Which Wearable Works Best for You?

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Fitbits, FuelBands, Jawbones: We’ve all heard of them, but do you really know how to use them? Or even what they are?

All of the above are just a few examples of different types of wearables, or technology pieces that serve a variety of functions, ranging from monitoring heart rate to playing music. In this case, these are all activity trackers, which are watches that track, well, your activity.

This can be useful for monitoring how many calories you burn, steps you take, and  what your heart rate is. They are especially useful if you’re trying to get in better shape, because you get information on your progress right there on your wrist! You can even wear some of them to sleep and wake up with a little report on what your night was like – how often you were restless, when you were in deep sleep, when exactly you woke up.

Basically, activity trackers are simply a great way to give you feedback on your own body.  Sounds good, right? If you need some help deciding which of the main fitness wearables is best for you, have no fear: here is a roundup of the top performers and why they might be the watch for you!

Fitbit:

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Probably the most popular of the activity trackers, there are 8 different models to choose from in a range of prices and functions.

Actually, their website has a test you can take to see which one matches your needs most. I have the Charge HR, which is primarily different from some of the others because it monitors your heart rate (hence the HR part), and I absolutely love it.

While I don’t always remember to charge it and sometimes forget to put it on in the morning, whenever I do wear it I love looking at the data. With just a quick push of a button, I’m reminded that I’ve only taken 2,000 steps today – a full 8,000 under the recommended 10,000 to take a day. When I’m exercising, it’s a great motivator to be able to look down and see how many calories you’re burning.

Though some spring for the pricey Fitbit Blaze ($250), for people on a tighter budget, the Charge is just as good and definitely less costly. Plus, it now comes in pink – a great gift for Mother’s Day.

Price: $59.95 – $249.95

Tip: This applies to all activity trackers, not just the Fitbit, but the prices vary significantly from store to store. Definitely shop around before purchasing one!

FuelBand:

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This sleek device, just like a Fitbit, is worn on your wrist and tracks your activity. How it differs: Whereas the Fitbit is great for even the most sedentary of people, the Nike+ FuelBand really kicks it up a notch.

First you determine your daily goal for what you want to accomplish that day, and then the FuelBand tracks your progress – whether it’s running, playing basketball, or walking – and changes colors from red to green throughout the day, giving you an idea of what your progress has been.

From what I’ve heard from people who have them, one of the biggest draws to the FuelBand is this very visual reminder of your activity levels. Because of the way the Nike+ Fuel app is set up, every day seems like a competition with yourself – but in the most positive way possible! Just note that you will need a smartphone in order to most effectively use a Fuelband, as it works in tandem with an app.

Price: $149.99

Jawbone:

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The fitness tracker Jawbone Up has 4 different options, of which the most acclaimed is the Jawbone UP2. Though it first came out awhile ago, this activity wearable is still very popular.

Why? Because at just under $100, it’s cheaper than some of the others on the market, but without losing any of the quality. It tracks both sleep and steps, as well as monitoring calories burned. It’s also unobtrusive and easy to use; it doesn’t have any buttons or a screen, so you switch between active or sleep mode with just a tap.

Although it doesn’t monitor heart rate, one advantage it does have is a “smart” alarm. This can be set before you go to bed so that the Jawbone UP2 wakes you up during a lighter stage of your rest in the morning, which is helpful for waking up feeling refreshed rather than restless.

Like with all of these fitness trackers, it’s unfortunately not waterproof, but it is considered water resistant: a definite plus for those of us (I’m not pointing fingers!) who may sweat a lot.

Price: $49.99 – $199.99

There are plenty of other options out there on the market, but these are the basics of the major three activity trackers. If you’re interested in others, this article is a really useful tool to help you decide.

Whichever one you choose, know that you’re one step closer to reaching your 10,000 step goal. And if you need any advice on how to take all of those steps, hope this helps!

Blogger Katie U., a SmartPerks employee, all too often forgets to charge her Charge HR. Don’t let it happen to you!

