Boost Happiness by Spending More Time in Nature

            Think back to a favorite vacation. Did you spend most of the day in the sun, perhaps on a sandy beach? Or was it an escape to the mountains spent skiing or hiking? Regardless of where you went or what activities you chose to participate in, the best vacation memories come from spending time in the great outdoors.

               Medical research is shining light on the fact that connecting with nature boosts productivity, creativity, resiliency, mental focus and happiness. As Americans, we have grown accustomed to a mundane schedule of working, watching TV and sleeping. We are attached to technology, leaving us inactive and indoors. The combination of a sedentary lifestyle and not getting outside can lead to poor physical and mental health.

                While now is not the time to plan a vacation, it is the time to do our individual part to practice social distancing and perhaps self-quarantine due to our current public health crisis. It is the time to be intentional about scheduling in ‘nature time’ everyday (weather permitting). Eat your lunch outside, go for a walk, move your exercise time to the backyard, or even catchup on email in a nearby green space. Take a breath of outside air!

                Believe it or not, breathing in fresh air (oxygen) does affect your sense of well-being and happiness. Oxygen levels in your brain are tied to your levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that affects not only mood, but appetite, memory, and social behavior. Too much serotonin and you become irritable and tense. Too little serotonin and you can become depressed. Breathing in fresh air can help regulate levels of serotonin and promote happiness. All it takes is 20 minutes!

Boost your happiness and join the 21 Days to Connect with Nature Challenge! Visit the Health Trip page on the Power Henrico website for details.

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Wellness Screenings Start

Earn your $100 incentive when you take part in a private and confidential wellness screening with an HCA Virginia Workforce Wellness Nurse including: Blood Pressure, Blood Glucose, Body Composition, Cholesterol and Lipid Profile

To schedule your appointment or  to see a complete list of screenings, please visit Power Henrico

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Lighten Up to Live Your Healthiest Life

Research shows that there’s a surprising connection between elevating your mood and shedding stubborn pounds. It’s difficult to feel calm when you worry about what to eat, when to work out, and whether your effort will pay off – all while keeping up with your everyday obligations. So, someone suggesting you relax during this process is laughable.  

Stress, like a roll of fat above your waistband, isn’t easy to shed. But by learning a few ways to slow down, put yourself first, and yes, relax, you can get both your stress levels and your weight under control for good.  

THE ‘YOU FIRST’ EPIDEMIC 

We all have times when we fall into a self-neglect rut, but lately that seems to be almost an epidemic. The American Psychological Associated reports that 44 percent of Americans believe the level of stress in their life is increasing, but only 9 percent think they handle it well. In studying the relationship between stress and being overweight, researches have zoned in on a key hormone called cortisol. You’ve probably heard of it, but it’s not necessarily a bad hormone. Our bodies use it to maintain blood pressure, and it plays a key role in the way we metabolize both fats and carbohydrates for energy.  

The trouble happens when we are under chronic stress and secrete too much cortisol for our bodies to break down properly. A common side effect of extra cortisol is increased appetite. Being constantly hungry is bad enough, but cortisol also tends to direct pounds to accumulate in the abdomen, rather than the hips, and this belly fat is closely linked to heart disease and stroke. Stress has the biggest impact on weight gain in individuals with an already-high body mass index (BMI), making stress and weight gain something of a vicious cycle. 

BREATHE YOUR WAY THIN 

One of the most effective ways to manage stress is also one of the simplest: Just breathe. You hear this a lot in yoga class, but you don’t need a mat to practice it. Simply set a timer for eight minutes and find a comfortable position. Now begin. Inhale for a slow count of eight, hold, and then exhale for a count of eight. The first few times you try this, your mind will likely wander. Be patient – when you notice thoughts creeping in, just return to counting your breaths, and when you lose track, start over.

When the eight minutes are up, stop. Shooting for eight minutes a day is an amazing first step. Health benefits will kick in with repeated practice. Sticking with a deep breathing meditation practice for 8 weeks will change how your brain responds to stress. You may sense that you become less reactive to tension and that you have stress-proofed your body.  

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HOW TO LIVE YOUR HEALTHIEST LIFE

Let’s face it, we all know we need to change certain habits to live better. The problem is putting our desires for better health into action by taking that big step from knowing what we need to do to actually doing it. Through Power Henrico, the Human Resources’ Fitness and Wellness Division offers Health Trip programs addressing two key healthy lifestyle habits – eating and exercise – to help you live well and stay healthy. 

The challenge to lose weight and keep it off is familiar to many. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can be a struggle – and for some, the struggle is lifelong. Because “healthy weight” is such a challenging issue that affects so many people, there are programs that take advantage of individuals by offering quick, effortless weight loss. Perhaps you have tried one or two. Perhaps you have found success with a quick weight loss plan, only to find your success is short-lived.  

Unlike fad diets and get fit quick schemes, the Power Henrico Health Trip Healthy for Life plan focuses on making lifelong behavior changes to help you reach a healthy weight that you can maintain the rest of your life. The ideas shared and the programs offered are simple. They’ll provide modifications you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. Healthy for Life is also different from other quick fixes in that it is not one-size-fits-all. Instead, it’s individualized, focused on your specific challenges.  

Yes, you will be asked to invest some planning and effort into making changes, and you will need to open yourself up to new ways of eating and being active. But if you’re willing to make the necessary changes, your risk for lifestyle diseases will decrease, your weight will improve, and you’ll feel better 

The Power Henrico Health Trip Healthy for Life plan will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to make important lifestyle changes. Each month the County Connection will feature a Health Trip Healthy for Life article with relevant behavior change information.  You can practice the highlighted healthy behaviors by participating in nutrition, exercise and well-being classes to empower you to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.  

Together, we become partners for change. Power Henrico Health Trip Healthy for Life will encourage you to change food and health attitudes and behavior – equipping you with new skills and habits to practice.   The articles that follow and the programs to come are based on clinically tested techniques that put you in charge of reshaping your lifestyle by adopting healthy habits and breaking unhealthy old ones. Step by step, you’ll learn how to reshape your lifestyle in a way that’s realistic for you.  

Starting Tuesday, August 6th, join the Power Henrico Health Trip Healthy for Life plan to start living your healthiest life! For more information, check out the Nutrition Page of Power Henrico and start your Health Trip to be Healthy for Life

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