Functional Medicine: Work Life Balance
Be happy, chin up, tell us a joke, laugh more. It is rare that being positive and creating a culture of positivity is at the heart of every organisation. That positivity and happiness are indeed the secrets to success is a conversation hardly ever had.
Instead, we are taught “work harder, stay focused at all times” even while burning the midnight candle. Whilst this approach does achieve financial gains for many it comes with a cost, to their health, family and friends. And let’s face it who on earth would have laughter classes in their organisation? That’s soft, right? Until of course, you read the science.
Over the long term, our physiology cannot sustain this sort of behaviour and suffers the consequences. I tell the executives I treat to imagine themselves as an F1 car. High powered but delicate at the same time. In maintaining high-performance we need to have a regular pit stop, that allows the body to rest, have a check-up, refuel and change the tires. If this is not done on a regular basis, things start to fall apart. An all too common pattern for the executive.
Carry on like this and you are likely to end up burnt out, isolated from others, with poorer physical, emotional and mental health. It is simply a myth to believe this is the way to work. I have seen it during my 20-years of practise with 100’s of executives.
Now the research backs it up. Working towards success without being happy or feeling daily happiness has dire consequences to both physiology and organisation. Happiness is a crucial part of wellness culture.
Happiness simply makes us better at work. It improves productivity and creativity. We think and learn faster and more importantly, we feel more emotionally connected to our co-workers. This connection is the very essence of human physiology. Humans are designed to be connected to each other, our DNA is wired in this way. It creates “Health by Safety” (more of this in a later piece) the safety of being connected to positive people.
When working with organisations and individuals it is so important for the key influencers to understand this point. Positivity drives connection, connection creates safety by numbers and this is how a community and culture is built. You can, of course, build a positive or negative culture and no prizes for guessing which culture creates health and profitability, but also a fun place to work, and we deserve to be happy at work right?
A 2015 paper in Nature journal, showed that having a laugh together makes people more open and willing to cooperate. It can be a simple as Funny Friday for 5-minutes we are treated to YouTube clips that make us laugh. Its cost nothing and makes us feel better and I expect many employees do this already.
Happiness has measurable effects on physical well-being. Being positive boosts immunity and reduces inflammation, it improves our sleep and helps us recover from stress. In fact, it is a major intervention strategy for health, it’s free and fun! Happy friendly workers are almost always more supportive to others and happiness is most likely one of the best contributors to business performance and profitability. The science shows happiness allows us to build better social connectedness (which should be the essence of what a wellness culture should be trying to achieve), it improves levels of engagement and commitment in work and can provide a better customer experience even if the worker does not stand to gain financially.
I want to finish with quoting some recent social science research from the University of San Diego and Harvard:
“Happiness tends to spread up to three degrees of separation from you – to those close to you, your colleagues and acquaintances, and even strangers you will never know. This is how you create a culture of happiness in your workplace, home and community”
Creating happiness and positivity is a very powerful way to generate health and profitability. The science is clear, so let’s implement these into wellness culture.
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