Wellness at Mercyhurst
The Wellness Leadership Council is a university-wide initiative comprised of numerous campus offices and organizations. Our goal is to develop an inclusive culture of well-being and human development for the Mercyhurst community.
There are many dimensions of wellness that extend far beyond physical health. We seek to include all dimensions of wellness—including emotional, financial, physical, occupational, spiritual, environmental, social, and intellectual—in our culture of well-being. To be well is to have a zest for life, a sense of meaning and purpose, and a sense of social responsibility. Mercyhurst’s Wellness Leadership Council strives to promote these values for all members of our campus community.
Explore the dropdowns below to learn more about Mercyhurst wellness initiatives!
- The Five Senses: Use your five senses to experience being in the moment. Pretend you are a scientist discovering something new that no one has heard of yet. Try to notice as many things as you can and describe them in detail. Be objective and watch for times when you might be passing judgement. Simply notice what is. What do you see? What can you smell? What can you hear? Can you taste anything? Can you touch anything and feel the shapes and textures with detail? If you find your mind wandering, thank your brain for that detail. You may also say to yourself, "that was a thought,” and make a choice to bring your attention back to the present moment, using your senses to ground you.
- Sitting Meditation: Find a comfortable position either siting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground or cross legged on a cushion or yoga mat. Some people find a prayer bench more comfortable. While you sit, focus your attention on your inhale and exhale. As your mind wanders, take note and gently guide your attention back to your breath. You may choose to place one hand on your belly and one on your heart, noticing the rise and fall. Simply breathe and bring your attention back to your breath repeatedly. Consider setting a timer for five minutes and build up longer stretches of time. Whatever time you devote to your practice is enough—you’ll experience benefits from just 10 to 15 minutes at a time. To begin, it may be helpful to use a guided meditation teacher or app to practice.
- Walking Meditation: Walk with intention and focus on your steps. You do not need to walk slowly to focus on your steps, but it may be beneficial to start. Walk back and forth along the same path or use a labyrinth as a guide. As you walk, you may want to focus on your breath and count how many steps you took with your inhale and exhale. You may also want to use a mantra or saying that you repeat. "Breathe in peace, breathe out joy" or "breathing in, I am connected to the earth, breathing out, I am connected to the earth” are examples. Focus on the feel of your feet as you walk, the way your arms sway, and your overall gait and posture. Try walking at different speeds, lengths of time, in different weather, and with bare feet.
- Body Scan: Use a body scan to check in with yourself and become aware of what you are experiencing in your body. Notice what you are physically feeling during the practice. You can start from your head and go down to your toes or vice versa. The idea is to work up or down the body taking note of how each body part feels. The goal is not to change anything but simply to observe. There are many variations of the body scan. In one variation, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, each muscle group is tightened and then relaxed one at a time to experience the difference between tension and relaxation. Body scan practices can be especially helpful to manage pain and sleep.
- Loving Kindness Meditation: With this meditation, you repeat a phrase that is an offering to yourself or someone you care about. Usually, it is suggested that you try to extend this offering to someone you may not be close with or struggling with. It can also be helpful to extend this offering to the larger collective. Visualize who you are giving this offering to as you do. Here is an example: “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be at peace. May I be well. May (insert loved one) be safe. May they be happy. May they be at peace. May they be well.”
- Mindful Eating: With intention, use your senses to anchor you to your experience of eating a meal. Notice the textures, colors, flavors, and aromas. Take time to savor each bite by focusing on the aroma and then the flavors in your mouth, even the saliva that is forming as you eat. Try practicing by yourself when you have the time to devote to the practice. Put your utensils and food down between bites. Include your drink with the practice. Consider extending the practice by sharing a meal with others. Can you mindfully engage in conversation while also experiencing your meal? Take note of the differences between each experience.
