Mindfulness & Meditation

Managing your Expectations: An Exercise in Happiness

When I go to a restaurant, order a meal, and discover that I don’t like it or am very disappointed by it, I have to recognize that there is nothing wrong or faulty with the meal itself. Other people might like it.

In fact, it’s not the meal itself, but my expectations around the meal, that create the sense of dissatisfaction.

In the same way, when falling in love, learning a new skill, starting a new job, moving to a new country… how can I be disappointed? Only if I expect things to be a certain way. If I expect A, B, and C, and don’t get them – I will be upset.

When in fact, I got D, E, and F, which are equally valid experiences and deserve to be treasured and appreciated as much as A, B, and C.

That’s not to say that each outcome will necessarily be positive. What’s important is to recognize that each outcome is still an experience of value.

  • Learn to live without expectations.
  • Learn to treasure the here and now, the present moment.
  • Learn to treasure what is, as opposed to what could be.

Too often we fail to appreciate what we actually have, because we’re too busy dreaming of more; of the ways it could be and “should” be “better”.

But we never really know, if our created expectations are actually the scenarios which would benefit, serve, and please us most. 

Sometimes, life has more in store for us than we could have ever possibly imagined.

Expectations are built on limitations – a limited world view which only lets us conjure up possibilities based on what we have already seen or experienced before. In other words – expectations are built on past experience and represent a limited picture of the full potential of all that there is to experience in this lifetime, in this world, in this universe.

So allow yourself to let go of expectations, to welcome the unexpected, the unknown. Reality might just vastly exceed your expectations anyway!

 

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Workplace Wellbeing

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What started out as an experiment in blogging has now become a growing community of international contributors, wellness warriors, and business professionals.

What is Human Resource Wellness? What is corporate wellness? What’s wrong with human resource management as we know it? These questions and more will be answered in this article!

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Since the turn of the millennium, the scientific research on meditation has exploded.

While meditation was formerly seen as an exotic phenomenon that belonged in religious or esoteric circles only, meditation is now increasingly explored and understood, accepted and integrated into different areas of everyday life.

Some people might still think it’s kind of spooky but many have already begun to experience the benefits of this simple, but effective, scientifically-validated mind exercise.

In this post I attempt to answer a number of questions about meditation and more posed by our beautiful contributor Eli in her blogpost about her first full-on meditation session in Paris. To see the full list of questions and read about her experience and the inspiring life lessons learnt, click here.

What is meditation?

Meditation is the practice of bringing the attention inside, of breaking the constant flow of external input and resting the awareness in the moment.

We have to learn to dwell in the freshness of the present moment – the past is gone, the future is not yet born – and when we dwell in pure awareness and freedom then the annoying thoughts come but they also disappear without leaving a trace – that is meditation.’ -Matthieu Ricard

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To practice meditation, it is best to find a quiet spot somewhere where you can sit comfortably for about 10 minutes and close your eyes. The visual silence is important to stay focused and to avoid getting distracted by outside stimuli. You should sit in a position that works for you; whether you sit on a chair, on your bed, on the floor does not matter, as long as you are comfortable. You can focus on keeping your back relatively straight so that you stay alert – and also to avoid having pain in your back at the end of your meditation session.

When sitting in meditation for a longer time it is totally okay to change the position whenever you feel the need to.

Your body will take its time adjusting to the new habit and sitting style and that’s fine. Meditation is not about being able to keep a certain posture but about being able to calm the mind – which is much less likely to happen when your legs are falling asleep.

Another thing to keep in mind when you’re about to indulge in a long meditation session is that your body temperature might drop as you’re going to be sitting still in deep relaxation. To avoid feeling uncomfortable and having to interrupt your meditation session to get a jumper, have a cover or a scarf close or already wrapped around you that will keep you nice and warm.

To be able to actually stay focused over an extended period of time, it is often helpful to put the attention on a meditation object like the breath, or a mantra. When meditating with a mantra you can use a meditation ‘Mala’, which is a long necklace with 108 beads made of gemstones. A 109th ‘Guru bead’ indicates the beginning – and the end – of the mala. When meditating with a mala you slide the individual beads through your fingers while repeating a mantra – one bead for each repetition.

The combination of physical and mental engagement allows for more concentration and often leads to a transcendence of the mind during meditation.

In addition to that, each gemstone is understood to have a different spiritual quality which influences and colors the meditation experience. Check out my dear friend Urvashee’s website Heartofallhearts.com for more inspiration and Mala beauties like this one:

What is the goal of meditation?

While it can be counterproductive to formulate a ‘goal’ for meditation, I do want to point out the deepest spiritual purpose of this practice:

The direct experience of your own highest Self which is pure and free, forever unchanging and uninvolved.

This Self, as pure awareness, is very subtle and shines when the grosser elements like thoughts, emotions, and physical realities subside for a moment. It is in the silence between thoughts where only awareness, watchfulness remains. This is the state of a peaceful mind, of total liberation of the soul.

And that state will change again as new thoughts and feelings come up and involve your mind and heart. But simply knowing that space inside of you that remains completely uninvolved and that can be attended to at any moment, creates a relief and relaxation that will color your everyday life.

So what we try to ‘achieve’ in meditation is freedom from thoughts. This does not mean that there are no thoughts whatsoever – it means that you can let the thoughts come and go without being affected by them. It means that you stay aware of the space that you encountered in the gap between your thoughts even when new thoughts arise.

Your mind will continue to feed you with all kinds of thoughts, worries, and ideas and it is also normal that your attention will get absorbed in one of those inputs every now and then.

The practice is to bring your attention back to the space between the thoughts, or the meditation object if you have one, whenever you realize that your mind has wandered off.

If you give in to the mind and get involved with the input it presents you without being aware of it, the concentration, relaxation, and deepened understanding aimed at in meditation will not unfold, as you have no chance to go beyond the field of grosser realities.

The good news is that as the subtle space is the basis of every manifest form or thought, the grosser level can be transcended in any moment. You can actually watch how the thoughts form and appear from nothing before they dissolve and disappear into the same space that they originated from. Knowing that space helps you disidentify from your mind and can change your entire life experience.

What is Satsang?

Satsang, directly translated, means company of truth. It is used to describe settings where people meet to talk about the underlying, most subtle truth of our existence, which is Oneness.

As that Oneness, or pure existence, is understood as the most profound reality, it surpasses the distinction that happens in religious categorization. That being said, anyone can join a satsang no matter what their spiritual belief or religious affiliation is.

The practice of having satsangs, which usually take place in the presence of a master, Guru, or Swami, originates from the Eastern world and has been a vital part of Buddhist and Hinduist traditions for as long as these religions have been around. It is in these gatherings that the realized teachers pass on their knowledge so that the disciples may be freed from their sense of separation, which causes suffering and pain, and may be enlightened to the vision of Oneness. The Sanskrit word Swami means ‘the One, who is one with the Self’ and describes a spiritual teacher or Guru who has gained the absolute knowledge and understanding of Oneness as his own Self.

When joining satsang in a temple or meditation center the shoes will have to be taken off before entering to show respect and to keep the facilities clean.

At the end of the satsang ‘Prasad’ is offered to the deities and masters and then given out to everybody as a sweet blessing. This is usually a small piece of cake or a cookie, which will also help to bring back some energy into the body after sitting is satsang for hours.

In her blogpost „What is Satsang?“ Chelsea elaborates more on the meaning of the practice and talks about her own experience with it. Check out her blogpost here.

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One truth – many different paths

There are thousands of ashrams and spiritual communities around the world that focus on different aspects of the spiritual journey. Most communities have meditation as their focal point but the techniques they use for the practice itself can vary widely. The focus can be on certain meditation techniques, different forms of yoga, pranayama, singing, praying, chanting, and more.

The reason not all of these communities only focus on sitting in meditation all day is that practices like yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises) can be very helpful in centering the energy in the body and to prepare body and mind for meditation.

In that way, all these activities can facilitate and lead into meditation and it is up to you to find a practice that suits your path.

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Mindfulness & Meditation

Your meditation questions, answered

What is meditation? How does one practice meditation? What is the goal of meditation? All these questions and more are answered in this post.

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Mindfulness & Meditation

What is a satsang?

In just a few short weeks, I’ll be flying with a beloved friend to her new home of India; in particular, Kullu: the Valley of the Gods and the International Meditation Institute there. Since the practice of meditation will be at the center of my journey’s purpose there, I participated in my first official ‘Satsang’ this Saturday morning; which took the form of an online video conference.

Waking up in preparation for the early morning Satsang, my mind started asking questions. Namely, what is a Satsang, anyway? Does it involve some kind of yoga? Do I need to wear comfortable clothes? With there be praying? Singing? Chanting? Silence?

So in preparation for this special experience, I did a little research.

So… what is it?

According to Asian American Religious Cultures Volume One (1) the word Satsang originates in ancient Hindu philosophy, and refers to ‘being in association with truth’.

According to my dear friend Sinja, who has spent the last years traveling back and forth between Europe and India to deepen her meditation practice, ‘Sat’ means ‘truth’ while ‘Sang’ company. So a Satsang is to be in the company of truth.

I also found this short, 2 minute, video explanation of what Satsang is about, which added a little more clarity:

However, I still didn’t know what I could really expect from this meeting, which seemed to come unexpectedly into my life from one day to the other. On Friday, I awoke with the intention to go to work; then to a party of a good friend in the evening. Due to this anticipated long day/late night, I didn’t know if the Satsang would even be possible. In actuality, I would end up taking some time off work to recover from an injury from earlier in the week, listen to my body’s call for rest in the evening and miss the party, entirely. Suddenly, here I was awake at 7 am on a Saturday morning and getting ready for a Satsang.

In the beginning

When it began, my first ‘official’ Satsang consisted of a talk (approximately 30 minutes) on notes which were taken from the book, ‘Meet your True Self through Meditation‘.

The guide, or rather teacher, leader, or speaker… (not sure what the best word is to describe the wise being who led us through the session) discussed with us some ideas from the Swami Shyam on space, attention, and unity.

Some of the most beautiful points of the Satsang that I can remember are the metaphors which so perfectly enlist nature to describe deeper concepts of life that can be hard to wrap our heads around. They include:

∗ The ocean metaphor: our thoughts are merely waves in the ocean of our consciousness; wavering, sometimes seemingly violently, yet all the while, their fluctuations have no impact on the essence, the intrinsic being of the ocean, that which is unchanging.

 

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Thoughts are like ripples on the surface of our consciousness.

 

∗ Thoughts are always in opposition with each other. If you think about it this is so true. I can have two thoughts simultaneously, which completely conflict and oppose each other. For example; ‘It is raining’ and ‘It is not raining’; ‘I am beautiful’ and ‘I am ugly’. Who is to say, which of these are true? Can we really trust our thoughts to tell us the truth?

∗ In meditation, there is no possible way to ‘do it wrong’ – in meditation you cannot fail. Think of it instead as planting a fruit tree. You do not uproot the tree two weeks later, to check to see if it is rooting. You simply wait, water it, and watch as fruit become manifest.

We ended with the following thought, which led us into meditation:

“Focus your attention on space, knowing that the very power of attention and the space are one.”

Sitting in Meditation

At the beginning of our 15-minute silent meditation, we were instructed to focus our awareness on the oneness of our attention and space itself.

During this time I had many thoughts, some about the Satsang itself; others completely unrelated. For a brief moment, I felt the experience of having no physical body; of feeling no border between myself and space, and imagined what that immaterial world must be like. Tripping out a bit too much, I brought myself back into my mind where I continued to observe my thoughts until the guide brought our attention back to the small group.

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The end

There were six of us; some who had met before, in person, in India; others who had no prior experience of each other. But we met for a brief period, passed the time by reflecting on the Swami’s teachings and meditating in our separate-but-togetherness. The session ended with each person being asked how they felt during meditation, or if they had any thoughts or experiences to share with the group.

In total, the Satsang left me feeling like I had done something really good for me, like I had started my weekend in the best way possible. I felt refreshed, renewed, conscious.

More than anything, I felt in the presence of compassion – cradled by an unconditional, loving and accepting energy that made me feel like I was okay, worthy, deep down in my very soul.

Luckily the beautiful soul that hosted this Satsang offers them weekly, for anyone who would like to participate (from anywhere in the world)! You can visit Rebecca’s site here for more information on the online Satsang and how to participate.

Below you can find a sample audio clip from Rebecca’s Satsang leading to the Amaram Hum Madhuram Hum mantra meditation:

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Have you ever experienced a Satsang?

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Sources

(1) Lee, Jonathan H. X., Fumitaka Matsuoka, Edmond Yee, and Ronald Y. Nakasone. “Satsang.” Asian American Religious Cultures. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, An Imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2015. 758-61. Print.

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Community Stories, Stress Management

Combating anxiety through yoga: a practice for mental health

Statistics show that one in four of us will suffer from some form of mental health issue at one point in our lives or another. I’ve been part of that one in four and I know some of my friends have been too.

