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This site is an archive of our Well Written Blog posts until April 2020. For the most up-to-date content visit NWIJournal.com.

The opinions and thoughts expressed here those of the authors and do not necessarily correlate with those of the National Wellness Institute. Read more.

 

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Inspiration: Inspired by Independence Days and Patriotism Everywhere!

Posted By National Wellness Institute, Friday, June 28, 2013

Freedom"Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation and freedom in all just pursuits." – Thomas Jefferson

"Liberty, taking the word in its concrete sense, consists in the ability to choose." – Simone Weil

"On life's journey
Faith is nourishment,
Virtuous deeds are a shelter,
Wisdom is the light by day and
Right mindfulness is the protection by night.
If a man lives a pure life nothing can destroy him;
If he has conquered greed nothing can limit his freedom." – Budda

"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom." – Albert Einstein

"For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?" – Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty." - Louis D. Brandeis

"As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery.
We have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace.
The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as
anger and attachment, fear and suspicion,
while love and compassion, a sense of universal responsibility
are the sources of peace and happiness." – Dalai Lama

"The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves." - William Hazlitt

"Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.” – Albert Camus

"In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Ask not what your country can do for you...but what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy

"We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” – William Faulkner

"The constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness, you have to catch it yourself.” – Benjamin Franklin

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

Tags:  Behavior Change  Emotional  Freedom  Inspiration  Intellectual  July 2013 

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Obesity is a Disease. Now what?

Posted By National Wellness Institute, Friday, June 28, 2013
help with obesity

Last month the American Medical Association (AMA) categorized obesity as a disease (http://www.today.com/health/obesity-disease-doctors-group-says-6C10371394). To clarify, they categorized it this way to indicate addressing the issue requires prevention measures and medical treatment.

The AMA’s own Council on Science and Public Health has previously said obesity should not be classified as a disease because the method of determining obesity (Body Mass Index measurements) is flawed and doesn’t give a clear reflection of overall health. To see the full report, click here: http://www.ama-assn.org/assets/meeting/2013a/a13-addendum-refcomm-d.pdf#page=19

Current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics indicate a third of all U.S. adults age 20 and over are obese. That means, according to the new AMA ruling, a third of all U.S. adults has a disease! On the other hand, AMA’s designations have no legal authority, so the designation itself can’t force change…merely suggest and encourage change to take place.

Why the designation is good:

· Physicians will pay more attention to patients who are obese or may become obese.

· Insurers may look at what they cover in terms of obesity-related treatments.

· Drugs to treat obesity have not been well-reimbursed in the past, according to a June 18, 2013, New York Times ("AMA Recognizes Obesity as a Disease”) article. So, if the designation pushes insurers to reimburse these drugs, and drug companies can sell more, the incentive for drug companies to do more obesity treatment research grows. In short, there could be more or better products on the market to treat obesity in the future.

· The IRS allows tax deductions for approved medical expenses (such as treatments for disease). In other words, managing obesity could be tax-deductible.

· The designation could remove barriers to bariatric surgery and insurance coverage.

· A common treatment for losing weight is to eat less. Unfortunately, the patterns that cause individuals to weigh more change the body chemistry in a way that makes the body think it is starving if an individual eats less. A "starving” body will not metabolize calories properly. This complex issue is a great argument for medically supervised dieting.

Why the designation has issues:

· Obesity is already classified as a disability under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). A review of articles on the new designation reported fear among doctors that classifying obesity as a disease would create a reason for people who need to address their weight issues to ignore them…simply accepting that they have a "disease.” In short, some doctors fear the designation will act as an excuse in the face of personal responsibility.

· As stated above, there might be issues with the BMI scale used to determine obesity.

· Many in the debate feel obesity is a risk factor for diseases like diabetes or heart ailments, rather than a disease itself. They predict more runaway medical costs if overweight people now turn to surgery and drugs rather than to diet and exercise.

What should you do? Don’t wait for your doctor to bring up your weight…and don’t ignore an issue that can lead to additional life-threatening complications. Managing weight can be a long journey, but you need to take the first step.

