Taking Care of Your Mental Health using Art

Believe it or not, I’m trained as an Art Therapist (in addition to being a member of Walker Tracker’s Help Desk).  I’m quite a fan of holistic health care, which I view as promoting wellness in all avenues of yourself.

I believe that mental health is an important piece of wellness, and I’ve noticed that there’s been a recent trend of “Adult Coloring Books”, which are books/magazines with intricate images to color that have been shown to decrease anxiety.  I’ve tried a few of the books, and I found them very similar to coloring mandalas, which are circles that have intricate designs inside them to color (coloring mandalas as a method of decreasing anxiety was my area of focus for my Master’s thesis).  Coloring intricate shapes has been shown to trigger the same psychological response as meditation, and do not require you to have any experience in art.  After you’re finished you end up with a one of a kind awesome image too!

You can always search online for “coloring mandalas” and find some fun images to color.  Just a few minutes of coloring could have beneficial affects on your mood.

If you’re looking for a slight twist on the coloring concept, you can also try Zentangle.  In Zentangle you’re given a square and bunches of doodles to choose from that are very similar to high school notebook style doodles to recreate inside of the box.  You can make the doodles as large or as small as you want.  You can also make them really detailed or simple.  I’ve included an example of my own Zentangle for reference.

This is an example of a Zentangle that this author made

In general, taking a little time out of each day to take care of your mental health can go a long way to maintaining overall well being & a positive sense of self.  What else do you enjoy doing that contributes positively to your mental health throughout the day?  I look forward to hearing from you all!

Some resources discussing the mental health benefits of coloring:

http://www.medicaldaily.com/therapeutic-science-adult-coloring-books-how-childhood-pastime-helps-adults-356280

Image from: http://mentalfloss.com/article/70978/10-intricate-adult-coloring-books-help-you-de-stress

Curry, N. A., & Kasser, T. (2005). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 22(2), 81-85. doi:10.1080/07421656.2005.10129441

Van der Vennet, R., & Serice, S. (2012). Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? A Replication Study. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 29(2), 87-92. doi:10.1080/07421656.2012.680047

 

Women in Tech

On January 27th we took some of the team to a very special event here in Portland: SUPER: WOMEN IN TECH Live Storytelling. The night was made by the 6 incredible speakers who boldly divulged their stories to a room full of eager ears.  We listened, we laughed, we related and we all left feeling a bit more empowered.

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Check us out – pictured: some of our mighty crew.

The Walker Tracker team is made up of 70% women.

For those of you who may not know – that is a huge deal in a tech company.  To provide some perspective:  ¼ of people employed in computer and mathematical occupations are women and less than 20% of software developers are women.

Ok, this isn’t really new stuff – why are you writing this now, Taylor?  Because I have the privilege to be a part of a phenomenal team (where women are represented in all departments: sales, development, management and customer service), it is easy for me to be removed from the bigger discussion.  I recently sat down with my friend, Katie, who is a software developer for a medium sized firm in Portland.  She is the only woman on her floor.  Last week it was Portland StartUp week; I attended a presentation on Women in StartUps: Negotiating for Yourself.   The presenter told a story that stuck with me:  she was part of a StartUp venture where the men actually took over the women’s restroom because there were more stalls (the company was predominantly men). Something is telling me – it’s time to pay better attention.

So, if all I can get from you today is 2 more minutes – please take those and watch this trailer for CODE.

 

“CODE documentary exposes the dearth of American female and minority software engineers and explores the reasons for this gender gap.  CODE raises the question: what would society gain from having more women and minorities code?”

We encourage you to check out the full documentary.

https://www.codedoc.co

 

 

 

Here are some (of the many) opportunities for more information:

She’s Coding – http://shescoding.org

Tech Women – https://www.techwomen.org

National Center for Women & Information Technology – https://www.ncwit.org

WIT (Women in Tech) – http://www.womenintechnology.org

Check out the numbers for the largest software companies – https://www.cnet.com/news/women-in-tech-the-numbers-dont-add-up/

Our 2017 New Year’s Goals

Happy New Year to everyone from the Walker Tracker team!  As the old year ends and the new begins, many of us are thinking of what we hope the New Year will bring.  It’s a time of renewal, wonder, joy, and self-reflection.

It’s a long-standing tradition/association to try to better your New Year through committing to a resolution or two, to remind and encourage us to better our lives throughout the upcoming year.  Some of us here at Walker Tracker HQ really love to kick off the new year by setting personal goals or making resolutions.

Here’s what we had in common:

  • Make smaller resolutions throughout the year in order to avoid a large and perhaps unsustainable resolution.
  • Try to strike a better work/life balance
  • Our most successful goals involved equal parts: accountability, forgiveness, and setting the goal up for success

Read on for goals and resolutions from some of our Walker Tracker team:

David

David set 2 resolutions this year: to eat less sugar & eat cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and kale) at least 3x week. David said, “I’m (specifically making a habit of) looking at labels and trying to eliminate all extra sugar.”