My journey with mental health has definitely not been easy; I’ve had ups and downs as most people do. Life throws you curveballs, which are sometimes so hard to deal with that you become anxious and depressed – and it’s perfectly natural for that to happen.

After having struggled with anxiety myself for almost three years, and having watched my friends struggle, I’ve developed an x-ray vision into suffering – as I’ve begun to come out on the other side of it.

Those dark days shaped me. They felt endless at the time, but I am glad I went through them as they put me on the path that I am now on and introduced me to the things that saved me.

My savior is Yoga! My practice is the only constant thing that is there to balance me out. Just sitting on my mat and soaking up the energies off my mat lifts me and re-calibrates me if I am having a difficult day. Pranayama (yogic breathing) is what has really saved me.

Learning how to control my breathing taught me how to control my anxiety.

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The increased awareness of my body and emotions also shows me when a situation is uncomfortable for me. At one point, it wasn’t that simple and there are days where I have to sit and be with that suffering and pain. I found that in my darkest depths I ran and hid away from my pain and that just made it worse. Facing it is brave and it helps!

If you’re struggling currently… reach out! A friend, a family member, a doctor! Just reach out. It may seem scary but you won’t regret it. We need to start engaging in a conversation to shift perceptions and help people to move through the dark depths of struggling with mental health. It is a lonely place and doing something to make it that little bit less lonely is always a really big step.

If you can find a practice, whether that be yoga, running, meditation, journaling (that is what inspired me to set up my blog!), walking or some form of self-care… Do it!! Yoga helped me so much and I will be forever grateful for my practice. It is there for me whenever, especially in the moments where I least want to as I know they are the moments that I most need it.

By writing this I am hoping to open up a conversation about mental health as sometimes talking about it can create a sense of community amongst people who struggle with similar things.

We need to start a revolution and we need to start talking – keeping mental health out in the cold is only making the issue worse. There is such a lack of understanding and that needs to be shifted.

We need to know that taking a mental health day is ok. Taking things at your speed is ok. Just know that whatever you need to do is ok!

by Catherine Owen

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Community Stories, Plant Strong

Overcoming food addiction: a plant-based diet enlightenment

Breaking a bad habit is never easy. Breaking a bad addiction seems nearly impossible.

What started off as a bad habit…

turned into a nasty mind-game of overwhelming thoughts from a voice that I listened to far too much. At seven-years-old, I was tall for my age and maybe 5 or 10 pounds heavier than normal and most importantly, my parents were getting a divorce. Long story short, the way I taught myself to cope with the pain and sadness over my family dissolving was to eat and eat a lot. I taught myself how to make everything feel better with food.

For some context, ever since I was little I’ve always strived to make everyone around me happy. I am the quintessential people-pleaser and it just about ruined my life. See, by needing to make the people I love happy and feel better, I neglected to do the same for myself and I suffered tremendously because I pretended that I had everything together, when really I did not, at all.

So, food. It seemed simple and harmless, at the time, to use eating to comfort myself through this difficult period of time. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? Suddenly, anytime I felt sad, or angry, or bored I turned to food and food made everything better. It made me feel good.

Fast-forward…

to ten-year-old me where most of the girls my age were anywhere from 85 pounds to 110 pounds, but I was 165 pounds. A good fifty pounds overweight. I remember being at school in the nurse’s office with my mom and stepping on the scale to see that number. I remember, even at ten, the feeling of shame and embarrassment that coursed through my veins. And there, in that moment, was the beginning of my twelve year battle with weight loss.

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I am now twenty-two years old and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten heavier. That bad habit of using food to cope with sadness, anxiety, and frustration spiraled out into a full blown binge eating disorder. An unyielding, take no prisoners addiction to highly processed and highly unhealthy foods.

For twelve years, I tried every.single.diet out there. Low-carb, no-carb, high fat, Paleo, Atkins, Weight Watchers, shakes, soups, and the list goes on.

I would lose some weight and then I’d gain it back plus ten more. In some of my more desperate moments I tried to starve myself; see how long I could go without food on a given day. Other times, purging after a really bad binge did the trick, but that never satisfied me. It was the feeling of being so full I was going to be sick without actually getting sick that made bingeing so appealing.

I always thought that my binges were moments of being completely out of control, until my therapist explained to me that really, during a binge I had the most control.

She was right. Anytime I sat down in front of the food that I had prepared for my binge, I was focused and one hundred percent conscious of what I was about to do.

My binges were always in secret, and I would lie and sneak whatever I could and it got easier the older I got. I also struggled with depression throughout my teenage years – my last two years of high school were the worst. I would isolate myself from my friends, I’d say no to social gatherings often and wouldn’t go out because I was so fat. I even missed days of school and didn’t do well in my classes because I was just living in this haze that I couldn’t get out of. And I never told anyone. That’s what kills me, looking back on those years. If I had just had the gumption to tell someone about my emotions and the struggle that I was having, maybe I could have saved myself a lot of pain. Again, hindsight is always 20/20.

Finally, at twenty years old…

I knew I had to take full responsibility for my actions and I sought out therapy. What a game-changer. All of my problems were mental and emotional. Everything was in my own head and finding a professional to help disentangle those negative mental thoughts and emotions and the ‘whys’ behind them brought clarity to my life.

I spent a year in therapy until my therapist told me that I was ready to do life on my own. Just a few months prior to that I discovered veganism, specifically a whole foods, plant-based diet. Another game changer. My whole idea of nutrition and weight loss was flipped on its axis at this monumental discovery. I made the change overnight and got rid of all the animal products and by-products from my life. I welcomed plants of all kinds into my life with a full embrace.

No longer did I have to restrict my calories or count points. No longer were carbohydrates the enemy. I felt free to eat potatoes without guilt- a true feat.

A year and a half later, my mental and emotional wellbeing are stronger than ever.

Has it been hard adapting to this new way of eating when everyone around you still eats the way you did for more than a decade? Hell yes. Is it worth it, though? Hell yes.

I’ve made mistakes and messed up over the last year and my diet hasn’t been perfect – vegan junk food is a serious thing, my friends – but I’m learning and adapting and

I have full faith in myself that I will save my own life by eating a plant based diet.

I’m so much happier and lighter than I was a couple years ago even though I’m at about the same weight. It’s all about the mindset. It’s all about getting to that place where maybe you aren’t completely confident yet, but you’re getting there in small steps and THAT’S what matters. I’m finally taking care of myself and my needs before anyone else’s. I’m no longer the people pleaser that I once was and thank goodness for that. I’ve had to learn to be selfish and say no for my own well-being and guess what? I’m a better person for it.

Thank you for reading and thank you to Chelsea for letting me share my story.

Much love,
Carolin Linnea Tyler

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Stress Management

How to overcome anything with the help of philosophy

Plato, Not Prozac! is all about utilizing the wisdom of ancient and modern philosophical traditions in order to put your life into perspective and come to peace with some of your most pressing problems.

Why philosophy over Prozac? While prescription drugs often help to lessen the side effects of your depression, they do nothing to address the root cause of your mental anguish.

The PEACE process was developed by Dr. Marinoff in his own philosophical counseling practice, in order to help others realize the benefits of exploring and identifying with some of the world’s greatest philosophies.

PEACE is an acronym reflecting the five-stage process: Problem, Emotion, Analysis, Contemplation, and Equilibrium.

Below, I’ll explain the five steps in detail so that you can apply the theory to your own life (and hopefully successfully resolve some of your own problems). More than that, I’ll test the theory by trying to find an example from my personal experiences and working through the five levels.

1) PROBLEM

The first step to working through your difficult situation is to identify the particular problem you are experiencing. Obvious examples include: being laid off, a dying parent, or divorce. Sometimes our problems are not as clear-cut as we’d like them to be, and in these cases, a little digging deeper will be necessary.

Tips for this stage: At this point, it is helpful to see your problems as external phenomena. Try not to make any judgments about the situation but rather see the issue from an objective perspective. Recognize, as it states in the I Ching, that everything is in a constant state of change and thus it is inevitable that we run into new and challenging situations from time to time.

2) EMOTION

Of course, it is not possible to be completely detached from your problem, and the next step you will naturally take is to experience the emotions associated with this issue. The first two steps of the PEACE process are therefore the ones that come the most easily to us.

As you are feeling these emotions, take stock of them: which specific emotions are you experiencing? It might be despair, anger, sadness, frustration, fear, rejection, shame, or anxiety. For a complete list of negative emotions, click hereFor a full lsit of negative emotions visit: http://positivewordsresearch.com/negative-feelings-and-emotions/

It is important here to understand that all emotions, even negative ones, are valid and appear for a reason: most notably, they can help to alert us when we have a problem situation in our lives. By healthily expressing our emotions, we won’t necessarily get rid of that problem in its entirety, as often this is not necessary. But rather they allow us to adapt to new situations by understanding our attitudes and opinions towards them.

Most often, we feel strong emotions in response to a new life experience that we have not encountered before. We do not have a go-to, stored, habitual programmed response, meaning that we are confronted with a challenge that we will have to work through to come to a new learning outcome.

3) ANALYSIS

While the previous step of recognizing our emotions is handled primarily by the right brain, the next step which progresses logically from the first two is a left-brain function. Our ability to analyze comes in handy when we begin to evaluate possible options to resolve the problem. In the best case scenario, not only are we able to find a solution that addresses our problem, but we’d also be able to settle the internal issues (how we feel about that problem).

Here we can also look for past solutions that may be helpful in this scenario, or likewise compare our situation to that of friends, family, or even strangers. What we read about in books or see on TV become a part of this analysis as our logical brains try to calculate which is the best option to move forward with.

Unfortunately, this is the stage where most conventional problem-solving methods end, often unsuccessfully. We brainstorm all the possible options to overcome our challenge; only to be left at a loss when it comes to choosing the best option. When we do select the best, we can second guess ourselves and our decision, forever wondering if we made the right choice.

4) CONTEMPLATION

The fourth stage of the PEACE process is where philosophy comes in.

One of the first things you should do here is to take a metaphorical step back, away from your situation, to gain some perspective on the issue.

Rather than approaching the problem in parts, obsessing over tiny details, try to gain a holistic sense of the issue – in other words, see the whole picture.

(In the Buddhist practice of meditation, this is a common goal; to detach ourselves from our perceived problems and recognize the forces at play in the larger, cosmic scenario).jeremy-thomas-99326.jpg

This is the stage of the technique that might involve the most amount of work if you are not already familiar with philosophy. Do some research, discuss with friends, or read up on philosophical theories. When you come into contact with a new philosophical idea, evaluate it according to its own merit as well as the resonance it has with your own true nature.

If your problem is, for example, deciding whether or not to take a loved one off of life support, you may begin to look into writing or theories on concepts such as quality of life, our responsibility towards others, the ethics of life support, or the significance of values in life. Beginning to see how different schools of thought approach the same topic can help to put your problem into a larger framework. You come to recognize that you are not the first person to go through this, and won’t be the last. Great thinkers have already been pondering your problem for millennia (in some cases) and have come up with some pretty helpful insights.

At this point, the goal is to adopt a philosophical outlook (what Marinoff refers to as a disposition) towards your overall situation. This is something that you should genuinely be able to find within: rather than inventing a tool, the process will be more like unearthing a gem. It’s about identifying philosophical approaches to your issue and finding one or more that resonate with you on a deeper level. This could be Kant’s categorical imperative, the Buddhist rejection of expectation, or Plato’s plea for moderation- or any one of the other thousands of philosophical outlooks. At this stage, you can’t ‘fake’ appreciation or understanding for the concept that will ultimately help you to overcome your problem and heal your wounds. When a breakthrough is what’s necessary, a superficial outlook just won’t do.

Watch the video above for a quick insight into Stoicism philosophy.

5) EQUILIBRIUM

Finally, you have reached the last stage of the five-step process. You have identified the problem, taken account of the emotions that it stirs within you, began to identify alternative solutions, compared your situation with established philosophical principles and narrowed in on which philosophies speak most poignantly to you. Finally, you have reached equilibrium. 

Here you have not only identified the problem but come to understand its essence: the true, rather than phenomenal, nature of your struggle.

If at first, your problem was that your boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you, which caused you anger, you might eventually come to recognize the essence of your problem through philosophical contemplation, which might sound something like this: ‘I have a fundamental, universal need for closeness and connection with other human beings that is not being satisfied.

With this deeper understanding of your particular, yet universal conundrum, you are better prepared and ready to take action towards alleviating your suffering and finding a resolution to the original problem. More than that, you can take your new insights, understandings, and solutions with you, incorporating them into your life and thereby decreasing your odds of having to suffer through the same situation again one day in the future.


