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This site is an archive of our Well Written Blog posts until April 2020. For the most up-to-date content visit NWIJournal.com.

The opinions and thoughts expressed here those of the authors and do not necessarily correlate with those of the National Wellness Institute. Read more.


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Being Doctors of Ourselves Is the Real Future of Healthcare

Posted By Mark Pettus, MD, Monday, March 16, 2020

As concerns swirl around the future of healthcare coverage in this country, there’s a tendency to think that our personal health revolves largely around doctor’s appointments, runs to the pharmacy, and an occasional trip to the hospital.  But the truth is, the single most critical factor in staying healthy is – and always has been – our own self-care.  That’s more important now than ever. We’re doctors of ourselves, and we need to view and plan our lives accordingly.

Some suggestions on how to approach this responsibility: 

Envision Your Personal Health Future

Take a few mindful moments to focus on what truly matters to you. Close your eyes and picture yourself three months, a year, five years, or 10 years from now.  Who do you see? What are you doing to stay alive and thrive? Write down the three to five things that are most important to your future health. Your list might include things as basic as “lose weight” or “stop smoking”, or as deep reaching as “stay alive to have fun with my grandchildren.” This type of personal visioning and priority setting makes an enormous difference in the success of a self-care program.

Set Very Specific, yet Achievable Goals

Once you know your priorities, it’s time to set specific goals around achieving them. Be realistic.You want goals ambitious enough to improve your health, but not so far reaching that you set yourself up for failure. If lowering your weight and reaching a healthy body mass index is your priority, a goal of losing 25 pounds over the next three months may be too much of a stretch; maybe five or 10 pounds is more realistic. Rather than promise yourself you’ll work out at the gym three days a week for an hour each time, a better starting point would be a brisk 10-minute walk around the neighborhood four days a week. The key here is gaining traction and setting a foundation on which to build.

Enlist Others to Join You on Your Personal Quest for Better Health

There’s no need to go it alone. All evidence suggests that when you partner with others, your odds of success increase exponentially.  If you’re taking those Saturday morning hikes alone, chances are you’ll come up with many excuses to lounge at home instead. But if you know your best friend will show up at your door at 9 a.m., ready to go, you’re not going to disappoint her.  Other partners on this journey might include your spouse, a bicycling buddy from work, or even the family pet. It doesn’t always have to involve exercise. Maybe you and a friend or family member spend Sunday afternoons making healthy meals for the week ahead. Adding a social dimension to your self-care plan makes it more fun and achievable.

Create or Change Your Environment to Increase Your Likelihood of Success

We all know the power of temptation and how it can devour our best intentions. That ice cream in the freezer or those cookies on the counter are calling us.  Clearly, the foods we buy are part of the environment we create around us. By consciously controlling our purchase impulses and making better food choices, we create a home environment far more conducive to success. In a similar way, if you’re trying to quit smoking, avoiding places (and even people) that trigger that habit becomes an important environmental strategy.

Be Ready to Course-Correct as Time Goes on

As important as it is stay accountable to your goals, the reality is you may not always have flawless success. If you have setbacks, you’ve got two choices: beat yourself up or pick yourself up and start over.  Punishing yourself only weakens your resolve and delays your “recovery.” Here’s where you return to the first step (see above) of this continuous improvement cycle. Revisit your original priorities. Reset the clock on your life-long journey of self-care.

Mark Pettus, MD, is Director of Medical Education and Medical Director of Wellness and Population Health at Berkshire Health Systems.


Tags:  Healthcare  Mark Pettus  Self Care 

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Wellness Trends - July 2019

Posted By NWI, Thursday, July 25, 2019

Surgeon General Priority: Community Health and Economic Prosperity

The health of Americans is not as good as it could be, despite large expenditures on healthcare. Our poorer health status creates costs and challenges for individuals, families, communities, and businesses, and can be a drag on the economy, as too many jobs remain unfilled and productivity is adversely affected. Many of our poor health problems are rooted in inadequate investments in prevention and unequal economic opportunities in our communities.  Read more at HHS.gov.


Is #MeToo a Multicultural Competency? 

Great article on how the #MeToo movement is shaping policy at work. Consultants, public health leaders, health coaches, academics, clinicians need to consider the positive impact that can be had with understanding multi-cultural strategies.  The article states, “The #MeToo movement set in motion a nationwide discussion and contributed to countless positive changes. The next step is to make sure that current sexual harassment policies are in place and understood by everyone to create a safe, welcoming workplace for all employees.”  As you read this, think about the multi-cultural competencies that must be considered beyond gender.  Read more at BenefitsPRO.com.