The following website (nutrition.gov) has great resources to help you start your weight loss journey: http://www.nutrition.gov/weight-management

Additional resources and resources mentioned in this article:

CDC Obesity Statistics: www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.pdf

For an amusing take on the designation, with some great points, check out this Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2013/06/20/good-news-ama-declares-obesity-a-disease/

June 18, 2013, New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/19/business/ama-recognizes-obesity-as-a-disease.html?_r=0

Tags:  July 2013  Nutrition  Obesity  Physical 

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Wellness in 10: Ten Reasons Why Spiritual Wellness is Good For You

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, May 29, 2013

First, a definition. Spiritual Wellness is reflective of our individual search for meaning and purpose in human existence. You are more spiritually well when your actions become more consistent with your beliefs and values.

1. Finding meaning and purpose centers us and allows us to better understand who we are and how we fit into the world that surrounds us.

2. Having meaning and purpose connects us to ideas larger than our immediate selves and helps us to focus on what matters in the long run vs. what our current situation may be.

3. Having meaning and purpose makes decisions and choices easier, as it shows our acceptance of and practice of a specific belief system.

4. Meaning and purpose grounds us when we are in periods of change, as the meaning and purpose are often consistent.

5. To better understand how we fit into the world around us, we must develop a greater sense of empathy…time spent thinking of others instead of ourselves puts our own lives into perspective.

6. Having a spiritual element in our lives can actually help us heal when we are suffering from disease.

7. Having a spiritual element in our lives may prevent mental disease such as depression. In a study of more than 92,500 postmenopausal women, those who reported attending religious services were 56 percent more likely to view life positively and 27 percent less likely to have symptoms of depression than women who didn't attend services. The study appeared in the May 2012 Journal of Religion and Health.

8. A 2009 study from Princeton suggests that religious (remember, this "Wellness in 10” is about spirituality, religion is only one facet) people feel more fit, reporting better health, more energy, and less pain. They’re also less likely to smoke and more likely to be married, have supportive friends, and be treated with respect.

9. Being spiritual does not have to be the same as being religious. While being religious might involve an individual attending services, praying, or studying scripture…being spiritual could be a way for an individual to explore things that matter to them in more depth, and with more conviction. From meditation to fishing, from family to dancing…spirituality allows individuals to explore all that is good and nourishing in the world around them.

10. Hopefully, being spiritual reminds us to be thankful. Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness, positive emotions, the ability to relish good experiences, an improvement in health, the ability to deal with adversity, and the ability to build strong relationships.

Happy Spiritual Journey!

Resources:

http://www.princeton.edu/~deaton/downloads/Religion_and_Health_All_August09.pdf

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2011/November/in-praise-of-gratitude

Johnstone B,Yoon DP,Cohen D,Schopp LH,McCormack G,Campbell J,Smith M. Relationships among spirituality, religious practices, personality factors, and health for five different faith traditions. Department of Health Psychology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO. J Relig Health.2012 Dec;51(4):1017-41. doi: 10.1007/s10943-012-9615-8.)

Tags:  Emotional  June 2013  Spiritual  Wellness In 10 

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Time to Start Using your Workplace Wellness Program

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A recent study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion (May 2013) found that individuals who regularly took advantage of their workplace wellness program reported an improvement in their overall quality-of-life, but non-regular users often reported no improvements in their physical quality-of-life and a decline in their mental quality-of-life.

The study, conducted by Matthew Clark, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic, focused on overall quality-of-life, not just nutrition and fitness. The study surveyed more than 1,100 employee wellness center members, whose average age was 39. Participants were split into low, below-average, above average, and high users. Low users attended less than once every two weeks and high users two or three times a week.

The percent of those in the above average user category reporting a high physical quality-of-life improved from 49.8 to 59.6 from baseline to follow-up one year later. Among high users, the percentage increased from 59.4 to 80.4 percent. There was no improvement in physical quality-of-life scores among the lowest use group, and the number of low users reporting a high mental quality of life decreased from 51.4 to 34.5 percent.

