People are asking, What changes can I make in order to live better?
By: Bill Zolis
The problem with New Year’s resolutions is… well, we all know the problem. They have a tendency to fade away by Groundhog Day.
That’s understandable and, from what I’ve been reading on the subject, it’s mainly because we tend to make New Year’s resolutions just because it’s New Year’s, and not because we’ve arrived at a point in our lives where we are comfortable and mentally ready to start working on long-term improvements.
But let’s not give up on resolutions just yet.
Most of the resolutions that we make tend to be about our overall wellness. It comes down to a question that many people are asking themselves: What can I do, what changes can I make in order to live better. Healthier. Longer. Happier. More successfully. More usefully.
That’s where I see the wellness trend, and the goal of workplace wellness that we have so often discussed in this blog, coming face to face with the trends in benefits plans that all seem to be moving in the direction of proactive health.
So what are the wellness goals that so often find themselves into New Year’s resolutions? Interestingly, they are very much like the wellness goals that workplaces are promoting, and that benefits plans are supporting.
Wellness planning. It sounds a bit like a new idea, but it’s really what we’ve been talking about all along. Going through life without a wellness plan is a little like working without a financial plan – the health equivalent of living pay cheque to pay cheque. And yet most people do have retirement plans, savings goals, education savings plans, dreams of buying – or paying off – a home, and so on. It just makes sense to have at least a vision of where we are going health-wise, with a goal of living well today and extending our healthy years far into the future.
Health goals. Each person is different, and each of us has different strengths and weaknesses, different vulnerabilities and different opportunities for improvement. A good place to start is to take stock of where we stand today. Some things are obvious, but a baseline health assessment from a family doctor is a good place to start. Is your blood sugar something to work on? What about blood pressure, or cardio fitness? Is there a family history to consider? What are the trends in your health that may become a concern in the future?
Weight management. I’ve read that “losing weight” is the most common New Year’s resolution. And, sure, it’s important for people who have an issue with weight, but for many of us – from what I’m reading – the long-term trend can be more significant. Is our weight creeping up at more than the rate we would normally expect as we get older? What solutions, as part of our overall wellness plan should we be looking at?
Exercise. Yes, it’s the number two most popular resolution. And for good reason. Exercise is a key part of many of our other wellness goals – weight loss, stress management, cardiac health, sleep and more. It’s important, I think, to avoid the New Year’s resolution trap of throwing ourselves into an ambitious exercise plan and then tapering off. Better to start small – like setting aside some time every day to walk, and then slowly working up from there.
Stress management. The first step and the biggest step in managing stress is just to admit that we are experiencing an unacceptable level of stress, and that we need to do something about it. Take stock. Reach out. There are resources available to help us get a handle on the sources of stress.
Nutrition. We all hear a great deal about eating right, well-balanced meals, getting enough of this, and cutting back on that. The important thing here, I think, is to take all of that information, and all of the resources available to us, and create a balanced and sustainable plan that works for us.
Sleep. It’s often one of the first things to suffer when we are dealing with wellness issues of any kind. And it has a tremendous snowball effect. Lack of sleep, or poor quality of sleep just seems to make every other problem that much worse. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is an entire field of wellness care called “sleep hygiene” that can help us manage sleep, and to develop the routines and habits that will get us back on track.
Mindfulness. This is a term that I see coming up again and again, and one that I want to learn more about. For the moment, I see one of the key elements of mindfulness consisting of “taking charge” of one’s overall well-being. A big part of that is changing our focus from “reactive” self-care to “proactive” self-care.
Overcoming bad habits. These are also pretty big on the resolutions list. Smoking. Drinking more than we know is good for us, and so on. We know we have to deal with them.
Holistic view of wellness. Of course, although we tend to look at all of these “resolutions” as separate goals, they are really all part of the same picture. Lower your stress, and you sleep better. Sleep better and you’re in a better frame of mind to exercise. Exercise more and your cardio fitness improves. The important thing, I think, is to think of each element of our wellness plan as a part of the big picture. And then remember that it’s all about the big picture.
I think it’s interesting, when I look at lists of trends in health and wellness, that these are also the trends in employment benefits. More and more employers are providing their people with programs, resources, counseling and other services that help them address these wellness issues.
It took years to get where we are today. It’s not unreasonable to expect to take years to get where we want to be. If we have long been drifting off in the wrong direction, the first step is to stop and turn around. Baby steps are fine – as long as they are in the right direction. And baby steps are much more sustainable in the long run, and much more likely to lead us where we want to go than any New Year’s resolution-inspired mad dash.
I really appreciate comments, ideas, suggestions or just observations about the blog or any other topics in benefits management. I always look forward to hearing from readers. If there’s anything you want to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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