Rena Salamacha, CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

Throughout August, Mee Memorial Healthcare System will celebrate National Wellness Month, in line with our vision to promote health and well-being while helping our rural community to thrive.

MMHS encourages South Monterey County residents to practice healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes. But to understand the significance of wellness, it’s important to understand how it’s linked to health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

A focus on self-care, stress management and healthy routines can go a long way toward the idea of not just surviving, but thriving. Research has shown self-care helps manage stress and promotes happiness. Creating wholesome habits in August and beyond can help change our bodies and our outlook on life.

Dimensions of overall wellness include: social connectedness, exercise, nutrition, sleep and mindfulness. Each one has an impact on our physical and mental health. By making simple and healthy choices on a daily basis, we can be well on our way toward reducing stress, having positive social interactions and achieving optimal wellness.

Self-care is an important element of well-being. It can take 21 days for something to become a habit and 90 days for it to be a lifestyle change. Practicing self-care, managing stress, being mindful, practicing self-compassion and focusing on proper nutrition and exercise are all things we can all incorporate into our daily routines.

Following are some simple self-care habits:

  • Drink more water: Staying hydrated helps give you energy, flushes toxins from your body, improves concentration, and can even help with weight loss.
  • Stretch or practice yoga: If you’re on your feet all day, or even sitting at a desk, stretching can help improve your posture, heal back pain, as well as ease your mind.
  • Try something new: Whether it’s a new bike route, roaming a farmers market for fresh or unique produce, or volunteering at a nonprofit, shaking things up can help improve your mental outlook and create positive feelings.
  • Prioritize exercise: There are so many benefits to exercising, including pain management, stress release, boosting confidence, as well as increasing strength, and so much more.
  • See the signs: If something is making you feel overwhelmed or stressed, pay attention and act. Go take a walk, try a breathing technique, talk to a friend, find something to help alleviate the overwhelming feeling, and give yourself the opportunity to slow down.
  • Make healthy food choices: Food can impact the way you feel. Having a balanced diet and good nutrition will help nourish your body and lead to good overall health.

When it comes right down to it, the two most important elements of wellness are regular exercise and eating a varied, healthful diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Feel the burn — of calories

While joining a gym or running on a treadmill in your home can reap huge benefits, exercising outdoors brings a whole new level of benefits.

South County residents are blessed with several outdoor jewels to get back to nature as we burn calories.

  • San Lorenzo Park: This county park in King City sits at the base of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Now reopened following Covid restrictions, visitors can once again enjoy all-day picnic areas of the park and as well as access to the walking trail along the Salinas River. San Lorenzo Park has facilities for all kinds of outdoor activities. Show off your athleticism on San Lorenzo Park’s volleyball courts and softball fields, and display more low-key skills at the horseshoe pits. Kids will enjoy the well-maintained playgrounds, and the whole family can wander the trails together before settling down in the gazebo for a rest.
  • Pinnacles National Monument: Nestled in a rugged corner of the Central Coast Range, this unique landscape spans more than 26,000 acres — most of it protected as wilderness. The park’s namesake rock formations are the eroded remnants of an ancient volcano, and offer an oasis for hikers and rock climbers. In total there are more than 30 miles of trails, most of which are bounded on either side by enormous boulders. Climbers will find a wide variety of routes, ranging from easy top-rope climbs to the arduous multi-pitch climbs along Machete Ridge. There is also a vast system of talus caves that meander beneath the park, with two areas — known as Bear Gulch Caves and the Balconies Caves — open to exploration. There are also several bird-watching opportunities as the park is home to the majestic California Condor.

Expand your dietary horizons

Guidelines for a healthy eating pattern include getting a variety of food from all five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy (or dairy alternatives).

Remember, though, when it comes to protein, plant-based proteins are far healthier than their meat counterparts. That’s because, pound-for-pound, they pack more nutrients into fewer calories. They also have one thing that animal proteins completely lack — fiber.

Discovering new and interesting fruits and veggies is a great way to support your dietary journey toward wellness. Supporting a local farmers market strengthens the community and local economy. On average, only 10 cents of each food dollar returns to the farmer. The other 90 cents goes to corporations for packaging, marketing and transportation. Farmers who sell direct to consumers receive 80 cents of each food dollar — a much-needed economic boost during these hard times.

In addition, freshly picked, in-season produce is at peak flavor and nutrition. Approach each booth with a sense of adventure and discover a whole new world of nutrition.

Currently, South County offers the Soledad Certified Farmers Market, providing the community with farm-to-table produce and great food since 2006. The market opens each Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. on Soledad Street.

As you can see, creating wholesome habits in your lifestyle is easy, and August can be your stepping stone to better health.

Take this month dedicated to wellness as your chance to begin incorporating at least one or two small habits. It can lead to big changes over time.

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CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System


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