Healthy Living in the North

Motivating change

A device that measures your healthy activity and the smart phone where the info is displayed.

You can combine fitness and technology to help keep you healthy goals on track.

A few weeks ago, I wrote to you about New Year’s resolutions and setting up a plan to help you succeed. I have my S.M.A.R.T. goal written down to keep me on track, so how can I fail?!? If only it were that easy! This follow-up piece is to talk about motivation. Outside of having my wife, family, and friends support me to help me stay motivated, self-talk and a few props can go a long way in filling some gaps!

What happens when I miss my workout or smoke a cigarette or eat that extra rich dessert? At that point, negative self-talk has the potential to derail everything. How many times have you said to yourself, “I have blown it,” “I can’t do it,” “I am weak,” or “I am a failure?” Our self-esteem takes a hammering and makes it hard for us to do anything other than return to the behaviour we wish to change. Often, this leads us to continue to undo all of the good work we have accomplished.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Many studies have shown that kind and positive self-talk is the most effective thing you can do to stay true to your goals. “I am worthy,” “I can do this,” “I lasted two weeks last time and I can do better this time.” Try it the next time you have a setback. It has been shown that during a quit attempt from smoking, kind self-talk is as effective as nicotine replacement therapy.

Finally, as someone who enjoys technology, I have become very interested in wearable health devices and smartphone apps. For about $100 you can purchase a device to monitor and track your daily steps (for example, a Fitbit). This is a great way to see if you are as active as you think you are, track your daily and weekly goals, and even share your journey with friends and colleagues for some healthy competition.

 In 2013, it is estimated that over 35,000 apps are dedicated to health and fitness.

In recent years, the market for apps has exploded. You can find an app to do just about anything. I have an app that tracks my goals and sends me reminders when I need to run or exercise. I also have an app that counts my pushups when I touch my phone with my nose and cheers when I reach my daily targets. With these props, I am all set for motivating my new routine. I can hardly wait to get started!

You can also use SMS text messages to keep your motivation levels high. Two of my colleagues agreed to send each other a motivational, supportive message each day to keep on track. It’s a simple and effective plan and, so far, they are both reporting a positive impact to their healthy goals.

Power-up your self-esteem in 2014; Take control and imagine how healthy and happy the “future you” will be. The time you spend building resilience will pay dividends in the future. Be inspired and become the inspiration for your family and friends. You can do it!

What do you do to keep yourself motivated for change?

Michael Melia

About Michael Melia

Michael Melia is the director for northwest mental health and addiction services. He is a registered psychiatric nurse and has a bachelor’s of science in nursing and has recently completed a master’s in business administration. Michael is serving as an elected board member for the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family, keeping fit and exploring rural B.C.

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A SMART start to the new year

20131231_MMelia_Pushup400x500
As we approach 2014 many of us will be thinking about making lifestyle changes to improve our health: eat more vegetables, exercise more, stop smoking, and countless other things we would like to change. But, what will it take to be successful? How will we know when we have reached our goal?

I would like to share some of the things I have learned about making healthy lifestyle changes over the years.  Making lasting change is never easy and every one of us needs support from friends, family and colleagues to master these personal challenges.

First, you need to “do it your way.”  Take time to reflect on when you have been successful in the past.  How did it feel and what helped you that time?  For example, it took me 22 years of marriage to work out that all I need to do is tell my wife all about the healthy change I want to make, repeatedly, and in great detail.  That’s all it takes, after so much “talk” how can I do anything but carry on?  Sorry, Julie and thank you for your patience!

S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound.

It also helps to write out S.M.A.R.T. goals and keep them somewhere you can see them. Below, I share with you the plan I have developed for one of my current goals:

Specific: Over the next seven weeks I will build up to complete 100 pushups in a workout session.

Measurable: I will train three times a week and keep a written record.

Achievable:  I am confident that I can achieve this goal.  I am reasonably fit and desire to increase my upper body strength and technique accordingly.

Realistic:  I am committed to maintaining an exercise routine and there just so happens to be a book and training program to meet this goal.

Time bound:  I will start on January 1st and finish on February 19th.

So there you have it. I have some understanding of how to keep motivated. I will tell my wife all about my plan and progress toward my goal.  Fortunately, after 24 years, she has learned to tune me out, and cheer me on at the same time.

Other things that motivate me are some apps that I have downloaded to my smartphone. Many are free and some have a minimal charge. In my next article, I will tell you about some of these apps and what I like about them.

What are some of the health goals you are setting for yourself in 2014?

Michael Melia

About Michael Melia

Michael Melia is the director for northwest mental health and addiction services. He is a registered psychiatric nurse and has a bachelor’s of science in nursing and has recently completed a master’s in business administration. Michael is serving as an elected board member for the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family, keeping fit and exploring rural B.C.

