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Beyond the Want

Posted By Dr. Lana M. Saal, EdD, MCHES, CWP, CTTS, Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Perhaps one of the strongest expressions of want hails from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, when Veruca Salt bellows out, “I WANT IT NOW!” Whereas she had her rich parents to buy or get her anything in an instant, most of us don’t have that privilege. Ah, but like Veruca, we do have our “wants” in life.

We want cars, clothes, nice homes, and a multitude of other tangibles. We want to lose weight, become healthy, or get more organized. We want people in our lives and our kids to be safe and successful. We want to start a new career (or retire), travel, be in places, to accomplish, or to be happy. 

Want, by definition, is a verb and kick-starts thoughts of potential action. When we think or speak that very word, meaning to have a desire to possess or do, in essence, what we are saying to ourselves, or out loud, is, “Yes, this is something I yearn for.” 

We think of our wants as something we could achieve, maybe, down the road—eventually perhaps. From the spark of the thought of a want, what happens next in our mind is a mental conversation. Within a matter of a few seconds, the human brain adeptly and quite comfortably goes to a litany of reasons why that want is not possible. We quickly create a mental list of all of the excuses (let’s call them choices) as to why our wants seem unobtainable. Impossibility reigns over possibility.

Did you know humans are actually wired to be more comfortable with the negative? There is actually an increased surge in electrical activity from thoughts that are negative that occur within the brain. This stems back to the fight or flight response, whereas danger (negative) would prepare the human body for what may possibly threaten life and living. The mind and body are more on guard, ensuring survival.  The brain has learned to be more comfortable in this state. In modern day life, our attitudes are more heavily influenced by the downbeat, rather than the good.

Understanding the why behind how we react or respond is essential to understanding human nature and creating change.  

It’s not that we are unable or incapable of achieving our wants. Not at all. Rather, we need to first start with an awareness of patterning that has occurred throughout life experiences. The “I can’t rant” is a louder voice than the one that compels us to believe in ourselves. We often stay stuck in doubt and fear rather than move sure-footedly toward achieving our wants.

There is a brain-based ability called neuroplasticity, which is an adaptive patterning by the mind. This has historically worked against us through repetitive, old, negative thought patterns. The more we act or behave in a certain way, the more those pathways become imprinted in the brain. Researchers, practitioners, and adapters are finding this brain malleability can actually work in our favor if we simply change the thought processes. 

The human mind can change its physical structure and mode of thought processing, based upon our own input of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Gone now is the decades-old belief that the brain was fixed and not capable of learning, changing, or growing past a certain age.

In seeking the hearts’ desire, work toward shifting the thought processes of the mind. Within those first few moments, shift the internal dialogue to replace the tendency toward negatives with more positive and affirming thoughts and statements. It’s akin to flipping a light switch (which provides an excellent visual reminder for all of us). Though this incredibly powerful step starts with small achievables, know you are rewiring the brain. This how we start to go beyond the want. 

Lana Saal holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Master’s in Health, and Bachelor’s in Nutrition; Certified Wellness Practitioner (CWP) through the National Wellness Institute and certifications as Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing; and Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist (CTTS).

Tags:  Behavior Change  Emotional wellness  Mental Health  Mindfulness 

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Dance of Happy, Healthy, Harmonious Friendships

Posted By Michelle J. Howe, Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Young asian woman smiling and petting an elephant friend.Our circle of friends is important.

Friendships bring us into unique dance with one together.

The stage is set by agreement, coincidence or sheer happenstance.
Friendships vary in closeness and role within our lives.
They begin as a casual introduction… sometimes blossoming into more.
It’s important to note that we’re all seeking the same things:

  • Someone reliable and trustworthy.
  • Someone who accepts and validates us.
  • Someone who supports us through struggles.
  • Someone who cares and loves in their own unique way.
  • Someone who brings vitality, stability, and balance into our life.

There are energy dynamics within any dance with another person. There are reasons for the dance. There is purpose, and there is meaning for each dance. Each person’s dance is an investment of time and attention. Each person’s dance creates bonds of reliance or attachment. Each unique dance is a mix of positive, negative or neutral dynamics.

“The concept of friendships is too often simplified.”

During the dance, there’s an exchange of energy. There are energy dynamics as shared in our previous blog, The Energetic Dance of Friendships. This energetic exchange creates imprints of thoughts and emotions within each person. Energetic exchanges are a relevant and important dynamic to note for those on the awakening path.

Too much negative dynamic will create instability, confusion, and struggle. Too much negative dynamic brings you up close and personal to dancing with negativity. You begin feeling unbalanced, anxious or toxic emotions in your life. It becomes important to notice these “friends” and the very real, negative impact they are having on your life.