When asked about his most successful goal he responded, “I successfully integrated walking in to my life; this was accomplished by getting a dog, Bella, who is in my face every morning at 5:45am.”

 

Ellen

Ellen prefers to take her goals one day/week at a time.  “I am working on taking it day by day and setting small goals that work me towards a greater goal or help to prepare me for what is to come.”

Ellen’s most successful goals have been smaller and more specific in nature: “(if you) stick to a budget of $40/week spending money for the month of January you are setting yourself up for a win. If you can stick to that for 4 weeks, you not only accomplished a goal of yours but you saved some money and then you can give yourself permission to extend your goal into the next month or change it up if it didn’t work.”

Ellen would like to visit Europe for her friend’s graduation from Oxford and the Mediterranean with her husband this Fall.

 

Blanca

Blanca also prefers “mini resolutions”.  “I choose something I know I can do and is actually useful to my own or others’ lives…setting milestone dates or action times really helps me stick to my goal.” Blanca specifically has had a goal of journaling before bed for reflection and gratitude.

Blanca’s most successful resolution ended up incorporating her entire family.  In a previous year, Blanca wanted to be more active outdoors during the Winter.  It became a family tradition to go cross-country skiing at the start of the New Year.

Blanca would like to travel to Eastern Oregon, in particular: Snake River canyon, the town of Joseph (where artisans meet ranchers) and Fort Rock, “…which is this amazing rock formation created by a raised ice age lake bed.”

 

Taylor

Taylor hopes to focus on the single word: balance, to help her achieve better balance for her health, wellness, and happiness.  She specifically cited an unhealthy habit she’d like to try to tackle in 2017: “checking my work email first thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to bed.”  She has now an enforced rule of, “no work/screen time 1 hour before bed & no work email (until she’s been) awake for at least 30 minutes.”

Taylor has found that “should” has been a detriment to successful resolutions.  When she feels that she “should” be doing something that, “really made everything in life a lot less enjoyable.”  So her most successful resolution is giving up “shoulds” in her life.

She’d like to visit Brazil, Panama, or Indonesia and just can’t decide which. Have you been to any of them? Help her choose by commenting below!

 

Stephanie

Stephanie chose to give up her car for the New Year, and to ensure this was successful, she drove her car to her parent’s house and left without it!  She decided to do this because, “Walking more and using public transportation is not only good for the planet but a great way to get to know my new city.” (as Stephanie recently moved here to Portland, OR)

Her most successful goal involved sending out greeting cards to family members, and buying a huge stack of cards at the start of the year really helped her maintain this throughout the entire year.

She’d like to be able to go to New York City this year.

 

Kristina

Kristina would like to focus on slowing down in 2017 as she feels like she’s, “always running from one thing to the next.” She’s going to try meditation to help with maintaining a less hurried lifestyle.

She has found that making a big list of resolutions at the beginning of the year hasn’t been the most helpful.  She feels that picking one thing to focus on is more helpful.

Kristina wants to visit (perhaps due to the chilly weather here) somewhere warm, like Hawaii and in specific, Kauai.  She would also like to visit the beach and do some snorkeling.

 

Torrence

Torrence has specific continual resolutions, “to become a better ally to people of color and to eat more vegetables.”

Torrence loves to visit the woods and in worldly travels, wants to go to Iceland.

 

Abby

I too wish to strike a better work life/balance as a “perma-goal”.

If you’ve set your own goals, feel free to comment below: What are your goals & and what has helped you stick with them? We look forward to helping you with your wellness goals in 2017!

Happy Thanksgiving from Walker Tracker

we challenge you to walk 10,000 steps on Nov. 24th

Happy Halloween!

Here at Walker Tracker, we love any excuse to celebrate. Birthdays, achievements, national coffee day… you get the idea, and Halloween is no exception. It’s not very often that you get to dress up and go to work and it’s not only acceptable but encouraged!
You may have noticed that your map has been haunted by ghoulish shades of black and red in honor of All Hallows Eve. Enjoy the fun colors while they’re here and

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Happy Halloween from the Walker Tracker Team!

(80’s Jazzercize instructor, Pregnant Unicorn, Jack from the Titanic & The Queen of Halloween)

 

Planned Maintenance Window: October 22nd 9pm PDT

UPDATE: Infrastructure upgrade was successful. Thanks for your patience!

 

The Walker Tracker websites and mobile apps will be briefly unavailable for a maintenance window at 9pm PDT on October 22nd in order to upgrade infrastructure. We will post updates to our status page. Thanks for your patience.

