Minding your mind to be in the moment

Practicing mindfulness could help mitigate stress and improve overall wellness

Muscle memory. Creatures of habit. “I could do it with my eyes closed.” These common phrases all refer to how the brain helps us streamline familiar tasks and sensory information so we don’t have to process it all in real time. But while going through life on autopilot, what might we be missing?

The idea of being more mindful has become increasingly prevalent as a way to combat this tendency. Mindfulness is all about being present, or in the moment. It can mean noticing small things, like the weather or a particularly nice cashier at your local grocery store, but it can also mean being more attuned to how emotions manifest in the body, whether stemming from joy or frustration or sadness. The point is to experience life fully, purposefully, and without judgment.

According to Kelly Barron, life teacher at eMindful, living on autopilot can be a joy-suck, and it can also perpetuate unhealthy habits, like stress eating1. If being open to life’s experiences is the first part of being mindful, using that newfound awareness to inform the way we deal with mental or emotional adversities is the pièce de résistance.

In Barron’s own words, “Being mindful gives us the opportunity to not only live more fully but also to see our mental and emotional habits more clearly and to choose whether or not we want to engage in them.”

Being mindful may come more naturally to some, but making a conscious effort to cultivate mindfulness can be beneficial to anyone. One way to do this is through meditation. Another way to practice mindfulness is by taking a moment to pause and ground yourself in the present, both physically and mentally2.

Both of these methods are intended to bring the body and mind back in sync, so we can act effectively on what we need, address any seemingly rogue emotions or intuitions, and remind ourselves to enjoy the little things in life.


[1] Barron, K. “What is mindfulness?” eMindful. Accessed Oct. 20, 2023, from https://emindful.com/2019/01/14/what-is-mindfulness-making-sense-of-mindfulness-practice/.

[2] eMindful. “Mindfulness for Beginners: 3 Ways to Ease into Mindfulness if You’re New to the Practice.” Accessed Oct. 20, 2023, from https://emindful.com/2020/04/10/mindfulness-for-beginners/.

Wellness tip: Get back to your roots

Research points to a direct correlation between spending time outdoors and improving mood, attention and cognition

According to Nielsen, most Americans spend more than 10 hours per day with their eyes on some kind of screen1. Assuming this screen time takes place largely indoors, and with research showing outdoor exposure can help boost mental health and benefit cognition, it’s no wonder our workforces are struggling with mental health and stress.

There are several health and wellness benefits linked to spending time outdoors. According to WebMD, these range from getting more exercise and vitamin D to improving sleep, fostering social connections, enhancing self-worth and focus, fortifying the immune system, bolstering creativity, and lowering stress and anxiety2.

An article from the American Psychological Association details just how much getting outside could benefit our overall wellbeing, including lowering stress, boosting mood, increasing empathy and cooperation, and improving attention3. According to a 2019 study cited in the article, people with exposure to natural environments showed improved memory, cognitive flexibility and attention.

Making time to be outdoors can be challenging in today’s bustling society. However, it doesn’t take much to receive the benefit — according to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, people who spend at least two hours in nature over the span of one week reported “significantly greater health and wellbeing.”


[1] Nielsen. “U.S. Consumers are Shifting the Time They Spend with Media.” https://www.nielsen.com/insights/2019/us-consumers-are-shifting-the-time-they-spend-with-media/. Accessed Oct. 20, 2023.

[2] WebMD. “Health Benefits of Getting Outside.” https://www.webmd.com/balance/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-nature. Accessed Oct. 20, 2023.

[3] American Psychologicl Association. “Nurtured by nature: Psychological research is advancing our understanding of how time in nature can improve our mental health and sharpen our cognition.” https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature. Accessed Oct. 20, 2023.

Wellness tip: Combatting stress one breath at a time

Employee engagement is suffering, from entry-level workers all the way up to company executives. A transparent and empathetic approach could be what’s missing. To combat suffering engagement in today’s fast-paced workplace, company leaders will do well to take ownership of — and advocate for — their employees’ wellbeing as well as their own.

What it means to take a life-dimensional approach to wellbeing

No one would argue that what makes someone a person is complex.

It includes things like their career, hobbies, roles within their family unit, and roles within the larger community. But when it comes to health, too often there’s a push to go with a simple biological answer.

