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5 Things I Learned During an Unanticipated Job Search

Posted By Suzanne Hunt, Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"Congratulations, you got the job!"

Everyone wants to hear those words, right? Well, in this case, I heard those words, except they were meant for my husband. In what I can only describe as a whirlwind, we were notified that my amazing husband obtained a promotion, and was being moved to a new location, in two weeks or less. I was proud, excited, and terrified all at once. Though this was a surprise to us both, my husband was going to remain with the same company, who would be there to support him throughout the process. I, on the other hand, had to turn in my resignation knowing the job search wouldn’t be an easy feat. Working in public health in the south is already difficult. Working in public health in higher education in the south is an even tougher job market. In the process of quickly moving, wrapping things up at my old job, and moving forward with an unanticipated job search, my plate was full! However, I managed to learn a few things along the way that have served as my roadmap during this process:

  1. Your resume is a living, breathing document; maintain it as such
    You wouldn’t go months, or possibly years without feeding your pet right? Well, the same goes for your resume. Don’t go months or years without updating it! Even if you can’t spare the time to work on it consistently as you achieve at your current job, make a continuous effort to maintain a document with your ongoing accomplishments. This ensures you will have something to go by when you are able to update your resume. Secondly, it’s 2019- make sure your resume doesn’t look like a word document from 1995. Regardless of what type of job or field you work in, your resume is the first way to market yourself, so you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot by having an outdated resume (regarding both content and visual appeal). There are free design websites where you can ensure your resume represents your personality, and performance in the field. One of my favorite sites is Canva, it’s free and easy to use!
  2. Establish and maintain relationships at your jobs
    Yes, I said jobs. Regardless of whether it was an internship, a graduate assistantship, or your first ‘real’ job out of school, it’s imperative to establish relationships with people during each experience. Arguably more important is maintaining these relationships because you never know when they can provide an amazing reference, letter of recommendation, or insight into a future job you’re looking into. After all, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. Keep these people in your corner, because they can help advocate for your skillset, and current or past successes. Further, you never know when you might need them! In my case, my connections have been a continual help during the relocation process.
  3. Do your research
    I know this sounds so cliché, but what I mean is to do your research on the people in your industry. One of my favorite supervisors taught me this, and I am forever thankful. Even if you love your current job, you should still be making strides to learn about the leaders in your industry and how they got to where they are. I took the time to look at bios, talk to direct contacts, and even made the additional effort to talk to them myself. I have also been lucky to establish trusting relationships with a few of my supervisors-to where I felt comfortable truly asking about their personal experiences, and opinions. This insight has served to my benefit by helping me understand the intersectionalities between different aspects of the industry and the all-important hierarchy of working in higher education. Having this understanding has helped lead to several consulting opportunities, which I am thoroughly enjoying, while I continue my search for a full-time job.
  4. Utilize your expertise and passions—outside of work
    I know what you’re probably thinking here- what about work/life balance? I am still (and will always) advocate for balance, and doing things you enjoy outside of work! However, I volunteer my time outside of work with the National Wellness Institute (NWI) Emerging Wellness Professionals (EWP) Task Force because I have been a part of this organization since I was in undergrad. I am really passionate about what they do to support professionals in the wellness field like myself, and it has not only provided me with more contacts in the industry across the U.S., but it has also helped me learn more about the field that I wouldn’t have been able to learn in my previous jobs. Moreover, I have learned new skills, expanded my leadership capabilities, and now have connections with this organization that continues to support me, no matter where I go.
  5. Utilize weak ties to network!
    There is an aspect of luck that can play an important role in being successful, particularly when it comes to networking. In fact, according to Eric Barker, the author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, he concludes that some of this has to do with taking small steps to network, meet new people, and properly invest your time in establishing and maintaining those relationships. This requires stepping out of the ‘box’ of solely networking on LinkedIn, or via that email that gets lost in someone’s ever-growing inbox. According to Barker, there’s a theory of weak ties, meaning the people who aren’t your closest friends, but one degree out, are the people who make the best connections. A lot of new possibilities or opportunities come from these weak ties because these are the people that are hearing about things (job openings, new ideas, conferences, leadership opportunities), that you may not be hearing about, and therefore present the possibility of something new and beneficial for your career. Weak ties have hands down been the most successful aspect thus far in my ongoing job search!

Though none of these concepts are necessarily new, it’s important to refresh your lens and scope, in the event that like me, you embark on the adventure of an unanticipated job search.

Sabrina WalasekSuzanne Hunt, MPH, CWP provides leadership in the development of holistic approaches to wellbeing for students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Tags:  job search  resilience  thriving  wellness career 

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NWI Joins GW4W at Philadelphia Event

Posted By NWI, Monday, April 15, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

NWI Board President Linda Howard participated at Global Women 4 Wellbeing's (GW4W) event on March 28, 2019.

Mental Wellbeing and the Workplace — Minding The Gender Gap  

GW4W President & CEO Mim Senft with NWI Board President Linda Howard in Philadelphia on March 28, 2019

GW4W President & CEO Mim Senft with NWI Board President Linda Howard in Philadelphia

For true gender equity in the workplace, we need to recognize how our mental health and wellbeing is connected to our ability to lead and how those issues impact how we are seen as leaders. That includes how bad stress and other barriers unique to women disproportionately impact the overall mental health of the workplace and its impact on getting more women into leadership.

On March 28, like-minded leaders attended the event at Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia, PA as part of a world-wide movement to empower more healthy female leadership at all levels. Their goal was to gain a deeper understanding of workplace strategies that can help women lead well.

Discussion focused on:

  • Workforce and the mental wellbeing challenge.
  • What organizations can do to help their teams thrive.
  • How leadership can better address personal stressors for both women and men to help them be more resilient and better innovators.
  • And you’ll have a chance to add your voice to the conversation.
GW4W event attendees on March 28, 2019

GW4W event attendees in Philadelphia in March

Featured Speakers:

Linda E. Yoo, MFT is the Head of Global Mental Wellbeing & Workplace Effectiveness, Johnson and Johnson. Prior to that, she was responsible for all National Accounts EAP & WorkLife and behavioral health sales activities for Aetna occurring in the Northeast & Southeast regions of the country and served as the Director of Operations for United Health Group/United Behavioral Health.


Shaillee J. Chopra runs a successful healthcare consulting practice, Lumina Health Partners, and has held positions as global leader Digital Health and Advanced Analytics; Chief Data Officer, VP Customer Success, IT Director Interoperability; and National Lead Business Services Transformation.  As Chief Global Strategist with Empower Billion Women Inc., Shaillee assists with development and execution of global strategy allowing EBW to expand its contribution and impact within domestic and international markets by financially empowering women to launch, grow and scale their businesses and support UN Sustainable Development Goal of gender equality.  She has a special interest in addressing mental health for women in the workplace.

Guest MC:
Lesley Jane Seymour has spent her life helping women change the world, having spent more than 30 years in the media industry and serving as Editor In Chief for publications such as Redbook Magazine, Marie Claire Magazine, and most recently, More Magazine and More.com. Currently, Lesley is the founder of CoveyClub, a membership supported online-offline experience that connects women around the world and helps them live their most authentic lives. 

Panel Discussion Facilitators:
Patricia Baxter, Ed.D has served as a leader in global organizations such as CITI, Sykes Enterprises, UNISYS, Deloitte & Touche Consulting, and Right Management. As an executive coach, Pat has worked with leaders in American Express, Dollar General, Comcast, Toyota, Quintiles Pharmaceuticals, and the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE).

Karyn Detje has spent her career helping organizations and people perform at their best. Her experience ranges from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, including Pepsi, Allied-Signal and Atlantic Richfield. Karyn has been the Chief Human Resources Officer at several global organizations including Quokka Sports, Publicis Group Media and Tory Burch.

GW4W panelists at Philadelphia event March 28, 2019

GW4W panelists in Philadelphia

Linda Howard, J.D., is chief executive officer of Alturnative, a health care compliance consultancy that helps build people-forward organizations and establish compliance and ethics standards for the health, fitness and wellness industries. She is president of the board of directors of the National Wellness Institute and a founding member of its multicultural competence committee. Howard has more than 30 years of combined experience in law, compliance and health care operations. 

