Posted By Hanlie van Wyk,
Monday, January 27, 2020
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This is part 2 of The BRATLAB ‘Behavioral Prescription’ Series
Researchers believe that we can control about 40% of our happiness. Naturally, those with a happy nature experience positive emotion more often and a happy disposition is likely to be the cause of more positive emotions. However, experimental studies suggest that positive emotions can produce beneficial outcomes even in the absence of an innately happy temperament. They also noticed that the amount of time that people experience positive emotions defines how happy they feel, not necessarily the intensity of that emotion.
What is ‘Happiness’ Anyway?
There are a daunting thirteen ways to define and measure happiness and different experiences might make you happy on any given day. For the purposes of this article, let’s keep it simple and categorize the various definitions into three easy to remember concepts: Pleasure, People, and Prosperity.
The first refers to maximizing pleasurable moments (such as comfort, entertainment, and enjoyment) that lead to the satisfaction of a person’s wants and needs. This might contribute to a level of life satisfaction. The second, People, is about having positive relationships with others. As social animals we crave social acceptance, strive for social contribution and integration with a community. The third, Prosperity, is about more than what money can buy. A higher income level does raise happiness, but to a smaller extent than most people think. Prosperity is more about human flourishing and includes autonomy, mastery, personal growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. In short, it’s about living authentically and actualizing one’s inherent potential as the way to wellbeing.
Making the Change: Adopting Happiness Habits at the Workplace
Happier people report being more productive, especially when happiness is thought of as the frequent experience of positive emotions. By moving from a lower level of happy emotions to a higher level, productivity improves by up to 40% in some studies. Happiness, in the form of positive emotions, is positively correlated with employees’ sensitivity to opportunities, helpfulness to co-workers, confidence, cooperation, reduced aggressiveness, and increased persistence. Feeling happy expands thinking and stimulates creativity. Overall, positive emotions improve cognitive function by 30% and stamina by 25%. Curiously, happier people seem to make more mistakes (25% more), but this could be prevented by practicing mindfulness as it decreases error rates by 25% while creating other beneficial health and productivity outcomes.
As a rule, people who frequently practice generating happiness are on average more productive and more satisfied with their jobs and lives.
Given that happiness can be ‘generated’, both organizations and individuals would do well to invest in practicing ‘happiness habits’. But as we’ve already noted, happiness comes in many different forms, so it’s not straightforward for companies to decide which happiness habits will be most beneficial. A good question might be: “Which happiness habit would have the greatest impact on my employees’ and hence my organization’s productivity? Where should we focus our limited resources?”
To answer this question, the Behavioural Research and Applied Technology Laboratory (‘BRATLAB’) identified and researched nine happiness habits that could potentially improve productivity, dividing them into three categories: Savor, Focus and Foster.
✓ Cherish positive experiences
✓ Practice being more optimistic
✓ Express gratitude often
✓ Live with purpose and meaning (know your "why’"
✓ Practice being mindful
✓ Use your unique character strengths
✓ Build positive relationships
✓ Perform acts of kindness & generosity
✓ Show self-compassion
Of the nine habits, being more mindful shows the biggest overall productivity impact, increasing stamina by 50% and cognitive function by 20%. Mindfulness techniques also reduce sick care costs, stress and anxiety brought on by mental health issues and may even beneficially impact health by lowering blood glucose, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.
Based on available research other habits like expressing gratitude, cherishing positive experiences and using your unique strengths have some impact. For example, salespeople who practice optimism sell 15% more than those who do not.
Other Habits that Combat Unhappiness
Our research tells us that both health and happiness habits contribute to an increase in personal performance. Each is mutually supportive of the other, pointing to a bi-directional, reinforcing relationship between them. For example, doing exercise, managing your stress and engaging in talk interventions (coaching or therapy) are shown to significantly decrease unhappiness more than any intervention individually.
