Stress Greatly Increases Obesity Risk and Poor Results
Unless you regularly read Journal Articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, you probably still believe the relationship with food you were taught in school–the one that is most commonly believed.
If you or a loved one struggles with maintaining or attaining your desired weight, you need the rest of the story–the new information that shows that stress affects digestive functions.
If you eat more than you should (calorie wise) when you’re not stressed, your body is more capable of dealing with it and maintaining your weight than if you eat the exact same food when you are stressed. Stress reduces your body to respond to food in healthy ways. Over time, chronic stress can lead to diabetes and other digestive problems.
The same findings have been found in relationship to exercise. When you feel good and you exercise, it does you more good than when you are stressed and exercise.
What we eat changes based on how stressed we are. People are far more likely to choose unhealthy foods when they are stressed–even when they know what they should eat to be healthy and even when they have weight loss goals.
Stress interferes with our ability to stick to our goals.
If you want to be successful in attaining and maintaining your weight where you want it, you can’t ignore the stress in your life.
How do you know if you’re stressed?
Stress and happiness have an inverse relationship. Increased stress equals reduced happiness. Increased happiness equals reduced stress. If you’re not feeling a lot of positive emotion every day, you’re stressed. If you are frequently frustrated, jealous, envious, irritable, angry, depressed, or other emotions that feel worse than hopeful, you’re experiencing chronic stress. The amount is a matter of degree, but the research shows that stress has an immediate negative effect on your digestive, immune, cognitive and central nervous system function that, over time, leads to many chronic diseases.
At Happiness 1st Institute, we teach you how to deal with stress at the root cause, increase psychological flexibility and how to approach goals for the best possible outcome.
Essentially, we help you create the environment you need to be successful.
When corporate wellness programs begin addressing stress before it has manifested in a diagnosable mental illness, we’ll make real progress in preventing chronic diseases before they manifest.
Contact us today to enroll in upcoming classes or to arrange a corporate wellness program for your organization.
The reason preventative care is not saving money is that it is nottrue prevention. It’s early detection of illness and disease, not prevention in the true sense of the word.
True prevention would be Primary Prevention. Examples of Primary Prevention include washing one’s hands after engaging in activities that may expose one to germs and/or bacteria and before handling food. Another example is safe drinking water delivered to homes.
Primary Prevention is possible in healthcare. Primary Prevention is not early detection; primary prevention actually prevents the illness and/or disease from manifesting in the first place.
There is overwhelming science evincing that stress is at the root of between 67% – 99% of illness and disease (results of studies have varied). Even if it is just 67% it represents a tremendous portion of our healthcare expenses.
For 40 years the recommendations for stress management have been dose dependent and research is clear that when people need to reduce stress the most they are least likely to do so—even when they know engaging in dose-dependent stress reductions will help them feel better. The reason the vast majority of methods recommended are dose dependent is because they do not address the root cause of stress. Many recommendations increase stress, such as telling people to think positive without telling them how to do so. Another one is telling people to reduce activities when their life will not allow them to do so, which creates stress about how stressed they are.
We all know that the same situation elicits different levels of stress in different individuals and that the amount is not directly tied to how devastating the situation appears to be to the individual. The reason some individuals experience lower stress is because their minds are programmed in ways that reduce their stress because of the perspective they take. All of us have minds that are programmed. Most of the programming is completed by age 6 and happens as a natural result of being alive. But it is possible to change the programming so that it helps us instead of hinders us. Doing so increases resilience while it lowers stress. The benefits also extend far beyond health care. Stress is a significant contributing factor to other socially undesired outcomes including crime racism, teen pregnancy, divorce, and drop-out rates.
For healthcare, a positive mental attitude reduces the risk of heart disease by 50%. (Boehm, 2012) Heart disease is responsible for about 1/3 of all deaths.
Stress is a significant initial cause of mental illness.
Stress decreases our immune, digestive, and cognitive functions. Science evincing the speed of these changes using biochemical markers is definitive.
Provide society with the skills to reduce stress at the root cause and the financial benefits will far exceed the cost. The non-financial benefits will be even greater. If you don’t want to wait for society to distribute this life-saving and life-enhancing information, you can get it now in True Prevention–Optimum Health: Remember Galileo.
Most stress reduction techniques taught provide temporary improvements and are dose dependent (you have to repeatedly do them to get the benefit), much like medicines that treat symptoms instead of curing the problem.
Our program teaches skills that create mindsets that are more adaptable and that actually experience less stress than untrained minds in the same circumstances.
The changes become permanent and life is less stressful thereafter.
Lower stress means more engaged and productive employees. This is a competitive edge that keeps increasing.
