Prescription for Wellness in the new year – Commercial Appeal

On the third day of the new year, I was standing in a dimly lit lecture hall in front of 150 first-
year medical students at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center talking about
“wellness.” At that moment I thought, a decade from now, these young minds, bright faces and
soft hands will be seasoned and will provide the needed care in doctoring us as we age. But for
now, it was my time to help them care for themselves.

Doctors, nurses and other health providers struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, and
addiction. To avoid these ills, I told the doctors-to- be, requires a balanced blend of healthy diet,
exercise, avoiding the SAD addictions (smoking, alcohol and drugs) and becoming more mindful,
through the practice of meditation.
In part, I believe these simple lessons can help us all as we begin a new year and reflect on our
own well-being.
“Eat a healthy diet” has becomes a cliché, but an easy to remember rule is to add colors to our
meals. What I mean is, eat colorful fruits and vegetables and less whites such as sugar, salt and
flour. According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, 8 out of 10 Americans
consume insufficient amount of colorful fruits and vegetables putting them at risk for nutrient
Exercise. Life has become too sedentary with key boards, computer monitors and television
grounding us to our chairs. Our bodies are made for standing, stretching, walking, climbing at
every opportunity. A paper in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reviewed 37
clinical trials on yoga and found 35 of them to show benefit for heart and metabolic health.
Other research of walking found a reduction in heart-related event by 31 percent by walking 5
½ miles per week—less than 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
Improving our diet and exercise must be reinforced by our commitment to avoid the SAD
addictions. Everyone knows that smoking kills and yet 17 percent of us still smoke. Why? If you
or family member smoke, call your doctor. Nicotine replacement therapy such as a patch
doubles the chances of quitting successfully. Alcohol is a hidden killer, leading to nearly 90,000
deaths each year. Facing up to the problem and seeking help is a sign of strength not weakness.
Drug addiction from opioids is an epidemic, constituting a national emergency. For addictions,
rehabilitation facilities can effectively help patients and family members, saving careers and
New to the wellness agenda is mindfulness. The idea is to be in the moment with total
awareness and without judgmental attitudes. The mind is the root cause and the solution to
both many of our aliments and to healthy options. Awareness of our emotions comes with the
practice of mindful meditation, and we realize that being angry or being anxious is a choice.

Studies show that the practice of mindfulness lowers anxiety, depression and pain and
enhances compassion.
With the medical students who had completed their anatomy courses and were starting their
physiology and neuroscience lectures, I conducted a 10-minute mindfulness exercise. The dim
lecture hall fell silent as we sat in a comfortable posture, brought stillness to our body, focused
on our breath and watched our thoughts with awareness and without judgment.
We know little of what the new year will bring for us, what new challenges and opportunities,
but we know the future of these young medical students. Their wellness is our wellness. And
the prescription is simple—and free. We all need to practice it in our daily lives and to teach
the next generation as well.

Source: Commercial Appeal