Any organization looking to evaluate the impact of investing in these changes or wanting to understand more about how to create happy, healthy and change-ready cultures should contact Change Craft at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frederickson, B. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. The Royal Society. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 359, 1367–1377
Gallagher, M.W, Lopez, S.J. & Preacher, K.J. (2009). The Hierarchical Structure of Well-Being. J Pers.77(4): . doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00573.x.
Jongbloed, J., & Andres, L. (2015). Elucidating the constructs happiness and wellbeing: A mixed- methods approach. International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(3), 1-20. doi:10.5502/ijw.v5i3.1
Luthans, F., Avolio, B. J., Avey, J. B. & Norman, Steven M. (2007). "Positive Psychological Capital: Measurement and Relationship with Performance and Satisfaction". Leadership Institute Faculty Publications. Paper 11.
Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. & Diener, E. (2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? Psychological Bulletin, Vol 131(6):803-855.
Robertson, I., & Cooper. G. (2011). Well-Being, Productivity & Happiness at Work. Palgrave McMillan, UK
Seligman. M. & Royzman, E. (2003). Happiness: The Three Traditional Theories
Zelenski. J.M., Murphy, S.A. & Jenkins, D.A. (2008). The Happy-Productive Worker Thesis Revisited. Journal of Happiness Studies 9:521–537
Hanlie van Wyk
is a behavioral change expert, systems strategist, author, and Ph.D. candidate for Hate Crime Studies. Her fascination with human behavior started while growing up in South Africa. From working to prevent hate crime to humanizing the workplace, her career spans three decades and four continents researching and applying behavioral change strategies to some of the most challenging behavioral problems. As is the founder and director at Change Craft (powered by Behavioral Research and Applied Technology Laboratory) she studies, develops and applies agnostic systems and practices that make change sticky and results in high performing individuals and cultures.
Posted By Patty Bell,
Friday, January 17, 2020
Updated: Friday, January 10, 2020
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Anyone who has enjoyed the aroma of lavender, eucalyptus, or frankincense during a massage already knows firsthand the relaxing properties of essential oils. Wafting into the senses, these aromatic essences immediately improve the state of mind, inducing a state of soothing calm.
It may come as a surprise to learn that aromatherapy is also very useful as a supportive measure in addiction recovery. As a complementary treatment element in detox, treatment, and recovery, aromatherapy has a multitude of wellness benefits. The mind-body connection is one that must be considered in recovery, as the mind is a powerful engine that can influence recovery outcomes. Aromatherapy is useful in helping individuals in recovery restore that mind-body connection.
The mental health component to addiction recovery cannot be overstated. Our mental wellness can literally make or break any attempts to live a sober, healthy life. Increasingly, addiction treatment programs are embracing holistic measures, including the use of essential oils, as complementary therapies to the conventional evidence-based protocols.
Learning about the role of aromatherapy in recovery offers the newly sober an additional tool to help achieve a more serene and balanced state of mind. Coupled with therapy and recovery support groups, aromatherapy offers just one more tool to aid the process of restoring health and reshaping one’s lifestyle.
What is Aromatherapy?
The use of essential oils is ancient. Originating in Eastern medicine thousands of years ago, aromatherapy has a proven history of efficacy in providing medicinal effects, both physical and psychological. Essential oils are created from the most potent parts of various plants and flowers. The distillation process, using water or steam, yields medicinal grade oil, with each variety having its own healing properties. Today, essential oils are an increasingly popular drug-free alternative to achieve a state of relaxation or to improve mood.
Essential oils are utilized to benefit a multitude of health and wellness conditions. Aromatherapy, using the scent and medicinal properties of the essential oils, is beneficial in the healing of mind and body. There are a multitude of essential oils that can produce healing effects, such as by reducing inflammation and improving the immune system. In summary, aromatherapy can help relieve symptoms of various ailments, reduce stress, and to bolster the immune system.
There are two basic methods of using aromatherapy:
Topical. Essential oils can be absorbed through the skin. When applying the essential oils to the skin it is important to first dilute the oil with carrier oil, such as coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba, or olive oil before massaging it into the skin. Essential oils are best applied to the soles of the feet, the palm of the hand, and the temples and the scalp.
