Focusing on building healthy communities, lifestyles

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Healthy communities are not hard to come by, but they aren’t highlighted often enough.

News, statistics, conversations—they mostly focus on the negative and the unhealthy. The FDA finding trace amounts of arsenic in chicken feed shouldn’t go unreported, and it is definitely critical for stories like this to be circulated. But for the most part, a lot of really positive health-related topics are left buried. Even with the recent findings on arsenic, the problem was without a solution.

Let’s focus on some positive ways our communities are maintaining healthy habits, promoting sustainable livelihoods and being mindful with their time and energy. Here are some ideas to help get you thinking about health as a major component of sustainable living.

With the focus on the International Roundtable this week, it might be good to start with what we do right here at Mac to foster health and sustainability. The Health and Wellness Center hosts Wellness Wednesdays from 12 to 1 p.m. in the LC, which are a weekly occurrence to keep an eye out for. The topics are always accessible and applicable, and they’re often taught by your peers! How can you incorporate mindful movement and breath into your daily schedule, you ask? Check out Rebecca Shapiro ’14, who is facilitating a talk this Wednesday about Plant Spirit Yoga, a class designed to help us partner with plants and discover our connectedness.

“Having relationships with plants is an important thing often overlooked. Yesterday I stopped and hugged a tree and it was the best part of my day,” Shapiro said. “People can sometimes be self-conscious, but plants are meant to be our partners—we’re in it together, linked by our breath. We are dependent on them in so many ways—my class will offer a way to remember this connection, tap into it and celebrate it.”

Often the most important ways we can improve health are by changing our mindsets. The Health and Wellness Center also offers a sustainability assessment, helping students set goals, manage stress and make lasting, meaningful changes in their lives. There’s an online version and one in print so the assessment can be completed anywhere.

“Students should have resources which give them the tools to lead balanced, fulfilling lives,” Health and Wellness employee Camille Erickson ’14 said. Having a more positive outlook on how we treat our bodies and our environment can go a long way.

This undoubtedly includes treating the natural world with the same respect with which we aim to treat our bodies. Simple, everyday decisions like whether or not to take the extra five seconds in front of disposal bins to making the right decision might seem nominal, but it adds up to be the difference between landfills or healthy soils. Feeling like your environmental impact is a priority to your own personal health helps you set goals and realize your importance within the context of the community. Your actions influence others by modeling the kind of behavior that is favorable in helping to foster communities that thrive.

Regularly boosting your mental, physical, emotional and social health is proven to increase not only lifespan but also quality of life. This could be turned into a game, like SuperBetter, an app and online game that gives you challenges, or “power-ups,” things like walking around the block, texting a friend or counting backwards from 100 by seven. Your allies in the game are your real-life friends, and battling the bad guys helps you eliminate the waste from your life. Being more productive and staying active will significantly change how you are, as well as the lasting impact you have in your community. What do you do to stay healthy and live fully?