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How to be mindful and healthy in a busy world

Olava Menczkowska '74 is the artistic director of Movement Signatures; director of The Studio at The Beach & Tennis Club at Pebble Beach Resorts, where she leads Gyrotonic and Pilates classes; and a dance professor. She is currently serving on the Health and Wellness Committee at Santa Catalina, advising on the topics of mind-body awareness and exercise and movement. We asked her about how to make health and wellness a part of our daily lives.

What are three easy things a person can do to make an impact on their health and wellness?

The three most basic are good nutrition, healthy exercise, and restorative sleep. I believe that it is important to be conscious of our choices in these areas so that everything we might do, even the smallest of actions, can contribute to our overall health and well-being. Do what you love and practice gratitude. Keeping a daily gratitude journal has been shown to increase health and well-being by at least 10 percent. 

I’m having a stressful day at work/school. What are some quick exercises—both physical and mindful—that I can do to get my day and my well-being back on track?

Breathe! Take a moment and allow yourself to be aware of your breathing, which will calm the para-sympathetic nervous system. By not being in a “fight-or-flight” mode, we can better respond to the stress at hand. Take a deep breath in while counting to five and exhale slowly as you count to five. I had a ballet teacher once that would simply say “Stand up” when we started our barre exercises. Just stand up and allow your posture to support you, reevaluate the situation at hand, and make a conscious effort to address it in a way that supports you, rather than depleting you. All the while breathing calmly. 

How can a woman safely and effectively lose weight after 40?

That’s a very good question, and one that many experts have recently addressed. It is individual, and each person, at any age, needs to do the research as to what type of food, exercise, and rest best allows for their personal healthy weight. Consult with your physician regarding any metabolism questions and rule out issues that may be hindering your ability to maintain a healthy weight. My advice is to find a physical activity that you enjoy, eat clean food that nourishes your body, and take time for restorative sleep. We all need to acknowledge the beauty of our physique in the present moment. The choices we make in the current decade of our lives will influence our experience in the next decade. In other words, self-care today will be evident tomorrow.

How can I be more “present” in my life?

Being present is our responsibility as caretakers of ourselves, one another, and the planet. Being present is a habit we strengthen through our spiritual path and our willingness to allow silence in our daily lives. Being present is a moment-to-moment choice. Aim for 50 percent of your day and see what happens.

What suggestions do you have for staying motivated to improve fitness, healthy eating habits, and overall well-being?

Motivation stems from joy. Ask yourself, “What makes me happy? What makes me feel well and what makes me feel truly connected?” Find the joy in your fitness activity, the sharing of meals with family and friends, and where you find meaning and purpose in life.

Do you have any resources (websites, books, magazines, etc.) to recommend for health and wellness tips?

For a great list of health and wellness sites, go to this list and explore:

For creative ideas of how to create your own gratitude journal: 

Word for the Day at

Currently reading: Mindfulness Made Simple, a magazine by Bauer Media Group, addressing the science of mindfulness and the benefits for our brain health. 

Do you have any other advice or tips?

Keep learning and moving in life. Try new things, approach life from fresh a perspective, and stay grounded in what is truly important.

(Photo credit: Scott Campbell)