Category Archives: Wellness Wednesday

A weekly post on keeping you well on Bowdoin’s campus.

Wellness Wednesday: Chocolate Milk

Looking for an excuse to drink chocolate milk every single day? We are.
And, conveniently enough we can—in fact we should, especially after a long workout, according to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. In 2006 the journal published a study comparing the contents and effects of Gatorade to the nutrients found in a simple box of chocolate milk.
Researchers found that chocolate milk contains the ideal 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to proteins, which is found to enhance glycogen replenishment into the muscles after a workout. Chocolate milk also contains whey protein, which gets essential amino acids into the blood stream right after consumption, to build and repair muscle. Finally, it’s a good source of the protein “Casein,” which sustains these amino acids and their circulation through the blood stream to reduce the risk of muscle breakdown.
In one study nine male cyclists biked until exhaustion, rested, then biked again. They repeated the exercise again—this time each given one of three different recovery drinks. The three cyclists who drank chocolate milk were able to bike significantly longer than those who drank standard sports drinks, and longer than their own original tests.
If this wasn’t enough to convert you however, the cost comparison might. While one bottle of Gatorade will run you from $1-$1.50, one box of Horizon chocolate milk (with a straw!) costs only 44 cents per serving, a difference that could save you $20 a month!
So next time you pop your cup under the Gatorade fountain in Thorne, switch it up and try the experts’ favorite chocolatey drink. Your muscles may thank you.

Written by Maeve O’Leary ’14

Wellness Wednesday: Introversion

What does it mean to be an introvert?  There are various ways of defining introversion, but according to some, they are the people who listen rather than speak.  They choose to read instead of partying.  They like to work independently over collaborating with teams or groups of people.  But this doesn’t mean that introverts are antisocial or shy at all – they are just social in a different way.  For example, introverts may prefer to spend time with a handful of friends at a dinner party rather than at a loud crowded college house party.

In modern Western culture, we find a pervasive extrovert ideal in which a magnetic personality is very much cherished, though oftentimes leaving introverts undervalued.  Between the emphasis on effective communication and collaboration, whether for job interviews or class projects, we see the extrovert ideal on Bowdoin’s campus too.  And in Susan Cain’s work Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she argues that though extroversion should be valued, it can be a challenge for introverts to succeed in a world that just can’t stop talking.  Especially at Bowdoin, a small liberal arts college where there is little personal space and sometimes an overwhelming close and constant proximity to hundreds of people our age, finding the time to be alone is hard.

Nobody is a pure introvert or extrovert; in fact, some of your friends may fall in the middle, often called ambiverts.  For the most part, however, we identify with one or the other.  Knowing where you fall on the spectrum can be helpful to understanding what makes you happy and healthy.  It can help you figure out what types of career paths you might be interested in or how to make the most of your weekend free time.  Take a personality test to find out more – you can find hundreds online, but here are some links:

Introversion/Extroversion Quiz

Big Five Test:

Myers-Briggs Test:

Now that you have a better sense of where you are on the spectrum, what’s next?  Well, for all the introverts at Bowdoin, remember that solitude matters.  Though you may feel the need to be gregarious and be an effective team player, it is also important to give yourself quality alone time.  It is okay to spend a weekend night engaged in conversation with two close friends and a burger from the food truck.  College isn’t just about loud music and crowded living spaces.  For all the extroverts at Bowdoin, look around you because a third to a half of the world’s population is an introvert, meaning it is quite likely that some of your closest friends are introverts.  Just something to keep in mind as you think about how you want your semester or year to look.

Interested in reading more?  Check out these links for more thoughts:

Wellness Wednesday: Laughter

It seems that almost every day, someone is trying to come up with the next ‘big thing’ that will for sure keep us healthy! While yes, getting sleep, exercising, staying hydrated and eating healthy are all important, studies have shown that something a bit more unexpected has also been found to help- laughter.

A good laugh has been found to improve blood flow, lower levels of stress hormone and even boost your immune system. When we laugh, we trigger the release of endorphins, which help to ease pain and promote a feeling of euphoria. Not only that, but a good laugh has the ability to relieve tension in the body “leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.”

Did you know that there is such thing as “Laughter Yoga?” Yes. That’s correct. In the 1990’s, Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, started the first Laughter Club, which has expanded to over 6000 laughter clubs in over 60 countries. This form of yoga combines laughter with yogic breathing (pranayama) in order to provide the psychological and physiological benefits that come from laughing. Laughter yoga has been used in cancer facilities, prisons, aged care facilities, and has even been found to make a large impact on those with mental and physical disabilities.