Yuming Shen is the Director of Product Management at Archetype Solutions Group (ASG), a strategic consulting and venture firm. As one of the primary leads in ASG’s shared services division, she drives marketing and product development for both consulting partners and venture operations. Before helping to launch ASG in 2010, Yuming worked in alternative assets at BlackRock. 

Lynette Davis is a mental health advocate and peer support specialist trained by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and in Mental Health First Aid. She is the author of "Success To Die For" and the Executive Director of Love Yourself Love Your Business, a mental health organization that creates intentional spaces for small business owners and entrepreneurs. 

Marjorie Lau spent over 20 years in the beauty industry, where she served in several leadership roles at the Estee Lauder Companies Inc. She has also worked in a branding and marketing capacity across several sectors, including consumer products at Clorox, and technology at Google and Apple. Marjorie is currently the Marketing and Communications Director at the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School...

GW4W works to empower healthy female leadership.

This accelerator event supported the mission of Global Women 4 Wellbeing (GW4W) and is organized in collaboration with Archetype Solutions Group.

GW4W is:

  • a cross-disciplinary membership association committed to empowering more healthy female leadership at all levels for a more sustainable world.
  • A diverse group of dedicated professionals, community leaders, researchers and entrepreneurs from around the world that collaborate to create positive change.
  • A connector organization that brings diverse VOICES together to address health, wellbeing and leadership equity.
  • A non-political organization. We strive to provide common ground to solve for pay equity, health equity and leadership equity for women from all backgrounds.

Have questions about Mental Wellbeing and the Workplace — Minding The Gender Gap? Contact GW4W

Interested in a GW4W membership? Members of NWI enjoy a 25% discount on an annual individual membership to Global Women 4 Wellbeing. Click here to Find out more.

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Czech Wellness Councils: When wellness wisdom comes from the community

Posted By Jana Stará and Eva Dittingerová, Friday, April 12, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

How can we encourage wellness lifestyles even in countries where the wellness profession is not yet established? How to build upon the current resources in our communities and create a space where both the facilitators and participants or clients can learn and feel connected?

Jack Travis's 12 wellness dimensionsIn this article we share our approach and experiences from a year-long series of Wellness Councils.

There can be moments when you realize that you are longing for a change. And moments when your life just doesn't seem right and your daily routine doesn't serve your needs. You may feel you need to slow down, move more, take a deep breath, eat healthier food, or just need a hug. Yet it seems difficult to do something about it. In moments like that, it's good to have someone by your side to share your wishes, expectations and worries. To encourage each other and to make commitments that will keep you motivated until you meet again.

Do they sound like reasons to engage a wellness coach? Definitely, but since wellness coaching as a profession is not yet established in the Czech Republic, we struck on the idea of Wellness Councils. With the intention to build upon the current resources in local community, we commenced by calling together a circle of people who cared about their own wellbeing and were open to sharing with peers once a month.. 

What is a Wellness Council?

Wellness Council is based on our belief that we can live every day genuinely, with contentment and honesty. According to the wellness philosophy, there is often but little change needed to make our lives more vivid, exciting, happier and healthy. Our council is an open space for exploring what good and healthy life means for each of us specifically, space for sharing, inspiring and motivation. 

Putting wellness and councils together in a framework of monthly meetings dedicated to each of the 12 wellness dimensions, based on the work of Jack Travis, gives a year-long opportunity to kindly observe one’s own state of wellness, to feel inspired by thoughts and experiences of others and receive a little push and support to change for better.

Each event is open to public and everybody is invited to join the group, which always creates a vibrant palette of age groups, backgrounds, life experiences and so on. This reach out to more distant social networks created space for sharing with different, yet likeminded people, who felt that they needed to take first steps towards change or those who were already on their wellness journey. This can be very supporting especially in moments when one lacks support in the closest circles. We can hardly count on help from a demanding boss or family members who live an unhealthy lifestyle. 

Example of a Wellness Council ExerciseWhat is happening in a Wellness Council?

Every session consists of an activity allowing us to explore more about the given topic - both practically (interview, exercise, drama improvisation, brainstorming, drawing, relaxation etc) and theoretically (sharing bits of up-to-date knowledge). We are offering simple ways how everyone of us can be more attentive, relaxed, active etc.

With these small steps the program encourages us to review our current needs and to bring awareness to them during our daily life. There is always an optional “homework” component - simple guidance, instruction for every day of the forthcoming month. For example: Close your eyes for a moment while eating. Take a deep breath when you notice the sky. Find a moment when you are experiencing something beautiful and acknowledge it.

And in every Wellness Council, there is time for stories, too. Sharing stories in a safe way that allows us to revisit our priorities, map our personal history and experience, inspire and call for action. 

Wellness Council ExercisesThe power of sharing stories in a Council 

Having experience with the Way of Council, we felt that its intentions (speaking from the heart, non-judgmental listening from the heart, being spontaneous, speaking the essence, confidentiality and sharing what servers me, the circle and higher good) encourage honest and compassionate expression and can be more than helpful in creating the safe environment for personal stories on wellbeing.

Note: Wellness Council (in the Czech Republic) can (sometimes) look like this. (author Jana Stará)

In council we use a “talking piece” to focus the attention on the person who is sharing their story and there is no one else speaking at the time. The others do not ask questions; do not give advice or comment in any way. During council we share our personal experiences, our own stories through which we can learn from one another and get the sense of belonging to one humankind, the members of which lives are the “same but different.”

Wellness Council ExerciseThe Wellness lessons from stories shared

Every day begins the same way for all. No matter who we are. We all do wake up. 
Not so for the stories we tell and hear – these are very different. You can be say a wellness coach and know general principles of how our bodies and days function. Yet it's always fascinating to remain still and listen to the stories of the days of others. No matter what the rules and advice, when it comes to the joys and struggles of everyday life our human nature and wisdom are being awakened.

Thanks to the stories and council, wellness professionals can constantly learn (just as storytellers, listeners or facilitators would do). Learn a lot about others and maybe even more about ourselves. Learn what it really takes to live well. We strongly believe that empathy, one of the principles of council, is essential not only for sharing safely, but especially for our feeling of being well and grounded in our daily lives. 

Eva DittingerovaEva Dittingerová is an educator, drama teacher, project manager and facilitator who is interested in education through art and nature. “Drama led me to psychosomatically oriented approach to dramatic culture and creation and my interest in stories and it's potential brought me to The Way of Council.”

Jana StaraJana Stará, PhD, is a wellness promoter who dedicated her research and lecturing practice to promoting the concept of wellness in her country. She seeks ways to develop and implement wellness programs with respect to different cultural environment and traditions in Europe. She teaches at the university, empowers individuals, consults companies and believes that better times for European wellness are yet to come.

Tags:  czech wellness council  education  emotional wellness  Eva Dittingerová  Jana Stará  story  wellness 

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Gratitude for Caregivers

Posted By Linda Roszak Burton, Thursday, April 11, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Gratitude Heals

John Henry Jowett quote says Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic. A vaccine against the invasion of a disgruntled attitude. An antitoxin against the poison of fault-finding and grumbling. A soothing antiseptic in the spirit of thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

When you read the phrase, gratitude for caregivers, what meaning do you apply? Is it a patient expressing gratitude to their caregiver for care and compassion shown to them during a recent health scare or recovery from an illness? Or, do you interpret it as an element of a positive and healthy work culture, where leaders and caregivers express gratitude to each other and their patients—genuinely, frequently, and value-based?

The good news is that it can, and based on research, needs to be interpreted both ways! We would assert that gratitude isn’t limited to any particular individual, profession, setting, or industry. Current research demonstrates that when gratitude is practiced, expressed, and received, the benefits are undeniable, significant, and multifaceted.

The POWER of gratitude:

  • Promotes healing, strengthens our immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and increases pain thresholds;
  • Motivates philanthropic giving. Being grateful has been found to make us more charitable and giving of our time, treasure, and talents;
  • Creates resilience by fostering greater mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being, for both the caregiver and patient;
  • Improves employee engagement by recognizing the value and contributions of coworkers;
  • Generates more positive social behaviors, buffering against negativity-bias, bolstering civility, respect, and broadening our attention to positive emotions.

