August 13, 2018
It’s really hard to know how you’re going with your health goals if we think beyond the typical weight loss measures of kilos on the scale or centimetres on the tape measure. Tracking your progress is one of the best ways to keep you accountable, plus provides a good motivator for smaller goals that are achieved along the way.
We often find with our clients that the scales and weight loss may not be shifting, despite consistent exercise and clean balanced eating. Unfortunately, health is not as simple as calories in and calories out, with elements like sleep, stress, a sense of purpose, confidence, and of course happiness all playing a part in contributing to our health.
The figures from the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) tell a clear story, with the Centre establishing that human wellbeing is the single most important issue for our population, economy and way of life. In other words, we can’t afford to leave wellbeing to the individual only anymore if we are to create a thriving society and country. Mental illness alone costs the Australian economy $190 billion each year, or 12% of GDP! This is the equivalent of nine million days of work every year.
High performing workplaces have been found to have significant competitive advantages compared to their peers such as:
Up to three times more profitable
25% more innovative
23% better at retraining new employees
12% more productive
The research shows that if an organisation is not looking at wellbeing, then you won’t have great productivity, will lack innovation, and you won’t be an employer of choice.
Corporations are starting to acknowledge the role that they play on employees’ health, and overall there is a move towards dealing with our health proactively rather than reactively. Employee wellbeing has previously been seen by many as too subjective and obscure to have any tangible ROI or measurable way to demonstrate the effectiveness of programs targeting this.
Introducing an index which measures key elements of overall employee experience, which can be benchmarked to other industries and tracked over time, not only allows workforces to be better equipped to have effective wellness initiatives, but also empowers employees to take personal responsibility with their health, supported by their employer.
At EBM, we created a new index for measuring overall wellbeing in the corporate space. The creation of this index went through a rigorous research process (we won’t bore you with the details!) but allows you to compare your individual scores, industry scores, and compared to the broader corporate Australia rating. All in a quick 5 minute survey! You can see our model that includes four sub-indexes for the key categories.
If you’re interested in getting your own score or getting your organisation involved, email us to find out more!
Research has recently come to light that if you live in a neighbourhood surrounded by trees, shrubs, and chirping birds, then there is less chance for you to suffer from anxiety or stress.
According to researchers, lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. But can it really be that simple?
People are increasingly spending time indoors, and with the majority of the day for most spent inside at a computer, it’s no wonder that we’re starting to see the health detriments to society.
The link between the role of nature for our mental well-being has long been established, yet many still fail to get their daily dose of the outside world.
There are several ways that you can try to up the dose of nature in your daily life:
1. Exercise outdoors. Gym memberships can be an astronomical cost, with some gyms demanding up to $100 a week from some of their members. Exercise doesn’t have to be such a costly exercise, AND doing it outdoors gives you a considerable chunk of your day connecting with nature. Go for a walk / jog / run, complete a circuit in your local park, join an outdoor bootcamp at lunchtime; the options are out there!
2. Take a break. I actually think smokers have this one down pat the best. While I don’t advocate for smoking in any way, the one thing that they do best is take breaks regularly outside! Back in my corporate life, I used to get the smokers of the office to come and take me on their ‘smoko breaks’ as a reminder to get outside. As long as I stood upwind, it was a great chance for me to get a few extra minutes outside with nature and re-centre before heading back into the office. A great way to boost your productivity as well!
3. Implement outdoor meetings. I’ve spoken about this before, but on top of having walking meetings (or if that’s not possible), get your meetings outside. Technology has meant that we can be very mobile and portable with our ideas, so take the meeting to a café with an outdoor area, or meet in a bigger space that has access to sunshine and all the elements. It’s amazing how refreshed you’ll feel afterwards compared to being stuck in an air-conditioned building.
4. Convert your commute. We often become so stuck in our ways that we forget the various options we have for commuting. You can walk/jog/run all or part of the way, ride a bike, ride a skateboard/scooter, get creative! Getting up that little bit earlier or getting home just that little bit later will be worth it for your mental and physical health.
5. Bring nature to you. While working outside or out of an office is not a reality for all of us, we can try and bring some of the elements from the outside in. Invest in a plant or succulent that you can have in the office and encourage others to ‘green up’ the space. Research has shown that just looking at nature can help you to feel more relaxed, so when that deadline is becoming overwhelming, or you’ve received a passive aggressive email from a colleague, or your boss is breathing down your neck, you just need a few minutes staring at something green and natural to calm the mind.
So while the headline grab of ‘birds improve mental health’ may be a little simplified, this study does uncover the role primary components of nature contribute toward our mental health. Integrating nature into our daily lives highlights the benefits of preventative healthcare and encourages us as a society to make our cities a healthier place to live.