- Forest Bathing: This practice involves immersing yourself in nature. It can be viewed as an extension of the walking meditation, using your senses to be fully present as you engage with the space around you. Try walking through a forest or green space and taking note of the colors, smelling the air, and listening to the sounds. You may also wish to lay out a blanket and gaze up at the clouds or the stars. Consider observing a flower as if it was the first time you have ever seen it. Other examples include sitting in a hammock, meditating, doing yoga in nature, observing the fall foliage changing, having a concert in the woods, or swimming in a river or waterfall. Also consider bringing nature to you by tending to plants or practicing the art of bonsai, listening to nature sounds, or experimenting with aromatherapy and essential oils.
- Visualization Meditation: There are many variations of visualization. The idea is to picture something specific in your brain and continue to focus on it as you breathe and meditate on the image. This could be a person you want to wish well, a goal you want to achieve, or a place that brings you calm. Visualizing the flame of a candle or a rose blooming are common practices. Visualization can be helpful to learn to let go of anger, grief, or physical pain. Sometimes visualizing where you are feeling the discomfort and breathing through this space can transform your experience.
- Guided Meditation: This practice employs a guide to walk you through a particular meditation. This can be helpful if you are new to meditation and unsure where to start. Some people prefer guided meditation as they struggle experiencing their thoughts while meditating. Even with a guide, your mind will likely wander; however, having a friend bring you back to the practice can make the experience more welcoming and less intimating. Guided meditation offers variety and may help you open to new experiences throughout the process. Try different meditation apps or sign up for a meditation or yoga class to practice this form of meditation.
- Fuel and eat to move, don’t move to fuel and eat. Knowing how to fuel our bodies begins with reframing how we look at food and nutrition: food is fuel, and we need to eat to be able to do the things we want. If we do not fuel adequately, we cannot do everything, especially not to the best of our abilities.
- Enjoy all foods, in moderation. Unless you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, allergy, or intolerance by a healthcare provider, there is generally no reason to avoid certain foods, food groups, or macronutrient categories. Some foods may make you feel better than others, but it is okay to enjoy all foods in moderation. There is room for cookies and broccoli in your daily diet—but if you ate only cookies, you would miss certain nutrients, and if you ate only broccoli, you would miss certain nutrients.
- Calories are essential to brain power, survival, and day to day activities. Calories are not something to be feared. Calories are simply how food energy is measured in the United States, much like joules, kilowatt-hours, or electronVolts. Without consuming energy, our bodies cannot sustain activities and body systems for very long. Without adequate calories, our bodies will start to breakdown structures to use stored energy and will slowly shut down biological processes to conserve what is left.
- Play with your food and make it interesting! Try to build your plate with a mix of different fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. Challenge yourself to try a new food or new preparation of a familiar food at each meal. You can also try to include as many colors on your plate as possible.
- Set an alarm for bedtime.
- Get sufficient exercise throughout the day (not right before bed).
- Turn off screens 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Develop a bedtime ritual (listening to music, turning off lights, etc.).
- Resolve conflicts or unsolved problems.
- Prioritize sleep.
- Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day—some physical activity is better than none! Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity improve their overall health.
- For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
- Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
- Sign the MUber disclaimer.
- Register through Uber to connect your personal Uber account with the MSG Business Account.
- Visit Erie. Located on beautiful Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie, Erie County is a short drive from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. It is home to approximately 260,000 residents, making Erie the fifth largest city in Pennsylvania. Offering a wide range of fun, affordable things to do, Erie’s easy to navigate street system allows for little to no traffic headaches, making it simple to get involved in the activities that interest you.
- Greater Erie Regional Trails. Do you want to hike in the woods, walk in a city park, or take a stroll on the waterfront? Erie County has a vast array of recreational opportunities for you to explore. Find a trail near you, see maps of the trail routes, view photos of the venues and terrain and learn about upcoming activities and events.
- Erie Events. Erie’s downtown entertainment and cultural district is home to a lively theater, music, and athletics scene. Between the Bayfront Convention Center, the Erie Insurance Arena, UPMC Park, and the Warner Theatre, there is entertainment for everyone in Erie.
- Erie Reader Events Calendar. Stay updated on community events, including seasonal celebrations, the arts, and educational events, with this calendar provided by Erie’s independent newspaper.
