the long-term effects of that early bond and to help children develop along positive pathways and avoid paths toward antisocial behaviors.

A family that functions well is central to a child’s development. Parents can help children learn how to listen, set appropriate boundaries, and resolve conflicts. Parents teach children by example how to consider other people’s feelings and act in ways to benefit others.

Secure emotional bonds help children and teens develop trust and self-esteem. They can then venture out of the family to form other social connections, like healthy friendships. In turn, healthy friendships reduce the risk of a child becoming emotionally distressed or engaging in antisocial behaviors.

On the other hand, having an unhealthy relationship in the family, including neglect and abuse, puts a child at risk for future unhealthy relationships.

“One caring adult can make a huge difference in the life of kids whose family structures may not be ideal or whose early life is characterized by abuse and neglect,” says Dr. Jennie Noll of the Center for Healthy Children at Pennsylvania State University. “That caring adult could be an older sibling, or a parent, or someone else in the family, a teacher—the kind of people who have a large influence in communicating to the child that they matter and that they’re safe, and that they have a place to go when they are needing extra support.”

Healthy friendships and activities outside of the home or classroom can play protective roles during childhood, too. In fact, everyone in a community can help support the development of healthy connections. Adults can serve as good role models for children, whether the children are their own or those they choose to mentor.

Helping and Getting Help

At any age, your relationships matter. Having healthy relationships with others starts with liking yourself. Learn what makes you happy. Treat yourself well. Know that you deserve to be treated well by others.

Having an unhealthy or abusive relationship can really hurt. The connection may be good some of the time. You may love and need the person who hurts you. After being abused, you may feel you don’t deserve to be in a healthy, loving relationship.

With help, you can work on your relationship. Or, sometimes in an abusive relationship, you may be advised to get out. Either way, others can help.

If you or a friend needs help with an unhealthy relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.thehotline.org or 1-800-799-SAFE. If you know a child who may need help, find resources at the Child Welfare Information Gateway at www.childwelfare.gov.

Source: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/04/building-social-bonds

Connections Count

Strong, healthy relationships are important throughout your life. Your social ties with family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others impact your mental, emotional, and even physical well-being. From the time you’re born, your relationships help you learn to navigate the world. You learn how to interact with others, express yourself, conduct everyday health habits, and be a part of different communities from those around you. Learn how positive social habits can help you build support systems and stay healthier mentally and physically.

Active with Others

Where you live, work, or go to school can have a big impact on how much you move and even how much you weigh. Being active with others in your community can have a positive effect on your health habits and create opportunities to connect.

Cuddles, Kisses, and Caring

Cuddles, kisses, and caring conversations are key ingredients of close relationships. Our links to others have powerful effects on our health. Whether with romantic partners, family, friends, neighbors, or others, social connections can influence well-being.

Relationships Old and New

The secret to a meaningful life is meaningful relationships. Think about the sorts of relationships you currently have and the kinds of relationships you would like to have. You may find a need to make new relationships, or strengthen existing ones.

Positive Parenting

Raising children can be both rewarding and challenging. You’re likely to get a lot of advice along the way, but every parent and child is unique. Being sensitive and responsive to your kids can help you build positive, healthy, and resilient relationships together.

Mindfulness Exercises

The Cambridge Dictionary defines mindfulness as “the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm.” It means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings instead of going through life on autopilot. Mindfulness matters because it can help manage stress, anxiety, and depression. It has also been associated with a greater enthusiasm for life and improved self-esteem.

The four exercises below are examples of ways to start, or enhance, a mindfulness practice.

Exercise 1: Body Scan

The body scan practice helps you become more aware of how all parts of your body are feeling. When you first start this practice, it may be helpful to go to a quiet location. As you gain experience, you can do the exercise anywhere and anytime. You can choose to do this exercise for five minutes or for more than an hour.