Real life example: 

In order to better illustrate this process, I’d like to work you through a typical problem which was also a problem of mine at one point in time:

  • Problem: My partner has ended our relationship.
  • Emotion: Rejection, Confusion, Anger, Sadness, Loneliness, Fear.
  • Analysis: What did I do wrong and how can I correct my flaws? Should I try to get back together with them? Should I date someone else? How are they flawed and therefore not meant for me? Should I do more things I am passionate about to move on? Should I let myself be sad and grieve this relationship? Should I try to understand better their point of view? Should I maintain contact or none at all? Can we be friends? Should I talk about my feelings with friends and family? (All of this led to no real conclusion that made me feel better).
  • Contemplation: Some philosophers say that we are not meant to stay with one person our whole lives, but rather that people come into our lives for a temporary amount of time for a reason (Osho, Paulo Coelho). Others say romantic love is not the highest expression of love, but rather compassion. Some argue that I do not need a partner to be loved – but rather that love is my God-given, natural state of being. Personally, I feel that I don’t have to center my love on one person; but rather focus on sharing my loving energies with the world in a productive way, one that yields the most good for the most number of people (Utilitarianism).
  • Equilibrium: I am at peace with the breakup. I know that love is not limited to one relationship or person. I know that life is always changing, and happiness always follows sadness. I know that the truest source of love is already within me, and I can connect to this source through self–love and mediation.

This whole process can take days, weeks, or months. Most people will never get further than stage three – unless they’ve taken the time to read this article or the book by Lou Marinoff: Plato, Not Prozac!: Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems

What do you think about philosophical counseling? Has consulting the world’s philosophical traditions helped you to work through your problems? Let us know your thoughts & stay well!

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Community Stories

Getting High on Life Again

Last night I went to a poetry reading in Linz, the first of its kind for me. Since I arrived here last July, I spent most of the summer in a love daze with David, being newly together; I spent the end of the year traveling throughout the Salzkammergut for my internship; and finally, spent the last 5 months frantically worrying while lounging around the house, in a mad race to send out application after application, in the hopes of finding a decent job prospect (and therefore visa prospect) in Austria. In all that time, I never had the chance to make myself at home in Linz or to properly settle down in this new city that I will eventually surely come to call my own.

I was able to get to German class every now and again; and made it to yoga two times in the year (mainly due to my negative cash flow – oh the joys of being young and unemployed!). But this was my first poetry reading. An intimate glimpse into a community of creative internationals unknown to me, but of which I was already a part. Meeting my people, I had truly come home.

In this memorable moment I had three beloved colleagues from my last workplace there to support me; and new friend from my newest ‘Arbeit’. Beyond that, so many other souls opened themselves up to me in what felt like a metaphorical embrace, brought on by my own willingness to stretch my comfort zone and read poetry to the group, sharing my creativity and vulnerability in one, tied up in the perfect package. So rarely do we glimpse this utterly irreplaceable, invaluable feeling, this energy of pure love and sharing, the brilliant poetic rhythem of experience, of thoughts come alive. Feelings put into written words put into inspired, fragile, gentle voices, whose owners are strong enough to break the silence of the space between the words.

Sorry, I’m getting off on a romantic tangent. I’m feeling playful with my sense of expression these days.

But the truth is just that, that I’m falling in love again, falling in love with life and music and the poetry falling off my lips; falling off yours; I’m falling in love with smiles on my friends’ faces and the love that radiates outward from the hearts of the people I’ve met; and with my voice; with my ability to sing, my ability to dance and read and write and love and forgive.

I am falling in love with life again.

Last night I realized towards the end of the evening that I was drunk; not on spirits but on spirit; on friendship and on good company and the ever-so-perfect-lighting. Drunk on the fact that we had come together to share words concocted by our hearts, on the fact that they had survived our self-conscious smothering to touch the light of day.

With a conscious effort I stabilized myself to try to bring my feet back to the ground, but they didn’t return, they just carried me home from open space and floating, I made it home safe.

You see, there is this JOY that comes from going within, from connecting to the source of all that you are and letting that glorious mess hail outwards; letting your truest nature rule all that you do, living in such authenticity and compassion that nothing can get in your way. When you sing your song, when you write your poem, when you make your art, when you do YOUR thing and share it with the world for the benefit of the world, you have come alive. You have discovered the most coveted and fundamental secret of life.

I believe we all have a moral obligation to nourish our soul; to give energy and attention to those parts of us which can’t be suppressed, no matter how hard we may try.

As a child I wrote poems. I would lock myself in my room, sit in the nesting place that was the bottom of my closet and fill notebook after notebook with endless poetry. I did this not out of any certain ambition to become a poet or artist; quiet the contrary- I didn’t recognize the value of those titles back then. But rather I experienced such an intense flow of emotions on a regular basis that I was compelled, out of an urgent necessity, to expel my deepest thoughts and feelings onto an empty page each day so that I might relieve myself of the burning ache for catharsis. I felt deeply and writing was my therapy.

And for years I didn’t nurture this passion. Today, finally, I am. With poetry readings and this blog, to name a few.

The Bottom line: Do what you have to do. Cook, paint, write poetry, fly airplanes, design clothes or video games or take care of people. Simply go to the bottom of your heart and find out what it is telling you to do.

From self-expression to self-actualization, I wish you the greatest luck and love on your journey.

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Community Stories

Empowerment through Athleisure

Athleisure: “a style of clothing worn as athletic apparel but also suitable for casual, everyday wear”.

So I’m having a great week, just started a new job in a cool young startup and things are going well. I promised away this holiday weekend, as my sister needed a babysitter for my two adorable, sweet nieces – no problem. My partner could also use some attention and energy and on top of all that, I’m working hard to grow my website into something significant. But all of this is normal for the average 21st-century woman.

I’m lucky enough to work for a company now that prizes our comfort over formality; therefore we are allowed to wear jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, etc. on any normal day in the office. I am no short of elated by this fact. My hunch is that this might have something to do with the fact that I’m working for a tech company, in a time when programmers are known to code barefoot and in sweatpants. Naturally, we want these tech geniuses to feel relaxed and concentrated in order to do their best work, and by default, this extends to the rest of the team as well (as far as I can tell).

Not having to worry about if my pants are formal enough to meet the dress code, I can finally relax, stop worrying about how I look and actually concentrate on doing my work! Yippie!

Even more surprisingly, is the fact that I now find myself in a tech role (tech/customer support, to be more exact). I suppose this was inevitable. But for a one-time philosophy major, turned business graduate, even I am taken aback by this new characteristic of my work.

But I’m not the only person these days who finds themselves, unexpectedly, in a technology-dominated position. Nowadays, more and more jobs are becoming tech-based. Sales trips have been replaced with Salesforce, local operations with global, and almost anything can be accomplished from behind a computer screen. But what does this mean for our wellbeing? Well, certainly that some of us are getting used to the reality that is it ‘normal’ to spend upwards of 8-10 hours a day (or more) sitting, working on a computer.

As more and more people adopt such a working style, the effects on our collective health should not be underestimated. I believe these modern sedentary habits must be actively and consciously counteracted by a sustained effort to move our bodies daily. Exercise, in the era of online social networks and virtua reality cannot be overlooked.

Instead of getting on our computers when we come home from work, we must force ourselves to take the dog for a walk; play with our children at the park; go for a run or hit the gym with a partner or friend. Join a fitness class; if you can’t afford one, organize a regular group session in your circle of friends.

Which brings me to athleisure.

Today, in order to best prepare myself for the weekend ahead, one of chasing a toddler around the house and changing a never-ending supply of dirty diapers, I put on my yoga pants and a loose cotton top. I wore this to the train station, where I took the train for 2 hours to my sister’s home. This outfit, I’ve realized, while slightly risqué compared to my normal clothes, does so much more than improve my level of comfort while sitting on the train.

I believe there is more to this athleisure trend than meets the eye. It’s not about laziness or lack of self-care. It doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to dress myself, or which clothes are appropriate for everyday life in our society.

Athleisure, or the concept and ability to wear comfortable, health- and fitness-oriented clothing in a socially acceptable way, is in and of itself a mentality. It is about standing up to authority figures in society who arbitrarily tell you how you should dress, think, and act. It is about a commitment to your health and wellbeing, among all other things in your life, including your work responsibilities.

Take shoes for example. The traditional dress shoe one might wear to work, or really any woman’s shoe other than the sneaker, is often designed in such a way that will leave the wearer with foot or back pain in the long run. Common ballet flats, or the even more perilous heel, do not support your health and physical wellbeing. They fail to provide the basic support and stability our feet need to move painlessly through the world.

I am coming to realize, that something as simple as the shoes on our feet makes a powerful statement about how we choose to live our lives. Do we give in to society’s pressure to look a certain way, compromising our comfort and health in the process? Or do we take a stand, and wear comfortable shoes, in order to get the most out of our daily walks and realize the maximum level of health possible? In older, simpler times, perhaps this was not an issue, when family walks after dinner were the standard anyway, or when there was no question of getting physical activity while on the job. In the times we are living in today, however, these things matter.

When I decide to wear my sleek, lightweight, well-worn trail-running shoes, which provide minimal, yet sufficient support in order to provide my feet with a natural experience while walking, running, or hiking, I feel empowered and enabled to live a healthy lifestyle. I feel in charge of my body and where I’m going. They are dependable and durable, unlike so many other shoes for women, so I know I don’t have to worry about broken straps, blisters, or foot pains due to flat soles. They empower me to get a great workout even while walking, activating muscles that other shoes most probably cause harm to. Meanwhile, I can forget about what I’m wearing and concentrate on making the most out of my day and taking care of my priorities.

For too long, women have had to be obsessed with what they wear. When it comes to clothes, I have often wished I were a man, or could simply dress like a man. All shoes, pants, and tops seem to cooperate effortlessly together in the men’s section. As a woman, however, we are constantly judged by men on our sexual attractiveness; and likewise by women on our fashion sensibility. It not enough to simply dress ourselves, as is the case for so many men. We need to buy nice/expensive clothes, plus shoes, purse, and jewelry to match; make it appear effortless, and ensure that our clothing is in the right color, size, and shape to perfectly flatter our figure. We have to find just the right balance of attractive and likable, which falls somewhere in between the slutty disgrace (too much sex appeal) and the hobo look (not enough).

So many days, like many other women, I leave the house feeling extremely uncomfortable and dissatisfied by my clothing or appearance; when my dress pants don’t fall just the right way as they’re expected to; when an XS shirt frustratingly still seems to douse me in fabric to the point where my shape is unrecognizable; when I don’t have the right socks to match my shoes to match my belt to match my jacket to match my shirt and pants. Don’t even get me started on make-up!

Athleisure offers women a way out of this frustrating conundrum of what to wear every day. It’s simple: throw on an outfit from your favorite fitness-wear brand, which has been designed and produced to match and look great and will not leave you with any uncomfortable hangups throughout the day. More than that, you might actually feel empowered and excited about picking up the groceries after work, chauffeuring your kids around all day on Saturday, or working overtime to build that website for your most important client. You can do all this and so much more, in athleisure, with ease. Many women already know this and are kicking butt as we speak!

But I’d like to share one last thought with you on this fitness-wear trend. While I feel hugely confident and happy in such clothing, I also experienced a certain level of increased self-consciousness while at the train station in my yoga pants. Was I wrong for being there, doing that? Why were so many people looking in my direction? Can everyone’s eyes please just leave me alone and let me get on with my day in peace? Thank you.

It’s a strange sensation to feel simultaneously empowered, but also scared.

Scared that my outfit might provoke one of the people within my radius to do something crazy; to follow me home or even worse. When I’m just trying to catch my train; trying to go for a walk or shopping or have lunch with a friend; I am not inviting you to stare at me.

People should have the right to wear whatever they want without being made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. More than that, we should all have the right to wear clothes that support our health and wellbeing. This is so important for women, who embody the life force that keeps this planet spinning! We have important things to do, so please don’t make us question what we are wearing, or sacrifice our health in order to cater to your idea of beauty. Our time and energy is so much more valuable spent on other things, like raising the next generation, building the socially conscious companies of tomorrow, or leading a global movement towards a healthier way of life for all ✌❤

Share your thoughts with us on this matter by using the hashtag #respecttheyogapants, looking forward to hearing from you!

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P.S. If you want to become a contributor on Human Resource Wellness, contact us for more information.

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Plant Strong

The Perfect Meal for Every Day

As a child, I was raised by separated parents, each with their own parenting – and feeding – style. Each approached the art of nourishing the family differently and thus, had a lasting impact on my relationship with food (and that of my siblings).

On one hand, my father prepared regular, balanced meals for us, which we often enjoyed together, by candlelight. They were full of homemade foods cooked with love – often recipes passed down from older generations of our European ancestors, updated with a creative spin by my father. A big Italian salad was a staple at every meal and we were often made to sit at the table until we had finished everything. At some times this was torture – but looking back on it I realize that it taught me to appreciate diverse cuisines.

On the other side, my mother, battling mental illness, valued convenience and our immediate gratification in her parenting style. Therefore fast food, candy, and basically anything we wanted off the shelves of the grocery store- were all allowed under her rules. To her credit, however, she also often prepared raw snacks for us, such a cut broccoli and cauliflower with hummus. She wanted nothing more than to see us happy – as do most mothers – and this meant giving in to our cravings more often than not.

