Food for Thought: The Link Between Food and Mental Health

Written by Maxwell Li 

Your brain works around the clock to perform vital bodily functions to keep you alive. Similar to a sports car, our brains require constant premium fuel, in the form of nutrients from food for peak performance and in turn, good mental health.

The reason behind this lies in Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, mood, and pain. Around 95% of its production takes place in your gastrointestinal tract, which happens to be filled with over a hundred million neurons. Furthermore, neuron functionality along with serotonin production are highly dependent on the presence of “good bacteria” in the gut. These bacteria protect your intestinal linings against toxins and inflammation, improve nutrient absorption, and activate direct neural pathways to your brain.

In short, the types of food you choose to eat have a profound impact on your short-term mental health!

A study conducted by flagship medical journal, BMC Medicine, found that depressed individuals assigned to a Mediterranean diet experienced substantial improvements to personal mental health. This is because “traditional” diets (e.g. Mediterranean) are high in unprocessed vegetables, fruits, proteins, and grains, which tend to be fermented and thereby promote growth of “good bacteria” in the gut.

Here are five nutrient-rich foods that will do wonders when it comes to improving your mental health:

1. Salmon

This pink fish is rich in Omega-3 and anti-inflammatory acids that protect brain cell membrane. It also contains Vitamin D, which helps manage depression and protect immune function.

2. Lentils

Lentils are rich in the B vitamin folate which is vital in the production of serotonin. They also allow your blood sugar levels to rise more gradually, for a consistent energy level throughout the day.

3. Bananas

Bananas affects tryptophan, another important amino acid that helps with serotonin production.

4. Kefir

Often described as a drinkable yogurt, Kefir is high in the “good gut bacteria”, more commonly known as probiotics.

5. Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes contain high levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which protects against damage to brain cells and oxidative stress on DNA. Both processes have been linked to depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

 

Here at Optimity, we recognize that a sudden dietary change is painful and often short-lived. That is why we have created a way to pursue a healthier lifestyle at the office or on the go, that is both effortless and rewarding for our users, through personalized daily health challenges!

 

To find out more about Optimity solutions, visit: www.myoptimity.com/our-solution

Recharge Your Diet: Our Secrets for a Healthy Lifestyle

TIME STAMP: 3 MINUTE READ

It seems like everyone’s talking about the real solution to weight loss. Every day it seems like a new diet craze is ready to make weight loss faster and easier than ever before. However, beware most fad diets generally go something like: “Take a few foods, give them magic power, and set a plan to convince people that eating this way and only this way will promote weight loss.” says Alexandra Caspero, R.D a nutritionist based in Sacremento, CA.

Image result for nutrition

In a society that is so image driven, it seems as though everyone’s talking about it, “THE secrets to get that summer body.” If you searched online for weight loss solutions you get 38 million results. How is anyone supposed to find the real solution? With this overwhelming amount of information it can be extremely difficult to get started on achieving your goals.

We’re here to help you debunk the 3 most searched for diets and discover whether or not they’re really worth it.

1. 20/20 Diet 

The Claim: Wait Doctor Phil? You have the answers to all of my life problems and now you want to help me loose weight? Even though he doesn’t promise you’ll loose weight, he says you “may” loose weight.

The 20/20 diet is a cycling diet plan and was online most searched diet of the year. It’s a 30-day cycling diet, with three phases every 30 days. The first two phases are 5 days long and the third is 20 days. The foods Doctor Phil recommends are supposed to help with thermogenesis, which is a state where the process of energy production in the body caused directly by the metabolizing of food consumed.

The 20/20 diet is about looking past your dieting efforts, failed attempts and what you can do to make up for it. He is trying to repent you from your dieting sins and tell you all of these failures are what eventually led him to create this plan.

Worth It? This diet requires you to stick to a rigid meal plan and eat every 4 hours, which could be time consuming. Be weary, of diets that have a start and stop date, after all there are no phases or end dates to a healthy lifestyle.

