Book: Aging Beyond Belief by Don ArdellIf you plan to age, prepare yourself — it's later than you think. The challenge of aging well should be taken seriously, but not grimly! Whatever your age, it's never too soon, or too late, to learn and apply the fine art of aging well, really well. Discover what aspects of aging can't be changed and improve the rest that can. Mold your own realities with REAL wellness, Ardell-style.
The 69 tips — one for each year of the author's life — are thought-provoking, challenging, eye-opening, manageable and fun to read. And all provide practical guidance for intelligently designing your own life-style evolution.
Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)
Workplace wellness programs consist of screenings for health risks and disease states. Programs largely consist of lectures on illness prevention and managing stress, exercising, eating healthier foods and other offerings, the intent of which is to reduce medical utilization and sickness.
Little or no attention is devoted to quality of life enhancement. This is curious, since that is what wellness was designed to promote. This quality of life concept was first described by Halbert L. Dunn in the 1960's and 70's.
Wellness was not envisioned by Dunn, by myself or by any of the initial popularizers of Dunn's concepts as a medical endeavor, or as a strategy for business to contain employee insurance costs. Instead, wellness was introduced as a positive mindset and lifestyle for the inherent pleasures, satisfactions and other benefits associated with this philosophy. It was a way of living well beyond the prevailing normal (i.e., mediocre) standard of well-being. The latter is little more than non-sickness. Wellness was designed to raise that bar—toward thriving, toward ebullient states of human functioning.
Yet, for the past three decades or more, corporate wellness programs have been designed and assessed in terms of saving money on worker sick-care expenses. The test of programs billed as wellness has been nothing more than whether they mitigated corporate expenditures for employee medical insurance.
Notable if few exceptions were activities that promoted exercise and improved nutritional regimens for other than disease prevention or weight loss purposes. The closest most companies came to wellness might have been culture reforms designed to render the workplace more conducive to good health. The latter took the form of healthier menu choices in company cafeterias and vending machines, the provision of on-campus fitness facilities, walking paths and like environmental embellishments that boost quality of life for the work force.
Time for Change
If you have any influence on worksite wellness, pay attention to the differences between REAL wellness and the mediocrity of normalcy. Do what you can to encourage worksite wellness designers to address only topics that bear on boosting quality of life. Insist that medical testing and risk reduction issues be addressed separately by company medical departments.
Worksite wellness is an oxymoron.
Wellbeing at work depends on many factors, including how tasks and role relationships are structured. It's also affected by the congruence of qualifications for jobs, effort-reward-balance, job-demand-control, social relationships, leadership and company cultures. Unfortunately, the amount of knowledge required to flourish at the worksite is rarely possessed by employees.
What happens beyond the workplace matters a great deal in shaping how people think, feel and act on the job. If the worker's life outside the factory, office or other job site does not feel safe, if in the larger world she is not appreciated, how likely is she to grow and prosper mentally during the workday, even at the best of worksites? Life during off hours can be and usually is the greatest worksite health hazard.
To some degree, work can render added meaning and structure to existence and be a source for self-esteem and positive relationships. Yet, the larger, nobler returns are more likely to follow life quality boosts beyond the job.
Assume with me for the moment that this is the case, and then consider a new focus: Educating employees on the job about effective living when the work day is done.
A Suggested New Focus: Four Skills for More Effective Living
REAL wellness has four dimensions: reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty, as in R-E-A-L. Within each dimension, countless skills can be identified and taught that boost personal effectiveness and promote enhanced human functioning and wellbeing.
Many skill-building initiatives would render worksite programs less medically focused on problems. Four examples can be identified to illustrate the nature of this shift toward REAL wellness.
Ultimately, worksite wellness from a REAL wellness perspective will promote individuality. The individuality ideal was well expressed by 19th century master orator Robert Green Ingersoll in a speech on this quality. An excerpt from that speech might be of interest:
In my judgment, every human being should take a road of his own. Every mind should be true to itsel, should think, investigate and conclude for itself. This is a duty alike incumbent upon pauper and prince. Every soul should repel dictation and tyranny, no matter from what source they come: from earth or heaven, from men or gods. Besides, every traveler upon this vast plain should give to every other traveler his best idea as to the road that should be taken. Each is entitled to the honest opinion of all. And there is but one way to get an honest opinion upon any subject whatever. The person giving the opinion must be free from fear. The merchant must not fear to lose his custom, the doctor his practice, nor the preacher his pulpit There can be no advance without liberty. Suppression of honest inquiry is retrogression, and must end in intellectual night. (Robert Green Ingesoll, Individuality, 1873.)
Honest inquiry requires the kind of wellbeing skills not on offer under the now oxymoronic phrase worksite wellness, but will be when the switch is made to positive REAL wellness explicitly fashioned to promote enhancements in happiness, joy and exuberance in many forms, improved rationality, exceptional physical and mental fitness and enriched quality of life.
All good wishes and be well.
(Ed. Note: Views expressed in this and other columns are those of the author and not necessarily those of the SeekWellness Editorial Board.)
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