Healthy Living in the North

Invest in your relationships

This month, we want to know how you are preparing for the future by investing in your health! Tell us (or show us) what you do to invest in your body, your mind, and your relationships for your chance to win great weekly prizes and a $150 grand prize! To inspire you, we’ll be featuring regular healthy aging content on the Northern Health Matters blog all month long!


Group selfie on a showshoe trip.

The time to embrace and invest in your relationships is now! Taylar, along with some friends, coworkers, and family, enjoys a chocolate treat during a snowshoeing outing together! How are you investing in your relationships?

Looking back at my life, I can’t help but think of all the relationships I have had. Whether formed in school, early jobs, or in my career, these have impacted me and helped me grow in all areas of my life; in fact, I still recall some of my childhood friendships.

We start our lives with many friendships formed in school – from elementary through high school and maybe college or university. Friendships may continue to form in our early jobs and we often grow into new ones from careers, connections through our children, and sports and hobbies. Some of those relationships become lifelong while others peter off. Then, many of us settle into life, careers, maybe kids and the “busy-ness” of general life. As this happens, even more of those friendships may slip away as we feel that there is just no time for them.

But what happens when “life” calms down, our kids become their own independent adults, and the “busy-ness” of life starts to slow? Or maybe you’ve come to a big change in your life where you need more support? When we have the time to look around us, we may feel like there is no one there anymore.

The time to embrace your relationships is now!

Staying connected with friends, family, co-workers and your community can help reduce the risk of isolation, depression, and emptiness. According to Northern Health’s 2013 report on Healthy Aging and Seniors’ Wellness,

Having a strong social network that includes friends and family members brings health, happiness and contentment.

Here are some ways that I have been able to stay connected with many relationships I have encountered throughout my life. Give them a try!

  • Connect online: The internet makes connecting with people easy and can be done in the comfort of your home. It is a quick and easy way to communicate, stay involved and catch up with friends and family. Whether it be e-mail, Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, etc. – it keeps you in contact and in most cases you can talk for as long as you want without that dreaded long distance bill! Not too sure how to use these tools? Talk to a tech-savvy friend, a person of a younger generation, or visit your local library! If you do not have the internet, you can always visit a local coffee shop as most have free wireless internet connection.
  • Build new friendships: This sounds scary, and you will probably ask yourself: “how?” Start by connecting with people you may already know like a co-worker who you’ve always just worked with, or a friend of a friend. If you’re invited to something new, try just going, even if it isn’t for you! You can even just stay for a bit and say “Hi.” Try inviting someone new for coffee or a dinner party, a walk, or to a community event.
  • Rebuild existing friendships: We are all guilty of bumping into an old friend and saying “let’s get together and catch up” but then never following through. Why don’t we follow through? Too busy? Not interested? The excuses can go on and on. Like Nike says, “Just do it!” What do you have to lose? Get your old friend’s contact info right away and send them a quick text or choose a date and meeting place at that initial encounter. Maybe they need someone like you back in their life, too.
  • Volunteer: Volunteering keeps you connected with your community. It is a great way to get out and meet new people. The Government of B.C.’s Seniors’ portal reminds us that “volunteering offers numerous opportunities to expand and grow, to learn, to meet new people, to be creative, to feel valued, to make a difference and to help shape the community you live in.” People who volunteer have better self-esteem, satisfaction, and have overall better physical and emotional health.

Make time for yourself and start investing in the relationships around you. You might even surprise yourself with how many people want the same as you do, and with how many people do care and support you. Build a strong support network for your future. Starting now will guide your upcoming years to what you always pictured them to be.

How do you invest in your relationships? Tell us for your chance to win!

More information

 

Taylar Endean

About Taylar Endean

Taylar is a Registered Nurse working in Preventive Public Health. Taylar was born and raised in Prince George and studied at UNBC to earn her degree in Nursing in 2011. She’s still living in the North where she tries to embrace everything it has to offer. In her spare time, Taylar loves being outdoors, spending countless weekends at Ness Lake, walking, snowshoeing and skiing. Taylar also enjoys spending time with family and friends, coaching skating, volunteering at community events and just started to learn to crochet. The north is her home, though she does like to take those sunny vacations!

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20 minutes a day: for my dog, or me?

Dog laying in grass

Abby laying in the shaded, cool grass after a good exercise and training session.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “consistency is key”? I’ve heard it lots in the context of physical activity for myself and my own healthy eating. However, since I’ve become the proud owner of my pup, I’ve also heard it in the context of dog training.

I want to be consistent with my pup’s training and, because there are only 24 hours in a day, I have to find ways to make it healthy for me, too. I want to work smarter and not harder, so I find ways that I can incorporate the two activities – my health and my pup’s training. More motivation for me to get off the couch and more motivation for me to be consistent with my dog training. Win-win, right?

I’d be lying if I said it is easy or convenient. It is certainly something that I have to work on. Every. Single. Day.

It’s so much easier to take her for a leisurely walk than to work on the training, but if I want to keep training as a focus, it has to happen.

Three dogs laying in grass outside of home.

Abby laying in the backyard with her friends from the neighbourhood, “Ronin” the St. Bernard and “Oscar” the Boxer. Their play time counts towards her active time (some down time for me!).

