Stumbling on Creativity
CHAD MORRIS, Ph.D., Director
Personally, I have found an upside and downside to technology-driven prompts like activity trackers. I have been wearing an activity wristband over the last year. It is unrivaled in its ability to motivate me to move. Now I often ask myself if I can walk to something rather than drive, and I am fortunate to live in a town where walking is safe and easy. On many days, you will find Cindy and me walking our neighborhood routes. This has not only been great exercise, but it’s also facilitated our communication and community connection.
As we catch up with each other’s days, I am intrigued by the constant hum of neighborhood building and improvement, what homes are for sale, and the range of people and personalities. We have been able to catch fleeting blooms before the unpredictable weather takes them away, noticing details that are never visible from the vantage of a car window. We have also become familiar with many of the neighborhood cats and dogs. A quick visit with a neighborhood pet often does more for my well-being than an hour at the gym.
Now for a dramatic, negative perspective on such technology. Sometimes it feels that this device may own me rather than vice versa. The bracelet can feel like a corrections ankle bracelet that migrated up to my wrist. I often feel pressured not only to meet but also to exceed my 10,000 step daily goal. On most days, this is a welcomed motivator, on other days not so much.
I recognize that a critical component of my physical wellness is recovery, and yes, even relaxation. There are days when I don’t feel like exercising and resting seems like the only right choice to give my body time to recover and repair. On these days, I just might want to put the bracelet in a drawer where there is scant opportunity for me to see the blinking bracelet lights demanding more steps.
For the product I am using, there is also a strong bias toward certain forms of exercise. My bicycling has gone dramatically down because, you guessed it, cycling doesn’t equate into steps. I am more likely to walk, run, hike, or use the elliptical machine since these are ways to get steps that “count.” This way, I can beat my competition—or, I mean, my loving spouse.
While there is no clear answer, part of my wellness balance will be finding how I can best use technology in a mindful rather than obligatory manner.
CINDY WANG MORRIS, Psy.D., Clinical Director
There is a day in Colorado that I look forward to each year. It’s the day in the spring when all of the plants, trees and grasses have “popped.” They have come fully back from their dormant state, transforming into a vivid, luminescent green, seemingly overnight.
You likely know this day wherever you live. It may come earlier in the year or later. For me, it’s one of my favorite days as it reminds me of my deep connection with nature, humanity and the earth. I savor my experience, stretching out time as Chad and I wander through our neighborhood, feeling the energy of the “hive” in which we live.
This vibration is electric, connecting us all, regardless how near or far we may be from others. When I tap into the physical sensation of this vibration, I am energized by the natural forces that surround me. I feel fully present and fantastically alive. Although I cannot help but feel the energy of the abundant life awakening in my environment, I am reminded that I can tap into this energy at all times. Whether it’s in the dead of winter or dry heat of summer, I only need to draw on the energy of life to rejuvenate my body, mind and spirit.
Made to Move
JAMIE PFAHL, B.A., Community Liaison
Spring has sprung! Which, for Coloradans, means 65 and sunny today, 4 inches of heavy wet snow tomorrow. The days are longer, the temperatures warmer, and suddenly I realize that all of the races I want to run are quickly coming up and even passing me by. Yikes!
I chronically underestimate how long the ideal 18 week marathon training period is. And that’s supposed to be on top of a “base” level of regular running, which – let’s face it – I don’t have if I’m not training for something. So how do I get out of this paradoxical loop of not signing up for any races because I’m not trained and not training because I don’t have any races on my calendar?
I encounter this dilemma every year. I don’t want to register for a race I’m not trained for, but I can’t seem to stay motivated unless I’ve got a goal that I’m working toward. It all comes down to how I’ve been setting my goals. Back in January, I resolved to run two marathons, but I never said which two, and I never set intermediate goals to meet along the way. Part of it was that I wanted to leave my options open, but part of it was just sheer laziness.
Now, with only 15 weeks until one of my top five marathon options, I’m digging deep into a strangely motivating mix of excitement and despair to get my fitness back in time. Regardless of whether or not I settle on that particular marathon, I know I need to start training now to be race-ready by fall.
It’s easy to get lost in the big picture goal and forget all the little steps you take along the way. Whether it’s making a healthier food choice or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or just getting out for a 20 minute jog, any step forward is a step in the right direction. Setting specific and measurable goals along the way is crucial, so I’ve set time goals for every distance between 5K and 50K and started registering for races. Ready or not, those deadlines give me something concrete to work toward.
Even though I haven’t filled in all the details of my training plan, I know the most important thing is to start NOW. I don’t need to get tangled up in the details about which workouts and how many miles I “should” be doing, or what day I should rest. For now, my body is my guide and my scheduled race dates and pace/time goals are the stepping stones that are going to get me where I need to be months – and miles – down the road.