Because we address stress relief from the root cause, the benefits spread throughout the system (physical, mental, behavioral).
Since the 1970’s, it has been widely recognized that stress is bad for our health. Researchers agree that at least 60% of illnesses and disease are the result of stress.
During the years since the 1970’s we have learned many details about the path stress takes and how it harms our physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Those pathways are helpful in creating pharmaceutical bandaids (which I know are needed by many people today). But, the reason they are needed is because the recommendations for dealing with stress have not changed or advanced much in the last 40 years. Oh meditation and yoga have moved out of the cult or woo woo classifications they once suffered and become more mainstream, but the root of stress is still not being widely addressed.
As Thoreau said,
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.
If you substitute stress for evil, I would say,
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of stress to one who is striking at the root.
Happiness 1st Institute exists because I came to understand the root cause of stress and how to eliminate it and recognized the significant benefits to society’s around the world that could come from sharing what I had learned. Unlike much of the advice given today, eliminating the root cause of stress does not require anyone to give up activities they enjoy. In fact, doing so is counter to what reduces stress.
Addressing stress at its root is a perfect example of another old saying, one Ben Franklin believed,
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Addressing stress at its root is what we call Primary Prevention. It prevents the illness or disease from developing in the first place. Stress disrupts numerous functions critical to healthy living including immune function, cognitive function, digestive function and some central nervous system functions. It can also lead to adverse epigenetic changes that turn on genes that lead to adverse consequences. Cumulative stress (both pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy) have adverse impacts on duration of the pregnancy (causing pre-term births) and adverse outcomes including increased asthma, sleep and behavioral problems, and depression in the children.
A recent infographic produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) shows many of the adverse consequences of stress (although their solutions are not Primary Prevention–they address the symptoms of stress instead of the root).
The negative impact of stress on the body begins immediately. If you’re one of the people who doubt this, recall a time when you were nervous. Perhaps that good looking person you’d been hoping to talk to unexpectedly stepped into the elevator with you at the last moment. If that doesn’t do it, imagine you’re 11 years old when it happens. You remember the instantaneous perspiration, the sweaty palms, perhaps the blush that swept across your cheeks. How long did it take to have that reaction in your body? That was stress. Those are signs of stress you can feel immediately. What you don’t feel is the slowing down of your immune function and digestive function or the cognitive constriction of your ability to think clearly (or maybe you did feel that if that person stepping into the elevator made you tongue tied).
The negative effects begin immediately.
Stress Culture to Health Culture
Our bodies are designed to respond to stress and return to a relaxed state but our society’s beliefs and structure do not support that. We are trained to remain in hypervigilant states of worry, fear, and concern. We are trained to live with stressors like frustration, anger, grief, depression, hopelessness, irritability and more rather than deal with the negative emotions as they arise. Many people suppress their emotions. Others have felt them so long it has become their norm and they don’t realize that it is killing them–literally.
To truly move from a culture of stress to one of greater health and wellbeing for everyone we must begin using primary prevention to reduce stress. If we don’t, the epidemic chronic illnesses like Type II diabetes, heart disease, addictions, obesity and numerous social problems like crime will all continue to increase. Stress is the root cause and primary prevention is the only way to avoid the undesired outcomes. It is a significant factor in disparate outcomes, one that can be solved today.
We are designed to deal with stress when we experience the negative emotion. When we do, we thrive. When we don’t, we suffer. So do our relationships, our careers, and our level of happiness. New research has pointed the way to do this without having to give up what we love (or even family members we find difficult to love). We can have far greater control over our stress level than most have ever experienced. That’s what we teach at Happiness 1st Institute. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us for details on upcoming classes.
The six “risk factors” are symptoms. We must treat the root cause to achieve wellness.
Primary Prevention of Heart Disease
We spend billions each year fighting symptoms of heart disease (cardiovascular disease) while we ignore the root cause. Just like when you chop a tree down above the ground, when you treat the symptoms, it comes back. Science has clearly demonstrated the root cause in myriad ways but the old paradigm hasn’t changed. Until we change our focus to the real root cause of almost all illness and social problems, people will continue to suffer and die unnecessarily.
Worrying causes stress. You could say worry is a form of self-induced stress. When you feel negative emotion of any type, it creates stress in your body. Worry can be a slight worry, such as a worry about whether you left the coffee pot on as you drive to work or it can be a continuous concern for the welfare of those you love.
When you worry, as soon as you feel worried, a bio-chemical change occurs in your body. These changes affect every aspect of your body, including your immune system, cognitive function, central nervous system, and digestive function to name a few. This creates a pathway for illness and disease.
