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.

Challenge 32 (June 2018) JuneWC_GetOutside
Goal: Thrive outside
When: Month of June
Dimensions: Environmental

Nature is good for your brain. A 2015 study by researchers at Stanford University found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to a high-traffic urban setting, had reduced activity in the area of the brain that causes anxiety and depression. 

Spending time outdoors is an easy and obvious way to boost your physical and emotional health. It doesn’t matter if you play a sport, go for a walk or sit quietly with a book – choosing a green space for your activity has a positive effect on your body and mind. You’ll increase your vitamin D intake, breathe more freely and feel reduced stress. 

Summer is just around the corner, so it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy the natural world. Your challenge this month is to block out at least two hours each week for fresh-air activities. Read a book, ride a bike, take a walk – it’s your choice. Spend at least 30 minutes each time, and if possible, get away from urban settings. If you can see more trees than concrete, you’re on the right track.  

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook
  • Go outside! Dedicate between 30 and 60 minutes at least twice a week to surround yourself with nature.
  • Share your experiences and photos on social media with #BeWellASDA.

     

Intro to meditation - May 2018
Challenge 31 (May 2018) May_WC_1080
Goal: Intro to meditation
When: Month of May 
Dimensions: Emotional

Patrick Anghel, Detroit Mercy ’19, wrote for Mouthing Off last year, “It is becoming increasing clear that the health of your mind is just as important as your physical health. Many times we prioritize our bodies over our mind. Finding time to care for both is important to ensure a healthy mind and body.”

One way to prioritize your mind is to try meditation. The practice of meditation is thousands of years old. It’s a seemingly simple practice, but the health benefits are wide-ranging. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have confirmed that regular meditation can increase your happiness and emotional intelligence, improve sleep habits, help you focus, reduce anxiety, increase productivity and more. 

Your challenge this month is to boost your emotional wellness by giving meditation a try. If this is new to you, look for guided meditations online. Like the name suggests, you’ll be led through the exercises step-by-step. Some can be as short as one or two minutes, so you can’t say you’re too busy to try. Here are a few suggested sites to learn more: 

Next steps:
  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook
  • Choose an app, website or video on meditation that you feel comfortable with, and try to introduce the practice into your day. See if you can maintain the habit for at least two weeks.
  • Share your experiences on social media with #BeWellASDA.
Home cooking is best - April 2018
Challenge 30 (April 2018) April-WC-1080
Goal: Home cooking is best
When: Ten days in April 
Dimensions: Physical

The drive-through and the food delivery guy seem like convenient options after a long day in class or clinic. But you’re not doing yourself any favors health-wise when you rely on restaurants for regular meals. The benefits of cooking your own meals go far beyond physical wellness. 

Home-cooked meals tend to include fresher ingredients and fewer preservatives. We also tend to eat more reasonably sized portions at home. It’s significantly cheaper to prepare meals at home than it is to get take-out every night. And it can be a wonderful social activity that brings friends and family together.
 
Your challenge for April is to eat home-cooked meals for 10 days in a row. With planning, this is an easy way to eat healthy, have fun in the kitchen and save some money.  Here are some suggestions to help you make it through: 

  • Set aside a few hours on a Sunday to meal-plan and cook for the week. Find recipes you can cook in batches, then divide up into smaller containers (like soup, casseroles or mac and cheese). Pack individual-portion salads into plastic containers to enjoy on the side. 
  • Meals don’t have to be complicated to be delicious – experiment with spices and fresh herbs to give your cooking some flair. 
  • Team up with with a classmate or two, and take turns hosting dinner on different nights. Each friend you invite to participate means one less night you have to do the cooking. 
  • Put your kitchen appliances to use. Set up your slow cooker in the morning, and come home to a one-pot meal eight hours later. Meanwhile, an Instapot uses pressure cooking to produce a meal in 30 minutes or less. 
  • Use shortcuts. For example, buy a whole rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Shred the meat to make tacos or enchiladas, or put it over a salad. Buy frozen vegetables rather than fresh – they steam up in no time and won’t go bad in your fridge before you have time to use them. 
  • Make breakfast for dinner. An omelet can be loaded up with veggies and cooks in five minutes.  
  • Look for breakfast shortcuts on ASDA’s blog, including how to bake “buffins” that you can eat on the go.

