wellness

Health is Important at Any Age

By Dani Shimits

When I was 23, I got my cholesterol numbers taken for the first time. It was a service offered at work and I was like sure, why not. Although I was young and considered myself a healthy individual overall, I was shocked when my total cholesterol came back high. This is when I learned cholesterol runs in my family and these numbers are something, I need to be aware of.

Heart health is important no matter what age or how healthy you think you are. There are many factors that can affect your overall health and being aware of your risk factors can help you manage your own heart health. The higher your blood pressure is, the harder your heart must work to pump the blood throughout your body. The more plaque you have built up in your arteries (which is considered your cholesterol) the harder is it for the blood to be pumped through your arteries. This leads to your heart doing extra work which then may lead to heart health issues down the road.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone in America has a coronary event every 25 seconds. Awareness is a key factor when looking at heart health. Knowing your family history and getting yourself screened on a yearly basis can prevent heart disease.

Keeping your heart healthy is also going to keep yourself healthy overall. Being mindful of your movement and how you fuel your body daily. How are you managing your stress? Taking care of your overall well-being is also going to keep your heart healthy. It is never too late to invest in yourself and your well-being. Start now by going and getting a health screening from your doctor. Look at your numbers and be aware! Your health STARTS with you!

Tips for managing heart health:

  1. Manage overall nutrition. Be mindful of your sodium and processed food intake. Limit alcohol (I did not say avoid) intake. Cook meals at home and meal plan with your family.

  2. MOVE!!! Move throughout the day. You are at home and work the majority of your day so do things to get more movement. Example, park further away from the door, make copies to the printer that is further away from your desk or use the bathroom further away from your desk.

  3. Avoid tobacco and nicotine because they can cause damage to your arteries, raise your blood pressure and make it harder to get oxygen throughout the body.

  4. Be mindful of your stress and how much sleep you are getting. These can both lead to higher blood pressure and higher blood sugar readings, which then can lead to increased risk for heart disease.

  5. Be an advocate for YOUR health. You know your body the best, be mindful of the signals your body gives you daily. For example, I get irritable and sassy if I have not slept well. Some people get headaches when they are stressed.

Mental Wellness: Five Favorite Tools for Stress Reduction

By Kristen Harris

I am a big believer in mental health, mental wellness, brain health. Whatever you call it, I think it’s important. We exercise to keep our bodies healthy, why not our brains? I mean, I don’t want to lose any brain capacity, do you? Of course not! 

So here are a few ways I work to reduce stress and maintain mental health:

Work It Out. Exercise has many proven benefits–what’s good for the body is good for the mind. My doctor told me the best type of exercise “is the one you’ll do”. Run, walk, lift weights, yoga, dance, jump rope, just get moving. And make it convenient; we’re much more likely to stick with something if we like it and it easily fits into our routine. Personally, I have found that I need a lot of variety because I get easily bored doing the same thing every day or week. I mix it up with yoga, boxing, running, walking, pilates, cardio machines, weights, and yes, hula hooping. Other people love to just run every day. You do you, just do something.

Breathe It Out. Meditation has become uber-popular, to the point that it might seem complicated or off-putting to some people. Don’t stress out about meditating! Keep it simple by just sitting quietly and taking a few deep breaths. If you want to take it further try an app (I like Headspace), guided meditation, or a class. Regardless of the method, slowing down for a few minutes does wonders for my stress, anxiety, nervousness, frustration, anger and more. Sometimes I go into a conference room for a few minutes to decompress before a big meeting or after a challenging conversation.

Talk It Out. Sometimes we need to verbalize our fears, worries, frustrations or concerns; it really helps me to talk through things. Depending on the issue, I might reach out to a friend, spouse, trusted colleague, or mental health professional. I’m totally up for talking to anyone who can help me, and have no qualms about calling in a pro when I think that’s what I need. “Therapy” can sound intimidating like there’s an assumption that something is wrong with you. Just think of it as a really smart friend who is trained and wants to help you.

