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Wellbeing: A Holistic Approach to Health

Posted By Alliance of Community Health Plans, Friday, October 27, 2017
Updated: Friday, October 27, 2017

What if there was a way to think more positively, be more productive at work and build stronger relationships? Enhancing your wellbeing could be the key.

Wellbeing is a measure of how you feel you’re doing mentally, physically and spiritually.

It’s made up of the six elements below — which are also depicted in this fun video:

  1. Career: Enjoying how you occupy your time; liking what you do every day
  2. Financial: Managing and planning your personal finances effectively to avoid stress
  3. Physical and mental: Being in good health and having enough energy to get things done each day
  4. Social and interpersonal: Having strong, positive relationships in your life
  5. Community: Having a sense of engagement with the areas where you live and work
  6. Emotional: Being resilient; able to handle everyday stresses


Research shows that wellbeing boosts creativity, collaboration and contributes to a culture that helps people thrive. It also boosts productivity and is directly tied to a highly-engaged and high-performing workforce. Business and health care leaders are moving toward this holistic approach to address mental health, emotional connection and opportunities to thrive. Communities, businesses and policymakers are also seeing the benefits and getting on board the movement.

Strengthening your wellbeing takes work — fortunately, there are organizations that are here to help.

Two nonprofit, regional health plans are helping people fight stress, improve relationships, manage mental health and access the tools to stay healthy.  

In Minnesota, HealthPartners is working to change the way people think. Emotional resilience helps you combat stress and bounce back after a difficult event, but it takes practice. An eight-week, online program, Beating the Blues helps participants build skills that lead to healthier thinking — offering tips on how to identify negative thoughts and replace them with positive feelings and behaviors. The program is FREE for HealthPartners members and patients. Of the more than 5,000 people who have taken the course, more than 90 percent found the program to be helpful in their work and personal lives.

Through their WELLfluent campaign, Florida-based AvMed is helping people focus on the things that matter most — health, happiness, and a balance of mind, body and soul. AvMed fosters access to diverse and personalized programs to help all community members achieve a balanced life. This includes supporting activities like bike shares, road races and programs to get kids moving; social connections, entertainment and learning opportunities for seniors; rewards for healthy behavior; access to care management programs for health support; and through a mobile pantry, healthy food options in areas that need them most.

While we often put physical health first, diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to strengthen our total wellbeing. All the elements of wellbeing work together to help you realize your full potential. By going beyond just the physical, strengthening your wellbeing could help you lead a healthier and happier life.

To learn more, click here.

The Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) is a national leadership organization bringing together innovative health plans and provider groups that are among America’s best at delivering affordable, high-quality coverage and care.

Tags:  emotional resilience  wellbeing 

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Probiotics – Are the Health Benefits Real or Hype?

Posted By By Rechà Bullock, Friday, October 20, 2017

Most people do not realize the importance of gut health. However, when you learn that 80 percent of our immune system relies on our gut health, then we can put the importance of gut health into perspective. As an example, if you catch a cold very easily or have bouts of tummy aches with diarrhea, have consistent eczema, psoriasis, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may really benefit from taking a daily probiotic.

Learning which probiotic is best for you is important, as is understanding the important ingredients to look for in a probiotic due to the number of products on the market. I have provided a list below of what to look for when purchasing a probiotic.

Probiotics offer some really good health benefits that many of us should take advantage of to help us boost our immune system. Daily consumption of probiotic supplements or fermented foods allows for balancing good and bad bacteria which helps us digest our food and keep our gut healthy and strong.

Fermented foods are probiotic sources that you can eat if you want to avoid the expense associated with taking a daily probiotic supplement. However, the problem with eating fermented foods is most people do not eat enough fermented foods regularly to receive the beneficial gut health protections needed to keep our gut healthy. 

Fermentation is simply a process used to break down the enzymes in foods to allow for live cultures or organisms to thrive and support our gut flora or bacteria and immune system. If you would like to consume foods that support your gut health without taking a probiotic supplement look for fermented foods with “live” cultures like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchee, pickled vegetables, salsa, miso (only unpasteurized), kombucha tea, kefir, and yogurt with live cultures (that has less than 16 grams of sugar). In order to reap the benefits of fermented foods, you must make certain you carefully read the word “live” cultures or “live” food on the label. Also, you should try to aim to eat a variety fermented foods, so that you can get a variety of different strains to support your gut health and immune system. 

If all of this sounds way too complicated for you to add to the mix of your life, I hear you. That’s why I like to take a daily probiotic pill to help make certain I am consistently providing my gut with healthy bacteria to support my immune system. Since there are so many probiotics on the market, let’s get straight to what ingredients are needed in a probiotic to make it a worthwhile investment. As mentioned above, consuming a variety of strains is the best option for promoting a healthy gut. A probiotic in a pill form is no different. 