My dog trainer recommends 15-20 minutes per day to focus on training and to make it fun. There are lots of benefits to me for this investment:

  • Get outside
  • More obedient dog
  • More quality time spent with my dog can lead to a better overall relationship
  • Sunshine (Vitamin D) (depending on where you live!)
  • Fresh air

As a bonus, I’m rarely back in the house after those 15-20 minutes. The training usually just pulls me away from zoning out on the couch after work. And, as much as I want to do this some days, my commitment to working with her forces me to go outside and look at the trees, hear the birds, and explore the nooks and crannies of my yard and my neighbourhood. We poke around in the yard together, I can pull a few weeds (better gardens!), explore the neighbourhood trails for signs of new wildlife (I live in a rural area and will commonly see signs of moose, deer, coyotes and more), meet and chat with my neighbours (social interactions and building community), and – last but not least – I get a lot more physical activity than I would otherwise (more steps on my tracker!).

Sneaker next to moose track in dirt.

Fresh moose track on the trails behind our house.

I’m not saying that a dog will give you all these benefits. My dog is a lot of hard work and she is a serious commitment (one that doesn’t go away in the dead of winter in -20 C!). Daily, I have to find ways to keep her and I motivated to keep active and socialized. But, getting her is truly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Do you have a dog? How does s/he help you and your health?

If you don’t have a dog, what kinds of things do you do to prompt you to get health benefits or do healthy things?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master’s of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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Staying motivated for healthy changes

Two runners outside

A group, team, or friend is a great way to stay motivated as you work towards your physical activity goals. The common goal of wanting to be more active brought Theresa’s group of activity seekers to marathons, local races, and other fitness goals!

If you put us all in the same room we look like a real rag, tag and bobtail crew. We are different ages, sizes, races and genders. However, we all have one thing in common: we all want to be more active. More specifically, we want to find ways of being more active that won’t worsen other injuries or ailments acquired over the years.

My northern group of activity seekers have settled on running. We are all on a journey to run a race. For some, it is a marathon (42 km); for others, it’s a half-marathon (21 km) or other race distance (8 km). They are personal fitness goals and we are all at different stages of that journey. Some of us are still using training wheels. Some of us run up the sides of mountains on a regular basis. But there are no differences in the levels of support and encouragement that each of us offers another.

Some of us are aiming for the Totem to Totem half-marathon on Haida Gwaii as our first racing endeavour. Others are aiming for the BMO Vancouver Marathon or Half-Marathon event (May 2015). These events are far enough away to seem possible at this point and fear has not yet kicked in. Yet, there is more to all this than standing at the start line and running to cross the finish line. Paying attention to nutrition, to exercising muscles, and to building stamina are all equally important to running well.

It motivates me to see this disparate group of people tackling the physical challenges of a race and the emotional and psychological barriers that interfere with putting it all out there. As we are all Northern Health staff, we are also really putting Northern Health’s words and policies around increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour into action. We really want our northern communities to get healthier and we can’t ask of others what we cannot do ourselves. And truly, if we can do it – then anyone can. We’ve set goals for ourselves and have stitched together a seemingly odd group of supporters, but we all believe in each other and will help each other get there.

What can you do to get moving more?

Find more information on our goals (or, set your own goals) here:


This article was first published in the February 2015 issue of A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love – teaching.

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Food: Much more than nutrition

Husking corn

Food prep can be a way to bring people together.

I’ve been following this month’s healthy living blog posts with great interest. I enjoy making efforts to live a healthy and active lifestyle and it makes me feel at home to see how other people are taking strides to do the same thing.

However, I’ve read a million times in a million places the message that “food is fuel” – we need healthy food to fuel our bodies with high-quality energy and nutrients. I’ve also heard the message that if the food is sourced close to home, then it’s a better choice for my community. The message that I feel is missing so far is that food is more than fuel.

Food is pleasurable; it’s a reflection of culture and plays a role in traditions and social settings. It can tantalize our senses with different tastes, smells, and textures. The Northern Health guidelines (position paper) on healthy eating also recognize this. Quoting a 2005 study from the Canadian Journal of Public Health on Aboriginal traditions, the paper notes:

…the consumption of traditional foods is more than just about eating; it is the endpoint of a series of culturally meaningful processes involved in the harvesting, processing, distribution, and preparation of these foods.

My family and I harvest and prepare foods together; in the summer we have a garden and, while it may or may not be fruitful, I enjoy the time that we spend together caring for the plants and watching them grow. Even if we are “harvesting” our food from the grocery store, I enjoy that time together, considering the food we’re buying and how we’re going to prepare it. Preparing and serving the food to family and friends serves as a gathering for conversations and sharing that may not happen otherwise.

Thinking about the pleasure that food can give us, I don’t know if there is a silver bullet solution to finding the balance between food as pleasure and food as fuel. However, I have learned a couple ways to help me find balance:

  • Exercise control (when you have it) – Most days (e.g. routine work days) I make every effort to eat the quality fuel we talk about from Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Savour social settings – Other days we have events or opportunities to savour things we may not get to on a regular basis (e.g. birthday parties or when travelling). In these settings, I take the opportunity to enjoy the pleasurable side of food (with moderation in mind).

This balance between exercising control and savouring the opportunities helps me to enjoy the pleasurable side of food and my physical and emotional well-being. What are some ways that you balance eating for health and eating for pleasure?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master’s of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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