Moving back to Singapore

Among other stressors such as unclear job boundaries, difficult relationships at the workplace, and organizational change (Michie, 2002), relocation can be a significant source of stress.

More effort in pre-move preparation has however been associated with greater post-move mental wellbeing (Martin, 2010). So being mentally prepared goes a long way.

While official guides describe local cultural practices and traditions in Singapore, and offer the basic facts and figures about Singapore, other sources can be equally instructive. A diligent independent guide by Singapore expats offering reassuringly level-headed advice, while a Travel CNN review on the 50 reasons why the garden city is great is quite insightful.

Making the move however can be made Real Simple with a comprehensive checklist for things to do before you move. A print-ready moving checklist cuts the work down to size, reminding you to label and pack these last: kettle, toilet paper, toiletries, towels, and bedding. But since toilet paper and cleaning necessities are never too far away at a supermarket, and char kway teow, satay, and chicken rice at your friendly neighbourhood hawker centre or kopi tiam are only an MRT stop or quick taxi ride away, there’s no real need to panic about not having packed utensils and washing-up liquid. And you can treat yourself and the family to a leisurely al fresco brunch after all the unpacking’s done.

Overseas relocation is acknowledged to be stressful, particularly when it disrupts social support systems (Fontaine, 1986), making it difficult for social support — interpersonal relationships which support individuals in times of stress (Cohen & McKay, 1984) — to play a protective role against psychological stress. While it can be daunting to find the right social network to help one settle in, supportive friendships can certainly be helpful in buffering stress at the new workplace and home.

Here’s a starter kit to get going…

Where to live:

The basics:

Getting around:

Where to Shop:

For families and kids:

For those new in town:

Outdoor activities:

Nightlife & Clubbing:

Social & Recreational clubs | Associations

Where to eat:

And when you can appreciate local acronyms, Mr Brown, and the highly nuanced locally-produced TV comedy called The Noose, it’s a sign of acculturation. Meanwhile, for the really kiasu ever keen to get a headstart on Singapore culture, here are some things you might not have known about Singapore and a succinct cheat sheet from Travel CNN.

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A stroll a day keeps the doctor away

Everyone extols the virtues of exercise and physical activity. The World Health Organisation recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigourous physical activity, for adults aged 18 to 64 years. But what are the real benefits of all that physical activity?

As it turns out, a number of studies report mental health benefits from workplace exercise intervention. Job performance and mood was better on days when employees exercised than on days when they did not, in a study of 201 office workers (Coulson & McKenna, 2008) published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.

Significant improvements in stress levels, depression and anxiety scores, and physical health were observed for 73 employees who completed a brief 24-week workplace intervention involving both aerobic and weight-training exercise, compared to a waitlist control group (Atlantis, Chow, Kirby, & Singh, 2004).

Improved mood and physical health, greater job satisfaction, and fewer days of absence from work were observed for workers with corporate health and fitness club membership, compared to non-member workers from the same worksite (Daley & Parfitt, 2011).

A recent meta-analysis of 15 studies by Parks and Steelman (2008) has also demonstrated fewer days of absenteeism and better job satisfaction for employees with a corporate workplace wellness programme compared to control groups. Although comprehensive programmes comprising fitness and education about nutrition and/or stress management were implemented in 5 of the 15 studies, benefits were experienced across both comprehensive and fitness- or education-only programmes.

Exercise has also been shown to help individuals with depression. As Craft and Perner (2004) report, a meta-analysis of 80 empirical studies revealed significant improvement in depression scores for those recruited into an exercise intervention compared to controls (North, McCullagh, & Tran, 1990), even when depression was the primary not secondary medical condition (Craft & Landers, 1998) and when only randomized controlled studies were examined (Lawlor & Hopker, 2001).

