Does Physical Activity have an Impact on your Mental Health or is it just a Myth? 

Written by Turja Chowdury 

It’s not a surprise that exercise helps to reduce several health risks, but is it all talk or is there truly science behind it all? Exercising in any form can have tremendous impact on your mental health and this does not mean that you need to be a gym fanatic to receive the benefits.

By staying active, you are giving your body the chance to become stronger and combat the issues that may come your way. There are countless ways that exercise can profit your mental well-being and here are a few:

  • Decreases Depression
  • Reduces signs & symptoms of postnatal depression
  • Improves self-esteem & cognitive function in young people
  • Reduces psychological distress

In recent years, mental health is a topic that has gained enormous traction because of its valued importance. We have begun to acknowledge the value of mental health and its correlation to our overall health.  The issues that arise from the psychological and emotional well-being can be caused by several factors depending on the person. This means that everyone has their own battles in life and we constantly seek ways to adapt and reduce the issues that may arise. This is why we search for the kryptonite.

Let’s make it clear that it isn’t easy – especially if you’re not an active person. But the first step is always the hardest, so you have to trust the process. Exercise will help to shrink the negativity and give you the strength to develop. But the question remains – where’s the science and how much exercise are we talking?

Physical activity has a direct relationship with the brain as it improves neuronal health, increases neurotrophic factors and neurohormones – an overall boost to the brain. These positive changes lead to improvement in your mood, self-acceptance and many more. The body will gladly accept the increase in dopamine – a neurotransmitter and hormone. This increase is only unique to you and your happiness, so your brain will understand when you’re physically active and how to react to it.

The amount of exercise depends on you and your personal goals. It’s up to you to decide the activity you want to do and how you want to approach it. However, its crucial to show up. Consistency of your physical activity can guarantee that positive benefits are extended throughout your journey.

Optimity understands the value of mental health and we want to encourage personal growth. Engage in your community by posting your workouts and meals, track your progress over the weeks and gain rewards for your accomplishments.

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!

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

An Upstream Approach for a Healthy Heart

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Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya

In honor of heart awareness month, we will be discussing why it’s important for employers to focus on an upstream approach to a healthy heart.

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Heart disease is costing companies billions of dollars in loss of productivity and absenteeism.

Workplace wellness program can help prevent heart disease for their employees and in return bring down cost.

It’s essential to understand that heart disease can easily be prevented by making small behaviour changes.

See what can you do to prevent heart disease:
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Physical Activity

  • Physical activity elevates your heart rate, which is essential for keeping your heart in shape.
  • Something as simple as taking the stairs, does wonders for your heart. To read more on helpful tips on how to get physically active, especially in the colder months, check out our blog post here on exercise.

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Nutrition

  • Nutrition is key to a healthy life.
  • Some helpful tips in eating healthy is avoiding the foods that are big contributors to heart disease. Processed foods are high in sugar, fat, and sodium, so these should be kept to a minimum.
  • Cook your own food, it allows you to eat as clean as possible when using raw ingredients to make your meal.
  • Eating with others makes you more mindful of what you’re eating, and how much you’re eating. For more information on healthy eating for employees, check out one of our popular webinars on nutrition and mindful eating the workplace for more insightful tips.

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Stress Less

  • Identify your stressors in order to avoid them or create coping mechanisms that work for you.
  • Physical behaviours such as stretching and yoga can help relieve stress.
  • Change your thinking: see if your stressor is actually rational or if you’re just blowing it out of proportion. Try to make your thinking more positive.
  • Meditation is a great technique that can be done just about anywhere, and is proven to reduce stress. Here is another great webinar we’ve done on mindfulness and meditation in the workplace.

It’s cheaper to prevent heart disease than to treat it! Simple lifestyle changes can have the biggest positive impact financially and on the individuals health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

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

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Laughter: Enemy of Stress

Everyday problems, like work pressure and family responsibilities, can get us down and cause unnecessary stress. Stress isn’t always a big deal. But chronic stress can lead to serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure or heart attack.