To read more about these benefits go to Discovering the Health and Wellness Benefits of Gratitude

man suffering from burnout

A Remedy for Burnout

A Google search on the subject of burnout yields 114,000,000 results and counting! Job burnout as defined by the Mayo Clinic is a special type of work-related stress - a state of physical or emotional exhaustion (EE), a sense of reduced personal accomplishment (PA), and a loss of personal identity or depersonalization (DP). This widely accepted definition and the prevalence of burnout in healthcare has given us staggering and sometimes shocking statistics about the negative impact on individuals, teams, and organizations. Even more astounding are studies linking burnout to physician suicides, a higher rate of emotional exhaustion in as much as one-third of all US nurses, and the association between burnout and poor patient safety and quality outcomes, including mortality.

In a 2018 article in STAT, comes an even more disturbing reference to burnout…moral injury! First used to describe soldiers’ responses to their actions in war is now linked to “physicians being unable to provide high-quality care and healing in the context of healthcare.”

The Journal of Nursing Management, recently published a scoping review using the terms gratitude and health professionals. This scoping review consisted of synthesizing and thematically analyzing existing evidence regarding gratitude in healthcare relationships with the specific focus on patients and families expressing gratitude to their health professional. Health professionals were defined as physicians, nurses, patient care teams, and other healthcare providers. This broad review of existing knowledge included empirical and non-empirical literature and was not focused on evaluating the quality of research studies.

beautiful stylized black and white sunburst mosaic with the word imagine in the middle of it

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

In this particular study, expressions of gratitude from patients and family members to their health professional indicated a positive impact on caregiver well-being, stress reduction, and a possible reduction in symptoms and consequences of burnout. In addition, this review suggests gratitude from patients and families could contribute to “motivation and retention among health professionals, and when nurtured, is associated with a healthy work environment.”

An article on physician burnout in the Family Practice Management Journal identified practicing gratitude and offering resilience training as potential burnout interventions. Additionally, a mental technique of reframing negative events was recognized as helpful when dealing with burnout. Articles published in the NeuroLeadership Journal suggests reframing or re-contextualizing the way we think about a situation as an approach to minimize a negative emotional impact. Reframing is also defined as a “cognitive reappraisal” of ideas and emotions with more positive alternatives.

Quote from Rick Hanson, PhD, Buddha's Brain that says what flows through your mind sculpts your brain.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Similar to the scoping review in the Journal of Nursing Management, a research article in Frontiers in Psychology looked at the positive effect of patient gratitude and support on nurses’ burnout. Of the findings, when support and gratitude was expressed by patients to nurses, improvements were seen in one or more of the dimensions of burnout: emotional exhaustion (EE); personal accomplishment (PA); and depersonalization (DP).

Another important study highlighting the positive impact of gratitude on organizational wellness is from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management. This study showed that gratitude was found to be a consistent predictor of these outcomes among nurses:

  • Less exhaustion and less cynicism;
  • More proactive behaviors;
  • Higher rating of the health and safety climate;
  • Higher job satisfaction;
  • Fewer absences due to illness.

Additionally, The Greater Good Science Center published an article recognizing several healthcare organizations that have turned to this innovative remedy of gratitude to reduce burnout. Healthcare organizations such as Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, and Scripps Health have instituted programming to cultivate gratitude as part of their healthy work cultures.

Woman relaxing by a window with eyes closed while sunlight washes over her

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Finally, perhaps the best way to wrap-up these insights and findings comes from research done by the National Research Corporation/NRC Health and Accordant Philanthropy. When asked what influenced their feelings of gratitude during a healthcare experience, thirty percent of participants said gratitude was spurred by the compassion, empathy, or kindness of caregivers. Similarly, when asked what would most likely make them feel grateful to caregivers, forty-one percent of the study participants indicated feeling genuinely cared about as a person.

Findings from these studies and others highlight the “perfect timing” for greater focus and attention to the important role gratitude plays in our healthcare settings.


What one action can you take, personally, to tap into your own gratitude circuitry and that of your coworkers?

What learning opportunities can your organization or department initiate to promote gratitude as a cultural imperative?

Photos courtesy of Unsplash
Linda Roszak BurtonLinda Roszak Burton provides brain-based coaching and training programs to help healthcare organizations, their leaders and teams emerge stronger, more knowledgeable, and engaged for greater success and satisfaction. As a leadership coach, Linda utilizes the latest research and evidence-based practices from positive psychology, gratitude, and neuroscience to help her clients be at their best in todays stressful and overwhelming work environments. In addition, she supports various research initiatives and is currently conducting research on gratitude interventions for creating greater health and well-being for health care employees.

Tags:  caregiver  emotional wellness  gratitude  spiritual wellness 

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Measuring Worksite Wellness Programs by Multicultural Competencies Standards

Posted By Linda Howard, Friday, April 5, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Does Your Worksite Wellness Program Measure Up?  

If your worksite wellness program were to be measured against multicultural competency standards, would it meet, exceed, or fall short of those standards? As you will see, ensuring that your program considers the attributes and demographics that make up culture is mandated by a number of federal laws, renders a greater return on your investment, and serves the public good.

When I speak of multicultural competency as it relates to worksite wellness, I am looking at the competency of those who design and implement the program as well as the program’s overall effectiveness in serving people of different cultures. Multicultural competency requires the individuals designing or implementing the program to:

  1. Be aware of their own cultural worldviews
  2. Possess knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews
  3. Examine their own attitudes toward cultural differences
  4. Explore the attitudes of those they serve toward cultural differences
  5. Have the interpersonal skills necessary to communicate and effectively interact with people across cultures

Diverse group of employees in a meetingMany people confuse "diversity" with "multicultural competency." They mistakenly use the terms interchangeably. While diversity is a good starting point, diversity does not equal multicultural competency. Nor do you achieve diversity by varying your team considering race alone. Cultural competency encompasses more than race. Culture includes such things as religion, gender, socioeconomic status, geographic location, language, sexual orientation, and education. Having a diverse group of people at the table is an excellent way to learn about other cultures; it is a way to begin to meet the second requirement on the list above (to possess knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews).

Multicultural competency is a skill that must be learned. The answer as to whether your team has multicultural competency skills will largely turn on the answer to the following question: has your team had multicultural competency training? If the answer is no, then your team is probably lacking some element of multicultural competency.

To determine if your program measures up, I say the proof is in the pudding. It’s not just about your intentions; it’s also about results. Evaluate your program to see its effectiveness across cultural lines and whether it is in compliance with laws designed to eliminate discrimination and promote inclusion in wellness programs.

Why Should Worksite Wellness Programs Focus on Multicultural Competency?

Why should you care if your program measures up by Multicultural Competency standards? Simply put, because the law says you must and because you should!

Why Should Your Worksite Wellness Programs Focus on Multicultural Competency? Because They Should

You should be concerned about the effectiveness of your wellness program across cultures for the good of it – the social good, as a good business practice, and because programs that lack multicultural competency simply "ain’t good."

Social Good
The CDC predicts that worksite wellness programs will become part of a national public health strategy to address an increase in chronic diseases that could cost the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $4.2 trillion annually by 2023. Chronic diseases linked to health disparities are connected to, among other things, variances in cultural health norms, healthcare literacy, and provider delivery systems, as well as the provider’s culture and multicultural competency. Worksite wellness programs can only achieve a notable impact on national public health by reducing chronic diseases if those programs effectively reach groups that are most impacted by chronic disease. Multicultural competency is a core ingredient in reaching those suffering with chronic diseases.

Smart Business Decision
According to the March 2011 Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index, unhealthy behaviors of employees in the U.S. cost employers an average of $670 per employee annually. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) states that there is evidence indicating that healthier lifestyles among employees are a plus for employers, because "[e]mployees who pursue healthful behaviors have fewer illnesses and injuries than other workers, and they recover from illnesses and injuries faster.”1  Wellness programs that encourage healthy behavior can therefore reduce sick days and workplace injuries.

