Mindfulness Practices for A Mindful UHN

After a summer hiatus, UHN Wellness is thrilled to return to publishing weekly posts, once again.  Over the next several months, we look forward to sharing information, resources and practices relating to psychological health, specifically.

We begin by introducing several brief and accessible Mindfulness practices and resources for you to try.  Enjoy!

John Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”


According to the Centre for Mindfulness in Toronto, when we are mindful we become aware of and explore these habitual thought patterns and ways of reacting. This attitude of curiosity allows us to create new and healthier ways of responding to life’s challenges.

As UHN Wellness looks forward to offering employees several opportunities to learn and practice Mindfulness at UHN, I invite you make time to explore the following Mindfulness exercises:


Did you know that Harvard researchers found that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind? To help calm your mind, try this short practice:

Acknowledge what thoughts, emotions and physical sensations are present
Gather your attention and have three breaths with full awareness
Expand your attention back to the body as a whole and release any tension

Studies have shown that reflecting on what you are grateful for can increase happiness

  1. Pause a notice three breaths
  2. Reflect on 1-3 things that you are grateful for
  3. Write it down and keep a daily log (optional)

Research has shown that even brief mindfulness practice can alleviate mood, enhance focus and provide greater connection in your relationship.

Have you found some time to STOP today? Why not now?
S – stop
T – take a breath
O – observe
P – proceed

For more information on the upcoming opportunities to learn and practice Mindfulness at UHN, please contact wellness@uhn.ca.


Tips to Help You Quit

Quitting smoking can be one of the most difficult, yet one of the most rewarding experiences.  Follow the 5 tips below, to help you guide your journey to a smoke free, new you!
3-ways-to-anticipate-and-plan-and-plan-for-challenges1. MAKE A QUIT PLAN
Sitting down and creating a plan to quit can make your smoking cessation journey a whole lot easier. A quit plan is a personal written line of action that will help you stay focused, motivated and confident to quit smoking. There are many resources available that can assist you in creating the perfect plan for you, such as the QuitGuide App, Livestrong MyQuit Coach App, as well as the smoker’s helpline at 1-877-513-5333. There is no single plan that works for everyone. Be honest with yourself about your needs and what you want to achieve.

Keeping busy is a great way to stay smoke free. Being busy will help you keep your mind off smoking and distract you from any cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Try including some of the following activities throughout your day, to minimize feelings of temptation.

  • Go for a walk
  • Chew gum or hard candy
  • Keep hands busy eg. holding a pen, squeezing a stress ball, or play a game on your quit smoking app.
  • Drink lots of water
  • Relax your mind and body by practicing deep breathing exercises

Triggers are the people, places, things and situations that have the ability to set off your urge to smoke. On your journey to quit, try to avoid all triggers that you feel will cause you to crave a cigarette. Below are some tips to stay away from common triggers:

  • Throw away your cigarettes, lighters, matches and ashtrays
  • Avoid caffeine, which can make you jittery and want a cigarette to calm you back down. Try drinking water throughout the day instead.
  • Spend time with non-smokers
  • Spend free time in non-smoking areas
  • Being tired can trigger you to have a cigarette. Therefore, it is important you get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours/night) and consume a healthy diet.
  • If need be, change your daily routine to avoid things you might associate with smoking.


Quitting smoking is difficult, and happens one day at a time. Try not to think of quitting as a forever, never-ending process, but focus your attention on today and you will begin to see how quickly time adds up. Staying positive is a helpful technique during your journey to quit smoking. The day you decide to quit may not be perfect, but at the end of the day, all that matters is that you don’t smoke. Reward yourself for being smokefree for 24 hours, like having a spa day, or having a golf day with your friends. You deserve it!


Being smoke free, doesn’t mean you have to rely on willpower alone. Talk to your family and friends, and tell them the day you have decided to quit smoking. Ask them for support on your quit day as well as the first few days and weeks after. Your family and friends are your support team, and can help you get through the rough spots. It is important to let them know exactly how they can support you. Don’t assume they’ll know. Your journey will become less of a burden with the help of your closest support team.

Wishing you the best.



Contributed by: Patricia Spensieri

Are you hoping to quit smoking?  Trying to manage your cravings? On your next break why not try something new… Let’s go exercise!!


Studies have shown that participating in regular exercise can lead to positive outcomes in smoking cessation. Exercise is known to reduce many of the negative experiences and symptoms that occur when trying to quit, such as cravings, withdrawal symptoms, negative mood states, and weight gain. Exercise also has the ability to positively influence factors such as perceived ability to cope and self-esteem, which aids in the protection against initiation of, or return to smoking. Many individuals turn to smoking during moments of anxiety, stress, depression, poor sleep patterns, as well as low self-esteem. What many people aren’t aware of is that daily exercise can have a more positive, long-term impact on depression, anxiety, stress, self-esteem, and cognitive functioning, than smoking.