So now that you’re convinced that exercise improves your quality of life and mental wellbeing, here are a few ideas…

Walking & Nature Trails:

Outdoor activities:

Indoor activities:

Social Dance:

Dance Fitness:

Martial Arts:

Football:

Badminton:

Finding a gym:

Running:

Cycling:

Swimming:

Kayaking, canoeing & dragonboating:

Diving:

Wakeboarding:

Sailing:

Climbing & Bouldering:

And if you’re bored with the white-capped munias, pacific swallows, the families of long-tailed macaque monkeys, wild mushrooms and fungi, archduke butterflies and squirrels you get from strolls the Lower Peirce and Macritchie reservoir, you can try this kind of stroll!

All work and no play makes Jack miserable

The benefits of exercise to work productivity are well established. But newer findings suggest that engaging in hobbies can be just as helpful in promoting physical and emotional health. Some hobbies can even be profitable.

Findings by Cuypers, Krokstad, Holmen, Knudtsen, Bygren, & Holmen (2011) published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health revealed that participating in receptive and creative cultural activities was associated with good health, satisfaction with life, low anxiety and depression scores in both men and women for their population-based sample of 50,797 participants from Norway. In particular, being directly involved in the creative process was more strongly associated with positive health outcomes than passive appreciation of cultural activities, particularly for male participants. On the whole, engagement in more activities was associated with greater benefits than being involved in fewer activities.

So, go head. Play, dance, get involved. it’s time to switch on that creative brain!

Drawing, painting, & crafts:

Craft & Flea Markets:

Dancing:

Film & Cinema:

Music Gigs & Guides:

Freebies in Singapore:

Visual Arts:

Performance Arts:

Workplace wellness: The benefits of exercise

We know we should exercise. And we know how much we need to accomplish in a week. The gold standard for working adults aged 18 to 64 years is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigourous physical activity, as recommended by the World Health Organisation.

But what does exercise, particularly that at the workplace, achieve?

A vast number of studies point to the health benefits that directly result from exercise and physical activity. Corporate wellness programmes designed to improve workers’ physical activity and/or their diet through exercise or education on a one-to-one or group level, significantly reduce body fat — a risk factor for cardiovascular disease — in 31 random-controlled studies (Groeneveld, Proper, van der Beek, Hildebrandt, & van Mechelen, 2010).

High-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol — another risk factor for cardiovascular disease — was significantly lower than baseline after a 4-year workplace programme to improve physical activity in 2929 factory workers in Japan, after controlling for effects from smoking (Naito, Nakayama, Okamura, Miura, Yanagita, Fujieda, Kinoshita et al., 2008).

Combining strength and aerobic fitness with cognitive-behavioural training and individually customized diet plans, was effective in reducing body mass index or BMI, body fat percentage, and blood pressure, in a randomized controlled study of 98 overweight workers in Denmark (Christensen, Faber, Ekner, Overgaard, Holtermann, & Sogaard, 2011).

Given that workplace fitness programmes result in lower risks for cardiovascular disease, the cost savings to organizations from having lower medical fees and insurance premiums are plain to see. And workplace fitness programmes not only improve anxiety and depression scores, but reduce absenteeism (Bhui, Dinos, Stansfeld, & White, 2008). In fact, for individuals with depression, a fitness programme lasting only 9 weeks of aerobic or strength/resistance training of varying intensity can bring about improvements in mental wellbeing and quality of life ratings (Craft & Perner, 2004).

So apart from making you healthier and your bosses happier, exercise makes you feel good.

Why? Well, current theory posits that exercise induces the release of endorphins which is associated with positive mood, effects an increase in temperature in specific brain regions resulting in muscle relaxation, and/or increases availability of mood-regulating neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenalin (Craft & Perner, 2004).

And physical activity is not confined to just aerobic and strength/resistance training. A 12-week-long poster and sticker campaign to get Swiss hospital staff to use the stairs brought about not only slimmer waists and the desired use of the stairs, but also reductions in body fat, BMI, HDL cholesterol, and blood pressure (Meyer, Kayser, Kossovsky, Sigaud, Carballo, Keller, Martin, Farpour-Lambert et al., 2010). A 6-months follow-up showed that while lift use had resumed — the stairs were sadly neglected — employees maintained their aerobic fitness and body fat.

So, time to take those stairs to work…