Can summer stress cause employee burnout? 

While summertime is often seen as a leisurely season where Americans take time off for extended family vacations and enjoy long days at the beach, new research suggests time off doesn’t always translate into reduced stress.  Read more at benefitnews.com.


Self-Care Guidelines and How to Teach Others about the Power of Self-Care

In an effort to bring the practice of self-care to a broader audience, The World Health Organization(WHO) has launched its first guideline on self-care interventions for health.  It’s aimed to “empower individuals, families and communities to optimize their health as advocates.

While this is a great resource to offer, just handing out a guidebook will not solve the issue. We must train individuals to teach others about the power of self-care.  It begins with understanding how to dive into one’s conscience, in an effort to make the change.  Programs like NWI’s Empowered Health Consciousness is a great way to learn these tools.  Please read the WHO guidelines and learn for yourself, but consider how you can teach others to develop better self-care.  


Worksite Wellness 


Well-Being Enhances Benefits of Employee Engagement

Two major factors influence employee performance, Gallup has found: engagement and well-being . Read more at Gallup.com.


8 Things You Need To Know About Employee Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs can look different at different companies, and that’s a good thing.  Read more at Forbes.com.


The Right Ingredients Brew Wellness Program Success

Stress management and tech tools improve outcomes, but incentives are questioned. Read more at SHRM.org.


Financial Wellness


6 Ways to Measure the Success of Financial Wellness Efforts  

Employers are missing out on opportunities to improve these programs.  Read more SHRM.org.


Pay Off Debt Or Save For Retirement? It's Time For An Actuary-Splainer 

What's the best approach to managing finances?  Read more at Forbes.com.


5 Things to Know About Financial Wellness Programs  

More employers offer workers guidance on budgeting and paying down debt. Here's how to make the most of it.  Read more ConsumerReports.com.


Tags:  burnout  Community wellness  employee wellness  Empowered Health Consciousness  Financial Wellness  multicultural competency  self care  trends  wellness trends  Worksite Wellness 

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Wellness in 10: 10 Ways Caregivers Can Care for Themselves

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, March 7, 2017

1.      Identify personal barriers: Many times, attitudes and beliefs form personal barriers that stand in the way of caring for yourself. Not taking care of yourself may be a lifelong pattern, with taking care of others an easier option. However, as a family caregiver you must ask yourself, "What good will I be to the person I care for if I become ill? If I die?" Breaking old patterns and overcoming obstacles is not an easy proposition, but it can be done—regardless of your age or situation. The first task in removing personal barriers to self-care is to identify what is in your way. 

2.      Set goalsSetting goals or deciding what you would like to accomplish in the next three to six months is an important tool for taking care of yourself. Examples may be to take a break from caregiving, get help with caregiving tasks like bathing and preparing meals, engage in activities that will make you feel more healthy.

3.      ExerciseMuch of your day is focused on the needs of your loved one; taking time to exercise can become a beneficial outlet for you. This personal time to get moving, whether it’s a casual walk or a gym class, can give you energy for the rest of the day. Your mind and body will thank you as you set aside this time each day.

4.      DietA healthy diet can give you the fuel needed to keep your immune system and energy up. When you prepare meals for your loved one, try making healthy meals for yourself at the same time. Eating healthy, combined with proper hydration, is another tip that can benefit both your mind and body. Recognize that the health of both you and the loved one you care for should be a priority.

5.      SleepEverything is harder when you’re tiredespecially caring for another person. If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, try creating a bedtime routine with a goal of going to bed at the same time each day. Not only will your body feel better, but you’ll also feel more capable and productive throughout the day.

6.      Manage stressMeditation and/or taking time to care for your mental health (such as reading, doing yoga, journaling, walking outside, etc.), can become tools that improve your health and happiness, says AARP. Add a peaceful activity to your morning or night routine that you can look forward to. While this requires taking a bit more personal time, it’s a great way to take a step back and appreciate the day.

7.      Mental HealthDepression and anxiety can severely impact your personal well-being and caregiving capabilities. If you’re worried you’re struggling with either of these, then it might be time to talk to a counselor. It may be a matter of changing your lifestyle, such as sleeping more, or needing to join a support group or set boundaries. Reach out to someone if you experience feelings of severe stress, hopelessness or self-loathing.

