How to Build Healthy Habits

The Science of Healthy Habits

Humans are creatures of habit, following similar rhythms each day. But changing our rhythms towards health can be difficult! Here are strategies, backed by research, for forming new healthy habits: 

Stack Your Habits

Look for patterns in your day and connect new habits with existing ones. For example, while you brush your teeth, you might stand on one foot to practice your balance. Or every day when you get back to your residence after class, start with a healthy snack and mindful moment before you succumb to your work or couch. 

Start Small 

Big behavior changes require high motivation that is difficult to sustain. Instead, consider tiny changes to make the new habit as easy as possible. 

Do it Every Day

Habits take a long time to create but they form faster when we do them more often. You’re more likely to stick with a habit if you do a small version of it every day rather than big, deep versions of it a few times a week.

Make it Easy

Set yourself up for success by removing friction to your success, or adding friction to the habits you want to avoid. Sleep in your workout clothes to make it easier to wake up and move. Choose a mini-habit that requires minimal equipment. Make the healthy choice the easy choice! 

Make it Fun

Try adding habits with fun built in – listen to a good audiobook or podcast while doing your new habit. Do your new activity with someone you adore. Create reward systems that will motivate you. 

For more habit-changing advice, check out the Learning Center’s website.

Finding Inner Peace at College

The middle of the semester sometimes feels as if a thousand tasks are coming at you from every direction – whether it’s assignments, clubs/organizations, a job, or imposter syndrome. Don’t forget to make time for the activities that keep you mentally balanced. 


Person sits cross legged on a rock in a lake at dusk

Be calm in the storm 

Inner peace means a state of physical and spiritual calm despite stressors. Finding inner peace is a process – it won’t happen overnight – but working towards it will help you focus and have a clear mind. 

6 Strategies to Maintain a Peaceful Mind 

  1. Spend Time in Nature. Take a short, mindful walk where you notice your senses – the breeze on your face, the ground beneath your feet, the warmth of the sun. Remind yourself to relax, take your time, and notice sensations – especially in moments when you feel stressed.
  2. Meditate.  You can try yoga or listen to a guided meditation on a podcast. Meditation has many proven benefits and can help you find your path to peace and happiness. 
  3. Give yourself time to worry.  Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to get rid of all your worries for good. In fact, the more you tell yourself not to stress, the more you probably will. What can help is to schedule a “worry time” during your day. Choose a small window of time to sit quietly. Let yourself go over all the things that have you concerned, as well as some ways you might solve them. You may find that this allows you to worry less — and ultimately feel more peaceful throughout the rest of the day.
  4. Declutter. Do you notice how your environment can be a reflection of your inner world? Create an environment around you that supports your goals. Organizing your space, tasks, and thoughts, can help your mind be more peaceful.
  5. Be accountable and take responsibility. Even when it’s difficult, admitting your mistakes helps you find peace and happiness. Criticisms are an opportunity to improve yourself, and accepting that you’re imperfect and make mistakes makes you more resilient.  
  6. Practice acceptance and contentment. Accept that you are imperfect and figure out strategies to deal with problems. Release yourself from self-criticism and comparison. Remember that your journey at UNC-CH is your own unique experience. Be kind to yourself.

Nutrition Philosophy

Here at Healthy Heels, we view food as fuel, nourishment, and something to be enjoyed. We encourage Tar Heels to eat a wide array of foods that are both nourishing and delicious. There are no bad or forbidden foods – it’s all about paying attention to your body’s needs.

Eat When You’re Hungry

Keep your body biologically fed with enough nourishment. This helps avoid the natural response to over-consume food in moments of excessive hunger. Learning to honor your initial biological signal of hunger sets the stage for building trust in yourself and in food.

  • Help yourself by bringing yummy, nutrient-dense snacks with you so that when you notice hunger, you have food available.

Enjoy Your Food

Feel the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. Some studies indicate that when you look forward to the food that you’re about to eat, your body absorbs more of its nutrients. Plus, eating food you enjoy in a pleasurable environment helps you feel satisfied and content. 