 

 

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I have kept a journal since I first learned to write, somewhere around the first or second grade. So the idea that anyone would find it difficult to write just a few sentences a day is incomprehensible to me.

I cannot force anyone to write daily. But I can shout from the roof tops why I think it is the prescription for a healthier and happier life.

Author Pat Conroy said, in his book My Reading Life, “Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.”

Journaling is not only your live-action autobiography, it can be a useful tool to help you accomplish any number of goals. From training for a race to losing weight, over-coming a personal struggle to achieving your goals, your journal is whatever you make of it.

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These colorful journals from Flow magazine range in subject from How to Slow Down to Fresh New Beginnings.

Maybe you’ve heard of Oprah Winfrey’s Gratitude Journal? Each day writing down something or someone in your life you are thankful for? This simple task is a common suggestion for coping with depression.

Or if you are dealing with grief or a loss, a journal is a safe place to let all of your emotions flow freely without filter or judgment. Your journal can be a place to remember your loved one every day, which can bring enormous comfort.

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Art Journal from Somerset Life, Volume 10, Issue 1

Many doodlers and artists alike keep fun, funky and fabulous art journals with elaborate drawings and water colors, mixed-media fabric scraps, art papers, and embellishments. They’re stunning.

For me, my journal is sanity-saving. The very act of putting pen to paper gives me an immediate feeling of calm.

I like ruled pages. My collection of leather-bound Moleskine notebooks is vast. I have one in virtually every color, and I get a certain thrill opening a new one and seeing those blank pages in front of me.

I write stream-of-consciousness style, with no attention paid to self-editing. Just pouring the contents of my overactive mind out onto the page. Nothing is off-limits. I write everything from the mundane details of everyday life, “the commute was beautiful, with the sun rising all blue and pink over the frozen lake, and The Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ on the radio” to my struggles with anxiety, or progress on achieving my goals as an amateur photographer.

I tell family stories. Some days when I’m feeling nostalgic, I can devote pages to my favorite memories of my grandparents.

In the summer I detail my garden endeavors, birds at my feeder, progress on home renovations, and my ongoing struggle with finding and fitting into a swimsuit that doesn’t make me feel like a dancing hippo at the circus. My journal is the place where I hold myself accountable. Tracking how well I’m doing on sticking to a diet (Two cupcakes? Really? Did you need that second cupcake?) And also, where I rally myself after a setback.

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Love this glue pen for adding quotes to my journals.

I can talk myself down or build myself up. I like to glue motivational messages inside my journals. Or use little doo-dads, stickers or Post-Its. With the popularity of Smash Books, a journal/scrapbook hybrid, you can find all kinds of cool little embellishments to add to your journal.

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These cute sticky notes and pockets are fun additions to your journal.

It’s January. A blank slate. A fresh new chapter in your life. You don’t need to invest in anything fancy. Paper and a pen. That’s all it takes. Your journal can be whatever you make it. Simple to elaborate. Regardless, you’ll find it can be a powerful tool to create change in your life, or to provide you with peace.

What are you waiting for?

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 Blogger Melanie Bisson, a Smart Perks employee, could fill a POD storage unit with all of her journals. She’ll never go digital.

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves: The Best Motivational Reads for Women

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“It’s a man’s world.” Etta James

Well, at least it used to be when it came to the genre of self-improvement books.

The concept of a written guide for readers on solving personal problems has been around since the pyramids. Some of the mid to late 20th Century classics, books like Dale Carnegie’s 1936 confidence-boosting classic, How to Win Friends & Influence People,  Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, and Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are still widely read today. I know I use many of Covey’s strategies to keep my life on track.

12188169_1251257811567054_8247993140834606883_oOne of the most powerful books on coping with great loss, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Harold Kushner, holds a place of honor on my book shelf.

But up until the last 15 years or so, it was definitely a man’s world, and I didn’t personally connect with these authors as individuals who could really empathize with my unique experiences, as a trusted friend or confidante.