- Laker Launchpad. If you don’t feel like leaving campus, don’t forget that Mercyhurst offers plenty of engaging activities! Check out Laker Launchpad and follow Mercyhurst social media accounts to stay up to date on exciting campus life events!
- Do you have trust in one another?
- Do you respect each other?
- Are personal boundaries supported?
- Do you support each other’s interests and efforts?
- Are you honest and open with each other?
- Are you able to maintain your individual identity?
- Do you talk about your feelings, hopes, fears, and dreams?
- Do you feel and express fondness and affection?
- Is there equality and fairness in your relationship?
- Comfortable pace
- Healthy Conflict
- Take Responsibility
- Deflecting Responsibility
- Be realistic. No one can be everything all the time, we might want them to be. Healthy relationships mean accepting people as they are and not trying to change them.
- Talk to each other. It can't be said enough: communication is essential to healthy relationships. Be present, listen intentionally, ask questions, and share information.
- Growth Mindset. It is natural to feel uneasy about changes. Healthy relationships allow for change and growth.
- Self-care matters. Healthy relationships are mutual, with room for both people’s needs.
- Be dependable. If you make plans with someone, follow through. If you take on a responsibility, complete it. Healthy relationships are trustworthy.
- Healthy conflict. Most relationships have some conflict. It only means you disagree about something, and that is okay; it does not have to mean you don't like each other.
- Chill before talking. The conversation will be more productive if you have it when your emotions have cooled off a little, so you don’t say something you may regret later. Try not to text or post when you are upset with someone. Go for a walk, listen to music, or write down your feelings and thoughts in a journal to process.
- Use “I statements.” Share how you feel and what you want without assigning blame or motives. E.g., “When you don’t call me, I start to feel like you don’t care about me” vs. “You never call me when you’re away. I guess I’m the only one who cares about this relationship.”
- Be clear and specific. Try to factually describe behavior that you are upset with, avoiding criticism and judgment. Attack the problem, not the person. Be thoughtful.
- Focus on the present concerns. The conversation is likely to get bogged down if you pile on everything that bothers you. Avoid using “always” and “never” language and address one issue at a time.
- Take responsibility. Apologize if you have done something wrong; it goes a long way toward setting things right again. Remember that relationships involve two people so we both have to be accountable for our words and actions.
- Resolution may not be easy. You are different people, and your values, beliefs, habits, and personality may not always be in alignment. Communication goes a long way toward helping you understand each other and address concerns, but some things are deeply rooted and may not change significantly. It is important to ask yourself what you can accept, or when a relationship is no longer healthy for you. Setting boundaries may be a good reset for a relationship.
- Be positive. According to relationship researcher John Gottman, happy couples have a ratio of 5 positive interactions or feelings for every 1 negative interaction or feeling. Express warmth and affection!
- Maintain independence. Other people help make our lives satisfying but they cannot meet every need. Find what interests you and become involved. Healthy relationships have room for outside activities.
- Ebb and flow. It might look like everyone on campus is confident and connected, but most students share concerns about fitting in and getting along with others. It takes time to meet people and get to know them. Healthy relationships can be learned and practiced and keep getting better.
- Be yourself! It's much easier and more fun to be authentic than to pretend to be something or someone else. Healthy relationships are made of real people.
The ability to meet basic needs and manage money for the short and long term. College will likely be your first time managing your finances by yourself. You have dreams of being financially independent but may not know how to achieve it just yet. Don’t worry, we are here to help you with your questions from accessing your tuition to opening a bank account, to applying for scholarships, to investing and saving money long term.
For You at MU: Mercyhurst has ample resources to help you make smart financial decisions, both in college and after graduating.
Social and Cultural Communities
Finding supportive communities through healthy connections on social media and face-to-face. New classrooms, living situations, friend groups, social outings, and communities within communities—you’ll likely experience all of these situations in college. While it can be intimidating, being introduced to new social and cultural environments is a great way to grow. This is the time to explore who you are and find your authentic self. You’ll make new connections with people—friends, roommates, classmates, professors, partners, teammates, coaches, staff, and administration. Some of your new communities will be found through social media, and you’ll learn how social media can help you form healthy habits and communities. How do the new communities you form in college add to your life? How will you navigate changing relationships, such as with family or high school friends?
