Gratitude Resources for which, I Am Thankful.

As the UHN Wellness Program looks to shift its focus to Spiritual Wellness for the month of December, employees are invited and encouraged to contact us to have your name added to the Wellness Weekly Distribution List.  Members of the list will be invited to participate in a 12 Days of Gratitude Challenge as well as a Random Acts of Kindness Challenge, beginning December 3.  More details on each of the above to follow, in next week’s post.  Send an email to to join today!


In the meantime, recognizing that our neighbours to the south will be honouring the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, and with December’s theme front of mind, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the resources I have discovered recently that shed light on the science of gratitude, that speak to the value of being grateful, and that present ideas and inspiration for how you might practice more gratitude in your life.  My hope is that you find them as enjoyable and beneficial as I have.  Enjoy.

TED – Give Thanks

A series of TED Talks that “will help you conjure up massive amounts of gratitude.”

What a Grateful Brain Looks Like

A Mindful Magazine article describing a study that outlines the effect of gratitude on one’s neurological system.

Why Gratitude Makes You a Happier Person

An article from that shares some of the science connecting gratitude and happiness.

15 Ways To Show Yourself Gratitude (And Why It Matters)

A MindBodyGreen article that shares ideas about how to be grateful towards one’s self.

Take care.

The Secret to Happiness: Just Let it FLOW!


According to Csikszentmihalyi, “FLOW” is a “state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.” It is characterized by absolute concentration and satisfaction accompanied by a sense of strength, control, unselfconscious, and transcendence beyond problems, barriers, and stresses. You are present, lose your sense of time, become less aware of emotions or feelings of hunger, thirst, or fatigue and finish the task feeling energized. The more we flow, the happier we are!

Csikszentmihalyi (2000) portrayed FLOW as an “optimal balance between one’s perceived abilities and the perceived challenge of the task at hand; when this optimal balance is present, there is neither boredom (too much skill for the challenge) nor anxiety (too much challenge for the skill).” A recipe for success & satisfaction!

Research has shown that increasing the amount of FLOW in one’s life has many benefits including more life engagement, more life satisfaction, better quality of life, more positive emotions, more resources, and more self-esteem.

Relating this concept to the workplace, Leo Babauta offers some key tips for incorporating “flow” into your daily work life:

  • Choose work you love
  • Choose important tasks (don’t focus on the small stuff- get the big impact stuff done!)
  • Make sure your work is challenging, but not too hard
  • Find your quiet, peak time (find the zone for your ultimate focus and daily energy!)
  • Clear away distractions (and clear away clutter)
  • Learn to focus on that task for as long as possible (a difficult move away from our multi-tasking habits)
  • Enjoy yourself!
  • Keep practicing!
  • Enjoy the rewards! (revel in increased happiness, progress, satisfaction, and productivity)

Stop by the Wellness Centre on Fridays (anytime) to find your FLOW! This week we are offering some Adult Colouring at Oasis to get your creativity flowing!

For a more in-depth perspective on the concept of flow and the research behind it, check out Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TEDTalk on the concept at:


Babauta, Leo. 2008. “Nine Steps to Achieving Flow (and Happiness) In Your Work.” Zen Habits.

Emerson, Heather. 1998. “Flow and Occupation: A Review of the Literature.” Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy. Vol.65 No.1 37-44.

Moore, Margaret. 2008. “It’s Simple: Flow to Health & Happiness.” IDEA Fitness Journal. Vol.5. Issue 10.


Recharge Your Battery

It is during this time of year, as the leaves fall, the temperature drops and the amount of daylight lessens, that I seem to have more frequent conversations with friends, family and colleagues about managing low levels of energy.  Though it may seem like caffeine and sugar are the answer, science suggests that they are merely short-term fixes that in fact, lead to more lethargy over the long-term.


As UHN Wellness continues to strive to provide you with accessible and effective tools and resources for improving your overall well-being, I invite you to practice any of the following energy boosters, as often as possible:

Breathe deeply.  Breathing in a deep, slow and more regulated manner helps energize the body’s cells, which has been shown to slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and improve circulation, ultimately leading to improved energy levels.

Get moving.  A study published in Personality and Social Psychology suggests that simply going for a 10-minute walk can increase your energy for two hours afterwards.  That’s a solid return on investment, if you ask me.

Eat breakfast.  Research suggests that those who consistently eat breakfast report improved mood and increased energy throughout the day.  There are also studies that have found, missing any meal during the day can lead to increased fatigue.    

