As a happiness entrepreneur leading the charge in lifestyle medicine, Dr. Liana Lianov has held a variety of high-profile positions. Most recently serving as President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and before as a Board Member of the American College of Preventive Medicine, Director of Healthy Lifestyles at the American Medical Association and Assistant Professor at University of California, Davis.

It is no surprise Liana’s expertise is in high demand. She is one of a handful of physicians nationally that have board certification in both preventive medicine and internal medicine, as well as a Master’s of Public Health degree and completion of a psychiatry fellowship. A truly interdisciplinary leader, she now funnels her efforts into an early stage start-up called My Happy Avatar, offering tailored health behavior change digital and clinical interventions.

Liana made time in her balanced schedule to share how she practices what she teaches as a lifestyle medicine leader:

Location: Sacramento, CA

Favorite Exercise: Walking in nature.

Favorite Healthy Snack: Fresh berries. A luscious raspberry is especially the most decadent flavor!

Favorite Way to Center: Looking at nature, a plant, flowers or beautiful art.

Favorite YouTube Video: What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness, TED talk by psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, Robert Waldinger, M.D.

Personal Motto: When you find yourself in a pit of snakes, keep moving forward.

What is your #1 wellness habit?

My #1 wellness habit is always getting enough sleep. Even when I was a medical student, I never stayed up late to study. I learned that the sleep served me better than a few extra hours of cramming for exams. My love of vegetables, fruits, beans and barley serves me well as the #2 wellness habit.

Describe your sleep ritual.

My sleep ritual is reading to my daughter, then after she is asleep, I do some leisurely online reading of news from the day. I look for inspiring stories that I hope will get incorporated into my dreams and my subconscious and positively impact my actions the next day.

What’s your biggest wellness challenge? How do you address it?

Of course, my biggest wellness challenge is the same one many of us face, the lack of time to be physically active. I do my best by folding exercise into what matters most and in ways that refresh me most. Usually I walk outside in nature rain or shine, and I use that time to decompress. If I am feeling pressured to get a project done, I hold walking meetings with myself (and sometimes on the phone). I have solved quite a few personal and work problems that way.

I like to look back on what strategies worked (by placing activities that occurred on my “O,” for example) to help guide me for the future.

Whose “O” would you most love to see?

I would love to see Dean Ornish’s “O,” because he clearly emphasizes the importance of love and family in a healthy lifestyle. His book Love and Survival encapsulated the key research available at that time about the impact of one’s social life on health and longevity. Since then more studies are confirming that the social piece of health is not “fluff.” For example, one study showed a person’s social support can impact high blood pressure more than diabetes. So I wonder how much time Dean dedicates to family and friends.

Tell us about a time you were stuck in an unhealthy cycle and how you got out of it. What was the main inspiration for positive change?

At times when I am focused on work day after day, I neglect my happiness and health needs, finding it difficult to break that unhealthy cycle. What redirects me is spending time in nature, feeling my blood pressure go down, filling my lungs with wonderful fresh air, and remembering what’s important.

Also, when I hear about someone’s untimely death, it’s a reminder to refocus on what’s important. I know that when my daughter grows up, she is not going to remember whether I accomplished a big project or got some career recognition, she is only going to remember the precious time she and I spent together building Legos or swinging in the park.

By the way: a recent study confirms what I have always experienced intuitively, that being in nature and around greenery lowers blood pressure!

If you could give one piece of health advice to future generations, what would it be?

The advice I will give my five year-old daughter as she grows up is to believe in herself and to tune into her insights about what healthy lifestyle feels right for her. It’s easier to commit to doing something that supports your true, authentic self. Those authentic commitments are also easier to keep.

I am borrowing from a famous writer: “To thine own self be true.” That leads to authentic happiness, which, in turn, provides the energy to pursue health, life and work success.

Liana Lianov, M.D., MPH is a Happiness Entrepreneur and Lifestyle Medicine Physician, former President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Board Member of the American College of Preventive Medicine and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Public Health at University of California, Davis. For more inspiration from Liana, follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Twitter, and check out her website at: My Happy Avatar.

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