The authors suggest their findings (decline in mental quality associated with non-participation in workplace wellness programming) may be linked to the negative emotions associated with the beginning of a program being difficult and subsequent non-attendance of the program. Moreover, unrealistic expectations might play a role.

What to do? Start with realistic expectations. Know that beginning any program can be difficult not only because of the commitment it involves, but also due to time management and physical and mental demands. Go into the program with the understanding that it will get easier if you stick with it. Start with realistic expectations; remember, baby steps you can handle are much better than gigantic leaps that make you want to quit. And if you miss a wellness session, no big deal—just get to the next one!

Clark, M. Jenkins, S., Limoges, K., Hagen, P. Lackore, K., Harris, A., Werneburg, B., Warren, B., and Olsen, K.

(2013) Is Usage of a Wellness Center Associated With Improved Quality of Life?. American Journal of Health Promotion: May/June 2013, Vol. 27, No. 5, pp. 316-322.

Tags:  Emotional  Intellectual  June 2013  Occupational  Work 

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The Effects of Sunshine on Blood Pressure

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Can UV rays from the sun improve your health? Researchers from The University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom discovered that exposure to sunshine decreased blood pressure in participants.

The study consisted of two sessions of 24 volunteers who had their blood pressure monitored. The first session included the use of UV rays and heat lamps and the effect on blood pressure. The second session removed UV rays, but included heat lamps. The UV rays and heat lamp session released a compound in the body called nitric oxide which lowered blood pressure. Using heat lamps without UV ray exposure had no effect on blood pressure in participants.

Since sunshine may decrease blood pressure and often improves moods, the following activities can be enjoyed while absorbing UV rays…but please, remember your sunscreen, and limit your exposure!

  • Enjoy a picnic in a local park.
  • Play disc golf with friends.
  • Walk around a farmer’s market.
  • Find fields to go berry picking.
  • Discover a new book and read outside.
  • Spend the day at the zoo.
  • Fly a kite in your backyard or park.
  • Watch local bands play at a music festival.
  • Be creative and enjoy the sun while absorbing UV rays to decrease your blood pressure!

Article by Kelli Oligney, Associate Editor

Reference:

The University of Edinburgh. (May 7, 2013). Sunshine could benefit health. Retrieved on May 8, 2013, from http://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2013/sunshine-080513

Tags:  June 2013  Physical  Sun 

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Six Simple Ways to Bring More Spirituality into Your Life

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Be quiet. Have quiet moments not only to reflect on your life and the things happening around you but also to clear your head of the endless chatter associated with modern life so you can re-ground yourself. Take quiet time to focus on the simple things like your breathing, your body, and your person, and reflect on what an amazing structure you are.

Notice. There are a million wonderful things that happen every day. Slow down, look up from your mobile device, turn off the TV or radio, and find at least one of those amazing things each day. That "thing” is a gift to you. Keeping a journal of these gifts is a wonderful tool to reflect on in those moments when you are stressed or down.

Look for ways to express gratitude. Dr. Martin Seligman, in his book Authentic Happiness, discusses the power of gratitude on an individual’s overall well-being. During a class he was holding, he had students write a letter of thanks...in addition to other gratitude exercises. Students, and the results of several studies in the field, pointed to an association between gratitude and overall well-being. After all, it is hard to be down in the dumps when you prove to yourself how many things you have to be thankful for.

Listen. Listen to people you love, to people you like, and even to folks who aren’t your cup of tea. Listen without speaking or thinking of what you may say next, or about what vegetable you might have with dinner. Practice the power of hearing without interjecting. You might be surprised what you learn about others and even yourself.

Have a bucket list. It doesn’t matter what’s on it, but make a point of doing things that inspire you, make you laugh, make you happy…and you will bring that joy to the world when you greet it.

Smile. So simple. Try it now. You are radiant.

Tags:  Emotional  June 2013  Spiritual 

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Grocery Shopping on an Empty Stomach Leads to Unhealthy Buying

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Don’t go grocery shopping when hungry?” According to researchers from Cornell University, following those orders may be the best option to minimize consumption of high calorie foods (May 2013).