To avoid the negative dynamic within turbulent friendships, we must learn to discern and make wiser choices. The wisdom comes when we seek guidance by asking questions and going deeper to become our own best friends. In this process, we must learn to embrace an understanding of healthy versus toxic, and recognize our wants, needs, and desires within that dance.

A Good Place to Start — Ask Yourself:

  • What kind of friend am I?
  • What do I bring to the table?
  • What qualities do I like in my friends?
  • What topics and things do I value in life?

A mutually beneficial connection begins with dancing skills — our ability to keep pace with our partner, our ability to follow, and our ability to lead. A beautiful dance allows each to shine their light while the other mirrors that beauty, heart, and soul back to us. This dance shows up as an elegant, playful and beautiful flow between two people.

A vibrant, healthy and harmonious friendship brings a special person to dance with you. This person shares similar energy and capacity to:

  • Uplift and understands you.
  • Match the energy you bring to the table.
  • Show respect and allows space between you.
  • Be independent, kind, honest and truthful.
  • Express love and acceptance of you.

My suggestion to Highly Sensitive Feelers, Healers and Empaths is to embrace energetic awareness, go deeper to ask questions and learn to trust yourself.

  • Notice your feelings, thoughts, or vibes.
  • Notice the energy exchanges between you.
  • Notice the quality and flavor of that connection.
  • Ask, "Is this person or friendship in my highest interest?"

Michelle J. HoweMichelle 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.

Tags:  Emotional  emotional health  empath  health & wellness  Mental Health  relationships 

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Wellness and Well-Being—It’s All About Connection

Posted By Chuck Gillespie, Friday, May 3, 2019

This article was originally posted in Aging Today

Six Dimensions of Wellness ModelWhen thinking about the terms wellness or well-being, multiple definitions come to mind. Wellness, according to the National Wellness Institute (NWI), is an active pro­cess of becoming aware of and learning to make choices that lead toward a longer and more successful existence—in other words, toward a life worth living.

So, how to achieve wellness? According to Gallup well-being research, physical activity provides adults ages 65 and older with a 32 percent higher positive emotional out­look than for those who are not active. But to have a life worth living, it is critical to look beyond physical wellness; Gallup research also identifies how there can be too much emphasis placed upon the physical dimension of health and well-being.

For example, Steven Hawking had been told in his 20s that he would never see age 30. In 2018, he died at age 76. In 2016, he noted that “however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” Hawking exemplifies someone whose physical health did not deter him from living. While doing his best to maintain his physical health, he also cultivated intellectual, so­cial, occupational, spiritual and emotional purpose—a life worth living.

The Six Dimensions of Wellness

The basis for such a life begins with focusing on the six dimensions of wellness, which were devel­oped by past and present leaders of the NWI. These dimensions—physical, occupational, social, intel­lectual, spiritual and emotional—strongly influence human well-being.

Physical wellness is the dimension often used to define wellness. Eating right and being active is the rallying cry. Young and old must get a yearly checkup by a primary care physician, a dentist, and an optometrist. People with chronic conditions must manage them, and everyone should avoid to­bacco. But there is so much more to wellness.

Anyone who has experienced the stress of being in an unsatisfying job, or who has been em­ployed by a company with a psychically poisonous work environment knows those situations con­sume significant amounts of energy; poor physical working conditions also cause harm. Thus, oc­cupational wellness is critical to well-being. For some, occupational wellness involves whatever work makes them happy. For others, a paid job provides their desired financial and material life, but a working hobby such as gardening, wood-working or fixing cars also can provide satisfaction and enrichment.

Close friends walking arm-in-arm

The social dimension involves connection to friends and family. Lack of a good social network, loneliness, feeling isolated and not fitting in at home, at work or in a community are major barriers to achieving wellness.

The intellectual wellness dimension means expanding knowledge and skills while allowing time to discover the potential for sharing one’s gifts with others. Humans must be constant learners, not necessarily in the sense of “book smarts,” but in learning to find their own unique ways to learn and to teach.

The spiritual and emotional dimensions both are critical to happiness and health. The spiritual dimension recognizes the human desire to search for meaning and purpose in life—exploring the ubiquitous question, “Why are we here?”

The emotional dimension aligns with the other five dimensions by recognizing how each person must try to cultivate a positive outlook—to create enthusiasm about one’s self and one’s life.

Each dimension holds equal value in a life worth living. But the concepts for each dimension need to be understood in the right perspective. For example, as Hawking overcame his physical obstacles, it is imperative for individuals to understand their own obstacles to overcome.

Social Determinants and Wellness

According to the recent survey by Waystar, “Consumer Perspectives on How Social Determinants Impact Clinical Experience”, 68 percent of respondents had social risk-factor obstacles. Healthcare access, housing insecurity, transportation access, food insecurity, safety, and health literacy lead the list. The survey shows that much more than medical care affects health and wellness. “The most commonly reported social determinants of health issues are finan­cial insecurity and social isolation,” the report’s authors write.