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Many studies have suggested that a good laugh may be the key to decreasing elevated stress levels. Apart from improving your emotional wellbeing, a giggle here and there can have a great impact on your mental and physical health. Laughter increases your breathing rate, increasing your intake of oxygen, which stimulates parts of your body like your heart, lungs and muscles. Laughter also releases endorphins—responsible for pleasure and euphoria—into your brain. We all know that laughter is contagious. But more importantly, it induces a state of relaxation while reducing your stress and tension. Here are a few tips to help you laugh off that stress!

Try laughter therapy!

You can try it at home yourself or with a group of family and friends. There are many classes for laughter therapy available, so find the one that works for you and make it a part of your schedule.

Include humour in your everyday life!

Take the time to read those jokes that your friends forward you or watch a funny video on your Facebook newsfeed! Don’t shy away from laughing! There’s something funny for everyone!

Socialize!

Spend time with your most lighthearted friends and share some fun memories from the past. Laughter is contagious and spending time with people who make you smile is one of the best things you could do for yourself. Spending time with kids can also do the trick; they are experts at being silly making people laugh!

 

Laugh at yourself!

Learning to laugh at ourselves is also really important. Don’t take yourself too seriously! Make other people laugh then join in on the laughter at your own jokes. This can be an amazing way of cheering yourself up and maybe even give your confidence a boost!

It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. Maybe in time we’ll start believing it. There is nothing as simple and as natural as laughter when it comes to reducing stress. So, keep smiling!

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

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The Benefits of Eating Pumpkin this Fall

Now that the Fall is in full force, pumpkin has made its long awaited comeback, and while you may only be familiar with delectable pumpkin treats such as pumpkin pies and pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin has far more to offer that just its sweet desserts. Its vitamin-rich flesh also has an abundance of health benefits, including better quality sleep, weight loss, and increased vision.

If cooked correctly, pumpkin is actually one of the healthier foods of the season, which is why we’ve noted some amazing health benefits of pumpkin to kick start your obsession this fall.

 

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Weight Loss

Mashed pumpkin has only 50 calories per cup and 3 grams of fiber, whilst pumpkin seeds have about 1.7 grams of fiber per ounce. Fibre helps you to feel fuller for longer which will assist in the prevention of over eating.

 

Increased Vision

Just one cup of pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Vitamin A improves your vision and has also been found to slow the decline of retinal function in those with retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that can eventually lead to blindness. Vitamin A has also been proven to help maintain healthy skin, teeth and bones.

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Better Sleep Quality

Have you ever wondered why you feel so sleepy after a big slice of pumpkin pie at thanksgiving dinner? Well, pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, which is the amino acid that contributes to sleepiness. It also helps the body make serotonin, which assists in feeling a sense of relaxation. So not only will you be sleeping better, you will also experience and improvement in mood.

 

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With pumpkin’s high fibre content, it also helps to protect your heart. A recent Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals found that those who ate a diet high in fibre had a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who ate less fibre.

 

                                                      Boosts your Immune System

boost-immune-systemPumpkin can help you fight off that pesky cold or flu that often comes hand in hand with fall. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 11 milligrams, or nearly 20% of the 60 milligrams the IOM recommends women need daily, whilst men should aim for around 75 milligrams.

 

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Trista Chan is a Client Services Associate at Optimity.  She leverages her education in nutrition and experience in corpoate health to guide organizations in building healthy, engaged employees.  Her “me-time” activities include yoga, reading health blogs, cooking….did she mention she likes wellness?  Her passion for all things health-related shines through in both her work and personal life.  

Positive Psychology For Your Well-Being

Posted by Abena Osei-Kwabena

TIME STAMP: 2 MINUTE READ
You probably already know that a positive attitude and generally feeling good is linked to better health, a longer life and improved well-being overall.  The opposite is also true as harbouring negative feelings and anger can pose negative side-effects on your body, like increasing your risk of developing heart disease.
Psychological wellbeing is a concept that encompasses a well-managed, balanced and a broad experience of life. Positive psychology shows positive feelings which are correlated with a healthy lifestyle, happiness and endurance while overcoming psychological issues like anxiety, stress, anger, depression and hatred.
The three pillars of positive psychology are:

 

1. Positive sentiments

These include wellbeing, optimism and encouraging feelings.
2. Positive characteristics
These are a person’s passion, interests, inspirations, intelligence and determinations.

