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Wellness Challenges

ASDA’s monthly Wellness Challenges ask you to change your behavior in a way that will positively affect your wellness. Each challenge varies in length and activity, but the goal is the same: to get you paying more attention to your well-being and developing good wellness habits. Each challenge will target one (or more) of ASDA’s five dimensions of wellness: emotional, physical, intellectual, occupational and environmental.

Each month, we’ll preview a new challenge in Word of Mouth. You can sign on to the challenge on ASDA’s Facebook page and play along with your fellow students. Choose your own start date, and then let us know if you successfully completed that month’s challenge.



April 2017 Wellness ChallengeStudy after study has shown that exposure to fresh air and green spaces has positive effects on both physical and emotional health. Spending time outdoors increases energy levels and serotonin production, lowers your anxiety, clears your lungs and improves digestion. Exposure to sunlight increase your body’s production of vitamin D, which is necessary for strong bones and teeth.

Spring is here, and the world is turning green. It’s the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy the natural world around you. Choose 10 days this April and spend at least 30 minutes outside. Read a book, throw around a Frisbee or plan a hike in an area park. Join a few friends for lunch on the lawn and soak up some sun. You’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated, and sleep better at night. Nature is good for you – go spend some time with it.

Challenge 18 (April 2017) 

Goal: Commune with nature

When: 10 days in April

Dimensions: Environmental 

Next steps:  


Wellness Challenge Archives

Sweet Dreams

March 2017 Wellness ChallengeMaybe it feels like you won't get a full night's sleep again until after you graduate from dental school. But getting enough sleep is vital to your physical and emotional well-being. Healthy sleep can have a positive impact on your metabolism, memory, cognition, digestion and more. Lack of sleep makes you irritable, stressed and less able to focus.

You won’t find more hours in the day, but you can do a few simple things that can make the sleep you get more restful. The March wellness challenge is to try a few of these and make them a daily habit.

  • Turn off your screens. The blue light emitted by iPads and smartphones is wreaking havoc on your internal body clock. Put away your phone or tablet 30-60 minutes before you go to sleep, which will prompt the healthy release of melatonin and make your sleep more restful.
  • Turn down the thermostat. Your body’s temperate decreases to help you fall asleep, and keeping your bedroom cooler facilitates that process. The recommended bedroom temperature at night is 60-67°F.
  • Calm your mind. Avoid stressful activities, like work or study, immediately before bed. Build in some time for stretches, mindfulness practice, reading or listening to calm music before you go to sleep. Making this a habit will train your body to recognize the signals that it’s time to fall asleep.
  • Watch what you eat. Don’t eat a big dinner less than three hours before bedtime, and avoid caffeine and nicotine in the evenings. Nutritionists recommend complex carbohydrates and lean proteins, as these increase serotonin levels and help your body relax.

Challenge 17 (March 2017) 

Goal: Sweet Dreams

When: Month of March

Dimensions: Emotional, Physical 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook 
  • Commit to at least two of the sleep tips detailed above and try to do them daily throughout the month of March.
  • Share your experiences with #BeWellASDA.


Healthy Pet, Healthy You

February 2017 Wellness ChallengeDid you know owning a pet can actually improve your health? They are stress-relieving, mood-boosting, disease-fighting bundles of fur, feathers or scales.

The benefits of owning a pet fall into every dimension of wellness. They get us outside, they get us moving, they comfort us and they keep us on our toes.

Since February is National Pet Dental Health Month, we’re honoring the companion animals in our lives. This month’s wellness challenge asks you to think about how pets impact your everyday wellness. Consider their effect on your physical, emotional and environmental wellness. Then, share examples of your pet’s role in your wellness weekly throughout February. Post on Instagram or Facebook using #ASDApets and #BeWellASDA.

Don’t have a pet? Connect with a local animal shelter or rescue and see if you can volunteer. Or talk to your leaders about a chapter activity with therapy animals.

Challenge 16 (February 2017) 

Goal: Healthy Pet, Healthy You 

When: Month of February

Dimensions: Emotional, Environmental, Physical 

Next steps:  


Start your day right

Start your day rightGetting a few extra minutes of sleep can be great, but not if you’re sacrificing the time needed to eat a healthy breakfast.

Breakfast gives you the energy you need to get through your busy day. People who eat breakfast demonstrate better cognitive performance, concentration and even better test scores in math. The key is to eat the right balance of foods to improve both your mental performance and physical health. Combine carbohydrates, fiber and proteins to give yourself the best possible start.

