Creating a culture of health is a continuous process and includes finding opportunities to ensure people have access to options that make it easier to live a healthy life.

During National Public Health Week (in April), we asked our students, faculty and staff to tell us how we can improve the culture of health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. We are actively growing our initiative based on the responses.

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Join the Culture of Health Microsoft Team to receive and share announcements about UNC Gillings and campuswide wellness opportunities. And don’t forget to turn on your notifications!


Gillings Virtual Artwalk: A Creative Journey to Boost Wellness

A 2016 study on creativity “showed that people who were engaged in more creative activities than usual on one day reported increased positive emotion and flourishing the next day, while negative emotions didn’t change. However, the reverse effect did not seem to occur: People who experienced higher positive emotions on day one weren’t more involved in creative activities on day two, suggesting that everyday creativity leads to more well-being rather than the other way around.”

We hope you’ll join us, over the coming year, on a creative journey to wellness! Do you enjoy painting, sculpting or crafting? Is photography your hobby? Has remote life given you a chance to blow the dust off your pottery wheel or to take up a musical instrument? Are you baking beautiful cakes? UNC Gillings’ Culture of Health wants to share your original art piece or music composition with the Gillings School’s community. These works of art will be shared throughout the year on UNC Gillings social media, and will later be compiled into a visual presentation shown on our YouTube channel. See our first examples, here (PDF) and learn how to submit, here (PDF). We’re excited to see the many ways our faculty, staff and students are getting creative!


Mindful Musings: Holiday Eating with Intention

Anna Claire Tucker, MPH-RD Candidate, Department of Nutrition, Gillings School

A boy holds an apple and wishes for chocolate.

A mindful meal is a healthy meal.

Think back to the best thing you ever ate. You can probably describe it in vivid detail. Mine has to be my grandmother’s blackberry cobbler: the soft golden crust, juicy blackberries, and cool Blue Bell vanilla ice cream on a warm summer evening. Memories like these stick with us because we were immersed in the experience, but how often are you truly immersed in your meal? No television, no emails, no homework, no social media. Many of us may struggle to remember a meal without distractions. An undistracted meal seems radical in a society that idolizes busyness. Booked schedules and multi-tasking are seemingly synonymous with hard work and our own self-worth. Yet an undistracted meal—a mindful meal—matters. Regardless of what we eat, how we eat is just as important. Read more/less.

This concept is nothing new. Rooted in Buddhist teachings, mindful eating encourages observing our experiences with food using an open and non-judgmental mindset1. Unlike strict weight loss plans or fad diets, mindful eating is not about perfection, achievement, or even the outcome. It is simply a process, a new way of experiencing and thinking about food2. As we step out of a challenging election cycle and into an unpredictable holiday season, mindful eating offers us the opportunity to slow down, center ourselves, and rediscover the joy of eating.

Mindful eating can be broken down into 4 core principles1:

  • Developing an awareness of physical hunger and fullness cues
  • Slowing down and minimizing distractions
  • Savoring food using all five senses
  • Acknowledging feelings about food without judgment

Becoming aware of our eating choices is the first step towards mindful eating. The next time you reach for food, ask yourself: “Why? What do I feel physically and emotionally? Am I really hungry?” You might be, but you might just be bored, stressed, or procrastinating. You may reach for food from habit or because the people around you are eating. Whatever your reason, mindful eating does not dictate whether or not you eat. Instead, it asks us to make a decision not governed by habit or impulse. So if you still want the cookie, take it…just know why you did.

You probably remember scarfing down a sandwich while typing on a computer, only to realize the sandwich is gone and you’re still unsatisfied. Or maybe you don’t remember, because hurried, distracted eating is such a frequent routine in contemporary life. Mindful eating calls us to slow down and minimize these distractions. Though it isn’t about the outcome, this can have practical benefits.

Studies have shown mindful eating can decrease overeating and emotional eating3. Specifically, slowing down and focusing helps us manage stress and reduces eating in response to external cues such as package size and social setting3. These cues constantly shape our eating choices. We cannot change many of them, but we can increase our awareness which enables us to make conscious, autonomous choices less influenced by external forces.

In the coming weeks, give mindful eating a try. Slow down. Savor your food. Contemplate every sight, sound, flavor, texture, and aroma. Whatever thoughts and feelings arise, acknowledge these, but resist the urge to judge them or yourself because of them. While we can’t muse over mac n cheese for 20 minutes every day, we can bring awareness to our actions and find peace with all food choices.

If we are fortunate enough to have adequate access to food, eating should not be a source of stress, contention, or guilt. Mindful eating is an opportunity to set aside those negative feelings and develop a more positive relationship with food. Who knows, with a little bit of mindfulness, your morning cereal might just be the next best thing you ever ate.

  1. “The Center for Mindful Eating – Principles of Mindful Eating.” Accessed November 7, 2020. https://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/Principles-Mindful-Eating.
  2. Nelson, Joseph B. “Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat.” Diabetes Spectrum : A Publication of the American Diabetes Association 30, no. 3 (August 2017): 171–74. https://doi.org/10.2337/ds17-0015.
  3. Warren, Janet M., Nicola Smith, and Margaret Ashwell. “A Structured Literature Review on the Role of Mindfulness, Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating in Changing Eating Behaviours: Effectiveness and Associated Potential Mechanisms.” Nutrition Research Reviews 30, no. 2 (December 2017): 272–83. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954422417000154.

