Laughter really is the best medicine

Why couldn’t the pirate play cards? Because he was sitting on the deck! Bahahaha…..oh come on….go ahead and laugh.  April is National Humor Month so there is no better time to make a commitment to interject more laughter into our lives.  Laughing is one of the best things we can do to support our well-being and the best part is that we can actually fake it ‘till we make it when it comes to reaping the benefits of laughter.  Forced laughter is just as good for us as spontaneous laughter. So go ahead…laugh along with that sitcom, or to your favorite comedian, or those silly talking dog videos on you tube, or check out one of hundreds of free laughing yoga videos online.  It’s fun, feels good and is good for us.

Laughter, whether forced or spontaneous is good for every aspect of our well-being.  People who laugh on a regular basis have a lower standing blood pressure than does the average person. Laughter eases psychological stress, strengthens the immune system, promotes muscle relaxation, reduces pain, enhances learning, enhances oxygen flow throughout the body, relaxes blood vessels, enhances cardiac muscle conditioning, elevates mood, helps us connect with others and enhances our energy (1).  There isn’t much else that can benefit us like laughter can. Laughter is so good for us in fact, that a 2016 article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine suggests that primary care clinicians start prescribing it to their patients (2). Can you imagine? You go to the doctor and you leave with a prescription for laughter. Now who wouldn’t want that?

To get you started on incorporating some laughter into your day, I’ll share a couple of my favorite videos….the ones that not only make me laugh out loud but that make my husband laugh at me because I’m laughing so hard. If talking dogs are up your alley you’ve got to check this video out.  It gets me every time.   Or, maybe you’ll find this video of Dennis Quaid on the Ellen Degeneres show funny.  I know I did. If you’ve got a favorite funny joke, video or meme I’d love to see it.  Send it my way at rebecca.schubert@gmhec.org.   

Join us for the Eat Well, Be Well challenge

National Nutrition Month® is celebrated in March, but making smart diet choices year-round is key to eating well – and being well!  In addition to encouraging you to stay physically active, this challenge will boost your ability to navigate nutrition and provide resources to help you make healthy food choices now and in the future.  The challenge starts on April 15th and ends on May 25th, and you will earn Wellable Points for tracking physical activity, logging meals and snacks, and participating in weekly nutrition quizzes.   At the beginning of the challenge, you will take a quick “Rate Your Plate” quiz to better understand your nutrition habits and learn three ways to create a healthy eating style.  Health tips that encourage smart choices when eating from each of the five food groups will be provided throughout the challenge, along with opportunities in each weekly email to take a short quiz to test your food group knowledge and earn additional Wellable Points.  

A $50 gift card to your local food coop will be raffled off each week and at the end of the challenge three grand prize winners will be drawn at random to win a $100 gift card to your local food coop.

To register for the challenge, new Wellable users can click here. If you have participated in a Wellable challenge in the past (i.e. Mind Body Challenge) you have been automatically registered to participate. Questions can be directed to Rebecca Schubert, GMHEC Employee Well-being Program Coordinator at rebecca.schubert@gmhec.org. Don’t miss out. Please join us.

Results are in for the Mind Body Challenge

During the four week Mind Body Challenge, faculty and staff from across the Consortium colleges traveled 20,721 miles and completed 911 weekly guided meditations. Great job to everyone who participated and congratulations to our winners. Prizes included a classic gift box from Hello Fresh, a season pass to the VT State Parks, a $100 gift card to Outdoor Gear Exchange, two $50 Amazon gift cards,  a $50 gift card to the Middlebury food coop and a gift certificate for a 60 minute massage.

More well-being challenges are being planned for the future so stay on the look out for details. You can find information about events on the GMHEC well-being events web page, via the monthly GMHEC Connection newsletter and via your college’s HR or well-being newsletter.

If you have ideas for events that you’d like to see at your school, please reach out to Rebecca Schubert, GMHEC Employee Well-being Program Coordinator. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome.

Stay well.

Let’s celebrate National Nutrition Month!

March is National Nutrition month so there is no better time to talk about healthy eating and to think about how we might be able to optimize our diet.   What we eat plays a significant role in how we feel both mentally and physically and on the quality and quantity of our life. People who consume a diet based on whole foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables are less likely to suffer with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression or with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

One of the best ways to optimize our diet is to eat plenty of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables.  Antioxidants, the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors, protect our cells and body structures from free radical damage.  Free radicals are derived in the body during normal metabolic processes and also from environmental exposure to things such as environmental pollutants and industrial chemicals (Lobo, Patil, Phatak and Chandra, 2010).   Free radicals act as little scavengers in our body, snatching up electrons from our cells causing cell damage and death which leads to illness and disease. A diet rich in antioxidant-containing fruits and vegetables can reduce and/or prevent free radical damage and keep us looking and feeling our best.   

Not only do fruits and vegetables help keep us healthy in mind and body but they also add pizzazz to our meals, are a great way to add variety to our diet, and help to fill us up without adding significant calories, which is great for our waistlines.  Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Check out these tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and, if you’re feeling adventurous, try one of my favorite recipes….roasted root vegetables.  I like to use sweet potatoes (Japanese sweet potatoes if you can find them….they are AMAZING), beets (preferably golden beets or candy cane beets as they are more mild than red beets), parsnips, carrots and butternut squash.  I will warn you though – you might be tempted to eat the entire pan.

If you have a favorite produce-rich recipe I’d love to hear about it.  Drop me a note at rebecca.schubert@gmhec.org.  

Happy eating!

