It is easy to feel under bombardment today with news of COVID-19, economic chaos, and all of the fallout that reaches into our communities, our families and our lives. There can be a sense of negative overwhelm that can seem inescapable. This is true for us as well as for our wellness coaching clients. We all know that dwelling on the negative is not good for our mental or physical health, yet how can we deny reality?
Positivity is not about denying the challenges we face, the losses we suffer and the pain we feel. It is not about self-deception. It is, however about the ratio of our negative thoughts to our more positive thoughts. Researcher Barbara Fredrickson pioneered what is known as the Positivity Ratio (https://www.positivityratio.com). She contends that we do need to accept that negative emotions are quite real. She also admits that our more positive emotions are often rather fleeting. Rather than focus on how they come and go, she urges us to notice their quantity. The key is to balance the negative thoughts and feelings with the positive ones. While her positivity ratio of three positive thoughts to one negative thought has come under critique, there can be no doubt that seeking some kind of more positive balance can contribute to our wellbeing.
As you go about your day more mindfully:
• Begin your day with a morning ritual that includes calm awareness of your surroundings; a practice of gratitude; a kind and gentle transition as you wake up. • Focus on positive information as you check in with the rest of the world. Don’t ignore the news but consider whether you want to begin your day with all of the heart-breaking stories that lead. • As your day unfolds remain in a state of gentle self-vigilance about your thought patterns. Seek that balance of positive to negative. Catch yourself when you find sarcasm and cynicism emerging. • As you deal with negative events seek to put them into perspective. Recall how you have been resilient enough to make it through difficult times in the past. Realize that all things will pass.
Coaching has developed the skill of re-framing to help our clients to see things from new perspectives. Re-framing is, again, not self-deception. It is not about denial. It is about seeking out the upside, the potential for viewing and experiencing an event through the lens of new and other possibilities. We have all experienced blessings in disguise. Unfortunately, the disguises are sometimes quite painful at first. Then we see how they may have worked out for our best.
Before we re-frame it is critical to acknowledge what is real. For ourselves and when we coach with a client, First Acknowledge, Validate and Empathize (https://wp.me/pUi2y-bZ). Allow feelings to be felt, honored, and validated. It’s okay to feel the way you feel. Then, you can move on to seeking a way to re-frame. Pushing to re-frame too quickly is often perceived as dismissing one’s feelings. “Come on. Cheer up!” No one wants to hear that when we are in the midst of pain. Once feelings have been honored, then you can help the person (or yourself) to gain a new perspective and move forward with their (our) lives.
On the Real Balance Global Wellness homepage you will find the video of the Real Balance April Free Monthly Webinar: “Wellness Coaching In The Time Of Covid -19: Self-care and Helping Others” with special guests Drs. James & Janice Prochaska and Dr. Pat Williams (https://realbalance.com). Be sure to watch this excellent hour-long video. CEU’s are available upon completing watching it. For further questions re: this inquire to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The term “Well-being” may have come along at just the right time. Public speakers and marketers are re-branding wellness as wellbeing by saying that well-being is more complete, more holistic. Well-being, they say, incorporates the whole person, their environment, their financial picture, their career, etc. On the one hand it’s too bad that we have to invent a new term to refresh our memory of what “wellness” really is. On the other, with the way that corporations and organizations have allowed their wellness programs and products to deteriorate into overly simplistic efforts, based on single-measurable-variable pieces of research, “well-being” may be the kick in the pants that reminds us about “whole-person wellness”.
Twenty to forty-year veterans of the wellness and health promotion field hear speakers appear to create false distinctions between the terms wellbeing and wellness. And yet, are they indeed false distinctions?
Has the term wellness been worn out? It has certainly been misused and abused. Here in Northern Colorado a “wellness center” is probably a medical marijuana dispensary. “Google” the word and the number one listing on that search engine is always the “Wellness” brand of dog and cat food.
What may be more disturbing though, is how we have come to look at wellness in ways that jettison its original holistic meaning. In an effort to be more scientific and “evidence-based”, we have embraced research efforts to show the effectiveness of our approaches to wellness and health promotion. While this research is important and has yielded much of great value, too much of it has been focused on what could be called the measurement of a single variable. As we’ve tried to apply the scientific method to this cause we’ve oversimplified our approach far too often.
When we want to study the health behavior of human populations the challenge is daunting. It’s easy to control extraneous variables in a “Skinner Box”. Any social scientist will tell you that people are a lot more complicated. The result has been too many health behavior studies measuring one aspect of activity, one blood lipid level, one blood sugar level. While those little building blocks all help to assemble the scientific foundation we need, too much is concluded from them. In our online digital world a simple study with twenty subjects, run one time, has its results proclaimed as headline news.