But there is nothing simple about a person’s ability to get and stay well. It’s tied to everything from where they live and their ability to get fresh food from a grocery store to the emotional toll of caring for an elderly parent. Job, community, family, and emotional health all impact a person’s ability to achieve health. Which is why focusing only on the person’s physical condition is problematic: how can you add more outdoor exercise to your daily routine if you live in a neighborhood that’s unsafe?

This is why, unlike traditional offerings, we take a life-dimensional approach.

WellSpark was built to address the needs of the modern workforce, specifically those groups with economically diverse, multicultural, long-tenured employee populations who struggle with their health. For us, it’s about understanding each person as the sum of everything in their life—the biological, psychological, and social factors that intersect and determine their health.

3 circles with heads in them with diagrams in the heads
WellSpark’s life-dimensional approach gets to the heart of health challenges.

This approach peels back the layers to see how everything connects in a way that leads to meaningful change. That means personalized guidance, working with each person to understand what behaviors or changes to their routine a person is willing and able to make. It also means applying cultural competency—understanding how a person’s background shapes their behaviors and beliefs then adapting our guidance to reflect them. And it means thinking about how we can build on small victories to achieve lasting health over time.

But beyond any of that, our life-dimensional approach is often the first time in a long time (or ever) that someone is tasked with improving their health has taken the time to really understand them as a human being. It’s how we build trust so we can ask the harder questions. We know that asking someone to change isn’t an easy conversation, but neither is being the one told to change. But, by starting from a place of compassion and of collaboration, without judgment, our participants know we’re going to be there every step of the way. With support and personalized direction, they build self-management skills, establish healthier behaviors, and learn how to achieve a more enduring well.

Universal nutritional guidelines, with a cultural twist – celebrating healthy eating and diversity during National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month®, an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and this year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate.”

It’s a celebration of culture, highlighting how there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and health—a concept that WellSpark actively embraces throughout our programs.

As we discussed in our prior post, WellSpark’s Commitment to Cultural Competency – Understanding Workplace Culture and Beyond, we believe the best way to help people make lasting changes to their health is to make sure our coaching is relevant to their culture and life. So, topics like nutrition education need to focus on what a participant eats in their everyday life, not just lessons about the standard programming of the western American diet.

That said, there are some universal truths about how to create a healthier diet—or healthier plate—that apply to everyone:

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. Get creative with produce by trying an assortment of colors and textures.
  • Experiment with different grains. Try substituting whole grains for refined grains in recipes.
  • Choose lean protein foods. Vary your choices to include seafood, beans, peas, and lentils, as well as eggs, lean cuts of meat and poultry prepared in a healthful way, such as baked or grilled instead of fried.
  • Complete your meal with dairy. Include low-fat or fat-free options like milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified soymilk, or lactose-free milk.

Keep things fresh by trying different meals
Following the simple guidance outlined above can not only make a big difference in a person’s overall health, but it can be fun and flavorful too. Here are some delicious ideas to change up your breakfast, lunch, and dinner that reflect some of the many cultural cuisines found in our own communities. These healthy alternatives highlight the importance of cultural competency in coaching and the amazing range of options we have for personalizing our plates, together.

Latin AmericaAsian IndianFilipino
BreakfastScrambled egg with tomato, onion and peppers in a corn tortilla or arepa with cheeseBesan cheela (savory pancakes made with chickpea flour and vegetables) with extra tomatoes and spinach on the side, and a cooked eggArroz caldo (chicken and rice porridge with ginger and garlic) with boiled egg, sautéed leafy
greens, and fruit
LunchBean and cheese empanada (stuffed pastry) with a mango and jicama saladRajma (kidney beans in onion, tomato sauce and spices ) with brown rice and a green, leafy vegetable of your choiceKare-kare (beef oxtail soup with peanut butter
and vegetables) with steamed brown rice and
DinnerA cup of sancocho (meat and root vegetable stew) with green salad and yogurt and berries for dessertLaal maas (lamb in hot garlic sauce) with brown rice, vegetable raita (yogurt dip), and a nonstarchy vegetable like cauliflowerGinisang gulay (sautéed vegetables), with shrimp, steamed brown rice and melon

Healthy alternatives highlight the importance of cultural competency

Learn more about National Nutrition Month
National Nutrition Month is an opportunity for everyone to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits that they can put to use throughout the year.