SARA MUMBY, B.A., Program Administrator
One of the things I absolutely adore about warm weather is the ability to walk to food destinations. In the colder months, I’m easily deterred from walking to the grocery store or a restaurant by the prospect of wet feet, running nose and layers of clothing. It’s hard not to choose the convenient route – hop in the car, park and be within ten feet of my destination. But in the summer months, walking to the market or coffee shop or neighborhood bar is such a fulfilling experience.
More exactly, I find that physical activity before a meal is oddly inspiring. I feel like I walk out the door with one idea in my mind of what I’m going to purchase for my meal, and by the end of the journey, everything has changed. The scents I encounter, the natural greenery, the movement in my body, make more of an impression on me than my actual hunger. I find that traveling outdoors makes me more inclined to make a healthier choice, being inspired by nature and wanting the freshest option available. It is also heightens my senses, making whatever I consume more flavorful and satisfying. I find the journey home to be equally as rewarding. Movement after a meal ensures that any overindulging I may have participated in is used to propel me home.
As I change my lifestyle to connect with the change in season, I’m grateful for the physical activity my neighborhood affords me. Making the journey a daily part of my eating ritual is something that not only makes me healthier, it’s inspiring my cuisine and naturally improving my health.
SUSAN YOUNG, Ph.D., Director of Research
My 9-year-old girls and I recently participated in a parent-daughter workshop that focused on strengthening skills like communication, conflict resolution, tolerance, and other aspects of social-emotional intelligence. During the final session of the workshop, our topic was the impact of parental perfectionism on children. My initial ‘I’m a psychologist – I know this stuff’ attitude quickly evaporated when our facilitator described role modeling for young girls in a way I hadn’t considered before. She didn’t talk about the standard “family first-resilience-healthy lifestyle-strong work ethic” role modeling. Instead she emphasized sharing with our daughters some of the screw-ups, shortcomings, and self-doubt that come along with real life. WHAT? She encouraged us to talk to our daughters about the things we parents fear, envy, avoid, and don’t understand, so that they can accept and move through those very normal experiences. This made me pause. I hadn’t really thought about modeling vulnerability as a tool for growth. Of course, many of my life lessons have resulted from mistakes made along the way, so this idea began to resonate.
As we celebrated a snowy Mother’s Day, I got a reminder of the lesson I learned at the workshop. I was sipping coffee and catching up on my accumulating pile of magazines (my weekend guilty pleasure), when I began groaning about an article promoting the top 20 things women can do to combat aging (wrinkles, bone loss, belly fat, failing memory). The spread featured several middle-aged women in designer spandex, looking perfectly coiffed and relaxed after their High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. I’m certain they had carefully applied their SPF 50 after their green smoothie this morning. When my daughter snuggled up to see what I was carrying on about, I showed her the photos and jokingly asked, “Do you think there is any hope for me?” She responded, “Mom, those ladies are just make-believe.” What a terrific Mother’s Day gift. Her wise comment reminded me that by sharing (and laughing about) my physical imperfections, I am teaching my girls to love and nurture the bodies they have been given.
JIM PAVLIK, B.A., Program and Policy Analyst
“Exercise” is becoming the “diet” of the 21st century—a fairly innocuous word on its own, but one that has taken on an unintended, negative meaning. “Exercise” is considered an annoying thing you do in order to achieve some other goal (to be slimmer, stronger, etc.). People don’t think of exercising itself as the thing they want. It’s like a chore—cleaning the litter box so your house doesn’t smell bad, or mopping the floor so your guests don’t feel sorry for you.
This idea of exercise began in the early part of the 20th century when a rapidly industrializing Europe began to discover that their new lives in factories and offices were not as physically demanding as life on the farm. The problem is that a lot of people find jogging on treadmills and doing endless bench-presses kind of a chore. “Getting in shape” is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions—and 80% of people who make a New Year’s resolution will have failed by January 20. January 20! That’s a mere three weeks of going to the gym and people are already fed up or bored.
Sustainable physical activity involves having fun. It may end up being the case that you, like me, fall in love with cycling. This may be surprising for you, as it was for me. Once you love something, working hard to be better at it doesn’t seem like a chore. I enjoy trips to the gym to do squats and lunges, which I used to hate, because I know they’ll help me tackle these Colorado mountains.
“Exercise” tends to be something outside ourselves—a chore to achieve another goal. But “physical activity”, to be successful and sustainable, has to be something of ourselves, the thing we do for its own sake because we love doing it. To discover what that thing is for you, start trying new things. Maybe you’ll find that trying new things can be its own reward.
The mission of the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program is to improve the quality of life for individuals and communities through clinical care, education, evaluation, policy change, and research.
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