The world has become a pretty unstable and unsettling place at the moment – Donald Trump is in charge of the most powerful country in the world, the UK is in negotiation to leave the rest of the EU, and war continues to rage in the Middle East. One sitting of the news and you’re likely to walk away feeling more down than when you started.
In a time where we’re experiencing the highest standard of living in history, paradoxically we’re also more depressed, anxious and unhappy.
First things first, we need to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying this out of selfishness, or from a ‘every man from himself’ perspective. I’m talking about learning to create happiness and peace from within that can radiate onto others and create a ripple effect. There’s a reason they get you to fit your own oxygen mask on a plane before others – you won’t be able to get someone else’s mask on if you’re not breathing!
So here are the top 6 things that you need to be doing for yourself regularly in 2017. I’m not saying that these things will change the world, but they will definitely help YOU to feel happier, healthier and a more altruistic human.
1. Breathe. It’s amazing how many people aren’t breathing to its full potential. I used to be one of them. I used to just keep all the oxygen in my chest, and not expand the breath into my diaphragm and lower abdomen. When you start to breathe diaphragmatically, the PNS system (learn more on this here) is switched on, and your body starts to relax. It’s great to mindfully breathe like this first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to sleep for about five minutes. This will help you to subconsciously breathe like this throughout the day as well. It’s amazing what 5 minutes of deep breathing can do for your mental and physical health!
2. Fuel your body. It’s easy to forget that the reason we eat is to provide fuel to the body. The balance between eating for pleasure and eating for survival has swung considerably to the former and this is having ramifications. Try to make at least one meal a day focused on fuelling for nutrition. Eat nutrient dense foods – like fruits and vegetables – and try and eat as close to the natural source as possible. Processing of foods has changed considerably, and it’s hard to know what’s been added when you can’t understand the ingredients!
3. Move more. Unless you’re an ultra athlete, we could ALL do with more movement. Our sedentary lifestyle has us sitting down more than ever. Unfortunately, one hour of intentional exercise has been shown as not enough to combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day. So we need to start integrating movement throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to/from work or a portion of the journey, or go for walking meetings instead of sit down coffees. Do whatever it takes to make that magic 10,000 step number. It’s not in any way easy, but it’s very rewarding for your body.
4. Learn to meditate. If there is only ONE thing that you do this year, learn to meditate. There are yoga studios and meditation centres popping up everywhere, and plenty of resources online that can teach you the fundamentals – I have even made a recording for you here. If you’re already meditating, make it a goal to foster your practice. I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation (and I do so here) but for the sake of this blog, just realise that meditation is one of THE BEST forms of self-care out there. It takes as little as 5 minutes a day, and it can be life changing. Trust me on this one.
5. Embrace minimalism. I have blogged on this already (and will probably continue to!) and it seems to be quite an emerging theme for me (and plenty of others) in 2017. It seems that an excess of ‘stuff’ is manifesting our discontent, and there is no end in sight in the hunt for something new. Cleanout your wardrobe (learn how to here) or de-clutter your office space. Just spend time over the next year clearing the physical to allow the mental space for growth.
6. Sleep. At the end of the day it can feel like there’s just not enough time to do any of those self-care activities. I wouldn’t blame you for telling me so! The proverbial ‘to do list’ continues to grow, and despite the number of items we tick off, it never seems to end. One thing you CAN do that doesn’t require an extra item on the to do list is to sleep. I mean, force yourself at least 7-9 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT. I can hear you groaning through your computer “who has that much time to sleep?”. The change makers do and so do you. The plane and oxygen analogy is most pertinent here. You will be so much more productive, have so much more energy, be capable of achieving so much more in less time, IF you get more sleep. Try it for a week and see what happens…
Now this may seem like a lot but even if you just pick ONE of these things to do this year, the transformation may just surprise you.
This will be the last blog post for 2016! So I thought in the spirit of Christmas I’d give you access to a guided meditation that you can listen to over the holidays (see link below).
Whether you’re a guru meditator or a first timer, meditation brings a unique and different experience to everyone each time. The Western world is finally starting to catch up with the scientific benefits of meditation that the East has been preaching about for centuries. As a consequence, meditation is no longer reserved for just ‘hippies’ (see my other blog on famous meditators!) and is becoming a more common practice among many.
While there are countless benefits of meditation, I’ve covered the top 9 below. If you’re not meditating, these are the 9 things you’ll be missing out on!
1. We all face stress at one time or another. Stress can SOMETIMES be a good thing. But not all the time. Research has found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs may help manage stress. A systematic review of 17 MBSR studies found the program to be effective in reducing stress in participants ! So when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed this Christmas, turn to meditation.
2. Anxiety is often a by-product of built up stress and can get a real grip of you if you don’t have ways to manage it. A systematic review of meditation training found that 69% of the studies analysed highlighted that meditation alleviated the symptoms of anxiety .
