Holistic health in the workplace: Beyond mental health

Holistic health in the workplace: Beyond mental health

Expanding our understanding of mental health and wellbeing

Often mental health or mental health or mental wellbeing brings to mind the idea of therapy. This can be an important and extremely valuable journey for anyone, but forms only one element of mental health. Our wellbeing is impacted by many aspects like social support, finance, nutrition, exercise and activities of enjoyment. 

The mind and body function in sync, where one supports the other. Many physical symptoms are the result of one’s psychological condition, like hair loss or gastric concerns from high stress or ‘exam fever’ where students may fall sick before examinations while being ‘hot-headed’ shows the link between the body and emotions. So wellness of one supports the other, and an integrated approach to mind and body wellbeing is a fundamental aspect of overall emotional wellbeing. Eastern Psychology has always believed that this link is the crux of working with people, and today we see somatic practices being integrated within traditional talk therapy itself. 

Studies about mind-body integration in psychology seem especially important with growing evidence about their impact on each other (Taylor, Goehler, Galper, Innes, Bourguignon, 2010).

International Mind-Body Wellness Day, celebrated annually on 3rd January, aims to promote holistic health by emphasizing the interconnectedness of mental and physical well-being. This day encourages people to reflect on their lifestyle choices, adopt practices that foster balance and appreciate the profound impact of a harmonious mind-body connection.

Harnessing mind-body practices for mental health

As living beings, attending to our bodies was our very instinct. Babies cry and ask for support with all their physical needs. They also ask for help for their emotional need - for the love and embrace of someone. Soon comes the need for play and movement, a core part of healthy development for children. Children often think and behave with their bodies, not their minds or using language. 

Over time though, as our priorities and conditioning take over, our connection with our bodies and ability to listen to it softens, to a point where we become disconnected from it. As adults, we often have to go out of our way to ensure there is enough physical movement in our day even when one know their body is asking for it, and enjoyment is something that is completely forgotten.

Thus we now actively try to build ‘Body intelligence’ - tools to strengthen the mind-body link and work towards positive wellbeing. Body intelligence is learning to attune you to what your body is feeling and find ways to cater to it. It can alleviate certain symptoms of stress such as chest pain, headaches, and heart rate variability.

How can you create a workplace for holistic wellbeing?

Before the how we look at the why. Why is holistic wellbeing important in the workplace?

Employees within hierarchical systems are at risk of experiencing significant levels of stress, anxiety, and other mental and physical health problems. In addition, those with pre-existing physical or mental health conditions and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more at risk. As these take over, not only does our disconnection with our body often increase, but we may develop hypertension, severe anxiety or burnout. And an unhappy workforce helps no one. 

Thus employers need to prioritize mind-body wellness in the workplace. This also begins with deepening our understanding and practices of iy. By recognizing the interconnectedness of mental and physical health and taking steps to support it, you can create a healthier and more productive work environment.

Prioritizing mind-body wellness in the workplace can help people gain better health outcomes. This leads to reduced healthcare costs and lesser absenteeism. Additionally, healthier employees tend to be happier and more engaged, impacting workplace culture and morale.

  • Prirotize meal times - ensure employees have adequate time for lunch and breakfast
  • Providing healthy snacks and meals in the workplace to help employees maintain a healthy diet
  • Creating quiet spaces for meditation or alone time
  • Offering classes on weekends and during lunchtimes to learn yoga, sound meditation and breathwork to learn self-regulation and build body intelligence
  • Create space and time for games and play to reconnect with joy in our body 
  • Conduct sessions using expressive arts to engage with one’s body and emotionality
  • Offer wellness benefits such as flexible work schedules, paid time off, and mental health days

ManahWellnes is a wonderful example of holistic wellbeing. The platform offers various features that individuals can use to practice self-care, like Affirmations, Journaling, Nudges and Information. They expand our ideas of wellness and are customised to each user, inviting them to spend a few minutes every day to enhance their wellbeing.  

Let’s remember

A healthy and resilient employee is a productive employee. Anyone who feels physically and mentally healthy, and notices support from their workplace, has more faith and loyalty towards the organization and experiences workplace happiness, leading to more efficiency and retention. You can start by noticing in small ways how you pay attention to your body to support your mind - every step counts!