Barb Fisher, a certified laughter-yoga leader, says that while laughter yoga shouldn’t replace traditional forms of exercise, it has been proven to help tone muscles. You know that sore feeling you get in your abs when you have been laughing uncontrollably? You really are strengthening your core! Apparently, 20 seconds of a good, hard belly laugh is equivalent to 2 minutes on the rowing machine.

Sadly enough, Fisher also says, that “Kids laugh about 400 times a day, and adults only about 15.” So, resort to your childlike self and don’t take everything so seriously! Laugh at yourself; don’t be afraid to be embarrassed. Try and look for humor in unfortunate situations. Surround yourself with funny people, posters, or objects that you keep at your work place. Most importantly, keep everything in perspective.

Here are some types of laughter that Dr. Madan Katari suggests to try out:

1. Hearty Laughter: Laughter by raising both arms in the sky with the head tilted a little backwards

2. Greeting Laughter: Joining both the hands and shaking hands with at least four or five people in the group

3. Appreciation Laughter: Join your pointing finger with the thumb to make a small circle while making gestures as if you are appreciating your group members and laughing simultaneously.

4. Milkshake Laughter: Hold and mix two imaginary glasses of milk or coffee and pour the milk from one glass into the other by chanting “Aeee…,” and then pour it back into the first glass by chanting “Aeee…” Then, everyone laughs while making a gesture as if they are drinking milk.


Written by Kerry Townsend ’13.

Wellness Wednesday: Sitting

Now that it’s summer, a good portion of current Bowdoin students, as well as alumni, are probably scattered around the country and the globe for that matter.  Some are probably enjoying their first college summer, others traveling, and a good portion sitting at desks in cubicles staring at a computer.

If you’re one of the gazillion people sitting a lot this summer, these articles from the Miami Herald and the US News and World Report might be of note to you!  Basically, there’s been increasing evidence that “prolonged periods of inactivity – best described as sitting a lot – is unhealthy.”  Several studies claim that sitting for 6+ hours a day can lead to higher death rates.  Of course, it might not be possible to stand all day, but it is important to move and stretch just about every 30 minutes throughout your day.  Here are some tips:

  • On your lunch break, take a walk outside.  The fresh air and sun is a nice change from a computer screen.
  • When you need to chat with a coworker, go to their desk!  While it might be helpful to call or email when you’re swamped with work, your body will appreciate the walk even if it’s right next door.
  • Get up and stretch.  Your back will love these stretches!
  • Try the bathroom downstairs (or upstairs) instead of the closest one.  And take the stairs to it!

Hope you are staying polar bear healthy this break.

Wellness Wednesdays: Beauty through the Ages

Abandoning pen, brush, and potter’s wheel, Anna Utopia Giordano’s thoroughly modern artwork uses only Photoshop software. With this program, Giordano digitally replicated and altered Renaissance classic masterpieces to fit within modern standards of beauty. Perusing the 15 slides of her work featured in The New York Daily News last month, one can see just how much ideals of attractiveness have changed in the past few centuries. The luscious curves of Botticelli’s radiant Venus slide away, leaving a taunt stomach and toned thighs, while Artemisia Gentileschi’s Venus is shrunk to half her size. An image of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “La Naissance de Vénus,” and Giordano’s altered version of the work are placed side by side. The new Venus has a whittled down waist, frailer arms, and more prominent knees, yet her breasts remain exactly the same size. This same phenomenon occurs slide after slide, flesh vanishing away, rolls and folds forsaken for bony statures that somehow retain their voluptuous breasts. This, we are told, is beauty.

Giordano discusses her new depictions of Venus, claiming the role of art is to find and create physical perfection. These admired and sought after proportions of skeleton bodies with curvaceous breasts are the “perfection” of modern society, the aesthetic we all must pursue to be beautiful. But who decides that this is beautiful? Once upon a time, as the Renaissance artists show us, perfection was a fuller, rounder figure. A body type we would now think of us as “plump,” “chubby,” or “out of shape.” Beauty changes with the times as money, fashion, and of course men, determine the way women should maintain their bodies. Yet if these aesthetics truly are this fickle, how much energy should we expend on the pursuit of perfection? If Venus, the most beautiful goddess of all Mount Olympus, can have both rotund, sensuous thighs and lean, muscled legs, then are not all bodies beautiful? People come in all shapes and sizes and throughout history vastly different body types have been coveted and adored. The bodies we yearn for and worship in today’s society are digitally perfected images, images in which all flaws, quirks, and uniqueness have been erased in the name of flawless skin and uniformity. If nothing else, Giordano’s digital changes show us that there is not one set definition of beautiful and there is no such thing as physical perfection. As the old saying goes, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

To see the slide and read the full story on the New York Daily News check out this link.