For You at MU: You’ll explore how your new environments and communities can positively impact your well-being.
Open Your Mind
Expanding your mind to feel good through curiosity, healing, and relaxation. As a college student, you’ll have endless knowledge at your fingertips. You have the freedom to learn about what interests you, both inside and outside the classroom. It is an exciting time to be curious about new topics you’ve yet to explore. Healing and relaxing are just as important as exercising the mind. As you learn and grow, you’ll find ways to heal your mind and manage difficult situations that may arise.
For You at MU: Mercyhurst will help you learn to be curious, heal, and relax your mind, and give you the opportunity to practice those behaviors.
Connecting with Your Environment
Contributing to and engaging with spaces that are safe, accessible, and sustainable. Connecting with your environment is much more than just being outside. One of Mercyhurst’s core values is being globally responsible, challenging us to luse the different resources of the Earth wisely and act in solidarity with its diverse people. Your environment affects your well-being in ways that you may not consider. How do you maintain your room? What kind of food do you consume and where does it come from? Where do your clothes come from and what is that process? Do you already practice sustainable habits? At Mercyhurst you can learn about and nurture your environment.
For You at MU: You’ll explore different values that you can apply to your environment and learn how your behaviors impact others.
Spirit, Faith, & Soul
Growing and connecting with your inner and outer self through shared values and communities. Being a college student takes a lot of courage and determination. You’ll face challenges and persevere. Mercyhurst has many trusted professionals to help you, from the counseling center to Campus Ministry, professors, club advisors, recreation class instructors, Community Engagement staff, and more. Now’s the time to explore what fills your cup up. Do you want to volunteer more? Interested in participating in guided meditation? Are you curious about the option of therapy? Do you want to attend or be involved with weekly Mass and bible study groups?
For You at MU: You’ll feed your soul and explore shared values with other people in your community.
Knowing what your body needs to feel good: movement, energy, food, sleep, and healing. As a busy college student, you have a lot of responsibilities. Being able to fulfill those responsibilities takes time and energy. That means you need to take care of yourself by moving your body, fueling your body properly with food and drinks, getting enough sleep, and allowing yourself to relax and heal. How will you take care of yourself during your time in college?
For You at MU: You’ll have the chance to learn what your body needs to feel good and take care of yourself.
Find Your Way and Why
Learning about your past while planning for the future and understanding basic human development. Well-being isn’t a destination. It’s a journey with ups and downs. We’ve all experienced different peaks and valleys in our personal journey; it’s a natural pattern that impacts how we engage with our health. In college, you’ll likely have days when you feel successful and days when you feel burnt out. That’s normal!
For You at MU: You’ll have opportunities to try new things, learning and growing as you find out what works for you.
Mercyhurst’s Counseling Center, located at 4118 Briggs Avenue, provides confidential, professional counseling to Mercyhurst University students. Our staff recognizes the challenges that university students face as they transition from home to college life. They are experienced in assisting students’ concerns such as adjusting to college life, peer and family relationships, depression, anxiety, stress, alcohol and other substances, eating disorders, anger management, grief, loss, and trauma. Learn more by visiting the Counseling Center webpage or calling 814-824-3650.
To be mindful is to set an intention to pay attention to what is going on within us and around us. It is to acknowledge the reality of things without judgement and accept circumstances as they are, as best we can. In doing so, we may find that life is richer and fuller—full of experiences, insight, and connection.
By setting time aside to cultivate mindful awareness, we can enhance our ability to tap into a wonderful, free resource within us! Practicing mindfulness does not have to take a lot of time. With practice, it can have tremendous benefits in all aspects of wellness. When we choose to be mindful, we are showing up for ourselves and the world around us. Mindfulness is not about solving a problem, but rather it is the awareness of how we relate to the experience at hand.