Your challenge for January is to create a habit of sitting down for breakfast every day for a week. Grabbing a protein bar on your way out the door isn’t enough. Breakfast should involve a glass of juice or milk, whole grains (like oatmeal or toast), fruit and proteins (like eggs or yogurt). It’s also easy to buy healthy mix-ins like flax seeds, which provide a great fiber boost in your cereal or yogurt. Need some inspiration? Check out this infographic.

So start the year off right by starting each day off right. See how eating a good breakfast can make you healthier and more productive.

Challenge 15 (January 2017) 

Goal: Start your day right

When: Seven consecutive days in January

Dimensions: Physical 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook 
  • Plan your shopping so that you have enough items to eat a balanced breakfast every day for a week. Then, sit down for a balanced breakfast (protein + carbs + fiber) for seven days in a row.
  • Share your favorite breakfast on Instagram with #BeWellASDA.


Read along with ASDA

Read along with ASDAIn May, ASDA hosted its first-ever virtual Book Club. With the onset of winter break, we’re bringing you the second iteration.

Studies show that reading can help reduce stress and relax your body, sometimes even quicker than listening to music or drinking or a cup of tea. Winter break is the perfect time to lighten up and read a book for fun.

In February 2017, ASDA will welcome Jeff Skiles as the Annual Session keynote speaker. Skiles was the co-pilot on U.S. Airways Flight 1549 that successfully completed an emergency landing in the Hudson River in 2009. To prepare for his speech, ASDA has chosen “Miracle on the Hudson” for December’s virtual book club. This book tells the true story of that fateful January day from takeoff to rescue.

Grab a copy and read along. Find a friend at your chapter who’s reading it and share the insights you discover along the way. Post a question or comment on ASDA’s Facebook event and see what kind of discussion you can generate.

Challenge 14 (December 2016) 

Goal: Read along with ASDA

When: month of December

Dimensions: Intellectual, emotional 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook 
  • Head to your local library, bookstore or Amazon and pick up “Miracle on the Hudson.” Already read that one? Pick up any other book and read it in December.
  • Share your favorite reading nook on Instagram with #BeWellASDA. We’ll feature our favorites throughout the month of December.

Happy reading!


Thirty days of gratitude

Thirty days of gratitudeSometimes, it’s too easy to give in to the darkness in your mind. That voice in your head that whispers, “You’re not good enough. Just give up. It’s only going to get harder.” Maybe you struggled unexpectedly on an exam or fought with your significant other. All of us have days when we succumb to pessimism. When we struggle to motivate ourselves and refuse to acknowledge what’s going well in our lives.

Negative emotions, like anger or sadness, are necessary under certain circumstances. It’s when we let them take over that our emotional and physical wellness can be affected.

One proven way to balance out negativity is to create a daily affirmation. Every day, write down one thing that you’re grateful for or that went well. Robert Emmons, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California Davis, writes, “This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.”

This is your challenge for the month of November. Create a calendar and write down one thing that you’re grateful for each day. The form your gratitude calendar takes is up to you: on paper or digital, a 30-day calendar or journal format. Make your gratitude calendar public, if you choose, by posting on social media every day with #ASDAgratitude and #BeWellASDA. Or keep it for private, but hold yourself accountable to write something each day. At the end of the month, you’ll have 30 reminders of the goodness in your life.

Read more about emotional wellness and the health benefits of gratitude.

Challenge 13 (November 2016) 

Goal: Thirty days of gratitude

When: month of November

Dimensions: Emotional 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook 
  • Write down one thing you’re thankful for each day in November. At the end of the month, save that list somewhere where you can refer to it when you need a shot of optimism.
  • Share your experience on social media using #ASDAgratitude and #BeWellASDA.


Pass Go – Collect 200 wellness points

Game Night Wellness ChallengeExercising your brain is just as important as exercising your body. A great way to boost intellectual wellness is to play games, solve puzzles or tackle trivia questions. Puzzles, strategy games, and even some card and video games, have been shown to improve brain functions like memory, decision-making, planning and problem-solving.

And frankly, they’re just fun to play.

Your challenge is to take at least two occasions to play games or trivia this month. Get a team together and find a trivia night at a local bar. Play board games with friends – but make sure to choose strategy games that require you to flex your creative thinking skills (the social aspect is another wellness booster!). You could even tackle the crossword puzzle or word jumble in the local or national paper. All of these will boost your mental dexterity and help support your intellectual curiosity and overall wellness.

Read more about intellectual wellness.