Written by Elizabeth Huppert ’12.

Wellness Wednesday: The Healthy Touch

The following post was written by a guest contributor.

People in my family have a history of depression. Thankfully, none of us struggle with crippling bi-polar disorder or severe clinical depression, but every few years we tend to ruminate on negative thoughts and feelings and question our place and purpose. Personally, I think that these periods of rumination can be beneficial in helping us re-evaluate who we are and who we are striving to be. However, sometimes rumination becomes a rut and it gets difficult to shift my emotional outlook from contemplation to gratitude or genuine happiness.

For this reason, I am always looking for non-medical techniques to boost my mood. Recently, my mom bought me a book by Dr. Andrew Weil called Spontaneous Happiness. Among other techniques, this book discusses touch as a way of boosting oxytocin (a good hormone), lowering cortisol (a stress hormone), and increasing white blood cells (boosting your immune system) – ultimately improving your outlook and combating depression.

Healthy touch is any positive touch you recieve from your special someone, friends, or yourself. Healthy touch makes you feel safe, loved, trusted and cared for. Finding healthy touch at Bowdoin can be difficult. Many of us on campus can feel isolated from family, old friends, and trusted pets.  This week, some of us will be going on dates and getting busy in the sack, but others of us will be spending the night in the library or hanging out with good friends. So, what are some ways to get some healthy touch and boost your mood this Valentine’s week, regardless of your relationship status?

Some tips:

  1. Hug your friends more
  2. High five people
  3. Get a massage (submit your 1 <3 Health cards and be entered to win a gift certificate for an hour massage)
  4. Buy a loofa and enjoy your shower more
  5. Snuggle with whoever is willing
  6. Pretend you have a sprained ankle and ask for a piggy back ride across campus

Wellness Wednesdays: QiGong

The start of a new year and a new Bowdoin semester is always an exciting time. Between fresh notebooks for class, friends back from abroad, and subtle (but still immensely important) changes at Thorne, the campus is ready to spice up last semester’s old habits. For some students this also includes new sport seasons, changing fitness routines, and spring health and wellness classes. While many of us might have skimmed the list of classes and signed up for yoga or spinning yet again, why not try a new class you haven’t experienced yet? For example, qigong is a wellness class often overlooked at Bowdoin. Maybe you are turned off by the fear of mispronouncing the name, or maybe you just have no idea what to expect, but trying something entirely different can be wonderful for your body, mind, and state of being. Supposedly you should do something everyday that scares you, why not make qigong that something?

Qigong is an ancient Chinese art made up of different postures, circular movements, and breathing techniques. “Qi” translates to “the vital energy of the body,” and “gong” refers to “the skill of working the qi.” Thus, the idea behind this practice is not just working your muscles or breaking a sweat, but working the energies of the body. The goal is to train the mind to utilize and control the body’s various energies. In the hectic days of Bowdoin life, we often are forced to move from class to meeting to rehearsal and find our energy slumping. Thus, using your workout time to harness your energy and learning how to re-direct your energies is a very valuable skill. Likewise, learning how to work the qi has many medicinal healing effects that might just help you avoid the health center.

There are two main energy types worked during qigong. Through physical exercise and breathing focus, the internal qi is worked for healing one’s own body. However, advanced students also learn how to work external qi, which is emitting your energies to heal another person’s body. Both these processes have been clinically found to lower stress levels, bolster the immune system, lower blood pressure, improve balance, increase stamina, and improve digestive and circulatory function. Although heading to the gym is a form of stress release for many, qigong’s de-stressing effects extend beyond the moment of exercise. Learning to increase the mind-body connection will help you make it through a late night cram session and stay sane in the stress of midterm periods.  Qigong is a great way to shake up last semester’s exercise rut and improve your health and mental sanity in the process. So as you work to add some variety to your Bowdoin life this semester, consider trying this valuable ancient practice. You might just be able to improve your health and the health of those around you in the process.

For further qigong reading:

Written by Elizabeth Huppert ’12.

Wellness Wednesdays: Stress

Winter break is a welcome respite from Bowdoin life, and whether you spend break lounging on the beach or sitting on the couch watching TV, you were most likely able to relax. With homework and meetings finally coming to a standstill, winter break is a time to recharge and de-stress. But now as the spring semester begins, the stress we gladly abandoned has come throttling back at full force. Although eager to see friends and be back on campus, stress is a feeling we would rather not greet again.

