Poet, bestselling author, activist, celebrity…Dr. Maya Angelou plays many roles. And just in time for National Women’s Health Week (going on now!), she added another, as a spokesperson for Forsyth Medical Center’s Maya Angelou Center for Women’s Health & Wellness in North Carolina. Besides offering treatment, the center will focus heavily on women’s health education, both in the U.S. and in underdeveloped nations.
To learn more about the partnership and how she stays so healthy and vital, we called Angelou for a revealing chat.
- Focus on prevention. That’s what sets the new center apart, Angelou explains. It’s not just about treating issues like obesity and AIDS, it’s about stopping them before they start. One tip Angelou would like to share with young women today? Don’t forget to protect yourself in the bedroom. “Oh please, if you think your man hasn’t gone with anyone else…Don’t take a chance with your life!”
- Eat your greens. Whether you prefer spinach in your green smoothie or a salad before dinner, veggies have many benefits. “I was raised in Arkansas by my grandmother who was a gardener,” Angelou says. “If my hair broke while she was braiding it, she’d say, ‘sister, we’re going to have to start making you some greens!’ She would cook me some and it would work. There would be no pimples on my face either. I still believe a pot of greens will help me go to sleep at night!” Today, if Angelou was hosting a dinner party for her famous friends, she’d cook smothered chicken, rice and a “pile of asparagus” with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.
- Find joy in movement. Angelou studied dance as a teen, and particularly enjoyed modern ballet and African styles. Today, she still treasures the beauty of the steps, spins and sambas. “I’m 84 now and don’t do the things I once did. But the ways the human body can propel itself—it still makes me smile,” Angelou says.
- Be present. If something doesn’t seem right with your body or your health, don’t ignore it. “You don’t have to compete with professional models who wear a size six, but if you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, you know what you have to do. Advocate for your own self and don’t live in a fantasy place,” Angelou suggests.
In honor of the opening, Maya Angelou Center wants to hear about what inspired you to take control of your health. Visit facebook.com/mayaangeloucenter to share your story and enter the “Healthy Inspirations” contest. Part of the winner’s submission will be shared inside the center and runners-up win a signed copy of Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman.
As some of you may remember, FITNESS teamed up with SpaFinder to score you early-access to their Wellness Week bookings. We have more good news: Now we’re giving away five $50 SpaFinder gift certificates! Woohoo!
To enter, just go here and fill out the easy-peasy form.
And then, why not pop on over to SpaFinder and check out their $50 and 50% deals? (Organic facials, hydrating body wraps, airbrush tans, and more…) Wellness Week is March 19-25, so book soon!
This post is in partnership with SpaFinder’s
One of Roko Belic’s wealthy Hollywood friends approached him with an interesting question: “Why does it seem like the people who clean celebrity homes and do their yard work are oftentimes more happy than the celebrities themselves?” Belic found this concept so fascinating that he spent years exploring the topic. The result: Happy, a documentary by the Academy Award-nominated director that is now available on DVD.
We spoke with Belic about the project, and he shared these five simple steps to make your H.Q. (happiness quotient) skyrocket.
- Be grateful. “Gratitude is one of the best tools to boost your mood,” Belic says. “Thank someone who did something for you with a handwritten note, even if it’s just a few sentences long.” The act of writing the message adds happiness to your life for days. If you send the note, you extend the joy even longer (as you anticipate the letter arriving in their mailbox). And if they thank you back?
- Novelty keeps life fresh. Try something—anything—new! Whether you take a different route to work, eat at a new deli for lunch or go to a concert rather than a movie this Friday, doing something out of the ordinary “helps you appreciate what you have and expands your life,” Belic says.
- Set humble goals. Many researchers have tried to pinpoint what makes certain countries, like Denmark, happier than others. Having expectations that are within reach seems to make you feel more accomplished. “Aim to provide for your family or find a job where you are friendly with your co-workers,” Belic suggests, rather than trying to win the lottery or finish first in a marathon. You’ll be much more likely to actually make these goals a reality and won’t feel like you’re missing out on the “better things in life” if you frame it this way.
- Go with the (fitness) flow. Aerobic exercise affects the dopamine system in your brain, Belic explains. “Think about it: You rarely see a person complaining about how terrible they feel after finishing a good run or spending a day surfing,” he says. Fitness is even more beneficial for your mood if you’re able to find “flow” in the activity. Look for something that totally captivates your attention and keeps your mind fully on your body rather than on paying the mortgage or something else stressful.
- Share the wealth. “Happiness is contagious. Research has found that the happier you are, the happier your friends are—and even your friend’s, friend’s, friends are,” Belic says. Translation: If we were playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, joy spreads to your third degree connections. If you prioritize your happiness by following the previous four steps, you’ll boost the collective mood. “This isn’t just good for individuals; it’s good for the world. Happier communities have fewer crimes, less pollution and more people who are willing to help a stranger in need,” Belic adds.
Now tell us: What’s making you smile lately?