How can mindfulness benefit you?
Mindfulness can help reduce stress, heart rate, and blood pressure, while improving sleep, athletic performance, focus and concentration, social connections, and emotional regulation. Thousands of thoughts bump around in your mind each day. It’s easy to get caught up in fears, desires, and dreams for the future, multitasking, avoiding, or checking out. This can lead to a general sense of discomfort as well as physical and emotional distress. When we make a choice to be mindful, we learn what we need to better take care of ourselves and our community.
What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation? Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what is happening in the moment, while meditation usually refers to a formal sitting practice. You don’t need anything to practice mindfulness. Simply tune in to your experience of the here and now—that’s all it takes to be mindful. Use your senses to anchor you to the moment: what can you see, smell, hear, feel, and taste? You can also practice mindfulness in a formal way, for example, through a sitting meditation. A meditation practice usually involves a specific amount of time. Some people enjoy using props such as a meditation cushion, chair, yoga mat, or prayer bench, although these are not necessary to practice. Meditation usually involves using your breath to anchor you in the moment or some variation of focused breathing for a time.
Types of mindfulness and meditation practices:
Nutrition matters. In today’s world of social media, expert opinions, and conflicting evidence, it can be difficult to identify the best, most updated information about how to fuel our bodies well.
Proper nutrition means eating and drinking the building blocks that keep our bodies running: macronutrients, including carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, and water. Every person has slightly different nutrition needs. Lack of sleep, stress (personal, academic, social, etc.), illness and injury, health status, body size and composition, and even climate can affect these needs. Pair these factors with the sheer number of nutrition products on the market today, and it’s no wonder people have a hard time knowing who and what to listen to.
What are the first steps to proper nutrition?
The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep per night. When was the last time you got enough sleep? Do you regularly get less sleep than you should? College students often struggle with making enough time for sleep. With busy lives and so many things competing for their attention, sleep often suffers.
The effects of not getting enough sleep regularly are cumulative. Going 24 hours without sleep—or going a week of only getting five hours of sleep per night—has the same effect as a blood-alcohol content of .10%. Not getting enough sleep can cause many health consequences, including depression, anxiety, daytime sleepiness, chronic disease development, cardiovascular morbidity, and obesity, to name a few.
As a college student, you may not feel that it’s always possible to get enough sleep. Here are a few tips to help you get enough rest.
If you can’t get a good night’s sleep, try napping after lunch! A study determined that a 15-minute nap after lunch “maintains subsequent alertness and performance even in subjects who sleep for only 4 hours the night before.”
Overall Health Benefits of Movement
According to the CDC, a single bout of moderate-to vigorous physical activity provides benefits for your overall health. Immediate effects include improved sleep quality, reduced feelings of anxiety, and reduced blood pressure. Long-term benefits of regular exercise for adults includes improved muscle and bone strength, improved balance, reduced risks of developing dementia and depression, decreased chance of unwanted weight gain, and a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers.
Key Physical Fitness Guidelines for Adults:
Examples of moderate activity include brisk walking (4 mph), vacuuming, cycling (10-12 mph), and playing doubles in tennis. Examples of vigorous exercise include jogging (6 mph), cycling (14-16 mph), hiking, and shoveling. Strength training exercises can be done with dumbbells, body weight, or machines. Take advantage of our beautiful campus and Erie community to get your 150 minutes of physical activity in!
Please visit the CDC and the American College of Sports Medicine to learn more about safely adding physical fitness into your life. It is always advised to talk with your health care provider before starting any new fitness program.
Recreation and Fitness Center
The Mercyhurst Recreation and Fitness Center provides each student the opportunity to enhance their physical wellbeing. This center was designed with the intent of meeting the recreational, fitness, and athletic needs of Mercyhurst students, employees, and intercollegiate teams.
The Recreation and Fitness Center is open daily to those within the Mercyhurst community. Each student will have the opportunity to enhance physical performance through a spacious free weight room, hammer-strength equipment and up to date cardiovascular machines. Fitness classes are offered for students and employees. Follow the Rec Center on Twitter and Instagram for updated schedules and visit the Recreation Center webpage for current hours and contact information.