Challenge 12 (October 2016) 

Goal: Pass Go – Collect 200 wellness points

When: month of October

Dimensions: Intellectual 

Next steps:  


Step out for wellness

Step out for wellnessIt’s time to lace up your gym shoes, charge your FitBit and start walking for wellness.

September is ASDA’s Wellness Month, and one of the easiest things you can do for personal wellness is take a walk. Just 20-30 minutes of walking per day has been shown to improve blood pressure, help weight loss, reduce stress, strengthen your bones and joints, and reduce cancer risk. So your challenge this month is to add a 20- to 30-minute walk to your day and reap the health benefits.

Since it’s Wellness Month, this challenge includes an added element: competition! The ASDA Step Out for Wellness Challenge will begin on Sept. 1 and continue all month. Chapters will compete against each other to see who can walk the most total steps in that time. Both the winning chapter and the individual ASDA member with the most steps walked will win prizes.

So connect with your chapter leaders and fellow ASDA members to take on this challenge. Walk to class or the coffee shop instead of driving. Meet up with friends to turn your walk into a chance to socialize. Make a special playlist of walking music to help motivate you. You’ll feel better and surprise yourself with how easy it is to walk for wellness.

Read more about physical wellness and the Step Out challenge.

Challenge 11 (September 2016) 

Goal: Step out for wellness

When: month of September

Dimensions: Physical 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook 
  • Add at least 30 minutes of walking to each day. If your chapter is playing along as a group, report your weekly step totals to the designated step-keeper every Sunday.
  • Share your experience on social media using #BeWellASDA.


Try peer mentoring

MentorMost people think of a mentor as someone older, already established in the profession. But there’s great value in peer mentoring too, particularly in dental school. No one knows better what you’re dealing with than someone who’s been there. Students with a year or two under their belt can empathize with incoming first years and the host of new pressures they face. Fourth years have seen it all and can offer advice and perspective.

That’s why this month, your challenge is to reach out to a fellow dental student and find a way that you can offer support or advice. Whether you could use a mentor yourself or want to mentor someone else, you’ll experience the benefits of learning from another person, developing communication skills and relating to someone who shares your goals.

The connections you make in dental school or at ASDA conferences will become your professional network once you’re in the workforce. Those connections can turn into lifelong relationships, which are a significant factor in maintaining occupational wellness.

Read more about occupational wellness and the benefits of peer mentoring.

Challenge 10 (August 2016) 

Goal: Try peer mentoring

When: month of August

Dimensions: Occupational 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook 
  • First and second years: approach an older student that has impressed you and ask them for advice or encouragement. Third and fourth years: seek out a younger student – particularly an incoming first year – and check in to see how they’re adjusting. Commit to getting together once or twice during the month to talk about school, challenges and everyday life.
  • Share your experience on social media using #BeWellASDA.


Live better with less

Declutter10 Things You Could Get Rid of Today (and Never Miss)
3 Secret Weapons for a Clutter-Free Home
6 Things to Eliminate From Your Closet Right Now

We’ve all read those articles. This month, we’re actually going to do something about them.

It’s human nature to acquire possessions and ascribe value and meaning to them. And yet, studies also show a strong correlation between materialism and low self-esteem. All that excess stuff can have a negative impact on your ability to focus or be productive. Physical clutter can overload your senses.

This month’s wellness challenge urges you to reduce the amount of clutter in your home, the trunk of your car, your purse or even your inbox. In addition to the obvious, immediate benefits (less future cleaning, more room to move or a more visually appealing living space), you may find your happiness and peace of mind growing. You’ll enjoy increased clarity in your work, your communications with others and your priorities.

Challenge 9 (July 2016) 

Goal: Live better with less

When: month of July

Dimensions: Environmental , emotional 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook 
  • Choose a space (your bedroom, kitchen, car, etc.) and de-clutter it completely. Make three piles: keep, donate, trash. Be merciless in assessing your possessions and paring them down to what’s necessary. Donate the things that can be still be put to use by someone else. Recycle old magazines and newspapers. Then enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having gotten rid of all that clutter.
  • Share your challenge images on social media using #BeWellASDA.
  • Fill out this survey to tell us about the experience! You may see your response compiled into a blog post later this year.


Take on a new physical challenge

New ActivityBy Kerri Richardson, digital content coordinator

I can’t rock climb.

It’s not like I haven’t tried. I have; I just can’t rock climb.

I don’t know if it’s my inability to find the next hand or foothold or my lack of upper body strength, but I can’t seem to make it more than two feet off the ground.