For more information about the annual event, you can visit

We also encourage you to check out our recent post on culture at

WellSpark’s Commitment to Cultural Competency – Understanding Workplace Culture and Beyond

An employee struggling with their health isn’t just a person with a weight problem or a diabetes diagnosis.

Factors like support systems, mental health issues, socioeconomic struggles, and cultural differences, to mention a few, can seriously affect someone’s health. A lot of wellness programs ignore these factors that make up the totality of a person’s life. They may try to fit people into a one-size-fits-all box. But we know this isn’t the best way to go about making lifestyle changes that last, in this case, for everyone.

Everyone, and every job, has a different culture. With culture comes unique languages, diets, schedules, environments, beliefs, and general practices. So, when wellness programs introduce a ‘one size fits all’ program for a workforce, how do we expect these programs to succeed for everyone? Everyone’s health is their own. It’s personal. Every program designed to help people get and stay on a healthy path needs to connect with each individual’s life.

At WellSpark, we believe that to engage people in health programs, you must make the program relevant to that person’s culture and life. Nutrition education needs to be about what people eat in their everyday life, not just lessons about the standard programming of the western American diet. Typical exercise and activity programming needs to be more than going to a gym. It could include things like dancing with your extended family after a holiday meal. And while you might conjure up thoughts of a holiday meal served on plates, at a table gathering, with everyone conversing, for others, it might look different – served in a communal bowl, sitting on the floor, with minimal conversation – creating a connection to one’s culture.

What is culture? When we think about the culture of a workforce at Wellspark, we go beyond what, when, and how employees may eat or exercise. We think about culture in terms of the workplace, the workday, and the actual work itself. Is it conducive to living a healthy lifestyle? Does the work itself make a person sick? Is the work sedentary? Does it impact a person’s sleep patterns? Is it lonely?

The physical workplace also factors into our cultural programming. What if you don’t work in an office? What if you are in a delivery truck, on a shop floor, or working the night shift doing patient care? Programs must be relevant to a person’s life AND accessible during the day to fit a person’s lifestyle. At WellSpark, we’re focused on reaching these economically diverse, multicultural, hard-to-reach populations. WellSpark is committed to the cause of developing culturally relevant and accessible health programs to connect with a culturally diverse workforce. Given these statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health:

  • 42% of Black or African American adults have hypertension
  • 22% of Hispanic Americans over the age of 20 have diabetes
  • Indigenous Americans have the highest rate of cigarette smoking compared to all racial/ethnic groups in America
  • Asian Americans are 40% more likely to have diabetes compared to non-Hispanic White Americans

WellSpark connects programs with the people we are endeavoring to serve.

Getting your vitamins in?

Vitamins (also known as micronutrients) are essential substances that your body needs to function normally.

Vitamins can fuel your body to help do things like heal wounds, repair cells, and support immunity. Your body can produce some vitamins on its own, but it needs others to come from sources like food or supplements.

And mostly food.

“When it comes to vitamins and minerals, food should be your first and main source,” says Brieanna Peabody, a health coach educator at WellSpark Health, a ConnectiCare affiliate. “The goal is to eat a variety and balance of nutrient dense foods to meet your daily nutritional needs.”

The ABCs of vitamins
We need around 30 vitamins, minerals, and other components to support bodily functions. Here’s a quick vitamin rundown, including health benefits and food sources of each vitamin, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic. Ask your doctor how much of each vitamin they recommend for you.