The digestive function disruption, when it is continually disrupted with chronic stress from any source, including habitual worrying, becomes dysregulate greatly increasing the risks of obesity and diabetes and lowering its ability to deliver nutrition from the foods you eat to your body.
The effect on your immune system is worse. Your incidence of cold and flu will not only be more frequent, the episodes will be more severe. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The risk from cancer and even Alzheimer’s increases as immune function declines. An attitude of positive expectation reduces the risk of developing heart disease by 50% (Boehm, 2012). The risk of other diseases also increases.
Why do you worry? What is worry? In many cases worry is a lack of trust. In many cases it is not a conscious lack of trust, but a habitual one. For example, if you worry about the welfare of your child when he or she is not with you, perhaps your young adult child, where you have no control over the outcome you may believe your worry is love, but it is really indicating that you do not trust your child to take care of him or herself. That worry may make the child doubt him or herself, lowering self-esteem, which increases the risk of becoming a victim.
Additionally, this child you love may someday die earlier for two reasons. Today the research linking the detrimental effects of chronic stress, including chronic worry are not widely known. They are known in the halls of academia where the research has been found, but the public has not yet embraced this new knowledge that changes the way we look at healthy behavior. But if you’re worrying about a twenty-something year-old, he or she will someday understand that your early demise was partially because of worry you did about his or her welfare. Now, an emotionally healthy person will realize that she was not responsible for how you thought about her, and whether you trusted her to do what was best for herself. But if that level of emotional intelligence is not achieved, he may feel guilty about how much you worried on his behalf. Guilt is another negative emotion, one that if it is chronic, will cause the same bio-chemical chain reaction described above for worrying. Thus, your habit of worrying has the potential to rob not only you of years of healthy life, but also rob the person you are worrying about.
Now, let’s consider a major cause of worry—projecting things we see reported on the news as likely scenario’s for us or are loved ones. Is this a valid concern? Yes, to the extent that bad things happen in the world. No as far as the likelihood that they will happen to someone you love. For example, most parents worry about their child being abducted by a stranger. The risk of this is 1 out of 1.5 million children. A woman I am citing in my upcoming book, Stress Kills:Happiness Heals, figured out that a child would have to be left outside unattended for 750,000 years in order to make the risk 1 out of 1. Why do we fear this so much?
Most of us believe the media is here to inform us of life during our times. But the truth is that the media did research to see what makes viewers watch more. How does the media make money? Ratings, based on the number of viewers. What is their job? It is to get good ratings. Nowhere in that job description is there anything about informing us. If that were their goal, they might report how many millions of people made it home tonight and every night instead of scouring the planet for the worst of human experience and piping it into our homes.
Look behind the veil and see that when the media pushes that into your living room, they are doing their job, because the research showed that frightened viewers watch more news.
Remember, the first thought you have and the emotional response you have to the thought does not mean the thought is true or even likely. Negative emotion only means that the perspective of the thought is different from what is desired from the situation. The emotion does not give the potential greater validity, unless and until you let it take root.
Now, I’m not saying tragedies don’t happen. But the likelihood of one happening to you or your loved ones is extremely small. The likelihood of you having negative health outcomes from habitual worry is large.
Worry is not love. As stated earlier, worry indicates a lack of trust.
There are other factors at work here as well. When you continually worry about someone, it can diminish their confidence. Research into who criminals choose as victims shows that a lack of confidence greatly increases the risk of becoming a victim.
Is your loved one of such low intelligence that he cannot make good decisions about where to go and who to go with?
Or is your loved one just as concerned about her own wellbeing as you are and consciously making good decisions that make her safer?
Remember, the survival instinct is strong in each of us almost all the time. There are some exceptions when life feels too difficult, but that is often more a lack of resilience than a truly horrific life. My recent book, Prevent Suicide: The Smart Way increases resilience, a strong protective factor against suicide. But outside the arena of suicide (which is a temporary state of mind that will pass if given the opportunity to do so), we all have a strong natural self-preservation instinct. Combine intelligence, some common sense and this survival instinct and the risk we won’t always make it home safely is very small.
There is another pathway that being distrusted can lead to increased risk. It does not feel good when you aren’t trusted—even when the distrust manifests as worry. This can lower self-esteem and also mood, both of which are risk factors that make it more likely someone will drink and/or experiment with drugs. These will increase the risk of something to worry about happening, but the root is not the drinking or drugs, it is the lack of trust that made the person seek solace in those things.
