H-Town Run Tourist's Guide to Mental Health

Feel like a kid again with community art

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Last week, I gave my 9 recommendations to de-stressing. Because mindfulness has to be practiced every day, this week, I decided to try Hack #9 "Try Something New.". Because one of my super-powers is being at the right place at the right time, I just so happened to know of a community art project with some big time local artists.

Nicola Parente and Tami Moschioni, founders of Art Uniti, are creating a new art project and needed help. I have helped on community art projects before. My tourists and I worked closely with artist Carol Simon on "First Ward is Blooming." We painted up-cycled water bottles and cut them up like flowers. It was a perfect way to chill out after work. The project took 9 months to finish and when we did, we were all proud of our "flower garden." I had been looking for a new one since and I finally found it.

Houstonians' gifts of creativity.

Author's own

We met at the Baker Ripley Leonel Castillo Community Center in Near North Houston. I was so happy that 20 of my tourists came to help. Nicola briefs everyone first:

"This community project is called Snapshot. It is a permanent installation made of steel that will perfectly frame the view of downtown Houston. There will be a spot to stand and take your selfie with the perfectly framed skyline behind you. Hence, the name Snapshot. The frame will be sitting on top of a pedestal covered with tile designs. That is where you come in. Each one of you has a setting in front of you and a bowl of tiles. You are free to design anyway you want, just stay in the lines."

It was heads down as everyone set to making their tile designs. I decided to do a Blue Tile design to depict the first street signs of Houston. You know the ones that are found on the curbs. It seemed like a breeze until my fingers got too big.

The Taylor Family spending some quality time together.

Author's own

I listened to the conversations being had. Everyone talked about when they were kids and how they loved to paint and color. Everyone was asking questions about the person next to them. The children, in the room, were all of a sudden treated like the authorities on creativity. But, not one was talking about bills or gossip. Mission accomplished. That is exactly what I wanted.

Mother and daughter, Bobby and Rachel had a gloomy week and felt inspired and uplifted while working on their tiles. Rachel was stressed about her pre-calculus final and wanted to spend time with her mom. Gillian and Tracey moved here a few months ago. Gillian works from home and sometimes can get lonely and Tracey travels a lot for work. Both were excited to do something different and get out.

Artists Nicola Parente and Tami Moschioni hold a mock-up of Snapshot.

Author's own

Now, I bet you are thinking "What is Art Uniti?" Nicola feels that being creative is a huge component to mental health. It makes him happier and he wanted to share it with others. Because they know how important art is, Tami and Nicola founded Art Uniti to let the community get involved in creating the public art around Houston. The community is able to gift their art to the city with the help of respected artists like Tami and Nicola. Snapshot is the fifth project from Art Uniti. Maybe you've seen these projects around the city: Community Quilt at Kroger at Riverstone Sugarland, Color Bursting in Hermann Park, and Scaped Senses across from Moody Park. Unfortunately, community involvement on Snapshot is closed, but I will definitely keep you posted about new projects.

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

If you are anything like me, you love the beginning of the year. You check all the running calendars and pick out all your races for the year. You go to the local running store and buy your new shoes. You even get a pair of new socks to go with them. You download some music....to get ready for your first run of the season. You get to the park and put your feet on the cinder path. You about a quarter of a mile in......and you run out of steam. You are just not as motivated as you thought. I know I'm not the only one. Because I made it my job to motivate you I have created a short list of things that can motivate you quickly.

Nothing like good tunes on the open road.

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Music

This sounds like the obvious answer. Of course music is motivating. When was the last time that your heard a song and really felt it? Like, you really got it. When I trained for the Houston marathon in 2008, I was really feeling Refugee by Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers. I had come off of a rough patch and I was ready to move forward. Tom, singing his heart out with, "You don't have to live like a refugee." just resonated with me because I knew that I was not going back to that. I got to acknowledge the hardship, recognize that it was significant and that it was over and agree to move on. This leads me to my training for the 2009 Honolulu Marathon. No Drama by Mary J. Blige was the song. I decided to actively "allow no more drama in my life." Those songs got me through training and the finish line.

Who is your favorite superhero?

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Your favorite Superhero.

My favorite thing to do when I run is to pretend that I have superhuman strength and abilities. I imagine myself in different scenarios overcoming odds and doing super cool things just for the hell of it. Because running did not come naturally for me, it felt like I needed superhuman powers to get through a run. It really seemed to fit. Here are a couple of superheroes who have always done it for me:

The Juggarnaut: Because once he gets started and gains momentum, he cannot be stopped. Not by rain or a heavy wind blowing against him or a slow and steady incline that never seems to end.

The Wolverine: He heals fast. It you have a cramp, a sprain, a pull, or your legs, toes, or feet are hurting, you can be the Wolverine and it will heal in about 10 secs.

The Phoenix: The bad thing about the Phoenix is that there is nothing that she can't do so, for this exercise, you have to be specific. This helps me take my mind off of pain and think about something I like to call "micro impossibilities." If the concrete of the road is bothering your joints, you could imagine that you are the Phoenix and that you can change your drops of sweat into a path that you can run on instead of the concrete. And everyone knows that running on sweat is great for your joints!

Live oaks look like lightening.

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Nature

Nature has a lot of things to glean inspiration from. I am obsessed with fractal patterns. Fractal patterns are reoccurring patterns in nature. They signify how things start from a small seed, grows and replicates. They are the natural order of things and a great example of why science is so cool and how and why you can count on it every single time.

They make me think about all the possibilities that are out there and how everything is connected. Live oaks are native to Houston. Have you ever noticed that the trunk and branches of a live oak tree look exactly like lightning. I see a row of live oaks and I think of a thunder storm because it looks just like that. I makes me think of having a brainstorm. I always ask myself: What else do I have up there? See how this works. Flowers and leaves are great for this too.

If you are on your next run and you are starting to run out of gas or feel pain, remember to look up, look down, and definitely don't forget to look inside yourself. You will find yourself at the finish line.

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