Participants skipped meals and were either told to fast for five hours or eat wheat crackers prior to shopping at a simulated grocery store. Those who fasted purchased 31 percent more high calorie foods than the cracker group. A follow-up study was completed where researchers observed shoppers around lunch and dinner and also after mealtimes. Those who were shopping after a meal bought lower calorie foods than those shopping around lunch and dinner time.

Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to purchasing higher calorie foods which can cause difficulty in eating healthy. Grocery shopping after meals or a light snack can lead to buying healthier foods and help in weight maintenance.

If you lack time to eat a meal before shopping, try one these healthy snacks:

  • Trail mix (choose those without chocolate, as they can add an abundance of saturated fat)
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Vegetables with hummus
  • Celery and peanut butter
  • Raisins or other dried fruit
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Cottage cheese with fruit

Article by Kelli Oligney, Associate Editor

Reference:

Shackford, S. (May 2013). Don’t shop hungry, pre-order lunch to make healthier food choices. Cornell Chronicle. Retrieved on May 6, 2013, from http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2013/05/grocery-shopping-when-hungry-can-be-fattening

Tags:  June 2013  Nutrition  Physical 

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Gratitude in the Workplace

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gratitude can be very powerful for both the person expressing it, and the person receiving it, making it a wonderful skill to practice for a well workplace. The following are gratitude activities you can try with your coworkers, friends, and family.

  • Encourage hand-written "thank you” notes. For clients, for vendors, for co-workers…a little "thanks” goes a long way. Your friends and family will appreciate these too!
  • Does your company have an awards system in place? If not, it might be a good idea to champion. If a formal award system isn’t an option, think about an informal award system in your unit or department. Awards don’t always have to be serious (such as Top Sales). They can be just for fun and still have a great impact. Who in your organization is always willing to lend a hand? Who warms the workplace with great jokes or a fantastic smile? Who makes sure the coffee pot is full? There are so many un-sung heroes out there…can you find them?
  • Add gratitude to meetings. Meetings should be efficient and have purpose…but if you care about office morale, maybe a small part of your meetings should be dedicated to what is going really well. Give people time to share accomplishments as well.
  • Gratitude Stones. A simple idea…and it doesn’t have to be stones (light-colored, rounded rocks work well if personalizing the thanks with a permanent marker)…any small object will do. Place a jar filled with these objects in the break room or other common area. Explain that workers can give these to coworkers anonymously or in person as a way to say thank you. Stones could be left on an individual’s desk, at an individual’s locker, etc.
  • Consider an employee team-building workshop. Learning to work as a team promotes trust and can open paths to gratitude between individuals.
  • Some individuals fall into the trap of complaining at the office. It is an easy trap to fall into. Combat negative behavior with an understated positive campaign. The next time a co-worker complains, you might try acknowledging the frustration, but also countering it with positive insight. For example, if a co-worker complains about an overload of work…you might say, "It has been crazy lately, but thank goodness we have jobs.” Joel Osteen, in his book, Every Day a Friday, tells a story of a man who was down in the dumps and complaining. Joel, listening, expresses condolences on the sickness of the man’s wife, and the loss of the man’s job and house. The man looks at Joel with confusion…claiming all of those things are fine. The point, we often have so many things going for us when we complain. A slight change in perspective can change our outlook.

Osteen, J. Every Day a Friday: How to be happier 7 days a week. Faithworks. New York, NY, 2012.

Tags:  Emotional  Gratitude  June 2013  Social  Work 

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The Power and Health Benefits of Community Gardens

Posted By National Wellness Institute, Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Community gardens are a great way for individuals to gather and connect with one another and the environment. In a recent report (April 18, 2013), researchers from the University of Utah claim those involved in community gardening have a lower body mass index (BMI), a body measurement based on height and weight, than non-gardeners.

Not only were gardeners studied, but also control groups that included non-gardeners from the neighborhood, same sex siblings of gardeners, and spouses of gardeners. Each group was crucial in studying environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors as they relate to BMI. Data from the control groups was gathered through population records commonly used by health researchers. The study found that gardening women were 46 percent less likely to be overweight and gardening men were 62 percent less likely to be overweight than non-gardeners.