3. Positive institution

This includes a positive group of families, friends, business partners, communities and society at large.
By analysing the system following these three pillars, the comprehensive wave of positive sentiments can help us take a step forward towards understanding our welfare. The advantages of positive psychology echo long, even though the temporary happiness has faded. Positive emotions and feelings amplify over time and place people on the path of growth.
There are countless advantages which positive psychology offers. It makes us  enables us to build trust and sympathy towards others, acts as a barrier against depression and stress, helps us overcome negative feelings, gaining flexibility and creativity and helping to build strong rapport.
To attain the power of positive psychology and boost your wellbeing, there are few things which can be done:
Self-recognition
Recognise what thoughts and beliefs you hold for yourself. You can gain acceptance of yourself when you realise that you don’t need to change for others. Self-recognition relates to that feeling of satisfaction and happiness that you hold without the involvement of anyone else.
Self-development
Always welcome new interests and their potential to help you develop further as a person. Being inquisitive and having a desire to grow can help with self-development and provides you with a feeling of contentment.
Vision
Always have a clear vision and mission in mind to achieve. Achieving your objectives fosters positive feelings which have extensive benefits.
Engagement
One of the  greatest approaches to nurturing our happiness is to improve our relationships. The feeling of care, trust, love, respect will aid in your progress, and receiving support from others will give you a feeling of connectedness and engagement.

If you’re looking to boost your own wellbeing or that of your company, then positive psychology is the way to go. In addition to looking after your physical health and diet, your mental, emotional, and social health are important aspects of your wellbeing that you need to look after.

A holistic health program, like Optimity uses  positive psychology to harness the power of contentment, mindfulness and internal potency which will help you find wellbeing and happiness. Try incorporating these tips into your daily life and see what a positive impact it can have for you!



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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The Corporate Benefits of Employees Who Sleep

Posted by Abena Osei-Kwabena 

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According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted in the U.S., less than 40% of adults are getting enough sleep. To be productive, adults are recommended to sleep for a minimum of 7 hours on average per night. Being deficient in sleep is costing companies $63 million in lost efficiency.

 

Sleep deprivation can also lead to major health issues that affect your on-job performance and productivity. So it’s no surprise that many organisations are now paying their employees to take a nap on the job to get them refreshed and productive. Google, which has been ranked as one of the best companies to work for, gives their employees a number of wellness benefits including access an on-site gym, a spa and massage centre, and a unique nap station where they can take 40-minute naps on recliner chairs, while listening to music to help alleviate their stress. This has proven to boost their employees’ performance and aid them in producing a better quality of work.

Based on a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, not getting enough sleep can decrease your alertness and efficiency, and long-term sleep deprivation can increase your risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, obesity and elevated stress levels.

 

To prevent the onset of these issues, a rising number of organisations have been introducing Sleep Management Programmes to educate employees on the importance of sleep and its impact on wellbeing and job performance. These programmes also educate employees on the issues associated with excessive use of their phone before bed, the benefits of having at least 7 hours of sleep, how impactful sleep is on their performance and behaviour, and the benefits of a nap room in the office.

 

Here are some tips on how to make your office more nap friendly:

 

Have a dedicated nap area

Creating a comfortable and welcoming space for napping with couches and relaxing music (or peace and quiet) will encourage employees to de-stress in the middle of the work day. Afterwards, they’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle their workloads.

 

Make napping a part of the business culture

Introducing a culture of napping to your company will normalize it and lessen the guilt that your employees may experience over having a quick nap during the workday. They need to be encouraged to take a small break from their desk.

 

Schedule nap times

Scheduling a 20-minute nap before making an important business decision can actually help in making the best decision. Studies show that making decisions when you haven’t had enough sleep often don’t turn out to be the best decision for the company.

So, nappers rejoice! By leaving a little room in their schedule for a nap, employees become healthier, more productive and less stressed!

 


Follow us on Twitter to stay current on the top cost-containment wellness strategies.  To learn more about cessation programs for smoking and their impact on your ROI, check out this link: Corporate smoking cessation programs and ROI.

 

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.

 

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