Living A Balanced Healthy Lifestyle


How many times, while flying on an airplane, do you routinely ignore the flight attendant giving safety instructions? You might be busy sending that last email, giving your staff on the ground some last-minute instructions or reading a book. You get the idea. But, while you are busy, you may be missing an important flight-safety instruction:


Learning to take care of their own needs is often counterintuitive for physicians. After all, most physicians enter medicine because they want to help others, and, often, they don’t think of themselves. The flight attendants give the instructions they do because we must take care of others before we take care of ourselves. This is a basic, fundamental aspect of having a rich and rewarding life.


Let’s first consider what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, one that will enable you to “walk the talk” of a healthy and balanced life, yet still have time to be a doctor.

We all know that physicians lead incredibly busy lives and often struggle to maintain their own health – in mind, body and spirit. This module addresses mindfulness, or awareness, as well as your emotional well-being, before moving on to weight, nutrition and fitness.

Begin by taking this quiz to assess how you are doing in the area of self-care. Information on this website, maintained by the Canadian Mental Health Association, is helpful to Americans, as well.

“Mindfulness can best be described as an intentional focused awareness – a way of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” (1 Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion)Nonjudgmental inner experience occurs when people are aware of their thoughts and feelings without evaluation or critique. The process allows thoughts and feelings to come and go without taking action to fix or change them or becoming distracted by the experience.

When a person can approach daily routines and behaviors from a place of mindfulness, change is more likely to occur, and awareness of one’s environment, openness to new information and observation from different perspectives increase. All of these facilitate a sense of empowerment and control, which can decrease stress and increase creativity. (Langer, E. J., & Moldoveanu, M. (2000). The construct of mindfulness. Journal of Social Issues, 56 (1), 1-9.)

Increasingly, evidence shows that regular meditation can improve physical health and make a person more productive. It also can also improve memory and focus. In 2009, Krasner and colleagues (2009) found that physicians who practice mindfulness show improved overall well-being and effectiveness in clinical practice. They also found that physicians who practice mindfulness become more aware of the presence of stress, better understand the source of stress and are more able to mediate the effect of stress. Approaching their daily practice with mindfulness lowers physicians’ reactivity to events and increases their resiliency in difficult situations. (Krasner, M. S., Epstein, R. M., Beckman, H., Suchman, A. L.,Chapman, B., Mooney, C. J., & Quill, T. E. (2009). Association of an educational program in mindful communication with burnout, empathy, and attitudes among primary care physicians. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 302(12), 1284-1293.)

Now, use the following resources to learn more about the practice of mindfulness.


Palouse Mindfulness – Online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction


Mindfulness Meditation Instruction – David Nichtern


Nine Awesome Mindfulness Videos on YouTube


All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes


Opportunities for Pausing

Focus on Yourself


Headspace: Guided Meditation and Mindfulness


Calm: Meditation Techniques for Stress Reduction


10 Simple Ways to Practice Mindfulness Each Day


Emotional First Aid


Mediation Books by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer and meditation teacher bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. He is professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.


Instead of focusing exclusively on body mass index, waist circumference or waist-to-hip circumference, consider best weight as a barometer for weight management. Best weight is the healthiest weight we can achieve and still enjoy life. What does that look like for you? Strategies to lose weight involve changing energy intake or energy output.

If you are interested in changing intake:


Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think


Center for Science in the Public Interest

If you are interested in altering energy output:


Weighty Matters: Musings of an Obesity Medicine Doc and Certifiably Cynical Realist


US Food and Drug Administration


While exercise and fitness are essential components of weight loss and healthy living, exercise does not need to take place in a gym or make you sweat. In fact, the best exercise is the one you enjoy enough to keep doing.


Find your “toothbrush level” of exercise. This is the amount of exercise you do every day because you know you need to, just like brushing your teeth. These ideas from the Mayo Clinic can help start you on a fitness program. Exercise is not necessarily something we enjoy; we do it because it is something we have to do to remain healthy. It can take the form of a 10-minute daily walk, taking the stairs or parking at the spot farthest from your destination.



What constitutes and how to live a balanced, healthy lifestyle?



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