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5 Healthy Morning Habits in 15 Minutes or Less

If your mornings are met with less than enthusiasm, you’re not alone. The average working American wakes up, hits the snooze button (a few times), checks email and Internet, skips breakfast and grabs to-go coffee before heading out on a grueling morning commute. It’s no wonder people are feeling stressed before their work day has even started. If most of your mornings feel like you’re flying Supersonic, now is the time to implement a few healthy practices so you can start each day with more calm, clarity and over-all positivity.

Mindful moments (3 minutes)

As you wake up from what was hopefully a blissful night of sleep, refrain from picking up your phone or turning on the TV. Instead take a few moments to be appreciative of life. These three minutes are for you to express gratitude, recite daily affirmations, journal, or just be present with how your body and mind feels. Be fully aware and modify your thinking if you find your morning in a negative space. These three minutes are for you to take control and set the tone for your day.

Breathe deep and with intention (3 minutes or less)

We don’t often think about the function of breathing in relation to over-all health. However, your brain may not be getting enough oxygen. This is especially true for anyone with undiagnosed sleep apnea. The practice of 4–7–8 first thing in the morning assists with increasing oxygen-rich blood to the brain and reduces stress which may spark as you start your day. An oxygenated brain increases cognitive thinking and also has a calming effect, so practice 4–7–8 throughout your day and before going to sleep.

4–7–8: Simply breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Do this three times, but try not to rush the process. You will find after doing 4-7-8 you will feel a decrease in anxiety and an increased sense of calm and relaxation.

Drink a glass of water (3 minutes)

Drinking a glass (or two) of water after you wake up not only provides an instant mental and physical pick-me-up, but there is also a link between heart health and hydration in the evening and early morning. The American Journal of Epidemiology reported 46 percent of men and 59 percent of women have a decreased chance of a fatal heart attack if they consumed five or more glasses of water a day. This is compared to those whom have consumed only two glasses of water a day. Morning water activates internal organs and assists the body with flushing out toxins. For additional health benefits add lemon to your water. Lemon in your water adds essential electrolytes to your body in the form of potassium, vitamin C, magnesium and folate, and is easily assimilated by the body.

Stretch (5 minutes)

Just the act of moving the body sets the mind in a forward motion. We’ve all heard of the saying, if you don’t use it you lose it. Stretching helps keep the body nimble which may make you less likely to injure yourself if you do take a tumble. Enhanced coordination isn’t the only benefit of stretching. Other benefits include better circulation, pain relief, along with relief from chronic health issues such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and depression.

Smile and laugh (1 minutes or less)

Smiling and laughing modifies your body’s chemical response. When you laugh or smile your brain releases a rush of endorphins. Consider the simple act of smiling to be a gift to the people around you, along with reducing your stress and boosting your mood. This is not a suggestion to smile or laugh inappropriately or with insincerity. However, if you can find moments throughout your day which are in some way enjoyable, comical, or downright hilarious, access those moments fully and enjoy!

Take two weeks to incorporate these practices into your morning routine. You may even discover you want more than 15 minutes of morning health. Starting your day with this 15 minute investment is quick and easy, and the pay-off will be increased health and well-being for a more holistic lifestyle.
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Self-care Through Sound Healing

Sound Healing Managing work and personal stress while also attempting to find fulfillment has become the new American past-time. Meditation, yoga, and massage therapy are all excellent self-care tools. However, you may want to consider implementing a few lesser-known options into your holistic lifestyle. Practices such as sound healing have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and improve cognitive awareness. Numerous cultures over many centuries have utilized aspects of sound healing to evoke physical and mental well-being, including ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Japanese, Chinese and Australian Aborigines.

The use of sound as a healing modality can assist with “tuning” the mind and body to a balanced state. Stress creates disharmony in the form of anxiety, insomnia, allergies, food sensitivities or physical and emotional pain. Modern scientists have been studying alternative medicine, including vibration, music and laughter as tools to assist with healing. Music therapy has been explored and implemented by obstetricians, both during pregnancy and at the time of labor. Botanists have discovered plants use vibration to seek out water sources to assist with nourishing and sustaining life. Sound healing practices are an easy and enjoyable way to introduce self-care into your life, or enhance an existing holistic regimen.