Stop Eating When You’re Full

Trust yourself with eating and listen to your body. Your body will tell you what foods you need and when it needs them no longer. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and check in on your current level of hunger.

Use Gentle Nutrition Strategies

  • Zoom out. Focus on the big picture when it comes to nutrition. Individual food choices make very little difference when it comes to health. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Consider overall patterns in your food intake.
  • Add foods, don’t subtract. Remember that all foods can be a part of a healthy life and no foods are off-limits. Instead, consider how to add nutrient-filled and diverse foods into your eating patterns.
  • Focus on variety. Different foods contain different nutrients, which means that eating a diversity of foods helps to ensure that we are getting adequate nutrients.
  • Pay attention to food that feels good. Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making your body feel good.
  • Try to include 3 things at each snack and meal: protein, fat, and fiber. This will help keep you full and nourished.
  • Create an environment that makes health easier. Your environment is the biggest predictor of your health choices, so consider how you can make shifts to your space to set yourself up for the health behaviors you want.

Make YOU a priority

Self-care can support a healthy college experience – increasing productivity by stepping away from your to-do list. Sounds like magic, right? 

What are the different types of self-care?

  • Emotional Self-Care means evaluating your emotional well-being. Giving yourself space for self-talk, saying “no” to things that would disrupt your energy flow or cause stress, and going on friend dates are all ways to contribute to your emotional self-care. 
  • Physical Self-Care. Prioritizing sleep, adopting a routine that includes physical activity, and eating a diversity of yummy, nutrient-filled foods are all ways to take care of yourself physically.
  • Spiritual Self-Care can look different for everyone! Spending time in a quiet place, meditating, journaling and incorporating overall peaceful activities into your day can all help with spiritual well-being. 

What does your self-care look like?

What does giving yourself attention and space – just like you do for assignments and others – look like? Use this well-being day to set some daily or monthly wellness goals to help make sure you meet your own needs. Remember that you came to UNC with a host of identities and values outside of school. Ensure you’re supporting your whole self through this journey. 

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What self-care successes are you proud of so far this semester?
  • What would you like to do more often?
  • What do you need right now?

Well-Being While Beginning a New Semester at College

Classes! Organizations! Socialization! Research!

We know starting a semester on campus is full of things to do. Remember – you don’t have to do everything! Prioritize your health, mental health, and well-being at the top of your list. Some suggestions to put that into action:

  • 🍎Schedule physical activity, healthy eating and stress reduction.If you schedule it into your day now, you’re less likely to skip it later. Bonus points for adding in social support – like by joining an intramural or club team, or scheduling fun fitness activities with friends. Use an app or planner to help!
  • 🔍Find and explore spaces to help you stay healthy like Campus RecDining Services, and Campus Health. You are welcome to visit these spaces and look around. Don’t be afraid to just explore the campus a bit this week while you’re reconnecting. 
  • 🏥Connect to a primary care provider and pharmacy in the area. You’ve already paid for services at Campus Health through tuition and fees, so you can come to see a provider there at no further cost to you. Visit one of the two on-campus pharmacies – Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy to transfer prescriptions and get over-the-counter items you need. Over-the-counter pharmacy items are also available in the Healthy Heels 2 Go vending machines in the Carolina Union and Rams Head Recreation.
  • 🧠Mental health matters! The Heels Care Network website offers trainings and resources to help you help your friends and yourself – including a Peer Chat staffed by LSN
  • 💙Seek professional help before things get awful – ideally as soon as you start to feel overwhelmed. Initial visits to Counseling and Psychological Services are available Monday – Thursday from 9-12, and 1-4, and Fridays from 9:30-12 and 1-4. These services have already been paid for in tuition and fees!
  • 🤗Get involved in campus organizations that interest you. This is one easy way to find people with similar interests. Search for what fits you using Heel Life. Some of your soon-to-be lifelong friends are among the people in student orgs on campus. 
  • 📚Find support academically. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, you can do it. Yes, you have help. This handout on How to Succeed at Carolina can help you plan for the best possible start to your new year. 

