Improve Your Team’s Health by Taking Ownership of Yours


Written by:

Paul Keefe


October 16, 2019


Written by:

Paul Keefe


We are currently living in a society of sick care. The direct cost of chronic diseases accounts for about 58% of the annual health care spending in Canada. (Public Health Agency of Canada. Backgrounder: United Nations NCD Summit 2011). And according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, health expenditure in Canada was nearly $7000 per person in 2018, representing 11.3% of Canada’s GDP.

Approximately four in five Canadian adults have at least one modifiable risk factor for chronic disease (self-reported tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating and harmful use of alcohol).

By choosing to push away our well-being for tomorrow, we are forcing ourselves into disease-care today. Why forcing? Because our bodies – our cells – have the mechanisms built right within them on how to function optimally. But by choosing to remain sedentary, eat processed foods, push away sleep, while letting stress and anxiety build up, we are making our biochemistry and physiology work in ways nature did not intend for them.

This is a sad state of affairs because we literally created this mismatched environment. What we put around us, does not align with what our bodies require. McDonald’s, cars, desk jobs, cellphones, and every product and service we buy is trying to eliminate an inconvenience, and take us down the path of least resistance.

Now we have to try and get to the gym, to offset the 10-12 hours of immobility built into our lives. It’s a start, but it doesn’t work.

Now we have to try to choose healthier options although we are surrounded by cheaper, hyper-palatable, ultra-processed foods we are biologically wired to seek out. You don’t have a lack of willpower. Instead it’s the societal and cultural forces around you that weigh far more than humans have ever experienced before.

Now we have to try to remain calm and present in a time where everything is fighting for our attention, and literally rewiring our brains to crave instant gratification at an exponential rate. Social media, push notifications, streaming services, double tap likes, ads, fear-driven media, and more.

We are literally being forced into disease care.

On top of this, we have more doctors, personal trainers, physiotherapists, dieticians, massage therapists, chiropractors, etc, than at any other point than history. But the growth in all of these extremely important professions are still not enough to offset the power of our innate human behaviour while in an environment we are wired to crave. Less physical exertion, nutrient density, sleep, while driving up a sedentary lifestyle, calorie density, and unmanaged psychological stress.

It’s time to take ownership of our health, and our ability to influence those around us in a positive way. We must choose opt-in self care. Our current state of forced in disease care just doesn’t work.

By creating an environment that is conducive for the health and wellness of your team, you can create a positive shift in the economy.

Why focus on yourself before anyone else? Because starting a movement begins by creating empowerment around your own actions, and practicing what you preach. People change their behaviours based on what others around them do – not necessarily by what they say.

When an airplane’s oxygen masks deploy, you are asked to put yours on first. This isn’t selfish. It’s because you can’t help those around you when you are gasping for a breath.

And it may hurt to say this, but part of the organizational wellness problem could be you. Look inwards and ask. “What, if anything, am I pretending not to notice about my role in the problem?”

Focus on what’s in your immediate control (your perspective and actions), and watch this radiate to those around you.

The second piece of this habit is to share what you are doing with at least one person in your close network. Ideally by the end of the week you’ve told a coworker, colleague, friend, and family member.

Why share what you are doing? Because this helps to hold you accountable to your wellness behaviours, simultaneously casting an invite to those around you to join in on your movement.

Don’t worry, this is not about bragging about your fancy smoothie recipes, or the number of push-ups you can do. It’s simply about giving off positive energy around wellness.

Here are some examples of wellness actions:

– Walking meetings
– Morning stretches
– Afternoon meditations

Here are some examples of dialogue for sharing your initiatives:

“I’m looking to increase my daily steps and overall movement and would love to have you join me. With one on one meetings, I will now mostly try to make them walking, and ideally be done outside.”

“I have noticed that every time I start my mornings with a few light stretches, I feel much more clear mentally. Opposed to me doing these in isolation at home, I’d like to do them at the office. Feel free to join me in the lunch room every morning at 7:55 for a 5 minute group stretch routine!”

“A lot of science is coming out around the benefits of mindfulness, and I have experienced a few of these myself. I noticed that this room is empty every hour from 1-2 pm. I’d like to make this a temporary mediation room during this time. I will leave a sign up sheet outside of the office so that way you can sign yourself in for 5-10 minute meditation sessions. I recommend downloading some guided meditation apps to help!”

These aren’t crazy actions by any stretch. They are simply about empowering you to become an agent of change. It starts with you.

By instilling the message that you choose yourself and opt-in self care, and then taking action on this, you help spread that message to others. They realize that this is about taking ownership and empowerment of one’s own behaviour. 

This is the ripple effect.

Thank you for reading my article. I hope you found it helpful or at least thought-provoking. If this post did help you, consider sharing it with someone you think it would help too.

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Written by:

Paul Keefe


October 16, 2019

Helping teams build engaging wellness programs so they can perform at their best and thrive.

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