A six-step plan for employees to improve their health

This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Registration for 2017 has now closed. Winners will be announced in Spring 2017. Sign up to receive an e-mail about registration for 2018 at www.employeerecommended.com.

Do you set daily physical and mental health goals?

Beginning each day with a clearly-defined set of micro health goals is an effective way to achieve your optimal health. However, not until you see the value of setting these daily goals is there a chance you will consistently follow through with such a plan.

Last week, while speaking to a group of employees on the topic of physical and mental health, we were discussing program impact and why many one-off health programs (such as a walking challenge) fail to achieve their desired impact and long-term results.

During this discussion, I was asked, “I get it in theory, health and wellness programs are good for the employee. But what’s in it really for the employee and why would they want to participate?”

I paused for a moment and responded with, “I 100 per cent agree that the value link must be made clearly. Hopefully through conversations we can help employees see the value of being healthy and happy. If we cannot, it is highly unlikely they will participate in programs that directly benefit them.”

In the end, people focus on what’s most important to them. If it’s being healthy and happy, then focusing on daily micro health behaviours is an excellent way to achieve this outcome.

The purpose of the microskill of six-stepping is activating a SMART goal.

One popular model for designing personal goals is using a process called SMART goals. This acronym stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound. The purpose of a SMART goal is to obtain clarity on what you will do, how and when. When a goal is clear and simple, it’s easier to follow and measure. Being able to see success and results can create a positive feedback loop that facilitates motivation and adherence to follow-through.

Six Stepping uses SMART goal logic. The following steps outline the six micro goal health behaviours. You can set your own schedule for when you will do each. You just need to complete each step once a day. You can earn up to six points each day. Track your daily points and your weekly average. The target is to keep a weekly average over 5.4. After you get rolling, you may start to see results within 60 days. If you can six-step 90 per cent of the time you will be improving your health.

1. Healthy hydration – Drink 2.5 to 3.0 litres of clean, pure water daily. Avoid all drinks with sugar in them. You can drink two eight-ounce black coffees each day. Limit alcohol to one drink, no more than three times per week.

2. Mindful eating – Eat a minimum of three meals, following the usual healthy eating plate. Consider the nutritional value of everything you put in your mouth. No night snacking after 7 p.m. – ever. Make a daily goal to eliminate all junk food.

3. Sleep plan – Set a target bedtime to get a minimum of 7.5 hours of sleep each night.

4. Sedentary shake – Every 60 minutes, move for a minimum of five minutes (such as walk to fill up your water bottle, stretch); make no exceptions. Commit that you will never sit in one place, working at your desk for more than 50 minutes at a time.

5. Motion making – Set active daily motion goal before sitting down; then ensure you have moved at least 60 minutes each day (exercise, walk, or sport). The target is a minimum of 9,500 steps a day and stretch goal is 12,000 steps a day. There are lots of apps to track your daily and monthly averages.

6. Cognitive Hygiene – Focus on what you are most proud of each day. Challenge any negative self-talk so it doesn’t allow negative thinking to roll in your head. If you can’t stop on your own, this is a sign that you could benefit from learning how to cope better. If you have unresolved conflict or another problem that is creating stress, plan how you will deal with or resolve it; avoiding it is not a healthy option. Finally, before you close your eyes each night, state what you are grateful for.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell’s Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:http://tgam.ca/workplaceaward

Read this article on The Globe & Mail website