We’re growing! Introducing: Abby, Torrence and Stephanie

We have an awesome staff at Walker Tracker and are proud and excited to introduce you to our newest team members.

Abby (Customer Support Specialist)

I hail from small towns in Upstate NY (no where near the city).  I lived in Upstate NY for most of my life, and I got sick of this:image

So I moved far away from the snow.

I graduated with my Master’s degree in Art Therapy.  Anyone who’s ever gone through school knows that it can be stressful; so I didn’t have the best eating, sleeping, or in-general living habits during that time!  I longed for a time when I could exercise and enjoy nature again.

Since moving to Portland 2 years ago, I’ve been able to walk around and explore new areas locally.  Walking and casual bike riding are my favorite forms of exercise, but I’m interested in archery and martial arts as well. I use Apple Health with the Walker Tracker app for iOS to track my personal steps. Steps are automatically transferred into my iOS app in real time, so I always know where I stand in a competition.

Abby
I’m back in school studying computer programming.  Joining the Help Desk team at Walker Tracker has been a great mix of my strong background in human services, my past time (walking), and my future in IT.  You might see some comics and doodles from me from time to time in the blog or newsletter, as I can’t completely neglect my artistic side!  It is my pleasure to meet and work with all of the Walker Tracker community.

~Abby


Torrence (Junior Programmer)

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I grew up in rural southern Oregon in a town called Lakeview and I’ve lived in central Oregon as well. I had a very outdoors-oriented upbringing and I spent many weekends of my childhood camping with my dad.

These days, I enjoy cycling, hiking, and I’m trying to assemble enough gear to start backpacking. I’d really like to hike a stretch of the PCT at some point in the next few years. I try to stay active on a daily basis by bike commuting, taking stairs instead of the elevator, and walking to the grocery store. I’ve been a vegetarian for 15 years and I try to be mindful of what I consume because I think it contributes to my overall wellness.

I’m excited to flex my coding skills with Walker Tracker and contribute to an awesome company.

Torrence uses a Misfit Shine 2:

The misfit is lightweight and flexible. I like that I can wear it on my wrist or clip it on my shoe, which produces more accurate results when cycling. Also, their support team is extremely responsive.


Stephanie (Business Development Manager)timbers-game

        Everywhere I have lived has been so beautiful it has encouraged me to get out and explore. Hiking the mountains in Idaho, walking the beaches at the coast, and hiking/walking all around Corvallis, Oregon.

For the past 4+ years, I have been working with women battling breast cancer, which really gave me the passion for being active and eating well. While it certainly doesn’t prevent it, living an active healthy lifestyle is shown to greatly reduce your risk of cancer. I’m excited to bring this passion to Walker Tracker and the companies we work with.

I love walking. My favorite thing about living in the city has been being able to walk to work and most places I need to go. I am also very into weight training. I enjoy seeing how far I can push my body and increasing my strength. I’ve been wearing the Fitbit

I am a HUGE Timbers fan, and I am so excited to live in the city, and cheer them on from their hometown!  At one of their games this year I won a jersey signed by the whole team, and, I swear, it made my whole month!

Stephanie wears a Fitbit Blaze and likes that her weight and sleep are automatically transferred to Walker Tracker’s app and website, earning her points in the competition. 

Along with Stephanie came Zoey, another addition to the Woofer Tracker family:steph-and-zoey-hiking

My dog is my little fur baby! I rescued her eight and a half ears ago when I was working at an animal shelter. I loved the idea of rescuing a pit bull mix and making her an ambassador for the breed. She has visited nursing homes, schools, and countless other community events. She is my best friend, and constantly by my side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Blogger: Try a New Taste!

I am thrilled to introduce you to our guest blogger, Ashley, from Dovel Technologies. They have been walking (and running, and swimming, and biking, and – you get the point) with Walker Tracker since 2014.  Quite the model for an encouraging and engaging Wellness program, their communications to participants are meaningful, applicable and continue to draw attention back to overall wellness.  We have the chance to share one of their fun and inspiring emails (below) with our community.  Along with the admin at Dovel, we encourage you to reach out to your participants and drive engagement!

 

Why Try New Tastes?

Many people get in a food rut. We eat the same thing every day because it’s fast, easy, and we like it! The problem is that a limited diet equals a limited number of vitamins and minerals. Trying new foods helps expand your nutritional variety and improve your overall diet. For those of you who are parents (or aunts, uncles, cousins, babysitters, and more), being adventurous by trying new foods sets a good example for kids. And who knows, you may discover a new favorite food!

Not sure what to try? The easiest way is to walk up and down the produce aisle at your local grocery store until you spot something you’ve never tried before, and then google how to prepare it. Here’s a list of 5 in-season fruits and vegetables to get you started:

Jicama. A jimaca (otherwise known as a Mexican yam bean or Mexican turnip) is a juicy, sweet, and nutty root vegetable with a distinct crunch. It is most commonly enjoyed raw, but you can cook jicama, too. Its white flesh stays crisp when cooked briefly. Make sure to peel off the thick, papery skin before eating using a chef’s knife (not a vegetable peeler). Jimaca is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.