  1. Find a comfortable position. The first few times you do this practice, try lying on your back with your eyes closed.
  2. Take five breaths. Feel your belly rise as you breathe in. Feel your belly fall as you breathe out. Continue to breathe slowly throughout the exercise.
  3. Note how your body feels as a whole. What information is your body giving you? Is there any area of tension?
  4. Now begin to focus on each part of your body in order.
    • Begin with the toes of your left foot. What do you feel? Cool air? A soft blanket? A scratchy sock? A confining shoe? Perhaps you don’t feel anything. This is OK. Take a deep breath and end your focus on your toes.
    • Next move to the sole of your left foot. Again, what do you feel? When ready, take a deep breath, and end your focus on your foot.
    • Continue to focus on each part of your body. Give each part your full attention in the order listed. (Go down the first column, starting with “top of the left foot” and then the second column. Thus, “left fingers” will follow “chest”). Once you finish with an area, take a breath and move on to the next area. When your mind wanders, be gentle with yourself, knowing that this is what minds do. Take a breath and refocus where you left off.
      • top of the left foot / left ankle / left shin / left calf / left knee / left thigh / left hip / pelvis / right foot and leg (as you did the left) / return to your pelvis / belly / back (lower, middle, and upper) / chest / left fingers / then in order–your left hand, wrist, forearm, upper arm, shoulder / right hand and arm (as you did the left) / neck / face / scalp / top of the head
  5. End the practice by returning to your breath. Take five breaths, noting the rise and fall of your belly.
Exercise 2: Seated Meditation

Go to a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

  1. Decide how long you want to practice. Do you want to start with two to five minutes? Consider setting a timer, so you know when the time is up without being distracted by looking at a clock.
  2. Sit comfortably.
    • If you are in a chair, put both feet on the floor.
    • If you are sitting on a cushion, it is best to have your hips higher than your knees. Position yourself on the cushion so that your knees can rest on the floor. Or support your knees with a prop that keeps them lower than your hips.
    • Let your spine stretch up into a neutral spine position, lengthening out like a string of pearls.
    • Put your hands in a comfortable position.
  3. Set an intention for this meditation. It may be as simple as “May I cultivate mindful awareness in my life.” Another example is “May I seek and practice the benefits of silence and stillness.”
  4. Close your eyes and turn your attention inward, or gaze softly at the floor.
  5. Focus on your breathing.
    • When you breathe in, is it fast, slow, noisy, quiet, easy, or difficult?
    • When you breathe out, is it fast, slow, noisy, quiet, easy, or difficult?
  6. If your attention wanders, accept that it is normal. Then resume focusing on your breathing. Be kind to yourself. Minds wander; that is what they do. The key is to gently bring your awareness back to your breath when it wanders.
  7. Continue to focus on your breath.
  8. When the timer sounds, slowly open your eyes.
  9. Think about your experience.
    • How did it feel to focus on breathing for this length of time?
    • Concentrating on your breath in this way can be challenging at first. It becomes much easier with practice.
Exercise 3: Mindful Awareness While Commuting

How do you usually spend the time as you move from one location to another? Often people are lost in thought. You can arrive without thinking how you got to your new location. Moving from point A to point B gives you an opportunity to practice mindful awareness. You can do this whether you walk, cycle, drive, or use public transportation.

Note: For safety reasons, it is best if you first become familiar with this mindful awareness practice while you are a passenger and not driving a car or riding a bike.

Try the following exercise during your daily travels.

  1. Avoid distractions like a radio, headphones, phone, computer, print materials, eating and drinking.
  2. What do you see? Look around you with fresh eyes. What colors, shapes, textures, sizes, and movements do you see? Try not to judge what you see. Use this as a time to simply see. Keep your awareness in the present moment, not the past or the future.
  3. What do you hear? Are the sounds around you loud, soft, harsh, continuous, off and on, high-pitched, or low-pitched? What direction do the sounds come from?
  4. What do you smell? Breathe your usual way through your nose. Pay attention to any smells you detect. Then take a deep breath through your nose. Do you detect any different smells?
  5. What do you taste? Is your mouth open or closed? Are you aware of any taste?
  6. What do you feel physically? (For example, do you feel your hands on a steering wheel? Your feet on bicycle pedals or a sidewalk? Your behind on a seat?) What are you aware of at these points of contact? (For example, do your feet hurt?) What are you aware of elsewhere in your body? Are your shoulders relaxed, tense, or neutral? What about your jaw, your neck, and your back? What emotions do you notice?
  7. As you travel, continue to notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.
  8. When you arrive at your new location, bring this same attention into the rest of your activities. This can make for a richer day
Exercise 4: Mindful Moment