It’s Christmas Eve. Many families will be gathered today. Many families whose conversations do not go very deep. Oh, they love one another, but they don’t know one another. Instead of worry, show your loved ones love and trust. Let them know that you’ve been misled by the media and maybe also by your own experiences in the world you lived in at their age, or the naiveté you had at their age, but you’re now going to do your best to trust more and worry less.
If you’re worried that someone is at risk, instead of worrying, take action. Tell them you are worried and that it is your life experience and your personal history and habits of thought that make you worry but they could help you overcome that by sharing with them what they do to protect themselves.
If a relative were to ask me that I would be happy to share the multitude of ways I manage my life and actions to be safe, from locking my doors to planning where I go and when I go, to wearing sensible shoes if I am out alone, to being aware of my surroundings, etc. You may be surprised at younger ladies, many of them seldom go anywhere alone, partly for social reasons but I think also because they feel more comfortable having a friend along.
Have real conversations—not surface ones. It will build stronger relationships which research shows improves your health.
According to a research brief completed by Rand Corporation, “Approximately 730,000 people have filed claims for asbestos injuries in the United States through 2002. At least 8,400 defendants and insurers have paid $70 billion to settle these claims.”
That is less than 1 million claims and a 70 billion price tag.
About 100 companies have filed for bankruptcy because of their asbestos exposure.(1)
Why were companies held liable for asbestos? They knew the risk to employees (or should have because the risk was known) and they did not provide adequate protection for their workers. Rand states it this way, “Asbestos litigation, the longest-running mass tort litigation in the United States, arose as a result of individuals’ exposure to asbestos and the failure of many product manufacturers to protect their workers.”(2)
The risk to your organization from not protecting your employees from workplace stress could bankrupt your company.
It does not matter who you are, or how big you are because the pool of potential litigants expands as your workforce expands. Some of the more conservative estimates I’ve seen estimate that 26% of the population has unhealthy stress levels and that 70% of that is due to workplace stress. Let’s do the math.
314,000,000 x .26 = 81,640,000 x .7 = 57,480,000
People in USA x low estimate of those with unhealthy stress levels = 81.6 million
70% attributed to workplace stress brings the number down to 57.4 million
That equates to more than 78 times the number of asbestos litigants.
And, unlike asbestos, risk cannot be stopped by no longer using the product.Workplace stress risk will continue as long as the business is in business. The best you can do it mitigate it. The good news is our program takes stress management a giant step forward.
Pay Attention: Think Long-Term
The research is compelling. TRUE Prevention–Optimum Health: Remember Galileo touches upon many of the stress related illnesses including heart disease which accounts for 1/3 of all deaths. In early 2015, Stress Kills:Happiness Heals will tell the full story–not just the health impacts, but the social problems exacerbated by stress, including divorces, depression, and suicides.
If the potential of corporate liability due to workplace stress that employers know, or should know, are harmful to their employees mental and physical well-being does not make you afraid you need to talk to a risk manager. The potential threat is real. Once the research is clear and compelling, businesses are held to a standard that they should know the risks of placing demands on their employees that lead to chronic stress.
Putting your head in the sand and ignoring the issue will not make it go away. But there are ways to manage the risk without doubling your workforce.
Stress management skills are not taught in school. The vast majority of your employees have no idea how to lower the stress they feel in any given situation. You already know some of them handle stress better than others, but not why.
The stress reduction techniques touted by most of the books and stress management teachers are dose dependent and stressed people are less likely to actually do them. It is not the reason they are stressed, stress decreases motivation. It is part of the problem. It is also part of your engagement problem. Employees who understood how to manage stress might find their environment challenging instead of stressful.
Face it, we cannot eliminate the stress from every job. Performing surgery is stressful, caring for a preterm infant with serious complications is stressful, regulations that increase and change frequently is stressful, taking up the slack from disengaged co-workers is stressful. Eliminating stress is not an option.
The connection between workplace stress and health is irrefutable. Already, in some large cities like New York and Los Angeles, police officers who die from heart disease–even if they are on vacation when they die–are considered work-related deaths. But stress does not have to involve real life or death situations for the human body to experience the negative health effects.
Long-Term May Mean… Tomorrow
The number of asbestos claims is a drop of water in the ocean compared to the potential stress claims from employees. The future that I’m talking about is not that far in the future. To those who are familiar with the state of the research connecting stress to mental and physical illnesses, it is already clearly visible. When will the first case be filed? It could be tomorrow. The evidence is compelling enough and accumulating on an almost daily basis.
What can you do to manage this risk?
The economics will not allow you to double your workforce to reduce the workload, so that is not an option.