ChiWalking/ChiRunning……..coming to a school near you

ChiRunning is the world’s leader in teaching safe and efficient, natural walking and running technique to reduce injury and improve personal performance. Over the course of four sessions, Master Instructor, Sarah Richardson, of Rise and Shine Run will teach the foundations of the ChiWalking/ChiRunning technique including proper warm up, posture, post exercise stretches, using your core and relaxing your legs, arm swing, body sensing, cadence and stride length, relaxation and pelvic rotation, managing hills, proper footwear, nutrition and lifestyle habits to support a lifetime of injury free movement.

Sessions will be held from 5:00 to 6:30 pm at Middlebury College, St. Michael’s College and Norwich University for faculty, staff and family members of our member colleges. The cost for the four session series is $20. Dates are as follows:

  • St. Michaels/Champlain College (Burlington Area Location)
    • Training Session 1: Tuesday, March 26
    • Training Session 2: Tuesday, April 2
    • Training Session 3: Tuesday, April 9
    • Training Session 4: Tuesday, April 23
  • Norwich University
    • Training Session 1: Wednesday, March 27
    • Training Session 2: Wednesday, April 3
    • Training Session 3: Wednesday, April 10
    • Training Session 4: Wednesday, April 24
  • Middlebury College
    • Training Session 1: Thursday, March 28
    • Training Session 2: Thursday, April 4
    • Training Session 3: Thursday, April 11
    • Training Session 4: Thursday, April 25

To register please contact Rebecca Schubert, GMHEC Well-being Program Coordinator at rebecca.schubert@gmhec.org.

Registration is now open for the Mind Body Challenge


From Monday, February 4th though Sunday, March 3rd we invite you and your family members to join us in a four week “Mind Body Challenge”.  We will be partnering with Wellable to support our challenge participants to practice daily activities that reduce stress and anxiety, improve performance and productivity and increase overall well-being.  Participants will be provided with practical tools and strategies to help them gain more focus and presence in their everyday life. Each week participants will be entered into a raffle to win fabulous prizes.  To register click here. We hope you’ll join us.




2019…The year you make your new year’s resolution stick

New Year’s resolutions….we’ve all set them but how many of those resolutions have actually taken hold?  We decide that this is going to be the year we get active, lose those last ten pounds, clean out the garage, start saving for retirement, etc. We get fired up thinking about what we will achieve but by Valentine’s Day we’ve long forgotten about those resolutions.  Why is it that something that sounds so good and may actually be in our best interest is so quick to fall by the wayside?

Well…it all has to do with habits.  Merriam Webster defines a habit as “an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.”  A habit is like driving your car on a dirt road in mud season. The more you do it, the deeper the ruts get and the harder it is to pull your car out.  Habits are easy. They’re familiar and comfortable. They require no thinking and as the definition states, are often involuntary. The idea that we can change a habit or develop a new habit in only twenty or even sixty days is nonsense.  Think about how long you’ve been behaving like you do, driving in that same rut. Those ruts are deep. It will take patience, time and consistent practice to form a new path, a new habit, but there are things we can do to facilitate the process.       

According to author James Clear (Clear, 2018) there are five strategies which can dramatically help us change or implement a new habit.  1) don’t try to change everything at once; 2) start small; 3) focus on the process instead of the outcome; 4) pay attention to the environment; 5) remember that small changes can lead to big results. You can hear more from James here.  I’d like to add a sixth strategy tp James’s list and that is to connect with your “why”.   In her book, “Emotional Agility” (2016), author and Harvard professor, Susan David says that “when you discover and reconnect with the things that really matter to you, your daily decisions will be much easier”.  When we have a strong emotional connection to our values it’s much easier to choose the right action.

So, when you’re thinking about what you want to achieve in 2019, think also about who you want to be and how you want to live your life.  Define the outcomes you want and the values you want to uphold. Let your values guide your actions. Utilize James’s five strategies to help you get one percent better everyday and you’ll be amazed at where you’ll be one year from now.  

Want to learn more?  Check out these great resources:   

Brewer, J. (2016, February 24). A simple way to bread a bad habit [TED talk].  Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-moW9jvvMr4.

Clear, J. (2018). Atomic habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

David, S. (2016). Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change and thrive in work and life. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and in business. New York, NY: Random House.

Goldsmith, M. (2015). Triggers: Creating behavior that lasts-Becoming the person you want to be. New York, NY: Crown Publishing.

A Mind/Body Challenge coming to a school near you

With another year coming to a close it seems only fitting that we look back and reflect upon another year gone by.  While we may think about goals we’ve accomplished, experiences we’ve had, projects we’ve completed, things we didn’t get done, opportunities we didn’t take or actions we didn’t take on goals we wanted to accomplish, many of us also wonder where the time went.  Where did the year go? We are so busy rushing around from one thing to the next, never feeling that we have the time. We ruminate on the past, worry about the future and all the while we forget that live is happening now…in this moment. The year went by and many of us missed it.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward the another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.” Living in the present moment is only path to true well-being and fulfillment but in today’s fast past world, living in the present is a challenge. Living mindfully, in the present moment is simple but it is not always easy. However, with practice we can develop the habits to help us be successful and to not let another year go by without fully living it.

To support the faculty, staff and family members of the Consortium colleges, we will be launching a four week mind/body challenge beginning on February 4th. The challenge will promote the practice of daily activities that reduce stress and anxiety, improve performance and productivity, and increase overall well-being. Participants will be provided with practical tools and strategies to help them gain more focus and presence in their everyday life. In addition to the internal rewards of participation, participants will be entered into raffles to win fabulous prizes. To sign up, simply click here. We hope you’ll join us on this adventure of self-discovery and mindful living.