Write It Out. Whether you keep a daily journal, write in a notebook to work out an issue, or dump all your frustration on a piece of paper then burn it, writing can be very cathartic. It helps me work out issues, solve problems, come up with new ideas, and understand frustrations. Sometimes I just have to get it out so I can let it go. Which leads me to...

...Let It Go. If I can’t fix a problem or change the situation, and it’s just continuing to upset me, at some point I have to ask myself if it’s worth it. Do I want to keep letting this person or problem take up space rent-free in my brain? Am I spending more effort and energy worrying about it than they are? Is this really going to matter 20 years from now, or even 2? It can be easier said than done but often the best course of action for me is to...sing it with me...Let It Go!

Mental health and wellness are at least equally as important as physical health. Take a little time for yourself; you need and deserve it. My experience is that slowing down and doing these activities makes me a better, kinder person.
 

Self-Love: Ten Tips to Take Care of Me

By Kristen Harris

It’s Valentine’s Day, so who do you love? Please, please, say “me!”

This is the season for love and there is no one more important to love than yourself. Yes, go get that card and sweet gift for your special someone, then get right back here and give yourself a little self-love.

Not even sure what that is? To me, self-love is really about being nice to yourself, doing things that you love to do, treating yourself the way you would treat anyone else that you really love. It’s a funny thing–we often don’t treat ourselves nearly as well as we treat others. Let’s stop doing that!

Here are a few self-love things I treat myself to:

  1. Time Alone. I’m an introvert. I actually like to be alone and need a break from others to recharge.

  2. Chocolate. I love really good, really dark chocolate and treat myself to it on a regular basis. No further explanation needed.

  3. Hot Tea. Tea warms and soothes me from the inside out. I especially love bringing something home from a trip as a little reminder of my travels.

  4. Reading. I love to read all sorts of things, but when I’m really treating myself it’s a good fiction book. No self-help, no improving the business. Just a great story that I can get lost in.

  5. Being Nice. Overall I’m a nice person, but we are often nicer to others than we are to ourselves. It’s important to be kind, forgive myself, and not have unrealistic expectations.

  6. Hot Bath. One of my favorite ways to wrap up the weekend is a nice hot bath with a deliciously scented bath bomb. It forces me to relax while the bath bomb oils do their magic on my extra-dry skin.

  7. Say No. I simply can’t say “yes” to every request or opportunity that comes my way. See Point #1 Introvert. Sometimes saying “no” to protect my time and energy is a form of self-love.

  8. Friends. One thing I try to say “yes” to is time with friends. I love to hang out over a cup of coffee (or tea) talking about nothing and everything.

  9. Yoga. I always feel mentally and physically untangled after a nice yoga session, whether it’s a class at a studio or fifteen minutes in my basement.

  10. Be Positive. Someone recently told me that what you say aloud is probably what will happen, it’s your truth. I’ve been accused of being unnaturally happy, so I’ll consider being purposefully positive a form of self-care.

Some of these items feel a little selfish and that’s the point. Self-love is about showing yourself love, putting yourself first. Make your own list and show yourself a little love this Valentine’s Day and every day!

Why You Should Tell Your Team to Take a Break and Go Outside

By Emma Seppala and Johann Berlin for the Harvard Business Review

Wellness programs are becoming an integral priority for most human resource managers. After all, research shows that a happier workplace is more productive. To this end, workplaces are adding health-related perks from exercise rooms to yoga classes. Leaders participate in mindfulness and compassion trainings and are coached to learn emotional intelligence. However, there is one important wellness factor that many are forgetting even though it may be the most potent of all: access to green spaces.

Greenery isn’t just an air-freshener that’s pleasant to look at, it can actually significantly boost employee well-being, reduce stress, enhance innovative potential, and boost a sense of connection. Yet most of us don’t spend much time in nature. Richard Louv, author of the Nature Principal, argues that we’re collectively suffering from “nature-deficit disorder,” which hurts us mentally, physically, and even spiritually. Adding a little wilderness to your corporate officesmay just be the smartest move you can do this year.