Vibration
Holistic sound healing includes different sound modalities to assist with relieving stress and quieting the “noise” inside the mind. Tibetan singing bowls are widely used during meditation to assist with relaxation and to stimulate the immune system. Other percussion instruments include gongs, drums and tuning forks. Human vocal tones are also used through meditative chants and the practice of Tibetan Om (Aum) meditation. Each of these are based within the element of vibration and can assist with activating the body’s own healing properties.

Music
Sound healing through music has been common throughout history. Music has no socioeconomic, age, or culture barriers so it translates and inspires most people. Health benefits associated with music include decreased stress and anxiety, increased pain threshold, emotional expression, improved memory, communication and cognitive thinking. Health practitioners have been studying music for some time, and have discovered certain music can alleviate stress almost instantly, along with improving cognitive and creative thinking. The following list of modern and classical music has been studied and shown to significantly reduce stress and anxiety but also increase focus.

Modern (in no particular order)
1. Weightless, by Marconi Union
2. Electra, by Airstream
3. Watermark, by Enya
4. Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix), by DJ Shah
5. We Can Fly by Rue du Soleil (Café Del Mar)

Classical (in no particular order)
1. Raindrops, by Chopin
2. Air on the G String, by JS Bach
3. Canzonetta Sull'aria, by Mozart
4. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, by Claude Debussy
5. Trois Gymnopedies, by Erik Satie

Laughter
Laughter for healing is a fairly new practice in comparison to 3,000 year old Eastern practices. However, modern healthcare studies have linked laughter to stress reduction and decreased blood pressure. Benefits of laughter are instant…and it doesn’t need to be genuine laughter. Although, that’s always something to strive for. Laughing releases endorphins and acts as a physical and emotional release, which helps our physical and mental health.

However you decide to move forward with your holistic health lifestyle, be curious and experiment with what works for you. These tools can assist with relieving the stress of personal growth and the sometimes painful circumstances which are unavoidable as you move through life. Take the time to continue searching for what will help you stay balanced. Implementing these self-care practices can assist you with improving your physical and mental health, along with enhancing your overall well-being.

Disclaimer: The information above is for informational purposes only and not an endorsement. It’s always advisable to contact a medical professional before undertaking any form of conventional or alternative treatment.
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Having a Voice: Improving Your Communication Skills

Healthy and effective communication skills are at the core of a balanced life, but who teaches us these skills? It’s not typically part of our core curriculum in school and we are all raised in home environments with differing levels of healthy communication. This leads many of us to feel lost and confused about how to communicate effectively.

Working as a mental health and addictions counselor for 8 years, I always hear people say that they avoid many conversations because they are unsure of how to handle them. One of our most basic instincts is to avoid discomfort and so learning skills to better communicate can help reduce this fear and anxiety.

Assertiveness: There are four main types of communication (assertive, passive, passive-aggressive, and aggressive). Assertive communication is the only strategy that ensures everyone involved is equally respected and heard. Many conversations become strained because people are simply trying to convince the other person that they are right. When we shift our goal to be one of understanding rather than winning, it significantly improves the outcome. Some skills to improve assertiveness include

- “I statements”: speak from your own experience rather than blaming or accusing
- Be self-accountable
- Regulate your emotions
- Treat yours and others’ needs as equal

Locus of control: We cannot control how other people communicate, but we can control how we do. I often hear clients say that it would all be fine once the other person finally communicated better. Unfortunately, it might be a long wait before that happens, if it ever does! Therefore, being able to take a step back and focus on what we can control often allows us to distance ourselves from that frustration and anxiety and make a more balanced decision about how to proceed.

Mindfulness: We can be impulsive at times, and this often causes problems in communication. Mindfulness can help with this. Listening, rather than waiting to talk, can significantly improve the outcome of a conversation. It is easy to forget that listening is just as important as talking when learning communications skills. Being mindful by taking time to pause, actively listen, and then choose our response helps both parties get their point across.

None of us are perfect, and you are not alone if you struggle with communication. I always encourage people to think about their goals on a scale of 1-10. If you think you are at a 4 on your communication skills right now, try thinking what it might look like to move to a 5. Taking small steps towards your goals greatly increases the likelihood of success. For example, if you want to start being more assertive, tell yourself that over the next week you will try to focus on using more “I statements”. Specifying your goals makes them more trackable and increases confidence about the changes you’re making.