Image result for person eating healthy food

2. Zero Belly Diet 

Wait but actually? Trying to take away my carbs? Sounds like a nightmare. They’re also telling readers they can magically turn off their fat genes.

The Claim: You can lose up to 16 pounds in 14 days. This diet and fitness program includes a list of nine foods that supposedly target and melt your fat cells.

Worth it? There is no way to turn off your genes to fast track weight loss. While hundreds of genes affect your overall weight in small ways, this isn’t to say that you can’t learn new healthy behaviors to adapt your lifestyle.

3.Mediterranean diet

This diet emphasizes a primarily plant based foods including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seafood and nuts – coupled with physical activity. It suggests avoiding a list of unhealthy foods and ingredients such as processed food and added sugars.

The Claim: This diet will help you eat your way to optimal heart and brain health. Additionally it claims increased longevity and living a longer and healthier life. When there is a reduction in developing heart disease or cancer, there is a 20 %reduced risk of death at any age.

Worth it? YES, this diet can have positive long-term effects on your over all health. Benefits include keeping you agile, preventing heart diseases and strokes and reducing Alzheimers.

Don’t be too hard on yourself; life is demanding. Between jobs, kids and everything else, life can get difficult. Give yourself a break, dieting shouldn’t be about extreme weight loss, it should be about slow and steady implementation of healthier habits that will lead to an over all healthier lifestyle.

Sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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How to Build Healthy Habits for a Healthy New Year (Webinar Recap)

new years snapshot

We had a great webinar in January, in honour of New Year’s Resolutions. I sat down with Optimity’s Client Success Advisor, Mira Levine, to talk about how to promote healthy habits in the New Year. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar:

Understanding why we do what we do and how habits are formed through The Habit Loop:
habit_loop2

  • 45% of our everyday habits are automatic. You are the sum of your habits.
  • Optimity can help you establish new healthy habits through micro activities and reminders.

 

 

 

It’s essential to understand that bad habits can be broken by making small behaviour changes. See what can you do to break those habits:

The 4 step process

  1. Identify the routine: The routine is the habit you want to change. It can be action that can be mental, physical, or emotional.
  2. Experiment with rewards: Rewards can be powerful because they satisfy our cravings. To figure out which cravings are driving out habit, we have to experiment with different rewards.
  3. Isolate the cue: The cue is anything that triggers the habit and causes your brain to go into automatic mode. A cue can originate from: a location, a time, an emotional state, other people, or an immediate preceding action. Discovering what triggers your habit is an important step.
  4. Have a plan: Once we’ve uncovered what our cue is, identified our routine, and discovered which reward satisfies our craving, we can write down a new plan for when that cue quicks in that we will adopt as a new habit.

 

SMART Goals

  • Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Time-Based goals
  • Ask yourself these questions if you can’t stick to your New Year’s resolution:
    • Is my goal specific enough?
    • Is my goal attainable?
    • Do I have ways to track my progress?
    • Do I have a plan to deal with things that’ll stop me?
  • If you’re looking for more info on how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions, check out our blog post here.

 

Establishing New Habits can be difficult and lengthy. However, small lifestyle changes and being persistent with your goals can have the biggest positive impact on your health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

How to Handle Escalating Employee Health Costs

Posted by Jane Wang 

Employee benefits in the workplace are becoming increasingly costly for employers in North America. In the US, according to the 2015 Kaiser and HRET survey: The average premium for single coverage is $521 per month, or $6,251 per year. The average premium for family coverage is $1,462 per month or $17,545 per year. Based on the Conference Board of Canada’s latest benefits benchmarking report, the average cost of providing employee benefits is $8,330 per full-time employee. For the average company, this equates to spending approximately 10% of gross annual payroll.