For one, exposure to green spaces profoundly enhances physical and mental well-being which is why corporations like Google prioritize biophilia as a core design principle. Studies are showing these interventions can reduce not just everyday stress but also boost general health. Taking walks in nature lowers anxiety and depression while boosting mood and well-being, a large-scale studyshowed. Exposure to more light can boost Vitamin D levels that are known to increase mood, especially in colder months.

Scientists are also exploring how exposure to nature might result in lower risk of depression, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. The immune system certainly receives a boost from stress-reduction, and even just the sounds of nature trigger a relaxation response in the brain. Exposure to natural environments lowers stress,including its physiological correlates the “stress hormone” cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure. By boosting mood, natural environments may also decrease inflammation at the cellular level.

In short, even a small green intervention like having more plants in the office could significantly boost employee happiness, and we know that happiness is a powerful predictor of an organization’s success. Corporations can significantly reduce organizational health costs by introducing more green spaces and plants into an office space. As Florence Williams has exhaustively reviewed in her recent book The Nature Fix, “forest bathing” have become popular practices in many East Asian countries because the impact of even a few minutes of immersion in nature has measurable benefits not just for our psychological well-being but also our physical health.

Greener office environments can boost employee performance and decision-making. One study found that exposure to greenery through office plants boosted not just employee well-being but also productivity  - by 15%! Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis concludes: “Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.” For one, plants, natural environments and greener offices offer superior air quality which in turn strengthens employee cognitive function – allowing them to perform at their best.

Here’s why this may be the case: Neurosciencist and founder of My Brain Solutions Dr Evian Gordon proposes that “the brain’s attunement to nature has a seminal evolutionary origin, beginning with the earliest species sensing and responding to their environment. Our ancestral hominids (australopithecus, homo habilis, and homo erectus) evolved in response to short-term survival pressures within the rhythms of nature.” Dr Gordon who has published more then 300 scientific papers draws upon insights from the world’s largest standardized brain function database, that shows the immediate and significant extent to which any sensory input creates changes in the brain and body. Stress impacts the heart’s rhythms, for example. Unnatural environments are a subtle form of distraction and stress to optimal brain processing. Natural environments have the opposite effect.

Moreover, research shows that exposure to a natural environment helps people be less impulsive (while urban settings do the opposite). In this particular study, participants were asked if they’d prefer to make $100 immediately or $150 in 90 days. Those who had either been in a natural environment (or simply looked at photos of a natural environment) were more likely to make the more rational and beneficial decision: wait for the $150. Such was not the case for those exposed to cityscapes. Exposure to nature may therefore foster boost superior decision-making which includes better foresight. Exposure to natural environments also strengthens attention and may even help strengthen memory.

Finally, we know that the #1 trait leaders look for in incoming employees is creativity, and exposure to natural environments dramatically improves our ability to think expansively and make superior decisions. Being in nature is a core element of New York designer Joanne DePalma’s work, inspiring her most iconic designs, including the flagship store for Tiffany in Paris, and leading her to creative breakthroughs, including creating one of the world’s most sustainable carpets with Bently Prince Street. “Nature inspires my design and restores me,” she shares. “Whether I’m feeling stuck or exhausted during a long and grueling project, or just need some new ideas, a visit to the waterfront or Central Park gets me back to the source of my creativity. I find so many complex design solutions are hidden in nature.”

Nature can have a positive influence on workplace culture by strengthening employees’ values and leading to greater harmony and connection. Exposure to nature doesn’t just make you feel and think better, it also makes you behave better. People who’ve just walked out of a park or other natural environment are more likely to notice when others need help – and to provide that help. In line with these findings, researchers at the University of Rochester found that exposure to nature resulted in participants valuing community and connectedness over more superficial concerns like personal gain and fame. Participants also became more generous and willing to share with others.

As the lead author Netta Weinstein observes, “we are influenced by our environment in ways we are not aware of….to the extent that our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other.” Given that there are fewer and fewer “human moments” in the workplace yet that employee well-being is in large part due to positive social connections with other people, embracing greener environments could be tremendously beneficial for a workplace. Other studies have confirmed that exposure to nature leads to less antisocial behavior and more social connection and harmony.