Following the medical world, where the threat of litigation for malpractice hovers over every practice like a vulture, we have sought to provide only programming that is “evidence-based”. That means, as Dee Edington stated at the 2013 American College of Lifestyle Medicine Conference, “if you only do evidence-based you’ll never innovate!” The temptation is to “dumb-down” our concept of wellness to just physical fitness and nutrition. The temptation is to be happy that we got someone to walk three times a week and call it good.
There Is Nothing New Under The Sun
Dusting off the yellowed pages of my edition of Donald Ardell’s High Level Wellness: An Alternative To Doctors, Drugs and Disease (1977) I found my long-time friend Don referred to his colleague and fellow wellness pioneer, Jack Travis, as Jack and he defined wellness: “Travis believes that wellness begins when an individual sees himself or herself as a growing, changing person. High level wellness means giving care to the physical self, using the mind constructively, channeling stress energies positively, expressing emotions effectively, becoming creatively involved with other, and staying in touch with the environment.”
Indeed we’ve seen it all before. The term “Mindfulness” has been skillfully re-packaged by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others. Studying today’s version of “mindfulness” someone like me is transported back to about 1968 when I was in college and reading books like Bernard Gunther’s Sense Relaxation Below Your Mind(http://www.amazon.com/Sense-Relaxation-Below-Your-Mind/dp/B000VLH7Q8). Of course everything we’re talking about here is based on practices that go back thousands of years in the traditions of meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, and more.
While in my doctoral program in the 1970’s, I was blessed with the opportunity to learn deeply about biofeedback and how to apply it in working with stress-related disorders. I specialized in that for many years as a psychologist and served as the President of The Ohio Society For Biofeedback and Behavioral Health. The beauty of the research done by biofeedback pioneers Elmer and Alice Greene (http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Biofeedback-Elmer-Green/dp/0940267144 and http://www.consciousnessandbiofeedback.org) was to use recently developed technology to study the consciousness practices of Indian Yogis, monks, and others. By examining their subject’s brain waves and various physiological indicators they ended up validating the legitimacy of such practices. Thus we see that today’s “mindfulness” has its roots in research completed under other names as well.
Today’s dynamic Positive Psychology movement has invigorated the field of psychology and is providing the sound research evidence that is validating what the Humanistic Psychology folks have been saying since the 1950’s and 1960’s. The “Human Potential Movement” of the late 1960’s and the work of Abraham Maslow, Virginia Satir, Carl Rogers, Rolo May and many others, emphasized looking at human behavior from a positive growth perspective instead of the usual clinical/pathological perspective. Saying that Martin Seligman “founded” the Positive Psychology Movement may be accurate in recent history, but he did so standing on the shoulders of these earlier giants. Our field of coaching also built its self on these same shoulders and from its inception always took on a positive psychology, strengths-based approach to working with people.
A Return To Whole-Person Wellness
Looking at wellness programs merely as “cost-containment strategies” has caused us to develop a tunnel vision ROI-only view. Some companies today are spending more money on their incentives to get people to take a health-risk assessment, etc. than they are spending on their wellness programs! When we view employees only as statistical units that drive up healthcare costs, we down-size – or “dumb-size” our thinking. The “well-being” approach would have us view employees as whole people who can contribute to the mission and purpose of our company and do so through creative, higher performance that happens when they are “well” in this holistic sense. The term to shift to is VOI (Value On Investment).
More Than Just Corporate Health Promotion
When we step outside of the corporate world we see wellness, and now well-being, at work in our healthcare settings, communities, schools, places of worship, and among groups and individuals who want to live their best life possible. We are realizing the powerful effect that connection and community provides for our health and well-being. We are seeing how having safe green spaces to walk, play and exercise increase the health of communities. Part of our approach to wellness/well-being is to step outside of a myopic corporate perspective and remember that not everyone works for a company with the benefits of a wellness program. Being inclusive of under-served populations in both rural and urban areas, Native American/First Nations Reservations, and others means maintaining this big-picture view of what wellness/well-being means.
If “Well-Being” helps us remember to work with the whole person and view them from a holistic perspective – great! If the term refreshes programs and generates engagement – wonderful! Bring on “Well-Being” while we remember that it really is – Whole Person Wellness.
Note:This June the National Wellness Conference will celebrate it’s 40th Anniversary. (http://www.nationalwellness.org/?page=NWC2015) The latest in wellness and health promotion will be on display as well as an opportunity to create community in the wellness field like nowhere else. Among the celebrations will be a special Legacy & Vision Talk with a number of the founders of the wellness field. Come and join us and experience what Whole Person Wellness is really all about!