Racial and ethnic health disparities add another layer to the correlation of employee health and business productivity. Many employers are generally unaware of racial and ethnic health disparities as a business issue.2   It is important to recognize that many chronic diseases related to health disparities, such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, greatly effect productivity and absenteeism. It follows that reducing or better managing of chronic diseases improves productivity and absenteeism. Since ethnic minorities and the poor have higher incidences of chronic diseases, reaching these populations (which is achieved with culturally competent programs and coaches) is critical to improving productivity numbers and reducing absentee numbers.

Lastly, studies have shown that effective wellness programs reduce the cost of insurance. Therefore, not only is there social good in positively impacting people’s wellbeing and reducing the stress on the U.S. healthcare system, there is a good business case for effective wellness programs that speak to a cross section of the population. A multiculturally competent wellness program will only serve to increase productivity while further reducing insurance cost and other expenses related to absenteeism. The business case is simply that it will improve the bottom line.

Standardized Programs Don’t Work
Racial and ethnic minorities comprise approximately 1/3 of the U.S. population and are projected to equal 54% by 2050.3  Plus, as described above the workforce today is diverse in ways that go beyond race and ethnicity (religion, age, sexual orientation, creed, geographic, etc.). Differences affect health norms, access to care, environmental health factors, desired providers, and wellness journey preference. A program that fails to factor in culture will fail to meet the preferences and needs of large segments of the workforce, likely resulting in less program participation or less than optimum results.

Why Should Your Worksite Wellness Programs Focus on Multicultural Competency? Because They Must

Worksite wellness programs must comply with numerous federal laws requiring that employers recognize disparities as well as genetics and physical and mental limitations when designing programs to avoid discriminatory behavior and impact.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act promotes and funds prevention and wellness in the interest of public health. The Affordable Care Act explicitly sets out to reduce health disparities and improve the health of racially and ethnically diverse populations.

The Act was passed by Congress and then signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. It is comprised of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, the Patient Protection Act, and the healthcare-related sections of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act and the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. It also amends several other federal laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974, and the Health and Public Services Act. Additionally, it reauthorizes The Indian Health Care Improvement Act (ICHIA).

The Act prohibits discrimination in wellness programs that are group health plans. It is very prescriptive as to standards and requirements that must be met to avoid discrimination in these wellness programs.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects people who are 40 or older from discrimination because of their ages with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.

An example of a practice that could cause issues with ADEA is if the wellness program has a mandatory program that requires employees to meet a certain health standard which does not consider the age of the employee.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Title I of the ADA is a federal civil rights law that prohibits an employer from discriminating against an individual with a disability in connection with, among other things, employee compensation and benefits. Title I of the ADA also generally restricts employers from obtaining medical information from applicants and employees. Additionally, Title I of the ADA prohibits employers from denying employees access to wellness programs on the basis of disability and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations (adjustments or modifications) that allow employees with disabilities to participate in wellness programs and also to keep any medical information gathered as part of the wellness program confidential.

Note: The ADA does not, however, prohibit employers from inquiring about employees' health or doing medical examinations as part of a voluntary employee health program as defined by the ADA. For guidance on designing a wellness program that is ADA compliant, read “Are You Up-to-Date on ADA and Wellness Programs Compliance? - EEOC's Final Rule on Employer Wellness Programs and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in federal agencies, in programs that receive federal financial assistance, or in any federal employment, including the employment practices of federal contractors. It also requires that employers covered by the Act make reasonable accommodations for the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.

An example of how a program could violate the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act is when an employer has a program that rewards employees for taking so many steps a day or walking a certain number of miles a week. An employee with a disability that limits his or her ability to walk could not participate and therefore cannot earn an award in the program (the additional compensation). To remain in good standing, the program would need to provide alternative methods for the disabled employees to earn the additional compensation.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
Title VII makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. It considers disparate impacts. Disparate impact is when your practices or program adversely affect one group of people with a protected characteristic more than another although rules are neutral. Certain races are at risk of drastically higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Tethering premium savings to what the program has defined as a "healthy level" of these measurements could be seen as discriminatory under Title VII.

The Act also requires that employers reasonably accommodate applicants' and employees' sincerely held religious practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business. A violation on religious grounds could arise if an employer requires employees to submit to a health screening to qualify for savings on their premiums and an employee refuses to submit to the screening based on religious beliefs.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)
GINA is a federal law that forbids discrimination on the basis of genetic information in health insurance and any aspect of employment. It has two parts, Title I and Title II. Title I prohibits discrimination based on genetic information by health insurers and group health plans. Title II prohibits discrimination based on genetic information in employment. Genetic information includes information about an individual's genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual's family members, as well as information about any disease, disorder, or condition of an individual's family members (i.e. an individual's family medical history). For guidance on designing a wellness program that is GINA compliant, read “Are You Up-to-Date on GINA and Wellness Programs Compliance? - EEOC's Final Rule on Employer Wellness Programs and GINA.”

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was first enacted to address the problem of the uninsured. HIPAA includes provisions that limit exclusions for preexisting conditions under group health plans. It prohibits group health plans and health insurance issuers from discriminating against enrollees and beneficiaries with respect to eligibility, benefits, and premiums based on a health factor, with some limited exceptions.

A wellness program that is a part of an employer-based health plan could face problems under HIPAA if the wellness program is not "reasonably designed" to promote health or prevent disease, or if the full reward is not available to all similarly situated individuals.

State Laws
Be sure to look at your state laws as well the federal laws mentioned about. For example, some state laws prohibit an employer from penalizing an employee from engaging in lawful conduct outside of work4 including smoking5, drinking, and eating fast food. Restrictions related to smoking may not comply with those state regulations.


1  https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/DecliningHealth.aspx

2  Employer Survey on Racial and Ethnic Disparities: Final Results. The National Business Group on Health. July 30, 20083

3  US Census Bureau. (August 14, 2008). “An older and more diverse nation by midcentury.” Retrieved May 13, 2014, from http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb08-123.html)

4  Examples of states that protect employees from being fired for legal off-duty activity include California, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, and North Dakota.

5  There are a host of states that specifically protect tobacco use, including Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.


Linda Howard, JD, CHC (7-2013)Linda Howard, JD, CHC (7-2013) is the CEO of Alturnative, a healthcare compliance consultancy that helps build people-forward organizations and establish compliance, ethics, and quality standards for the health, fitness, and wellness industries. She is a multi-faceted compliance and ethics consultant with over 30 years of combined experience in law, compliance, and healthcare operations and a passion for wellness, and a believer in social responsibility. Her prior professional titles include Chief Compliance Intellect Officer; Associate Vice President, Business Ethics; Privacy Officer; Associate (Attorney); and Senior In-House Counsel.

Tags:  intellectual wellness  Multi-Cultural  multicultural competency  racial equity 

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HHS Establishes a New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division and Vows Vigorous and Effective Enforcement

Posted By Linda Howard, Friday, April 5, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR)1   has enforcement authority over federal conscience protection statutes and certain federal nondiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion in the following U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) programs and entities:

  • Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant
  • Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness
  • Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant
  • Community Mental Health Services Block Grant
  • Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant
  • Programs funded under the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act
  • Federally-funded public telecommunication entities

Diverse group of employees in a meetingThis past January, HHS formed a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the Office for Civil Rights. If your organization or facility receives certain federal funding and you do not have controls in place to ensure that your organization or facility protects your providers’ conscience and religious freedom, or your patients’ or enrollees’ religious freedom, my advice is to “suit up”. In other words, check your policies, start your monitoring, and develop your training to avoid being the subject of the new and enthusiastic enforcement efforts.

The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’s mission is to restore federal enforcement of U.S. laws that protect the rights of conscience and religious freedom. In its announcement, the HHS explicitly stated that the creation of the new division will allow HHS to have greater focus on conscience and religious freedom issues necessary to more "vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom." So, expect more enforcement of Conscience and Religious Freedom regulations.

OCR Director Roger Severino stated in the announcement, "[l]aws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice. For too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection, but change is coming and it begins here and now."

If you have refused (or want to refuse) to perform, accommodate, or assist with certain health care services on religious or moral grounds and (1) you are working in an organization or facility that receives certain federal funding, or (2) you are an entity that has been discriminated against by a federal government and any state or local government receiving federal financial assistance, there is now an entire new division that will be dedicated to hearing your complaints and enforcing your rights, when those rights have been violated under the conscience protections provisions of federal laws listed below.