Alcohol and Drug Use Among College Students
Mercyhurst offers many engaging and free resources to keep students safe and encourage new fun experiences during their time at college. Each fall, the Campus Involvement Center (CIC) celebrates National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (NCAAW) and hosts programming centered on having a safe St. Patrick’s Day in the spring. CIC also hosts a variety of alcohol-free programming throughout the year including other social events, educational lecturers, games, and give-a-ways. Student-led groups including the Multicultural Activities Council and Student Activities Council (MAC/SAC) and Mercyhurst Student Government also host a variety of weekend events for students as a way for Lakers to be involved and have fun as an alternative to drinking.
According to the National College Health Assessment, nearly 62% of college students used any amount of alcohol within the last 90 days, while students perceived that 90% of their fellow students were using alcohol. Only about 25% of U.S. college students report having used cannabis within the last 90 days, even though most college students estimate that about 83% of their peers used cannabis within the last 90 days. In the past year, roughly 7% of college students nationwide used drugs that were not prescribed to them. Stimulants, such as Adderall, were the most used among this group. These types of stimulants do not have a positive academic impact in the long run.
Opioid use is lower in college student populations than in the general population. Opioids are highly addictive substances and can contribute to various disruptions in a person’s life. Many people abuse opioids as a form of pain management. There are many ways to treat pain without using opioids.
While we realize that many students will choose to partake in drugs and alcohol, we hope to instill a foundation of education of the harmful effects these substances can have as well as resources for help and alternatives for other means of recreation.
MUber: Safe Rides for Students
Mercyhurst Student Government (MSG) sponsors MUber, an incentive program to ensure students have a safe and reliable ride around Erie. We encourage students to take advantage of this program to attend events and activities within the Erie community. In this program, MSG covers the first $5 of your ride, once per day. For example, if a ride to the Erie Bayfront costs $7, MUber will cover the majority of the trip, leaving you only $2 to pay yourself. Our hope is that this program encourages students to travel responsibly and comfortably, anytime, anywhere. Mercyhurst students must register for MUber each academic year. To sign up for a MUber account:
Substance Abuse Hotline
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a free, confidential 24/7 treatment referral and information service in English and Spanish, for individuals facing mental illness and/or substance abuse concerns. Call 1-800-662-HELP (6327).
Do you want your class or student club to learn about the dangers of drinking misuse and hazing? Mercyhurst has purchased the film HAZE. Contact Sue Sweeney at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a screening of the film along with a presentation on safe alcohol use with your group or class.
Smoking and Vaping Cessation Resources
The Office of Student Outreach and Support is ready to assist students who would like to quit smoking or vaping.
Getting involved in your local community is a great way to bolster your emotional and physical well-being. Whether you’re from the Erie area or just living here while attending Mercyhurst, take advantage of local events and attractions that Erie and the surrounding areas have to offer!
Relationships are an important part of life. Research shows that social connections are critical for both mental and physical health. People who have healthy relationships have better health outcomes and are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors.
What does a healthy relationship look like?
First thing first, we need to acknowledge there is no perfect relationship. All relationships ebb and flow; learning to recognize healthy and unhealthy relationship characteristics is crucial. Relationships take work, with each party striving to create and maintain a positive bond. A few questions to ask when assessing the health of a relationship:
Every person’s needs are different. In a healthy relationship, each person gets what they need. Healthy relationships bring out the best in you and make you feel good about yourself. A healthy relationship does not mean a “perfect” relationship, and no one is healthy 100% of the time, but here are some signs you should look for in your relationships. Healthy relationships manifest themselves as healthy communication, but to have a healthy relationship, you need to love yourself first.
Signs of a Healthy Relationship
Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Healthy relationships have been shown to increase our happiness, improve health, and reduce stress. There are basic ways to make relationships healthy, even though each relationship is different. These tips apply to all kinds of relationships: friendships, work and family relationships, and romantic partnerships.