Further Resources: There are many ways to start improving communication skills. I always encourage people to consider talking to a licensed counselor as a way to start working on your goals. There are also many evidenced-based therapeutic interventions that help with communication skills including Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. You can find a plethora of CBT and DBT books and worksheets online. If you are unsure of where to start, calling your EAP is a great first step!

Disclaimer: This blog post is an opinion piece and is not intended for, or able to diagnose or function as a treatment intervention.
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Loneliness at Work

Loneliness at Work During the past few months, several articles in the popular press have addressed the topic of loneliness and work. Many of the articles referred to an original Harvard Business Review piece authored by Vivek Murthy, titled “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic: Reducing isolation at work is good for business.”  Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States from 2014 to 2017. During his tenure and as he commanded the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, he helped address public health issues including the Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus, low rates of physical activity, the opioid epidemic, and more.

Vivek Murthy shares that over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely and that the research suggests this may be a low estimate. Additionally, fewer people today report having a close confidante than in the past, and many employees report feeling lonely at work, including half of CEOs. Vice Admiral Murthy goes on to describe the impact such perceived loneliness could have on companies, not to mention the health of workers.

As we understand more about our brain and our health, and the importance of social at each of life’s stages, it’s duly time for us to actively address how we can help our friends, colleagues and co-workers to build friendships and social support.  Certainly, loneliness relates to the work and research we do in support of Total Worker Health, where we acknowledge the powerful components of both work and “life” hours. Imagine the power of social supporters at work – or the devastation should we lack it, or perhaps worse, face non-supportive or antagonistic co-workers every day.

What is your organization doing to positively impact and address this issue?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Adopt policies and a culture of diversity and respect.

2. Train supervisors to both recognize workers at risk of isolation, and learn supportive supervisory and team building tactics.

3. Evaluate the current state of connections at work- look at the quality of connections, not simply the number.

4. Make strengthening social connections a strategic priority in your organization.

5. Encourage others to reach out and help others, and accept help when it is offered.

6. Create safe and comfortable ways to learn about colleagues’ personal lives.

7. Create opportunities for colleagues to get together and develop meaningful friendships at work and outside the workplace.

In general, we can all help ourselves, our family members, and friends to acknowledge the key to healthy relationships amongst friends, and build understanding of high-quality relationships. As we all know, and probably share with our own children or young people in our lives – kindness matters. It always has, but perhaps we are noticing its positive impact even more today. When my dad died awhile back, the outpouring of love, condolences and support from my work community meant more to me than words can describe, as it does to others during times of sadness and joy. I cannot imagine going through that experience without it, yet so many do. Positive emotions enhance performance and resiliency, including a boost to all aspects of health.  

This is how community works!
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Practicing Mindfulness in the Workplace

Many of us have heard the buzz around mindfulness and how it can change our attitudes toward our daily lives. But what does it look like in practice when adapted to the workplace? To find out, I spoke with Pearl Waldorf, a licensed professional counselor in Portland, Oregon, about mindfulness at work and how it can affect our productivity.

What is mindfulness?

Waldorf defines mindfulness as “a capacity we all have to pay attention to what’s happening right here, right now, in the present moment.” Being mindful includes, for example, putting your phone away while talking to someone.

Many people tend to confuse mindfulness with meditation, Waldorf says. But meditation is a specific task, whereas mindfulness is a general day-to-day mindset. Meditation can support mindfulness, but they are not one and the same.

What is mindfulness in the context of work?

When we’re stressed, Waldorf says, we often become frustrated and disengaged. When we practice mindfulness, we recognize those feelings and our reactions to them. Mindfulness in an office setting requires us to be in tune with what we’re feeling so we can make better decisions regarding our work.

There are two basic mindfulness brain states we find in the workplace, Waldorf says. The first is execution, which occurs when we’re focused on one particular task. In this brain state, we are great at analyzing and evaluating problems. It’s the brain state we think of most when we think of work, as it’s more closely related to task management and completion. It’s that “flow” we experience when we work hard on a project all afternoon and only realize later that many hours have gone by. We can cultivate this capacity to focus, Waldorf says, to make sure distractions aren’t pulling us away from our priorities. In the workplace, this often means turning off email notifications and keeping our phones out of sight.

The other is what Waldorf calls receptivity. This brain state has more to do with stepping back and looking at the big picture. This pause from execution is what allows us to take a break to find satisfaction from our work, which is what keeps a lot of us engaged in it over time, she says.