Research by the National Institutes for Health shows that with aging, individuals often decline in physical and cognitive function, causing a narrowing of social networks. Further, social isolation is prevalent among individuals who are far from family and friends or who are not near a cultural center to which they feel connected.

Not “fitting in” is an issue many people face. Civil rights legislation in the United States created legal prec­edent regarding discrimination (i.e., around race, religion, gender, disability, etc.) for protected classes, but prior to 1990, people with disabilities were not covered. Thanks to the American’s with Disabilities Act, wheelchair users now have access to many venues to which they were pre­viously shut off; this legislation opened up new avenues of social, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

Other factors such as geography (where one lives), healthcare access and personal priorities also play a part in individual well-being. For instance, workplace and community wellness initiatives may promote the need to prioritize 60 minutes of exercise per day, but for people living in unsafe neighborhoods who are worried about putting dinner on the table, exercise moves down on the priority list.

NWI Multicultural Wellness WheelA Multicultural Perspective

This type of situation is why the NWI developed the Multicultural Wellness Wheel. The wheel encourages individuals to look beyond their spheres of influence to understand how others might view life. How and where a person grew up, what they do for work, their family environment and “life moments” all influence individual perspective.

The Multicultural Wellness Wheel helps people to understand, without negative judgments, the worldviews of culturally different peoples, and to have respect and appreciation for human differ­ences that enable more positive and effective encounters. NWI Board President and CEO of Altur­native Linda Howard says, “One of the biggest issues we face across the globe is that we do not have a strong multicultural competency model from which to learn. Practitioners and organizations use models that are too focused on one particular issue like race or gender, and as such, fail to reach large segments of the population due to a lack of cultural competency. We see the opportunity to learn from each other through a wider lens that also incorporate such things like religion, disabil­ity, language, age, geography and other cultural factors that are a leading causes of social isolation.”

If people can become aware of their beliefs and assumptions about human behaviors, values, biases, stereotypes and personal limitations, they can open up and learn who different cohorts are as “cultural beings.” They can better see how cultural socialization shapes worldviews and enhances their ability to connect to and work with culturally diverse populations.

Wellness is a simple, though multi-pronged, concept, which emphasizes a mission of connection. Now more than ever, it is critical to consider overall well-being from a more holistic perspective—in terms of our social connections, physical health, intellectual capacity, occupations, and emotional and spiritual coping skills.

Chuck Gillespie is Executive Director of the National Wellness Institute.

Tags:  Accesibility & transportation  aging in community  creativity & lifelong learning  education  health & wellness  healthcare & aging  LGBTQ Aging  Mental health  Multicultural aging  spirituality  Technology 

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Congratulations Michele Mariscal on Your Book Accomplishment!

Posted By NWI, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Michele Mariscal with her new book Growing Through GriefOn February 5, 2019, NWI member Michele Mariscal launched her new book Growing Through Grief: The Alchemy of Healing From Loss.

Getting beyond a loss is never easy; the pain can feel as if it will never end. Growing Through Grief helps grievers bring hope back into their lives and provides actionable steps for healing. Whether you’re experiencing new grief or feeling the pain of a loss from long ago, you’ll find encouragement and support in this book. If you know someone who’s grieving and can’t seem to move forward, this book can be a beautiful gift. It is available on Amazon and Kindle.

Tags:  emotional agility  emotional wellness  grief  grief book  Growing Through Grief  mental health  Michele Mariscal  resilience 

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Positive Coping Behaviour Reinforces Employee Productivity

Posted By Dr Dicky Els and Terrance M. Booysen, Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Dr Dicky Els and Terrance M. Booysen  |  Johannesburg, South Africa

In a globalised economy excesses and imbalances in one part of the world inevitably affects the economies of another, and this is typically played out between developed and developing countries.  With the accelerated pace of global development, expectedly there is a knock-on implication to increased business risk through aggressive competition, and more pressure on increasing profit margins. It’s therefore not surprising then to see — at a global level — how executives are forced to re-evaluate, redesign, and sometimes shrink their trading operations in the face of tougher regulatory requirements, exacerbated by revenue declines and higher cost pressures. Organisations are operating in turbulent markets and they have to constantly adapt to increasing business uncertainty and changing circumstances, locally and abroad. Accordingly, the challenge (or the threat) to many business executives may be found in the way they react to severe economic stressors. 