Home Environments for Wellness Book Club and Peer Support Pod

A plant sits on a window sill.

A healthy home environment supports mental health and wellness.

Join our Home Environments for Wellness Book Club and Peer Support Pod which begins on January 28, 2021 (Thursdays at 5:15 p.m.)! Contact cultureofhealth@unc.edu to register!

Our home environment plays an important role in our overall well-being. We spend most of our time indoors and lately, for many of us, this has been primarily at home. Let’s support each other as we reassess the state of our home environments and create more inspired spaces that support our mental health and wellness. We’ll learn about some common themes in design and wellness, read a book that will guide us through our individual home assessments, and share each other’s expertise and experience, as we support each other in carrying out our individual projects.


Working toward a culture of health requires partnership and collaboration. Get involved:

Culture of Health graphic identity

We hope you’ll join in on the challenge!
A Letter from Culture of Health

Dear Friends,

Please read Dean Barbara Rimer’s letter to Gillings staff about self-care during these difficult times.

We hope you will continue to pursue moments of indoor and/or outdoor activity and make use of the many resources available to you right here in the UNC community (some are listed below).

Please keep in touch with your loved ones, friends and colleagues remotely and reach out to UNC resources if you’re feeling overwhelmingly isolated at home or for any other reason.

Our sincerest wishes of health and well-being for you and yours,

The Gillings Culture of Health Wellness Champions Committee:
Rhoda Cerny (co-champion)
Deshana Cabasan-Hunte (co-champion)
Myka Elliott
Tamala Grissett
Maija Leff
Julie McManus
Amber Meads
Linda Mitchell
Kate Sayre
Melissa Walter

Nutrition Webinar

COVID Coping: Eating well and Eating Easy
Recorded Webinar (Zoom)
Presentation Slides (Google Drive)
Handout (Google Drive)

Melissa Walter, MPH, RDN, LDN
Program Specialist, Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health

It can be challenging to find the time and energy to prepare healthy foods even on the best of days. For many of us, COVID-19 has added additional levels of stress—food sourcing, cleaning, storing and preparing safely can all be challenging and time-consuming. Join us to talk about ways to simplify, save time, and eat well while we choose and prepare foods that satisfy our COVID-19 cravings!

National Suicide Prevention Month Webinar

Understanding and Preventing Suicide: What you can do to help
Jodi Flick, LCSW, ACSW
Recorded Webinar (Zoom)
Presentation Slides (PDF)
Local Mental Health Resources (PDF)
Apex Cert Mental Health Resources (PDF)
Recommended Reading (PDF)

Calendar of Events

World Food Day – October 16
#WorldFoodDay: Who are your #FoodHeroes? Learn more about Gillings food heroes that help to create a #cultureofhealth in our NC communities!

Gillings School and UNC coronavirus information portals

Culture of Health Classes moved online

Gentle Yoga with Gillings
Mondays – noon (30 minutes)
Wednesdays – noon (30 minutes)
Wednesdays – 5:15 p.m. (45 minutes)
Please contact rcerny@email.unc.edu if you would like to join a class.

Resources

For employees:
OHR Wellness Resources during COVID-19
https://hr.unc.edu/benefits/work-life/
https://hr.unc.edu/benefits/work-life/eap/

For students:
Gillings Virtual Student Engagement
https://caps.unc.edu/
Free mindfulness resources (geared towards students but also great for non-students)
Graduate Students: Connect in a Social Wellness Meeting
Participate in a Virtual Wellness Circle
UNC CV19 Student Care Hub

For all:
The Mindfulness Center at UNC
Your Wellness Matters – 5 Tips for Wellness and Self-Care
Mindful UNC

Sleep and Nutrition: Sleep has a significant impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. Download and listen to this 20-minute talk on why we sleep, how we sleep and how to sleep better!

Well Said Interview on reducing stress through mindfulness with husband, father, faculty member and full-time student, Kessonga Giscombé

Mindfulness Self-Compassion Sessions
In this time, which is so challenging for all of us, take a few moments to nurture yourself. The Well-Being Program, in partnership with the Department of Psychiatry, is offering free virtual 20-minute mindfulness sessions to reduce stress and foster strength and resilience.

As you reach out in your compassion to others, make sure to give yourself care and compassion as well. You deserve it. Contact Jennifer Tauber at Jennifer_Tauber@med.unc.edu for the schedule, WebEx information, an Outlook invite or questions.

Downloadable apps (most have free features)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Calm.com (and app)
Headspace app
Insight Timer app
Pzizz app
Sleep with Me podcasts

For children: Moshi Twilight

Physical Fitness
The UNC Wellness Center exercise videos
Campus Rec on-demand workouts, yoga apps and other wellness resources

Working from Home/Time Management
https://software.sites.unc.edu/linkedin/

COVID-19 and Nutrition

Due to self-quarantines and social distancing, we thought it would be a great opportunity to answer some common food and nutrition questions related to our current food environment. Please read more (PDF) from Melissa Walter and Kate Sayre, LDNs in the Gillings School Nutrition Department.

Other Resources