If you are (1) an individual who feels you have been discriminated against in the delivery of services by an organization or facility that receives certain federal funding, or (2) an individual or entity that has been discriminated against on the basis of religion, you too have a division that will, according to the OCR, "vigorously and effectively enforce" the protection of your religious freedom under any of the laws listed below.

Conscience Protections

Federal statutes protect health care providers’ conscience rights and prohibit recipients of certain federal funds from discriminating against health care providers who refuse to participate in services based on moral objections or religious beliefs. Below are the statutes that provide Conscience Protections.

  1. The Church Amendments (42 U.S.C. § 300a-7 et seq.)
    The Church Amendments protect the conscience rights of individuals and entities that object to performing or assisting in the performance of abortion or sterilization procedures if doing so would be contrary to the provider’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.
  2. Coats-Snowe (42 U.S.C. § 238(n))
    Coats-Snowe prohibits the federal government and any state or local government receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating against any health care entity on the basis that the entity: 1) refuses to undergo training in the performance of induced abortions, to require or provide such training, to perform such abortions, or to provide referrals for such training or such abortions; 2) refuses to make arrangements for such activities or 3) attends (or attended) a post-graduate physician training program, or any other program of training in the health professions, that does not (or did not) perform induced abortions or require, provide or refer for training in the performance of induced abortions, or make arrangements for the provision of such training.
  3. The Weldon Amendment (Pub. L. No. 111-117, 123 Stat 3034)
    The Weldon Amendment provides that "[n]one of the funds made available in this Act may be made available to a Federal agency or program, or to a state or local government, if such agency, program, or government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions."
  4. The Affordable Care Act (Pub. L. No. 111-148 as amended by Pub. L. No. 111-152)
    The Affordable Care Act includes new health care provider conscience protections related to the Health Insurance Exchange program. Section 1303(b)(4) of the Affordable Care Act provides that "No qualified health plan offered through an Exchange may discriminate against any individual health care provider or health care facility because of its unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions."

    Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act states that the Federal Government and any state or local government or health care provider that receives federal financial assistance under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) or any health plan created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may not discriminate against an individual or institutional health care entity because the entity does not provide any health care item or service that causes, or assists in causing, the death of any individual, such as by assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing.

OCR enforces these laws and regulations that protect conscience and prohibit coercion of providers to perform, accommodate, or assist with services that conflict with such providers’ religious or moral beliefs in HHS funded or controlled programs and activities. Examples of services that a provider may refuse to perform on religious or moral grounds are things like abortion and assisted suicide.

Healthcare providers may file a complaint under the Federal Health Care Provider Conscience Protection Statutes if they believe that they have experienced discrimination because they:

  • Objected to, participated in, or refused to participate in specific medical procedures, including abortion and sterilization, and related training and research activities
  • Were coerced into performing procedures that are against their religious or moral beliefs
  • Refused to provide health care items or services for the purpose of causing, or assisting in causing, the death of an individual, such as by assisted suicide or euthanasia

(Source - https://www.hhs.gov/conscience/conscience-protections/index.html)

Religious Freedom

OCR also enforces the following laws and regulations that protect the free exercise of religion and prohibit discrimination in in HHS funded or controlled programs and activities.

  1. Section 508 of the Social Security Act (42 USC § 708)
    Section 508 of the Social Security Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, disability, sex, or religion in the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant.
  2. Section 533 of the Public Health Service Act (42 USC § 290cc-33)
    Section 533 of the Public Health Service Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, disability, sex, or religion in Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness.
  3. Section 1908 of the Public Health Service Act (42 USC §300w-7)
    Section 1908 of the Public Health Service Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, disability, sex, or religion in programs, services, and activities funded by Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grants.
  4. Section 1947 of the Public Health Service Act (42 USC § 300x-57)
    Section 1947 of the Public Health Service Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, disability, sex, or religion in programs, services, and activities funded by Community Mental Health Services Block Grant and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants.
  5. The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (42 USC § 10406)
    The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, or religion in programs, services, and activities funded under this Act.
  6. The Communications Act of 1934 (47 USC § 398)
    The Communications Act of 1934 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, religion, national origin, or sex by federally-funded public telecommunication entities.

(Source - https://www.hhs.gov/conscience/religious-freedom/index.html)


The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the Office for Civil Rights is a division worth watching. Its enforcement activity will not go without challenge. Religion is a very passionate subject and civil rights is serious business. Challenges will likely come if the exercise of those freedoms is viewed as discriminatory by those who are denied a service by a provider because it is against the providers’ religious or moral beliefs.

Personal conflicts may arise when the religious belief being protected defies the sense of right and wrong of individual regulators charged with enforcing the statutes. Question of “sincere” religious beliefs and convictions may be wrongly assessed from the worldview of the adjudicator and not from the cultural prospective of the one invoking the conscience and religious freedom right.

If regulators lack the multicultural competency necessary to navigate the emotions, beliefs and culture of the complainant, they could render outcomes inconsistent with the stated goal of protecting religious and conscience freedoms. Protecting religious and conscience freedoms may support a fundamental and constitutional right, but it is a hard thing to enforce because there is usually immense passion and unwavering conviction on opposing sides. Just look at the case that highlighted a clash between gay rights and claims of religious freedom when a Colorado baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple2. This issue went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. It takes a lot of passion and conviction, among other things, to get to the Supreme Court.

Regardless of where you fall on issues related to conscience and religious freedom, if you are responsible for overseeing your organization’s compliance with the applicable federal laws, it is time to access your risks and update your policies, because the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the Office for Civil Rights has officially been launched.

To file a complaint with the OCR based on a violation of civil rights, conscience or religious freedom, or health information privacy, visit HHS.gov.


1  OCR is the law enforcement agency within HHS that enforces federal laws protecting civil rights and conscience in health and human services, and the security and privacy of people’s health information.

2  Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Linda Howard, JD, CHC (7-2013)Linda Howard, JD, CHC (7-2013) is the CEO of Alturnative, a healthcare compliance consultancy that helps build people-forward organizations and establish compliance, ethics, and quality standards for the health, fitness, and wellness industries. She is a multi-faceted compliance and ethics consultant with over 30 years of combined experience in law, compliance, and healthcare operations and a passion for wellness, and a believer in social responsibility. Her prior professional titles include Chief Compliance Intellect Officer; Associate Vice President, Business Ethics; Privacy Officer; Associate (Attorney); and Senior In-House Counsel.

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How Air Pollution Affects Your Body and What You Can Do About It

Posted By Gavin Wilson , Thursday, April 4, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is tasked with making sure that the amount of pollution released by factories, cars, and other industrial items is regulated, but they aren’t responsible for pollution within the home. Have you thought about how air pollution inside can affect you and your body? It can be just as much of a health hazard as what you breathe in while you’re outside, if not more, considering how much time you spend in your home.

One way you can reduce some of the pollutions in your home is by getting a humidifier. That may sound strange, but it’s true. Of course, picking the right one to get the benefits you need is essential in assuring that the air quality in your home is improved (more on this later). Take a look at how a humidifier can help you reduce pollution in your home and what features you need to consider to get the job done right.

Woman and man with cold and flu symptoms

Before installing a whole house humidifier, however, it is important to understand what causes air pollution and how it can affect your overall health. With this knowledge comes the understanding of why it is important not only for your long-term health but also for the environment, to improve overall air quality.

Effects of Air Pollution

When there are rampant pollutants in the air in your home, it can have significant effects on you and your body. Your health may decline, and you’ll probably feel symptoms of cold and flu. Why? Those pollutants are irritants, and even if you don’t have allergies—which significantly increase the symptoms you'll experience—you will sneeze, cough, and could end up congested due to your body’s production of excess mucus, which is used to trap those pollutants so they don’t enter your lungs.