  1. Find a comfortable seated position.
  2. Take five breaths. Feel your belly rise as you breathe in. Feel your belly fall as you breathe out.
  3. Notice your jaw.
    • Notice how the left side of your jaw feels. Is your jaw tense, relaxed, or neutral? Are you clenching your teeth together? If so, separate them to relax your jaw.
    • Now do the same with the right side of your jaw.
    • Take a slow, deep breath. How does it feel to have your teeth separated and your jaw relaxed?
  4. Notice your neck.
    • Does your neck feel tense, relaxed, or neutral as if lengthened like a string of pearls?
    • Allow your neck to stretch out into a neutral position. Look straight ahead. Stretch the back of your neck. Tuck your chin slightly.
    • Mindfully note your neck. As you feel safe to do so, slowly turn your head to look toward your right shoulder. Do not force the motion, just let it flow and stop the turning where you feel safe.
    • Take a breath before returning to neutral.
    • Again mindfully note your neck. As you feel safe to do so, slowly turn your head to look toward your left shoulder. Do not force the motion, just let it flow and stop the turning where you feel safe.
    • Raise your chin so that you are looking where the wall in front of you meets the ceiling.
    • Take a breath before returning to neutral.
    • Lower your chin as far toward your chest as possible without straining.
    • Take a breath before returning to neutral.
    • Again mindfully note your neck. As you feel safe to do so, slowly bring your right ear down toward your right shoulder, keeping your shoulder relaxed. Do not force the motion, just let it flow and stop moving where you feel safe.
    • Take a breath before returning to neutral.
    • Again mindfully note your neck. As you feel safe to do so, slowly bring your left ear down toward your left shoulder, keeping your shoulder relaxed. Do not force the motion, just let it flow and stop moving where you feel safe.
    • Take a slow, deep breath. Notice how it feels to have your neck relaxed.
  5. Notice your shoulders.
    • Focus on your shoulders. Do they feel tense, relaxed, or neutral?
    • Raise your shoulders toward your ears.
    • Breathe in deeply. Allow your shoulders to relax as you breathe out.
    • Roll your shoulders forward three times.
    • Roll your shoulders backward three times.
    • Allow your shoulders to come to rest in a relaxed, neutral position.
    • Take a slow, deep breath. How does it feel to have your shoulders relaxed?
  6. Take five breaths. Feel the rise of your belly as you breathe in. Feel your belly fall as you breathe out.
  7. Maintain your awareness of the jaw, the neck, and the shoulders throughout your daily activities. Repeat this exercise whenever you feel tension building in these areas. This will help keep you tuned in to your body and help you release unnecessary tension.

These exercises were written for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) by Charlene Luchterhand MSSW, Education and Research Coordinator, Integrative Health Program, University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. They were included in a handout as part of a document for clinicians, Clinical Tool: Mindful Awareness Practice in Daily Living, written by Adrienne Hampton, MD. The handout was reviewed and edited by Veterans and VHA subject matter experts. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) by Charlene Luchterhand MSSW, Education and Research Coordinator, Integrative Health Program, University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

Source: “Mindful Awareness Practice in Daily Living” from US Department of Veterans Affairs, June 2020

Maintain Your Muscle

Strength Training at Any Age

You’ve likely heard that exercise can help you live a longer, healthier life. When you hear the word ‘exercise,’ you might think of going for a run or hopping on a bicycle. Or maybe playing soccer with your kids or basketball with your friends after work. But these activities don’t include all the types of movements that are important for your health.