Upon entering adulthood, I established my own eating preferences, largely giving up fast food and going vegetarian when I was 19. While working at Whole Foods Market, I gained a deeper understanding of how the food we eat affects our energy, health, and wellbeing, and so I likewise deepened my commitment to nourishing my body with the very best.

However, old patterns take time to be unlearned. While I strive to eat a healthy, balanced diet, cravings for sweets and processed foods ultimately get the best of me every now and again. (If you ask my sister, she might say they get the best of me once a day- at least!) In fact, I’m known for my sweet tooth in my family, just as I am known for my diehard commitment to living a healthy, plant-based lifestyle.

So if you are like me and strive to incorporate clean foods into your diet, perhaps you will find this recipe helpful.

I was studying in Germany when my good friend Eli invited me and another friend over to her place for some dinner and wine. When the meal was ready she presented us with a salad- one so simple yet so perfect it blew my mind. I had literally never thought to put rice in a salad up until that point.

Anyway, the point is, maybe the perfect, plant-based meal has been alluding you all this time. As an American, I am used to salads being full of vegetables, with nuts or fruits being added occasionally. YUM! But why not take it a step further, and beef up your salad with your favorite grain? Whole grains like rice, spelt, and quinoa work great! Cous cous or millet are also fabulous additions. Make the grain a base for your salad and you’ll be amazed at how full and satisfied this meal will make you.

Recipe for the Perfect Meal

 

Step 1: Choose your favorite grain and cook according to instructions. Let cool.

Step 2: Beans please! Add some extra protein and fiber with an addition of your favorite beans – the kind from a can will do. Rinse well and avoid any cans with dents in them.

Step 3: Add veggies – whatever you have on hand, or choose your favorite flavor combination. You can even add lettuce here, why not? Onions and avocados add great flavor and texture here.

Step 4: Consider fruits. Would the flavors of your salad be enhanced my fruit? Orange wedges, apple, pear, pomegranate, or dried cranberries are some of my favorite additions.

Step 5: Nuts and seeds. Add these according to your preference, but go light on them. Otherwise, you won’t be able to finish this salad all in one sitting!

Step 6: Dressing. Spice up your salad with a combination of oils, vinegar, dressings and spices. Most of the time I use olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Orange juice or a white vinegar are also lovely. Oh, and pumpkin seed oil if you can get your hands on it! At the moment I am using a delicious garlic-infused olive oil found at a local market. So worth it! Everything it touches turns to garlicky gold! When you cook at home a lot, investing in high-quality ingredients when you can have the biggest pay off! Plus you will feel like a real chef!

EXTRAS: Now don’t forget to throw in a little something special to give your salad that extra kick. Olives and fresh herbs are a great addition. Roasted garlic and vegetables, toasted seeds, or sauteed mushrooms, anyone? If you feel like adding a bit of cheese, do your thing. Personally, I don’t think this salad needs meat or meat substitute products because in and of itself it is already so filling and nutritious.

There are a million ways to make this salad! Go by your own tastes and creativity to make it customized and perfect for you/your family.

Today I am making this kind of salad for lunch, but I hope to have some left over to take with me tomorrow on my first day of work!! Eeek! So excited. Cross your fingers for me (and that my boyfriend doesn’t eat it all)!

Feel free to share your pics of your salad with us on Facebook!

Happy eating,

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Community Stories

A Nighttime Contemplation

I love to sit in bed with the window open. This evening as I do so I breathe in the fresh, warm, late spring air, listening to the life around me. The sound of the city’s bustling finally coming to an end; the wind and echo of places far away. Distant ‘hills’ dwarfed by even further mountains surround me in bed each night as the lights of the outskirts sparkle and fade as if to say goodnight. My night light fades from ocean blue to deep black as stars leave their hiding places, leaving glimpses to be had and inviting me to those wider, more open spaces beyond the city’s limits. Perhaps the city can’t hold such bright things.

As I sit here after a day, a weekend, well spent, I contemplate once more, as I do every now and again, the richness of this life that surrounds me. More than that, it nourishes me, feeds and cares for me in a way that far outweighs my naive comprehension. I can only begin to try to understand…

In these moments there is a recognition of the richness of simplicity. Do you know how lucky you are to hear the birds sing? To witness the peaceful ending of a Sunday evening? To watch as strangers eat ice cream and live undisturbed, falling in love and watching their children play among the flowers and water fountains?

This is my perspective from my new home of Linz. In the city center, people appear to be bright and happy and carefree. They enjoy the pace of Sunday: slowness internalized.

That is not to say these people don’t have problems; although they are surely some of the most privileged people in the world. But no matter where you are, no matter your struggles, surely it is always possible to find the golden thread, the silver lining that’s holding this whole thing together, making our existence possible and somehow enjoyable in even the worst of circumstances.

This region, which has suffered the worst of human crimes and seen the darkest parts of our collective inhumanity, also happens to be blessed with some of the most beautiful natural landscapes known to man. Even in darkness, there is light.

In fact, humans will suffer in beautiful places – just as we will suffer in barren, desolate regions. We suffer in poverty; we suffer in extreme wealth.

What seems to separate us in the physical, material world, loses significance in the realm of the spiritual. The nourishment of your soul depends not on external, worldly pleasures, but on the quality of your ability to see life for what it is: a blessing.

Wealth, abundance is all around you.

Today I shared a photo of myself in the local mountains on social media. ‘Bragging’ that this beautiful place is only 45 minutes away from home – because isn’t that what we are supposed to do on social media anyway? Brag?

We can choose to see it that way, or we can choose to see it as our collective compulsion to make the best out of our lives – to see the very best in it even when circumstances are challenging. I didn’t need to have millions, thousands, or even hundreds of dollars in my bank account to enjoy this day at the lake.

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Just as I don’t need more than a roof over my head to enjoy the view from my bedroom window – and that is what makes this life so good.

I’m so grateful for where my travels have taken me. Excited to be starting a new life in a new home in a new country. Without a doubt, I sense that I owe this extraordinary life to gratitude. Not because it made me rich – but because it gave me the ability to see the wealth that was already around me. And according to some – what we focus on grows. When you recognize the abundance around you, you will experience abundance. And the gifts that come with this abundance are great. Peace of mind, freedom from worry, freedom from pain, loving, healing energy and appreciation for all things. A feeling of wholeness that stretches from the skies down into your very core and back out again. A sense of oneness that, once unearthed, can never be destroyed. The gifts of gratitude can never be taken away from you.

Do you have a refrigerator complete with food? A computer with an internet connection? Fresh air and sunshine available to you anytime you’d like? Friends, family to greet, smile, hug, speak with and meet? Look at how the universe loves you!

Comment below, and tell us what you are grateful for 😃❤

Sweet dreams!

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Plant Strong

Tangy vegan tomato soup

Coconut milk and ginger in a classic tomato soup; what a dreamy combination!

But the real secret ingredient in this recipe is the pearl onions – try to find these at your local supermarket if you can. If not, use another small onion variety such as shallots.

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Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten-free!

Ingredients:

  • 4 regular size cans of tomato sauce 
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of regular coconut milk
  • ½ – ¾ carton vegetable broth (3-5 cups)
  • 8 cloves of fresh garlic (chopped)
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger (grated)
  • 10-15 fresh white pearl onions (whole)
  • garlic powder
  • salt & pepper
  • dried basil
  • herbs de Provence
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Directions:

In a large soup pan, sauté onions in olive oil until brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, salt & pepper, and spices and sauté for an additional minute, until garlic becomes fragrant. Stir in vegetable broth and bring to a low simmer. Add coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes. Add all tomato sauce, and then diced tomatoes, bring to a boil. Add additional spices to taste. Lower heat and let soup reduce and thicken.

Serve hot and enjoy!

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Plant Strong

Vegan protein fruit salad

Hey guys! I’m experimenting with different blog ideas and today I thought I’d share a new recipe with you. This is a lovely, satisfying, crunchy and sweet breakfast idea that will provide you with energy, vitamins, live enzymes, and most importantly if you are veggie like me, PROTEIN. Unlike your usual fruit salad, this one has an unusual ingredient- nuts and seeds – that can help you come closer to reaching the recommending daily of value of protein without reaching for animal products. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Protein-Packed Fruit Salad (Vegetarian, Vegan, & Gluten Free)

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 1 large apple – any variety
  • 1 organic banana (read about why you should purchase organic bananas here)
  • 1-2 cups of watermelon
  • 1 nectarine
  • 1 handful of walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons sunflower seed + flax seed mix

Notes:

  • The fruits I’ve used above are just a suggestion. Feel free to use whatever fruits you have on hand!
  • When purchasing nut butter, look for a natural product that does not contain any added ingredients. This means peanut butter that is 100% peanuts, or almond butter that is 100% almonds. Otherwise, you will be filling up on unnecessary fats (most often palm oil- which is also a disaster for social and environmental reasons) and sugar – eek!

Directions:

This really couldn’t be simpler people – which is one of the many reasons why I love the idea of a raw, plant-based diet! Just slice the fruits into small pieces, drizzle a bit of nut butter on top, and top with your favorite nut and seed varieties.

Using at least 4 types of fruits will give your fruit salad an interesting and satisfying texture – the crisp, juicy watermelon, for example, is a great balance to the soft, tart nectarine.

Free free to go heavy on the nuts for extra calories and to get that full serving of protein – remember, eating a vegan diet will require you to eat MORE food to get the same amount of calories you would get on a normal, omnivore diet. However you’ll be getting WAY MORE micronutrients and health benefits in the process 🙂

This recipe fits in perfectly with the idea that, when eating a vegan diet, you should eat these five things in order to achieve the highest level of health:

  1. Vegetables (raw or cooked, including as many leafy greens as possible!)
  2. Fruits (eat these in proportion to your body’s tolerance level- some people prefer more fruit, some do better with less)
  3. Whole Grains (can be sprouted- otherwise be sure to follow proper cooking instructions for optimal digestion)
  4. Nuts and Seeds (the general wisdom here is to eat in moderation)
  5. Legumes/Beans (generally you can eat as much as you want – as long as digestion is comfortable for you)

Most importantly, when experimenting with any new way of eating, listen to your body. It knows what is best for it!

If this was useful for you, please like or share the article below!

Happy Eating,

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Workplace Wellbeing

Activity-centered vs results-centered wellness programs

So you’ve done your homework, consulted with employees and leadership, and have decided to implement a corporate wellness program in your institution. Congratulations! You’ve already made the most important first step: to commit to the health and wellbeing of your people power. Way to go!

But wait right there. Think all wellness programs are the same? Think again!

Learn the key differences between an activity-based wellness program and a results-oriented wellness program in order to design a wellness strategy and implementation plan that will be a success at your organization.

Activity-Centered Programs

Many organizations looking to craft a wellness program do so in one of two ways. 1) They have passionate team members on board, so eager to begin a wellness initiative that they immediately begin to organize health-themed activites, resources, or events. OR 2) Pressure from higher ups to implement a wellness program leads to a chaotic and hurried implementation.

In both scenarios, health promotion activities take center stage as the organization strings together a seemingly random assortment of wellness offerings. While this approach might appear to be ambitious and straightforward enough, it fails to consider the bigger picture in terms of what you seek to get out of your employee wellness program, and how it will be sustained in the long run.

Like any business decision or investment, the program should be structured in such a way that will allow you to monitor and measure outcomes, regularly comparing accomplishments to the goals you set out to achieve in the first place.

Poorly designed wellness programs which put the emphasis on activity planning alone will fail to accurately benchmark, analyze, understand and compute the results of the initiatives which they promote. There is no way to tell if your wellness strategy is actually working if you do not set goals ahead of time, plan your wellness offerings accordingly, and develop a clear strategy towards a well-defined outcome.

Not only that, but without a clear mission behind the wellness initiative, organizers will more likely than not eventually lose interest in the program and it very well may fizzle out in a few months or years time. At some point in the future, if the idea for a wellness program is brought up again, the whole process could repeat itself, each time with unsuccessful results and disappointed, or worse, disgruntled employees.

The majority of wellness programs in the United States are organized in this way, as they provide merely a mix of activities aimed at health promotion, but no sustainable strategy to ensure the effectiveness of such initiatives.

Results-Oriented Programs

Results-oriented wellness programs are scientifically proven to be more successful than loosely-organized, activity-based programs; however, they are the minority with only 7% of U.S. companies developing such a comprehensive program. As a result of this, the concept of wellness programs, in general, has fallen victim to attack; with many questioning the effectiveness of wellness initiatives. It’s no wonder they’ve earned a bad rap when poorly planned and executed programs have become the norm.

Result-oriented programs, in contrast to activity-based wellness programs, consider the most important outcomes of a wellness strategy – along with other key factors – before rushing ahead with the implementation of the project.

Welcoa – the Wellness Council of America – features seven core benchmarks of a successful, results-oriented wellness program on there website. They are:

  1. Capture Senior-Level Support
  2. Create Cohesive Teams
  3. Collect Data
  4. Craft an Operating Plan
  5. Choose Appropriate Interventions
  6. Create Supportive Environments
  7. Carefully Evaluate Outcomes

More information about the detailed components of each benchmark can be found in PDF format here.

