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Message from the Board: Self-Awareness and Health

Dr. Amy Locke

Amy Locke is the Chief Wellness Officer for the University of Utah Health, executive director of the University of Utah Health Resiliency Center, Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology.  Her research, educational, and clinical interests center around professional well-being, health behavior change, and prevention of disease through lifestyle.

GHU Sticker 1As a family physician trained in both lifestyle and integrative medicine, I get many questions about how to improve health and optimize well-being. Many people often wonder how they can take charge of their own health. They often know that nutrition and physical activity are important for health. And even though many treat it as a luxury, most can recognize how sleep impacts their day. When pressed, people can also usually recognize how connection with others and with meaning and purpose in their life also play a role in how they feel.

I consider these the four foundations of health: food, movement, sleep and connection. The part of the foundations of health that is most commonly overlooked is connection to the self, or self-awareness. It is self-awareness that helps people recognize how health behaviors impact how they feel day to day.

When you ask people who are successful at eating a healthy diet, having an active lifestyle, sleeping enough most nights, regularly connecting with a strong support system, and/or seeking out meaning and purpose in their life, they often point to preventing disease or other longer term goals. But when you push them, they are usually able to explain how they feel better day to day. They are more likely to notice things like how effective they are with their job or how they are kinder to their kids and family. They notice more energy, that they think more clearly, they manage stress better depending on how they eat, sleep, move and connect.

Self-awareness is critical to making and sticking with health behavior changes. It turns out that not getting diabetes or other diseases in the future is a poor motivator when it comes to the choices in front of us right now. So the next time you eat a really healthy meal, go for a walk in the neighborhood, get a full night’s sleep or spend some quality time with friends, pay attention to how you feel in the moment. You might be surprised at the short term benefits.