Inhalation. The vapor from a diffuser that is produced by drops of the essential oil added to water stimulates the olfactory system, entering through the nasal passage, into the lungs, and reaching the brain. A differ is not necessary, as just placing two drops of the essential oil on the palms, rubbing them together, then cupping them to the nose while inhaling deeply can also provide immediate effects.
Other uses of essential oils might include placing a few drops in the bath, or on a pillowcase. It can also be added to a candle allowing the heat of the candle to release the scent into the room or mixed with water in a spray bottle and spritzed into the air. Aromatherapy can be used in massage therapy, during meditation or prayer, while bathing, or during any relaxing activity.
The Science of Smell
Most people have experienced how a scent or odor can immediately elicit a memory. Our sense of smell has a powerful effect on our mood by activating the limbic system or the mood center of the brain. The aromatherapy affects the mood center of the brain by helping to regulate emotions, stress, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. This can help promote relaxation in the face of a stressful situation or event.
The pleasant effects enjoyed with aromatherapy can help the brain develop new scent-mind connections, creating a positive stimulus-response when the oils are introduced. Essentially, the aromatherapy induces feelings of pleasure and calm. This is because the reward path of the brain is part of the limbic system. Aromatherapy can be used to activate the reward path using a natural substance such as essential oils.
Basically, in addiction recovery, the brain is in recovery. Addiction takes a steep toll on brain structures, brain chemistry, cognitive functioning, and overall brain health. Aromatherapy can be an additional salve as brain health is restored to optimum functioning by creating a healing environment through the olfactory system.
How Essential Oils Assist the Detox Process
The detox process is the dreaded, but necessary, first step on the recovery journey. Detox and withdrawal involve the cessation of the substance of abuse, allowing the body to begin purging any chemicals or toxins associated with the substance. During alcohol or drug detox the body is destabilized. As the brain struggles to achieve equilibrium the person going through detox experiences assorted unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
While each specific substance of abuse has its own list of withdrawal symptoms, there are some that are common across the board. These symptoms include both physical and psychological symptoms such as headache, nausea, insomnia, depression, fatigue, and agitation. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms rests on a variety of factors that influence whether symptoms will be mild, moderate, or severe, and how long the detox process will take to complete.
During detox, trained professionals will utilize medications to minimize withdrawal discomforts. As a complementary holistic measure, aromatherapy can augment traditional medical interventions and ease the unpleasant effects of withdrawal. Adding essential oil therapy helps the individual processing through detox and withdrawal in several ways, including relief of some of the physical discomforts, boosting mood, reducing cravings, and aiding sleep. These benefits can assist the individual to safely and successfully complete the detox process before transitioning to addiction treatment.
Some essential oils for addiction can alleviate the general discomforts of withdrawal symptoms during the detox process, while others are uniquely suited to a particular drug or alcohol detox. For general withdrawal symptoms, clary sage, lemon, and bergamot essential oils can be helpful during detox and withdrawal. In addition:
For alcohol detox adding black pepper oil and Roman chamomile oil can help reduce withdrawal discomforts and help restore liver health.
For opiate detox adding lavender oil, ylang ylang oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and cinnamon oil can help with lethargy, reduce anxiety, and improve mental clarity.
For stimulant detox adding orange oil, jasmine oil, and peppermint can help boost mood, energy, and help soothe anxiety.
Detox and withdrawal are an uncomfortable but necessary first step in addiction recovery. Using the healing power of essential oils along with conventional medical interventions can provide relief from withdrawal symptoms and help the individual to persevere through the possible post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) as well. PAWS may linger for weeks, even months, so individuals experiencing these lasting withdrawal symptoms will benefit from the effects of aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy as a Complementary Treatment Element
As a complementary treatment element, aromatherapy can offer safe, natural effects that help boost mood, improve sleep quality, enhance mental clarity, and promote relaxation. All of these are essential in reinforcing recovery. Low mood can reduce motivation to stay the course and remain sober. Sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on overall wellbeing and can leave someone feeling fatigued and depressed. Stress is one of the most common triggers that can result in relapse. Why not use aromatherapy as a routine component of healthy living in recovery?