You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsay to cook delicious meals at home. You’ll find thousands of easy recipes online, as well as tips to navigate your kitchen. Bon appetit!

Next steps:

Spring break book club - March 2018

Challenge 29 (March 2018) Mar_WC
Goal: Spring break book club
When: Month of March
Dimensions: Intellectual, emotional

Spring break is just around the corner, and that means time for you to relax and recharge. Studies show that reading can help reduce stress and relax your body. This spring, set aside textbooks and clinical manuals for a while and read a book for fun.

In the spirit of “choose your own adventure,” this challenge gives you two options:

  • Choose ASDA’s official “book club” selection.Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio, tells the story of a young boy with a severe facial anomaly. After years of homeschooling, he heads off to mainstream school where he just wants to be treated like everyone else. Since this is a children’s book, it’s a quick and easy read. But it explores important themes of empathy, compassion and acceptance, all valuable reminders for health care providers who will treat a wide variety of patients. 
  • Make your own selection to read this month. Choose any book to read for leisure, with only one requirement: select a genre outside of what you typically read. If nonfiction or history is usually your preference, choose from fiction or fantasy. Haven’t read a memoir before? Graphic novels? Mystery or travel-writing? The possibilities are endless, and you may discover something that will become a favorite.   

So pick up a book and read along. Find a friend at your chapter who’s reading the same book as you, and share the insights you discover along the way. 

Next steps:  

  • Head to your local library, bookstore or Amazon and pick up “Wonder.” Or choose your own book to read this month – remember to stretch outside your comfort zone and pick something that’s not in your preferred genre.

  • Share your book selection on Instagram with #BeWellASDA. We’ll feature our favorite submissions throughout the month of March.

Happy reading!

Stretch for wellness - February 2018
Challenge 28 (February 2018) FEB_WC_1080
Goal: Stretch for wellness
When: 14 consecutive days in February
Dimensions: Occupational, physical 

Maintaining a hunched-over and tilted upper-body position for hours a day puts a lot of demand on the body’s muscles. Dentists and dental students are especially prone to increased musculoskeletal pain. Repetitive movements can lead to repetitive strain injuries. Over time, if not addressed, the pain and injury could prematurely end a career. 

The answer is prevention. There are steps you can take now to alleviate pain, develop better posture and reduce your risk for injury. One of the simplest is taking microbreaks throughout the day to stretch. Microbreaks are defined as “small, regular, biologically meaningful breaks from being stuck in one position at work.” Dr. Bethany Valachi, a physical therapist and ergonomics expert, suggests that dentists should break to stretch every 45 minutes. The stretches themselves require just 20-30 seconds – easy to do while you’re waiting for your next patient to arrive or between classes. 

This wellness challenge asks you to create a habit of stretching several times throughout the day. You can do it chairside, in your home or at your work station in SIM lab. Here’s just one example for the kind of stretches you can do. Commit to incorporating these into your routine for 14 days straight. Who knows? By day 15, you may have created a good, preventive habit. 
 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook
  • Incorporate microbreaks to stretch throughout the day. Pay attention to areas where you are carrying more tension, or where you experience pain. (Don’t forget – if the pain is excessive, talk to a doctor.)
  • Share your experiences on social media using #BeWellASDA
Ditch disposable - January 2018

WC_Jan_1080Challenge 27 (January 2018)
Goal: Ditch disposable
When: One week in January
Dimensions: Environmental

How often do you use napkins, paper towels and plates, plastic cutlery, paper coffee cups, plastic water bottles, aluminum foil, cotton swabs, non-rechargeable batteries and other disposable items? You likely use several of these products every day, but have you thought about the effect they have on your environment?

Your wellness is closely tied to your surroundings. Eliminating clutter and reducing waste are ways to be more comfortable in your environment (and eliminating disposable items can save money too). A more pleasant living space reduces anxiety and improves quality of life.