  1. Vitamin A plays a role in vision health, growth, cell division, reproduction, and immunity. It may even protect you against some cancers. It’s in dairy products, organ meats, green leafy vegetables, eggs, and fish, like salmon. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body, so it is smart to eat some foods that are rich in beta-carotene as well.  Those include carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.
  2. Vitamin B-6  can reduce high plasma homocysteine levels, which can help reduce your risk of a stroke or heart disease. Vitamin B-6 also plays a big role in sleep, appetite, and mood. You can find vitamin B-6 in meat, poultry, fish, legumes, chickpeas, and bananas. Just one chicken breast has 0.8 mg!
  3. Vitamin B-12 is also found in meat, fish and poultry, as well as eggs and dairy products. It can also be found in nutritional yeast, and other fortified food products. Like vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 may also help prevent strokes and lower your risk for heart disease. Vitamin B-12 also protects nerve cells and encourages normal growth.
  4. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, possibly helping protect your body against cell damage by molecules called “free radicals” that are in food or the environment — such as tobacco smoke or radiation. You can find this vitamin in citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, red peppers, and potatoes. It is also beneficial for eye health and may reduce the risk of mouth, esophagus, stomach, and breast cancer. Contrary to popular belief, there is no real evidence that vitamin C prevents or helps treat the common cold.
  5. Vitamin D may help prevent osteoporosis, reduce certain cancers and multiple sclerosis, and improve osteoarthritis, as researchers are investigating the possibility of a link. Your skin can produce some vitamin D when exposed to the sun, but it is usually not enough to meet your body’s needs. Your doctor may recommend a supplement for that reason. You can get vitamin D from milk, margarine, fatty fish, mushrooms, and fish oils.
  6. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, sunflower seeds, and peanut butter. It works to neutralize unstable molecules that have the potential to damage cells. Diets rich in vitamin E may support healthy immune function and the widening of blood vessels to help prevent blood clots. Some studies show it may help slow or decline the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
  7. Folate is a vitamin needed to make DNA and other genetic materials. It’s found in legumes, oranges, grains, leafy greens, and cereals. Some possible health benefits of folate include lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and breast cancer. However, folate supplements might have different effects on cancer risk.
  8. Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and may improve bone health. It is found in leafy greens, soy, eggs, blueberries, meat, and canola oil.

Talk to your doctor before changing your diet or lifestyle.
If you take vitamins in a pill form, do not take more than the recommended daily dose. Some vitamins—especially fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K—can become toxic if too much is ingested.

“There are possible drug and nutrient interactions to be aware of especially if you have a chronic condition,” says Peabody. Vitamin recommendations may vary based on age, gender, and your stage of life. Plus, women who are pregnant may need different amounts of vitamins than the average recommended amount. Always check with your doctor to see what he or she recommends for you.

Can vitamins prevent conditions like COVID-19?
Presently, there is no cure for the coronavirus (COVID-19), and there is not enough research that supports taking vitamin supplements to prevent or treat COVID-19. The best things you can do are follow the recommended safety guidelines, eat well, be active, and make time for self-care. And if you need help with any of those things, the WellSpark health coaches are here to help.

For more information

Changing Your Diet Can Help Improve Your Heart Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It costs us nearly $219 billion each year because of health care services, medicine costs, and a loss of productivity.1

80% of heart disease cases are preventable – so how can a preventable disease create such a negative health impact in our country?

A lot of it has to do with lifestyle. In general, a healthy diet and regular physical activity are the two best ways to fight and prevent cardiovascular diseases. Our Chief Medical Officer and Vice President at WellSpark, Dr. Wayne Rawlins, tells us the importance of having a healthy heart. “A healthy heart is central to overall good health. Embracing a healthy lifestyle – proper diet, exercise, avoiding obesity and not smoking – can prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke,” he says.
Celebrate the great things your heart does for you by implementing a healthy diet to your life. Dr. Rawlins suggests watching your portions, eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoiding high-fat, high-sodium “junk” foods. Here are some more heart healthy eating tips below, backed by the the American Heart Association.

  • Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. It doesn’t matter if they are frozen, canned, or fresh, as long as there are no added sugars or salts.  Berries are rich in antioxidants, and eating them can reduce risk factors for heart disease. Leafy greens can help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function.
  • Replace all grains with fiber-rich whole grains. Whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and quinoa are whole grains. Eating three or more servings of whole grain can reduce your risk for heart disease by 22%2. “I’m a fan of brown rice myself,” Dr. Rawlins says. “Rice goes with everything and you can have it with every meal if you want.” Try incorporating brown rice into Gallo Pinto, a delicious rice and beans dish.
  • Remove the skin on poultry and fish or buy it skinless and cook it in ways that doesn’t add saturated and trans-fat, like grilling. Buy the leanest cuts of meat available, and minimize processed red meats like bacon, ham, hotdogs, and deli meat.
  • Eat non-fried fish at least twice a week. Look for different varieties of fish containing omega 3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides, the risk of developing and irregular heartbeat, and the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Salmon, trout, and herring are great choices.
  • Pick fat-free and low-fat dairy products.
  • Try to avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Limit saturated and trans-fat and replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduce beverages and foods with added sugars.
  • Cut back on sodium and cook with little to no salt. Reducing your sodium intake can lower your blood pressure.
  • Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk for high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, some cancers, and other conditions. Women should have no more than one drink a day, and men should have no more than two drinks.
  • Keep an eye on your portion sizes.
  • Try out a heart healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, or a vegetarian/plant-based diet.