3. Sleep is one of the biggest issues that my clients come to me with. We all have so much on our minds all the time, and little time throughout the day to switch off. The plethora of technology available at our finger tips makes going to sleep at night a challenge for many. A meta-analysis of randomised control trials among those with insomnia showed that eight weeks of meditation training significantly improved sleep quality . So if you’re mind is racing as soon as your head hits the pillow, try some relaxation meditation to help you drift of more easily.
4. Still on the topic of sleep, the holiday season often means that sleep is the first to be sacrificed for parties, shopping, and other appointments. Among practiced meditators, time spent meditating is now correlated with a significant decrease in total sleep time needed . Some have even said 20 minutes of meditation is the equivalent to a one-hour nap. So if you don’t have time to be napping during the day, find a quiet space for 20 minutes and zone out to feel refreshed and energized!
5. Meditation has now been shown to have significant impacts on our cognition. Scientists investigated the effects of a meditation training program and found that meditating for just four days is enough to improve novice meditators’ working memory . So if you’re struggling to remember all those new names at the latest social gathering, try a meditation and you could be remembering the most important of names…
6. While December usually isn’t the month for colds and flus, having one in the blazing heat and humidity is less than pleasant. On top of that, all the late nights, less healthy food and extra alcohol all wreck havoc on the immune system. A study from Harvard Medical School showed that individuals who practiced yoga and meditation developed a higher immunity . The last thing you want Christmas Day is to be blowing your nose and all puffy from a cold, so practice some mindfulness techniques throughout the month to keep the immune system strong.
7. Christmas time is often when feelings of loneliness start to rear their ugly heads. A study on mindfulness meditation training showed that meditation helps decrease those feelings of loneliness . You don’t have to live alone to experience loneliness. Practicing meditation is one of the best ways to get comfortable with your own company, plus it gives you a hit of those feel good hormones, which Loneliness doesn’t like to hang around with.
8. Show of hands if you think you’re NOT creative (my hand is up). I like to think of myself as the more logical and problem solving type. Though since starting my own business I’ve HAD to become more creative. Research shows that meditation has positive effects in creativity and divergent thinking . There is no better place for me to come up with new ideas and services for my clients than during a meditation. If you’re looking for some creative inspiration for what 2017 will hold for you, try just shutting down the eyes and tuning into your intuition – it may surprise you.
9. This one is especially useful over Christmas. How many times have you finished a Christmas meal and felt totally and utterly STUFFED?! Scientists now believe that Transcendental Meditation (with a mantra) helps to manage emotional eating . When we’re more mindful about what we’re putting in our bodies consciously it transfers subconsciously into our everyday behaviour.
There’s so many benefits to meditation but even if you just experienced ONE of these, imagine how much better off the end of 2016 will be and the potential for 2017.
Click HERE for the guided mediation to start
 Sharma, M., & Rush, S. E. (2014). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a stress management intervention for healthy individuals a systematic review. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 19(4), 271-286.
 Chen, K. W., Berger, C. C., Manheimer, E., Forde, D., Magidson, J., Dachman, L., & Lejuez, C. W. (2012). Meditative therapies for reducing anxiety: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Depression and anxiety, 29(7), 545-562
 Gong, H., Ni, C. X., Liu, Y. Z., Zhang, Y., Su, W. J., Lian, Y. J., … & Jiang, C. L. (2016). Mindfulness meditation for insomnia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 89, 1-6.
 Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and cognition, 19(2), 597-605.
The annual survey of worldwide fitness trends is now in its 11th year! I always can’t wait to read up on it because not only do they predict what’s coming for the next year, but they also reflect back on previous years to see how people’s predictions played out. It’s very interesting to note that there are two new trends in the top 10 for 2017!
While I would LOVE to go through each of them individually, I thought I’d post the list and instead discuss some of the ones that you’d find most interesting and would potentially have an impact on you!
Number one on the list is perhaps not surprisingly Wearable Technology. Think Fitbits, smart watches, GPS trackers, and smart eyeglasses! While the jury is out as to whether these devices actually increase the amount of exercise we do, as a former researcher, there is definitely power in the idea of tracking your activity to at least know what has been done. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy expensive technology, as your smartphone also provides many free options for tracking a lot of your activity (and as a trend is in at # 17) but use the options available! The Apple watch alone is predicted to reach over 485 million device sales by the year 2018 so this is a trend that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon!
Number two on the list is also quite interesting with Body Weight Training. While this type of training has been around for centuries as a form of resistance training, it didn’t appear on the trends survey until 2013! It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to exercise and great for outdoor bootcamps or your own workout at home! Now with a newly packaged name by the commercial gyms, it’s a trend that should stick around for a while yet.