“The reason these pause moments are so important is that those kind of a-has, the insights, the deep connections we can make around what’s really important in our work lives—that kind of clarity happens when we’re in an open receptive state,” Waldorf says.

Waldorf also says many of us naturally find ourselves in one brain state much more often than the other. Someone who struggles with execution, for example, may be inundated with lots of ideas and feel bursts of creativity. But they likely have a hard time finding the focus to get the work done. They can feel overwhelmed and disorganized and unsure of their priorities.

Someone who struggles with the receptive state is more likely to experience that hyper-work mode more often. That extended, laser-sharp focus leads to exhaustion quickly, as these people don’t take time to process accomplishments and acknowledge the ends of long-term projects.

How can we cultivate mindfulness at work?

Waldorf suggests starting with a simple awareness practice to encourage mindfulness at work. “Ask yourself:
How do I feel? How is this going for me?” If you’re always answering that you feel stressed, overwhelmed, disengaged, or frustrated, then you know you have a bigger problem to address.

But in general, the practices that will help depend greatly on where you find yourself on the mindfulness spectrum—from execution to receptivity—more often. To enhance execution, Waldorf suggests “focused attention practices.” A simple one involves taking a moment to pause and close your eyes, focusing on your breath. Naturally, we’ll get distracted here, she says. But when we do, we call our attention right back to the breath. Over time, even if we do this just five minutes per day, we’ll find it easier to focus on our breath longer.

Exercises that support receptivity are known as “open awareness practices.” Instead of finding intense focus here, the goal is to “open the aperture,” as Waldorf puts it, and take in what’s around us. Again we close our eyes, but instead of focusing inward, we focus on the sounds around us. If we start to get distracted by interpreting what we hear—conversations between colleagues, for example—she encourages going outside to sit somewhere quiet where there is no language, only cars going by and wind rustling through trees.

Ultimately, being mindful is about routinely checking in with yourself throughout your day and taking note of your current state. From there, we can do practices that engage whichever space we feel like we’re lacking at that moment. “Just being able to pause at some point during our day and notice our experience is very, very powerful,” Waldorf says. Even if that check-in shows just how stressed we feel, recognizing it gives us a chance to make a conscious decision on how to respond to that stress.

Why should we encourage mindfulness in the workplace?

“We want our employees to be responding to the challenges in the workplace as opposed to reacting to them,” Waldorf says. “So many of our problems in the workplace come out of reactivity.” Mindfulness supports time for a pause, she adds, in which we can thoughtfully respond instead. This is much better for our relationships, which are crucial at work.

Mindfulness is also an important wellness tool, she says. Employees who are more in tune with themselves are more aware of the kind of support they need.
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How to Take the Stress Out of Asking for What You Want

Girl Scout Have you ever felt anxious or stressed out asking for what you want? Does the fear of rejection or looking bad hold you back from landing that sale, asking for a date, or requesting a raise? If so, you are not alone.

In 2012, I spoke at NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference. While in Washington DC, I stayed with my friends Heather and Neal. Each morning as we were enjoying breakfast together, their 10 year old daughter, Kendall, was a radiant ball of energy, sunshine, and curiosity.

However, on my last morning with them, Kendall, was strangely quiet, reserved and melancholy. I asked her, "Kendall, what's going on? Why do you seem different today? Why are you not your cheerful self?"

With a sad look, she responded, "Well I am in scouts and I have to go sell cookies today. I don't like doing it because I get rejected most of the time. People tell me they are watching their weight or they already have some or some other excuse."

I responded, "Wow, I totally understand. Being rejected doesn't feel good at all."

I paused for a moment and asked her, "Hey, how much are a box cookies?" She replied, "They are $4 a box." I reached for my wallet and pulled out a $20 bill, handed it to her, and said "I'll take 5 boxes!"

With a surprised look, she asked "Really?" I said "Yes, however I don't eat cookies, so what I would like for you to do is to take each box and give them to 5 different people you’ve never met before." Kendall immediately leaped out of her chair and ran to her mom to share her excitement," Mom, we get to give cookies away!” The transformation in her was amazing.

As her excitement settled down, I said "So Kendall, here is why I want you to give the cookies away. I want you to know what it's like to generously give, to see it in people's eye, to feel their genuine appreciation, and to hear that you have made a difference for them. I want you do this 5 times so that you truly know the joys of giving. Then once you do, instead of asking others if they would like to buy some cookies, I'd like you to ask them this.