In a nutshell, results-oriented corporate wellness programs focus on identifying key issues, getting the support of upper management, aligning wellness policies with strategic goals of the organization, assessing the needs of the workforce, and creating an effective plan to monitor, correct, and assess the outcome of the wellness strategy. Instead of hastily offering health solutions, the organization takes its time to understand what is the best comprehensive program that will ultimately help the company – and individual employees – to meet their health and wellness goals in a sustainable, effective, and cost efficient way. You can read more on corporate wellness here.

Wishing you the best of luck in your efforts to create a healthier, happier workforce!

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Sources

https://institute.welcoa.org/preview/

https://www.welcoa.org/services/build/welcoas-seven-benchmarks/

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Workplace Wellbeing

Drivers of the corporate wellness movement

The corporate wellness phenomenon, since its inception mere decades ago, has since skyrocketed in hype, popularity and market value.

Employers are spending more than ever before on investments in human capital. A recent Fidelity and National Business Group on Health (NBGH) survey found that “employers spent an average of $693 per employee on wellness-based incentives in 2015” (Business Wire, 2015).

What are the reasons and motivating factors behind such a seemingly exorbitant spending spree? What factors could possibly persuade multinational corporations, small, and medium-sized businesses alike to make such significant investments in employee health and wellbeing? This article will take a look at the drivers of the workplace wellness trend.

New Ways of Working

The B Team, a not-for-profit conglomerate of leaders dedicated to improving social and environmental wellness through business, published a January 2015 report entitled New Ways of Working.  In it, they describe the key changes taking place in the global working sphere, including new focuses on Purpose-Driven Organizations, Lifelong Growth, and Welcoming Wellbeing, among others. The drivers for these changes include the technological revolution, global changes, and a multigenerational workforce.

Indeed there are many modern efforts being made to combat the often harmful, unintended side effects of the traditional, business as usual model. These side effects, such as stress and burnout have become commonplace characteristics of an increasingly intense and demanding workplace culture. In the era of unpaid internships, unspoken work contracts, and a society which rewards the most ambitious individuals, a steady, predictable working life has been replaced by one which is often characterized by long working hours, the need for constant availability, inescapable technological connectedness, increased competition and job insecurity; leading most people susceptible to making great personal sacrifices for the sake of contributing to the business’s bottom line. The term

The term workaholic was coined in the late 1960’s, to describe a typical person whose intensive working habits appear to others to be a sign of addiction: which dictionary.com defines as, “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma”. Below is a graph from Google Ngrams, which shows the frequency of the use of the English word workaholic between 1950 and 2008.

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Figure 1: Google Ngram search results for ‘workaholic’, 1950 – 2008.

This is contrasted with the data on historical word usage of wellness and corporate wellness below.

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Figure 2: Google Ngram search results for ‘wellness’, 1950 – 2008.

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Figure 3 Google Ngram search results for ‘corporate wellness’, 1950 – 2008.

One might presume that this data confirms the hypothesis that work levels intensified in the 1960s, at the same time women were entering the workplace, with wellness concerns becoming more prevalent at the same time. Corporate wellness, on the other hand, took two decades to catch on and was first made popular twenty years later in the 1980s.

Rising Stress Levels

As one may guess, changing workplace dynamics have led to chronic and widespread stress in the general working population. The American Psychological Association released a 2012 report entitled ‘Stress in America: Our Health at Risk’, which exposed, “high stress levels, reliance on unhealthy behaviors to manage stress and alarming physical health consequences of stress”: a combination which they suggest reveals that America is on the verge of a “stress-induced public health crisis” (Anderson, 2011). The report, which included an overview of individual causes of stress (Figure 4), found that money, work, and the economy were very significant sources of stress for the general population.

Workplace stress is therefore, for the working population, a major contributor to the overall level of stress one experiences. What causes workplace stress? In organizational psychology, stressors in the workplace are defined as “physical or psychological demands to which the individual responds” (Landy, 2009). Common stressors in the workplace include environmental factors such as temperature and noise, workload and time pressure, schedule, role stressors, situational limitations, interpersonal issues, emotional work and in more extreme cases, traumatic job stressors (e.g. violence in the workplace).

Consequences of workplace stress include a great variety of physical, psychological, and behavioral repercussions. Physical or physiological manifestations of stress, which can have medical consequences, often take the form of serious ailments such as heart attack, stroke, digestive problems, back pain, arthritis, headaches, high blood pressure, and hormonal changes. Psychological effects of stress include a sense of burnout, depression, and anxiety, relationship or family conflicts, sleep issues, and general job dissatisfaction. Behaviorally, the effects of stress are visible in a variety of areas, from absence, lateness, poor decision making, and poor job performance, to drug, alcohol, or tobacco abuse, workplace accidents, violence, and ultimately turnover (Landy, 2009).

Modern Disease

Another major factor leading to the modern day corporate wellness trend, besides shifts in the character of our work, is the pervasiveness of diseases and health ailments that are having major impacts on both individuals and organizations. Serious, long-term conditions such as diabetes, which can have disabling and life-threatening health effects, are on the rise: a recent study by the World Health Organization found that the number of adults with diabetes had quadrupled from 1980 to 2014 from 108 to 422 million. Poor diet and lack of exercise were found to be the main factors contributing to this dramatic rise. With each new case of diabetes and similar diseases, health care costs for both employee and employer begin to add up significantly; indeed these numbers are of no small consequence when millions of individuals fall ill to such conditions each year.

Also caused by poor diet and lack of exercise is obesity, which studies have shown to be linked to other serious diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Is has emerged as one of the most pervasive threats to health in modern times, with nationwide epidemics in developed countries such as the United States and Great Britain. One key finding from a Harvard study showed that rising stress levels can trigger overeating, which is likely to contribute to the onset of diseases like those mentions above. Instead of overeating to deal with stress, the Harvard medical doctor Walter C. Willett recommended to readers to try meditation, more exercise and visiting with friends as a healthy alternative.

With such widespread epidemics gripping the western world and catching up on eastern counterparts, researchers, doctors, politicians, business leaders and governments have taken notice of these worrisome health trends and have begun to encourage new policies and initiatives to bring about positive health changes. They hope not only to decrease the high costs associated with ill health but also to enable the population at large to enjoy an increased overall level of wellbeing. This is yet another significant reason as to the emergence and popularity of wellness programs.  

There are no doubt other factors to mention here, including the generational values shift, which suggests that members of the youngest working demographic have different expectations and working behaviors than those before them. 

For further reading, take a look at the benefits of workplace wellness programs.

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Works Cited

Landy, Frank J, Jeffrey M Conte, Frank J. L, and Jeffrey Conte M. y. Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology. 3rd ed. Malden, MA: Wiley, John & Sons, 2009.

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Poems

Waiting at the Bus Stop (Poem)

Standing at a bus stop
I notice the intertwining vehicles and pedestrians
in a crowded city center
Their elegant twist
is a dance of patience, of courtesy
each waiting, inviting the other
to move silently
in my head, the noise stops
and the music begins
each step in rhythm
each partner taking turns of
graciously swinging the other around them
we are the interlocking, interwoven movement of ourselves around each other.
even the trucks that weigh tons
seem to move effortlessly around the city, around busy city folk
like moons spinning circles around planets spinning circles around suns
spinning
turning
churning out time itself
in this static dance
ever singing
ever flowing
we enact the song of life
we, the heartbeat of the world
carry on.

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Workplace Wellbeing

What is organizational citizenship behavior?

Organizational Citizenship Behavior is a term to describe the behavior of an individual that goes beyond the expectations or requirements of their job.

It is a voluntary way of thinking and acting in a company or organization, whereby one does not simply consider what is in their own personal best interests, but what is in the best interest of others. As a result, OCB can yield great benefits for the organization as a whole. Here are some of the fundamental characteristics of Organizational Citizenship:

  • A term used in work and organizational psychology
  • It is the worker’s willingness to ‘go the extra mile’
  • Due to high motivation and commitment, the worker is willing to engage in an extra role or responsibilities
  • OCB is related to higher performance levels and lessens the need for hierarchical control
  • OCB is dependent upon the worker’s personal desire and initiative and is in no way included in the work contract
  • OCB becomes more relevant with higher numbers of people working together
The 5 Types of Organizational Citizenship Behavior

Altruism: the desire to assist others without expecting a reward or compensation.

Example: driving a college to work whose car has broken down, without expecting money or favors in return.

Courtsey: politeness and consideration shown toward others.

Example: asking how a colleague is managing their workload.

Sportsmanship: this consists of keeping a positive or calm attitude when something goes wrong or not as planned, bring open towards organizational changes, and showing awareness to potential upcoming problems. Being a good team player.

Example: your boss tells you to rewrite your report – even though you thought it was well-written and he would accept it. You don’t complain to others about the situation.

Conscientiousness: behavior which showcases a reasonable about of self-control and discipline. Includes doing more than the minimum requirements.

Example: completing your work earlier than required, to save time for your team or supervisor.

Civic Virtue: active participation and self-contained researching; relates to how a person represents the organization they are associated with and supports it outside of their legal obligation.

Example: speaking positively about your company or employer to friends, family, and acquaintances.

CHALLENGE: This week at work or in your school project, use OCB to help contribute to a more successful outcome for the team. Try to do one or more of the following:

  • Ask another group member with a high workload if there is anything you can help them with.
  • Ask a person in your group how they are doing- and listen.
  • Help a fellow group member with a personal matter.
  • In your international group work, identify a person who is quiet or not participating very much and help to make sure they understand the project or ask for their ideas.
  • Say something nice to a fellow group member in front of the whole group.
  • Surprise your team by bringing some sweets or snacks along to your next group meeting.
  • Entertain your group with an (appropriate) joke.
  • Compliment another group member on their work style/work ethic.
  • Appreciate someone in your group when they express a good idea.

Using OCB in your team and workplace can help to build trust, a sense of comradery and community, and help drive your team to reach goals and milestones faster and with more success. How do you display organizational citizenship at work or in your team? Let us know in the comments below!

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Poems

Our Life is Like a Play (Poem)

If you have any experience with meditation,  you might be familiar with the sensation that is about to be described below.

I wrote this poem in the rush of an emotional high – one of the many life offers us in the midst of its unpredictable twists and turns. We never know what is coming next – but if we can remember who we are, and access the peace and infinite wisdom of our innermost selves, then I believe we can overcome even the most difficult of times and experience joy in our everyday lives.

Our life is like a play.
We watch each scene unfold
in the magnificent theater of our hearts,
always on the edge of our seat.
We feel so deeply with the characters
we sympathize and empathize with them until
we forget our place in all this.
We laugh with them,
we cry with them,
with the impassioned actors and actresses.
We remain captivated,
invested in each new piece of the story
as the plot line unfolds before us.
We become wrapped up in the workings of the play,
lost in its comedies and its tragedies.
Our heart breaks with each heartbreak;
stomach swelling with borrowed butterflies.

We experience each and every plot twist and turn of events
as if they were our own.

Then suddenly
the music stops,
the actors freeze in frame,
the curtain reddens the stage
and the lights dim.
Our consciousness is thrust back into reality.
We immediately come to recognize ourselves again as mere bystanders,
as observers watching the drama unfolding.
We are the audience, we calmly remember
and reassure ourselves-
aware for an instant
of the elaborate and dreamlike facade that has been constructed for us.

Intermission.

We step away from the performance,
suddenly able to ponder what we’ve just witnessed
from an objective point of view.
It was never our experience.
Our true reality is so different than the one we have recently known.
We take a refreshment,
we refresh ourselves with this new-found perspective;
we enjoy the comfort of this separateness.

We take a glass of water, a breath of fresh air.

We take this necessary break, so as not to break;
so as not to become lost in the play,
in the same way,
the artists have become trapped in their work,
in the same way,
lovers become imprisoned in each other’s arms.

We take a necessary break
to compose ourselves
and to prepare ourselves
for the next act to come.

Then when the time is right
we take our seat.
A rhythm, a sweet song draws our attention back to the stage,
where the curtain splits to reveal a material but illusory world.
We take our seat in the audience;
merely a witness to every right and wrong,
to every this way and that way,
to every what if and if only,
to every should have and should not.
We quiet our mind and let it in, let each scene unfold as the writer intended it to.

As we return our attention to this work of art
this parade of life and death,
may we never forget
where we sit.

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Would you like to share a wellbeing-inspired poem of your own on Human Resource Wellness? Contact us for details on how to submit your work!

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Workplace Wellbeing

3 key components of a corporate wellness strategy

Corporate wellness programs generally aim to address several key areas of health and wellness, while tailoring the specific offerings of these programs to the needs of their workforce.

At the same time, planning and evaluation steps are taken to ensure that the wellness strategy of the organization meets its top strategic priorities and is otherwise in line with corporate values.

