Pause & Take a Breath-er!

In the hustle and bustle of the work week there seems to be little time to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy a guilt-free break. It is important however, to schedule in those moments for yourself each day to recharge and REFRESH with benefits of improved focus, energy, and stress-management towards work and life.

An accessible way to do this is through an exercise of DEEP BREATHING. Taking the timbreathee to connect with and focus on your breath is one of your most powerful tools for self-healing and feeling relaxed and well. For that reason, you will recognize deep breathing as an integral part to many relaxation and mindfulness programs including yoga, tai chi, and meditation. In addition to the mental benefits, a full and deliberate inhale and exhale can allow for additional oxygen your body needs to be received which can help slow your heartbeat and stabilize your blood pressure. Often, states of stress and anxiety are coupled with shallow breaths in the upper chest; the key is to deliberately focus the breath towards the belly and diaphragm for ultimate calming and benefit.


  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Place your hands on your belly.
  3. Take a deep breath through your nose and allow your breath to push your hand out.
  4. Exhale and feel your belly fall. Use you r hand to push all the air out.
  5. Do this 3-10 times. Take your time with each breath.
  6. Notice how you feel once you have completed this exercise.

The great thing with deep breathing is that it can b
e done almost anywhere and at any time when you have a chance or feel that you need a break to re-focus and rejuvenate.

For opportunities to practice, please visit the Wellness page on the UHN Intranet to view our REFRESH Program Schedule. We hope you will join us Tuesday & Thursdays at 2:30pm in the TGH Oasis Wellness Centre (1NU168)!



HealthLink BC. (2014). Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation.

Harvard Health Publications.  (2015). Relaxation Techniques: Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response.  The Family Health Guide.

The Principles of Mindful Eating

This autumn, the UHN Wellness Program aims to provide employees with information, tools and resources relating to mindfulness, resiliency and improved psychological and emotional well-being.  With the fall season upon us, what better place to start than to reflect upon and bring awareness to a practice that we already perform several times a day, the practice of eating.

Principles of Mindfulness:
• Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally.
• Mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments.
• Mindfulness is being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment.
• With practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing yourself of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
• Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.

Woman smelling a strawberry

Mindful Eating is:
• Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food preparation and consumption by respecting your own inner wisdom.
• Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste.
• Acknowledging responses to food (likes, neutral or dislikes) without judgment.
• Learning to be aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decision to begin eating and to stop eating

Someone Who Eats Mindfully:
• Acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat but varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food.
• Accepts that his/her eating experiences are unique.
• Is an individual who by choice, directs his/her awareness to all aspects of food and eating on a moment-by-moment basis.
• Is an individual who looks at the immediate choices and direct experiences associated with food and eating: not to the distant health outcome of that choice.
• Is aware of and reflects on the effects caused by unmindful eating.
• Experiences insight about how he/she can act to achieve specific health goals as he/she becomes more attuned to the direct experience of eating and feelings of health.
• Becomes aware of the interconnection of earth, living beings, and cultural practices and the impact of his/ her food choices has on those systems.

Source: The Center for Mindful Eating

Resilience in Work and Life

UHN Employees are invited to participate in a Research Study on Resilience in Work and Life.

Resiliency Prism

The UHN Wellness Centre is collaborating with researchers from the Ivey School of Business to study how employees can be more resilient in their work and life.

The study is open to all UHN employees (18+ years) that 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. Additionally, but not required, participants will be invited to participate in an interview with the researchers.

Participants must be willing to be randomly assigned to a mindfulness training group, a Pilates group, or a no-treatment control group. Any participant that wishes to receive mindfulness or Pilates training but does not get assigned to that group will be able to receive training at a later date. There is no cost to participate in this study.

For more information, visit: To enroll in this study or for any additional questions, please contact

Summer @ PLAY – Selfie Contest

New this summer, UHN Wellness is encouraging all employees, physicians, students and volunteers to PLAY.  What activities, games or hobbies bring you joy?

Enter the UHN Wellness Summer Selfie Contest by submitting photos of you and your colleagues @ PLAY.

Send selfies to (please write “Summer Selfie” in the subject line and include the names of all those in the photo in the email).

Submission deadline is Thursday, August 27. All entries received prior to this day will be eligible to win fabulous prizes!!!

Last week, as part of the PLAY @ UHN Program, UHN Wellness distributed Play-Doh and Bubble Gum to several employees at various sites, for their enjoyment.  Here are a couple of the photos that were submitted:

image006                              IMG_5158

For more information on the PLAY @ UHN Program, click here.

*By submitting your photos, you acknowledge that they may be utilized by UHN Wellness (Corporate Intranet, Living Well @ UHN Blog, @UHNLivingWell on Twitter, UHN Wellness Centre on Facebook)

Throwback Thursdays: Play at UHN


You may have noticed us playing hopscotch outside TGH last Thursday and outside TWH this week. This is part of our Throwback Thursdays PLAY initiative at UHN which involves going back in time every Thursday at noon to play like we did at recess when we were kids.

So why are we promoting play at work? Researchers have studied the many benefits of fun and play at work, which include the following:

  • Play and fun at work increases productivity and improves coworker relationships and camaraderie (Eller, 2015)
  • Fun at work affects job performance and is positively related to organizational citizenship behavior (going above and beyond one’s job duties) (Fluegge, 2009)
  • Those who have fun at work are more likely to be engaged and exhibit greater creativity (Fleugge, 2009)
  • Fun at work lowers employee turnover and improves employee retention (Tews et al, 2014; Becker, 2014)
  • Lighthearted organizations breed loyal employees and happier customers (Gostick, 2008)
  • Fun at work increases job satisfaction (Peluchette, 2006)
  • Fun at work can reduce the emotional exhaustion that causes burnout among healthcare workers (Braithwaite, 2008)

But don’t take our word for it. Check out these videos from the National Institute for Play and IDEO and learn why Play is so valuable.

Stuart Brown (National Institute for Play) – Play is more than just fun TED Talk (video)

IDEO’s Tim Brown on why Serious Play helps innovation: (video)

Click here for more information about Play at UHN including the Throwback Thursdays schedule.


Becker, Frederick W. (2014). The impact of fun in the workplace on experienced fun, work engagement,      constituent attachment, and turnover among entry-level service employees. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol.74(8-A(E)),2014.

Braithwaite, M. (2008) Nurse Burnout and Stress in the NICU. Advances in Neonatal Care. Volume 8(6), p. 343-347

Davidhizar R;  Bowen M.  Camaraderie: the key to making work fun.  Todays Or-Nurse.  14(8):46-7, 1992 Aug.

Eller, T. G. (2015). The effects of humor and fun on employee morale and well-being. Dissertation  Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol.75(10-A(E)).

Fluegge, Erin Rae. (2009) Who put the fun in functional? Fun at work and its effects on job performance. Dissertation Abstracts International and Section A: Humanities Social Sciences. Vol.69(7-A),2009, pp. 2781.

Gostick, Adrian; Christopher, Scott. (2008). The levity effect: Why it pays to lighten up. Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Karl, Katherine; Peluchette, Joy. (2006). How does workplace fun impact employee perceptions of customer service quality? Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. Vol.13(2), Win 2006, pp. 2-13.

Peluchette, J., & Karl, K. (2005). Attitudes toward incorporating fun into the health care workplace. Health Care Manager, 24(3), 268-275

Tews, M.J., Michel, J.W., Allen, D.G. (2014). Fun and friends: The impact of workplace fun and constituent attachment on turnover in a hospitality context. Human Relations. Vol.67(8), Aug 2014, pp. 923-946.


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