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Bringing physical activity into the work day

Michael's running injury

Michael with his running injury, but still sporting a big smile.

This spring and summer, a small group of us started to run the Terrace Mountain trail during the lunch break. This is not for the faint-hearted and according to my wife, is not something a sensible person (of my age) would do!

Starting from the car park at the rear of the Skeena Health Unit, the first kilometer consists of steep, muddy inclines. After that, we follow part of the route used in the annual ‘King of the Mountain’ race. The feeling of achievement, accomplishment and overall sense of well-being is difficult to describe. Neither a treadmill nor pavement can compete with the natural beauty of a BC mountain trail.

During the 50 minutes from leaving my desk, my gadgets show we cover almost 6 km and burn through 770 calories. While this helps support my fitness goals, this is only part of the story.

Previously, my lunch would be eaten at my desk. Often, by the time the work day ended, I would feel physically and mentally exhausted. When I take to the trails, things could not be more different. I feel invigorated and alive. This ‘boost’ keeps my energy levels high through the rest of the day and into the evening.

Now for the bad news! At various times over recent months, each member of the group sustained injuries, aches and strains, directly or indirectly related to our lunchtime activities. I had a close call, when I tripped on a tree root and hit the ground face-first. I was lucky to escape with only a black eye and a few cuts and bruises. While I am still enjoying the challenge, I have started to look for alternatives.

I was excited to learn that I could get the same psychological boost with far lower risk for injury. Researchers from the University of Essex, England, suggest that five minutes of outdoor physical activity improves mood and self-esteem. Walking, running, or anything that gets you moving, will produce the desired results.

Even better, a five minute session produced a greater boost to self-esteem and mood than a workout lasting 10–60 minutes. As we head into the Fall and running outdoors becomes challenging, I plan to make this a part of my daily routine. Even on the busiest day, I can find five minutes to exercise outside.

What exercise will you do outdoors for five minutes to boost mood, self-esteem and resilience?

Michael Melia

About Michael Melia

Michael Melia is the director for northwest mental health and addiction services. He is a registered psychiatric nurse and has a bachelor’s of science in nursing and has recently completed a master’s in business administration. Michael is serving as an elected board member for the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family, keeping fit and exploring rural B.C.

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Finding mental wellness for Mental Health Week

Terrace Mountain

Jessica, Jasper the Dalmatian and Elizabeth enjoying the beauty of Terrace Mountain.

Arriving in Terrace in December 2005 was the culmination of a stressful period for my family. After two years of planning our move from England to Canada, we did not anticipate the ‘hiccup’ that threatened to derail everything.

In October we had shipped our furniture, given up employment and taken the children out of school. Out of the blue, the sale of our house looked very likely to fall through; and this would have thrown a ‘big spanner’ in the works.

With four children aged 7 to 14 years, sleeping on the floor with most of our home packed into a container on the ocean, life was certainly interesting!

After eight weeks of living under these conditions, we took a leap of faith and boarded the plane to Vancouver, one week before the sale of our home was due to complete. Two adults, four children, a Dalmatian and 21 suitcases!

I feel sure that everyone reading this will have experienced something in their own life that tested relationships, resilience and flexibility. These things factor heavily in our ability to enjoy positive mental wellness.

Richard Branson, the entrepreneur, described in a recent interview how he “only remembers the good things.” What a great way to think – as long as we learn and grow from our mistakes!

When I reflect on that period, I recall the evenings spent as a family. The removal of toys and video games allowed us to become closer as a family. It also provides stories that still get an airing when our children are reminiscing about leaving England.

While I consider myself fortunate to have been able to navigate these challenges, I recognize through self-reflection that some of my actions over that period directly resulted from my response to the situation.

With the stigma associated with the label ‘mental health,’ it can be difficult for people to reach out and ask for help and support before things reach a crisis point.  Working in this area of healthcare may have given me some advantage. Although, thinking back, I am not sure if I would have been able to reach out and seek support.  It would most likely have been at a point of crisis before I took that step.

As we celebrate Mental Health Week from May 6 – 12, this is a great opportunity to raise awareness and bring the mental health message to the broader community.  The focus is on mentally healthy lifestyles and positive attitudes, as well as a source of information and support. This campaign organized by the Canadian Mental Health Association has been celebrated in Canada since 1951.

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

This quote from the World Health Organization supports the general move within our community mental health and addiction programs to provide support to individuals and communities towards achieving a state of mental wellness. In doing so, this will contribute to healthier northern communities.

How do you provide balance in your life and strengthen your resilience and flexibility to navigate the almost inevitable highs and lows?

Michael Melia

About Michael Melia

Michael Melia is the director for northwest mental health and addiction services. He is a registered psychiatric nurse and has a bachelor’s of science in nursing and has recently completed a master’s in business administration. Michael is serving as an elected board member for the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family, keeping fit and exploring rural B.C.

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