Is there someone in your life you really care about? If so, I'd like to help you make their day by giving them a box of cookies." Her eyes lit up with excitement again ready to try out this new approach.

How can you create an opportunity for someone else to give that aligns with what you most desire? Most of the stress related to asking for something comes from a fear of judgement and a fear of rejection of who we are. This subconsciously triggers our worst nightmare of losing love, losing respect, and losing belonging, which threatens our survival. Allowing stress like this continue over time impacts our self-esteem, our self-confidence which can lead to burnout.

When we reframe a situation, where we become a catalyst of good rather than the subject of consideration, we empower ourselves regardless of the response from others.

Whether you are asking for a customer testimonial, asking for help, or asking for a promotion, remember that someone is waiting for your invitation to give.
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Optimizing Health at Any Age

Optimizing Health at Any Age People age 50 to 70 are currently reshaping how we define aging. Many of these trailblazers have maintained regular exercise, good nutrition and reduced stress throughout adulthood as part of their healthy lifestyle commitment. These healthy habits are directly associated with vitality and longevity. Unfortunately, there are people who experience illness early in life. Chronic illness, social pressures and media messages can create a negative perception around aging, and may cause some people to perceive aging as a painful process which must be endured instead of celebrating what a long and healthy life can reveal.

Change is inevitable and happening at an accelerated rate. Since each generation has its own set of experiences, each generation will define its reality unlike the one before it. David Harry Stewart writes about aging wisely, and has a key point to remember about aging. Our current attitudes about aging are relevant to how people lived 20 to 30 years ago. This has nothing to do with our current reality. Stewart reminds us perspectives continually change. In 300 BC, when Alexander the Great was at his most powerful, the head of his personal guard was 65. Attitudes during this historical time reflect aging was not focused on illness or decline, but hard work and purpose.

Take a moment to consider your attitudes regarding aging, and how you may want to modify your choices and behaviors for improved health and well-being.

Physical Movement
Using your body isn’t defined by the gym or previous perceptions of how to “get fit.” Consider something you love that is physical. If you’re not a fan of the gym get outdoors to walk, run, and hike. Stretch or do yoga at home first thing in the morning. Kickbox your stress away after work. Any physical activity which increases your heart rate and encourages strength training for bone density is good for you. Strength training doesn’t automatically mean lifting weights. Tai Chi, yoga, racket sports and golf are considered in the realm of load-bearing activities. Reinvent your idea of a workout and make it work for you!

Appearance
Much of the negative perception about aging is around what it does to our physical appearance. Remember, past perceptions have nothing to do with your current environment. People who embrace their age and celebrate it openly exude confidence. At the age of 36 Shalane Flannagan became a NYC marathon winner. Hugh Jackman is 49 and still does his own movie stunts. Christy Brinkley is currently 64 and still graces the pages of major beauty magazines. Wang Deshun is a male runway model, who at 82 is part of a growing trend in the fashion industry to redefine what beauty looks like, including vitality at any age. Find inspiration which makes you feel good about your own personal journey. Remember, everyone else’s opinion of your “appearance experience” isn’t relevant.

Nutrition/Hydration/Sleep
A nutrient dense diet is essential for longevity. The biggest food trend in 2018 is predicted to be veganism, but a meatless diet may seem intimidating to the average carnivore. Longevity and a meatless (or mostly plant-based) diet isn’t a new health industry topic. Scientists have been studying Blue Zone cultures for years. These cultures have the largest concentration of centenarians and live on a mostly plant-based diet. If you’re not ready to reduce your animal product intake, focus your efforts on avoiding processed foods. Eat real, clean, nutrient-dense food which is organic, non-GMO, and free of hormones. Don’t forget to drink lots of H2O! Our bodies are made up of 60 percent water, so it’s no wonder water helps act as a major component for most parts of our body, including encouraging a youthful appearance.

For anyone who thinks longevity isn’t linked to sleep, think again. Poor sleep patterns have been linked to numerous health issues, both immediate and long-term. These health issues include reduced cognitive thinking, depression, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and increased inflammation in the body. Make it your goal to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If you are finding it difficult to consistently achieve this goal, consider implementing a sleep hygiene program as part of your healthy lifestyle.

