Wellness programs are being marketed all over the world as a panacea to preventative medicine leading to good health and longer lives. Wellness is not for people who are already ill, but for those whose intention is to stay well. In this paper we will explore the concept of wellness from a mental health perspective in which wellness and psychology can combine to offer a balanced psychological approach to well-being and long term stability.
What is wellness per sae? It is the absence of sickness and a feeling of well-being. It is not for people who already showing symptomology for illness, they are candidates for treatment. In a wellness check up, where the person would go through a battery of physical tests, it is only if they pass and are healthy that they are a suitable candidate for a wellness program. If at any point they fail an aspect of good health then they become a patient in the sense of needing treatment for a discovered problem even if that was not evident before the check up.
Wellness programs work on the basis that changes to life style and preventative measures can prevent or at least minimise future health problems, this can be seen particularly in DNA testing, used for predictions about faulty genes (those genes that have some fault in expressing or repressing function in the future). This can indicate that you are susceptible to a future probability of a particular disease such as cancer or other functional problems. These are however based at a statistical probability and not a definite prediction. Therefore from a wellness point of view you can enable the person to change certain lifestyle habits in their present functioning to a more healthy option. For example to stop smoking, exercise more and eat a more vegetarian style diet. This may sound obvious to do even if no indicators exist, however the fact that a DNA test reveals a possible predicted health issue can be the motivator to change, even if the gene never actually expresses itself in the predictive manner. For example you may have a high probability for a particular type of skin cancer but live in a northern sunless climate of northern Europe, so it is highly unlikely that exposure to the Sun would enable the expression of the cancer as opposed to living in Australia where the Sun is much stronger, in fact skin cancer is Australia’s number one killer. There for wellness preventative outlook is also about life style choice about where you live as much as how you live!
What is wellness per sae? It is the absence of sickness and a feeling of well-being 1. (Myler 2014)
So a wellness program is designed to offer advice and medical support to healthy people who want to stay that way. The goal of course is that what you spend today on good healthily practices can enable you to live a long, illness free life or at least minimise the possibility of serious illness. Without a wellness aspect to your planning you risk becoming ill at some point and the cost in terms of time, money and interference to your business and family could be disastrous. Wellness right now is for the wealthy who can afford high quality investigations into their current health status and so enjoy long term illness avoidance. The human body like any finely tuned machine works better and longer if maintained and not ignored. This is particularly true for businessmen whose ability to function on a daily basis, for the good of the company, need to be vigilant about their health. Ill health even in the short term can seriously damage the company they run. In China for example many business owners micromanage the business whether big or small, they are involved in every decision and trust no-one below them. When things go wrong they become highly emotive and stressed, blaming everyone for their problems except themselves. If they have any long term illness their businesses would suffer due to the inability of the staff and managers to make any decisions for them. This means the company would stall business wise until the owner was back to health. Therefore wellness for the Chinese businessman who often chain smokes, drinks alcohol to excess and over eats is a prime candidate for the program to change their lifestyle in order to continue to micromanage the business. Of course the obvious answer might be stop micro managing and learn to be a better leader of others.
Psychology & Wellness
To a certain extent psychology has been ahead of the curb in wellness for some years. EAP companies that provide counselling, critical incident management and training have been pre-empting mental health problems by offering corporations training in the areas for stress management, management coaching and mental health insights. Although EAP (employee assistance programs) are reactive in the sense of counselling troubled employees with emotional problems they often are asked by company HR departments to provide talks, presentations and workshops on diverse subjects such as: resilience training, conflict resolution, negotiations, leadership and stress management, all wellness orientated in the sense of providing education to workers and staff with information and knowledge useful in preventing a psychological breakdown in the workplace. This insight training can have long term benefits to both psychological wellbeing and physical health. The mind is connected the body more powerfully than the other way around. Hypochondriacs are good examples of the mind creating illness where there are no physical causes. Many illness become reality through the mental exercise of belief just as a placebo can fool a person into thinking they are receiving a medical intervention when in fact they are taking a sugar / salt pill and get better. Another example can be tension brought about through stress that leads to stiff joints, neck and shoulder problems needing chiropractic manipulation in order to readdress the problem that clearly started out as a mental one. Massage spas have become so popular now they are viable businesses making a huge amount of income for muscle tension caused through psychological stress in the workplace.
This insight training can have long term benefits to both psychological wellbeing and physical health 1. (Myler 2014)
In order for psychology to create a preventative wellness program EAP companies need to expand their current services to encompass the idea of persuading HR and CEO’s that there is a financial gain to having a well adjusted, balanced emotionally and content workforce. Of course EAP has always sold the idea of reduced leavers and less absenteeism where workers are supported emotionally after the fact. In other words when a mental problem arises it is better to refer the worker to counselling early and retain their employment longer and more productively. However a wellness aspect to EAP could in fact reduce the need for counselling where workers are given the skills and insight about mental health far before they have an episode or incident that requires treatment.
Unlike physical wellness programs, psychology is more affordable to the ordinary worker through an EAP company scheme. Even if consulting privately as many people do it is more economical than physical wellness. There are three reasons to see a psychologist, first; you are suffering from emotional turmoil, i.e., depression or anxiety, two; you are experiencing a crisis at this moment in time and need support and finally; you are lost in life, no sense of purpose and wish to explore the possibilities for your life and future choices. It is this third point that can often be seen to be a wellness orientated approach to psychology. However we can go one step further and offer insight coaching and training to individuals in a preventative sense that can prevent future mental health problems by giving people the skills they need today in order to be more resilient and able to cope with the emotional ups and downs of life. Many worker given negotiation training, insight training and resilience training could be more able to recognise the onset of mental health problems before they become clinical problems needing treatment.
Psychological Wellness in Practice
How would psychological wellness actually work in practice? We have a small problem right from the beginning that is just like the physical wellness check up, in all probability you will always find something wrong that needs treatment, before you can enter the wellness program at all. It is highly unlikely that everyone that decides to have a wellness package for psychology would have no problems at all. Therefore a series of counselling sessions would have to be conducted to deal with current emotional issues often raised from the past. The second likely hood is that once a psychological check up is conducted it may raise issues that have lain dormant for a long time that now become expressed in the forefront of the mind. It is highly unlikely that any individual would be completely mentally free from emotional problems of some kind whether from the past (depression) the present (work and home) or the future (anxiety provoking cognition). Therefore wellness and psychology might begin with bringing any person to a position of balance emotionally before a wellness approach can be completely effective.
Psychology and wellness programs can be seen as a panacea to good mental health. Wellness in a physical sense is both expensive and inclusive in the perspective of only wealthy high net worth individuals could really afford the luxury of a lifetime of wellness support. However in psychological terms EAP and supportive coaching, training and insight counselling can have a preventative effect to future mental health well being at a reasonable cost in comparison. It is also very cost effective for companies to support psychological well being as a measure of good management in reducing absenteeism and leavers. The cost of replacing staff is much higher than the cost of a good quality EAP contract. For individuals then talking to a psychologist, quality counsellor or psychotherapist, even if you do not have a mental health problem right now, can pay dividends in preventative problems arising in the future if particularly you are more resilient in the present. An understanding of your, personality, style and characteristics can help you to manoeuvre you way through life more effectively. Wellness and psychology can go hand in hand for the better future.
Psychology and wellness programs can be seen as a panacea to good mental health 1. (Myler 2014).
1. Myler S. F. Dr. (2014) AsiaEAP Forum speech on Psychology & Wellness – June 2014