Two examples of this correlation, from actual corporate wellness programs, are outlined below:

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Values & Priorities

Strategic objectives and values of the organization are the crucial foundations upon which any successful corporate wellness program should be built. It is widely understood in the corporate world that clearly defined values and mission statements can significantly impact how successful a company is in achieving its aims and goals. As Simon Sinek explains in his famous TED Talk, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

In an era of conscious capitalism; when consumers are more informed than ever as to the companies they support, consumers are also experiencing a plethora of choice in the open markets. This is precisely why so many corporations have developed core values which align with their key strategic priorities, as well as the core values of their consumers, employees, and stakeholders. One such value-inspired strategy, which is growing in popularity across companies of all sizes, is a commitment to making long-term investments in human capital, which some argue, is a company’s most valuable resource.

It is good practice, and indeed increasingly common practice, to outline a clear ‘people strategy’; a strategy that “outlines the company’s approach to and relationship with its employees” (Williams, 2006). Whole Food Market’s core value to promote team member happiness and excellence is a good example of this, which sets the stage for them to promote health and wellness in a number of creative ways- from all-expense paid wellness immersion trips to healthy eating store discounts. This essential underpinning will serve to ensure the smooth development and implementation of the next stages of a corporate wellness program.

Health & Wellness Promotion Areas

The following chart published by the World Health Organization summarizes the main areas addressed by workplace health promotion programs. Early approaches to workplace wellness focused mainly on the area of Occupational Safety, in order to prevent accidents and other costly, preventable workplace traumas. All other health promotion areas were largely left out of consideration. Consider workers on the Hoover Dam: their daily work was so dangerous, many people died in the process of building the dam (AmtlTV, 2015). With safety such a primary and urgent concern, there was little time to consider personal development, team-building, or promoting healthy lifestyles. Needless to say, we’ve come a long way in the time span of just one century.

workplace1.jpg

The above areas consist of Occupational Safety and Health, Workplace Design and Organization, Healthy Lifestyles, Understanding Cultural Diversity, Non-Occupational Factors, Improved Health Services, Leadership, Communication, and Team Building and Personal Development and Learning. Each of these corresponds with a desired outcome of a wellness program, those of which should be set forth by management in the early stages of wellness planning. Within each of these eight areas, specific wellness offerings are developed to meet the needs of any given workforce. 

Wellness Offerings

Once the strategic objectives and values, as well as desired outcomes of the program and the corresponding health promotion areas are identified, specific wellness offerings can be developed and integrated into the operations of the company. These come in many forms and are therefore categorized under many different names, including wellness services, benefits, and perks to name a few. Ultimately each wellness benefit is categorized according to the wider wellness area which it serves (see Health and Wellness Promotion Areas, above).

Most companies pick and choose from the wide array of possible wellness benefits to select the offers which are most likely to be popular among and benefit employees. Take a company like Lululemon- the fast-growing fitness-wear name attracts both employees and customers with an interest in staying fit while simultaneously looking great. As a result, one of the corporate wellness offerings of Lululemon to their employees is free fitness classes held in store. On a regular basis, customers and employees are encouraged to come together, to enjoy a communal yoga class: to socialize and exercise, all while strengthening the firm’s brand image as a health-conscious employer. Team members are encouraged to live the healthy lifestyle that the brand advertises to consumers in the marketing efforts. This type of initiative has a double return; employees are fitter, happier, and more productive, and at the same time help to boost sales and customer loyalty as they serve as ideal brand ambassadors.

Firms considering implementing a wellness program or strategy are not limited to mere fitness classes, but rather should note that the possibilities for potential wellness offerings are limited only by one’s imagination. The following list should serve to provide a sampling of some of the health and wellness promotion offers available to business leaders today for their consideration.

Occupational Safety and Health

Health & Safety Workshops

Chiropractic Services

Acupuncture

Rehabilitation

Osteopathy

Physiotherapy

Reflexology

Aromatherapy

Physiotherapy

Massage

Workplace Design and Organization

Avoidance of Hazards

Ergonomic Workplace Design

Safe Technology

Optimization of Working Conditions

Healthy Lifestyles

Exercise classes provided on work premises

Support to quit smoking

Health challenges

Fitness trackers & wearable tech

Health Promotions & Campaigns

Fitness Assessments

Free Bicycles/ Cycle to Work Scheme

Sports Training

Fitness-themed social events

Nutrition & diet support

Healthy menu in employee canteen

Health snacks in vending machines

In-house gym or subsidized gym membership

Understanding Cultural Diversity

Promotion of Cultural Awareness

Communication of customs/norms/laws

Making Flexible Practices the norm

Non-Occupational Factors

Community Outreach

Family Welfare Support

Access to counseling

Commuting Assistance

Improved Health Services

Online health services

Health fairs & events

On-site medical facilities

Wellbeing days (Paid time off)

Personal Wellness Savings Account

Vaccinations/Immunizations

Health Hotline

Alternative Medical Treatments

Prescription Subsidies

Stress management support

Mental Health Care

Weight Loss Support

Pharmacy Services

Primary/Urgent Care

Stress risk assessment

Regular health screenings

Private health insurance

Personalized healthy living programs

Employee assistance programs

Leadership, Communication, Team Building

Team Member Appreciation

Team building opportunities

Networking events

Flattened hierarchy

Bottom-up idea generation and communication

Personal Development and Learning

Career Coaching

Personal development classes

Continued Professional Development

Cross-training

Mentorship programs

Performance Reviews and Constructive Feedback

It is important to bear in mind that this list is by no means comprehensive and additional offerings or initiatives, which support employee wellbeing and excellence, should be brainstormed and considered by the employer when designing a wellness program.

These initiatives can be carried out in-house, though many companies outsource specific wellness services or in some cases, the entire area of employee health and wellness benefits.

I hope that was helpful for you! What kind of health promotion programs does your organization offer?

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Works Cited

“About Our Benefits.” Accessed November 19, 2016. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/careers/about-our-benefits.

AmtlTV. “Hoover Dam Megastructures Documentary National Geographic Documentary.” YouTube. February 24, 2014. Posted November 20, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnPi3FdNBYc.

WHO. “Workplace Health Promotion.” December 8, 2010. Accessed June 25, 2016. http://www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/workplace/en/.

Williams, Chris. “Key Components of a Good People Strategy.” 2006. Accessed November 20, 2016. http://clwill.com/wp-content/uploads/Key%20Components%20of%20a%20Good%20People%20Strategy.pdf.

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Workplace Wellbeing

A brief history of wellness

The corporate wellness market is a part of the larger global wellness market, which was valued at $3.4 trillion in 2014; making it even more massive than the giant that is the worldwide pharmaceutical industry at $1 trillion.

This reality however, has been thousands of years in the making: read on below for a brief account of the history of wellness.

Wellness, in its many forms, is a concept that has its roots in antiquity; its development and commercialization in the last century have set the stage for the corporate wellness scene to emerge into mainstream popularity.

It dates back to the practice of Ayurvedic medicine in India in 3000 B.C., which was the first system of its kind to encompass the three aspects of mind, body, and spirit in human beings. Ayurveda also recognized the need for individualized health regimens rather than a simple one-size-fits-all prescription for physical and mental health.

Aspects of this ancient health system are becoming popularized on a global level today, with millions of people and companies embracing the Ayurvedic practices of yoga and meditation. Last year in the U.S., the meditation market alone brought in revenues of nearly $1 billion.

There are several other ancient wellness traditions that played a role in the formation of modern wellness practices.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which aims to achieve health and wellbeing, as well as harmony within the individual, was developed around the same time as Ayurveda. Modern practices that originate in TCM include acupuncture, herbal medicine, tai chi and qi gong.

Later, Greek physician Hippocrates contributed the important insight that disease cannot only be treated, but likewise prevented, and this is mainly achieved through diet and lifestyle. The ancient Roman health and medical system, which was highly developed for its time (50 BC), continued with this understanding.

In the last millennium, wellness was further developed in different ways around the world. The seventeen and eighteen hundreds birthed therapies such as homeopathy, hydrotherapy, and chiropractic. Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, a number of publications on the topic of wellness established the concept that would then serve as the basis for many workplace wellness initiatives that are so prevalent today.

One of the first corporate wellness initiatives began in the 1980s, when U.S. surgeon general C. Everett Koop published a report linking tobacco use to addictive and dangerous health effects. His call to action involved “creating a smoke free society in the United States by the year 2000” (Vesely, 2012). With this, Boeing company’s then president, Malcolm Stamper, declared a company-wide workplace wellness initiative that would abolish smoking from all Boeing facilities by the year 1994.

The benefits of early programs, including some initiatives started by health conscious CEOs as early as the 60’s and 70’s, only began to be realized in the 90’s and beyond. Rising healthcare costs along with the availability of new data, health and financial measurement techniques, quickly led to a surge of companies eager to implement serious health promotion programs that would supposedly benefit the company in the long-term. Wellness practices old and new, from cultural traditions around the world, had finally begun to amalgamate for the betterment of society and in the process, attract a following of health-conscious individuals committed to ushering in the new era of improved human wellbeing.

For more information, read about the Seven Dimensions of Wellness here!

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Works Cited

“History of Wellness.” 2016. Accessed August 10, 2016. http://www.globalwellnessinstitute.org/history-of-wellness/.

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Career, Community Stories

What your bank account balance says about you

For some, the connection between financial wealth and a rich spiritual life is anything but obvious. Cultural beliefs seem to tell us that the two states are mutually exclusive, or at the very least incompatible with each other.

We often accept lower salaried jobs in order to ‘do good’ and live out our passion. We volunteer to support our favorite causes. Some go to the extreme – and attempt to live without money or many of the other common resources the rest of us depend on – in order to live a more spiritually awakened life and embrace an environmentally-friendly lifestyle. In the hippie community, we idolize those people who have gone to such extreme measures to work towards creating a new society: one founded upon higher ideals rather than a competitive economic system.

However, if you’re not living the eco-friendly, commune lifestyle, but instead belong to a capitalist society of the 21st century, you likely know the shame and guilt that results from a sub-par cash flow. When the amount of money you earn, or the balance of your bank account, is insufficient – leaving you to struggle to cover your most basic expenses or other components of your desired lifestyle – it can be difficult not to internalize your external financial situation. Having lost one’s fortune, or struggling to ever make one in the first place, can be a demoralizing, painful experience in a hyper-competitive, dollar-worshipping world.

What is money anyway? It is easy to understand currency as a way to assign a numerical value to things that we deem, well, valuable. We place a higher value on, for example, a brand new $50,000 car, than we do on a used vehicle priced at only $1,000. We live in a world which encourages us to buy and spend money on every corner. Advertisements and shops surround us in our daily life; they are unavoidable. We have been trained to constantly assess the worth of this item over that, this brand over the other, etc. The most powerful people in the pyramid of society are those that can afford whatever products, services, or life experiences they want and the masses aspire – and work tirelessly – to gain this fundamental financial freedom.

One of the most natural human tendencies, it would seem, is to compare. We compare apples at the supermarket in order to find the most delicious fruit. We compare all of our options, which are seemingly infinite in the free market societies that reign. Worst of all, in large part thanks to our egos, we commit the most fatal error: we compare ourselves to those around us.

Through such thinking patterns, which I would argue are unconscious, and can be corrected through spiritual practices such as meditation – we give ourselves permission to see ourselves as better than others, in some cases. This ego boost can come in various outfits – maybe it’s having the healthiest groceries at the supermarket checkout (I am certainly guilty of feeling smug in this scenario). For others, it might be being able to buy a shiny, brand new status symbol – a car, new pair of Nikes, or expensive watch. These things make us feel better about ourselves and boost our confidence.

When we compare ourselves to others, however, more often than not, we end up assessing our successes (or lack of) side by side to those around us who we deem to be more successful. This leads to feelings of unworthiness, loss of self-esteem, etc. – I don’t have to go into much detail here, I think you get my drift. We’ve all experienced the twinge of pain that comes when we realize we are earning less money than our friends or neighbors; when that certain coworker always seems to be a few steps ahead, or when we cannot afford the goods and luxuries that seem to come so easily to others.

As a 20-something trying to establish a career and start a new life in a foreign country, I can attest to these feelings of unworthiness. As a recent graduate, I recognize, of course, my privilege, but also feel the immense burden of what this privilege demands of me. At this point in my life, having been given so many opportunities, with so many resources at my disposal, it is time to make it big or go home sorry (and the second option is NOT an option).

From the United States to Germany, and now to Austria, I have observed an increase in the quality of life and standard of living in each country respectively. Life is good in America; but it’s even better in Germany (especially in Bavaria, the richest state in the country); and Austrians seem to be even better off. I am incredibly grateful to have the chance to make it here – to begin a new life in Austria, one of the world’s safest countries and certainly most socially responsible economies. Here, everyone enjoys a minimum of 25 days of paid leave per year, generous maternity and paternity benefits, a state-mandated summer and winter bonus for all employed workers, a virtually crimeless society, a huge network of social resources, access to affordable, high-quality education, comprehensive health insurance, etc. etc.

I could go on and on!

