In this season of New Year’s resolutions, who better than the faculty from UB’s School of Nursing to ask about ways to achieve happier, healthier living in the new year?
No one, according to at least two long-standing Gallup polls. One shows that nurses for decades have been regarded as among the most trusted professionals. The other ranks nurses’ ethics and patients’ confidence in them to provide exemplary medical care significantly higher than doctors.
“Nurses are the persons who spend the most time with the patient, and we’re the ones they share the most vulnerable information with,” says Annette Wysocki, dean of the School of Nursing.
“During the most vulnerable times of their lives, patients know nurses will advocate for them. Nurses have the most contact with all other health care professions giving care to a patient, so we’re able to be a patient’s voice and navigate the layers in order to do what’s best for them.”
Given that status, UBNow asked four nurse researchers for New Year’s resolutions, based on their area of expertise. Aware these represent a small sample of overall SON wisdom, here are their scholarly recommendations, along with each’s area of professional research:
Sleep your way to health: Carleara Weiss, research assistant professor, Center for Nursing Research; behavioral sleep medicine and circadian rhythm.
- Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. This helps build a robust circadian rhythm, improving daytime performance and nighttime sleep.
- Create a bedtime routine that allows your brain to unwind before bed. Ideally, one hour without electronic devices and an opportunity to relax, such as taking a warm shower and meditating.
- Don’t check your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night. The light from smartphones and other electronic devices affects our natural melatonin production and makes it more challenging to fall back asleep.
Better mental health through mindful practices: Alyssa C. Hamel, clinical assistant professor and coordinator, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program; mental health.
- While fitness goals are beneficial for optimal physical health, we often undermine our mental health “fitness.” One very simple, yet profound way to strengthen our coping skills is to engage in mindful practices. This doesn't need to be extreme or formal, but with intention. It involves honoring our own and others' experiences without judgment. Mindfulness (e.g., deep breathing, stillness, time in nature) extend into our social and professional arena to lift up others, build our own resiliency — there is neuroscientific proof to this — and be truly present.
- Taking the time to honor our experiences in the present and recognizing recent accomplishments or areas for growth help us see the value in what we’re doing on a day-by-day basis when it’s easy to slip into “autopilot.” While it may seem elementary, the benefits of mindfulness are complex and valuable to our health and to the wellbeing of society.
Building a strong heart: Susan Grinslade: clinical professor and associate director, UB’s Community Health Equity Research Institute; heart health.
- Engage in physical activity daily, then gradually increase the intensity and/or duration to burn more calories. About 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week will help maintain weight and promote physical and cardiovascular fitness. You don’t have to go to a gym to be physically active. For instance, while watching TV at home, get up during commercials and walk around the house. Or walk up and down the stairs. When weather permits, take a brisk 20-to-30-minute walk outside.
- Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that provide fiber that promotes digestion and sources of protein and nutrients.
- Eat healthy sources of proteins, such as plants, legumes, nuts, fish and seafood. Use low-fat or nonfat dairy in food preparation or as a beverage.
- Minimize the intake of additional sugars. When preparing food, limit the use of salt. Limit the intake of alcohol.
Vaccine for the soul: Tania T. Von Visger, assistant professor; mindfulness practices.
“Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations in the present moment without judgment,” says Von Visger. “Mindful living can help you to become more resilient in dealing with life stressors.
“Mindfulness is the vaccine for your soul.”
Von Visger offers some ways to achieve a health mind and a healthy body:
- Daily Vitamin G: write down 3 three things you are grateful for.
- Engage in activities that you enjoy.
- Practice mental "downtime" — quiet time, meditation, prayer, reflection — for at least 10 minutes daily.
- Eat at least three fruits and vegetables a day.
- Drink at least three glasses of water a day.
- Sleep at least seven hours a day.
- Move/stretchat least 30 minutes a day.