Lil*Bear's Tips for Healthy Living in Nunavut


Welcome to February, that time of the year when we usher in the winter blues and shoo away those pesky New Year's Resolutions. To combat this feeling of meh, I sat down with Christine Lil*Bear Lamothe of Saimavik Studio to find out how she keeps herself feeling good all year. Christine is not only the founder of Saimavik, a wellness/community space here in Iqaluit, but been working in the field of health and wellness in Nunavut for over a decade.

Prior to opening Saimavik, Lil*Bear was the Physical Activity Specialist for the Government of Nunavut, a position she held for seven years. She continues to work as a choreographer and dance instructor, as an active member of the community. She's also running a Go Fund Me campaign to help her get advanced skills training and bring new classes and teachings to Iqaluit. Here's her advice* for healthy living in Nunavut (or really, anywhere!).

*The information here is meant to give you an idea of what you can do to live at your best. Please consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise routine.

Re-examine your mental morning routine.

When you wake up, what is the first thing you say to yourself? For Lil*Bear, it starts with self-directed positive messages.

“Start by thinking of what you have to look forward to,” she suggests, to get yourself in the right mindset to face the day.

Positive thinking has been a topic of conversation in the field of psychology for ages (it's aptly called "positive psychology"), with many studies citing a correlation between positive thoughts and better mental and physical health outcomes. Check out this overview of research on optimism and health for a primer on this topic. 

Take in the tundra.

"We are truly some of the luckiest people in the world to live in such clean place, with wide open spaces," Christine says. "Nature is right at our feet. We are all part of this ecosystem and it’s important for all of us to reconnect to this truth regularly." And there’s many ways to get yourself connect to nature.

“For me, it’s a walk, because it’s so accessible,” Christine says. And when she’s on these walks - often with her three faithful canine friends - Lil*Bear engages in some, well, unconventional afternoon stroll behaviour.

“Use your senses,” she says, “all of them.” How? Stop to listen to the wind or the cracking ice. Walk barefoot to feel the tundra (but maybe not at -30.) Or, um, bend down and take a sniff?

“Have you ever smelled the tundra?” she asks. “There’s so many smells. I didn’t realize until Bryan Pearson told me to physically bend down and sniff the tundra.” Like her dogs. “Yes, like a dog,” she laughs.

Engage in conscious eating.

“I don’t believe in dieting,” she explains. “It’s about getting in touch with what you really need.” For her, this includes healthy shakes, lots of herbal tea, country food as much as possible, and people.

“Eat with people,” she urges. “Food has a way of connecting us.”

For people like us living in the Arctic, some healthy food habits to consider include drinking plenty of water (to account for the dryness) and eating foods rich in vitamin D (to account for the lack of sun). Check out the Government of Nunavut's Healthy Eating page or the Nunavut Food Guide for more tips - and recipes!

Find the exercise routine that works for you.

Traditionally, yoga is not about fitness - it’s about living consciously rather than in “auto-pilot.” Christine explains, “Yoga teaches you to pay attention, to understand to your body and the complexities of your mind so that you can live a realized life. Yoga has been found to enhance any other sport or physical activity program you may already be doing.”

And that's why yoga is just one of the activities you can find at Saimavik. The studio also offers dance classes, pilates, and even acts as a space for theatre workshops (and again, if you want to see the programming expand at Saimavik, support Lil*Bear's Go Fund Me campaign!). If weights are more your thing, you can join any of the gyms in town (click here for a comparison), or, reflecting back on point number two, just go for a walk.

Incorporate self-care throughout the day.

Self-care is such an important concept, almost radical in its simplicity. We should be taking time to love and care for ourselves, every day, whenever we can. It sounds simple, but we are social creatures that all too often spend a great deal of time focusing outward, on the needs of others, at the expense of our own needs.

Transformation to spa session for Qanurli! @Saimavik #qulliq #qanurli @qanukiaq_stew #tv

A photo posted by Lil*Bear (@nanurala) on

So what can self-care look like? Many things: writing in a journal, going boating, stretching at your desk.

“Take deep breaths,” Christine says. “Take deep breaths and pause.” Whatever you do, self-care is just for you, and just what you decide you need.

Find your community, to build our community.

Even within our little city of 7,000 people, there are clusters and spaces and groups that cater to certain ideas, hobbies, or lifestyles. Find the ones that you like - and the ones that inspire you.

“If there’s something you want to improve, in yourself or in the community,” Lil*Bear says, “seek out the right people. Who in this community is doing something can align yourself with?"

One of the best parts of living in smaller towns or cities is the sense of community, and Iqaluit has this feeling in spades. And whether you're new to town or a local looking for something new, finding your squad can help you feel connected and content. "Don't be a stranger," Lil*Bear advises.

Keep your mind flexible and open to learning.

“Life changes,” Christine muses. “Even what you knew yesterday, you learned something different today.”

An openness to learning and change has many health benefits, from what the World Health Organization calls "active ageing", to things like long-term happiness. Christine's advice is to "be open to learn in ways you may not be used to, and take your time to listen first. And be patient!"

Evaluate where you are today and think critically about your future.

According to Christine, “there is no single life-changer.” Instead, she believes life happens in steps, and we have the potential to shape the path, if we take the time to think about where we are and where we want to be.

"Your life will happen and go in its direction," Lil*Bear says. "The questions is, are you the driver?"

Header photo by Vincent Desrosiers. Follow Saimavik Studio on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to see what they're doing to promote healthy living in Nunavut. And don't forget to check out the Go Fund Me campaign to help Lil*Bear continue her journey as an Arctic yoga teacher!