In many cases, the individual with a substance use disorder also suffers from a co-occurring mental health disorder. This goes beyond just feeling down or a little tense or irritable. Clinical depression or an anxiety disorder complicates the treatment picture, as they must be treated alongside the addiction. While essential oils will not replace antidepressants or other psychotropic medications, aromatherapy is excellent complementary therapy.
To improve mood, sleep quality, and reduce stress some of the most effective essential oils that benefit recovery include:
Basil sweet oil
Reduces stress, promotes deeper sleep, aids mental clarity, and improves memory
Helps relieve tension, regulate appetite, and has antidepressant properties
Black pepper oil
Reduces cravings, increases serotonin levels, calms anxiety
Lifts mood, has relaxation properties
Improves state of mind, reduces cravings
Cinnamon bark oil
Supports brain and liver health
Coriander oil (cilantro)
This oil may reduce cravings and has a stimulant effect that helps reduce fatigue
Helps promote relaxation and calm anxiety
Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression
Relieves negative emotions and tension, lifts mood
Enhances mental clarity and decision-making abilities, reduces brain fog
Combats fatigue and renews energy, reduces cravings, boosts mood
Has antidepressant properties, boosts mood
It’s calming effects can also help with insomnia and anxiety, reduces mood swings, and promotes liver energy flow (qi)
Increases energy, boosts mood
Helps lift mood while calming anxiety
Aids in mental clarity, revitalizes the spirit, energizes, reduces cravings, and lifts mood
Improves energy and boosts mood
Pink grapefruit oil
This oil can help depression symptoms, reduce cravings, promote relaxation, and induce a positive state of mind.
This oil stimulates mental clarity, improves mood
Helps achieve mental clarity and focus
Integrating aromatherapy into a traditional evidence-based treatment program can help ease some of the stress of being in a treatment environment, as well as help induce better sleep while in rehab. The core treatment elements in addiction treatment include:
Detox and withdrawal
Narcotics Anonymous 12-step program or similar programming
Holistic Addiction Recovery Practices
The holistic benefits of aromatherapy positively impact the psychological, physical, and spiritual aspects of wellness. When using aromatherapy in conjunction with other holistic activities and regular exercise, the individual in recovery can significantly improve their state of mind without the need for drugs or alcohol. So often those substances are used to self-medicate, to quiet an anxious mind or cover up feelings of depression. In recovery, holistic practices can offer a healthy alternative to substances of abuse while achieving the desired sense of calm.
Some holistic recovery practices include:
Early recovery is a challenging phase as individuals adjust to a completely new lifestyle. By combining aromatherapy with other holistic activities, it can significantly improve the mind-body connection and enhance recovery efforts, especially because of the stress-reducing properties of these activities.
Holistic activities help the individual gain a clearer sense of self and a fresh perspective through practicing them. These new insights, combined with the relaxation-promoting aspects of these activities, can help calm the mind and reduce the risk of relapse. Recovery is further reinforced by using these holistic methods in conjunction with ongoing outpatient therapy and participation in a recovery community.
Some Considerations About Aromatherapy
While aromatherapy is generally considered to be safe, some caution should be exercised when beginning aromatherapy. First, it should be emphasized that aromatherapy alone is not the answer to defeating an addiction. Engaging in active treatment while in rehab and continuing with ongoing outpatient rehab following rehab is the bedrock of addiction recovery. Aromatherapy compliments traditional therapy.
Also, the essential oils should not be ingested unless the individual is under the guidance of a naturopath who can provide the specific type of oils that are designed for this purpose. Essential oils can cause skin irritation, so in most cases should not be applied directly to the skin.
Other considerations include:
Essential oils can cause serious eye injury
Pregnant women should not use aromatherapy
Essential oils may be harmful to individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions
Hyssop oil can trigger seizures in people with a history of convulsions
Rosemary oil can cause an increase in blood pressure so should be avoided by individuals with hypertension.