We know you want to stay healthy at Carolina, and we are here to help! Reach out if you have questions @UNCHealthyHeels or healthyheels@unc.edu.

SNOW Much To Do!

With winter storms, snow and ice on campus and more possible in the forecast for the Chapel Hill area,  you can help yourself be prepared to ease stress and avoid crowded stores and lines for essentials. Below are some tips for staying safe and well during winter weather.
Snow falls near the Bell Tower on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on January 16, 2022. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill

Prepare:

  • Plan for power outages: Have a flashlight or battery-powered light in case you lose power. Find and make available extra blankets and jackets to stay warm. Charge your phone and any external chargers to stay in communication if the power lapses.
  • Pick up snacks & bottled water. Avoid feeling like you need to “stock up”  last minute by having non-perishable items and water on hand. Grab a couple of food items you can eat if you lose electricity. Check out the Carolina Cupboard Pantry on campus if you need help accessing groceries 
  • Be aware of assignments and deadlines: Snow days are easier to enjoy by sledding, reading, and cozying up inside. Avoid additional stress by knowing what schoolwork needs to be saved, uploaded, or completed before the weather hits.
  • Bundle up when you go out:  Add layers including gloves, socks, and hats. Footwear with good traction, such as hiking boots & tennis shoes with sturdy soles, can help prevent an unwarranted tumble.
  • Play! Snow turns the whole world into a playground. Trash bags and shower curtains make great improvised sleds. Have a snowball fight. Make a creative snow sculpture. Play snow sports. Get out there and enjoy the rare snows when they happen!
Snow falls on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on January 16, 2022. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Travel Strategies:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel in winter weather. 
  • Keep an eye on the forecast to help prepare if the forecast changes. 
  • Use your best judgment. Recognize your comfort in snow and ice conditions. Stick to what feels safe for you.
  • Listen to the experts. Local officials send advisory, and up-to-date precautions based on conditions and public works teams.  Follow the local experts at; Alert CarolinaTown of Chapel HillTown of CarrboroOrange County Closures & Delays
  • If you have to drive: Plan ahead. Driving in bad weather usually takes longer and is more stressful. Drive slowly. Leave Room In front in case you need to use your brakes and the road is icy. Use your low beams in fog and heavy snow, or avoid driving in dark hours altogether. Buckle up!

POV: You’re Trying to be Outdoorsy After Sitting Inside for a Year

Carolina Adventure Chronicles | Part One: SUP, Supper, & Sunset 

I’m nearing the end of my time at Carolina, and as such, I have made it my personal mission to do and experience everything that UNC has to offer. This means saying “yes” to more invitations and jumping on all the events and opportunities I passed on in prior years. 

After spending nearly 18 months cooped up inside my house, I felt particularly drawn to Campus Rec’s outdoor expedition programs through Carolina Adventures. These expeditions transport students to scenic locations around North Carolina and surrounding states to do activities like backpacking, climbing, and kayaking. I was lucky enough to attend the most recent trip and the first trip held since March 2020: SUP, Supper, & Sunset.

First things first, SUP is an abbreviation for Stand-Up Paddleboard. It’s like a surfboard, but larger, more buoyant, and generally more stable in waves. In other words, it’s one of these:

I grew up by the ocean, so water sports were definitely up there on the list of things I’d missed since coming to UNC. I’d only been paddle boarding a handful of times before, and while I’m generally more of a kayak person, any excuse to get out on the water sounded like a good time to me.

Details & Departure

A few days before the trip, I received an email with loads of details about what to expect, what to bring, and where to meet. I appreciated how clear and communicative the Carolina Adventures staff was, and they seemed more than happy to answer any questions I had. 