While the most common effect of air pollution is respiratory-related; it can also have long-term negative effects on those with existing heart conditions or those with a history of heart-related health problems in their family. Cases have been reported that show a direct link between heart attacks, hypertension, and angina and air pollution. When exposed to high amounts of air pollution, strokes are also more common; especially in the elderly or those with existing health conditions. While the negative effects of air pollution on our physical health are significant on their own, recent studies are now also linking air pollution with poor mental health.

What Causes Air Pollution?

Fossil fuel example - gasoline

While people understand that air pollution refers to the release of pollutants and contaminants that have long-term and irreversible effects on the human body—and the planet—the exact factors that cause poor air quality are not always common knowledge. The top common causes of air pollution are as follows, but are not limited to:

  • The burning of fossil fuels—either in the heating of the home, gasoline for a motor vehicle or during operations of a production company.
  • Climate change—the warmer the temperature of the overall atmosphere, the more air pollution is created during increased smog production and increased ultraviolet radiation.
  • Climate change—the warmer the temperature, the more condensation forms in the atmosphere increasing mold production and pollen that is released into the fragile air system.
Global warming effect on the polar ice caps

How you can Help Reduce Air Pollution

The reduction of air pollution is not just the concern of production companies and factories but instead a universal concern in which each and every single person the planet can complete certain tasks to ensure their carbon footprint is reduced.

If you are wondering exactly how to reduce air pollution, not just inside the home but also in the outside environment, here is a list of some basic guidelines to follow:

  1. Consider changing your mode of transportation – look into public transportation (buses, transit lines, etc.) or organizing a carpool for work and other extracurricular activities.
  2. Look into the possibility of changing over to clean energy for your home – think solar power or wind turbines instead of oil or wood-powered heating appliances.
  3. Support local businesses to reduce the amount of items and products that need to be shipped and/or trucked into your location whenever possible.
  4. Weather reports – to reduce the effect of air pollution to your person, browse through weather reports to find out the smog index for the day and consider closing the Installing solar panels on roofwindows of the home on muggy days. Exercise away from heavily trafficked roads when possible and limit the amount of time spent in areas where air pollution is visible.
  5. Install a whole home humidifier to reduce the amount of air pollution found in the residence caused by common household pollutants (cleaning products, cooking,heating methods, etc.)

Protect yourself at home

Pollutants in your home, such as dust, dander, dead skin, and other particles are everywhere, despite your best efforts to clean. The heat and air conditioning assure that these never truly settle, blowing air through the dwelling. Fans are similar, spreading these so that we’re breathing them in all the time. The dryer the air is, the more likely these are to permeate the air since there is no moisture to weigh them down and keep them at least stuck to a surface.

A humidifier can dampen this, keeping as many harmful pollutants from floating around in the air. In addition, humidifiers have filters, which help reduce any particles in the water that may pollute your air, therefore emitting fewer pollutants overall.

Ok, but which one should I get?

Furnace with whole-home humidifier

Warm mist humidifiers use heat to evaporate water, turning it into steam and blowing it out into the air around you. This is effective, but there are seve

They require a heating element of some kind, which means the unit may be hot to the touch and could burn you or a small child.ral negative factors involved.

  • The water is essentially boiled to produce the mist, which means if you bump it, you risk spilling boiling water on your skin and burning yourself.
  • A lot of warm mist humidifiers don’t have an automatic shut off when they run out of the water, which could cause the unit to burn up, reducing the lifespan of the humidifier.

By contrast, a cool mist humidifier uses either a wick and a fan or ultrasound to create water molecules that can be spread into the air around you. A cool mist humidifier doesn’t affect the ambient temperature of a room as much as a warm mist humidifier, so you don’t need to adjust your thermostat accordingly. In addition, they are much safer, since there is no threat of being burned from either the tank or hot water. They tend to run very quietly, though the ultrasonic units are quieter than the wick and fan versions most of the time.

Features to Watch for in Humidifiers

To be sure that your humidifier is going to help with the air pollution in your home, make sure of several features that are incorporated into the unit before you purchase, including:

  • A filter (few humidifiers don’t have one, but check just in case)
  • An antibacterial system
  • Automatic shut off
  • Timer
  • Adjustable humidistat and mist levels
  • A diffuser (which can be used for essential oils)
  • A large tank (so you don’t have to refill twice a day)


Making sure your respiratory system doesn’t suffer from air pollution in your home is important, probably more so than worrying about the air outside. You’re confined into space, and if you aren’t careful, your home will be the place that you’re least comfortable because you have too many pollutants and allergens that you’re breathing in. With a humidifier, not only will you increase the overall air quality in your home by assuring you have enough moisture in your air; you’ll also help control the pollutants that would otherwise plague you and your health and wellness. It’s a small investment, with tons of options for sizes and types, so you should be able to find something that suits you and your family’s needs in your home with little trouble.

Gavin Wilson is the director of content over at goodairgeeks.com. He lives with his wife, his dog (Mr. Peanut Butter), and his "attack cat" (Bojack!). He is a nature lover and cares deeply about the environment. He hopes to help make a cleaner and greener Earth with this website.

Tags:  air quality  clean air  physical wellness  pollution 

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Healing From the Inside Out

Posted By Michelle Kelly, Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Watercolor painting of vegetables

A plant-based diet will change your life for the better. Your digestion will improve, you’ll have natural energy, you’ll sleep better, and you’ll fight disease. Vegetables, nuts, fruits, and legumes nourish the human body because humans are designed to eat these food groups. Ingesting animal products will do more harm than good. All animal products are mucus forming and are acidic. If the mucus goes to your nostrils, it is called sinusitis. If the mucus goes to your bronchial tube, it is called bronchitis. If the mucus goes to the lungs, it is called pneumonia. If the mucus goes to the prostate gland, it called prostatitis. If the mucus goes to the uterus it is called endometriosis and can also lead to a yeast infection. Disease grows in an acidic body. If you keep your body alkaline, you are less prone to sickness. Eating a plant-based diet ensures an alkalinized PH balance. Food is medicine— your body is not a tomb.

Along with adopting a vegan diet, it is a good idea to go gluten-free as well. Gluten is a gut killer. It causes inflammation in the gut which leads to depression, constipation, headaches, anemia, nausea, and severe bloating. In fact, the healthier and more natural you eat, your body will no longer tolerate food that does not nourish your body. Quinoa is a better substitute for bread. It’s an ancient grain superfood. It is packed with all nine essential amino acids. It lowers cholesterol, glucose levels, and keeps your red blood cells healthy.

Eating a plant-based diet heals the human body from the inside out. It is unnecessary for animals to be killed for humans to ingest their secretions and flesh when it simply causes disease. Eating healthy and exercising regularly – even if it’s walking – will keep your body thriving. It’s important to remember cancer, acne, eczema, inflammatory diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia, arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, a shorter life span, and so many more health issues are caused by the consumption of animal products.








Michelle Kelly is a freelance writer from NYC. She writes about health + wellness, holistic healing, animal activism, and fiction.

Tags:  emotional wellness  nutrition  physical wellness  veganism  vegetarianism 

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March's Lucky Charms: A Practice Of Gratitude

Posted By Sabrina Walasek, Monday, March 25, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Photo courtesy of Cygnus921 [CC BY-SA 3.0]

In honor of March, I decided that rather than searching fields of green for four-leaf clover I would turn inward to identify my own lucky charms. We all know that acknowledging what is good in life is helpful and healthful. Sometimes, though, it’s just hard to muster up the effort to put our full attention on it. This is especially true as we careen through our daily routine, checking off tasks and dealing with the mundane.

To liven up my gratitude practice, I decided to try a new approach and I shared it with my women’s mindfulness circle. I encourage you to give it a try. (This was practiced at the end of the day.)

Opening Statement

Feeling lucky can be a part of any experience. It’s a frame of mind that acknowledges the gift of each moment of each day, no matter the circumstance. It’s a path to feeling comfort, joy, gratitude, or resolve in what is. Tonight we will practice this.


Without explanation, simply state something you feel lucky about. Take whatever comes to mind, without overthinking it. Complete the statement, “I feel lucky that _____.” or “I am lucky to have ______.” Say it out loud. Notice how that makes you feel. (We were in a group, but if you want to do this alone, I still encourage you to say it out loud. It makes it more real.)