Choose whole grains.  Studies show that consuming whole grains, as opposed to refined sugars, can lead to a steady release of fuel that in turn provide consistent and balanced energy levels.  Refined sugar consumption invokes a quick spike in blood sugar levels and a quick energy boost.  The problem is that the quick spike is followed very closely by a rapid drop in blood sugar, leading to feelings of fatigue and tiredness.

Sing along.  A study of college students showed that by singing along to a song, as opposed to simply listening to it, had a significant impact on increased energy levels.  What songs do you enjoy singing along to?

Learn something new.  A University of Michigan study showed that employees who learned something new significantly improved energy levels and their ability to overcome the mid-afternoon slump compared to those who simply continued to perform familiar tasks.

What else do you do to boost your energy levels?

Mindfulness Apps to Try Today


A growing body of research suggests that practicing mindfulness can positively impact many of the dimensions of one’s health and well-being.  With more than 700 mobile apps that claim to help us be more mindful, deciding which one is best and most appropriate for you, isn’t easy.  A recent study however, sorted through many of the apps and ranked them according to their features. Researchers rated each app based on functionality, look, information quality, engagement, and subjective quality.  They found that only 4 percent of the 700+ apps actually provided mindfulness training and education.  The top five, best-rated apps from the study are below:

  1. Headspace
    Headspace is meditation made simple.  Install today to learn meditation and mindfulness in just 10 minutes a day.  If you enjoy Take10 and want to learn more, then you can choose to continue and get access to hundreds of hours of original meditations.  These include guided and unguided lessons and range from 2 to 60 minutes in length.
  2. Smiling Mind
    Smiling Mind is meditation made easy. A simple tool that helps put a smile on your mind anytime, anywhere and everyday.
  3. iMindfulness
    This app has been designed for use by beginners to mindfulness meditation, as well as experienced mindfulness practitioners.
  4. Mindfulness Daily
    This app supports quick, effective guided practices to reduce stress/anxiety, improve performance and enhance sleep (along with the growing list of other evidence based benefits of Mindfulness like pain management).
  5. Buddhify 2
    Practical, playful and beautifully-designed, buddhify 2 increases your wellbeing by teaching you mindfulness-based meditation on the go.  With over 11 hours of custom meditations for 15 different parts of your day including traveling, being online, taking a work break and going to sleep, buddhify 2 gives you a simple but effective way to bring more mindfulness and calm to your busy day.

Interested in further expanding your mindfulness practice?  UHN Employees are invited to participate in a FREE Research Study on Resilience.Resiliency Prism

UHN Wellness is collaborating with researchers from the Ivey School of Business to study how employees can be more resilient in their work and life.  Participants must be willing to be randomly assigned to a Mindfulness training group, a Pilates group, or a no-treatment control group, with an option to receive Mindfulness training at a later date.  The study is open to all UHN employees (18+ years) who are able to meet for 1-hour per week for 8 consecutive weeks. Participants will be asked to complete weekly questionnaires and a final questionnaire approximately 4-weeks after program completion. All sessions will take place across various UHN locations.

For more information, visit:

Source: Mani M, Kavanagh DJ, Hides L, Stoyanov SR.  Review and Evaluation of Mindfulness-Based iPhone Apps.  JMIR mHealth uHealth 2015;3(3):e82.

Life is But a Day Dream!

day-dream-by-oliveloaf-designPeople often joke about heading to their “happy place” or “drifting off in a day dream” when they are feeling sluggish or stressed. The irony and truth of it all though, is that deliberately bringing ourselves to those states of mind have many benefits for our daily life and should be encouraged rather than kept at bay!

VISUALIZATION.  Engaging in a joyful memory or experience and allowing time to explore and enjoy the pleasant thought can facilitate happiness and relaxation. What better way to take a break than to bring yourself to a place that brings you peace or draws a smile to your face? Remind yourself of the funny, relaxing, joyous times in your life to re-focus, re-program, and re-energize the tone of your day!

From a stress management perspective, visualization can also ease our approach before embarking on challenging tasks that are weighing on our minds or bringing us anxiety. Closing your eyes and imagining yourself going through the steps of your upcoming task (and visualizing yourself mastering them) can allow you to later approach the activity with a newly motivated and confident perspective.

Come practice with us! The REFRESH program runs every TUESDAY & THURSDAY from 2:30-2:45 in the TGH OASIS Wellness Centre (1NU168). Please visit the Wellness page on the UHN Intranet for more information and program schedule.

Reference:Cornell University: Gannett Health Services. “10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Stress.”


USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Happy young woman daydreaming


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 362 other followers