New program aims to promote happy, healthy people around UF Health
By Jill Pease
Every weekday around 2:30 p.m., physical therapy department staff members Natacha Miller and Jacky Scott motivate each other to get out of their seats and take a 15- to 20-minute walk around campus, threading through wooded areas north and east of the HPNP Complex toward Beatty Tower. The benefits of these
walks are more than just physical, Scott said. They are a chance to connect with a co-worker in a different way, and to come back to the office feeling recharged and better able to focus on work.
Daily 15-minutes walks and “walking meetings” are two of the healthful habits recommended by the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions’ new Promoting Happy, Healthy People, a college wide, incentive-based wellness program. The new program incorporates activities that encompass the eight dimensions of wellness endorsed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual.
Director Tara Sabo-Attwood, Ph.D., an associate professor and chair of the department of environmental and global health, led the creation of Promoting Happy, Healthy People as a way to offer wellness services within the college with a focus on prevention.
“The goal is to help employees and students engage in activities or find resources that help people achieve everyday wellness, whether it’s managing stress and anxiety, increasing physical activity or improving mental health, all with a holistic approach,” she said.
More than 30 college faculty, staff and students participated in a pilot of Wellness Workdays this summer. Participants received a weekly checklist with suggestions to promote physical activity, mental health, environmental and social health, and nutrition. Example activities included performing light exercises at your desk, or “deskercise,” performing duties standing up for at least 30 minutes, meditating, journaling, performing an act of kindness, trying new recipes and cutting out fast food. Weekly group activities included a campus litter pick-up, doodle party and “eat the rainbow” potluck focused on colorful fruits and vegetables.
Participants earned points toward prizes and a weekly leader board provided some friendly competition.
Nima Madani, a doctoral student in public health with a One Health concentration, signed up for the summer pilot to focus on mental and social health. His favorite activity was “never eat alone,” which encouraged participants to eat lunch with a friend or colleague away from their desks. “Before this, I always ate lunch at my desk alone,” Madani said. “Now that I have more social contact, I feel more engaged, more connected and I’ve learned more about my lab mates.
We’re still having conversations and having lunch together. Taking half an hour to an hour to refresh and focus on actual people instead of focusing on coming here, doing my job and going home created more joy and less pressure in my life.”
Promoting Happy, Healthy People will continue to offer Wellness Workday challenges for PHHP faculty, staff and students during the fall, spring and summer semesters. In addition, the wellness program team, which includes Sabo-Attwood, Assistant Program Director Nick Green, Ph.D., and ambassadors from across the college, are focusing on wellness resources aimed at graduate students. This fall, they will survey PHHP Ph.D. students to better understand their stressors and what resources would best serve them.