There are social and nutritional benefits to community gardening. Members often feel connected and value creating nutritious local produce. While not all neighborhoods have a community garden, generating a household produce garden can still offer health benefits.

Here are tips on how to start your first garden:

· Decide what produce you want to grow. Beginners may benefit from a smaller garden at first, as a way to learn the ropes and output of each plant.

· Even if you do not have a yard, containers can be used as long as there is plenty of sun, water, and good soil. Many plants require six to eight hours of sunlight. If this is not possible, leafy vegetables can be planted, as they grow well without full sun.

· If your soil does not drain well, you can build raised beds that are lined with newspapers and soil. To determine how well your soil drains, soak your soil with a hose and wait one day until digging up a handful of soil. If water streams out when squeezing the soil, you may want to consider adding compost (decaying organic matter that can be used as fertilizer) to improve drainage or building a raised bed.

· Loosen soil by hand, shovel, or tiller before planting. After loosening the soil, compost should be added and mixed in with the soil. Smooth the area with a rake, water, and leave for a few days before planting. Try not to walk on future planting regions as the soil will become compacted.

· Choose a variety of vegetables your first year. In following years,you can select varieties that worked well for you in the past. Try new varieties to replace those that may have been unsuccessful.

· Water plants when the top inch of the soil is dry. This practice generally adds up to watering once per week, but is weather dependent. Raised beds typically require regular watering, so check the soil frequently.

Article by Kelli Oligney, Associate Editor

Reference:
Better Homes and Gardens. (2012). Planning Your First Vegetable Garden. Retrieved on April 22, 2013, from http://www.bhg.com/gardening/vegetable/vegetables/planning-your-first-vegetable-garden/

The University of Utah. (April 18, 2013). Community Gardens May Produce More than Vegetables. Retrieved on April 22, 2013, from http://unews.utah.edu/news_releases/community-gardens-may-produce-more-than-vegetables-2/

Tags:  Intellectual  May 2013  Nutrition  Physical  Social 

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Does Daily Stress Affect Mental Health?

Posted By National Wellness Institute, Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Is it true that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger? Many people believe daily stress builds strength and helps endure future obstacles; however, University of California, Irvine, psychological scientist Susan Charles suggests that daily stress may not build strength and actually negatively influences long-term mental health.

Charles’s study (released April 2, 2013) used data from two national surveys that focused on daily obstacles and the mental health impacts on participants after 10 years. Researchers discovered that mental health was affected similarly by small life experiences compared to major events. Small issues such as an argument at home influenced the future of participants’ mental health.

Those who properly manage daily stress lead happier and healthier lives. Managing stress takes practice as the pressures of life can be overwhelming at times. Incorporating daily stress management can benefit future mental health and decrease psychological distress. Use the following ideas and methods to help manage everyday stress:

· Determine whether stress is internal or external. If you are constantly dwelling on the negative and worried about things beyond your control, this is internal (self-generated) stress. Recognizing the form of stress you have can help you control stress.

· Engage your senses for immediate stress relief. Using sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch can decrease stress levels. While some individuals may relax to music, others may find the scent of a candle helps them unwind.

· Stress relief takes practice, so if one management technique does not work for you, try something else.

· Is stress keeping you awake at night? If so, using a white-noise machine may be beneficial and help you conquer stressful tasks the following day.

· Maintain a network of friends who you can talk to about your stress. Surrounding yourself with positive friends can decrease anxiety and increase optimism during stressful events.

Article by Kelli Oligney, Associate Editor

Reference:
Mikulak, A. (April 2, 2013). Negative emotions in response to daily stress take a toll on long-term mental health. Retrieved on April 2, 2013, from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/negative-emotions-in-response-to-daily-stress-take-a-toll-on-long-term-mental-health.html

Segal, J., Smith, M., and Robinson, L. (March 2013). Quick Stress Relief. Help Guide. Retrieved on April 17, 2013, from http://www.helpguide.org/toolkit/quick_stress_relief.htm

Tags:  Emotional  May 2013  Mental Health  Social  Stress 

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