There is so much you can do to lower your risk for heart disease. “It is a lifestyle that will pay off in the long run in good health,” says Dr. Rawlins. It’s never too late to start making life-changing dietary alterations.

Read more about eating heart healthy:


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved January 1, 2021, from www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

[2] Link, R. (2018, March 5) 15 incredibly Heart Healthy Foods. Healthline. Retrieved January 1, 2021, from www.healthline.com/nutrition/heart-healthy-foods#section2

Treating the Whole Person: Why the Biopsychosocial Approach is Getting More Attention with Employers

Symptom Diagnosis and Changes to Diet and Exercise Are Not Enough to Drive the Medical Cost Trend Down.

Rising healthcare costs continue to plague American businesses. Chronic diseases have had a significant impact on health and economic costs. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of the nation’s $3.5 trillion in annual healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions.1,2 Diabetes alone costs the US healthcare system and employers $237 billion every year.3 Poor health impacts everyone. Nearly every business faces the challenge of managing rising healthcare medical costs—both direct and indirect —such as health plan premiums, pharmaceutical drugs, presenteeism, absenteeism, disability claims and worker’s compensation.

Treating the Whole Person and Not Just the Symptoms
The search for understanding the underlying mechanisms of poor health and identifying the best possible treatment options has prevailed because of these staggering healthcare costs. The traditional approach towards healthcare and prevention has been the biological model where a person’s symptom or illness is exclusively treated by medical means. For instance, a person may experience jaw pain, so a medical doctor might recommend a mouthguard as the overall treatment. At the time this might seem satisfactory but what if the underlying pain advances into chronic pain that indicates a more serious underlying condition. This challenges the biomedical approach to develop a more extensive model that does not fit into its narrow framework.

The biopsychosocial (BPS) approach considers factors such as emotions, behaviors, culture and social environments that all impact human medical conditions. This multifaceted model allows for treating the whole person considering the underlying factors that can inhibit a person’s ability to develop healthy habits so that healthcare professionals can address the root of the issue and not just the symptoms. Plus, meet the challenge of rising chronic illnesses. It becomes apparent that surface level medical treatment while important is not enough to drive the medical cost trend down. A deeper dive into the biological, psychological and social factors unique to each individual is needed. For example, someone who is depressed, might have had a heart attack (biological), or have a self-critical nature about themselves (psychological) or lost a loved one (social). By identifying these factors, you can properly educate and support those who may have emerging or diagnosed illnesses by leveraging human connections to address the root cause of unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors.

Why Employers Should Look Beyond the Traditional Well-Being Programs for their Employees
When employers are choosing a worksite health and well-being program for their employees, it’s crucial to select one that’s result-driven and personalized. While most traditional one-size-fits all wellness programs might appear attractive with its incentives and gamifications, a behavior-changing, continuous engagement and personalized program proves to be more successful. WellSpark Health helps businesses avoid future medical costs associated with their employees’ lifestyle driven illnesses and unmanaged chronic disease. Our approach leverages behavioral diagnostic tools to help unlock psycho-social determinants. By identifying, educating and supporting those who may have emerging or diagnosed illnesses we keep people on a lower cost path to good health.  Our health management, pre-disease, and condition management solutions focus on treating the whole person allowing us to improving outcomes across the health continuum. Our behavior change toolset is a catalyst that unlocks the daily struggles and stressors, transforming conversations beyond traditional EAP services.

To learn more about how WellSpark Health can help your organization or request a demo, contact us at 1-877-224-7350 or [email protected].


[1] Buttorff C, Ruder T, Bauman M. Multiple Chronic Conditions in the United States pdf icon[PDF – 392 KB]external icon. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corp.; 2017.

[2] Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. National Health Expenditures 2017 Highlights pdf icon[PDF – 74 KB]external icon.

[3] American Diabetes Association. Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2017. Diabetes Care 2018;41(5):917-928. PubMed abstractexternal icon.

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