In this issue:

  • Financial Wellness
  • Good to be Grateful
  • Guide to Gratitude
  • Houston Happenings
  • MS4 Advice
  • Service Boosts Mental Health
  • SPOTlight
  • Tasty Recipes
  • Thrive at UT
  • UTHealth Wellness Connection
The Well is a monthly newsletter that serves to
positively impact the well-being of the McGovern student community
by highlighting a myriad of wellness-related content.
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Good to be Grateful
And so we’ve made it to November. Take a quick moment and think about where you were in your life just a year ago. An entire 365 days. Some good, some bad, but you still made it to today. No matter where you’ve started, just to be where you are now is an accomplishment. You deserve a pat on the back for getting this far, and odds are you’ve got a lot to be grateful for. 

November marks our Thanksgiving issue, which we’d like to talk about in a very literal sense. It turns out that both being thankful and being a giver have very robust connections to wellness. Practicing gratitude has been a common theme in our newsletter, but that’s because it works. 

The current scientific literature associates gratitude with a bevy of psychological benefits. Studies show being thankful can ease depression, excise toxic emotions like envy and resentment, enhance empathy, and improve sleep. There’s also research that highlights how the act of giving provides its own benefits. Giving activates regions in the brain associated with pleasure, connection with other people, and trust. This is the reason why you feel excitement when you’re about to give a gift to someone else, or why you feel happy driving back from a volunteer experience. Biological benefits such as lower blood pressure have also been found from giving, and the research has shown that those who make a habit of giving may even live longer. 

All this to say, we know that medical school is hard. Some days, you might not feel thankful for much at all. And that’s okay. But in times of stress, putting in a conscious effort to remember all the things and all the people who have helped you along your path can bring you some much deserved peace of mind. And once you’re able to harness your own gratitude, it doesn’t hurt to give back as you continue along your journey. 
Guide to Gratitude
The opportunity to attend medical school is a privilege. However, stress and overwhelming amounts of work in medical school can overshadow that feeling of gratitude for the profession - which is completely understandable! Whenever it seems like work just keeps piling up and you feel frustrated, it can be helpful to take a step back and reflect on what you are grateful for in your life. 

Research shows that cultivating and regularly practicing gratitude can substantially improve your mood and enhance your well-being. Additionally, gratitude has been associated with lower burnout, improved mood, and greater empathy in medical students. Practicing gratitude may not only help to improve your own well-being, but also make you more compassionate towards others! 

Here are some small ways you can begin to implement gratitude practices in your daily life: 

Write down 5 things you’re grateful for everyday: Although this may not seem like much, writing down 5 things you’re grateful for - even if they’re small things - can be really powerful in improving your mood and cultivating a mindset of gratitude. 

Send a text/email/letter to someone you’re grateful for: One way to let people know how much they mean to you and how they’ve impacted you is to write a sincere thank-you note to them - whether virtually or on paper! Maybe these are new friends who provide a community for you in medical school or old friends/family who supported you in getting you to where you are! 

Look/scroll through old photos of fun memories: Nostalgia and gratitude can go hand-in-hand sometimes. Reflecting on positive memories can remind you of the people, experiences, and opportunities you’ve gotten a chance to enjoy throughout your life. These moments of nostalgia can bring about positive thankful emotions and renew your sense of meaningfulness in your work and life. 

Thank you all for taking the time to read our articles and hopefully benefit from the topics we write about. We hope that everyone gets a chance to express gratitude for themselves and others especially with the upcoming holiday season! 

Additional resources for cultivating gratitude: 
Service Boosts Mental Health
From volunteering to simple small acts of kindness, giving to others helps ourselves. That warm fuzzy feeling you get when you give to someone else, be it your time or a thoughtful gift, is actually very well documented in the medical literature. In particular, the beneficial effects of volunteering on health outcomes have been studied in-depthly and were shown to promote a variety of better mental and physical health states. Giving to charitable causes and your loved ones alike also produces beneficial health outcomes. These outcomes present themselves as identifiable feelings like increased self-esteem, lower stress levels, and less depression, as well as changes at the neurophysiological level.

The work of Dr. Jordan Grafman revealed that the functional MRIs of those who give showed stimulation of the mesolimbic pathway, the reward center in the brain. This pathway mediates what is known as the “helper’s high” of feel-good neurotransmitters and is active whenever we give. Other neurophysiological effects of giving include diminished brain activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions. Many negative mental states such as anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder are all associated with increased activation of the amygdala. Giving is supported by the literature to partly suppress these negative states and to increase wellness.

In the context of volunteering, research has found that participation in voluntary services to help others is significantly predictive of better mental and physical health, including measures of life satisfaction, self-esteem, happiness, lower depressive symptoms, and lower psychological distress. There’s really no downside to giving, as you benefit your own health and in turn give someone else something to be thankful for.
Spotlight | Workout Classes
Consistent exercise is proven to boost happiness, increase feelings of gratitude, and promote wellness! A lot of studios around the Houston area offer discounts or free classes for first timers. Also, Class Pass is offering a full month trial for free, so there’s no excuse to try all the awesome fitness classes Houston has to offer this month! Here is a breakdown of some favorites. 