Emotional Well-being and Purpose
Most people do not take the time to consider the connection between their physical health and their mindset regarding the future and aging in general. Some retirees are looking at their next phase of life with dread, as they do not know what their purpose will be. Oregon State University recently conducted a study led by Chenkai Wu. This study concluded mortality rates drop 11 percent when people retire after age 65 and worked at least one year past retirement. It is never too late to change careers, become an entrepreneur, or devote yourself to a new cause. Be curious…create and cultivate what you want to contribute to the world around you.

As you move closer to your next birthday search for how you can truly celebrate your life and share your gifts with others. We are individually accountable to create, shape and celebrate our own life and the lives around us. Aging is part of that creation, and when we move into that space with positivity and courage we will discover we can be amazing at any age.
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The Business of Happy Employees: How to Create a Company Culture That’s More Human, Less Resources

Happy Employees Hiring great employees is only half of the secret to success. The other half? Keeping them happy.

Proof of Productivity

Want to get the best performance out of your staff? Marketwatch reports that happier employees are 10% more productive than their disillusioned counterparts, confirming that employee wellness is vital to your company’s bottom line.

However, the article stresses that measurable analytics aren’t the only element of the workplace that should be addressed. The less quantifiable aspects of work, such as the benefits of collaboration or the freedom of creativity can be determining factors in positive growth.

So, how do you run the day-to-day functions of a business or organization while simultaneously working on employee engagement? It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Below you’ll find a few tried-and-true ideas that have contributed to the success of some of the world’s most recognized brands.

Likeable Leaders


Employees want to feel invested in their work and a great leader can help achieve that. A recent report conducted by Indeed sites that top-rated senior leaders possess great listening skills, set fair and achievable goals, help people learn from their mistakes, assist with workload management and have a supportive attitude.

So, how do you find and retain these kinds of leaders?

-- Start fresh (when they’re hired or promoted) with new manager training.
-- Set clear expectations regarding employee engagement.
-- Keep their skill set sharp by having executives host a manager seminar of their own (as a refresher course for more seasoned employees).
-- Make leadership skills training a regular occurrence.
-- Emphasize the importance of honesty and trust.

Fashionable Feedback


It can be difficult for employees to stay motivated when a review cycle happens on an annual basis. Instead, create a culture of ongoing feedback.

Many have trouble with “hard conversations” and conflict resolution, but both of those could happen less often (or not at all) with clear and present communication along the way. The Office of Personnel Management stresses the importance of timeliness in dealing with employee issues, noting “If improvement needs to be made in their performance, the sooner they find out about it the sooner they can correct the problem.”

This may seem like a no-brainer, but many organizations struggle with the sensitivity associated with offering feedback and delay the conversation until it’s too late.

Some leaders schedule one-on-one chats with their direct reports on a weekly basis to overcome this; others have regular touch-base team meetings in a group setting. Many even take it further designating a “safe space” section of the office where any employees can go to solve problems without the fear of judgment. Do what works best for your environment, and always be receptive to feedback. Progress is a two-way street.

Real-Time Recognition


In addition to course-correcting errors, staff members should be celebrated for their achievements on a regular basis. In fact, according to a Gallup analysis, employee recognition increases productivity and loyalty, which results in greater retention.

Employees who feel valued stick around, so why not build that validation into your company culture? During employee on-boarding, ask how your new hires prefer to be recognized. Do they enjoy gift cards to their favorite restaurants? Would they prefer to bank hours for extra time off? Or does the presentation of an award in front of their peers appeal to them more than anything monetary?

Rewards can be as simple as a verbal “thank you” for how much you appreciate their hard work or a free cup of coffee from their favorite shop. Recognition doesn’t have to be complex, it just has to be sincere.

Fun and Games


Many may envision “trust falls” at an outdoor retreat when team building exercises are brought up, but in reality getting the group together for some silly fun can break down social barriers and promote a happier company culture.

Who could forget the Office Olympics episode of
The Office? The idea caught on with such rapid fire in real corporations that there are now Pinterest boards dedicated to game ideas and third-party companies that will host the games for you!

Granted, not every activity has to be that elaborate, but getting your team out of their comfort zone can work psychological wonders in the workplace.

Healthy Equals Happy


Employee wellness programs may seem like a passing trend, but their results indicate that they’re here to stay. Wellsteps reports that companies benefit from implementing such programs by way of reduced health care costs, increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.