A great probiotic should contain at least 10 different strains, with the most important ingredients being Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium Lactis, Bifidobacterium Longum, Bifidobacterium Infantis, Bifidobacterium Bifudum, Lactobacillus Helveticus, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Streptococcus Thermophilus, and Enterococcus Faecium. When shopping for a probiotic, you will most likely find them in a health food store in the refrigerated section due to the live cultures which need to be kept cool. However, there are some probiotics that work well that do not require refrigeration.

When purchasing a probiotic aim for a formula that allows for a slow or delayed release into your small intestine and one that has 5 to 50 billion microorganisms or cells, which will be clearly presented on the box or bottle. Since live cultures do not live long, make certain you pay attention to the best by date prior to purchasing a probiotic.

Finally, make certain you purchase a brand that does not add unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients like food coloring or chemical fillers. I like to purchase vegetarian-based probiotics. If you decide to take a probiotic and also have chronic health conditions, make certain you talk to your doctor. Especially, since supplements are not regulated by the FDA and some supplements can cause adverse reactions with some medications. 

Be well. 

Disclosure Statement
*Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 
**If you take medication for chronic conditions, you should consult your doctor prior to taking any supplements. 

Sources:, Gut Microbiota and Bacterial Translocation in Digestive Surgery: The Impact of Probiotics., Retrieved on July 17, 2017., Probiotics in Digestive Diseases: Focus on Lactobacillus GG., Retrieved on July 17, 2017., It’s More Than a Gut Feeling.

Rechà Bullock is a Certified Wellness Practitioner, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, Health Coach, Yoga Teacher (200-RYT), public health professional, and plant-based foodie. Her passion for health and wellness comes from a lifelong love of fitness, health, nutrition, yoga, and a desire to help people transform their health by eating foods that are nutrient rich.

Rechà's goal is to provide information to help people make food choices that are healthier for them and their families. "We cannot afford to continue to purchase and consume foods that are at odds with our health, such as genetically modified foods, steroids, antibiotics, artificial ingredients, and processed sugars." 

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The Audacity of Wholeness and the Evolution of the National Wellness Institute

Posted By Joel Bennett, PhD, Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fragmentation of man into areas over which various groups struggle appears to be nonsensical... Harmony can come to pass only when each special interest group realizes that it cannot have a monopoly over a particular area of the nature of man.




This article is written by Joel Bennett, PhD, by invitation from the staff at National Wellness Institute (NWI). And this invitation is now extended to all others— to you — to share your own ideas, truths, or opinion. To submit your own article or blog, or respond to this one, please do so here. Your voice matters!


Let us pause right there. This is an invitation.




In its truest form, well-being is and has always been an invitation to wholeness. The National Wellness Institute was founded in 1977 on the basis of this invitation to wholeness. Every conference has invited wellness students, professionals, friends (and often, family) to show up BOTH as a professional and as a person seeking health, renewal, and community. This invitation to wholeness – combining professional advancement with personal growth – is unparalleled in a field that is increasingly subject to forces of fragmentation. Indeed, a hallmark of NWI’s identity is inclusiveness both within (self) and without (community).


We can forget this most simple and basic truth: that well-being is and has always been an invitation to wholeness. We cannot force, cajole, incentivize, or otherwise manipulate someone to be well. We can, instead, set up the conditions, role model, inspire, and compassionately guide or nudge others to get in touch with their own sense of wholeness.


well-being is and has always been an invitation to wholeness


When we treat wellness as a commercial endeavor, a product, or a commodity, we communicate — often unwittingly — that an external agent will fix things (i.e., outside of us: a pill, a regimen, a diet, an app). This “romance of the fix or the rescue” is quite compelling, given great strides in the sciences of treatment, medicine and pharmacology. These are wonderful advances; many have been helped and lives have been saved as a result. At the same time, these sciences can tend to reduce human beings to those parts – biological, psychological, etc. — that are the targets of treatment. As a result, we often end up with a fragmented view of our human being. Wholeness is left behind.


The Audacity of Wholeness

The NWI staff invitation came after the 2017 facilitated “Key Note” presentation and workshop I helped with, titled “The Audacity of Wholeness: Self-reflection and Dialogue in Six Dimensions”. 


You can download the entire slide-deck for this presentation here.


You can access the audio presentation through the NWI conference store, hereThe Audacity of Wellness presentation product code is 201714156.


Here is the basic idea behind the audacity of wholeness:


Society and our upbringing can sanction or otherwise attempt us to identify with ONLY one idea, code, group, tribe, religion, or paradigm. These attempts often come from a tribal loyalty or family-centered dictate to “guard our secrets” and can lead to a myopic, fragmented view of our self, our health, and of others — e.g., “us versus them” or “either-or thinking” or “political polarization” or “in-group versus out group” or “my way or the highway,” etc. In the wake of such, it takes a certain boldness and vitality to go against social expectations. When everyone else is taking sides, it is audacious to promote unity. When everyone else is being negative, it is audacious to be positive. When everyone else is touting one “wellness fix” against another, it is audacious to embrace multiple solutions. When everyone else rejects the outsider, it is audacious to welcome the stranger. (Take That! You Xenophobes!)


