Spiritual Wellness: Traveling

Spiritual blog posts on this blog won’t be like they would be on others. I’m not religious, at all. For me, experiences and endorphins tend to be my “religion”. One thing that I love so much is traveling and exploring new areas or getting to experience old memories. I love to travel and I love to just get lost in a city. Whether it is actually lost or just lost in the crowd. One of my favorite trips was an ~18 hour trip to NYC where I spent more time in airports than I spent in the city (not really, just felt that way). My sister and I had planned to meet up in the airport and take a taxi to the hotel we were staying in. She was in the city for business and invited me to tag along. My flight ended up getting cancelled so little small-town Vanessa, never been to NYC had to get a cab herself and get from La Guardia  to Times Square by herself.

But then, once I got to Times Square, I got to walk around and experience the city (and smells). And that’s an amazing high. And a trip full of experiences and memories that I will never forget.

New York Times posted an article of the 52 Places to Go in 2014 and while I won’t be going to near that many places or any of those places in 2014, it just gets me excited about future trips and brings back the memories of past trips. It also made me think that even if you aren’t going to all these 52 places, there are probably places that you can go near you to experience something new. I know in Kansas City, they just brought in a King Tut exhibition that I am eyeing up hardcore to go and visit.

What are some of your favorite trips that you have gone on? Favorite memories? Funny stories? Experiences that will be with you for a lifetime? (I for one will never forget the smell of Central Park in the summer…a lot like vomit and trash)

Intellectual Wellness: Idk? Google It!

I have had this article from the New York Times sitting in my “Blog Post Ideas” bookmark for at least a month (check that, just over a month, it was published on January 14). I have ermed and ummed about writing this blog post because what I’m going to write about, I’m just as guilty of…

How many times have we relied on google for the answers? (Or even worse asking people on facebook a question you could easily just google yourself). We take the first couple of hits and get our answers and move on with life. The problem with taking goggle results at face value is that, well, they are often wrong or don’t contain the entire answer. It’s important to do further research. If you have ever read scientific research, just take a look at the reference section. Good solid research has a crap ton of references. And then look at the intro and then take a peak at the section between the abstract and the methods section. Allllllllllllllllllll of that stuff is reviewing all the previous research (and you know, establishing purpose and reason for the current research).

Here’s the deal. Use google. But make sure you look up a few different sources and that you are doing a little thing called fact checking.

Occupational Wellness: Employer Wellness Programs?

Yuuuup. It’s happening. 3 occ wellness posts in a week. I can’t help it! I love this research and there are some really interesting articles that are coming out right now! 

Again, this is another article from the New York Times that I my undergrad program actually tweeted about! This article examines what the benefits are to having an employee wellness program. Employee wellness programs pretty much started so employers could save money. Research was conducted that found if you educate your employees, get them to stop smoking and engaging in harmful behaviors, and remind them to take their meds, your organization benefits in terms of lower medical costs and increased productivity. If you didn’t know why employee wellness/health programs exist, that’s pretty much the main reason. There are other companies that value their employees wellbeing but for the most part, organizations in the US see a direct benefit. We take care of you, you do better work for us and don’t cost us as much. Same story rings true for people that advocate preventative health care. Cost a little bit more upfront, but if you catch a disease early on through preventative health care, it ends up being more cost effective in the long run.

This specific study is looking at the difference between these disease management programs (smoking cessation, medicine reminders for chronic conditions) versus what they call lifestyle programs (weight loss, stress management). What they found is that there is a real actual monetary benefit for organizations to invest in disease management programs but no monetary benefit in the lifestyle programs because essentially the cost and benefits even each other out. The article goes into much more detail and again, it’s a quick read and really is worth the extra 5 minutes to glance through it.

So if lifestyle programs don’t provide any monetary benefit to organizations, should they cut these programs out? No. Even though these lifestyle programs aren’t helping the org save any money, they are helping produce better employees. Who perhaps won’t become an employee that requires the disease management program. I think in the next 20 or so years, if we continue on trend for having a respect for preventative health care and emphasis not only on disease management but on lifestyle programs, we will see that there is less of a need for disease management. There will never not be a need. But if you help employees get to the basis of healthy, healthy weight and eating habits, healthy stress levels, essentially all around healthy, I predict that there will be less of a need for these disease management programs. But you as an organization have to put an emphasis on having a healthy lifestyle and supporting your employees.

That’s my 2 cents on the matter, what are your thoughts?


Physical Wellness: How Does Your Body Dictate Your View on Exercise?

Survey says, according to this New York Times article…yes! And this is seriously a fascinating research study and a fairly quick read. If you have 5 extra minutes, take the time and read through this short article.