Two of the BRICS countries — namely Russia and Brazil — are in recession, while the South African economy performs below market expectations. Figures released by Statistics South Africa showed that the government, transport, and retail sectors had grown while agriculture, mining, and manufacturing declined in the second quarter of 2015. Compounding matters yet further, the South African mining and manufacturing sectors have announced more plans to cut thousands of jobs.  As the national economy continues to struggle, many organisations are battling to survive, and the effect has a direct and negative impact on the psychological (and ultimately physical) well-being of the nation’s workforce. 

With increased organisational complexities, including the demands placed upon the workforce, there are many factors which could negatively impact the well-being of employees. Increasingly employees are confronted with more unpredictable work-related challenges, whilst their dwindling personal coping mechanisms and organisational support is not nearly enough to help them deal with the stress they are experiencing. Clearly, in order to maintain a positive, healthy, and productive workforce, employers need to deal with those negative factors, all which if left unchecked, will continue to undermine workplace wellness and exacerbate personal stress.     


Invest in positive behaviour 

Employee wellness programmes should deliver more than just health awareness. Stronger emphasis should be placed on positive coping and stress management behaviour that enables employees and the organisation — as a collective — to be more resilient. Well-designed programmes employ strengths-based development processes to reinforce and broaden the response repertoire for employees. Individuals that expend effort to build their talents, competence, and skills are able to gain far more as opposed to those who spend a comparable amount of effort to remediate their weaknesses. As such, organisations should focus on effective talent management which leverages employee wellness programmes to promote a positive, productive, and resilient workforce.  

Employee wellness programmes that promote positive thought, feeling, and behaviour patterns are generally more effective in the long run, and deliver a bigger return on the ‘investment’ because they unleash the psychological capital of their workforce. At the core of these employee wellness programmes is the development of personal competencies that not only buffers the employee, but is also known to transform work-related stress. These programmes are founded on positive organisational virtuousness and a culture of wellness and proactive strengths-based processes that promote transformational coping strategies.

Regardless of whether or not the workplace is known to have various challenges, best practice employee wellness programmes are most often the basis for developing individual strengths that empower employees to flourish. Organisations that utilise employee wellness programmes usually see employee health risks and workforce demands as opportunities and not as threats, harm, or loss. They invest in — and develop — positive organisational behaviour characterised by high levels of self-efficacy, meaningfulness, happiness, optimism, hope, and resilience that results in a committed, open-minded, and connected workforce.  For them psychological competence is strengthened through positive learning experiences, proactive goal setting, problem-focused solutions, and voluntary employee engagement. Typical employee wellness programmes that make use of strength-based interventions incorporate physical and psychological constructs to promote employee health, including positive and appreciative behaviour.    


Employees’ responsibility 

Employee wellness programmes intend to promote a positive employer-employee relationship, job satisfaction, positive experiences at work, and a thriving workforce. But to get this working, it is ultimately the responsibility of the employee. Employees have the free will to choose their coping responses. Some employees may choose to unwind from stress with positive coping behaviour, or they may enjoy a short-term — and sometimes dysfunctional — solution by abusing alcohol, medication, tobacco, and drugs. Expectedly, the positive effects that healthy eating, physical activity, realistic beliefs, and positive workplace experiences have on the reduction of stress and on health promotion are clear. The main difference between resilient employees and those that fall into substance abuse lies in the individuals’ behavioural capacities. Employees differ in how well they perceive, express, understand, and deal with stressors in the context in which it occurs. Those who cope positively tend to have more positive attitudes, better coping mechanisms, less perceived stress, and a better quality of life. It is attributed to their combined internal and external resources which they actively manage with cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioural coping strategies.  

One of the most exciting features of our cognitive ability is how it can enable us to stand ‘outside’ ourselves and observe our own thinking. It is our thinking that creates powerful electromagnetic and chemical signals — for better or worse — that offset an organised set of emotional and physical reactions. It begins with a thought, which suggests that it is our thinking that puts us in a positive proactive or a negative reactive coping strategy. Employees that cope well with stress are generally reflective in their thinking process and they tend to observe, review, and re-appraise their own thoughts, emotions, and actions (and if need be they adapt accordingly). These employees understand that they have free will and internal control over what they choose to think about and dwell on.  Positive cognition utilises positive attitudes — trusting instincts, wisdom, self-insight, optimism, sense of responsibility, creativity, and openness to continuously reframe and counter work-related stress.  

Interestingly, positive emotions that promote positive coping behaviour are consciously accessible as long lasting feelings and are often free flowing. Such positive coping manifests not only as positive emotions, but also includes physical sensations, moods, and attitudes. When employers cultivate positive experiences at work, they enlist positive emotions and workplace resilience is strengthened for their employees. This cultivation of positive experiences builds employees’ positive coping resources in order to distinguish between good and bad emotional responses. Moreover, positive emotions also expand and strengthen the capacity of employees to effectively acknowledge and express their own emotions, as well as maturely respond to that of their co-workers. 