Orange Theory Fitness | (1 hour classes) You will effectively burn at least 400-700 calories each OTF class. With a mixture of cardio, strength, and rowing each time, the class goes by so fast! You have the option to wear a heart rate monitor to track the amount of time you spend in each “heart rate zone.” They offer a free class for first time guests so be sure to check it out, especially if you are a person who likes HIIT, running, and tends to get bored easily. If you end up liking it, you get hooked!

HIP Fitness | (45-50 min classes): Lagree pilates is the trend everyone has been talking about! It is Meghan Markle and the Kardashians' favorite type of workout, and it definitely shows results. All about training those hard to reach muscles with slow twitch movements using a machine called a Megaformer, it is both challenging and satisfying. Though it is not easy, Lagree is a full body workout that will leave you feeling sore (in the best way possible), toned, energized, and strong.

F45 | (45 min classes): Ok, so you’ve been saying you want to get into lifting, but don’t know where to start. Or you’ve been missing the group/team aspect of a good lift. Try F45! A class solely focusing on strength, F45 is specifically designed to provide a functional full-body workout while improving metabolic rate, strength, and endurance. All about HIIT and circuit training, F45 is sure to leave you feeling energized and build muscle in a time effective way.

Black Swan Yoga | The coolest yoga studio around, Black Swan is a donation-based, 90-degree heated yoga studio. With all types of yoga classes available and 3 locations around the Houston area, grab your friends, your mat (or you can rent one there) and hit up a studio for some rejuvenation and a much needed sweat sesh!

CycleBar | (45 min classes): Can’t make a fitness class article without talking about at least one Spin studio. While there are many around the area (Revolution studio, SoulCycle), CycleBar is appealing because it feels the least intimidating - especially if you are a beginner to Spin. Whether you’re looking for a fun ride to clear your mind or an intense workout, CycleBar will have a class for you! They have a lot of newcomer deals so be sure to check em’ out. 

Pure Barre | (50 min classes) Barre is a total body workout focused on low impact-high intensity movements to tone and strengthen the muscles and improve flexibility. If you are new to their studio or barre, they offer a FREE 50 minutes foundation class all about teaching you the basics of Barre. Then with 4 very different types of classes, you can choose the exact kind of workout you want for the day.

Momentum | THE climbing gym in Houston, with locations in the Heights and Katy area. As much as it is a workout, it is also a fun social activity. Many medical professionals and students can be found here at all hours of the day, and they offer a membership discount if you show your UTH ID. While bouldering is the main attraction, they also offer free yoga classes for their members! 
MS4 Advice
In psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. It’s so important that throughout your medical school journey you take a couple of moments to be grateful of where you are and the people that you are surrounded with. You worked your butt off during undergrad, made it through stressful interviews, and were hand-selected out of thousands of applicants to be here. It isn’t easy but it is 100% worth it when you get to help your first patient or you hear that patient's family member thank you for helping their loved one. They are grateful for your years of sacrifice to commit to a field that puts others before you. The number one thing I am grateful for is my family and the constant support they give me. Without their constant support, medical school would have been 10 times harder. As you go through medical school, remember all the things you are grateful for. You are giving so much of yourself already, it is time you take some time for yourself. Be grateful for your health, for friends that make you laugh, for the family that supports you, and for a career that changes people's lives.

| Vanessa Hernandez, MS4
In November, We Remember…
Joy is a form of resilience |
  • Let’s have some fun! Play in the Plaza on 11.05.21 at noon

Our veterans |
  • Let’s salute their service! Pushups for Vets on 11.05.21 at noon

Those less fortunate |
  • Let’s give! Donation Drive: Nov 15-30, stay tuned for details
Tasty Recipes
Hot Topics
Click on a topic for tips on tackling the issue
Houston Happenings

11.01 | Dia de los Meurtos, Discovery Green

11.05-06 | Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin, Toyota Center

11.05-06 | Hasan Minhaj, Smart Financial Centre

11.06 | Chris Stapleton, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

11.06-07 | Trevor Noah, Toyota Center

11.06-07 | Trey Kennedy, Revention Music Center

11.07-08 | Alabama, Toyota Center

11.10-11 | Karol G, Smart Financial Centre

11.12-16 | Disney on Ice, NRG Stadium

11.15 | Cheap Skate Night, Discovery Green

11.19-20 | Jo Koy, Smart Financial Centre

11.20 | Flea by Night, Discovery Green

11.23-24 | Harry Styles, Toyota Center

11.26-12.24 | Houston Ballet - The Nutcracker, Brown Theater

11.28 | Houston Texans VS. NY Jets
Financial Wellness Resources |

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Are conflicts or concerns causing you undue stress? Contact the Office of the Academic Ombuds. Robin Dickey, PhD, MA, LPC, is available as a listener, mediator, and coach for all members of our UTHealth family. Make an appointment today!
Thrive at UT |
Thrive at UT is a free app designed to enhance UT student well-being and help busy students live their best life. Thrive helps you make small changes in your routine that have powerful long-term impacts.
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