We are going to do a ten-minute meditation with a focus. Imagine you are replaying your day as if it were a movie. As you revisit different aspects of the day in your mind’s memory, stop and acknowledge people or things along the way you may have taken for granted, but in observing them from this vantage point, you feel gratitude. Take a moment to silently say, “I’m lucky that ______.”

Remember not to force the feeling of gratitude; simply allow yourself to relive the moments and see what naturally bubbles up and gives you joy or appreciation. If you encounter something that was negative, consider if it might have been a gift. Perhaps there is something you’ve learned from the experience that will help you along your life path.

Whatever comes up, go with it — let it flow through you. If your mind starts to wander, notice and bring it back to the place you left off or go to the breath until you can step back onto the path.

(Set timer for 10 minutes)

After the meditation, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this exercise worked well for the women in my group. Several of them shared that when they had arrived that evening they were not feeling particularly uplifted; they were experiencing the residuals of a pretty crummy day. Most admitted that they had not noticed a single “good” thing about their day. To their delight, the practice completely changed their outlook. Upon review, they realized many gold nuggets of life that they were taking for granted.

Another takeaway from the meditation was that it has a more profound impact on the rest of the evening. The level of relaxation in the faces and bodies of the attendees was noticeable. The coherence of the group was more solid. The women commented on how much better they felt about their day and their life. It was that simple, a pivot in their point of view.

Illustration of the parts of the brain.
Image courtesy of the National Institute of
Mental Health (NIMH) [Public domain]

The Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley conducted a study to see how gratitude affected people who were undergoing counseling. They had some participants write gratitude letters for three weeks while others documented their negative experiences or did not write at all. The findings, using an fMRI scanner, showed that those who wrote gratitude letters showed more activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for human social cognition and behavior. Even more exciting was that there was still evidence of its effect three months later.

From my experience, the positive mental shift that comes from a gratitude practice does not necessarily require writing one's thoughts or sharing them in with others (though these are both perfectly fine options). All that is required is a few minutes of quiet and a positive lens. This month, we called our lens “lucky.” I can’t help but wonder what our world would be like if everyone could take some time at the end of the day to sit with their family, colleagues, friends, or whomever and notice that their day was one filled with lucky charms.

Sabrina WalasekSabrina Walasek has twenty years of learning and program design expertise that has covered multiple subjects for learners of all ages. Her love of travel and adventure led her to Colombia where she built an English language fluency and literacy program for Colegio Canadiense, a private k-12 school with 1,200 students.


As a veteran meditator, Sabrina spends her free time as a mindfulness practitioner and delves into all things related to mind-body wellness. She has led a women’s mindfulness group for over a year and recently designed 16 social-emotional mindfulness workshops for 250 middle school students in Toronto under her brand HumanKindClub. Her website is www.mindfulspaces.org. 

Tags:  emotional wellness  gratitude  Mindfulness  spiritual wellness 

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Unleashing your inner Scarlett: building resilience in turbulent times

Posted By Ruth Kelly, Thursday, March 14, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Scarlett O’Hara, the leading protagonist of Margaret Mitchells’s epic Gone with the Wind, was arguably one of the most iconic characters of American cinema. She was charming, manipulative, vain, spoiled and captivating. However, swept up in the backdrop of the American Civil War this Southern belle discovered attributes and qualities she never knew she possessed. She exhibited fortitude, ingenuity, determination, courage, tenacity, and above all resilience – the ability to bounce back and keep going in the face of adversity. Her steely spirit was epitomised in her “As God is my witness …” monologue where fist clenched she vows that life will not break her and that she will survive at any cost. The theme of resilience is central to the development of this feisty heroine and it is a concept that has gathered significant momentum in recent years as a means of learning and recovering from life’s challenges and setbacks – our mental and emotional elasticity.

 Resilient business woman holding laptop

What is Resilience?

The Harvard Business review defines resilience as “the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity” - including trauma or significant stress. Resilience is not only the ability to weather a difficulty, but also to emerge from it stronger and better prepared to face new challenges in the future. In the corporate world, resilience has gained significant impetus because business leaders increasingly recognize that resilient employees are more likely to recover quicker from an adverse situation and that resilient teams build competitive advantage and growth opportunities. At its core, resilience means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences and finding the intrinsic drive, motivation, and wherewithal to achieve your goals in turbulent times. In other words, “resilience is the capacity to adapt successfully in the presence of risk and adversity” (Jensen and Fraser, 2005).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015) defines individual resilience as the ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity and stress. In essence, resilience implies maintaining or returning to one’s original state of mental health or well-being or achieving a more mature and developed state of well-being through the employment of effective strategies and techniques. Perhaps resilience is really the capacity to weather difficulties and embrace the changes that adversity demands – a deeper wisdom forged through complex and uncertain times. As K. Neycha Herford founder and CEO of The ReMixed Life™ states “resilience is an unwavering rebelliousness to bet on the best while navigating the worst”


What constitutes resilience?

The positive psychology movement founded by Professor Martin Seligman is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The Penn Resilience Program offered by the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania includes a set of 21 empirically validated skills that build cognitive and emotional fitness and strength of character. Fundamentally, the Program identifies a number of elements that are integral to building resilience:

  1. Self-Awareness – the ability to pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiological reactions.
  2. Self-Regulation – the ability to change one’s thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiology in the service of a desired outcome.
  3. Mental Agility – the ability to look at situations from multiple perspectives and to think creatively and flexibly. 
  4. Strengths of Character – the ability to use one’s top strengths to engage authentically, overcome challenges and create a life aligned with one’s values.
  5. Connection – the ability to build and maintain strong, trusting relationships.
  6. Optimism – the ability to notice and expect the positive, to focus on what you can control and to take purposeful action. 

Derek Mowbray of the Wellbeing and Performance Group UK proposes a ‘Resilient and Adaptive Person Development Framework’ with 3 spheres of personal control:

  1. Over oneself – self-awareness, self-confidence, vision and determination.
    Someone who is self-aware is more likely to empathize with others and understand what motivates them.
  2. Over responses to events – problem solving skills, organization.
    This control is rooted in the ability to negotiate effectively with others and to persuade others to consider alternate viewpoints and approaches.
  3. Over responses to people – relationships and personal interactions.
    This control is rooted in organizing oneself in chaotic situations. Someone who has the ability to organize themselves in chaotic situations also has the ability to be flexible and adaptable.

Mowbray identifies the following characteristics of resilient people:

  1. Enthusiasm for life and work.
  2. Capacity to see the future and “go for it”.
  3. Capacity to cope with threatening events and distress.
  4. Attitude towards life and work that is positive, full of energy and determination.
  5. Capacity to see the options, and to adapt effectively to meet and overcome challenges.

George A. Bonanno (professor of clinical psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, U.S.A) in an interview in The New Yorker believes that one of the central elements of resilience is perception. In other words, it depends on whether we view an event as traumatic or as an opportunity to learn and grow. This is subjective and relative i.e. what one person might experience as overwhelming for another might be an opportunity to extend their personal boundaries and develop as an individual. 

It is agreed throughout the literature on resilience that it is a multi-dimensional concept. However, current research identifies a number of factors that are consistent with resilient people (Brown, 2010):

  1. They are resourceful and have good problem solving skills.
  2. They are more likely to seek help.
  3. They believe that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope.
  4. They have social support available to them.
  5. They are connected with others, such as family and friends. 
  6. They are flexible, adapt to new and different situations and learn from experience, including mistakes and triumphs.


Women and Resilience

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” - Maya Angelou

Are women more resilient than men? In Gone with The Wind, Margaret Mitchell created a leading female character whose sheer tenacity and strength triumphed over unimaginable adversity. She epitomized a resilient spirit which resonated with Rhett Butler’s words to her that “hardships make or break people”. Scarlett had more than just strength of character and survival instinct though. She was strategic and not afraid to employ creativity and tactics to achieve her goals. Even though GWTW is fiction, research suggests that when the going gets tough women are in fact more resilient than men. In an article published in Nature (January 2019) researchers at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense studied seven populations that endured famine, epidemics or enslavement. The researchers found that during crises, girls and women lived longer than their male counterparts. Research by Andy Scharlach, a UC Berkeley professor of aging and director of its Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services has shown that women generally retain far more resilience as they age than men. One of the reasons, Scharlach suggests, is that women develop richer social networks than men that are not as work bound, and not as sports bound, or activity bound. 