Patty Bell has been working in the alcohol and drug addiction industry for over 20 years. She is currently the Family Relations Manager/Interventionist at Solutions 4 Recovery a residential rehabilitation facility providing substance abuse treatment services to men and women suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, and dual diagnosis. Patty has been sober since May 1996 and looks to help those struggling rise from their past to a new and brighter future.
Posted By Michelle J. Howe,
Friday, December 13, 2019
Updated: Friday, December 13, 2019
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The human cycle is one of birth and death.
Birth expands the heart. It’s a time to rejoice as we welcome a new soul into our lives.
Death constricts the heart. It’s a time to face the loss of someone from our lives.
There is a day to be born and there is a day to die.
Facing mortality is never easy.
There are those passing on with some level of awareness or notice. They have a unique opportunity to share their final thoughts with those most meaningful in their life. The biggest challenge for oneself and those we love comes as the process unfolds. It’s about coming to terms with what’s happening.
There are those who pass on without notice. Their death is sudden and to the point. The biggest challenge for these facing this type of situation comes from the sudden change, unresolved feelings or regrets. Neither party left got the opportunity to say goodbye.
Mortality is bittersweet.
Bittersweet is a noun describing something that is sweet with a bitter aftertaste.
The sweet part of mortality or losing a loved one comes from our focus and attention to our connection to them. It comes from feeling the depth of connection and honoring them with presence, pause and love.
The sweet part also involves revisiting storylines and past memories. The revisit allows us to cherish and value their role in our life. The revisit brings the past to present. The revisit brings tears that soften as we move into grief. Surrender, allowance and acceptance are the next important steps. In the end, we release heavy emotions and move forward with our life.
The bitter aftertaste is saying goodbye.
Each soul leaving their body has its own unique experience. There may be fear. There may be regrets. There may be anger. There may be restlessness and angst. There may be a determination to stay here. There may be grace and acceptance. There may be no emotion at all. There is no right approach to mortality. Each and every individual on his or her own path.
To be that individual saying goodbye to someone or losing a loved one is another experience. This loss initiates a range of emotions that begin with heartbreak followed by some measure of grief, sadness, or sorrow. The best approach is to feel whatever emotions arise knowing the importance of moving through each step your process.
A few things to consider when you are facing a bittersweet loss in your life:
- Focus on the soft, loving sides of them.
- Engage them to learn more about their life.
- Speak with kind words and open your heart.
- Listen without trying to correct or fix their mind.
- Take notice of the imprints you have inherited from them.
- Recognize the soul beyond the mentality of the personality.
- Beliefs about life and death are personal and vary from person to person.
Below are a few introspective questions to ask yourself:
- What do I believe happens after the death of a loved one?
- Do I still feel connected to those who are no longer physically here?
- Have I moved through all stages of grief or stuffed those heavy emotions?
Regardless of your position, thoughts or beliefs about death, there will always be mystery surrounding the topic. To prove or not to prove is always a debate that part and parcel for those unwilling to believe or trust beyond our logical minds.
“Faith is that the magic ingredient that allows us to accept life and death without fear. Faith allows us to move forward with peace in our hearts and an awareness of infinite connection to one another.”
Loss shocks our sense of stability, challenges our mind, and fills us with heavy emotions. The more we love, the stronger we are impacted by grief. Grief is the process of letting go, saying goodbye and, stepping forward with a new maturity.
When dealing with grief, it’s important to express emotions in the form of tears, writing or words. It’s important to be compassionate and patient with oneself. It’s important to nurture oneself by spending time alone or hanging with good friends. When dealing with grief, it may help to find a quality healer or empathic counselor as listed on online directories like DaoCloud or Wellness Universe. In time, the heart will heal.
Michelle J. Howe is an Evolutionary Guide, an Awakening Speaker, and a Master Healer. She is the founder of Empath Evolution and the curator of The Empath Evolution Community for individuals who are Highly Sensitive Feelers, Healers and Empaths. Michelle is a powerful channel of high vibrational healing energies who is on a mission to awaken your sense of inner connection and to deepen the trust you have in your own natural gifts and intuition. She's passionate about helping you navigate beyond the negativity, trauma, mood swings and anxiety that often accompany the Empath’s journey.