Other sources on Positive Audacity:

The Seven Traits of Positive Audacity (Spirituality & Health Article)

Nineteen Tips on Social Wholeness



Part 2: The Evolution of National Wellness Institute


It Starts with Story. At a primal level, the invitation to wholeness is really an invitation to tell, embrace, and share in the story of our own becoming. In the 2017 key-note facilitation, we emphasized the dual importance of personal story and tribal authenticity. I was honored to hear other NWI members present a part of their own very personal journeys toward wholeness. These co-presenters were Hailey Hoepner, Michele Mariscal, Emily Brainerd, Lisa Medley, and Danielle Burrell. They spoke about intimacy, grief, overcoming perfection, dealing with the trauma of racism, and embracing the wisdom of mind-body-soulfulness. Again, you can listen to them here.


The importance of story was also reflected in a visuo-poetic interview we did with Elaine Sullivan, who was the first female NWI board member. You can watch that here:




The bottom line message of this work is this: Our story cannot be separate from the challenges that surround us. We absolutely need to stop talking AT each other and start sharing with each other. Our healing starts with sharing stories in a safe community that honors wholeness and inclusiveness. And this invitation is also one to have fun in the process. Our previous past President, Meg Jordan, shared about this as well (see here).


You cannot succeed in one department of life while cheating on another, life is an indivisible whole

— Gandhi

The Root of the NWI Story. I believe that the break from wholeness is a break from our deep, ancestral roots and from the natural recognition that humanity is one living and evolving unity.  And that, really, we are all — alone and together — being sent an INVITATION to recover and redeem that wholeness.




Imagine that you are being sent this invitation now.


Remember.  All three of these words have the same etymological root: Holy, Whole, and Health. In the old English (Halig, Hǽlþ, Hal).


Over the past 40 years, this common root, this vibration, or tri-source fountain has helped drive the growth and evolution of the National Wellness Institute and conference. Without my even asking, over the years that I have been coming to the conference, I will hear different participants tell me.

“This feels like coming home”

“I now come here for vacation time”

“This is the only place where I can be both myself and also learn as a professional”

“The connections I make here, the friendships, last a life-time”

Of course, not everyone says this. But, there is something in the genetics of NWI that gives rise to this experience of coming home.

How NWI is Evolving. From my limited perspective, with the data I have at hand, I believe that the National Wellness Institute has evolved—or, rather, is evolving—across five different phases. I call them phases rather than stages because I believe that NWI is still evolving, mutating, organically moving forward and backward and is currently faced with many challenges. But this is what it means to be healthy: organic, resilient, changeable, vital, open.


Phase 1: The Foundation - Embracing the Six Dimensions


Phase 2: Belonging - Emergence of Communities


Phase 3: Inclusion - Embracing Multi-Cultural Values


Phase 4: Intimacy - Empowering Membership


Phase 5: Transformation - The Emergent School



During the facilitated key-note, participants were asked to complete the wholeness exercise AND share their experience with others.

Both steps (internal reflection and safe sharing) are key.

As part of this exercise, participants watched this message from Howie Mandel.

Please feel free to share these instructions with others.


  1. Download and Complete the Wholeness Reflection Exercise
  2. Share the exercise with a friend or colleague
  3. Watch the video of Howie Mandel and ask your friend to do so as well
  4. Take turns sharing your thoughts


Use the Reflection Exercise to guide your conversation


Here is what participants said about the exercise:

“This opened my eyes to re-looking at where I am both professionally and personally”

“I will use this worksheet to help participant see that programs are more than just fitness plans”

“The idea of wholeness is awesome and the key to wellness”


Phase 1: The Foundation - Embracing the Six Dimensions. With the six dimensions of wellness — Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Occupational, Spiritual, Social – NWI established the call to personal and professional wholeness as an integral part of its mission and identity. Despite the wider culture’s tendency to associate wellness with the physical (often cardiovascular health and fitness), NWI said we are so much more than just physical health and, also, that each aspect influences other aspects. Now that is audacious!


This means that some people join NWI for one aspect — often to learn new science around fitness — and come to realize that emotions or soulfulness or intimacy are a lot more important than their previous learning allowed. More often, they knew this all along. They just needed permission to bring their full self into the framework (haven?) of a professional conference.


