2-Minute Meditation for a Positive Attitude


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.

 

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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.

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5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness for a chronic diseases that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s surprising how little people and companies knows about the condition, and how to prevent it, and how to incorporate diabetes awareness into in the workplace.

While diabetes costs an individual considerably higher health care fees, it can also cost a company more money to keep, and look after employees with the disease. Not only is diabetes a completely preventable disease, with about 9 out of 10 cases being easily avoided, but there are also some very easy ways to ensure you prevent diabetes effecting you.

Here are 5 simple steps you can take to prevent diabetes:

 1. WATCH YOUR WEIGHT

Although not everyone that develops type 2 diabetes is overweight, the majority are. The more visceral fat (fat around your midsection) you carry, the larger your risk of developing diabetes.

Studies show that losing a small amount of weight can help reduce your risk, and that the more you lose, the more benefits you will experience. Losing just 5kg over several years can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by 50%!

There are many options for losing weight, but the easiest one is to simply watch your portion sizes and add more vegetables into your meals. Choosing a way of eating that you can maintain long term is the key to succeeding with weight loss.

2. CUT THE SUGAR

 Did you know that in 2001, sugar represented more than 10% off the calories consumed by Canadians? Imagine what it represents now, in 2017! This sugar can be hard to identify, as the industry uses so many different names for sugar in labels, so be sure to always check your food labels for hidden nasties. The names you’re looking out for are sucrose, dextrose, fructose-enriched corn syrup, glucose-fructose, malt syrup, etc. These are all different ways to say sugar, and the closer these items are to the top of the ingredients list, the more the product contains.

3. ADD SPICES

An easy and interesting way to prevent Type 2 diabetes is to add more spices in to your diet. Spices such as cinnamon can actually improve glucose tolerance and even has the ability to restrict the amount of glycation products that damage the blood vessel linings.

 Other spices that can be instrumental in the prevention of diabetes are seasonings such as black pepper, thyme and turmeric. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory activity helps to reduce the damage caused by a sugar surplus in the cardiovascular system. So instead of using sugar or salt in your meals, opt to use spices and seasonings to add flavour in to your cooking.

4. NOT ALL FATS ARE THE SAME

Fat is not all bad, but there are definitely different types of fat that should be consumed less to prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes. Certain saturated fats are known to promote inflammation, indirectly causing insulin resistance, but the main fat in olive oil actually has an anti-inflammatory action, provided that you’re having it cold and not heating it in a pan.

Don’t avoid fats all together, instead, include fats like nuts, avocado and any omega – 3 fats to keep you healthy.

5. DITCH SMOKING

Apart from the fact that smoking, and even second-hand smoke can be linked to type 2 diabetes, smoking has also been proven to contribute to many health conditions, including heart disease, lung cancer, and emphysema. In a study of over 1 million people, smoking was proven to increase your risk of diabetes by a massive 44% in average smokers and 61% in people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day.

Researchers have found that even though people can gain weight after quitting smoking, after a couple of years off of the cigarettes, their risk of diabetes was considerably lower.

As an employer, you play a huge role in the lives of your employees. This presents a great opportunity to promote the awareness of the risks associated with diabetes. By supporting your employees in leading a healthier lifestyle, everyone benefits.

 

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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!

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Social Connectedness and Its Impact on Diet

TIME STAMP: 1 MINUTE READ

Posted by Trista Chan

There’s no question that building and nurturing relationships can bring joy and overall feelings of happiness.  What many overlook is that it can also promote better physical health, a lower chance of developing mental illnesses, and increased job opportunities.

Research has shown that belonging to a social group and being socially connected with others can change your health in terms of diet and exercise. The idea of eating as a form of socializing is not groundbreaking, but many overlook the fact that who you eat with has a significant impact on the types of food you eat, and your overall diet.  Food and social interaction are deeply embedded in us from birth, and without realizing it, our bodies and minds change our diet based on the people around us.  For example, Females tend to eat less calories when they are with men as opposed to women, and both males and females have been known to eat less when they are in front of a stranger.  As a generalization, people tend to mirror their eating partners’ portions, and eat more when in larger groups!