However, two feet is better than nothing. Two feet means I faced the challenge and tackled a new activity, even if unsuccessfully. This month’s wellness challenge is about just that.

For June, the wellness challenge is to try a new physical activity for the first time. Physical activities are good for your body, mind and soul. Plus, there are a lot of added benefits to taking on something new. You might overcome a fear, flex your muscles, break up your old routines and just have fun.

So sign up for a new workout or dance class, or try out that new activity you’ve been meaning to try. Then share your feats (good or bad) on Instagram with #BeWellASDA.

Challenge 8 (June 2016) 

Goal: Take on a new physical challenge

When: month of June

Dimensions: Physical 

Next steps:  


Read along with ASDA

Read along with ASDAChallenge 7 (May 2016) 

Goal: Read along with ASDA

When: Month of May

Dimensions: Intellectual 

Why: We all say it: “I don’t have time to read for fun.” Yet studies have shown that reading for 30 minutes a day increases self-satisfaction, self-esteem, empathy, and awareness of social issues and cultural diversity. Reading also reduces symptoms of depression and the impact of stress. Knowing all of that, how can we afford not to make time to read?

This month’s wellness challenge urges you to pick up a book – for your own intellectual wellness, for greater understanding and empathy, and for better dinnertime conversation. We’ll make it easy for you: ASDA has chosen “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” for our first virtual “book club.” It’s a riveting true story about the intersection of ethics, race, medicine and scientific discovery. Grab a copy and read along. Find a friend at your chapter who’s reading it and share the insights you discover along the way. Post a question or comment on ASDA’s Facebook event and see what kind of discussion you can generate. But most important of all, just make time to read.

Next steps:  

Happy reading!


Reconnect with a friend

Reconnect with a friendReconnect with a forgotten friend
Kim Kelly, senior publications manager, ASDA

My college roommate and I were inseparable. We had the same friends and most of the same classes. We would hang out in our dorm room, talking, laughing and listening to Elliot Smith.

When my dad suddenly passed away around spring break of our sophomore year, my roommate was there for me. It was a tough time in our relationship; living with someone who is grieving like that isn’t easy. But she was understanding and relentlessly patient with me.

By the end of senior year, our lives started to diverge due to school workloads and serious relationships. Our personalities had changed a bit too. We never had a falling out, but there was some tension and things were never quite the same again. After college, we lost touch and went on with our lives.

It’s been 10 years since we lived together, and I often think back on our friendship with a pang of guilt. Despite not speaking with or seeing each other in years, she sends me a message every year on the anniversary of my dad’s death. This year—the 10th anniversary—she sent a card.

There are moments in our lives that bind us to someone. My college roommate is one of those people for me, and it’s about time I reconnect with her. I want my husband to meet her to better understand what I was like in college. I want to tell her what I’ve been up to the past decade. I want to know what music she listens to now.

April’s wellness challenge is all about reconnecting.Whether you lost touch with someone years ago or there’s someone back home who hasn’t heard from you in a month or two (e.g. when’s the last time you called your grandma?). Reaching out to lost connections can repair relationships or provide closure. You may learn something new, go on an adventure or just make someone’s day by rekindling a forgotten relationship.

Challenge 6 (April 2016) 

Goal: Reconnect with a forgotten friend

When: Anytime in April

Dimensions: Emotional 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook 
  • Reconnect with someone you've lost touch with by...
    • Arranging an in-person meeting
    • A phone call
    • A handwritten note
    • Note: email and text don't count! 
  • Fill out this survey to tell us about the experience! You may see your response compiled into a blog post later this year.
  • BONUS: Do you have an email in your inbox that’s gone unanswered and now you feel it’s awkward to reply? In the spirit of tying up loose ends, we suggest you participate in “Email Debt Forgiveness Day.” Find out more here. 


A breath of fresh air

 March 2016 Fresh AirChallenge 5 (March 2016) 

Goal: A breath of fresh air

When: 10 days of your choosing in March

Dimensions: Environmental 

Why: Studies have shown that exposure to nature has positive effects on both physical and emotional health. Spending time outdoors boosts your feeling of vitality, increases energy levels and strengthens your immune system. Exposure to sunlight increase your body’s production of vitamin D and releases endorphins into your bloodstream. In his book, “The Yosemite,” naturalist John Muir wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

With the approach of spring, it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy the natural world around you. On any 10 days in March, spend 30 minutes outside. Read a book outside, enjoy a picnic lunch, throw around a Frisbee or plan a longer hike in an area park. Weather permitting, you could hold a committee meeting or book club session outside. You’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated, and possibly even sleep better at night. Let the green spaces around you give strength to your body and soul.