Businesses are experiencing the reality of the aging workforce, and burden on their profitability from the continuously rising health premiums, cases of stress leave as well as increased absenteeism from their employee population. Year after year, CFOs continue to see increased business costs as the result of poor employee health and habits, but some are reluctant to revisit the funding and strategy of current health and wellness programs because most wellness programs cannot report ROI.

This is changing.  More data-driven and evidence-based wellness programs like Optimity are able to provide sound financial analysis for the reasons driving these changes in business costs, as a direct results of strategic wellness programs. A strong business case can now be made to invest in proactive health programs. The ROI can be realized quickly and certainly for these cost-effective, digital-first programs that support the employees in making smarter choices everyday, because it always leads to better health outcomes.

 

Innovative and employee-centric businesses who are changing their processes and opting into data-driven and evidence-based wellness programs, are benefiting both from a happy shift in culture (which helps their HR department recruit and retain talent easier), and are saving up to $6.50 for every $1 spent on wellness by implementing a sound cost-containment strategy that flattens the year over year cost increases of their employee benefits costs.

Unhealthy employees cost businesses more every year. According to Linda Lulli, Associate Vice President for Human Resources at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., an inactive person spends $1,500 extra on health costs per year. However, the costs go beyond the direct health spends, they also manifest themselves in the 9.3 days of absenteeism and 10% increase in drug claims. One in 6 U.S. adults reported taking a psychiatric drug, such as an antidepressant or a sedative, a new study found (read more). The goal of any wellness program is for employees to become healthier, and when they become healthier they end up spending less for doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs, says Paul Sollitto, Chief Financial Officer at EngagementHealth.

 

A recent study by Willis Towers Watson found that the primary driver for nearly half (44%) of companies with employee benefits is to control and improve their claims data to help with ongoing cost management. This is up from a quarter (24%) in last year’s study. Mark Cook, Director at Willis Towers Watson said, “There has been a clear evolution in the rationale for companies to include employee benefits in their cost management strategies. The initial motivation is often the simple desire to save money on the ever increasing cost of providing employee benefits.”

 

This is why digital based programs are becoming so popular. Digital based apps are scalable, sustainable, great personalized tools for working professionals to improve their quality of life. They are able to deliver content and able to coach behaviors to employees who work from home, on the road, and have different needs.

These digital-first wellness programs and apps when infused with evidence-based science and learn-action-test pathways have proven to positivey impact health outcomes and stabilize costs for employers. We simplify the process to start their personalized journeys: employees can easily download our health and wellness apps that not only provides a personal space for them to schedule and track their progress, but also has the ability to provide the critical data analysis that can help to tailor a more complex program.

 

Follow us on twitter to stay current on the top cost-containment wellness strategies.

For more information on Optimity, evidence-based wellness strategies, or to schedule a demonstration, visit www.myoptimity.com

Screen Shot 2018-04-16 at 10.08.46 PM

About Optimity
We believes in 3 things: living well should be easy, energizing and fun; small actions can go a long way in leading you to success; and a culture of health is imperative to highly productive teams.

Working with physicians, trainers, nutritionists, and researchers, Optimity mindfully connects you with your habits on day to day making it fun to engage in self-improvement and self-actualization regularly. Optimity has created a way to make choosing a healthier way of life at the office and on the go both effortless and rewarding, by providing our users with personalized daily health challenges.

Our mobile apps are THE wellness-optimizing tool working to turn office potatoes into corporate athletes. To find out more about Optimity solutions, visit: www.myoptimity.com/our-solution

2-Minute Meditation for a Positive Attitude

Meditation

Posted by Abena Osei-Kwabena

From cultivating greater awareness of self to relieving stress, meditation has numerous physical and mental health benefits. The practice conjures a sense of something related to spirituality, but is actually an extreme form of concentration that tones and strengthens the mind. It promises to promote inner peace and a positive outlook towards life.

Given the countless problems that work and life hurl at us on a daily basis, and the impact they have on our minds, meditation can be an excellent way to appreciate promote inner peace and living in the moment. Even a few minutes of meditation regularly can be transformative. Here is a 2-minute meditation routine for beginners.