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The big question in all of this is, why? Why do our eating habits change based on who we are with and the social relationship we have with them? There are a number of reasons, and the first is our cultural attitude. In Western society, women are expected to consume less, and its ingrained from a young age.  Thus, they may subconsciously eat less in front of people they want to impress, and similarly, men may eat more in front of friends that they want to impress.

In conclusion, our relationships and the people that we spend the most time with definitely have an impact on the food choices we make and directly correspond with our overall wellbeing. So, whether you are single, married, or trying to impress someone, make sure to pay attention to how much you are eating. Take a moment to think about your surroundings and what exactly you’re about to eat, to not get swept up in the social aspects of the meal. Because why you may be heavily influenced by your surroundings, you are also able to control your own behaviours when it comes to diet and wellbeing.

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3 Refreshing ways to EAT your way to a better mood!

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Being in a positive mood is always ideal for everyone, you work better and feel better and the people around you really react to the positive energy you give off. It really helps with all the decisions you make in your everyday life, so it’s important that you’re feeling your best when making these decisions.

Did you know that food can actually help boost better moods? Well, it’s true! Food helps with better moods, providing you with more energy and it helps you think clearly! Below are my top 3 food tips to help you get into a better mood.

1. Raise your vitamin D levels with food 

When you eat your wild salmon, bake it don’t fry it; when salmon is baked, almost all of the vitamin D content remains, but when fried in vegetable oil almost half of the vitamin D content is lost. Other good food sources are trout, ahi-tuna, mushrooms, and egg yolks, and, our favourite, plain Greek yogurt.

Another cool fact: if you lose just 5 percent or more of your body weight, your vitamin D blood levels will shoot up. Vitamin D likes to stay in fatty tissue, so when you lose fat, the D levels in your blood go up! Marvels of vitamin D: heart health, skin health, immune health & mental health!

2. Enjoy Your Bananas (and other fruits)  

Fruits have amino acids in them and bananas are surprisingly high in tryptophan, that along with its natural sugars makes an ideal situation for creating serotonin. Dates and papaya are also high in tryptophan, but most fruits have enough to make a difference.

Any food with a sweet taste will have a calming effect on the nervous system beyond its carbohydrate content.This is not why monkeys seem so happy but it sure doesn’t hurt!

3. Eat Your Greens

The University of Kuopio in Finland conducted a study with 2,313 men for more than 10 years and they found that leafy greens are good for your brain.

Greens are high in almost all vitamins and minerals but they are particularly high in folate – a B vitamin that has been shown to reduce depression. Kale, collard, and spinach will all contribute to boosting your mood!

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How Can Holistic Wellness Apps Lead to Habit Changes?

Posted by Jane Wang

We all know that mobile applications (apps) have the potential to help people increase their physical activity, but little is known about the action change techniques marketed in these apps.

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The most common techniques involve providing instruction on how to perform exercises, providing feedback on performance and goal-setting for physical activity. A class analysis revealed the existence of two types of apps, educational and motivational, depending on their habit change techniques.

Mental health and habit change techniques tend not to be widely marketed in physical activity apps. Based on the available descriptions of the observed techniques in health behavioral theories, people may need multiple apps to maintain a healthy habit change.

Mental health and habit change technology have fallen behind and the unique nature of mental health services can make it difficult to develop a technology that successfully intervenes in human behavior. However, with advanced research geared towards habit change and mental health, an increasing number of organizations are innovating in this space.

Many symptoms of poor mental health are generally behavioral, and seeing as though most people now have smart phones at their disposal, access to technology that can monitor habitual patterns seems like an obvious next step. This technology can be used to assess patterns that are typical of a person who may suffer from mental health issues.

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Dr Uri Nivo explains how this new technology could benefit people wanting to change or monitor their behavior.

“Bipolar disorder, for example, starts with a manic episode. A patient who usually makes five or ten calls a day might suddenly start making dozens of calls a day. How much they talk, text, how many places they visit, when they go to bed and for how long — these are all indicators of mental health and provide important insights to clinicians who want to catch a disorder before it is full blown.”

With fitness wearables and other popular smart devices that help people track their physical activity and well-being, it only makes sense that there would be a specialized app to support habit change and mental health.

 

 

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