Dose dependent stress management techniques like exercise, helping others, going outside,meditation, massage, yoga, and tai chi are dose dependent and the evidence that those suffering from the highest levels of stress are least likely to do them. The fact that they are not doing them is not a defense because evidence demonstrating that it is the high stress that makes it less likely just points the finger back at the cause of the stress.
There is a way to teach employees to manage the stress at the root cause that empowers them to perceive the stressful situation in less stressful ways. Why is this the best method? Because it addresses the issue at the root cause, it affects the entire experience. It shows the employee they have more control over their stress than they know. Increasing employee’s locus of control in this way has multiple benefits including improved health and engagement. That’s three boxes checked in one program.
Reduce risk of stress-related litigation
Improve Employee Wellness Efforts
Increase Employee Engagement
But the benefits do not end there. The program delivers considerably more. Relationships between co-workers (and their relationships outside work) improve because of what they learn in the program. This not only makes the workplace more harmonious, it lessens the amount of outside relationship stress that is adversely affecting the work day. This is not just romantic relationships, but also relationships with children, parents, and friends.
How much does relationship drama impact your organization’s productivity? How much of management’s time is spent dealing with personality conflict type issues?
There is another benefit. From years in risk management, I am well aware that some lawsuits employers have to defend against are for things that one employee interprets as threatening but another one would not even remember a few days later. It is the perception of the event, rather than the actual event, that creates the problem. Our programs provides employees with skills that enable them to perceive situations from perspectives that feel better to them. While it is never possible to quantify lawsuits avoided (a bane of compliance officers and risk managers everywhere), the dots can be connected and the relationship can be clear enough that the CFO will understand the benefits.
Let’s return to the wellness program for a minute. All those healthy habits you’re attempting to get your employees to do are hindered by high stress. In fact, the link between high stress and obesity has changed the paradigm of calories in – calories out = BMI. Stress affects how the body processes the food a person eats and increases the risk of obesity, which increases the risk of diabetes, which increases the risk of heart disease. Stress also increases the risk of high blood pressure which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Chronic stress also diminishes the effectiveness of the immune function, increasing the risk of colds, flu, and even cancer. All of this is already scientifically documented. Many of the citations are in TRUE Prevention–Optimum Health, but Stress Kills:Happiness Heals, which is in the editing stage expands the picture further.
The benefits of our program seem too good to be true but the reason they are so expansive is because they address the root cause. Almost everything else that is done to improve health and stress today addresses symptoms, not the root cause. Now is the time to take action. There are other benefits from our program detailed throughout our website.
If this sounds frightening, it is. What can you control? Can you control the job responsibilities in a way that makes them not stressful? Can you control the work loads employees are tackling?
What you can do is empower them with skill based training that insulates them from much of the stress in their lives–both work-related and personal. This training would go a long way toward demonstrating that you took every possible precaution to help your employees. Of course, it should be combined with other things you’re probably already doing, such as an EAP program. But when you wait for the situation to be at the point where most employees will reach out to an EAP, the stress has already caused damage.
We measure a variety of things in a host of different ways before and after the training, including stress, depression (expect about 10% of your employees to be suffering from depression in the pre-training testing), resilience, and emotional intelligence. You can choose to add other measures. The program is provided in large groups so the cost is surprisingly affordable. Smaller employers can combine to form a larger group to keep their costs reasonable. In large organizations, we have train the trainor programs.
Workplace wellness programs are missing the key ingredient to true prevention. They focus on early diagnosis, symptom and lifestyle management while ignoring the elephant in the room–the one common factor at the root of everything.
While meeting with a representative of a large regional health system’s workplace wellness division, I asked him what their solution was for addressing stress. He mentioned their EAP (employee assistance program) offered counseling but said that was all they had. He also said many employers recognize that stress has both a negative effect on worker’s health and on their contributions at work. He was excited by our program but when he took the information back to his employer they said they had all the knowledge they needed in-house. If that is true, why are they excluding stress management skills training from their workplace wellness program?
The research about stress is clear. Workplace wellness programs tend to focus on the same areas and stress management skills would help improve the results in every one of them.
Stress plays a role in the ability of individuals to quit smoking and maintain their status as non-smokers. Anxious individuals find it the most difficult to quit. Anxiety and smoking behavior are highly correlated.
Researchers have demonstrated that the old paradigm of weight management is too simplistic because it ignores the impact of stress on the digestive system. The digestive system does not function as well when an individual is stressed and chronic stress contributes significantly to the development of diabetes. Stress also results in unhealthy food choices. Food is the number one anxiety drug.
Eating disorders often have their roots in low self-esteem. The design of our program leads to increases in self-esteem, which could provide relief for those who have eating disorders and prevent their development by those who are at risk of developing an eating disorder.
