The Way I See It: Health for the common good

The autumn is for me a time of new ideas, fresh starts. It has to do with spending 17 years in school and always starting in September a new grade or year at university. It has been for me also a time of  participation in new activities or charting a new path.

Join a club, take up a new college course, start exercising more, enjoy the harvest with a commitment to eating more fruit and vegetables, etc.  This is when I traditionally  have taken college courses like conversational French or Spanish, joined Toastmasters, a drama club making costumes to keep myself busy and on a healthier path, volunteered with a group or attended a new exercise class.

Joining clubs and volunteering are great ways to expand your knowledge and to meet new people which may result in friendships.  It is also very rewarding to learn new skills, open our eyes to the life experiences of others and have greater appreciation for the strength of the human spirit.  Our community has many opportunities for volunteering and we need more to take up this as well to keep our services moving forward.

This autumn is also the time for municipal elections and it is great to see five candidates running for Vernon mayor, and that we will have a strong selection of candidates for all the municipal councils and mayor positions as well.

I do like to see candidates talk about connecting with youth and would hope we can get more younger voters to the polls this year. Municipal elections are our grass roots and the level of government that most affects our daily lives.  Our local economies, community bylaws, roads, parks, community plans, arts and culture, recreation:  our citizens of all ages are actively involved in these and so exercising our democratic voice makes sense.

Autumn is a time of enjoying the fall harvest and we are so fortunate here to have our farmers’ markets and orchards where we can buy fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices. This is a great time to try new recipes and approaches to eating. The meatless Monday concept makes great sense to me and we usually eat two or three vegetarian meals a week. With such a great variety of vegetables around it is easy to do. Simple one-pot cooking, soups, stews, spaghetti squash dinners seem quite easy and tasty to prepare and enjoy.

As a young kid I stopped eating beef when I found out my pet cow that had “died” was dinner.  My brothers, ever so sweet, felt the need to share that Bossy was the roast.

I didn’t eat beef again for years. I ate chicken because I didn’t really like chickens as they could be mean to the little kid trying to feed them. Or at least I  thought they were annoying.

In my 20s I was a vegetarian for years and began eating chicken and fish in my 30s and then stayed on this path. We didn’t have beef much, the occasional burgers. First time I prepared a beef stew for a friend of mine who had spent the day doing fix-it jobs around my house, my son asked why we were having dog food.  I guess my stew looked like Shadow’s canned food.

As time went on my oldest asked me to start preparing beef such as roasts and steaks because he was eating them every chance he could at his friends’ houses. Now he often eats vegetarian meals and is very conscientious of his diet as is his brother, and aware of the need to balance protein, carbs and lots of veggies.

As I approach another birthday I want to appreciate and consider staying healthy.  Building a stand-up desk at home so that I am not sitting on my butt for eight hours a day while working on the computer; and if you add TV watching to that, I could be sitting for a long time so the desk seemed like a good idea! I’m enjoying this approach and find time to exercise more while standing, squats, leg lifts, etc. and then when I do sit there is a ball chair. A set of weights is handy so sometimes when on phone calls and using a speaker phone I can work out my arms.  The tool to measure daily steps is also a helpful health tool and a great reminder to be active.

In addition to looking at diet and exercise, it is an important time as winter approaches to consider our mental health. Reducing stress, watching for signs for when you are getting depressed or anxious.

I called my former depression “going into the black hole” and once I acknowledged the depression with professional support, I became much more aware of watching for warning signs. When I felt this coming on I increased my exercise, slowed down and took time to check to see what was going on, perhaps went for counselling or sought the counsel of a good friend. Our mental health is part of our health care, take care of this important aspect and seek help if you need it.

This is a time of change in nature with vegetation and weather and can also be a great time  to embrace the opportunities available and make positive change for ourselves..

“Health is not just a personal responsibility, it’s a common good.” — from a TED Talk by Dr. Rishi Manchanda

Michele Blais is a longtime columnist for The Morning Star who has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 28 years.