For this month’s wellness challenge, pick one week to go without using disposable products (exceptions made for toilet paper, feminine products, contact lenses and floss). The goal of this challenge is for you to re-evaluate your dependency on disposable goods, help keep unnecessary waste out of our landfills and create a comfortable home environment more conducive to personal wellness.

If you’re struggling with how to master this challenge, here are a few suggestions:

  • Use a cloth napkin instead of a paper napkin
  • Carry a handkerchief instead of tissues
  • Bring a tumbler to your favorite coffee shop
  • Invest in a reusable water bottle instead of cases of bottled water
  • Clean up spills with a rag instead of a paper towel
  • Bring a canvas bag to the grocery store
  • Keep your leftovers in a reusable container instead of wrapping them in foil
  • Bring your lunch in a lunchbox instead of a paper bag
  • Put your sandwich in a reusable container instead of a plastic bag
  • Read the digital versions of your favorite publications (like this one)

Sometimes there are situations where we must use disposable products. If you find yourself in one of these situations, don’t beat yourself up. Just make sure you dispose of the waste in the proper receptacle.

Next steps:  

  • Share your observations later on social media using #BeWellASDA. Was it difficult? What was the hardest item to live without? Are there any disposable items you can cut from your life completely? Will you incorporate this practice into your day-to-day life?
Unplug and recharge - December 2017

Challenge 26 (December 2017)NovWellness_1080

Goal: Unplug and recharge 
When: 24 hours in December
Dimensions: Emotional

Smartphones are one of the most powerful tools we’ve ever had access to. In a matter of seconds, you can order lunch, pay for it, photograph it, share it on Instagram and be showered with likes from followers. 

Smartphones and tablets make it possible for us to be better informed than ever before. But studies also show that the constant presence of tech gadgets isolates us from the people in our lives and events happening around us. Have you ever interrupted a face-to-face conversation to check your phone? Has someone done that to you? Such behavior can cause feelings of jealousy, resentment or anger – none of which are conducive to maintaining a friendship or relationship.  

For all its benefits, technology can distract us from leading fulfilling lives. It draws our attention away from sights, people and events happening around us. It can prevent us from being truly present. 

So your challenge is to unplug and be more present. Spend 24 hours without looking at a screen. Focus on connecting with the people in your life without interruption. Spend a day more efficiently, working on tasks without distractions. Be in the moment, and recognize how it makes you feel. Lunch will still be delicious and activities will still be fun if you don’t share them on social media – we promise. 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook
  • Choose a 24-hour period during December to unplug – avoid television, your phone, laptop, tablet or video games. Practice being more connected to the people and events around you in a mindful way. 
  • Share your observations later on social media using #BeWellASDA – was it hard to stay disconnected? What did you like about it?
Thirty days of gratitude - November 2017

Challenge 25 (November 2017)NovWellness_1080

Goal: Thirty days of gratitude 
When: Month of November
Dimensions: Emotional

“Expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better.”

Scientists say that giving thanks isn’t just for Thanksgiving anymore. Research demonstrates that expressing gratitude can make a remarkable impact on your quality of life and emotional wellness. People who practice gratitude have been found to have higher self-esteem and empathy, reduced aggression and increased resilience. 

It’s really as simple as taking a few minutes each day to reflect on something positive in your life. Focus on what you have instead of what’s missing. Celebrate small victories, and people or things that make you smile. 

This is your challenge for the month of November. Make a note of one thing that you’re grateful for each day. The form your gratitude journal takes is up to you: on paper or digital, a 30-day calendar or a series of Instagram posts. 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 good things in your life — and a more positive state of mind.

Read more about emotional wellness and the health benefits of gratitude

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.
Set a SMART goal - October 2017

Challenge 24 (October 2017)Wellness-Challenges_Oct17_IG

Goal: Set a SMART goal 
When: Month of October
Dimensions: Occupational

It’s hard to get where you want to go without a map. That’s as true of your career as it is of any road trip. Goal-setting is an important way to work towards occupational wellness, because goals serve as points on a map towards professional success. In this month’s challenge, you’ll boost occupational wellness by writing SMART goals that you want to achieve related to dental school or your future practice. 

