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4 Types of Gadgets and Apps For Tracking Your Health

4 Types of Gadgets and Apps For Tracking Your Health

Let’s face it, It doesn’t take much more than a pair of eyes to notice that life in the modern world is having a negative impact on our health. Many of us sit behind a desk for 40 hours a week, eat nutritionally bankrupt convenience foods in outrageous quantities and spend our free time watching TV and browsing the web for adorable pictures of cats, yet we cannot comprehend why good health seems to be alluding us. Here are some technological tools that we can use to get a handle on our health and combat the obesity epidemic.

Wearable Activity Trackers

The best activity trackers are those that work passively, without any interaction on the user’s part, and for this reason, we recommend bracelet style trackers above those that clip to your clothing. Case in point, one of my friends owns a footstep counter that he has to manually put on every morning, and while he and I live similarly active lives, I consistently beat his weekly step count because he inevitably forgets to wear his at least a couple of times per week, whereas my bracelet style tracker never leaves my wrist, I sleep with it and wear it in the pool and shower.

While there are several options available that fit the bill, two of the most widely used devices are the Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone UP24. Both devices are fairly similar, they track footsteps, calories burned and sleep quality and they both break down that information into useful metrics and graphs. Here’s a breakdown of what sets each device apart:

Fitbit Flex – $99.99 (from Fitbit)

fitbit-flex-xl

    Pros

    *Syncs automatically in the background (via a Bluetooth dongle on your computer and/or built in Bluetooth functionality on the iPhone and select Android devices)

    *Larger userbase, better chance that some of your friends use a Fitbit (which opens up the door for some friendly step-count competition)

    *Display allows you to see approximately how far through your selected goal you currently are

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    *Comfortable bracelet design with several swapable band colors available

    *Waterproof (I wear mine while swimming 3x a week)

    Cons

    *The band has a tendency to crack from removing and reinserting the actual fitbit unit

    *Only syncs with a handful of Android devices (Compatibility list here)

    *The mobile app is fairly simple and lacks a few features that are available online.

    Jawbone UP24 – $149.00 (from Jawbone)

    JawboneUP24

      Pros

      *Mobile app is excellent, undoubtedly better than the current iteration of the Fitbit mobile app

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      *Wireless Background syncing (with recently added Android support) and manual syncing via your phone’s headphone jack

      *Subjectively, many feel that the UP is a more stylish device that looks more like a bracelet and is slimmer than the Fitbit Flex

      Cons

      *Expensive

      *There have been some anecdotal reports of syncing issues

      *Band color is not changeable

      *Somewhat limited Android support (Compatibility list here)

      Bottom Line: Buy the device that fits your fashion sense and budget. Other trackers to keep an eye on are the Nike+ FuelBand and the Withings Pulse O2. Personally, I own the Flex and have been very happy with it, especially since it syncs with my Fitbit Aria smart scale. Speaking of that…

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      Smart Scales

      While it is true that weight is just a number, taking regular measurements are a great way to gauge progress and stay motivated.

      Aria Smart Scale – $129.95 (from Fitbit)

      Fitbit Aria

        When my wife bought me the Fitbit Aria smart scale for our last anniversary, I received a plethora of comments to the effect of, “That’s awesome…. but I bet she wouldn’t have been too happy if you bought her a scale, lol.” Outdated gender stereotypes aside, this scale is fantastic and any gift that helps your loved one to improve their health is a sign of true affection.

        So, what makes this scale so smart? The Aria syncs to your WiFi network and updates your weight and body fat percentage to the Fitbit dashboard, which, if you have another Fitbit product, you are already using. It can also sync to popular food tracking apps like MyFitnessPal. The Aria can automatically recognize up to 8 different users and track their weights, uploading the measurements to the correct accounts, the user needs to do nothing more than step on the scale with barefeet (necessary to measure body fat). Visually, the Aria is gorgeous, with a sleek minimalist design that looks great in any bathroom.

        If the Aria isn’t for you, check out the Withing Smart Body Analyzer.

        Diet Tracker

        Diet is arguably the most critical single factor contributing to a person’s overall health and well-being. Much as carefully tracking your spending can, in and of itself, help to avoid making unnecessary, high cost purchases, the careful tracking of your caloric intake can help to avoid binging on high calorie, low nutrition foods.