Phase 2: Belonging - Emergence of Communities. Over time, these individuals — coming from different affinities for different dimensions — socialized and interacted with each other. While this happened, the Force of Wellness started making its way into the culture through different sub-communities. This included, but was not limited to: Workplace Wellness; Personal Health Coaching; Academic/Educational Wellness Curriculum; Alternative & Integrative Health or Mind-Body Medicine; Clinical/Nursing and Allied Health Wellness; Community Health and Prevention; and Human Resources/Insurance. If you don’t identify with any of these groups, that is actually well and good! The message from NWI is “Start Your Own Community!” For example, over the years there have been sessions and events for Men’s Wellness, Women’s Wellness, Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi, etc...


Phase 3:Inclusion - Embracing Multi-Cultural Values. How can one be whole in a society that promotes prejudice, racism, and discrimination? As NWI has evolved from a foundation of multi-dimensional wellness to multi-dimensional community, I think it sent a strong message that attracted wellness professionals from many different races, ethnicities, gender identities, cultures, and nationalities. And from this message, NWI has grown its own Multicultural Competency Committee, with sessions, webinars, and conference tracks helping us to recognize the importance of inclusion. The Multicultural Wellness Wheel© was branded by NWI in 2016. This tool is a vibrant map of our humanity and a device to help us remember who we might otherwise forget in our broader wellness efforts.


Phase 4: Intimacy - Empowering Membership. In 2015 and 2016, NWI launched an extensive national survey of wellness professionals (members and non-members) with the help of staff member, Christina Petersen, and myself. As we dug into the data, we learned that one of the key drivers of interest in NWI is networking and connections, even local geographical connections. While the conference has been a mainstay “space” where people first meet, many people continue to meet, network, and enjoy long-term professional friendships outside of the conference. In other words, the conference as an event is really just a manifestation of a deeper need to have intimacy and connection. It is apparent that wellness professionals really understand both the social aspect (of the six dimensions) and the community aspect (of the Multicultural Wellness Wheel©) of wellness. They seek to embody this as NWI members who move toward thriving at social levels. As a result of this survey, last year we launched “The Wellness Connect” as a way for members and friends to get together locally. Below are some example of this and we just had our first event internationally in the Phillippines, with Marco Escareal.


Phase 5: Transformation - The Emergent School. This phase is, to me, the implicit or “inner” community of NWI—and one that is the most difficult to grasp. In the keynote, I summarized all the previous phases as follows, saying that “Yes. We come to wholeness through the dimensions, through community, through inclusion, and through intimacy. At the same time, each of us is MORE than any of those.” In other words:


I am not any dimension


I am not my community


I am not my cultural identity


I am not my national identity


Instead, what if THE INVITATION was encouraging us to evolve. What if we were really evolving into some system that represents wholeness to the rest of the world, and attracts like-minded learners/seekers who: a) wish to master their craft, b) embody personal wholeness through their work (livelihood), and c) merge these together.


At one-level, NWI can be seen as a resting place for a “meta-society” of wellness or well-being change agents who really get that their professional work and personal transformation have to go hand-in-hand. This idea is not new. The idea that a society could evolve that would reflect on itself in order to promote truth, goodness, health, and beauty has been called The New Humanity (Meher Baba), A Meta-society (Oscar Ichazo), Integral Society or Panarchy (e.g., Ken Wilber), or — in the Jewish Tradition Tikkun Olam, which translates as kindness performed to perfect or repair the world (supporting social policies and social justice).


Part 3: You, Me, and the We in Wellness

Of course, all of the ideas above mean nothing without authentic dialogue and authentic action. And authenticity only emerges as a result of an invitation. I hope that as you review the ideas, links, exercises, videos that you reflect on these thoughts: What am I being invited to? Or What if all of this was an invitation to me to deepen into my more authentic, whole self? Or What am I being called to serve? If NWI stands for anything, it stands for the freedom to come to these answers on your own, in your own time, and through your own learning. That is what NWI is here for. To provide you with ongoing, top quality learning. And — guess what?... remember Phase 4 (EMPOWERED membership)? If you are not getting that, you better let NWI know. Contact Sherri Galle-Teske, Director of Membership and Engagement, at You can email me at


Go inward and tune in to what you need to know and do.


And, if it is right, please share with the rest of us.


That is how we will evolve.

Joel Bennett, PhDJoel Bennett, PhD, is President of Organizational Wellness & Learning Systems (OWLS), a consulting firm that specializes in evidence-based wellness and e-learning technologies to promote organizational health and employee well-being. Dr. Bennett first delivered stress management programming in 1985 and OWLS programs have since reached close to 50,000 workers across the United States and abroad.

He is primary developer of “Team Awareness” and “Team Resilience,” evidence-based, culture of health programs recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Health as effective in reducing employee behavioral risks. Team Awareness has been adapted by the U.S. National Guard as one of their flagship prevention programs and it has been used by municipalities, hospitals, restaurants, electrician training centers, small businesses, Native American tribal government, and in Italy and South Africa.




Tags:  Audacity  Evolution  wholeness 

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