Because the practice is gaining popularity, it’s not just a solution designed for big-box corporations. There are several options out there for startups and mom-and-pop shops. In fact, employee health and wellness is becoming one of the most popular small business employee benefits currently offered because companies can create them a la carte.

Examples of DIY wellness program ideas include:

-- On-site yoga classes
-- Healthy snack breaks (think veggie trays vs. doughnuts)
-- Weight loss challenges
-- Sponsored flu shots
-- Lunchtime meditations

The possibilities in the pursuit of employee happiness are limitless. If you’re unsure where to start, give your team an informal survey and hear their suggestions. Getting their feedback will give you insight into their preferences and give them reassurance that you’re listening.
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The Beauty Within a Blue Zone Lifestyle

Beauty Within the Blue Zone Have you ever considered living beyond the age of 100? If you answered yes, you’ve more than likely considered how to incorporate holistic health practices into your lifestyle. Most of us are searching for health and happiness, but we may also receive mixed messages on how to achieve success. For anyone searching to incorporate health and wellness for longevity consider looking into the study of Blue Zones.

Blue Zones are areas in the world where pockets of communities have the highest percentages of centenarians (people over 100 years old). Through the Blue Zone Project there is considerable scientific documentation which reveals there isn’t one practice creating longevity, but a collective lifestyle that includes physical activity, nutrient-dense food, emotionally fulfilling social circles, spiritual/religious purpose, and stress reduction practices.
 
In 2005, Dan Buettner first wrote about Blue Zones in
National Geographic. The article titled “The Secrets to a Long Life” was followed by several New York Times bestselling books by Buettner. Each book delves deeper into the study and developing initiatives of Blue Zones and the Blue Zone Project. Buettner’s work originated from scientific studies by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, outlined in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology

There are several communities which have been identified by Buettner’s Blue Zone Project. These communities understand the importance of incorporating holistic practices into their lifestyle. Communities including Okinawa Japan, Sardinia Italy, Nicoya Costa Rica, Ikaria Greece, and Loma Linda California are examples of locations around the world where people are living the longest, and are also experiencing a higher sense of fulfillment during their lifetime. 

As part of Buettner’s Blue Zone Project, numerous cities in the U.S. are taking part in a study to incorporate Blue Zone initiatives into their communities. You can also create micro-communities in your work or home environments. The basics of a Blue Zone are a nutrient-dense diet (mostly plant based), physical activity/movement, reducing stress and increasing self-care, social interaction/support, and spiritual or religious purpose. Here are a few ways in which the Blue Zone Project suggests you can start to incorporate Blue Zone practices into your micro-community.
 
Create or join a Blue Zone Project Moai  

A moai (mow-eye) is a special group which creates a ten-week connection commitment. This can be anything from a nature walk to community dinner. Whatever speaks to the group and creates connections. 

Attend a Purpose Workshop 

People with purpose live up to seven years longer than those who do not. Volunteer with an organization that speaks to you. When we volunteer we help people in need. Studies have shown when we help others we feel good about who we are.

Learn more about Blue Zones

Consider incorporating Blue Zone practices into your family or workplace. Spreading the word about this lifestyle provides others with knowledge and powerful tools for better health and wellness.
 
You can use this Blue Zone Project Personal Checklist to assist with incorporating a Blue Zone mentality into your own lifestyle. Select five actions that you can complete within the next six months.
 
1. Walking shoes in plain sight. A natural movement nudge.

2. Adopt a dog. People with dogs are more active, and pets add longevity to our lives.

3. De-tech. Remove technology from your bedroom (as part of your sleep-hygiene program), and as many rooms as possible to help reduce mindless eating and encourage an active mindset.

4. Meditation/quiet/prayer space. Designated space to de-stress and encourage self-care.

5. Attend plant-based cooking class. Learn about the value of nutrients and real food.

6. Garden or join community garden. Stress reduction, nutrient dense food cultivation and community involvement.

7. Schedule weekly happy hour with friends. Remember balance when consuming alcohol

8. Talk about getting older. Preparation and action can help families come together and reduce stress of the unknown. Visit mydirectives.com for more information.

9. Join faith-based organization. People who belong to this type of community live 4-14 years longer than those who do not.
 
However you choose to move forward taking the time to be mindful about the world around you and how you wish to move through it is powerful action for greater good. You may find these tools create new thought process and belief systems. The benefits will be increased energy, quality relationships, fulfilling purpose and increased well-being to support your healthier lifestyle.
 