Because the citizens here enjoy such a high quality of life, many can afford things that I, in my student years, or simply as an American with a modest background, haven’t managed to afford just yet. Vacations to exotic locations every year for example – wouldn’t that be nice! These are the kind of luxuries, many Austrians take for granted.

The months between finishing university and beginning my first ‘real job’ have been, in many ways, the toughest times in my life. They have also been the most incredible times of my life. Thanks to the support I’ve received from family and loved ones, I’ve been able to travel, to experience life in Austria with my boyfriend, to go for ice cream and dinner and even the Opera once in a while. I have truly never lived such a good life.

And at the same time, I have truly never been so broke!

The transition from living in Germany to living in Austria has meant difficulties in gaining access to the labor market. What I had hoped would be a seamless transition from intern to employee became a 4-month-long nightmare of (gasp!) NOT working and endlessly hunting for jobs that would enable me to receive an Austrian visa. As a person who has been working ever since the age of 15, this period of unemployment shook my world and seriously wounded my self-esteem.

Living with so little money to your name, in a society where everyone seems to have their s*** together, can feel belittling and humiliating. I remember one time when I was completing my internship, I came home after a long and exhausting week of working in Vienna. I wanted nothing more than to go home and straight to bed, to forget the stress of the work week. I quickly left the train station, getting on the usual subway that would take me home, without realizing that my monthly subway pass had expired and it was time to buy a new one. When the woman on the train asked for my ticket, she issued me a 60 euro “Schwarzfahrer” ticket – a fee for riding the subway illegally. It was only a 5-minute ride. Upon receiving the ticket, I promptly broke down and started openly crying in the crowded public train – dismayed and devastated at the fact that I was working 50 hour weeks – yet still didn’t even have enough money to pay for this ticket – which was an innocent mistake. It could have happened to anyone, I reasoned, and most of the Austrians on this train would have no problem paying a 60€ train fee.

The gloom I experienced then stemmed from a fear-based belief that despite my hard work and achievements, I didn’t belong here. Maybe I would never be good enough to fit into the high-class, sophisticated Austrian society. If I do not have the money that one needs to survive and thrive here – to live like a normal person here – maybe I am not worthy of being here at all.

Thoughts like these drove me to equate my personal, intrinsic worthiness with the amount of money I had to my name. Which, if you think about it, is downright crazy in and of itself. We all go through periods of time when we have less money than other times. However, who we are, our intrinsic value as a person, is not affected by these temporary hard times. Who we are is not changed by our financial standing!

So what then, does your bank account balance say about you?

When you have no money to your name or find yourself in debt, it’s easy to take this apparent lack of value and apply it to yourself. STOP! Don’t do it. Remember that you are intrinsically worthy. You were put into this world for a reason. You have something special to give, something of value to contribute to society – the question is not a matter of your worthiness. I believe we were all born with intrinsic worth and value. We all have immense potential to defy expectations and make our wildest dreams come true.

The real question then, is what value are you contributing to society? Are you actively helping others, sharing your wisdom, skills, competencies and knowledge with the world in a proactive and helpful way? Are you giving the special strengths that only you have to give? Are you adding value to the world?

When our income does not match up with the income we desire, we do not need to change ourselves – we need to change how we add value.

The money you receive is not a reflection of your value – but rather how much value you are contributing to society.

I cannot take credit for this idea, which saved me at a time when I let my self-confidence and sense of self-worth sink through the floor. Looking for my first ‘real job’ was a process that took more than a year, and after sending out 60+ applications and receiving rejection after rejection, I felt that I had hit rock bottom. When I found what I thought at the time to be the perfect position for me – and interviewed twice with the company only to be told there were other more experienced candidates out there – I wanted to curl up into the fetal position and never try again.

But I got up, and tried again, and eventually landed an amazing position at a company that I am thrilled to be able to work for. I realized that the job that I had thought was right for me, wasn’t right at all, and in fact, there were better ways that I would be able to add value in the world and make my contribution.

The video below is Kate Northrup’s 2012 talk in the Wanderlust Speakeasy Lecture Series. Entitled, “It’s Spiritual to be Rich”, Northrup shares her inspiring story of going from financial havoc to financial health and wealth, and gives practical advice and important wisdom on how spirituality relates to your financial wellbeing. She taught me the lesson, that my income is a reflection of the value that I am adding to society and NOT a reflection of my inherent worth. Since adopting this new perspective I will never turn back – feelings of low self-worth are not worth investing my energy into. Instead, I’ll invest my time and energy into contributing my skills to create something of value in the world.

People like Jim Carrey, Oprah, and Tony Robbins have attributed their financial wealth and success to their spiritual perspectives, and I can’t help but see the direct connection myself between my mental and spiritual outlook on life and my successes. For example, after meditating on unlocking my potential one day, I received two interview invitations the next day! Coincidence or some kind of spiritual law of cause and effect? You decide.

Watch Kate Northrup’s talk below if you could use a pick me up or some compassionate advice about how to improve your confidence – and financial situation.

Wishing you all the best for your journey,

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Art, Travel & Culture, Relationships & Communication

Introduction to cross-cultural communication

From just a small amount of personal research, one can learn invaluable lessons and reminders from the work that has been done in the cultural sciences, which will serve you on your journey to international destinations. Not only that, but they can help you navigate the tricky waters of cultural clashes in your own backyard!

This TEDxBergen Talk by Pellegrino Riccardi, at 20 minutes long, provides a great introduction to Cross-Cultural Communication for those who have never academically encountered the subject before.

Think something as simple as parking is the same all around the world? Not so. Check out lines at the supermarket? Even more complicated.

Riccardi, who is both British and Italian, compares the vast differences between those cultures and that of his current home in Norway. He is truly a global citizen, who has had to encounter, understand, and adapt to new customs, unspoken norms, and all the other complex intricacies encompassing diverse traditions and identities in his work as an international cross-cultural expert.
An expressive Italian, Riccardi learned to ‘tone it down a notch’, or be a bit calmer when communicating with partners and friends in his new home of Norway. Why? It simply works out better for everyone.
Anyone who has been to a new country is familiar with the common culture shock that ensues. His advice? Stay curious about other cultures. As you travel, and no doubt become influenced by customs, behaviors, beliefs and practices outside the realm of your own culture, combine the best of them.
Enjoy the TED Talk and let me know what you think in the comments below! What has your experience been with cross-cultural communication?
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Stress Management

5 reasons to go get some sunshine

You look out the window after a long winter, see the sun shining, and receive a silent kick from your intuition to get off the couch or away from the desk and rejoin society in the sunlight. But then – you may know the feeling – you’re too comfortable; too busy; too lazy to stand up and make it happen.

It’s that time of year when we get that inexplicable urge to run outside and frolic in the overdue warmth of the new season; brought on by rising temperatures, parting clouds, and blooming buds. Winter clouds and summer skies are battling it out and the resulting weather can either inspire us to rendezvous with friends over a spontaneous picnic or send us back to bed with a cup of tea and book in hand.

That urge for sunshine is there for a reason – humans have an innate attraction – in fact, a downright dependency – on that burning hunk of cosmic fire. We depend on the sun for our survival – and it’s rays play a major role in the healthy functioning of our human bodies.

Studies have shown that moderate sunlight actually has multiple health benefits; take a look at the advantages below of getting more sun in your life:

Prevent Disease with Vitamin D

When our bodies are exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet wavelengths, the chemical and metabolic process of vitamin D creation is activated. Instead of getting this essential vitamin through food sources alone, our bodies are actually able to create it via a photosynthetic mechanism in the skin. How cool!

Many people suffer from low vitamin D levels, which have been linked to poor bone health, prostate cancer, and multiple sclerosis according to one Harvard publication. Meaning there is good evidence to suggest that filling up on vitamin D may help to prevent you from serious illnesses in the future.

Improved Mood

Moderate sunlight exposure reduces the effects of SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. We suffer from SAD when we experience low levels of serotonin and depression can result. High levels of serotonin, brought on by moderate exposure to sunlight, help to create positive moods and a more relaxed mental outlook. By getting outside in the sun for a mere 10-15 minutes without sunglasses on, one may be able to realize health benefits and enjoy more energy too.

Fight Insomnia & Relieve Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

If you have trouble sleeping or suffer from PMS, it turns out sunlight might be just what the doctor ordered. Our daily light intake is directly associated with our circadian rhythm, including the production of melatonin during dark hours and serotonin during light exposure. When we encounter bright light early in the morning, our melatonin production phase is initiated earlier in the day and can, therefore, induce sleep earlier in the night. Advancing the melatonin rhythm phase was also shown to have positive effects in countering the PMS symptoms from which many women suffer.

More Physical Activity

When you go outside to get catch some rays, you often end up getting physical exercise as result. Whether it’s a walk, swim, bike ride, hike, or run, you are sure to be more active outdoors than you are sitting in your home or office.

Protect Against Sun Damage

Although too much exposure to the sun can be dangerous, and cause sunburn or sun poisoning, avoiding the sun altogether can be harmful too. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that regular moderate sun exposure can actually protect your skin from cases of extreme sun damage. However, it is still recommended for people with fair skin to use a sunscreen of at least 15 SPF when you do go outside for extended periods of time.

So what are you waiting for? Get out of that dark cave and soak up some sun! Your body and mind will thank you.

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Works Cited:

Mead, M. Nathaniel. “Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health.” Environmental Health Perspectives. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Apr. 2008. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Publications, Harvard Health. “Benefits of Moderate Sun Exposure.” Harvard Health Publications. Harvard University, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

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Plant Strong

Is organic really better?

I hadn’t yet discovered my passion for healthy, natural food when I began to work at Whole Foods Market. But what started as an after-school job quickly turned into an obsession. The quality of produce and products (not to mention service) at ‘America’s Healthiest Supermarket’ was unparalleled to what I’d experienced before in conventional stores. With the wealth of knowledge that was my team and customers, plus an in-store library and massive selection of delicious and health-friendly groceries, I dove into my newfound love of extraordinary nutrition.

I began to realize that there was more to this healthy eating thing than one might initially think. My mother was battling bone cancer at the time, and I began to research ways in which a plant-based diet may be able to help her overcome the disease.

What I found through my research was, quite frankly, shocking. The cure for major diseases and society-wide illnesses has been in our food all along. But not just any food, of course – to experience the benefits of a healthy diet, you have to be eating the right foods.

The first lesson I learned is that plants are powerful, and animal products, when consumed, are mostly harmful. Take for example the simple fact that plants are full of fiber: an essential dietary requirement. On the other hand, animal products contain cholesterol (and not the good kind). For more information on this, check out The China Study.

Secondly, it’s important that the nutritional integrity of the plants you are eating has not been compromised. Take a look at the benefits of eating organic produce below:

How Does Organic Food Compare to Conventional?

  • Fresher: without preservatives, there is a shorter delivery time from farm to table. This means a higher content of live enzymes and more benefits for your body!
  • Better for the Environment: Organic farming is good for the environment, while conventional farming can be very harmful to it. Improvements in pollution, water conservation, soil erosion, soil fertility and energy efficiency can all be realized with organic farming practices.
  • NO Harsh Chemicals: you will be exposed to fewer pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and insecticides when you eat organic foods, as these are not used in their cultivation.
  • GMO-Free: consuming genetically engineered plant (and animal products) has yet to be proven safe for our health. Until is it, stick to organic products, which are naturally GMO-free!
  • More Nutritious: in some cases, certain nutrients such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids were found to be more abundant in organic food products. Now you know!
  • Free from Antibiotics, Growth Hormones, and Animal Byproducts: need I say more?

What’s your opinion on buying organic? Too expensive? Overrated? Or absolutely necessary?

One factor I like to keep in mind when buying organic produce is that every time I do this, I am increasing the demand for all-natural, simple, pure, nutritious food! And if we all begin to do that, eventually the prices of organic produce will drop; reversing the strange phenomenon we are experiencing right now (where Twinkies are cheaper than organic carrots). That is, I’d say, a cause worth fighting for. Or should I say worth eating for?

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Sources:

“Organic Foods: What You Need to Know.” Organic Foods: What You Need to Know: The Benefits and Basics of Organic Food and How to Keep It Affordable. Harvard Health Publications, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.
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Stress Management

How to fight chronic stress

Originally featured as a guest post on iamYiam‘s health blog.

Stress is a natural feature of life – a programmed biological and psychological response elicited when we are confronted with threatening stimuli. This innate reaction is life-saving in some scenarios; but what are the consequences when a whole society is living, habitually, in fight-or-flight mode?

The American Psychological Association released a 2012 report entitled ‘Stress in America: Our Health at Risk’, which exposed, “high stress levels, reliance on unhealthy behaviors to manage stress and alarming physical health consequences of stress” a combination which they suggest reveals that America is on the verge of a “stress-induced public health crisis” (Anderson, 2011).

Money, work and the economy were cited as very significant sources of stress for the general population.

The adverse effects of stress on US industry are becoming clearer each day: an estimated $300 billion are lost annually by US employers due to stress-related absences. These costs take the form of employee accidents, absenteeism, turnover, reduced productivity, medical, insurance, and legal costs, and workers’ compensation.