Posted By Rechá Bullock, MS., CWP, CWWS, RYT-200,
Thursday, September 5, 2019
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2019
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I realize death is a part of life and none of us can escape dying. However, nothing could have prepared me for the profound amount of loss, grief, and sadness I felt when my beloved maternal grandmother died 21 months ago, an uncle 19 months later, and a close friend last year to breast cancer. Intense sadness, loneliness, and anger are some of the feelings and emotions that I experienced during the grieving process.
I was my grandmother’s primary caregiver and her medical power-of-attorney. I spent many hours and nights in the hospital with my grandmother throughout several illnesses that were a direct result of poor food choices. Each time my rambunctious grandmother would get admitted into the hospital, she always came back home. I was always able to nurse her back to health with clean healthy foods, moderate exercise, and by ensuring she took all of her medications. However, I knew in my heart that her very last emergency room visit was unlike any other. My sweet Grandmother died in the hospital from renal failure and her son (my uncle) died 18 months later.
Watching a loved one die, losing multiple family members and a close friend in less than two years is one of the most difficult things that I have ever experienced. I have learned there isn’t anything you can do to prepare yourself for the overwhelming feelings of grief and sadness. I also learned there isn’t a timeframe when you stop missing your loved ones or stop feeling sad. You must allow yourself the time to go through what you are feeling inside. During the first year of my grandmother’s death, I had really bad days and often did not make it out doors due to the gut-wrenching sadness and loss that I was feeling.
What I have learned from the healing process is the more you love someone, the greater the grief will be! Grief and mourning are normal and we must allow ourselves the time to mourn and feel all of the intense feelings that come with the loss of loved ones. There were times when I thought about my grandmother and laughed because I thought of one of the many funny stories she told me. Other times, the intensity of the grief I felt was physically overwhelming. This was especially true if I listened to one of her voice mail messages that I saved on my cell phone.
The Healing Process
The healing process is a personal journey and each person will endure various highs and lows, as well as a range of feelings and emotions when they lose a loved one. However, never allow anyone to disregard how you feel or make you feel like you should no longer be sad or still grieving. I have learned that grief can be unpredictable! Also, there isn’t a fixed time or date when you will stop grieving. In fact, some people may never get over the loss of losing a loved one and may continue to experience a range of emotions and life disruptions for many years. This type of prolonged grief is known as Complicated Grief Shear (2012).
Complicated grief can be described as prolonged and intense feelings of grief that also includes a strong longing for the person who died (as cited in Shear, 2012, p. 4, para. 6). The intense feelings associated with complicated grief can begin to interfere with regular life activities, work, and personal relationships Shear (2012). If for some reason you are unable to have good days sprinkled in with sad days or become so depressed that you cannot seem to get back to your normal routine, you should seek professional help. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should contact your doctor or a mental health professional if you have intense grief and problems functioning that don't improve at least one year after the passing of your loved one (MAYO Clinic, 2017, para. 6). Professional therapists and mental health professionals are trained to help people cope with grief and process the range of feelings and emotions that come along with losing a loved one. Also, finding a counselor can be as easy as calling your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), primary care doctor, or finding a bereavement group at your place or worship.
I work in the public health field and knew that not dealing with my feelings could significantly jeopardize my mental and physical health. I am so glad that I allowed myself to cry when I felt very sad, sleep when I felt depressed, and exercise or do yoga when I needed to change my mood. I encourage everyone to tell loved ones, family, and friends when you are sad or depressed. Your family and friends can provide you with support by listening to how you are feeling, which can help to lift your mood.
In time you will definitely start to feel better and accept the death of your loved one. It is very important to be patient with yourself. Acknowledge what you are feeling. If you start to feel sad, try doing something that makes you happy like listening to music or singing your favorite song. My lifeline was yoga, teaching yoga, meditation, and exercise. Exercising, meditation, weight training, and yoga were like a refuge for me. Once I turned on my iPod and started moving, I was able to escape from my sad feelings. Remember, the overwhelming feelings from grief will not last forever and the time it takes to heal from losing a loved one is unique for each person.