According to Psychology Today, one of the most important factors in any good self-help book is “the author’s ability to connect with you as though you are in a relationship, to communicate understanding and compassion,” and for me anyway, to feel a recognition, a feeling of “You get me, you really get me.” Or, “I get you.” In the parlance of social media, you’re part of my tribe, or “squad”.

10897052_1251257844900384_7545959439673354695_nThat’s how I feel about Liz Gilbert, the best-selling author of Eat, Pray Love and The Signature of All Things. I call her Liz, because simply by having read her books, and following her on Facebook, I feel like we are the best of besties. I know her. Her posts are a daily treat that I indulge in – guilt free. It’s a conversation where she writes thought-provoking, motivational messages in a letter to us, her “Dear Friends”. And she responds to many commenters. Who does that? I want her to come to my house for the holidays.

Eat, Pray, Love was a memoir/travelogue/inspirational novel, and The Signature of All Things, an epic work of fiction, is Gilbert’s homage to fearless, bold, ambitious, intelligent, curious women; family; love; history and botany. But her latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, was probably the most motivational, joy-affirming, “stop with the excuses  and live your dreams” book I’ve ever read (as you can probably tell by all the Post-Its I used to mark up my favorite passages).

Big Magic isn’t just for writers, artists, and starry-eyed dreamers. It’s a book for anyone who wants to break out of the rigid confines of grown-up life, with all its expectations and restraints. Gilbert proclaims that you don’t have to quit your day job to live a creative life. She didn’t. She leads by example. The other day at the bookstore, I accosted a woman when I saw her pick up Big Magic and put it back down. I told her, “You MUST get that book! You’ll LOVE IT! It’s a quick read because of Liz’s conversational style, I don’t know if you’re a writer, because if you are, you have to have to own it. But even if you’re not, you’re just looking for a creative outlet in your life, something that feeds your soul – then you need this book. If you’re into crafts, or ice skating, or photography, you’ll feel like your best friend is giving you the best pep talk ever.” Needless to say, the woman was probably a little frightened to put the book back. (Note to Liz’s Publicist: Not that she needs the help, but I’m available to stalk book stores and drum up sales).

I felt the same way the first time I heard author Brené Brown’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability. She is sooooo intensely relatable. If you haven’t watched this 20-minute video, give yourself a gift and watch it.

12196186_1251257838233718_9001777228001757311_nHow many times have you heard the debate about whether a woman can or can’t have it all? How many times have you felt the pressure to do everything, and to do it perfectly, and then felt shame when you fell short? Have you either not done a thing, or found yourself paralyzed to do a thing, because you were afraid it wouldn’t be JUST RIGHT? After watching Brené’s Ted Talk three years ago, I bought every book of hers I could get my hands on, including The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. The book teaches us to stop being so hard on ourselves, and understand the difference between “healthy-striving and perfectionism.” Brené talks about how perfectionism paralyzes us, “because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect.” Just think of “all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing.” She talks not only about the “power of vulnerability”, but also the power of shame, of being judged, or blamed. Read everything she’s written! But start with the Ted Talk and this book first.

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So you’re already pretty happy with your life? That is awesome. But what if you could be even happier? Not “Pollyanna Slap-Happy”. But what if using the wisdom of the ages, and in a fun, “what have I got to lose, I’m already happy” kind-of way, you could challenge yourself to focus on giving some thought to and making some simple adjustments to one area of your life, each month, for a year? That’s exactly what Gretchen Rubin did, and she chronicled her findings in the book, The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. 

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Cheryl Strayed (New book, Brave Enough, YAY!), Oprah, Alexandra Stoddard, Marie Kondo, Karen Salmansohn (follow her on Facebook and Instagram for daily inspirational posters!) – there are so many women out there who speak to me and inspire me. I could go on. But instead, I want to share a famous quote from inspirational author Marianne Williamson that has guided me for almost two decades now:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I hope whether you read any of these books for yourself, you continue to make your life better every single day.

Blogger Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee, is giddy with optimism and trying her best to live a creative life.