As compared to positive emotions, positive social experiences are underpinned by friendship, compassion, forgiveness, integrity, and dignity; all of which reinforce positive social interactions in the workplace and amongst the employees. Understandably, interpersonal workplace relationships will flourish when they involve employees who enjoy a cohesive, fulfilling, and enjoyable business relationship with their peers. Co-workers who share the same wellness objectives — whether it is to get fit, stop smoking, manage stress, or reduce blood sugar levels — often share the same interpersonal values. When employees enjoy a mutual respect and trust with each other, positive social support is usually enabled, and this gives rise to a greater and more positive social coping behaviour. Accordingly, high quality workplace relationships usually incubate a climate for interpersonal acceptance and inclusion that is in turn generally associated with effective coping mechanisms, longevity, stronger immune systems, and lower blood pressure. Research by Gallup, Inc., found that social interaction and quality relationships have a compounding effect on wellness.  The research found that people who have three close friendships are healthier, have higher well-being, and are more engaged in their work, while the absence of close friendships leads to boredom, loneliness, and depression. Interestingly, those employees who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged, and less likely to get injured on the job (Well-being, The Five Essential Elements, T. Rath & J. Harter, 2010).  



It may be true that organisations are becoming more aware of the benefits of employee wellness programmes, however many organisations still tend to focus only on disease management rather than on integrated health and wellness aspects. More than ever, employee wellness programmes should apply strength-based interventions that develop the positive coping capability and psychological competence of workers. Through the application of employee wellness programmes, organisations can create the ideal working conditions for employees to enhance their quality of life and allow them to achieve their fullest potential. Indeed, resilient employees are a critical asset to have, especially during financially stressful times.   

Employees should be encouraged and supported to develop their cognitive, emotional, and social talents to strengthen and expand positive coping behaviour. Research and case studies prove that employees who display positive coping behaviour generally perform better at work and are more engaged in wellness programmes. These employees also tend to deal with organisational change and personal stress far better than those without positive coping capabilities. 

In respect of an organisation’s human capital, in order for it to claim that it is wholly functional, we believe each organisation must evaluate its employee wellness programmes, focussing upon their progress and their group wellness indicators and business results. Expectedly, these indicators and measurable results must be made known not only to the employees themselves, but also to the organisation’s extended stakeholders. This information is usually articulated in the organisation’s annual Integrated Report and enhances the stakeholders’ understanding of the organisation’s risk profile.  

Dr. Dicky ElsDr Dicky Els is a Lead Independent Consultant in CGF. He specialises in Workplace Wellness and focuses predominantly on strategy development, programme design, and evaluation of outcome-based health promotion programmes. Dr. Els also regularly presents Positive Coping Behaviour Training as in-house wellness interventions. For more information on the Employee Wellness Programme Evaluation or Wellness and Disease Management Audits, contact Dr. Els directly at 082 4967960, email dicky@bewell.org.za, or go to wellnessprogramevaluation.com 

Terrance M. BooysenTerrance M. Booysen, the CEO of CGF has presented numerous interventions to public and private audiences in and out of South Africa and has received many accolades directly linked with corporate governance. He is a regular podium presenter and is considered knowledgeable in the practice, having produced many governance, risk and compliance reports and articles over the years. More information regarding CGF can be found at www.cgf.co.za

Tags:  coping  Dr Dicky Els  emotional wellness  intellectual wellness  International Wellness  mental health  occupational wellness  South Africa  Terrance M. Booysen 

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Resilience: A Positive Deviation Amid Difficulty

Posted By Dr Dicky Els and Terrance M. Booysen, Friday, June 1, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

07 November 2016

Article by Dr Dicky Els and Terrance M. Booysen

With the accelerated pace of global development, fuelled by South Africa’s socio-economic and political uncertainty, there are obvious knock-on business implications that increase business risks, not least of which includes dampening the mood for local investment. It is therefore not surprising to see many organisations downsizing, restructuring and even being forced to shrink their trading operations in the face of declining revenue and higher cost pressures. Since the 2007-2008 global financial market crisis, organisations are operating in turbulent markets and have to constantly adapt to increasing business uncertainty and changing circumstances. Whilst there may be numerous economic challenges the organisation’s leadership must deal with in order to remain a sustainable and profitable concern, they also have to be acutely aware of the manner in which these severe economic stressors impacts their workforce.

Employees are not exempt from these socio-economic stressors as they are increasingly reminded by their employers of their precarious positions within organisations and that their employment is not guaranteed. In these circumstances, there is no doubt that employees are being placed under massive pressure given their unpredictable employment conditions. This leads to many personal challenges, some which may be perceived to be insurmountable. No longer does personal or business success automatically go to the swift, strong or smart individuals; instead, these ‘rewards’ are earned by the most adaptable, flexible and resilient of people and organisations. To be sustainable, employees (and indeed organisations) need to learn from their past experiences and evolve as complex adaptive systems.