Five steps to help you heal from grief
- Take one day at a time
- Be honest with how you are feeling and don’t be afraid to cry or be angry
- Let family and friends know when you need support
- Seek professional help or join a bereavement group if you are unable to get back to your normal routine or have prolonged sadness or depression
- Find an activity to do that will help change your mood like listening to music, meditation, exercise, or hanging out with friends
The grieving process can be long, difficult, and painful. Hopefully, the memories you have of your loved one(s) can help you feel lighter. Eventually, in your own time and your own way, you will begin to heal.
Mayo Clinic. (2017, October). Complicated grief. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/symptoms-causes/syc-20360374
Shear M. K. (2012). Grief and mourning gone awry: pathway and course of complicated grief. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(2), 119–128.
Rechà Bullock is a Certified Wellness Practitioner, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, Yoga Teacher (200-RYT), Yoga for Cancer Teacher, 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.
Posted By NWI,
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Updated: Thursday, June 20, 2019
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Social & Emotional Wellness Are Critical Factors to Success
Social Determinants of Health Definitions
We hear a lot more these days about social determinants of health (SDOH), but what are they? The World Health Organization provides a definition of SDOH.
Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides additional definitions that should be considered in addition to SDOH.
Transamerica Health Care Studies
Special thanks to Hector De La Torre of the Transamerica Center for Health Studies for providing this insightful data
Transamerica Center for Health Studies® (TCHS) – a division of the Transamerica Institute® – is focused on empowering consumers and employers to achieve the best value and protection from their health coverage. TCHS engages with the American public through national surveys, its website, research findings and consumer guidance.
Grocery Store Bills Can Determine Diabetes Rates by Neighborhood
Dietary habits are notoriously difficult to monitor. Now data scientists have analyzed sales figures from London’s biggest grocer to link eating patterns with local rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Read more at MIT Technology Review
Social Determinants of Health
Posted By Molly McGuane,
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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It’s estimated that every year 12 million people in the United States are affected by a misdiagnosed disease or condition. Incidences of cancer misdiagnosis can be particularly concerning, unfortunately altering the course of a person’s life. In the beginning stages of many cancers, symptoms can be vague and difficult to differentiate from more common illnesses. A misdiagnosis early on can be very detrimental and potentially lethal if the cancer continues to grow and spread. While the fault of a misdiagnosis of a disease doesn’t necessarily fall on a specific doctor or healthcare team, there are steps that doctors and patients can take to reduce the instance of a misdiagnosis.
Commonly Misdiagnosed Cancers
As an unfortunately common skin cancer, melanoma takes the lives of nearly 9,000 patients every year. Melanoma is caused by exposure to UV radiation that is generated from tanning beds and from exposure to the sun. Melanomas emerge on the skin as an irregular-looking mole or dark spot on your skin, but can be easily missed or misdiagnosed.
Health care providers and patients can be more vigilant about their skin by remembering the anagram ABCDE when looking at their moles and beauty spots. “A” stands for asymmetrical, “B” for irregular borders, “C” for abnormal color, “D” is for diameter, and “E” is for evolving in shape or size. These signs shouldn’t be ignored and moles or marks with these characteristics should be tested by a pathologist.
Primary care doctors and physician assistants should also recommend that patients see a dermatologist annually or biannually based on their risk. They should also encourage patients to perform “self check-ups” regularly to be alert of any new or changing skin lesions. Extra diligence could lead to a more accurate and early diagnosis, which is crucial in skin cancer and melanoma cases.
In many cases, cancer of the colon or the rectum often begins as a growths known as polyps, that grow in the walls of these areas over time. The best way to find colorectal cancer early is through screenings, but the problem of misdiagnosis comes when symptoms are misunderstood and screenings are done too late.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer can be uncertain, like unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and a change in bowel movements and symptoms like these can be misunderstood even by medical professionals, especially in younger patients. Most frequently, colon cancer can be misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, and ulcerative colitis due to similar symptoms including rectal bleeding and abdominal pain.