SMART goals are used regularly in business, but they're also a great tool to create personal goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Creating these kinds of goals helps you use your time more effectively and take accountability for your actions. They help you focus on what you want to accomplish and eliminate things that distract you from making progress. 

You’ve already got one major goal ahead of you: to become a dentist. But there are other benchmarks along the way. Perhaps you want to apply to a residency program, participate in local community outreach or attain a national leadership position in ASDA. Your challenge this month is to create and write down 1-3 occupational SMART goals. There is a variety of worksheet templates online that you can use to help you (here’s one example). Consider one short-term goal (“during this year of dental school”) and a longer-term one (“within three years of graduation, I will…”). 

Goal-setting allows you to take control of your life and career, as well as provides benchmarks for how you’re doing along the way. Remember, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else. 

Next steps:  

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook 
  • Complete a SMART goal worksheet for at least one new goal you want to accomplish. Then post them in a visible spot to remind yourself what you’re aiming for. 
  • Share your experience on social media using #BeWellASDA.
Step out for wellness - September 2017
Challenge 23 (September 2017) 
Step Out for Wellness 2017 challenge

Goal: Step out for wellness
When: month of September
Dimensions: Physical 

It’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 Step Out challenge.

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.
Clear out the clutter - August 2017
Wellness-Challenges_Aug17_IG

Challenge 22 (August 2017)

Goal: Clear out the clutter
When: Month of August
Dimensions: Environmental, emotional

Things pile up – it happens to everyone. Maybe you still haven’t unpacked from your last weekend road trip, and there’s a stack of mail on the kitchen table waiting to be read or shredded. Or you’re keeping clothes in a laundry basket because there’s not enough space in the closet to put everything away. No doubt you intend to read all nine back issues of that magazine on your coffee table. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. 
 
There are many reasons why we hang on to things. Often we assign emotional value to them or connect them with past accomplishments or relationships. They represent security or comfort, while throwing them away might cause regret. Many experts agree that clutter isn’t about the things themselves. Rather, they’re a manifestation of a stressed mindset or behavioral problems. Either way, clutter is getting in the way of your productivity and could increase anxiety.  
 
This month’s wellness challenge asks you to clear out the clutter in your home, the trunk of your car, your purse or even your inbox. Take 15 minutes per day to go through the things you’ve accumulated. Prepare bags of clothes for donation, and empty cabinets of extra items (do you really need 12 souvenir plastic cups from the ballpark?). 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.
 

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. 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 (before and after!) on Facebook and Instagram with #BeWellASDA.
Flex your brain - July 2017
Wellness-Challenges_July17_IG
Challenge 21 (July 2017)

Goal: Flex your brain
When: Month of July
Dimensions: Intellectual

Maybe a summer break from dental school has you thinking about giving your mind a break too. But giving your brain its own workout routine is an essential way to improve your cognitive power and promote intellectual wellness. This month, your challenge focuses on exercising your mind by trying something new.

Robert Hutchinson, a life coach and well-being consultant, says: “New experiences are a fundamental requirement for mental growth and the brain loves stimulation; it grows with use and it withers with inactivity.” Not only that, studies have shown that tackling a new hobby or activity can boost confidence and excitement, as well as executive function. 

This month, think of a new activity you’ve always wanted to try, or maybe revisit a hobby you enjoyed years ago. Then sign up for a class or dedicate time to that activity. Look around for community classes to choose from: cooking, photography, crafting, drawing, wood-working, auto mechanics, dancing or improv comedy. Download a language app like Duolingo, and tackle that second language you always meant to pick up. Or browse Lynda or Coursera to try your hand at coding and web design. The goal is to add a new intellectual dimension that will differ from the kind of work you do in dental school every day. The possibilities are endless. And your brain will thank you! 

Next steps:

Show your professional gratitude - June 2017

Wellness Challenges June17 WebThere’s no questioning the emotional benefits of expressing gratitude. Taking stock of what you have to be thankful for is an effective way of slowing down, breaking out of your routine and clearing your mind. Not only that, but gratitude creates a ripple effect. It’s just as affirming to the person who receives your thanks as it is to you for expressing it.