The suggested items to bring were pretty standard: mask, bathing suit, water shoes, towel, water bottle, and snacks. The actual paddleboarding would take place Saturday evening on Jordan Lake (about 30 minutes south of campus), but we were set to depart from the Carolina Outdoor Education Center (OEC). 

FYI: the OEC is a hidden gem, and if you haven’t been yet, you’re missing out! It’s only a 10-20 minute walk from campus and has hiking trails, a disc golf course, tennis and sand volleyball courts, a climbing wall, and even a ropes course with ziplines!

Ropes Course at the Outdoor Education Center (OEC)

I arrived at the OEC around 5:00 PM on Saturday. The sun was just beginning to sink in the sky, but the heat from the day still lingered. I couldn’t wait to get in the water. 

I walked down one of the steepest hills I’d ever seen and sat at a wooden picnic table overlooking some tennis courts. There, I met one of the trip leaders. To my surprise, she was the same year and major as me. It turns out that a lot of the employees at the OEC are undergraduate students, which made the experience feel all the more casual. 

The “Meeting Spot” next to the tennis courts

As more students began to filter in, our trip leader gave us some medical forms to fill out and water bottles to take with us on the trip. Once everyone had gathered — 10 students in total — we began introductions. The group was a mix of undergrad and grad students of all skill levels. Several people had never touched a paddleboard before; one person used to work as a paddleboard instructor. One thing I liked was that there was never any sense of judgment or expectation that you should know what you’re doing. We were all students, and at the end of the day, we were there to learn.

Another thing the Carolina Adventures staff encouraged was the idea of “Challenge by Choice”. We all have a comfort zone. There are activities and situations that fit within our comfort zone, those that push the boundaries of our comfort zone, and those that far exceed our comfort zone. Where these boundaries begin and end is highly variable and up to the individual to determine. “Challenge by Choice” means choosing to take steps outside your comfort zone at your own pace and by your own motivation. Doing so provides opportunities for growth and personal achievement.

Challenge by Choice Chart

We played a few icebreaker games as the trip leaders loaded the trailer. Then, we packed into the van and began driving to Jordan Lake — paddleboards in tow. 

FYI: Jordan Lake is huge — 14,000-acres huge! This reservoir is surrounded by numerous access points with over 1,000 campsites, 14 miles of hiking trails, boat launches, beaches, and swimming areas!

Paddleboard Prep & Pizza

Thirty minutes on the road felt more like 10, as I had some fun conversations with my fellow paddleboarders. The excitement emanating from everyone on the bus was palpable. 

Once we arrived at the Farrington Point boat launch at Jordan Lake, we filed out of the van and began to help the trip leaders prep the paddleboards. We untied the boards from the trailer and hoisted them down onto the ground. The trip leaders pumped air into them, and a few of the students volunteered to help secure the fins and ankle straps.

The intense heat from earlier in the day had abated, and the air felt pleasantly warm. We gathered in a circle under the tree canopy for the “supper” portion of the evening. The trip leaders unveiled two of THE LARGEST PIZZAS I had ever seen from none other than Benny Capella’s. Each slice was bigger than my head. It took two people to carry one box. If you’ve ever wondered what a 28” pizza looks like, let me put it into perspective for you:

After we finished up dinner, the trip leaders ran through some safety instructions and suited us up with paddles and personal flotation devices (PFDs, formerly known as life jackets). Then, we were ready to go.

Smooth Sailing & Sunset

The boards proved to be a bit cumbersome to carry, but the walk to the water’s edge was only about 25 yards. I slid the nose of my board into the water, attached my ankle strap, waded out a few feet, hopped on the board, and pushed off of the sandy bottom with my paddle. 

My first “Challenge by Choice” was standing up. I set my paddle down on the board, placed my feet shoulder-width apart in the middle of the board to give myself more stability, and stood up. For a few moments, I was sure I would go flying into the water. I wobbled and teetered and tottered until I found my center of balance and came to a rest. 