For more information about the Blue Zone Project visit, bluezonesproject.com.
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Why You Should Engage Employees with Company-Sponsored Community Service

Community Service More and more employers are encouraging their staff members to volunteer together. Giving back can be a wonderful opportunity for team building, and it can be an engaging, fun, meaningful way to spend a weekend or a workday. But company-sponsored community service events aren’t just good for your employees; they’re good for your business, too. Here are six reasons why you should be engaging your team with opportunities to volunteer, and some advice on how to get started.

Volunteering lets you reaffirm your company’s values and beliefs.

Practice what you preach. While you can’t expect to choose an organization that means the most to every single employee at your company, you can use volunteering as an opportunity to back up your company’s overall values. If housing is important to your company, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. If you’re passionate about empowering women in the workplace, try Dress for Success. If you work with a bunch of animal lovers, arrange for teams to volunteer together at local shelters. You can, of course, work with multiple organizations, but you should choose to donate your time to groups that excite your employees and connect to your company’s mission, if possible.

It encourages your employees to use skills and creativity they don’t often get to use in the workplace.

Volunteering allows people to come out of their everyday roles and get creative, says Rhonda Meadows, Senior HR Business Partner at Xenium HR and founder of nonprofit organizations  Project Lemonade and Bridge Meadows. It allows your team to express the gifts they have beyond number-crunching, gifts that often go unnoticed in corporate settings.

While preparing for volunteer events, Meadows says employees regularly offer skills she’d never have expected, like singing lessons and woodworking. Employees often welcome the chance to show different sides of themselves, as being recognized for their unique skills helps them feel like they matter to the company. This also allows employees to get to know each other better.

It’s a huge marketing opportunity.

Don’t feel guilty for showing off how you give back. According to a 2013 report from Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82 percent of consumers consider corporate social responsibility when they’re deciding what to buy and where to shop. If you are giving back to your community, you should be celebrating that publicly. People are more likely to feel an affinity for a brand or company that’s connected to their community.

“Publicize it, promote it, because that’s what the consumer wants,” Meadows says. “If that’s what consumers want, then that’s what you do, but it’s not just about the money or sales. It’s still about what’s in your heart, what employees care about, and ways that they can give back.”

It instills loyalty in your company from your staff, too.

When you consider what is important to your employees, and listen to the purposes they want to serve, they’re more likely to stick with you. Giving back instills loyalty in your team because it shows them the company isn’t only concerned about the bottom line. Your employees are more likely to support you vocally if they feel like they’re working for a company that cares.

It can have an enormous impact on nonprofit organizations, and that makes volunteers feel good.

Many of us have given back monetarily, written checks to organizations that matter to us. But time is a more limited resource, and as a result, it’s generally what smaller organizations lack. Plus, when you give your time, it’s easier to see your direct impact. “There was an older man that was volunteering at Project Lemonade, and when he left one night, he said, ‘Rhonda, Project Lemonade is the paycheck for my soul.’” Meadows says. “And that has totally stuck with me, because writing a check, putting numbers on a piece of paper, there’s no meaning behind that. When you see kids’ faces, when you see the happiness in their eyes, you feel good all over. It’s a lasting impression.”

It improves morale and productivity.

This applies to every other point on this list. Giving your employees a chance to be creative, engaging them beyond their workplace duties, providing a sense of meaning and accomplishment—all of that improves morale, Meadows says. “When people are happy about what they do and about the company they work for, they’re going to work harder and smarter. The more you can engage and interact with your people about what they’re passionate about, about their mission to give back to the community, and take that on as an organization, you’re going to have happier people. You’re going to have more productive people.”

So many people want to start volunteering but don’t know where to look, she adds. Providing the opportunity as a company helps narrow down the sea of choices and gives your employees a broader sense of purpose.

If you’re ready to start a volunteer project at your company, Meadows says your first step is to decide whether you’re offering paid time to participate. More and more companies are including volunteer time in benefits packages, and you should consider how much the project is worth to you—and to your staff—when making this decision. Remember that more people are likely to take part in a volunteer event if they’re considered on the clock while chipping in and if it occurs during normal work hours

Then, Meadows suggests opening a dialogue with your employees and asking how they want to help the community. To be truly meaningful, and to get higher attendance at these events, volunteer efforts must grow from company-wide support.
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