Even a very small exposure to nature – as little as five minutes – can produce dramatic benefits, especially when coupled with exercise like walking or running. In many of the studies mentioned above, the effect was observed after participants simply looked at pictures of nature (vs urban environments) for a few minutes or worked in an office with (or without) plants — easy touches to add to a work setting.

While creating a “green office” may seem daunting, it really isn’t. Here are some easy ways you can make your officer greener

  • Encourage your staff to have “walking meetings” outside.
  • Encourage your staff to sit outside or in naturally lit areas on breaks or during lunch.
  • Provide outdoor walking, meeting, and sitting spaces.
  • If outdoor spaces are not available or you are in an urban environment, create an indoor garden in an atrium or, if space is at a premium, a vertical “green wall.”
  • Light rooms with natural sunlight as much as possible. Open blinds and, if possible, windows to let in outside air and natural sounds.
  • Display nature photography or artwork.
  • Play nature videos or nature slides on your television or display screens.
  • Place as many plants as you can prominently around the office (making sure a designated person takes good care of them).
  • Move your office closer to a park or natural environment.

An increasing interest at Google and similar companies is to make green spaces that are also respectful of the natural environment as a habitat for local animals and plants. Not only are these companies promoting employee well-being, but also reducing their ecological footprint.

Even if your company’s management is unwilling or unable to do these things, you can try a few out yourself: a walking meeting with a colleague, taping a photo of your favorite nature scene to your cubicle, or listening to ambient nature sounds on your headphones. Remember the words of German poet Rainer Marie Rilke: “If we surrendered / to earth’s intelligence / we could rise up rooted, like trees.”

 

Health Matters: Why We Focus on Wellness in the Workplace

By Kristen Harris

When Catherine and I started Portfolio Creative we set out to create the kind of company we'd want to work for. Because, well, we do work here, and so do other people. We both came from demanding environments and knew how important it would be to take care of ourselves in order to do our best work for clients and talent. 

In the beginning, this just meant taking time to exercise and eat a healthy lunch. Over the years tactics have changed but the goal remains the same. Today we offer a wellness-based healthcare plan to all qualified employees, providing access to a health coach, gym memberships, and incentives for completing health-oriented tasks. We've always offered the same health plan to both our internal team and the talent we place because we want all of our to people feel healthy and cared for, regardless of whether they're in our office or working at a client's location. This was (and still is) highly unusual in our industry, and we're proud of that.

We also bring in speakers on health-related topics, encourage people to take time to rest or workout, keep a stocked fruit bowl in the kitchen, and more. We believe wellness isn't one big action, it's a series of small activities that add up. People spend a large portion of their time at work. As business owners, we realized the positive impact decisions we make can have on the lives of our people and their families. One of the decisions we've made is to focus on wellness at work. 

So, is this all worth it? It takes time, money, and effort to have a wellness-focused workplace. We have to organize the speakers and health coach, buy fruit, and give people time to go to the gym. Is it just a nice thing to do, or is there a business case for focusing on wellness in the workplace?

There is plenty of research that makes the business case for workplace wellness, and we agree. Participating in a wellness-based healthcare plan helps keep premiums as low as possible both for employees and the company. This has a direct financial impact on the business, each individual, and their family, and is something every employee can contribute to and benefit from. This wellness-based plan sets us apart as an employer and is a benefit that is highly valued by our team members.

We believe there are other reasons that wellness belongs in the workplace, beyond potential financial savings. We truly like the people we work with and want them to feel valued and cared for, to be their best physically and mentally at work and at home. When people feel good they're more connected, engaged and do better work. Think about the last time you went to work with a cold...it's hard to do great work when you don't feel good. People who feel well need fewer unplanned days off, get more done and are more engaged in their work. When our people feel good they can take better care of our customers. At home, they take better care of themselves and the people that matter to them.

Having a wellness-focused workplace isn't a single financial line item, it's a series of small actions and items that add up to greater business success. It's one of the things that continues to make Portfolio Creative the kind of company we'd want to work for, and we think it's worth it.