Between 2009 and 2010 Accenture conducted a global online and telephone survey of 524 senior executives from medium to large companies in 20 countries. Women Leaders and Resilience: Perspectives from the C-Suite sought to identify the value executives give to resilience as a senior primary quality of leadership. These leaders view women as slightly more resilient than men ‒ 53% reported women are very to extremely resilient ‒ 51% reported men are very to extremely resilient. 

Another study conducted in the UK Tough at the Top: new rules of resilience for women’s leadership success (2014) found that although both women and men define resilience in similar terms, they talk about the experience of resilience at work in different ways. Women, more often than men, talk about vulnerability when they describe what it means to be resilient. Also, more women than men equate resilience with the need to suppress their emotions at work. This suggests that women look at their likely career path and assume they will have to increasingly ‘toughen up’ to get to the top. Simply acknowledging that this is happening and encouraging senior women and men to speak out about their own experiences of vulnerability in climbing the corporate ladder could go a long way to countering this view.

However, the assumption that toughness alone will propel a woman’s professional rise is erroneous. True resilience means being strategic as well as strong. It means showing ingenuity and imagination in overcoming challenges as well as demonstrating enough self-belief to look at setbacks not as failures but as opportunities to learn from the mistakes and grow. Perhaps, as many sociologists believe, women have had to fight harder for respect and equality so therefore had no alternative but to develop resilience. Also, it has been more acceptable for women to exhibit emotional vulnerability while men traditionally have had to portray a ‘stiff upper lip’. Perhaps straddling vulnerability and strength simultaneously builds empathy and compassion in women – essential building blocks of resilience. As the poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou writes in her essay ‘In All Ways a Woman’ women must be ‘tough’ as well as ‘tender’ and “the woman warrior who is armed with wit and courage will be among the first to celebrate victory”


Building Resilience 

The good news is that the capacity for resilience is not a static trait in either men or women but rather it is a skill that can be developed and mastered. The following are suggestions for putting resilience to work for you.

  1. Thoughts are Things - sometimes our deep held beliefs and thinking patterns can be counter-productive. Listen to your thoughts and identify the language you use with yourself when faced with a challenge. Is your self-talk supportive or critical? Is it limiting or empowering? By beginning to understand the power of your thoughts you begin to understand how they create not just your present experiences but also your future ones. 
  2. View Setbacks as Opportunities for Growth – this might sound a little Pollyanna-esque. However, by seeing the positive in our failures and setbacks, by looking at what we did incorrectly and what we might do differently in the future and by being willing to learn, grow and develop we avoid the futility of self-flagellation and instead empower ourselves to move towards the future with fresh knowledge, perspective and confidence. Patience and tolerance, especially of ourselves, is key.
  3. Social Scaffolding – surround yourself with people who support and care for you. By building strong social networks you are cocooning yourself in a web of sustenance and encouragement which will ultimately assist you in weathering life’s storms.  
  4. It’s OK not to be OK – sometimes when the going gets tough we need to be frank with ourselves about how we’re feeling, to honestly assess and appraise the situation and to work out the best strategy for moving forward. Owning and addressing our vulnerabilities is a sign of strength, not weakness. This applies to both men and women.
  5. Accountability and Responsibility – taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions is key to resilience. Blaming others for our failures or handing over our power by ‘allowing’ others to make us feel bad about ourselves in disempowering and emotionally draining. Good self-esteem and self-belief help build a certain imperviousness to the opinions, good and bad, of others.
  6. Change is inevitable - Charles Darwin said that the species most likely to survive is not the most intelligent or the strongest but ‘the one that is most adaptable to change’. By learning to be flexible and to embrace the complexities and uncertainties of life we are more inclined to ‘flow’ with the process of life. 
  7. Rest and Recharge – resilience does not equate with endurance. It might be a cliché but there is truth in the old adage ‘work, rest and play’. Get the balance right.  


Resilience in the Workplace

  1. Mindfulness – is gaining increasing impetus and recognition as a means of addressing a number of stress and cognitive related issues in the work place. Mindfulness has been found to boost judgement accuracy and insight related problem solving (Kiken, 2011) and enhances cognitive flexibility (Malinowski and Moore, 2009). MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” centre, the amygdala – which initiates the stress response, appears to shrink. 
  2. Response flexibility – Budgets are tight, projects get negative feedback and clients are challenging – all these things are enough to test anyone. It is important to cultivate enough self-awareness to be able to respond to rather than react to situations or people. The ability to pause, reflect, deliberate, consider possibilities and choose wisely is critical to building workplace resilience. 
  3. Innovate and set new goals – personal innovation means investing in and developing your own knowledge and talents. Continuing Personal Development courses are a productive way of expanding your knowledge base. Night classes are a creative way to develop your hobbies and personal interests and to build a social network. Always set new personal goals or milestones. 
  4. Work-Life Balance – it is critical to balance work demands with your personal life. Seeing family and friends, socialising, travelling, exercising etc. - doing the things that enrich you is essential to a happy and fulfilling life. 
  5. Good work networks – what supports are available in your workplace? Are you in a position to make positive changes in your team or organistion? Here are some ideas of what you can do:
    1. Encourage management to make a commitment to mental health and wellness initiatives to create a healthy psychological environment. 
    2. Simple ergonomics such as creating a healthy workspace i.e. lighting, suitable workstations and chairs etc. as well as taking breaks to stretch your body and fingers can all make a huge difference to wellbeing.
    3. Building good social networks at work i.e. team building days, nights out etc. Positive relationships at work boost employee engagement and productivity.
    4. Healthy eating options at work. Lunch time yoga classes or even donning the trainers and going for a walk are all positive actions to boost workplace resilience. 



In summary, resilience is a multi-modal dynamic concept which embraces physiological and psychological elements. Resilience means more than just ‘bouncing back’ – it means strategically adapting to and responding to change, adversity and uncertainty and emerging from the process with new perspective, strength and insight. One of the certainties of life is uncertainty and there will inevitably be obstacles and setbacks to challenge even the most resolute of us. However, by deliberately developing resilience we can equip ourselves with essential skills, approaches, and mindsets to navigate even the most turbulent times. The important thing is to keep going to remember that ‘after all, tomorrow is another day’. 

R – reflect on your values.
E – everybody has setbacks.
S – stay connected.
I – invest in yourself personally and professionally.
L – learn healthy and supportive habits and behaviours.
I – identify your strengths, talents and skills.
E – engage with tolerance and compassion. 
N – nurture mind, body and spirit.
C – cultivate a positive expectant mindset.
E – express gratitude. 



Brown, B. (2010) The Gifts of Imperfection, Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, Hazelden, Center City, Minnesota. 

Jensen, J.M. and Fraser, M.W. (2005) A Risk and Resilience Framework for Child, Youth, and Family Policy, in Social Policy for Children and Families: A Risk and Resilience Perspective, Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Kiken, L.G (2011) Mindfulness Increases Positive Judgments and Reduces Negativity Bias, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(4), 425-431.

Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, Mindfulness and Cognitive Flexibility, Consciousness and Cognition, 18, 176-186.

Strengthening Personal Resilience – a programme to improve performance Derek Mowbray July 2012 Management Advisory Service www.mas.org.uk 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015). Individual Resilience, Public Health and Medical Emergency Support for a National Prepared, Retrieved from http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/abc/Pages/individual-resilience.aspx

KellyRuth Kelly is a researcher and nutrition and wellness adviser. She holds a Ph.D in science from the University of Limerick, Ireland, as well as advanced diplomas in Nutrition and Weight Management and Emotional Freedom Techniques. She is a qualified Stress Management Coach and is currently self-employed at Essence Wellness which offers a range of services to private clients as well as the corporate sector including Corporate Wellness Programmes which cover nutrition, stress management and resilience building. She is a regular blogger to wellness websites in Ireland and is also a fully qualified Bio-energy therapist and Reiki Master.

Tags:  emotional wellness  intellectual wellness  resilience  success  thriving 

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