  1. First, find a quiet and peaceful place in your home or outside, where it is easy for you to shift your focus inwards. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine in a straight but relaxed position. When you sit in a peaceful space with good posture, you will be able to enjoy the process more freely and have a deeper sense of calmness and tranquillity.
  2. Concentrate on your breathing. Try to take long and deep breaths while you focus on slowing down your breath. You can also chant an uplifting phrase or word like “relax” while breathing in order to center your attention. Try to block all distracting sounds, paying full attention to your your breathing and the word you are chanting.
  3. Next, try to enter into a quiet state of mind, while remaining relaxed and mindful of your centre of gravity. Observe any feelings, thoughts, or physical vibrations that arise in your consciousness. Eventually, you will be able increase your concentration one session at a time.

There is no set time to meditate, so you can start with 2 minutes daily and progress slowly. Let your comfort level decide what amount of meditation is right for you, but stay persistent in order to witness results.
Abena is a Client Services Associate at Optimity. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a BSc in Global Health. She is passionate about human rights and health education, and hopes to develop tailored interventions to combat health inequities around the globe. Her interests include story writing, camping and exploring different cultures on her travels.

 

Sign up for Optimity to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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Recharge Your Diet: Our Secrets for a Healthy Lifestyle

Posted by Emily Guterres

TIME STAMP: 3 MINUTE READ

It seems like everyone’s talking about the real solution to weight loss. Every day it seems like a new diet craze is ready to make weight loss faster and easier than ever before. However, beware most fad diets generally go something like: “Take a few foods give them magic power and set a plan to convince people that eating this way and only this way will promote weight loss.” says Alexandra Caspero, R.D a nutritionist based in Sacremento, CA.ye_girl_eating_a_salad.png

In a society that is so image driven, it seems as though everyone’s talking about it, “THE secrets to get that summer body.” If you searched online for weight loss solutions you get 38 million results. How is anyone supposed to find the real solution? With this overwhelming amount of information it can be extremely difficult to get started on achieving your goals.

BUT WAIT – We’re here to help you break through the 4 most searched for diets of 2019 and discover whether or not they’re really worth it.

1. 20/20 Diet 

The Claim: Wait Doctor Phil? You have the answers to all of my life problems and now you want to help me loose weight? Even though he doesn’t promise you’ll loose weight, he says you “may” loose weight.

The 20/20 diet is a cycling diet plan and was online most searched diet of the year. It’s a 30-day cycling diet, with three phases every 30 days. The first two phases are 5 days long and the third is 20 days. The foods Doctor Phil recommends are supposed to help with thermogenesis, which is a state where the process of energy production in the body caused directly by the metabolizing of food consumed.

The 20/20 diet is about looking past your dieting efforts, failed attempts and what you can do to make up for it. He is trying to repent you from your dieting sins and tell you all of these failures are what eventually led him to create this plan.

Worth It? This diet requires you to stick to a rigid meal plan and eat every 4 hours, which could be time consuming. Be weary, of diets that have a start and stop date, after all there are no phases or end dates to a healthy lifestyle.

The_Best_.jpg

2. Zero Belly Diet 

Wait but actually? Trying to take away my carbs? Sounds like a nightmare. They’re also telling readers they can magically turn off, their fat genes.

The Claim – You can lose up to 16 pounds in 14 days. This diet and fitness program includes a list of nine foods that supposedly target and melt your fat cells.

Worth it? There is no way to turn off your genes to fast track weight loss. While hundreds of genes affect your overall weight in small ways, this isn’t to say that you can’t learn new healthy behaviors to adapt your lifestyle.

 

3.Mediterranean diet – Not the see food and you eat it diet? Ugh.

This diet emphasizes a primarily plant based foods including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seafood and nuts – coupled with physical activity. It suggests avoiding a list of unhealthy foods and ingredients such as processed food and added sugars.