‘Success’ appears to follow those organisations that accumulate more diverse experiences where their leadership spends time making sense of these experiences, and consequently becomes more resilient and develops more competencies to perform better. Leading organisations and people in these turbulent times require mindful leadership who have the capability to respond to the extraordinary challenges currently facing business and civil society. Good leaders need to be effective; their actions must be impactful, efficient and flexible.


What is going wrong?

In the absence of ethical leadership imbued with positivity; negativity will take root, grow and even thrive. Regardless of what the organisational values are—or what ethical statements are displayed on the walls of the organisation’s reception area—the real organisational culture will inevitably manifest in the behaviour of its employees. The manner in which employees relate, interact, communicate, handle conflict and disagree with each other serves as evidence for what is really happening in the organisation’s culture. By simply observing, listening to and reflecting on the employees’ communication, their interpersonal relationships and their group dynamics; one will quickly realise the true state of the organisation’s ‘health’ and the degree to which the organisational values are being upheld and lived.

What people tend to talk about the most is what they tend to value the most. Naturally, if negativity, back biting, disregard, distrust and emotional outbursts are observed on a regular basis, it then becomes evident how the workforce is actually dealing with the socio-economic pressures and other organisational stresses under which it needs to perform.

Our understanding of how the workforce is dealing with the pressures of modern day business, and the struggle for economic survival, deepens when we observe the particular behaviour of individuals. Many cases of disciplinary action, alcohol and drug abuse, obesity, garnishee orders, divorce and depression typically manifest because of organisational (mis)behaviour which should have been addressed by the appropriate internal structures of the organisation long before it resulted in the disastrous after-effects. When individuals work, and live in constant uncertainty, worry, stress and fear, and they lack the support of supervisors, peers, family and friends; they become more susceptible to not only ‘burnout’1, but sometimes also more detrimental illnesses. Employees with burnout feel cognitively, emotionally and physically exhausted, and in trying to cope with their overwhelming circumstances they also become socially detached.


Weathering the waves of change

For employees to effectively cope with organisational change, work and family pressures, to be resilient, to do well and to thrive, during difficult times they need to be self-aware and self-manage their own health and wellness. They should know their inner capability, talents, character strengths, personal values and ‘what makes them tick’. Without a significant measure of self-knowledge, employees tend to find meaning in what they do instead of in who they are. Likewise, they tend to invest a significant amount of time and energy to only develop their skills, instead of also developing their character strengths. In their hope to find success outside of themselves, or in a particular job or organisation, or even a different country, they become dependent on their circumstances and other people to foster happiness, wellness and success for themselves. Of course, when the economy is down, or when their hopes and dreams do not realise as they initially expected, they become despondent and disenchanted.

A healthy measure of self-insight, combined with virtuousness enables individuals to be responsible for their own progress. By knowing and understanding their inner capability, resilient employees2 are more responsive, open, connected, motivated, and engaged at work. When they are self-aware, they are mindful of their own intentions. They self-manage their thoughts, emotions, attitudes and behaviour to add value to their own, and the lives of others. When resilient, employees tend to share their character strengths, passions, competencies and skills compassionately with others, and in so doing they intentionally have a positive impact in the lives of those that they influence. As leaders, these employees understand and respect the difference between manipulating and motivating their subordinates.



As a source of organisational wellness, and in the context of employee resilience, it is imperative to understand the role that positive leadership plays. Positive leadership—in parallel to the extent to which the culture, policies, and practices of the organisation promote employee resilience—contributes favourably towards human capital development and organisational growth.

When employees are empowered to intentionally practice their character strengths, it generally has a positive knock-on effect within the organisation. Moreover, it also assists employees to persevere in the face of personal trials and adversities, thereby making them and ultimately the organisation they work for more resilient. Employees, who seek, promote, and utilise their inner capability and character strengths will be more inclined to thrive and less likely to withdraw or be mentally distant from their daily workplace duties. This may be attributed to the enjoyment, gratification and fulfilment that is experienced through their work which, when geared towards the development of their character strengths, will yield rewarding positive experiences that also cultivates organisational resilience.

CGF Research Institute’s Workplace Wellness Consultant, Dr Dicky Els also regularly presents Positive Coping as an in-house wellness intervention. For more information, bookings or should you wish to participate in one of our public Flourishing Wellness Interventions, please contact Dr Dicky Els on 082 496 7960 or send an email to dicky@bewell.org.za

1 Burnout is not a true mood disorder, but rather a psychological condition in which employees feel chronically sad, anxious, lonely, mentally distant and cynical which is accompanied by distress, a sense of reduced effectiveness, decreased motivation and the development of dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours at work. It is the result of consistent and unsuccessful attempts to resolve work (or personal) stressors. Work overload, inordinate time demands, role ambiguity and inadequate resources leads to burnout that over time results in ill health. Other factors that lead to high levels of stress and burnout include the lack of personal control, reduced decision making authority, dysfunctional team dynamics, poor job fit, a mismatch with the organisational values and constant experiences of negativity at work.