At the core of the NYT article is this, people who aren’t active tend to feel like if they exercise, they are going to embarrass themselves and so they tend to not engage in these activities. BUT that doesn’t mean that’s the end all be all. Because in this day and age, there are a million and one ways to workout, some including staying within the comfort of your own home away from the judgmental eyes and thoughts of others. There are DVD workouts, youtube workouts, workouts you can do WHILE watching your favorite show. You can turn all those ridiculous, obnoxious, horrible drinking games you played in college into workouts but instead of you drink, you do a burpee. Or 10. You can reward yourself for working out. I have a friend who put a dollar in a jar each time she went to crossfit last year. When the year was over, she counted up her dolla dolla bills and had $115! That’s enough to buy a new pair of good workout/running shoes, or new workout clothes. And now she has a number to beat for this year. If you need more instant gratification you could check your dollar bill collection at the end of the month and buy new workout gear then.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to be an Olympic caliber athlete to workout. You don’t even have to do traditional workouts. If you hate running more than anything in this world, then don’t do it. Because it is going to make you hate your workouts and dread them and give you a reason to not do them. If you love having a dance party in your room, blast some upbeat tunes and do it ala Ally McBeal. But get active. Get moving. Get doing something. And when you start feeling comfortable with that, do something different. This study states that most people (in the study) didn’t exercise or engage in physical activity because they thought it would end in embarrassment. Everyone gets embarrassed. Everyone messes up. Olympic athletes mess up. Everyone trips everyone accidentally forgets how to breathe when they are swimming. Because we are all human. And if we would spend a little less time judging or making fun of people who are being active and little more time cheering them on and applauding their efforts, we wouldn’t feel so scared to be embarrassed. Eric and I actually have a competition when we are driving around to see who can say good job to people being active. We might be in a car but without fail, every time we see someone running or walking or just being active we say, “Good job runner!” Even people you don’t know, support them in wanting to be fit and active. And when they do inevitable embarrass themselves, don’t you dare mock them or make fun of them. You keep supporting them. Because damnit, they deserve it because THEY are making the effort and doing the work.

Well that turned into a rant rather quickly…

Share in the comments your favorite non traditional workout! I’m not going to lie, I love busting out my inner Ally McBeal and having a crazy dance party!

Spiritual Wellness: What’s Faith Got to Do, Got to Do with It?

For some reason, I am all about reading articles this week…hopefully ya’ll enjoy a mix of personal posts and posts reflecting on either research or published articles. Today’s article that I found discusses the affect that faith can have on therapy. While I am not religious, I can see the parallels in faith and therapy. There tends to be a negative stigma that is attached to therapy and I can see how having a strong belief in a higher power could contribute to having belief in therapy. Dr. McCabe linked faith and therapy really with belief. It all stems from one’s attitude and it seems, from some of the research presented in this article, that when you have a strong belief in God (or any other deity) it can have a positive impact on one’s progress in therapy.

Dr. Rosmarin offered further explanation for why religious faith might aid psychiatric treatment. “There’s a vulnerability associated with physicality,” he said. “I think people, psychiatric patients in particular, might recognize that vulnerability and recognize that things can’t be counted on. “Sometimes medications don’t work, and sometimes psychotherapy doesn’t work,” he continued. “But if someone believes in something that is metaphysical, if someone believes in something spiritual, which would ostensibly be eternal, permanent, unwavering, omnipotent, then that could be an important resource to them, particularly in times of emotional distress.”

Obviously it is going to be hard to do extensive research with a good research design since you cannot just randomly assign participants to a faith/no faith condition and it depends on the strength of one’s faith as well as what one is in therapy for…there are just a great number of conditions that cannot be controlled for in this research, but it is an interesting concept.

What are your thoughts on faith and therapy? Do you think there is a link?

Financial Wellness: A Rant about Student Loans and What I Wish I Would Have Known.

I woke up this morning to see that my student loans that were being managed through the government were now transferred to Sallie Mae, an organization notorious for not letting students pay more than their minimum balance on their loans to get out of being in debt for 30+ years and not having to pay as much interest. Not that it mattered, I can only afford to pay the minimum and my whole big master plan of getting my masters degree and getting a job that paid 60k a year and just living like a college student for a couple years while I buckled down and just paid off my student loans was really working out anyway.

But it got me to thinking, we tell high school students to get involved to make their college application more diverse. We tell them to get good grades and high scores on the SAT/ACT to better their chances of getting in. We tell them to apply for scholarships.

But, I feel that we lack in educating students about student loans. According to this 2012 New York Times article, “about 2/3rds of college students borrow money” (2007-2008 grads) versus grads from 1992-1993 (45%). Combined, there is over $1 trillion outstanding from student loans.

What can we do to remedy this seeing as the cost of going to school isn’t going down? Educate the students in high school. Give them the knowledge that they need to figure out what it means to take a loan and what the ramifications are of taking out a loan. And I’m not talking some bullshit hour long meeting or online “class” that they go through. I’m talking a mandatory “if-you-have-even-the-slightest-twinkling-of-going-to-college” you take this semester long course in loans. That walks you through the entire process and how you evaluate YOUR finances to determine what YOUR need is. How you read this legal jargon on the loan papers. How to budget in college. How to get a part-time job. Etc.

Sure, taking classes like Economics and Calculus are great, but throw in one real-world experience class and make it be about managing your own finances. Make it explain about loans. I wish someone would have explained to me more about loans. I didn’t understand them as a high school senior. I didn’t understand how signing this piece of paper was going to affect the next 30+ years of my life. I just knew I needed to go to college and that it was a lot of money.

Now, I know what you are thinking (I don’t, I’m just pretending), if you are going to be an adult and take out loans, you should (cringe) know what you are signing before you sign it. Agreed. It absolutely was my responsibility (and everyone else’s that signed loans) to know what the heck we were getting ourselves into. I absolutely should have done more research and applied for more scholarships and managed my money better and not been so caught up in living a college lifestyle. I recognize the mistakes I made along the way. But I still think that every high school student that is thinking about going to college…Student Loans 101. Semester long course. Show ’em exactly what they are getting themselves into.