The Claim: This diet will help you eat your way to optimal heart and brain health. Additionally it claims increased longevity and living a longer and healthier life. When there is a reduction in developing heart disease or cancer, there is a 20 %reduced risk of death at any age.

Worth it ? YES, this diet can have positive long-term effects on your over all health. Benefits include keeping you agile, preventing heart diseases and strokes and reducing Alzheimers.

So what is the real solution?   Remember those days when you were 6 years old and you used to carelessly dance around? Imagine even what a minute or 5 minutes could do for your over all health.

Love_adult_recess.png

Who says adults can’t have a little recess during their workday?

Many business leaders often discuss the value of adding healthy habits into their daily routines. It could be as simple as setting stretch goals.

Don’t be too hard on yourself; life is demanding. Between jobs, kids and everything else, life can get difficult. Give yourself a break, dieting shouldn’t be about extreme weight loss, it should be about slow and steady implementation of healthier habits that will lead to an over all healthier lifestyle.

 

Sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

iOS | Android

5 ways to stick to your New Years Resolutions

TIME STAMP: 3 MINUTE READ

Posted by Jeff Cai 

A new year signifies a new start for a lot of people, and you have probably made a few goals or resolutions that you want to achieve by the end of 2019. These New Year’s resolutions always seem to motivate us during January, but can often be forgotten about come late February. Did you know that only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving their resolutions? If you want to be a part of this small percentage, then see below for our top 5 tips on how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions.

 

SHARE YOUR GOALS

Achieving your New Years resolutions can be a lot easier, and more motivating when you have someone to experience it with. When you have someone to share your struggles, and victories it can make the journey a little less scary. Share your goals with your friends and family and find a buddy to accompany you. For example, if you and your friend both commit to attending 3 workout classes per week, you both have someone to lean on for support or motivation when one of you is feeling a little lazy. You could even join a support group to help you reach your goals. This will help you to stay accountable for your actions and set measurable steps toward your final goal.

 

KEEP THEM REALISTIC

If your goals aren’t realistic, then they can be hard to stick to. Keep them manageable and easy to start, then once you begin to form a habit, you can continue to build. If you have never been to the gym before, then creating a goal that says you are going to go 7 days a week simply isn’t realistic. Start with 3 days a week, and then after a few months see if you can increase it to 4. You need to believe that you can actually reach these goals, not be put off by setting the bar too high before you even start.

 

FOCUS ON YOUR PROGRESS

Nothing is ever perfect, so don’t get down on yourself because you have experienced a setback. You are bound to have ups and downs throughout the year, so learn from your mistakes and get yourself back on track as soon as you can. If your goal was to run 10km’s by the end of the year and you only got to 8km’s, that is still amazing! That is 8km’s more than you could run at the start of the year. Don’t forget to be grateful for what you can already do, whilst striving to do more.

 

BET ON YOURSELF

Research has proven that people who had a financial incentive to lose weight lost 14 more pounds than those who didn’t! You can use money to reward yourself for reaching certain milestones throughout the year. For example, if by the end of March you have stuck to your New Years resolution of attending 3 workout classes per week, reward yourself with $50 to buy a new pair of workout tights, or new top. Not only does this motivate you to keep going, but it’s a nice gift to yourself for hitting your targets.

 

KEEP YOUR GOALS DISPLAYED

It is so easy to write down your goals on December 31st and then leave them in a notepad under all your other paperwork to be forgotten about. Treat your New Year’s resolutions seriously and with respect. Write them out neatly on a nice piece of paper, or type them up on your computer and display them somewhere that you will notice every single day. They could go on your bed side table, or on your fridge. This gives you no excuse to forget about them and will be a constant reminder to keep working towards them every day.

 

What are your New Year’s resolutions this year and how do you plan on sticking to them? Remember, even if you do not reach one of your goals, the important thing is that you try, and keep going when you get off track.

Sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards:

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