Diabetes Disease Management
The impact of stress on the digestive function has been linked to the development of diabetes. In 2007, the direct cost of diabetes in the United States was 174 billion. Indirect costs included 2.6 billion for absenteeism, 20 billion reduced productivity during work for the employed population, 7.9 billion unemployment from disease-related disability, and 26.9 billion lost productive capacity because of early mortality. Stress also has a direct impact on adherence to recommended treatments.
Stress levels affect whether or not an individual will be active and choose to engage in physical activities. Highly stressed individuals who do not have an ingrained habit of physical activity are unlikely to develop the habit while they are stressed. Despite the fact that physical activity/exercise is often recommended as a dose dependent stress reduction method, such increases in physical activity do not consistently help stressed individuals because they do not feel sufficiently motivated.
By the time depression has developed, the individuals has typically been suffering from chronic stress for a sustained period of time. We need to educate employees (and the entire population) that tolerating stress is not the appropriate response. Coping until we’re depressed is a strategy that has made depression an epidemic with 10% of the US population suffering from it, according to the CDC.
Why are they not recommending early intervention to address stress? Because they think it requires expensive one-on-one treatment and because of the ridiculous stigma’s associated with mental health. Stress Management skills are simple to understand and implement. They are simple enough that kindergartners can understand the basics. Adults are a little more difficult and take a little longer to teach because they have developed a lot of false premises throughout their life that hinder their ability to adopt strategies that come quickly and easily to younger children. But it is still far from something that requires expensive one-on-one treatment. I can teach auditoriums full of people how to manage stress in meaningful ways that have a positive impact on their work and home lives right away and continue to increase as the techniques are applied.
Even individuals who suffered from repeated bouts of depression have now reported that they have been free of depressive episodes since learning these skills.
Stress and happiness are opposite ends of the same continuum. Researchers have linked happiness with better food choices. Individuals in the top 25% of optimism scores ate more fresh vegetables, salads, berries, fruit and low fat cheese that other subjects in a research report comparing optimism to dietary habits. A meta-analysis done by researchers at Harvard and published in 2012 concluded that positivity and optimism led to better food choices and better choices about risky behaviors. Our stress management program increases happiness, positivity, and optimism.
The common recommendations for managing stress are all dose dependent. That would be fine if there wasn’t a better way, but there is. Dose dependent stress management is the same as taking a prescription pill to manage the symptoms–it does nothing to affect the underlying cause. Dose dependent means you have to do it in order to receive the positive results and if you don’t do it, you don’t get any results.
Because our program helps individuals change the root cause of the stress, it functions more like a cure. It does not prevent bad things from happening, but the response is more resilient, emotional intelligent, and less stressful than it would have been before they learned to use the skills we teach. The way the individual responds to the same stimulus that may have once made him or her highly stressed may not be at all stressful once the techniques have been applied for a while.
We all know that everyone reacts differently to circumstances. What stresses one person out may be fun to another person. I’ve studied what makes humans thrive for two decades and then developed programs that teach individuals how to develop the habits of thought that help them thrive.
The frequently recommended dose dependent stress reduction methods include exercise, going out in nature, helping someone else, petting your cat or dog, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and massage. While these methods are a good “pill,” they do not provide long-term benefits with the exception of a consistent meditation practice. But even consistent meditation does not address stress at the root cause.
Some recommendations can be counter-productive. One commonly recommended stress reduction method is to discuss the problem with a friend. The outcome of that discussion can go either way. I definitely have friends who would make it worse by focusing on the worse aspects of the situation and reminding me of other bad situations like the current one. I also have friends who would be beneficial to talk to but I’ve never seen this type of recommendation come with recommended parameters for the discussion.
This is not a typical focus of Corporate Wellness Programs although the hope is that the program will be perceived in a positive light. Our program also helps engagement in a variety of ways. The first is that it helps create a more inclusive and positively focused employee base. Working with people who are energetic, focused, and optimistic creates synergy and an environment that makes being at work enjoyable. The way any individual views his employer or any other aspect of his life reflects how he views everything in life. Someone who is generally dissatisfied with life is generally dissatisfied with her work. The reason for this is because our habits of thought play a tremendous role in the aspects we focus on in every area of our lives. If we focus on the aspects that we don’t like, we’re not engaged. If we focus on aspects that we find exciting, our engagement increases.
The inherent nature of our program increases the likelihood that employees will focus on aspects of their jobs and the company that they like.