Giving and receiving thanks in a professional environment, like dental school, is an important factor in boosting occupational wellness. This dimension of wellness refers to finding personal satisfaction in your chosen field, and strong working relationships are a key component of that. You’ll likely end up spending more time per week with colleagues than you do with family, so cultivating those relationships is essential.

This month’s challenge is to think about the people who have a positive impact on your career path, and acknowledge their contribution to your occupational wellness. Maybe a faculty member stepped in with guidance when you struggled in clinic. Or a fellow student noticed you’ve been having a hard time and offered an encouraging word. Maybe a mentor wrote you a sparkling letter of recommendation. All of these situations are reminders that you won’t find professional success alone, and that it’s important to thank the people who are giving you a hand along the way.

As the school year comes to an end, think about three people who played a role in your success. Then, send them a handwritten note that lets them know what they did and what it means to you. Dentistry isn’t a solo effort – take time this month to thank the people that are helping you achieve your professional goals.

Challenge 20 (June 2017)

Goal: Show your professional gratitude
When: Month of June
Dimensions: Occupational
Next steps:

Face-to-face Time - May 2017

Wellness Challenge May 2017

A well-timed text message from a friend can make you smile when you’re having a bad day. But technology isn’t enough to keep us connected – people need human contact to thrive. Studies have demonstrated that face-to-face interactions have a positive impact on both physical and mental well-being.

Getting together with friends might be the last thing on your mind when you’re struggling. Maybe you’d rather stay home and binge-watch your favorite show. It’s easy to give in to that impulse when you’re feeling down. But socializing could be the best thing for you. Loneliness, depression and even cognitive impairment can all be staved off by spending time with friends or participating in group activities.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, this month’s challenge focuses on improving your mental and emotional well-being through personal contact. The challenge has three components:

  1. Invite a friend or confidante out for dinner or coffee. Spend an hour talking about your lives – and leave the smartphones and tablets out of it. Giving someone your undivided attention, and getting it in return, helps makes that interaction more meaningful.
  2. Take part in a group activity or event. The possibilities are endless: book club, knitting circle, painting night, pick-up basketball, lunch and learn, yoga, seeing a play…the shared experience offers more fulfillment than spending time on your own.
  3. Share a smile and a kind word with someone who needs it. You probably encounter people every day who don’t have the same kind of community that you have in dental school. A friendly hello and a smile could make someone else’s day and give them the personal interaction that they’ve been needing.

If you’re succumbing to stress, loneliness or depression, you will always find help at your school’s counseling or wellness center. In many cases, counseling services are free to enrolled students. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Challenge 19 (May 2017)

Goal: Face-to-face Time
When: Month of May
Dimensions: Emotional
Next steps:

  • RSVP to our challenge event on Facebook
  • Commit to completing all three components of the challenge. The challenge runs all month – you can do each more than once.
  • Share your experiences on Facebook and Instagram with #BeWellASDA.

Commune with nature - April 2017

Wellness Challenge April 2017Study 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:



Sweet Dreams - March 2017

Wellness Challenge March 2017Maybe 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 Challenge Feb 2017Did 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 - January 2017

Wellness Challenge January 2017Getting 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 - December 2016

Wellness Challenge December 2016In 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 - November 2016

Wellness Challenge November 2016Sometimes, 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 - October 2016

Wellness Challenge October 2016Exercising 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 - September 2016

Wellness Challenge September 2016It’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 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 - August 2016

Wellness Challenge August 2016Most 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 - July 2016

Wellness Challenge July 201610 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 - June 2016

Wellness Challenge June 2016By 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 - May 2016

Wellness Challenge May 2016Challenge 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 - April 2016

Wellness Challenge April 2016Reconnect 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

Wellness Challenge March 2016Challenge 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

Wellness Challenge February 2016Challenge 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

Wellness Challenge January 2016Challenge 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 - December 2015

Wellness Challenge December 2015By 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

Wellness Challenge November 2015Challenge 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.

ASDA's Wellness Initiative is generously supported by: 

ADA - Great West Disability Insurance

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