The examples above are endurance exercise. Also called cardiovascular exercise, activities like these increase your breathing and heart rate. They can keep your heart and lungs in good shape and help prevent many chronic diseases. But exercises to maintain flexibility, balance, and strength are also important.

Stretching gives you more freedom of movement and makes daily activities more comfortable. Balance practice helps prevent falls, which become a concern as you get older.

Strength training, also called resistance training or weight training, is particularly important. It brings many benefits. First, it makes your muscles stronger. That can help you keep up the activities you enjoy—at any stage of your life.

It’s not about getting big muscles, explains Dr. Wendy Kohrt, an aging expert at the University of Colorado. In fact, most people who do strength training don’t see much of a change in muscle size.

But at all stages of life, she says, “maintaining muscle mass and muscle function is really important for quality of life.”

Start Building Muscle Safely

Scroll through the images below for tips on getting started with resistance training.

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Start slowly, especially if you haven’t been active for a long time.

Little by little, build up your activities and how hard you work at them.

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Pay attention to your body.

Exhaustion, sore joints, or muscle pain mean you’re overdoing it.

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Use small amounts of weight to start.

Focus on your form, and add more weight slowly, over time.

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Use smooth, steady movements to lift weights into position.

Don’t jerk or thrust weights and avoid “locking” your arm and leg joints in a straight position.

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Don’t hold your breath during strength exercises.

That could cause changes in your blood pressure. Breathe out as you lift the weights and breathe in as you relax.

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​Ask for help.

To get started, schedule a session or two with a personal trainer, or look for a group class at a local gym, recreation center, or senior center.

Building Up Benefits

Building muscle can do more than make you stronger. Some types of strength training keep your bones healthy, too. Strength training can also improve the way your body processes food to help prevent diabetes and related diseases.

“And like endurance activity, regular strength training is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases,” says Dr. Joseph Ciccolo, an exercise researcher at Columbia University.

But the main benefit of strength training, as the name suggests, is that it makes your muscle cells stronger. “That benefit is unique to strength training,” says Dr. Roger Fielding, who studies the benefits of exercise at Tufts University.

Experts recommend that children and teens do muscle-strengthening activities at least three days a week. For adults, they encourage strength training for the major muscle groups on two or more days a week.

The benefits of strength training increase as you get older, says Fielding. Maintaining strength is essential for healthy aging.

“Loss of muscle with aging can limit people’s ability to function in their home environment and live independently,” Kohrt says. “Just being able to get up out of a chair or go up and down stairs requires a fair amount of muscle strength.”

In a recent study, Fielding and other researchers tested a three-month weight-lifting program in older adults who already had difficulty walking. At the end of the study, participants who lifted weights improved at tasks like repeatedly bending their knees. Such movements are essential for activities of daily living. In contrast, study participants who only stretched at home did not see similar improvements in strength.

“As we age, I think it’s even more important to consider incorporating some strength training into our physical activity routines,” says Fielding. “We can either slow down the progression of age-related muscle loss or prevent it.”

Getting Started

If you want to get started with strengthening exercises, what should you do? Strength training may seem intimidating if you’ve never tried it.

“People naturally learn to walk as part of growing up. But you don’t necessarily learn how to lift weights,” Ciccolo says.

If it’s feasible for you, booking a few sessions with a personal trainer is a good way to get started, says Kohrt. “That can get you introduced to the types of exercises you could do,” she explains.

There are also many low- or no-cost classes available. Look for them at local gyms, recreation centers, senior centers, and community centers.

Like with any new activity, to make strength training stick, “you have to find something that you really like to do,” says Fielding. “Some people will want to exercise in a group, in a community setting. Others will be happy doing all their exercises in their home, by themselves.”

If you’ve never lifted weights before, talk with your health care provider before you start any home-based strength training routine.

Whatever you choose to do, “start slowly and build up very gradually,” says Kohrt.

Source: NIH News in Health, March 2020