However, stress is not an entirely bad feeling. Sure, slaving over a paper until 3 am is no fun and anxiety brought on by a jam-packed assignment notebook is not exactly pleasurable, but certain levels of stress enhance our physical and mental well-being. Adaptive stress is the adrenaline surge that propels us forward. During adaptive stress, blood vessels dilate and allow more blood flow to the brain and the muscles. This reaction results in the extra speed the body suddenly gains at race-time, the backstage nerves that sustain beautiful dance concerts, and the enhanced mental clarity and memory that appears during exams. This is a stress we should aim to have so we can constantly be performing at our best. Unfortunately, the stress many Bowdoin students experience frequently is harmful stress. Instead of dilating, blood vessels constrict resulting in dizziness, pins and needles, and irregular heartbeats. This anxious, panicked feeling is unpleasant, exhausting, and often dangerous. So how do we turn the harmful stress we often carry at Bowdoin into this adaptive stress?

A key difference between adaptive and harmful stress is the role of the mind. When harmful stress is in full force we become subject to our bodies, unable to control blood flow or think logically. On the other hand, during adaptive stress we are able to take a step back from the situation at hand and put things in perspective. Relaxation techniques are a great way to break free from the all-consuming nature of harmful stress and calm the nervous system down. For example, 4-7-8 breathing, which consists of inhaling for 4 counts, holding the breath for 7 counts, and exhaling for 8 counts, helps re-charge the mind-body condition. Wellness classes like yoga and tai chi also help with this same mind-body connection. While stress seems like an inevitable reaction of the body to the flurry of Bowdoin life, the mind has the power to soothe the body, re-frame stressors, and turn levels of stress from harmful to adaptive. If you feel yourself already overwhelmed by new classes and tired from long days, remember that you have the power to turn the stress in your life from a negative to a positive force. Try enrolling this week for a Bowdoin wellness class, practicing breathing at your desk, and most importantly take a step back from the Bowdoin Bubble to put everything in perspective. If your mind can find peace, your body will follow suit.

For more information on the difference between adaptive stress and harmful stress check out this article:

Written by Elizabeth Huppert ’12.

Wellness Wednesday: New Semester, New Goals

Hey Polar Bears!  Welcome back.  It’s a new semester, and many of us have set new resolutions for the year and new goals for the semester.  Yet, after lounging around for a month, finally reuniting with long distance friends, it suddenly seems like those goals aren’t as important to you as they originally were.

It takes three months to develop a new habit, these three months may seem like a long time.  Here are a few ways to break down your goals so you can achieve them in three months.

Set specific positive goals, rather than rigid or vague goals:

Resolving to “get better grades” is a vague goal, which may set you up for failure.  Halfway through the semester you decide a C is better than a D, so you’re still making your goal.  Is that what you really intended when you made your goal?  Yet, resolving to “get an A in every class” is too lofty.  When you remember you signed up for organic chemistry and multivariate calculus, you may just resign all together.  Instead, keep goals specific and manageable.  Break down your class schedule, strive for an A in your psych class and B in your chem class.  Or, set a goal to go to the gym Monday and Wednesday at 2:30pm when you get out of class, rather than just “go to the gym more.”

Measure incremental changes:

So you decide you want to get in bed by 11pm every night so you’ll have more energy and avoid sickness this semester, yet you’re used to going to bed at 2am.  For the first week you get to bed by 1:30am every night, and upon realizing you aren’t even close to getting to bed at 11pm, you simply toss your goal out the window.  Remind yourself that change doesn’t happen quickly.  Going to bed at 1:30am is a half hour earlier than before, which is a great beginning step for success.  You are on the way to reaching your goal, maybe next week you can get in bed at 1am or 1:15am.  Celebrate the small steps in order to notice that change is actually happening, no matter how gradual it is!

Plan for your success, schedule time for reaching your goals:

Between class, practice, dinner date at Thorne, study group after dinner, then a capella rehearsal, finding time to reach your goals is no easy feat.  If you truly desire to make a change in your life, you have to take responsibility and pride in reaching it, and make room for achieving your goals.  Don’t schedule a meeting with your advisor at 2:30pm on Monday when that’s your planned gym time.  Tell your lab partner, “sorry, I can’t meet at 10:30pm to work on our lab because I want to get to bed at 11pm.”  If your goal is to be less stressed this semester, schedule a half-hour break in the afternoon for “me time” and watch your favorite tv show, go for a walk, or call an old friend.  Make your goal time as mandatory as class time or a meeting; and if you have to forgo that time or change that time, try to fit it in somewhere else.

Good luck!