Whether it is about eating right, exercising or managing stress, we have probably all gotten advice from our doctor about how to stay healthy, but have you ever wondered how your doctor stays well?
Carilion’s Mark Greenawald, M.D., vice chair of Carilion’s Family Medicine Department, professor of Family Medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) and chair of the Faculty Vitality and Physician Well-Being Committee for Carilion Clinic and VTCSOM, was once asked that question, and luckily for us, he broke it down and happily shared it.
Each week, Dr. Greenawald schedules some sort of structured exercise, aiming for at least five days per week. He enjoys cross-training and his workout of choice can include running, biking, swimming or resistance training. He also includes a daily dose of yoga.
"This not only serves to maintain my physical health, but it also serves as my emotional ‘release valve,’ which is why doing it regularly is essential for me," he said.
- Eat Right and Maintain a Healthy Weight
As you would suspect, a healthy diet and weight are also a big part of ensuring his physical health.
“I am thoughtful about what to eat and how much I eat,” he explained. “I follow what I like to call a ‘Pollanian diet’ after the author Michael Pollan, who advocates eating unprocessed real food, mostly plants, and not eating too much.”
- Regular Medical Care
He also focuses on getting regular medical care. This includes annual physicals and recommended screenings as well as keeping track of his blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, etc.
- Continued Learning
Dr. Greenawald has always had a hunger for learning, a trait nurtured by his parents, and regularly devours books, journals and podcasts.
He also actively seeks out others who share their knowledge and wisdom about new ideas and ways to do things.
Getting regular and restful sleep, at least six to seven hours per night, is key to helping him stay sharp and mentally healthy.
Just note that the key words here are regular and restful.
- Mindfulness and Meditation
Dr. Greenawald has been practicing mindfulness for many years. It has allowed him to be more present in all aspects of life as well as being able to “shake things off” more easily than he would have in the past.
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully aware of what is happening in the present moment without judgment and with a sense of curiosity.
In addition, he takes at least five minutes out of his day every day to meditate.
- Positive Outlook
Choosing to have a positive outlook on life is another key factor for good health. However, this is something that does take practice.
“Given all the negativity we are exposed to daily, it is certainly something that must be practiced regularly and can be developed by reframing how we see things and how we react to it,” he explained.
But we also must find time to laugh, play and have fun.
“Looking for opportunities to laugh, be playful and to provoke laughter in others is something I strive for every day,” Dr. Greenawald noted.
- Quiet prayer and reflection
Carving out time for quiet reflection and prayer, as well as journaling and listening to spiritual material, is also essential.
“This provides me some space to center and recalibrate myself, as well as to remind and reground myself in the things that matter most,” he explained.
Dr. Greenawald also takes time each day to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, personal attributes or valued people in his life, including his patients and those he works with.
“Practicing gratitude and expressing appreciation are an integral part of my values,” he explained. “I seek out opportunities to express this as well as journaling about it regularly.”
However, quiet reflection is just one part of the equation. He gathers regularly with others for encouragement, accountability and deliberate spiritual growth.
Dr. Greenawald has been happily married for 30 years, but he noted that this did not happen by accident, it takes work.
He and his wife take time each day to “check-in,” but this time goes beyond the run of the mill, “How was your day, honey?” conversation.
Having a network of close friends is also important for him, but so are what he calls kindred spirits, people who are not necessarily “close,” but they provide important connections for him in his daily life.
“Connecting with and nurturing important relationships is important to me, starting with my wife and my family,” he said. “Close friends are also my lifeblood and an incredible blessing.”
A few other things that Dr. Greenawald incorporates into his life include getting outside as much as possible, connecting with mentors and getting to know his neighbors and community.
As the old adage says, you get out of life what you put into it, and as we can see from Dr. Greenwald, it is something that we need to do daily and often.