The group waited for everyone to get situated on their boards before paddling east toward a bridge. We chatted amongst ourselves as white egrets flew overhead and blue herons stood stoically by the shoreline. 

We crossed under the bridge, and the lake opened up into another expansive section with an island at the center. We paddled past the island, gliding through gentle waves as the setting sun softened the sky to a pastel blue.

We paused at an outcropping of trees and several of the students (myself included) jumped into the water for a swim. The water was surprisingly warm — even warmer than the air at that point. After splashing around for a while, someone in the group challenged all of us to a race. Call it my second “Challenge by Choice” of the day. 

We lined up. I lowered my stance on my paddleboard to increase my balance. At the word “Go!”, I surged forward, furiously paddling with two strokes on each side of my board. I charged ahead, and with no predetermined finish line in sight, I paddled until my arms begged me to stop. Behind me, I heard boisterous cheering and the occasional splash as someone from the group lost their balance and fell headlong into the water. 

The group started back toward the shore just as the eastern sky turned a milky lavender color. The full moon, a vibrant pink and the largest I had ever seen, was just peeking above the trees on the horizon. I stared in awe and tried to follow the barely perceptible track of its upward movement. By the time we rounded the corner at the bridge, the moon had fully revealed itself from behind the horizon. It cast a wavering spotlight on the lake water down below. The western half of the sky was an artwork all its own. The sun, brushing up against the treeline, set the sky ablaze with color. The surface of the water was illuminated in a brilliant golden glow, while everything to my front was silhouetted black against it. 

Sunset over Jordan Lake

We reached the shore just as night fell and packed up the paddleboards. Before heading out, we did some reflecting on our experiences: the roses, the buds, and the thorns. The most common roses were the scenery, meeting new people, and learning something new. The most common thorn was the bugs (note to self: pack bug spray). We returned to the Outdoor Education Center around 9:30 PM and said our goodbyes. 

Truthfully, I had an amazing time on this trip, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone at UNC. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I signed up for several more trips this semester (Carolina Aventures series???). 

Signing up was easy at https://stayactive.unc.edu/ under Programs > Expeditions. Spots on each trip are limited, so only sign up if you are certain you will be able to go. Trips vary in their level of intensity and typically happen on weekends, although some trips happen over extended breaks. For example, Carolina Compass is a 4-day backpacking and rockclimbing expedition exclusive to first-year students that takes place over fall break. Be sure to read the details of each trip thoroughly before deciding, and don’t hesitate to reach out to staff with questions. 

These trips can be a fun activity to do with friends, but don’t be afraid to sign up by yourself. In fact, most people on the SUP trip had signed up by themselves. If you’re looking to step outside of your comfort zone and make new connections, I really recommend it. The casual environment and common interest (being outdoors!) make it really easy to get to know people. 

The friends we made along the way

11 Ideas to Take Care of YOU

Written and compiled by CAPS staff members Kyle Alexander, LCSW and Kadeisha Bonsu, LCSWA

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been coping with the mental strain of Covid-19 for 10+ months now. Many of us have spent a good amount of that time stuck inside, missing family and friends, so it’s totally normal if you feel more down or isolated than usual this winter. You are not alone.

We at UNC CAPS want to be here for you and wanted to share some ideas for self-care ideas during these last few weeks before the semester begins. CAPS staff is here for you so please don’t hesitate to call us to speak with a therapist anytime 24/7 for support (919) 966-3658.

Get Creative!

A person in socks over a bedspread lays next to a book, pencil, mug, and guitar

Many of us don’t identify as artists, but all of us have creative abilities. Let out your inner child. Dance around, color, draw, paint, make up a song, host a zoom talent show…it doesn’t need to be perfect; you just need to have fun.

Take Baths

A bath with bubbles, candles, soap, and a book

Take a moment to disengage from the world with your favorite music, some candles, and a hot bath. Baths can help relieve muscle tension and stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping, some studies indicate that going from a hot bath to a cold bedroom can help your body fall asleep faster.