Next steps: RSVP to the challenge on ASDA’s Facebook.

Seven days of home cooking

 February 2016 Home cookingChallenge 4 (February 2016) 

Goal: Seven days of home cooking

When: Seven consecutive days in February

Dimensions: Physical 

Why: It’s no surprise that meals we cook at home are better balanced nutritionally and better for us in the long run than fast food or take-out. They usually involve fresher ingredients, lower fat and sodium. Knowing all of this, why don’t many of us cook at home more often? As Digital Content Coordinator Kerri Richardson explains in her blog post, “Nowadays, we’d rather order food from Grubhub than make something ourselves. Our rationalization? Saves time. But does it?... ASDA’s February Wellness Challenge encourages you to face this predicament head-on. Eat only home-cooked meals for seven days. I completed the challenge for this blog post and it was extremely difficult, but rewarding.”

Next steps: RSVP to the challenge on ASDA’s Facebook. Share your challenge images on social media using #BeWellASDA.

Take a posture break

 January 2016 posture breakChallenge 3 (January 2016) 

Goal: Take a posture break

When: 14 consecutive days of your choosing in January

Dimensions: Occupational, physical 

Why: Maintaining a hunched-over and tilted upper-body position for hours a day puts a lot of demand on the body’s muscles. Kathryn Dickmann, Detroit-Mercy ’17, wrote in a Mouthing Off post, “When the head, neck and trunk are tilted to one side, as often done while working, the muscles in use on one side become shorter and stronger and the other side becomes lengthened and weakened. The overall effect is muscle imbalance with the shortened muscles getting poorer blood supply, too. The unequal tension on the spine can cause some serious pain.”

It’s time to get proactive about your posture and stave off that serious pain with some simply daily stretches. Refer to the chart of posture break stretches in the blog post and commit to incorporating them into your routine for 14 days straight. Who knows? By day 15 you may have created a daily habit.

Next steps: RSVP to the challenge on ASDA’s Facebook.

Take a field trip of cultural exploration

Take a field tripBy Kasia Chalko, ASDA marketing manager

I’ll never forget the word “lapilli.”

Years ago, I went to a special exhibit on Pompeii at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. My friends and I spent hours exploring recovered artifacts and mummified bodies, learning the history of that day when Mount Vesuvius buried three Italian towns in volcanic ash. The word lapilli – a type of dense, stony, volcanic residue – showed up on nearly every exhibition placard. I haven’t forgotten it 10 years later.

That exhibition was more memorable to me, an experiential learner, than anything I had ever studied about Pompeii in any classroom. And though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was an exercise in boosting intellectual wellness.

Intellectual wellness improves when we engage in creative and mentally stimulating activities. It relies on nurturing curiosity and lifelong learning. It supports what you learn in the classroom every day, helps you think more critically and be open to new experiences.

Which brings us to the wellness challenge for December:

Challenge 2 (December 2015) 

Goal: Take a field trip of cultural exploration

When: Any day in December

Dimensions: Intellectual 

Why: When you improve your intellectual wellness, it helps you to think more critically, be open to new ideas and experiences and enriches your life in unexpected ways.

Next steps: RSVP to the challenge on ASDA’s Facebook. Then, pick a day in December, and head to a museum, gallery or cultural institution of your choice. Whether it’s archeological finds, Dutch Renaissance art, robotics or medical discoveries, there’s an exhibit out there that will captivate your intellectual curiosity. Snap a photo of yourself with something new and memorable and share it in the Facebook event page or on Instagram (tag @dentalstudents and use #BeWellASDA).

Get out there, find something that’s new to you and flex your intellectual curiosity.


Go dark for 24 hours

November 2015 go darkChallenge 1 (November 2015) 

Goal: Go dark for 24 hours

When: A 24-hour period of your choosing in November

Dimensions: Emotional, environmental 

Why: As Publications Manager Kim Kelly explains in her blog post, “My iPhone used to be useful, but now it's making me feel disconnected and out of touch… For 24 hours I am going to turn off my phone, my TV and my computer. I'm going to be more present at every point of my day and focus on what's in front of me instead of what's on a screen.”

Next steps: RSVP to the challenge on ASDA’s Facebook. Then, pick a 24-hour period in November, and turn off all your tech: phone, TV, laptop, tablet. Live for 24 hours without those distractions and open yourself up to the people and occurrences going on around you.

It’s just 24 hours. See you on the other side.

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