Generally, employees that suffer from burnout lack organisational commitment, and they are less capable of providing adequate client services, especially along dimensions of decision-making and involvement with clients. A number of challenges can be observed, such as a tendency to treat people mechanically, to be critical and cynical, and they are preoccupied with self-gratification. Burned-out employees are disengaged, and lack performance as they contemplate to leave the organisation but reluctantly stay. As a result, they tend to be complaining, controlling, impatient, indifferent, discouraged, frightened, frustrated, resentful, bitter and selfish. Burnout employees also report the absence of meaning, purpose and positivity in their lives. Ironically, these employees used to be enthusiastic, motivated and energised at work, and they used to function well in the same job or organisation but in the present time they require assistance as they struggle to recover on their own.

2 Resilience is the capability to “bounce back” to a normal or even optimal state of functioning, mostly in the mist of being stretched or challenged with adversity such as uncertainty and ambiguous circumstances. Resilient employees demonstrate positive psychological growth, accomplishment, and achievement regardless of their circumstances. It is their ability to cope from within, and positively cope with adversity, trauma, stress and illness. Amid being stretched or challenged with adversity, they demonstrate the ability to quickly recover from difficulties. It is their deliberate, positive and constant efforts (lifestyle) that help them to manage taxing personal and organisational demands. The most celebrated cases of resilience are often depictions of individuals that overcome overwhelming odds in order to be stronger, have a positive human impact and exhibit moral goodness.

It is important to understand that resilience is not an extraordinary gift but rather found in the daily conduct of individuals who demonstrate positive coping behaviour. Basically, they are able to effectively balance or counter negative experiences with positive ones while at the same time they learn new competencies to adapt in challenging situations. They are faithful, reliable, authentic, focussed, controlled and engaged. Resilient employees experience hope, efficacy, autonomy, meaning, fulfilment and happiness amid economic decline, downsizing and organisational change. In general, resilient employees are more thankful, peaceful, generous, forgiving, self-less and inspired while they enjoy social connectedness and supportive interpersonal relationships.

Dr. Dicky ElsDr Dicky Els is a Lead Independent Consultant in CGF. He specialises in Workplace Wellness and focuses predominantly on strategy development, programme design and evaluation of outcome-based health promotion programmes. For more information on our Employee Wellness Programme Evaluation or Wellness and Disease Management Audits, contact Dr Els directly on 082 496 7960 or email dicky@bewell.org.za.

Terrance M. BooysenTerrance M. Booysen, the CEO of CGF has presented numerous interventions to public and private audiences in and out of South Africa and has received many accolades directly linked with corporate governance. He is a regular podium presenter and is considered knowledgeable in the practice, having produced many governance, risk and compliance reports and articles over the years. More information regarding CGF can be found at www.cgf.co.za

Tags:  Dr Dicky Els  emotional agility  emotional wellness  International Wellness  mental health  resilience  Terrance M. Booysen 

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Mental Health in the UK

Posted By Chris Andrews, MD, Thursday, March 1, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Chris Andrews, MD
Personal Touch Fitness (PTF) 

Mental health problems are a growing health concern. They are prevalent not just in the UK, but around the world. Approaches to mental health in the workplace and community have taken steps forward but there is more work to do. Mental health problems can be caused from lack of work/life balance, negative relationships, lack of sleep, too much time spend on digital devices, and poor lifestyles choices.Depression, anxiety, taking drugs, and suicidal thoughts are a few mental health concerns. One in four people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem over a 12 month period. This is the reported figure but it is suggested that it is actually 1 in 3 people as so many cases go unreported. Creating an environment that encourages people to open up and being aware to changes in family, friends, and colleague’s behavior are keys to early intervention. We all need to do our part to help remove the stigma around mental health.

Mind Hike – Trek for 24 hours through the stunning Cornish CountrysideJust what is being done within the workplace and community?  In the workplace it varies across wellbeing and benefits strategies. But what is most common is Employee Assistant Programs(EAP) and flexible working or work-life balance policies. UK companies are taking mental health more seriously and are planning to introduce more programs in their workplace. Unfortunately they often have no idea as to the form it should take. It is about all working together and identifying ‘weak’ areas to address and then aligning strategy to strengthen them. Involving employees by ensuring they have the opportunity to  ‘have their say’, and ensuring HR and Occupational Health work co-operatively to change agreed on  ‘weak’ areas will help planning and delivery of Mental Health programs. 