Play Video Games

Two people with gaming consoles play a video game together

Distanced from your friends who may be living far away from you right now? Plug in your favorite multi-player video game and instantly connect. Distraction is helpful in moderation and can be a heathy way to escape for a moment. There are a ton of fun video games out there both on your mobile phone and console to explore. If it’s too cold to go outside into nature, check-out some of these nature inspired games that are fun to play with friends and bring nature indoors.

Read

Library long view

With more time inside, put down the phone, turn off the electronics and pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read. Escape into that science fiction series, or start that book that’s been on your shelf forever.  

Books feeling too long to commit to right now? How about exploring shorter poems that are speaking to you right now.

Don’t know what book to choose?  the book you’re looking for?, check-out GoodReads.com for book recommendations. For those in the Chapel Hill area already, you can request books from UNC libraries, or through inter-library loan.

Choose a Theme

Graphic of astronauts on various devices lounging around on a couch

Pick a theme for each day or each week depending on the length of your staycation. Include things that address various areas of wellness i.e., emotional, financial, spiritual, physical, etc. Themes you might consider are Zoom-Free Wednesday, Financially-Fit Friday, Self-Care Saturday… doesn’t matter the day, just have fun and get creative!

Listen to Podcasts

Feeling isolated or lonely while socially distancing? We all are. You are not alone. Community and human interaction are important for the psyche, and when coronavirus makes that hard, tune into your favorite podcast to immerse yourself in a digital community.

Next time you are folding laundry or on a walk, play your favorite podcast and instantly you can feel like you are not alone. There are thousands of different types of podcasts (comedy, history, news, etc.), pick which one is right for you and click play.

Person of color with their eyes closed and half in shadow with the words Feeling Seen A UNC CAPS Podcast overlay



A great Podcast option to check out is Feeling Seen, hosted by Dr. Erinn Scott, Psy.D. and Dr. Anthony Teasdale, Ph.D., staff psychologists at CAPS. These colleagues and friends come together to discuss and demystify mental health, therapy, and help seeking, and have some fun in the process. This podcast speaks directly to UNC and its students, giving listeners a more personal side of CAPS and its staff. There’ll be insights, laughs, and mistakes, but always with the intention of reducing stigma and helping people “feel seen.” Find it on all the places you listen: Spotify | YouTube | Anchor | Google Podcasts | Apple Podcasts

Go for a Hike

Fish eye view of the Botanical Garden

Those of us who are privileged to live in the Triangle are able to access numerous hiking trails in the area.

Wherever you are, the best way to find a trail that works for you is to ask friends for recommendation or go online for lists of best hikes in the areaThe All Trails application is a great free tool to download to search and filter the top-rated hikes based on your location.

Winter break is a great time to explore parts of Chapel Hill you haven’t yet. Try walking across the street from campus and check-out the free North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Camp

Glowing tent and fire at night by a lake

Camping is a great activity to escape into nature and be socially distanced with friends. North Carolina has a ton of nature and camp sites for you to explore this season.

Bike

Rameses bikes on a Tar Heel Bike in the Pit while students look on behind him

We know it’s cold out there, but regular exercise can act like an anti-depressant in itself. This Winter continue to challenge yourself to keep moving and get outside as much as possible. Biking is a great way to get some cardio in, but also explore. Check out these bike rental resources on-campus: 

Eat

Image of Heavenly Buffaloes

Outdoor dining under a heat lamp, takeout, or curbside pickup could be a nice treat for you and your friends. Maybe it’s time to pick a new type of food or restaurant you’ve been wanting to explore on Franklin! Or it’s about time you checked out all the cool stuff Carrboro has to offer if you haven’t had the time to explore Carrboro during the school year.

Check-out this resource for most updated list of food option in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. In the mood for chicken or vegan wings? Heavenly Buffaloes is open on Franklin and has (outdoor dining, takeout and delivery). We haven’t been paid for this recommendation – it’s just that good.