Common stressors in the workplace include environmental factors such as temperature and noise, workload and time pressure, schedule, role stressors, situational limitations, interpersonal issues, emotional work and in more extreme cases, traumatic incidents.

Regularly experiencing a combination of any of these factors, in addition to personal stressors, can lead to chronic stress, the repercussions of which are devastating to an individual’s health and wellbeing.

Physical or physiological manifestations of stress, which can have medical consequences, often take the form of serious ailments such as heart attack, stroke, digestive problems, back pain, arthritis, headaches, high blood pressure, and hormonal changes.

Psychological effects of stress include a sense of burnout, depression, and anxiety, relationship or family conflicts, sleep issues, and general job dissatisfaction.

Behavioral byproducts of stress are visible in a variety of areas, from absences, lateness, poor decision making and job performance, to drug, alcohol, or tobacco abuse, workplace accidents, violence, and turnover (Landy,2009).

Luckily there is new research to suggest that the fight against chronic stress is a hopeful one. Proven technique to counter chronic stress, as prescribed by Harvard Medical School, include:

●  Meditation

●  Massage

●  Regular Exercise

●  Social Support

●  Healthy Diet

●  Getting Enough Sleep

●  Eliciting the Relaxation Response

●  Mindful Breathing

●  Yoga or Tai Chi

●  Visualization

How do you take charge of your wellbeing and fight chronic stress?

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Work Cited:

Anderson, NormanB, Executive Vice, Suzanne Bennett Johnson,

 Cynthia D Belar, Steven J Breckler, Katherine C Nordal, David Ballard,et al. Our Health at Risk. n.p., 2011.https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/final-2011.pdf. 

Landy, Frank J,Jeffrey M Conte, Frank J. L, and Jeffrey Conte M. y. Work in the 21st Century:An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology. 3rd ed. Malden,MA: Wiley, John & Sons, 2009.

Publications, Harvard Health. “Stress.” Harvard Health Publications. HarvardMedical School, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

“WorkplaceStress.” The American Institute of Stress. N.p., 04 Jan. 2017. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

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Community Stories

Is business evil?

Several years ago, before completing a bachelor’s degree in International Management and thereby entering the ‘Business World’, I was a high school graduate, philosophy student, and anti-capitalist.

I wrote my high school thesis on an alternative economic system to capitalism: the moral society (call it naive or ahead of it’s time – whatever you want).

I was lucky enough to grow up in a great school district and receive an outstanding education. During my ripe teenage years, my mind was blown open by classes like World Literature, Philosophy and Media studies. I learned about the suffering of the rest of the world; had great thinkers challenge my beliefs; learned of the economic and political systems that existed outside of capitalism and democracy; and discovered that Americans were, despite all our hard work, mostly unhappy at the end of the day. In all of this, there was one easy culprit to blame: business.

Teen Angst turns against Business

I took out my teenage angst on capitalism and business in the same way Occupy Wall Street protesters took out their frustration on Wall Street bankers. I fought the system through “Buy Nothing Day”, a day of nonshopping promoted by the anti-capitalist organization Adbusters. Culture Jam shed light on a society around me that I just couldn’t accept, and I began to equate business with evil itself.

Maybe you can relate. Big businesses are doing things every day to undermine the world upon which we depend for our survival and the quality of life we seek to maintain.

From pipelines to fracking to factory farms, there are plenty of reasons to be angry at big business.

As a 19-year-old coming to terms with the world in which I was living, rejecting business made sense to me. I bought all my clothes at thrift stores, drove a used car and silently judged the soulless creatures at my university who had chosen to major in business (cringe).

Philosophy Undergrad turned Business Major

But after a few years of (nobly) studying philosophy, protesting Wall Street while simultaneously working for an American corporation (ironically), something changed. I was given the opportunity to move abroad – to study business.

I decided to study International Management in Germany because it would give me a chance to gain international experience and a new perspective. It would bring me closer to my sister, teach me practical skills, and help me to better understand that which I so stubbornly criticized.

At one point in my study program, during a Principles of Management class, it occurred to me; business itself is not evil.

Understanding Business for what it Truly is.

Business is a social tool, as old as civilization itself, a system used no doubt even by animals; a method of trading to produce a mutual benefit. What could be more good, in and of itself?

You give me something I need, in exchange for something you need. Business my friends – is not the problem.

So what is? Through my years of study and contemplation, I’ve come up with several possibilities. Could it be the legal structure, including personhood of a corporation, that has caused all the problems? Could it be simply the flawed nature of man? Or a widespread, fear-based mentality that is plaguing our families and institutions?

Whatever it may be, let’s remember: business is simply a tool.

It can and WILL BE WHATEVER WE CHOOSE TO MAKE IT. We are all responsible for the outcomes and effects of business.  And today it’s never been easier to have an impact. You could start a social business, remake your current business to be more eco-friendly, or simply use your buying power as a consumer to support socially and ecologically sustainable products and companies.

If you are outraged at the destruction of the Indonesian rainforest for example, are you still buying products with palm oil?

What do you think – is business itself evil?

If not, what forces are to blame and ultimately, what is our responsibility in all this?

Comment your ideas below and share your thoughts & experiences!

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Plant Strong

The Fantastic Grapefruit

Whenever I am feeling low on energy, I reach for two grapefruits.

What might be considered an odd meal, I find to be a refreshing and simple food for thought: The low calorie, nutrient dense, alkalizing citrus, which is technically a cross between an orange and pomelo, always give me the (pink, juicy) burst of energy I need to kickstart my creative flow and get my head back into a productive space.

Le pamplemousse fantastique, (the fantastic grapefruit) not only has a fabulous French name, but is also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that will pick you up when you’re feeling down. A fresh grapefruit is best enjoyed when it’s in season from winter through spring, and contains the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin C – supports the immune system to prevent sickness, fights cholesterol for improved heart health, and may also reduce the risk of stroke and cancer.
  • Copper – aids in the making of collagen, an important protein in the body, balances cholesterol, and supports energy production.
  • Vitamin A – supports vision, immune and inflammatory systems, cell development, reproductive health, and cell communication.
  • Lycopene – found in red and pink grapefruit, it fights free radicals to prevent tumors and can protect against prostate cancer.
  • Limonoids – a member of the phytonutrient family, limonoids promote enzyme growth, leading to detoxification and tumor prevention.
  • Pantothenic Acid – metabolizes fat and aids energy production.
  • Fiber – pectin, a soluble fiber in grapefruit, slows down the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
  • Potassium – maintains normal blood pressure and keeps kidneys healthy by reducing the risk of stones.
  • Biotin – a B-complex vitamin that balances blood sugar and supports skin health.
  • Vitamin B1 – aids the metabolism of dietary fats & carbohydrates to energy and supports the nervous system.

These nutrients are abundant in nature, and are naturally occurring in whole foods, including fruits and vegetables.

Processed foods on the other hand, like chips, sweets, crackers or candy, might be convenient to reach for when we need a quick pick-me-up, but we too often forget that these foods lack most of the live enzymes, vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to maintain their natural balance, prevent disease, and thrive.

Try this experiment at home! How do you feel before and after eating two fresh grapefruits? Let us know below!

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Sources:

“Grapefruit.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. WHFoods.org, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

 

 

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Workplace Wellbeing

The Benefits of Workplace Wellbeing

Originally featured as a guest post on iamYiam‘s health blog.

Work – it can be a passion or a pain in the neck – literally – but more and more companies are catching on to the workplace wellness trend, also known as workplace wellbeing, and are realizing reproducible health benefits for employees that come with lucrative financial savings.

Workplace wellbeing is understood to be any activity or policy designed to promote health among employees of an organization. It can consist of a wide range of activities or offers, such as complimentary health screenings, massage, sports classes or an ergonomic workplace design. Beyond these types of measures and incentives, the notion of workplace wellness has developed to encompass a culture of health and wellbeing within the organization.

Early adopters of the corporate wellness model began experimenting with workplace wellbeing initiatives as far back as the 1960’s – but for decades, the benefits of such early programs were not easily measured or understood. In the data-rich world of the 21st century, however, this is no longer the case.

One such pioneer in the field of workplace wellbeing is Johnson & Johnson, whose leaders estimate that it’s wellness initiatives have saved the company $250 million in health care costs in the last decade alone; with a return of $2.71 for every dollar invested in the program.

Another study suggests that for every dollar invested in workplace wellness initiatives, a savings of $3.27 on medical costs and an additional $2.73 in savings on absenteeism costs can be realized.

The World Health Organization, a proponent of workplace health promotion, describes a wide array of benefits to the employer. Beyond cost savings, increased productivity, reduced turnover, improved staff morale and a better brand image can also be realized. On average, staff productivity has been shown to increase by 13% among businesses that introduce wellbeing strategies.

Employees who take part in workplace wellbeing programs can enjoy improved health, wellbeing, self-esteem, morale and job satisfaction, as well as a safe and healthy working environment. Moreover, they will be less prone to the hazardous effects of stress which can pose serious health threats.

Large corporations, as well as small and medium-sized businesses, plus public and nonprofit institutions, can benefit equally from a custom wellness program that is developed according to the organization’s strategic priorities, values, resources and most importantly, needs of the workforce.

From fresh fruit to dance and yoga lessons; wearables and personalized health programs: workplace wellbeing offers something for everyone.

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Work Cited:

The Future Laboratories: Workforce Futures. UBS. (2016)
Baicker, Katherine, David Cutler, and Zirui Song. “Workplace wellness programs can generate savings”. Health Affairs 29(2)(2010): 304-311.

Berry, Leonard L., Ann M. Mirabito, and William B. Baun. “What’s The Hard Return On Employee Wellness Programs?”. Harvard Business Review (2010)

Vesely, Rebecca. “Shaping up: Workplace Wellness in the ’80s and Today -Workforce Magazine.” NULL. (2012)

“WHO | Workplace Health Promotion”. Who.int. N.p., 2017. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.

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Plant Strong

10 resources for starting a plant-based diet

Spring: It’s a good time of year to pick up where you left off with your old fitness routine; give the house a refreshing makeover; or end old habits and relationships in order to welcome new and healthy ones for the coming year.

For many of us, it’s a great opportunity to try something we’ve always wanted to do. If you have never experimented with a plant-based or vegan diet, it is never too late! Switching to a plant-based diet can offer incredible health benefits not to mention help with weight loss; it can save the planet and relieve our guilty feelings towards the plight of animals. But don’t take my word for it: check out these trusted resources below for information and inspiration along your plant-powered journey!

  1. Eating Animals (Book) -This was the book the pushed me over the edge. It transformed me from an apathetic wannabe vegetarian to an almost vegan: one that was unwilling to compromise on my values. The book is a unique and easy-to-read blend of storytelling and hard-fact. Rather than persuading me through guilt or shock (think PETA), it convinced me to go veg based on reasoning and empathy.
  2. Oh She Glows (Food Blog) – This blog is simply a good one. It’s chocked full of recipes I would have eaten as a non-vegetarian, except all of Angela’s meals are plant-based. Simple and delicious every time – which I’ll admit cannot be said about some other food blogs recipes.
  3. The Engine 2 Diet (Book) – This extraordinary book comes from an extraordinary man, namely the Fireman/Triathlete/Health & Food Activist Rip Esselstyn. Born to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Rip has long been familiar with the benefits of a plant-based diet. He transformed his team of firefighters to fight life-threatening diseases by radically changing their diets and in the process, saved some of their lives.
  4. This Rawsome Vegan Life (Food Blog) – The place to go for all raw vegan deserts… period. Emily is famous for her artistic cakes and fabulously healthy sweet temptations. Follow her on Instagram and soon you’ll forget all about your non-vegan cravings.
  5. Fully Raw Kristina (YouTube Channel) – Kristina’s story is one of overcoming health challenges through a raw food diet. Check out her colorful videos and Instagram channel for instant inspiration and endless energy.
  6. Forks Over Knives (Documentary) – This one speaks for itself, so give it a watch!
  7. The China Study (Book/Scientific Study) – The largest scientific study ever conducted linking diet to disease.
  8. VegNews (Magazine/Website) – This resource is a one-stop shop for everything related to being and going veg. Get the latest news on vegan trends, restaurants, events, and more. It even features jobs listings!
  9. Whole Foods Market (Healthy Supermarket) – Whole Foods has stores in the USA, Canada and U.K. and if there is one in your area, check it out! The health and gourmet food retailer does not sell products with a list of chemicals and additives that would traditionally be on the shelves in a US supermarket. For that reason and many more – you can trust them.
  10. Happy Cow  (Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurant Guide) – If you travel -ever- you’ll need Happy Cow. The established website helps you locate the best vegan, vegetarian, or simply veg-friendly restaurant cities around the globe. Add your own review to help improve this amazing database of cool places.
  11. Bonus! Check out the life-changing documentaries Food Inc. and Cowspiracy to educate yourself on the modern day food industry and learn why eating less animal products makes sense from an environmental and ethical perspective.

Did I forget anything? Let us know your favorite plant-based resources below!

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