Integrative Physical Therapy and Wellness
The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.
There are two important aspects to this definition. First, wellness is not a passive or static state but rather an “active pursuit” that is associated with intentions, choices, and actions as we work toward an optimal state of health and wellbeing. Second, wellness is linked to holistic health—that is, it extends beyond physical health and incorporates many different dimensions that should work in harmony.
HISTORY OF WELLNESS
Wellness is a modern word with ancient roots. As a modern concept, wellness has gained currency since the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, when the writings and leadership of an informal network of physicians and thinkers in the United States largely shaped the way we conceptualize and talk about wellness today.
The origins of wellness, however, are far older – even ancient. Aspects of the wellness concept are firmly rooted in several intellectual, religious, and medical movements in the United States and Europe in the 19th century. The tenets of wellness can also be traced to the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, and Asia, whose historical traditions have indelibly influenced the modern wellness movement.
21st Century: The Tipping Point
A 2010 New York Times article on the word/concept of wellness noted that when Dan Rather did a 60 Minutes segment on the topic in 1979, he intoned, “Wellness, there’s a word you don’t hear every day.” But “…more than three decades later,” the NYT noted, “wellness is, in fact, a word that Americans might hear every day…” And it’s more than Americans paying attention to wellness. In the 21st century, the global wellness movement and market reached a dramatic tipping point: fitness, diet, healthy living, and wellbeing concepts and offerings have proliferated wildly—and a concept of wellness is transforming every industry from food and beverage to travel.
By 2014, more than half of global employers were using health promotion strategies, while a third have invested in full-blown wellness programs (Bucks Consultants report). Medical and self-help experts who promote wellness (such as Drs. Mehmet Oz, Deepak Chopra, and Andrew Weil) became household names. “Wellness,” essentially, entered the collective world psyche and vocabulary and is firmly entrenched with the media and an increasing number of medical institutions and governments.
Dimensions of Wellness and How to Address them in the Workplace
Wellness is about more than just physical health. Most models of wellness include at least 6 dimensions (and sometimes up to 9 or 12):
Physical Wellness: A healthy body through exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc.
Physical wellness is about taking proper care of our bodies so that our bodies can function properly and optimally. Integrative Physical Therapy encompasses various elements, like activity and nutrition. Physical wellness is about being able to complete daily activities without extreme fatigue or physical stress and avoiding destructive habits (sedentary behavior, drugs, alcohol, tobacco).
Physical wellness is one of the most addressed dimensions of wellness in the workplace. Below are some ideas:
Encourage walking meetings
Offer bike storage and shower facilities so people bike to work
Organize different fitness challenges or groups (walking, hiking, running, biking groups; Fitbit challenge, etc.)
Have quick 5-15 minute physical activity breaks during the workday (pushups at 10:00 a.m., yoga during lunch break, Zumba after hours, etc.)
Encourage the use of stairs
Offer healthy snacks in the workplace (Check out “The Best Snacks to Improve Cognitive Function in the Workplace”)
Encourage healthy sleeping habits
Mental Wellness: Engagement with the world through learning, problem-solving, creativity, etc.
Intellectual wellness encompasses creative and stimulating mental activities. It’s about our ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that can benefit our personal and professional lives. Intellectually well individuals have a desire to learn and apply new concepts, improve their existing skill sets, and seek new challenges.
Intellectual wellness requires that a person uses and takes advantage of the different resources available to expand his or her knowledge. This dimension of wellness can be developed through academics, professional careers, cultural involvement, and hobbies.
Intellectual wellness can be addressed in the workplace in the following ways, and its goal is to encourage life-long learning habits in professionals.
Build a library of resources: provide access to a wide variety of resources that can help professionals improve their intellectual capability and expand their knowledge (access to research, books, experts, thought-leaders, etc.)
Professional development classes: offer on-site classes to help people develop new skills (marketing classes, programming classes, finance workshops, etc.)
Organize and host a book club
Encourage brainstorming sessions and collaboration opportunities. These activities can help drive creative and innovative thinking. Also, working together with others exposes individuals to new and challenging ideas.