Women has head on computer desk and is raising a flag with a sad face on it
Nadia_Snopek/Adobe Stock

Set Virtual Boundaries

Give yourself permission to say no to Zoom/video meetings, hangouts, etc. that are not necessary or can be rescheduled. It’s okay to honor yourself, recognize your zoom fatigue, and take some space from it. Be okay with saying no and cancelling/rescheduling anything that gets in the way of your well-being.

Transitioning back to the semester can be rough on mental health – take some time for you over the next few weeks!

So Yes Means Yes, But How Do I Ask?

This blog post was originally published on June 16, 2015.

Photo:
Photo: “Communication” by Joan M. Mass, Flickr Creative Commons.

As many of us know, UNC-Chapel Hill adopted a new affirmative consent standard in August 2014, meaning that, rather than “no means no,” UNC enforces a “yes means yes” standard—where consent is defined as the clearly conveyed, enthusiastic, conscious, non-coerced “yes.” It is the responsibility of person initiating the activity to receive affirmative consent, and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not lessen that responsibility. Consent can’t be treated as binding; if your partner and you say that next Friday you plan to have sex, you should still check in with your partner next Friday to make sure they consent. If, next Friday, your partner decides they do not consent, you cannot try to hold them to what they said the week before or make them feel guilty in any way for changing their mind. Also, consent to one activity is not consent to another (so, for example, consent to oral sex is not consent to vaginal sex).

I’ve found in my experience conducting One Act trainings that a lot of students struggle to understand the affirmative consent standard, and have a lot of questions about how it works in practice. Many of us are much more comfortable relying on body language, so enforcing a policy that heavily relies on verbal communication can be daunting.

But how do I ask? Won’t it kill the mood? Isn’t that awkward? Don’t you just know when someone wants to have sex? Is it really necessary to ask permission every step of the way? Does this mean that anytime I don’t explicitly ask permission, they can just regret it and call it rape?

Those are all questions I’ve been asked, on several occasions, by several students. A lot of those questions stem from a “but I just want to have sex” mindset, when the mindset should revolve around what both you and your partner enjoy doing. Affirmative consent isn’t about making things awkward, it’s about making sure your partner really does want to do what you want to do.

So how do you ask? Here are some suggestions:

“I’d really like to do ____, do you want to?”

“How do you feel about trying/doing   ____?”

“Does this feel good to you?”

“Are you interested in doing ___?”

“Are you enjoying this?”

“I like doing _____. What do you like to do?”

The possibilities are endless, so have fun with it! Remember that sex should be an ongoing conversation, where you check in with your partner to make sure they are excited about and are enjoying everything that is happening.

But what about just knowing when someone is consenting to sex? Why this change? Why use an affirmative consent standard, when, for years, relying on body language has been considered acceptable?

It’s simple: there has been new research  that indicates people are likely to freeze up when they feel scared, threatened, or traumatized. While most of us are familiar with flight or fight, there is actually this third chemical reaction in our brains – “freeze.” Because of neurobiology, people may not be able to speak up and say “let’s stop,” so they just disengage and wait for it to be over. Using an affirmative consent standard takes into account what happens in our bodies on a cellular level. Beyond biology, social norms may impact some a person’s ability to speak up. Statements like “maybe later,” “I’m tired,” “not right now,” “let’s just watch a movie,” or even silence are indicators that a person doesn’t actually want to have sex, despite none of those being an explicit “no.”

If you ask someone if they want to have sex with you (or do any other activity) and they say no, you didn’t “kill the mood.” You simply gave that person an opportunity to tell you that they didn’t want to have sex. Rejection usually doesn’t feel good, but neither does hurting someone. Affirmative consent is sexy. So play around with how you ask for consent, figure out what way is most comfortable to you, and practice good communication with your partner(s)! Being able to talk about what you are interested in doing together gets easier, and affirmative consent is sexy! Remember: even if you do find it awkward, a few seconds of feeling awkward is worth preventing harming someone.