Spaghetti squash. A spaghetti squash is an oblong, pale yellow vegetable from the squash family that usually weighs between 2 and 3 pounds. Once cooked, the soft inside of the vegetable falls away from the skin in ribbons or strands like spaghetti. At only 42 calories per cup, it makes a great substitute for pasta!

Quince. A quince is a hard, round or pear-shaped fruit that looks and tastes like a cross between an apple and pear. Quinces are inedible raw, but once cooked they develop a slightly grainy texture similar to a firm pear and a lovely rosy amber color. Just one quince contains nearly one-quarter of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C!

Figs. Many people grew up eating Fig Newton cookies as a child, but have never seen the fruit in its natural form! A fig is a soft, pear-shaped fruit with sweet dark flesh and many small seeds. Figs can be eaten fresh or dried. Figs are high in fiber and a good source of several essential minerals, including magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, and potassium.

Persimmons. A persimmon is a sweet reddish-orange fruit that resembles a large tomato. These fruits can be eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked, which changes the flavor, but they are generally sweet and pulpy. Some people prefer to scoop out the insides of either type, but the skins are edible too. Make sure to let the persimmon ripen to a fully soft state before eating it. Persimmons are a great source of Vitamin C, iron, and calcium.

 

Ashley Raker

Dovel Technologies

WOOP your goals into reality

There is far more to achieving your goals than mere positive thinking. Research has shown that only having positive fantasies of your goal makes you feel like you have already put in part of the work and you are less likely to achieve it. Reworking your positive fantasies into the new method referred to as WOOP: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, & Plan is far more likely to help you realize your goal.
Wish – Identify a wish (goal) that is important to you
Outcome – Think of the best outcome of your wish being fulfilled (positive fantasies)
Obstacle – Realize your personal obstacles and challenges within yourself
Plan – Plan on how you will overcome your obstacles
Try out the researcher’s app to help you with your goals. It’s available for Android and iOS: http://woopmylife.org/app/

Learning how to cook – the healthy way.

Changing they way we eat is hard…really hard. The foods we eat have an important impact on health, and meals often become the center of our social and family lives.  Making major changes in diet requires more than willpower, it requires new knowledge and skills.

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with Jon Alberts and Ken Rubin of Rouxbe Cooking School. With our new flexible points system and communications tools, we’re excited to introduce new partners, like Rouxbe, that can “spice up” a wellness program with fun and innovative programs for employees.  Their fabulous on-line cooking classes make it easy for participants to introduce healthy, plant-based, meals into their daily life.

So, I asked Ken, Rouxbe’s Vice President of Culinary Training,  to write up an introduction to their program:

A Case For Cooking More and Enjoying It
By Ken Rubin

We know what types of food we should be eating, but how does that translate to what is actually at the dinner plate? Most of us never learned how to cook, so don’t blame yourself. To close the gap between what you “know” and what you “do”, it just takes a few first steps.

At Rouxbe (Roo-bee) Cooking School we’ve been addressing this challenge for over 10 years. We’ve learned that the missing link between food and health is cooking. It’s that simple. Just like a fitness or walking program, you seeing improvement and progress not based on just knowing what to do but by just actually doing it.

We focus on making the foods that you know you need to eat taste good. The inclusion of more plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains into our daily meals and snacks has proven to make people not only feel better, but can sometimes help treat and even reverse common chronic conditions.

Rouxbe developed a specific nutrition literacy and foundational cooking course called Culinary Rx to teach anyone healthy cooking skills with delicious results.

The most successful wellness programs include initiatives that engage people, whether to enhance morale or to drive better health outcomes. Culinary Rx does both.

I’d like to share with you the positive results from a recent survey of over 1000 recent participants:
• 99% would recommend the course to others
• 92% gained confidence in their cooking ability
• 88% are now motivated to adopt better overall healthier habits
• 42% are reducing meat consumption, increasing plant-based foods
Our overall goal is to help people make the challenging shift to a healthier diet in a manner that drives long-term behavioral change. People learn what to eat to support their health, but if they can’t cook it and make it taste delicious, the change won’t last. We help inspire people to enjoy the process on their own terms, so cooking becomes less of a chore and good food becomes more a normal part of a healthier life.

About the Author

Ken Rubin is Vice President of Culinary Training for Rouxbe Online Cooking School. He is an award winning chef educator and food anthropologist with 18 years of broad industry experience and recognized for his expertise in education and training, food culture research, and health and wellness. Contact Ken at ken@rouxbe.com    http://rouxbe.com/wellness