One of the most frequently cited reasons for turnover is not liking the people. A working environment where relationships are harmonious, where workplace conflict is unusual, where conversations are fruitful, and others are supportive would be very difficult to leave. The techniques I teach can accomplish this type of shift in corporate culture. Individuals who understand how to use the skills can even ignore outright attempts to upset their equilibrium without feeling stressed or a need to retaliate. The techniques provide individuals with tremendous stability and equilibrium in their chosen emotional stance.
There is a song by Pharrell Williams that describes the steady emotional state:
“Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don’t waste your time
Because I’m Happy”
I know, that to someone who is not generally happy the thought of being around a bunch of happy people is not very appealing but when everyone understands they can be happy and most are, the whole dynamic changes. Those who need a bit of help find it everywhere they look because one of the most natural and frequent behaviors those who learn to be happier demonstrate is a desire to help others do the same.
Research shows that positively focused people are kinder and demonstrate better corporate citizenship.
Stress diminishes our cognitive abilities. The same person is smarter when happy than he is when stresssed. Do you want your employees to make better decisions? Teach them how to reduce the stress in their lives. You can keep the same employees and gain a smarter workforce.
Immune function decreases as stress increases. Research has shown that the severity of colds and flu are directly tied to positivity, wth the most positively focused experiencing the fewest symptoms and duration of illness. The most positively focused have sometimes not developed an illness at all, even after being deliberately exposed to the virus. The symptoms are not just self-reports. One study in particular actually measured symptoms, going as far as to weigh used tissues so that the results would not be slanted by the more pessimistic attitude. The pessimists reported more symptoms but they also had more symptoms.
The level of productivity is important to employers. In all except the most mindless, repetitive occupations repeated research has shown that optimists produce more than pessimists.
Although you may believe optimism and pessimism are inborn traits, they aren’t. They are habits of thought and individuals can change their habits of thought to make their life feel better.
Optimists are more successful than pessimists in study after study.
There is very solid evidence that even less qualified optimists outperform more qualified pessimists based on traditional measures of qualification. If optimism is not one of the considerations for hiring your sales staff you are leaving a lot of untapped potential on the table. Teaching your sales staff our stress management techniques would improve sales.
The research is very clear that ethical behavior improves as positivity increases. Think about it. When the economy dips, white collar crime increases. The same stress that reduces cognitive ability leads individuals to faulty conclusions that result in them deciding to commit a crime.
There are a number of false premises that hinder individuals from becoming happier and less stressed. One of them is that they should just be strong when they are faced with stressful situations. But the advice, such as think positive and decrease the stress in your life, is worthless without teaching them how.
Stress adversely affects every system in the body fairly quickly. It is something that should be dealt with as soon after it is experienced as possible. I’ll give you an example. Jealousy creates stress in the body. I am almost never jealous of anyone about anything. I recognize that feeling jealous is my seeing someone else experience something that I want but am perceiving I can’t be, do, or have. Earlier today I learned a friend was at a lecture at Harvard on psychoneuroimmunology and I felt jealous. I told my partner to tell our friend I was jealous (he was going to see him before I did). But I manage my emotional state to a really good place. I had not felt jealousy in a very long time. It did not feel good. Within less than five minutes I realized what I was doing and said, “Why am I feeling jealous? Why do I think that is something I can’t do?” Very quickly my jealous was gone, replaced by an attitude of being delighted that I have friends who attend those types of lectures and can intelligently discuss such subjects. I also affirmed that there was no reason I could not also attend a lecture like that. My jealousy is completely gone and I am now excited about the next time I’ll see my friend. I’m looking forward to hearing what he learned and comparing ideas. I can even ramp my emotional state up even higher. I know this man’s heart wants to help a lot of people, especially those who are the last to receive help, whether here in the USA or abroad. I can think about what he might have learned that will help him do that and feel even more positive emotions. I’ll stop there but the process could keep going. I’ve already shifted from jealousy to a bit of a natural high just by changing my perception but I have not begun to tap the potential positive emotions I could milk from this situation.
Do, however, notice that the circumstances did not change. He is still the one who attended the lecture. The only thing that changed was the only thing I could change, my perspective about it. My emotions improved as I assumed a more empowered perspective. My body no longer feels stress from assuming an unhealthy perspective.
I’ve been using these methods for years but it is not much more difficult for a novice to shift perspective and gain similar advantages.
We need to change our tolerance of stress. We need to help everyone understand that they should do what they can as soon as they can. It makes all the difference.
There are other false premises that interfere with optimal health that our program identifies and changes.
Attracting quality employees is critical to the success of your business. The iconic work cultures of our era will not have anything on a company that has incorporated the techniques in our program. You’ll have your pick of the best of the best–provided you provide a healthy work environment with opportunities to advance. Our program won’t change what your company does, only how it does it. There is another benefit I have not yet mentioned, that can help create an irresistible work environment.
