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A three-dimensional approach to holistic wellbeing

Today’s healthcare tests us for everything. We get labelled with numbers related to weight, blood pressure & a host of other parameters related to physical health. However, holistic health (or integrated wellbeing) is much more than physical fitness. Our emotional, social, occupational and spiritual ‘fitness’ is as important to integrated wellbeing as physical health parameters.

These three pillars in the WELLNESS PRISM represent a wholesome, more holistic way to view health, especially at the workplace:

1. The organizational environment - An overlooked essential of wellbeing! A workplace characterized by humanity and a culture that imbibes compassion, trust, respect, and inspiration are conducive to wellbeing! Hundreds of studies conducted by pioneers of positive organizational psychology, including Jane Dutton and Kim Cameron at the University of Michigan and Adam Grant at Wharton, demonstrate that a culture characterized by a positive work culture leads to improved employee loyalty, engagement, performance, creativity, and productivity. Research also suggests that the most powerful way in which leaders/organizations can improve wellbeing is not through programs and initiatives but through day-to-day actions. Leadership support, autonomy, a sense of psychological safety on the team, fairness and challenging, meaningful work are some ways in which leaders and organizations can enhance wellbeing. For example, one Fortune 500 corporation in the Bay Area has a system in place whereby the CEO is immediately informed if an employee comes down with a major illness or has experienced a personal tragedy. Within 15 minutes, no matter how busy he is, the CEO makes time to call that person and offer his support.

2. Lifestyle - Tons of caffeine, less sleep, late hours, sedentary lifestyles, and using alcohol/cigarettes as coping mechanisms - unfortunately, this has now become the norm! Hundreds of research studies have validated that our lifestyle impacts not only physical health, but also our mood, ability to regular emotions, resilience, and much more! For instance – we all know of caffeinated and tired friends/colleagues who, after hours of wakeful slumber, struggle to recall simple facts, seem disengaged and uninspired, lack patience with others, and can’t think through problems or reach clear-cut decisions. This lack of sleep (or sleeping through the day and working through the night) automatically activates the sympathetic nervous system keeping us in the ‘fight or flight’ mode much longer than the ‘rest and digest’ mode. From there on it’s a downward spiral - activation of the sympathetic nervous system leads to shrinking prefrontal cortex, disturbs hormone production by the endocrine system, higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels and lower serotonin (wellbeing hormone) levels! How is it possible to remain ‘well’, support others, collaborate, flourish or perform (consistently) in this condition?

3. Wellbeing behaviours - Ever wondered why some people remain calm no matter what the situations, whilst others get nervous at the slightest provocation? Our inherent dispositions could play a role here. The good news, however, is that ‘wellbeing behaviours’ can be developed! For instance, you may not naturally have high levels of resilience, but it is possible to leverage simple tools and techniques to enhance resilience! We live and work in cultures that reward grit and hard work – of course, these are essential components of success, however, when we let go of compassion towards ourselves and others, begin to feel exhausted and de-prioritize being ‘human’ or taking time out to pursue any other passion, is it really worth it? In my experience, cultivating the right relationship with oneself and striving to imbibe wellbeing behaviours automatically leads to the right decisions about lifestyle and ecosystem. Think about it – we’re more likely to indulge in ‘emotional eating’ when we’re frustrated with either ourselves or others. We’re also more likely to accept (and sometimes create) toxic environments (at home or work) when we are don’t ‘feel’ positive!

At work (and in life), working on the discipline of the right lifestyle, practising being mindful through adopting wellbeing behaviours (like self-compassion, altruism, gratitude, optimism and resilience), and choosing (or creating) an organizational ecosystem conducive to high wellbeing can make all the difference!

THE GOOD NEWS – none of this is rocket science. ALL it takes is awareness and execution. Remember, it’s always a good idea to implement a good idea!

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