If pain continues or new symptoms arise, a colonoscopy or CT scan might be necessary to check for any serious issues. It’s also important to keep in mind that colorectal can be genetically connected and 1 in 3 people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer have a familial connection. Understanding a patient's family history is an important step in diagnosing disease and can provide additional insight into their symptoms. While it’s on the patient to know their family history, healthcare professionals can assist by impressing the importance of knowing that history upon their patients and making sure to ask when issues arise.
The most widespread cancer globally is lung cancer, and it can be caused by a number of environmental factors. The most obvious reason for developing lung cancer has historically been smoking and secondhand smoke, but cancers of the lung can also arise from elements in the air and invisible and odorless carcinogens we may not even realize that we are exposed to.
Symptoms of lung cancer, and related cancers of the lung like mesothelioma, often first appear as a persistent cough, pain in the chest, or shortness of breath. These symptoms could be easily misdiagnosed as asthma, COPD, or even a common cold. Lung cancer and mesothelioma are common occupational cancers, so knowing a patient’s occupational history can also lead to a better understanding of their condition. Those who have worked as firefighters, miners, and in the construction industry are more vulnerable to carcinogens like asbestos and silicates.
Understanding a patient's family medical history can also help in being vigilant about the beginning stages of breast cancer. Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the United States and the risk of a patient developing breast cancer can nearly double if a mother, sister, or daughter has also been diagnosed.
The beginning stages of breast cancer develop as a lump in the breast tissue but can be missed entirely if screening isn’t done frequently enough. Breast cancer screens are done routinely at primary care and OB-GYN appointments, and self checkups can also be performed to check for any abnormal bumps.
If there are any abnormalities in a mammogram, a follow-up imaging screening, mammogram, or biopsy should be scheduled in a timely manner so that the potential cancer does not worsen. Those who are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer need to communicate that risk with their primary physicians and specialists as well as their family history for the most accurate and timely testing.
How are we Closing the Gap?
Missing a cancer or other disease diagnosis can have regrettable consequences for patients and their families. Both healthcare professionals and those they treat can play a role in a misdiagnosis and they are an unfortunate reality of human error. However, the medical community is taking the time to learn from mistakes and invest in technology that analyzes stored data and can close the gap on inaccuracy. Being able to log patient data from around the world can help better understand symptom patterns and allow for more accurate testing, including mammograms and lung cancer screenings.
The use of artificial intelligence and telehealth in the medical field is helping connect the dots on cancer symptoms, but there is still a lot of ground to cover in perfecting these technologies in the real world. Today, AI should just be used to augment the human work of healthcare and there is still an active role doctors and other professionals can take to avoid a misdiagnosis.
Discussing personal, family, and occupational history and impressing the importance of gathering and communicating that information on your patients is vital to their well being. The more information you know about their health and history, the more accurately you can understand their symptoms. Recommending patients to keep up with an annual schedule of appointments and cancer screenings is another way primary care physicians can help their patients be preventative and avoid a missed or late diagnosis. Communicating closely with every healthcare provider working with the patient including nurses, radiologists and lab technicians is important for everyone’s understanding. Attention to detail and thorough communications will ensure that no important information is missed.
is a communications specialist and health advocate for the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center. She is passionate about informing others on cancer prevention and rare disease. Molly's areas of content expertise are cancer prevention, rare disease, occupational health, and asbestos exposure.
Posted By Jana Stará and Eva Dittingerová,
Friday, April 12, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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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?
In 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.
What 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.
The 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.”
The 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 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 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.
czech wellness council
Posted By Linda Roszak Burton,
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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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
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.
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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.
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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.
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 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.
Posted By Michelle Kelly,
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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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.
is a freelance writer from NYC. She writes about health + wellness, holistic healing, animal activism, and fiction.
Posted By Sabrina Walasek,
Monday, March 25, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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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.)
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.
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.
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.