        MyFitnessPal – Free (Available on most mobile platforms)

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        MyFitnessPal

          Having tried most food trackers currently available, I can say with a fair degree of confidence that MyFitnessPal is the most complete and comprehensive option available. MFP has a very large database of foods, making it possible to quickly input your meals with a high level of accuracy. You can quickly scan in premade foods via their barcodes, create and save your own frequently eaten meals and even manually set your macro nutrient goals (Protein, Fat and Carbs). In addition, MFP syncs with a ton of other fitness apps, including most of the popular activity trackers and smart scales.

          If MyFitnessPal is not for you, check out Noom.

          Exercise Tracker

          While a wearable tracker like the Fitbit Flex or the Jawbone UP24 are fantastic for tracking general activity, they are not ideal for keeping track of your progress while engaging in exercise activities like running, biking, hiking and the like.

          Runtastic – Free for basic version, $4.99 for Pro (Available on all major mobile platforms)

          runtastic-app

            Runtastic is capable of tracking a host of physical activities and providing useful feedback. Runtastic maps your activity, provides a breakdown of your pace, allows you to easily challenge yourself or others using the app. Runtastic can also sync with your music library, so that you can listen to your workout playlist while still receiving informative and encouraging prompts from the app in the form of a coach that speaks to you through your headphones based on your personal preferences. You can even set a Powersong that the app will play when you need a boost. Overall the free version of the app provides some excellent features, but I think the Pro version is well worth the money.

            Don’t love Runtastic as much as we do, check out Runkeeper or Endomondo.

            While buying a couple of products and downloading some apps is not going to automatically transform you from Chris Farley to Channing Tatum, accurately tracking your activity level and progress might be just what you need to get off the couch and start improving your life. Check out this awesome article for 7 ways to sneak exercise into your busy schedule.

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            Last Updated on July 3, 2020

            How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

            How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

            Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life. To control your thoughts means to influence the way you live your life.

            Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affects your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality)

            I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive, and just a general waste of energy.

            You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

            Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Be someone who can control your thoughts—become the master of your mind.

            When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

            I currently have a few thoughts that are not of my choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

            Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

            Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in control of your thoughts.

            If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

            Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create unhealthy and unproductive thoughts.

            1. The Inner Critic

            This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

            • Other people’s words—many times your parents
            • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples’ expectations
            • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media
            • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

            The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance, and lack of self-love.

            Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is youwhy else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

            2. The Worrier

            This person lives in the future—in the world of “what ifs.”

            The Worrier is motivated by fear, which is often irrational and has no basis. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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            3. The Reactor or Troublemaker

            This is the one that triggers anger, frustration, and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

            This person can be set off by words or feelings and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

            The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control. He is run by past programming that no longer serves you—if it ever did.

            4. The Sleep Depriver

            This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

            The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

            • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
            • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
            • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity, and generalized anxiety
            • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

            How can you control these squatters?

            How to Master Your Mind

            You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You can control your thoughts, but you must pay attention to them so you can identify “who” is running the show—this will determine which technique you will want to use.

            Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

            There are two ways to control your thoughts:

            • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
            • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

            This second option is what is known as peace of mind.

            The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go-to” thoughts in applicable situations.

            Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

            1. For the Inner Critic

            When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

            You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

            For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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            You can also have a dialogue with yourself to discredit the ‘voice’ that created the thought—if you know whose voice it is:

            “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

            If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready.

            This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

            • They rile up the Worrier.
            • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
            • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
            • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
            • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

            Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

            Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

            2. For the Worrier

            Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

            Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind, and creates anxiety in the body. This may make it more difficult for you to control your thoughts effectively.

            You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

            • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
            • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
            • Muscles tense

            Use the above-stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time, you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

            If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

            Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

            “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

            Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense. Both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

            If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

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            Now, take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like! Do it until you feel that you’re close to being in control of your thoughts.

            Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

            For example: If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

            “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place.

            Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

            Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

            “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

            Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

            3. For the Troublemaker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

            Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers. But until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

            The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.

            I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

            Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds—just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

            Breathe in through your nose:

            • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
            • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
            • Focus on your belly rising.

            Breathe out through your nose:

            • Feel your lungs emptying.
            • Focus on your belly falling.
            • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

            Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now, you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior, and you’ll be more in control of your thoughts.

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            One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

            Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

            4. For the Sleep Depriver

            (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher, and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

            I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

            Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

            1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
            2. Then I came up with a replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

            When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and thoughts, and I choose quiet.

            From the first time I tried this method, I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

            For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (closed, of course). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

            If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

            You can also use this technique any time you want to:

            • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon
            • Shut down your thinking
            • Calm your feelings
            • Simply focus on the present moment

            The Bottom Line

            Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes.

            You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable, and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

            Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. You can be in control of your thoughts. The choice is yours!

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            Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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