If you’re worried that your partner may confuse regret with sexual assault, here is a great blog explaining why that likely won’t happen.

Can you think of any more ways to ask for consent? Post below in the comments!

Reading and the Dimensions of Wellness

ATTENTION! THE TAR HEELS ARE IN THE FINAL FOUR. I’m sure by now you’ve heard nothing about this. We are on a roll! As March Madness winds down, and allergies go up, I’ve finally realized…it’s springtime! Which means summer is approaching.

Image courtesy of henry on Flickr.
Image courtesy of henry on Flickr.

My favorite part of summer: tossing aside textbooks and READING BOOKS FOR PLEASURE! It’s a go-to self-care practice for me.

While planning my beach trip (too soon?), I made a book list. For self-care reasons, I tried to make sure to connect them to my health and wellness, based on these 8 dimensions of wellness.

These dimensions (cultural, emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual) are important because wellness is seen as a journey, not just an outcome at Student Wellness. Creating a unique, healthy balance of all these dimensions takes time, effort, and support. Health and wellness cultivate learning and success on many levels, and there are many different ways to make healthy choices. Reading is just one way!

Here are my FINAL FOUR book picks (in no particular order):

 The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt
1Ever thought about what makes you happy? Constructing a life of fulfillment and happiness has been done for millions of years by people all over the world, and taking their lessons can help us build our own accounts. The author presents 10 theories of happiness and optimizing the human condition for well-being.

Dimension: EMOTIONALThis dimension covers understanding yourself in terms of emotions. This can mean thinking through your identity, ethics, and perspective, evaluating your self-esteem and acceptance, or harnessing your ability to experience and cope with feelings. This is an important part of facing challenges life brings.

 

The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman

2

Water runs the world. The author recounts our complex relationship with water, with stories about water in space to California’s drought to how much we enjoy hot baths. It explains how water helps us live, how it’s taken for granted, and how people can change their “water consciousness” to make water more productive and ensure we always have a lot of it.

Dimension: ENVIRONMENTALThis dimension covers the dynamic relationship between ourselves and our surroundings. It involves how social and natural environments affect health and well-being, and how we are responsible for the quality of these environments.

 Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko

3

This book gives thought-provoking exercises and techniques for approaching problems in unconventional ways. There are hints, tips, and tricks to open up your mind to thinking in different ways. Dubbed “rethinking the way you think,” this could help you come up with an original idea for business or personal purposes.

Dimension: INTELLECTUAL  – This dimension covers opening your mind to new ideas and experiences. This can lead to (self-defined) academic and professional growth and success.  It is vital to learn in and out of classroom, using knowledge gained from all areas from life to inform future decision making.

 

 The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington

4

Sleep is super important and not a waste of time, described in a review as the “ultimate performance enhancer.” It’s even become a public health issue, causing Huffington Post to launch a Sleep + Wellness section. While sleep may have become more elusive, it can be the key to living a more fulfilling life. The book goes over the history of sleep science and how to harness sleep power for good!

Dimension: PHYSICALThis dimension covers maintaining healthy quality of life and getting through daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress.  Living a thriving active life is the goal, and everyone deserves the right to do so. I like to advocate for access to wellness resources as a part of this dimension!

 

All of these books have a common theme: discovering new things that can help make you the best version of yourself. Working on your wellness is a continuous process, and as long as you are regularly creating and reinforcing healthy behaviors, you are on the right track!

To learn more about these and the other dimensions of wellness, check out Student Wellness.

 

 

Angelica Arnold is the Program Assistant for Health and Wellness at Student Wellness. She is a first-year Master of Public Administration candidate at the UNC School of Government. Her focus is on state, local, and nonprofit programs for nutrition education and walkable communities. She also a volunteer instructor for UNC Fitness Breaks and a youth basketball coach.

Photo courtesy of Michael Femia via Flickr Creative Commons