Creativity is just like cognitive ability as it related to stress. Creativity increases as happiness increases and decreases as stress increases. Ideas flow more readily to individuals who are positively focused. There is a second advantage that comes from our program that relates to this area. Many good ideas are wasted because the person who thinks them is afraid of how others will perceive the idea. Our program increases self-confidence and also the ability to feel good even if someone does not agree with us. The impediments that cause many good ideas to die before they are born is eliminated.
Even diversity is positively impacted by our program. Research shows that positively focused individuals are naturally more inclusive. We have the ability to take your diversity initiatives to a higher level.
We spend a lot of time planning for business continuity in the event of problems from busted water lines to epidemics and wars. But we tend to ignore the fact that people are required to execute those plans. In the disaster planning milieu, we assume people who are not directly taken out by the disaster will be functioning in their assigned roles. We forget that different people respond to stress in different ways and that the stress of a disaster could take out people who are not affected by the direct cause.
The best disaster plan you can create is worthless if your employees lack the resilience to persist during a disaster. Can they fulfill their duties in the midst of so much uncertainty?
I would far rather have resilient people and a mediocre plan than a great plan and staff with mediocre resilience levels. The resilient individual will retain the ability to think in dire circumstances that will be lost to someone who is less resilient. The best planning cannot predict all the variables. The resilient individual will be able to respond in the moment–when it counts. Those hero’s we love to watch on TV, who come through when bullets and bombs are all around? They’re resilient. Whether you adore MacGyver or Jack, it is their resilience that makes them able to persevere. My Dad tells me, Jeanine you could fall into an outhouse and you’d come out with a diamond ring. He has seen me repeatedly respond to circumstances that would devastate less resilient individuals in ways that make the outcome better than if the adversity had never happened.
Our program increases individual resilience, the ability to bounce back will be improved. It won’t matter if the strife is at work or personal, it will not drag them down as long as it would have without our training.
Stress can adversely affect the ability to get a good night’s sleep in a number of ways. Stress can cause individuals to stay awake worrying about problems and it can cause them to wake up too early and be unable to go back to sleep. The stress of too many competing priorities can result in individuals simply not giving themselves enough time for adequate rest.
This is a significant concern to employers. Sleep deprivation can lead to more mistakes, including accidents. Inadequate sleep increases the risk of an automobile accident by three times.
Stress management skills reduce stress, allowing individuals to benefit from a better night’s sleep.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Our program increases EQ in three of the four key areas because of the way the program is designed.
Does your corporate wellness program offer a stress management solution that satisfies your needs? Does it address stress at the root cause? Why not?
Contact us today to learn more about how Happiness 1st Institute can help your company achieve a lot more of its potential.
Right now I am giving companies the benefit of the doubt when they promote an “All In One Wellness Program” and a review of the program reveals that it does not contain a substantial element to decrease stress (or increase employee positivity and optimism, which is essentially the same thing).
Why am I giving them the benefit of the doubt?
Because much of the information and research on the benefits is still silo’d among various branches of science. It is only my deep and burning passion for the subject that has led me to look across disciplines and see the whole picture.
It is still common for me to read research and books from that indicate about some findings “But we don’t know why” when I do know why from research in another branch of science.
Also, even if they are aware of some of the stunning scientifically proven benefits (such as 50% risk reduction for the number one killer, cardiovascular disease just knowing the benefits does not help they much if they do not know how to help people become more optimistic and positively focused. With depression rates at epidemic proportions worldwide it might seem futile to consider this path but that is a false premise.
Classes have been developed classes that can teach anyone with the desire how to increase their level of optimism and positivity. It is not hard and or expensive to do. In fact, when the benefits are weighed against the cost it is cheaper than dirt.
A combination of knowledge and skills has been masterfully woven together to create classes that not only increase positivity and optimism but also many other aspects that are beneficial to employers such as emotional intelligence and resilience.
The results address not only health care issues such as costs, absenteeism, and presenteeism but also increase productivity, reduce turnover and employee bickering and improve relationships of all types.
Utilizing many evidence based skills these classes have been carefully crafted to benefit each individual in ways that are suitable for them.
When you consider that increased positivity and optimism have greater health benefits than quitting smoking or losing weight and that a more positively focused individual is more likely to be self-motivated to make good choices about nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, and sleep the benefits of increased positivity double.
So, for now, they get the benefit of the doubt.
What do those who adopt a program to increase employee optimism and positivity get? They get a competitive advantage that will propel them ahead of other companies who are late adopters.