8.      Personal CareBetween scheduling doctor visits, monitoring medication, cooking and helping with physical therapy, caregiving requires a lot of assistance on your part. Remember to treat your own health with the same level of concern, including scheduling regular dental appointments, haircuts and annual check-ups. Maintaining these will help you have peace of mind for your own health and wellness.

9.      PamperEverybody needs a break sometimes. Pick a time once a week or so to treat yourself. What does this look like? It could be taking the afternoon off, going out to your favorite restaurant or getting a massage. These well-deserved pick-me-ups can help you relax and rejuvenate.

10.  Finances: Financial stress from taking time away from work to care for a loved one, or the cost of medical expenses is a source of stress for many caregivers. Seek help in reviewing your finances to see if you qualify for tax credits or assistance with medical care for your relative.

Tags:  Care Giving  March 2017  Self Care  Wellness In 10 

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Wellness in 10: Get More Smarter

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It’s back to school time! Children nation-wide are getting on big yellow buses to go to buildings where inside lies a promise to help them develop intellectually to the extent of their capacity.


…except, for some of us, we don’t realize that capacity until after our time in those buildings is over. That leaves us with a question: How (and where) can we learn, after we’re done with school?


For September’s Wellness in 10, here are 10 ways adults can find new education and inspiration, even if our school years are long behind:


1.    Get inspired


It’s probably not a surprise that we’re more likely to learn things that we find fascinating, and it’s probably also not a surprise that we don’t necessarily find the things in our day-to-day lives too fascinating. So to learn, find something that sparks your interest. Whether it’s archaeology, engineering, or professional wrestling, find something outside of your normal routine that makes you think “Wow, that’s cool!”



2.    Set a Goal


We all spend time thinking “I’ll do that one day…” but few of us ever reach that magical day when everything is supposedly going to happen. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, set small measurable goals to learning your new knowledge or skill. Perhaps “finishing this textbook by the end of the month,” or “completing this beginner’s project in two weeks” are small goals that will move you forward. Combining a number of these small goals toward your overall achievement is how you’ll accomplish your learning objectives.



3.    Rediscover Creativity


Many adults think that creativity is the domain of the young, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Creativity can spur learning, and vice versa. Try picking up a pencil or paintbrush and sketching out a story or a drawing. Starting will be the hardest part. If you allow yourself to drop some of the creative restraints that many find in adulthood, you’re bound to expand and improve your creative skills and abilities.


4.    Do it different


We get stuck in ruts. This is the nature of most people. To learn something new, though, we have to do something different. Rather than doing things the same old way, try doing a routine task in a new way. Drive a different way home, baking a recipe with different seasonings, or telling your kids a story from the perspective of a different character. Working through these tasks in a different way will stretch your mind in ways it’s not used to being used.


5.    Get a fresh perspective


Just like we can’t learn something new by doing things the same way we always have, we can’t learn something new by approaching things from our own standpoint. Challenge yourself to learn empathy by understanding others’ perspective. For example, try watching the news from the perspective of someone from the opposite side of the country, of the opposite gender, or from the other end of the political spectrum. This can be really hard to do, but you’ll experience real growth if you’re capable of achieving it.


6.    Get some exercise


Recent studies have shown substantive connections between physical and intellectual wellness. If you’re feeling like you’re in a learning lull, try stepping up your exercise level to stimulate the blood flow to your brain.


7.    Take up an instrument


There are direct correlations between playing music and learning. Not only can playing music decrease your stress and give you a new skill, but playing an instrument has been shown to increase your intelligence in other areas. For as little as a few dollars you can pick up a harmonica and begin to develop the latent musical abilities you didn’t know you had.


8.    Sleep on it


Lack of sleep can have lasting and permanent effects on the brain, in as little as 24 hours without rest. To make sure that you’re taking full advantage of your brain power, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night for adults.


9.    Make it a single


Though some studies say that intelligent people tend to drink more, there are serious long-term effects of alcohol abuse on intelligence, so if you want to be a life-long learner, be sure to keep your drinking in moderation.


10. Meditate


A recent study has found that as little as 20 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation over a 4-day period has a positive impact on the cognitive abilities of test subjects. Coupled with the added benefit of reduced stress, there doesn’t seem to be any downside to taking a little quiet time to yourself to refocus your mental energies.



Thanks for checking out this month’s Wellness in 10. We hope you have an intellectually stimulating September!


Tags:  Adult Learning  Education  Intellectual  Learning  Self Care 

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