9 Plus…! 

Can Workplace Wellness Programs Lead the Way?

Last month we posted a summary of the American Heart Association (AHA) list of the 8 most important predictors of heart health.  We added a +1 to the Essential 8 as well as a view from the individual and organizational level.  HOWEVER, our research and the research of others clearly indicate more essential dimensions of well-being. These are as important if not more important than the Essential 8 and must be included in workplace wellness programs.

The AHA Essential 8 address the physical dimensions of health and are important yet these alone are not enough to prevent heart disease or support complete well-being. There are more dimensions to consider so please bear with us as we expand the 8+1!  BUT you already know this because we included our model of wellness with the blog!  As a quick reminder, below are the AHA Essential 8 plus 1 as well as the blog link the AHA’s Life’s Essential 8 +1.

  1. Eat Nutritious and REAL Food
  2. Be Active
  3. Don’t Smoke or Vape, and avoid secondhand smoke. 
  4. Get Enough Sleep 
  5. Let Go of YoYo Dieting, Enjoy Food that Nourishes You, and Listen to Your Body! (Okay, our spin on this one!)
  6. Get Your Cholesterol Checked 
  7. Monitor Blood Sugar as Recommended
  8. Monitor Blood Pressure 
  9. +1: Manage Stress

Discussed below are a few other key ingredients or the essential ‘special sauce’ for organizational and individual well-being. These include, 

  • Compassion, 
  • Kindness, 
  • Gratitude

Without these, a person cannot have complete well-being. The scientific evidence within the last two decades is striking; however, the benefits have been known by many cultures for several thousand years! And yes, wellness programs can – and must – lead the way!

Individual well-being is intertwined with the well-being of others. The name for this in South Africa is Ubuntu, which means “I am because you are.” Desmond Tutu noted that a person cannot be well if someone in their family or community is not well. Nelson Mandela said that Ubuntu is a universal truth, a way of life. It’s caring, sharing, trusting, and thinking of others and results in the well-being of others and especially one’s own overall health and well-being.

These states of being are healthy and can be learned.  Our greatest benefit as humans and our greatest ally is using our prefrontal cortex. Fully utilizing this part of our brain is crucial in developing our true human potential and positive social attributes. 

Several of us received trainings in positive states of mind and earned certification in Compassion Cultivation Training.  We have witnessed and speak firsthand of the benefits!


Evidence confirms that compassion results in mental and physical well-being.  Of interest is that those in high stress jobs, including doctors, nurses, and medical students, had LOWER stress and burnout levels when they scored high in measures of compassion, including self-compassion – LOWER – not higher levels. It’s when these professionals pretended to be compassionate or ignore self-care that stress levels were higher. 

Compassion improves resilience, reduces interpersonal conflict, lowers anxiety, and increases acceptance of life’s difficulties when such circumstances inevitably happen. Individuals are happier when compassion is practiced, as well as have reduced stress response, and improved health.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy
practice compassion.” (The Dalai Lama) 


Gratitude is a feeling and an experience rather than an expression, and as such not only helps us feel better, but also provides a connection to something greater than – or something outside of – ourselves. Many leading researchers (Emmons, McCullough, Seligman and others) have studied individuals in a variety of settings and unconditionally found benefits by practicing gratitude. 

Gratitude helps individuals,

  • Feel more positive, 
  • Savor good experiences, 
  • Improve health, 
  • Increase resilience,
  • Foster strong relationships,
  • Improve sleep.


Kindness is more than an act or behavior, it’s a way of being in the world. At an individual level, when you engage in acts of kindness, blood pressure and cortisol levels are lower. Plus, kindness positively changes our brains by boosting serotonin and dopamine — the neurotransmitters in the brain that promote feelings of satisfaction and well-being. AND, 

  • Our moods improve. 
  • Endorphins are released — the body’s natural painkillers.
  • One’s sense of connectivity with others increases, and relationships improve.
  • Loneliness decreases.

All of three are essential to well-being. Not to mention that compassion, gratitude, and kindness are contagious! Workplace Wellness Program Coordinators and their partners can lead the way to creating and maintaining a great place to work by developing initiatives that embrace and encourage these and other dimensions of well-being.

The other consideration is to embrace even more dimensions of organizational and individual well-being by adding: meaning and purpose, career opportunities, and safety – physical, social, and psychological safety – to your wellness program initiatives. 

The outcomes not only improve employee well-being, but improve organizational benefits as well,

  • Managers develop better leadership qualities, 
  • Top talent is retained, 
  • A thriving culture is established, 
  • Employee engagement and productivity are enhanced (which improves their well-being!). 

Yes, the dimensions have grown from the original 8+1, but yes, workplace wellness CAN lead the way! Our belief is that workplace safety and wellness programs are the foundation or the levers that create a great place to work by ensuring employee and organizational well-being. As you heard us say, the two are inextricably connected!

Please reach out if you would like to discuss the possibilities! We welcome the conversation!

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