Campaigns such as ‘Time to Change’ are available during the year for companies to participate in and as such raise awareness of Mental Health issues in the organization. It just takes someone to lead the way for a better future in every way – improved mental & physical health, productivity, ROI and decreased absenteeism and presenteeism. Educate yourself and your teams and this can have a powerful and positive effect. Be a Mental Health aware leader.

In the community there is plenty of help available. Research shows that physical exercise can be a fun, cost-effective and enjoyable way to lift a person’s mood, reduce the effects of anxiety and feelings of isolation that they may be experiencing. The not-for-profit Mind organization offers a wide variety of activities so everyone can join in regardless of fitness or ability.  

Heads TogetherGroups are tailored to people suffering the effects of mental health difficulties to make it as easy as possible to start a new activity - anything from yoga to football. Mind, located across the UK, also run the ‘Get Set to Go’ program which is a Sport England and National Lottery initiative to support people experiencing mental health difficulties to participate in physical activity. Overcoming barriers that people may perceive in starting exercise is key to them engaging in a beneficial sustainable way, and the ‘Get Set to Go’ program helps in this way.

The young UK royals launched the campaign ‘Heads Together’ in March 2017 to get Britons talking about mental health. London marathon participants who chose to run for ‘Heads Together’ in 2017raised a substantial amount for the charity but more importantly raised awareness that it is ok to talk and take action about Mental Health.

Chris AndrewsChris Andrews, MD is a 1993 graduate in the Health Promotion & Wellness program at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (UWSP). Determined to spread her wings, grow, learn, and be challenged she set out to do her Internship abroad. She went to the UK in November 1993, did her Internship and stayed. Now, mother of two, wife, and MD. She is involved in many local events at the tennis & rowing club, church, and schools on different levels. Personal Touch Fitness has grown organically over 18 years and has worked with all sectors to help with their Wellbeing program. Chris prides herself in her passion, enthusiasm and expertise in providing fitness services in environments which is extended through the company values, ethos and to the employees. Chris enjoys hosting UWSP interns to the UK and sharing her knowledge. She finds the students engaging and they find it a wonderful hands on learning experience.  Her energy inspires students and people of all ages. Chris loves making a ripple into a wave.

Tags:  Chris Andrews  emotional wellness  intellectual wellness  International Wellness  mental health  resilience  United Kingdom 

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Can Facebook Make You Happy?

Posted By NWI, Monday, December 5, 2016

A surprising new study about the mental well-being of Facebook users was published by the online science journal PLOS One recently.


The study infers that Facebook users are actually more happy and mentally well than non-users, though the results are mixed with some undesirable qualities as well.


The Facebook users were much more likely to score highly on narcissism, self-esteem, and extraversion, as well as values of social support, life satisfaction, and overall happiness, whereas the non-users were objectively higher in displays of depression, anxiety, and stress, though only marginally.


This study should give some people minor relief, as social media has become more common and has become such a staple of modern life for a great number of people.


To read the study published by PLOS One, click here.

Tags:  facebook  happiness  mental health  mental wellness  online  social media 

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Sunshine helps Improve Mental Wellness

Posted By NWI, Monday, November 7, 2016

A study released by Brigham Young University have found that the environmental factor that has the most effect on people’s mental health is the number of hours of daylight, regardless of whether a person suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder or not.


Two researchers cross-referenced psychological data from the city of Provo, UT with meteorological data on the number of hours of light, cloudiness, rain, and pollution, and found that the single largest environmental factor effecting the mental health of Provo residents was the number of hours in a day.


With the earlier sunset due to the end of daylight saving time for many Americans, getting enough sunlight to maintain a positive mental outlook can be a challenge, so be sure to get outside during work breaks to help your body and mind remain balanced.


Tags:  Depression  Mental Health  Sunshine 

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Outrunning Schizophrenia

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Schizophrenia is a terrible malady that effects as many as 51 million people worldwide with only a 25% complete recovery rate.


However, there is some hope for those afflicted with schizophrenia. New research, published in Schizophrenia Bulletin this August, has found that combining traditional medicinal treatments with aerobic exercise has a more significant improvement on patients’ cognitive function.


Patients who took part in a greater amount of exercise, and therefore saw greater improvements in their physical fitness, also saw more significant improvement in their cognitive function as well, seeming to draw a direct correlation between physical and mental wellness.


The researchers performing this study are optimistic that exercise can pave they way for more effective treatment of schizophrenia in the future, noting that treating the malady with exercise from the earliest stages may increase the likelihood of complete functional recovery for many afflicted.


To read the full research, visit Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Tags:  Exercise  Mental Health  Physical  Schizophrenia 

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