Five Things You Must Have in Your Wellness Plan

Five Things You Must Have in Your Wellness Plan

One of the great paradoxes of modern life is that people generally accept that attainable goals will lead to success, yet so few have actionable plans to achieve these milestones. In fact, most people can wrap their heads around the belief that health, happiness and productivity are linked elements that point to a positive outcome - or good quality of life - yet do very little in the way of recognizing what must be overcome to reach these goals. It's a quite fascinating way to live, a take-it-as-it-comes formula for living, in that many of us have retirement plans, investment targets, career path ambitions and even plans for an annual summer vacation. Yet, few have personal wellness plans when it's readily accepted that Our Health is the most important thing in life ... or something to that effect.

Even corporations are investing more and more into wellness programs, making them a cornerstone in employee benefits packages that target lower absenteeism rates, higher job satisfaction and overall productivity to improved employee retention and lower health care costs. The desired outcomes tend to focus on specific goals and objectives, including smoking cessation, weight loss, obesity prevention, diabetes and blood pressure management, as well as personal health and safety practices like seat belt use, sleep hygiene and stress management. That's the good news, because beneath these trends the landscape becomes a bit murkier. According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder in 2016, 55% of U.S. workers feel they are overweight and roughly 44% of workers say they’ve gained weight in their current job. When asked what they felt contributed to their weight gain, 53% said “sitting at the desk most of the day,” 45% said they are “too tired from work to exercise,” and 36% of workers said “eating because of stress.”

This same CareerBuilder survey also revealed that, while 25% of the respondents had access to employer sponsored wellness benefits, including onsite workout facilities or out-of-location gym passes, 55% of this subset had not taken advantage of them. So clearly, the importance of wellness programs cannot be stated enough. Large corporations continue to invest time, energy and resources. Employees regard these programs of this kind as a significant benefit, but it is just as clear that participation and effectiveness have yet to reach optimal levels.

So what is it about wellness plans that many fail to register wide-scale interest? And how is it that as these plans continue to spread from business to business, employees - in general - have become more unhealthy from a statistical perspective? Well, the answer is nowhere near as complex as the body itself. 

Simply put, successful plans are built on actionable steps, not quantifiable results such as lower health care premiums or absenteeism rates. Those are tangential benefits which become significant highlights on a financial report or the Friday news from corporate communications, but they do not reflect wellness in the bigger picture. Therefore, this plan for wellness must entail something more basic yet pervasive if it is our objective. We might also find it valuable to consider what defines wellness before collecting data and designing pie charts, because wellness cannot be achieved without awareness and balance. Human beings are not machines and they cannot be evaluated with the same yardstick, whose broken parts can be repaired or replaced and who respond to some edict from the corporate office of semantics and actuarial measures.

We are all different, our systems require deeper analysis and our wellness plans should reflect that. Our path to wellness is an individual journey, a marriage of forces that are designed to find real balance in our everyday lives. As I have stated in my book, Life or Grave Danger?, healthy living and quality of life is a matter of achieving and maintaining balance - from our emotions to our physical and structural needs, from how we negotiate our work versus lifestyle ratio to how we resolve our bad habits and replace them with healthy ones. Wellness is a living, organic thing prone to the same evolutionary steps found in any personal relationship; so therefore, it must be altered in recognition of new information, enlightenment and further education. Again, we are not linear creations and this is why understanding balance is so critical, and the only way I know how to reach this promise is to begin with altering our mindsets first.

So while we should applaud any company that places a premium on employee health, we should also recognize that wellness is more journey than destination. Actual and total wellness is based on a harmony within each of us. Some will derive greater benefit from yoga or meditation, some will need to detoxify a system overridden with accumulated waste. Others have chemical imbalances affecting neurological or emotional balance. No two plans are identical, quite naturally, but they should focus on these five elements to improve on the odds for success:

The Plan is Practical and Portable - Make sure that your personal plan is built upon action and not results. Dump all of the "25 lb. weight-loss in 8 weeks" hysteria with enrichment seminars on financial health, stress management or work-life balance. Being portable means that your objectives are mobile, that they can travel with you on a business trip, and that the demands are lightweight and convenient. A wellness program that places additional stress on our already stressful lives is destined to fail. Keep it simple, stay flexible, be successful.

Your Work Environment Supports You - Let's not mince words here. Where we work and what work we do is unavoidable. Is healthy food brought in for mandatory meetings? Does the company allow for predictable breaks from your desk during each shift, especially if the work is stressful? Are there in-house workout programs that are openly supported by deeds and not just words? We spend a vast amount of each week in a workplace, and if the company does not support healthy alternatives, more than likely you will struggle to succeed.

Education and Progress are Vital - No wellness plan begins with all the required - if not, correct - information. Be prepared to adjust your plan in the recognition of new or valuable information. That also implies that we should actively challenge what we've acquired with deeper understanding of nutrition, exercise methods and health screenings to track our progress. Sponsored health screenings from pharmaceutical companies and third-party interests remain controversial, but if you are prepared to validate claims and recommendations these opportunities can be quite valuable.

Supplements over Cures - Always remember that your wellness plan is defined as restoring and maintaining balance. Whether that involves the use of nutritional supplements, sophisticated exercise equipment or a yoga mat, understand that your plan is more about the journey than a destination. You don't simply reach wellness one day based on a pulse rate, cholesterol screening or blood pressure result with your health care provider. Avoid the pitfalls and traps of the cure mentality that is out there in the marketplace. Only the body can cure itself, so be sure to align yourself with tools that assist in the pursuit of wellness and never chase cures.

Seek Mentorship and Build Communities - While our bodies have remarkable transformative powers, it is also important to remember that we are social creatures as well. Change can produce fear or anxiety, adding stress to our lives that is unwanted and can distract us from our goals. When we seek mentors to help direct us through the difficult first steps, we are in turn educating ourselves from the experience of others, building important communities that become support networks and setting the stage for others to be inspired by our journey. Strength is indeed found in numbers, so look for people who can advise you along the way and be prepared to build communities where experiences can be shared and exchanged.

At the end of the day, no doctor, no drug, no procedure or surgery has ever cured us of disease. In order to enjoy optimal wellness and experience a lasting state of mental, physical and emotional fitness, you alone must first accept responsibility your own healing by providing the body with all the tools it needs to restore itself. That begins with a plan and with the type of guidance, support and remedies that meet your individual challenges and obstacles that must be overcome.

You are not a statistic. You are a unique human being and your wellness plan needs to reflect that first.

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