How does exercise work you may ask? During exercise, you are increasing the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the reward and pleasure signals of the brain, thus, stimulating the Central Nervous System. This process is similar to the effects of smoking on the neurological processes of the brain, but it’s much better for you!  Not only does exercise help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings, evidence also indicates that exercise has the ability to reduce post-smoking cessation weight gain and reducing craving of sweet foods during the beginning stages of smoking abstinence.  Weight loss usually occurs in smokers due to the active properties of nicotine, which have the working ability to suppress a smoker’s hunger, alongside the reward and pleasure signals of the brain. Therefore, once an individual quits smoking and the nicotine is out of their system, the brain turns towards food as a reward. Participating in daily exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight and develop strength to fight against the urges of overeating to mask the feeling of withdrawal symptoms as well as craving during your smoking cessation journey.  Studies have shown that participating in cardiovascular type exercises has had an acute effect on reducing both psychological withdrawal symptoms as well as the desire to smoke.

Exercise guidelines:  Starting with short bouts, starting at 15 min and progressing to 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise, such as:


Cat Stretch



Stationary Cycling/Spinning


Group Exercise Classes/Bootcamps

Group Exercise

It is important to slowly progress to higher intensities for your overall safety and wellbeing.  You do not need to be working at the same intensity as those around you, work to your own limit. Compete against yourself!

So friends, let’s put down those cigarettes, and let’s get moving!!!


On Your Mark… Get Set… Ride!

The UHN Bike Challenge is here!!!  Throughout the month of June, UHN Wellness is encouraging employees to put those car keys and public transit passes away, to dust off those helmets and bicycles, and to start riding!


As UHN Wellness continues its focus on environmental wellness, what better way to invite more physical activity into your daily routine while having a positive impact on the environment!?!

For more information, and to register for the challenge, visit the link below:


Also, throughout June, in partnership with the UHN Energy & Environment team, UHN Wellness invites employees to attend the following FREE Cycling Workshops:

 Road Ethics and Cycling Courtesies Workshop: Tuesday, June 7

Learn your rights and responsibilities as a cyclist or a driver.  What laws and fines apply to which?  How to bike assertively or defensively (and when). Plus, what to do in the unfortunate event of a collision.  No bike needed as it’s inside.  A new workshop at UHN!

  • Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Room M-805:  Tuesday, June 7, 12:00-1:00pm

Advanced Bike Repair Workshops: Tuesday June 14 & 21

A hands-on (yes, bring your bike) workshop to go deep into how to fix your bike works, fix squeaky brakes, loose chains, tighten spokes, straighten wheel and more.

  • Toronto Rehab – University Centre, University Ave Lawn: Tuesday, June 14, 12:00-1:00pm
  • Toronto Rehab – Lyndhurst/Rumsey Centre, Lyndhurst Lawn: Tuesday, June 21, 12:00-1:00pm

To register for the workshops above, please RSVP to wellness@uhn.ca

Bike Month

For more information on news and events Bike Month, please click on the link below:


Ride on.

Get Up, Stand Up, Straight

“My feet is my only carriage.” – Bob Marley


As I’m sure you are aware, movement, of any form, can positively impact our overall health and well-being, in many ways. Walking, for example, even if performed for only a few moments at a time, especially when practiced regularly, can improve our physiology, on several levels.  How do you incorporate movement into your day?

Unfortunately however, with the conveniences of modern life, combined with the demands often associated with work, we spend a significant amount of time in a stationary, seated position.  As you’ve probably heard before, and as the literature suggests, sitting can negatively impact our health in many ways.  One aspect of our physiology affected by sitting, is our posture.  Often, chronic sitting can contribute to a sway-back posture (or hunchback posture), evident by a forward head tilt and flexed upper spine.  For some, this can lead to tightness and tension in the neck, upper back, shoulders, lower back, hips, or all of the above.

Combined with regular bouts of movement, I have found the three exercises outlined in the video below, to be very beneficial in improving my overall posture, as well as relieving some of the stress and tension I was experiencing through my upper shoulders:

Hunchback Posture

(click on the image to be directed to the YouTube video)

 And while I’m on the topic, here are a few of my other favourite quotes from Bob Marley:

“Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.”

“Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny.”

“Love the life you live, live the life you love.”

Take care.