Number seven on the list is Exercise is Medicine ®, which is a global health initiative focused on encouraging health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for their patients. Fundamentally it is an attempt to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and fitness professionals, which is something I can’t believe is only just beginning to happen! We all know the benefits of exercise in treatment of many chronic yet preventable diseases, but it’s an implementation gap for a patient that’s the issue. This is one that I’m really supporting and excited to be a part of in the coming years.
Number twelve is my favourite type of training – functional fitness. Its premise is to use strength training to improve power, endurance, coordination, and balance, to improve the ability to perform normal daily living activities. There’s still a lot of misunderstanding around functional fitness, but I like to think of it as focusing on the movements I may need in my daily routine (think squatting down to pick up something heavy) versus training just for aesthetics (think bicep curls). Functional fitness has been fluctuating on the list since 2007 but I think with people becoming more sedentary, fitness needs to be as functional as possible to keep our bodies moving and mobile!
Number fifteen on the list is my daily work – wellness coaching. Wellness coaching has been in the top 20 since 2010 and has been progressively making its way up the list since then. For those new to my website, wellness coaching is the integration of behavioural-change science with healthy initiatives. Like a personal trainer, a wellness coach works with people to achieve their broader goals, through focusing on their values, needs, visions, and aspirations. Many people are trying to move into this wellness-coaching arena with little to no qualifications or practical training in ‘coaching’, so be mindful of who you work with. It’s definitely one of the most exciting trends though and who doesn’t want someone motivating and challenging you along your life path?!
The final number that I believe relates to you is sixteen with Worksite Health Promotion. The foundation of a corporate wellness program is to improve the health and well-being of employees. Again, this is very much in my domain, but the trend here is for a range of programs and services that evaluate employee health, health care costs, and worker productivity. With rising health care premiums, increased absenteeism in workplaces, and decreasing productivity due to stress, its no wonder that this is an up and coming trend to watch out for!
There’s a very important distinction that is made between a trend and a fad for the purposes of this world wide trends survey. The former is defined as ‘a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving’ whereas the latter is ‘a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period’. So this survey is really looking at the change in people’s behaviours as a whole that can last a considerable period of time.
Full list below:
|2||Body weight training|
|3||High-intensity interval training|
|4||Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals|
|7||Exercise is Medicine ®|
|10||Exercise and weight loss|
|11||Fitness programs for older adults|
|14||Group personal training|
|16||Worksite health promotion|
|17||Smartphone exercise apps|
|20||Flexibility and mobility rollers|
October is World Mental Health Month. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as the state of well-being in which every individual with their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to their community. Nearly half (45%) of all Australians will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime, and those that don’t will likely know someone who does. I have several close friends who suffer from anxiety and depression, and while they often can present as a fully functioning adult, there are times when they are crippled with it. The worst part is, this health issue is almost invisible. There’s still a lot of stigma and confusion around mental health, and that’s where this years theme of Learn and Grow comes in.
Suffering from a mental health issue doesn’t necessarily mean being locked in a room 24/7 refusing to leave. My friends usually meet the WHO criteria above, except its not consistent, and there are days when they don’t want to leave their house. It is a weekly and sometimes daily struggle for them to be productive at work. The stress of work, home life or their own self-confidence makes acting as a ‘productive human’ much more difficult.
That is why this year in particular is so important for mental health awareness, as the theme is encouraging people and communities to learn more about mental health and use that knowledge to grow personally and empower individuals to be in control of their mental wellbeing. The social network surrounding people suffering in their mental health is crucial for support. The workplace is one of those key areas.
Stress, daily demands, and burnout are all key precursors in the workplace for a potentially negative impact on workers mental health. Those that ‘work the hardest’ or ‘work the longest’ are often championed and praised for their dedication. But at what cost?
Beyond the emotional and physical toll it takes on the individual, mental health conditions present substantial costs to organisations. My previous blog breaks down the costs of absenteeism, productivity loss, and turnover, of which mental health conditions are a significant contributor. However, through the implementation of an effective wellness program to create a mentally healthy workplace, organisations are showing a positive return on investment.
In light of this, Energy|Body|Mind are hosting a free Mindfulness event in Sydney at Observatory Hill on October 31st. It’s during your lunch break on a Monday from 12.30-1.15pm so come along to engage with some stretching and powerful postures, learn some breathing techniques, and undertake a short meditation. You will leave feeling recharged and re-energised! Registration details below.
So what are some of the ways that you can start to integrate a healthy work environment to help you and your colleagues to reduce and prevent the ill-effects of mental health issues?
This is an important issue, and one that seems to be on the rise. But we can do something about it, and taking action in the workplace can be one of the best methods for this.
Registration for the Mindfulness event is from the Home Page of this site. Spots are limited, and the first 10 to register will receive a special gift! Look forward to seeing you there.