Corporate culture varies from firm to firm, but it’s something at the heart of many successful organizations. Here at Commonwealth, we focus on cultivating a supportive environment where everyone can thrive, and the word “fun” is actually part of our mission statement. Further, to help support this culture and mission, Commonwealth runs yearly campaigns that emphasize its ideals, such as strengthening the core or indispensability.
In 2016, the firm decided to take a closer look at fostering individual health and wellness. In turn, this year’s campaign, deemed commonWELL, was designed to provide creative outlets (e.g., mindful moment sessions, a discussion on cutting the cable cord, and an interactive workshop on changing lunch habits) to encourage employees to focus on nutritional, physical, emotional, and fiscal wellness. To help get things rolling, the commonWELL campaign kicked off by asking staff, “What does wellness mean to you?”
The answers were wide-ranging, covering everything from spending more time with family and friends to doing something that makes you smile every day. Here, we’ve gathered the thoughts of just a few of the members of our commonWELL team. We hope you’ll learn some valuable tips on wellness and hopefully gain a bit of inspiration for the year ahead.
Transcendental meditation. Breathing matrix. Metta meditation. These are all techniques you can use to rest your mind and find a sense of inner calm. And according to Holly Mattson, HR communications manager (and registered yoga instructor), it doesn’t have to involve a radical shift in your life. Instead, wellness can begin by starting small and focusing on “in the moment” things:
“Meditate for 10 minutes” might sound like a small enough undertaking—but even that can be hard to manage. But what if you used the red traffic lights on your commute as an opportunity to take a deep inhale and exhale? To remind yourself to slow down. Or the green traffic lights as a reminder that opportunity and ease lie ahead? It can be that small and still be effective.
In the spirit of “the little things being the big things,” I also find it helpful (and gratifying) to set timers and calendar reminders to help keep me on track. Personally, it’s not enough to make a mental note to drink more water or go to bed earlier. But if an alarm goes off on my phone, it serves as a reminder: Oh, yes. That. That reminder is just enough of a nudge to put me back in the mental space of making good decisions.
Sounds simple, right? So the next time you’re stuck in traffic, or doing the dishes, or sitting at your desk, take just a few moments to relax your mind, focus on your breathing, recite a loving-kindness meditation (e.g., may I be well), or do whatever works for you! As Holly told me, you might be surprised how small things can have a profound effect on your overall well-being.
You Are What You Eat
Now that we’ve touched on the mind, what about the body? We’ve found that for many Commonwealth employees, the idea of wellness includes nutrition. After all, how many times have you heard “you are what you eat”? For marketing manager (and plant-based cooking coach) Sarah Howes, a commitment to wellness has led to some changes in diet:
At the start of this year, I made a resolution to remove processed sugar from my diet. This means checking the labels on all processed products that I buy, as well as making my own desserts with fruit, maple syrup, or raw honey. I don’t see myself going back to eating processed sugar. I feel great and have more energy. I’ve found new ways to enjoy eating chocolate and other treats that fuel my body well.
Of course, everyone needs to find what works for them, but here’s what works for Sarah:
To me, wellness means feeding my body wholesome, yet still delicious, food that helps me feel more awake, is easy to digest, and keeps me healthy and strong. I enjoy eating a plant-based diet, rotating a colorful assortment of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, along with responsibly sourced meat and seafood that are paired more as a side than the main course.
Here again, small changes can make all the difference! If you’re looking to minimize processed foods from your diet, Sarah recommends starting by adding whole food snacks. If that works for you, you might then upgrade your breakfast “to something like overnight oats mixed with mashed bananas, chia seeds, and some homemade hemp milk, topped with fresh or frozen fruit.” The possibilities are endless. Take a chance and get creative!
So, now that we’ve heard that wellness could mean calming the mind and feeding the body, could it also simply be defined as doing what you love? That’s what Amy Pagano, office manager of our San Diego team, believes. Like many of Commonwealth’s employees, this year’s campaign reflects a true passion of hers: a love of exercise and the outdoors—something that she credits to her dad:
My passion for wellness stems from my childhood and from my father’s love of exercise. For as long as I can remember, my father was doing calisthenics every morning and night in my parents’ bedroom. We would climb all over him as he cranked through his sit-ups, push-ups, and stretches. Back in 1970, he even got stopped by the police for running in the neighborhood; since jogging was such a new concept, they thought his activity was “suspicious.”
He is now approaching the ripe young age of 79 and hasn’t slowed down one bit. We frequently hike Cowles Mountain in San Diego together, and he still charges up the mountain, passing everyone in sight. I inherited his passion for moving, sweating, pushing myself, and actively enjoying the outdoors. I feel most alive when I’m out on a hike, in nature, and moving my body. I also feel immense gratitude to have a healthy body that is capable of doing all the activities I like to do.
Even if you don’t relish the idea of going for a hike like Amy, what about going for a walk with a co-worker on your lunch hour? Joining a Fitbit challenge with a friend? Parking a bit farther away from the office? As Amy reflects, it’s just about “challenging yourself,” whatever that may mean for you!
Flex Your (Emotional) Muscles
Last, but certainly not least, many Commonwealth employees have talked about the importance of emotional wellness in their lives. For Ciara Gogan, senior telecommunications engineer (and life coach), “emotional wellness is just as important, if not more so, as physical and nutritional wellness.” She told me about the need to flex our emotional muscles:
If you don’t flex your confidence muscles, your confidence will weaken. If you don’t practice courage, you’ll find it hard to be brave. And if you don’t show love and kindness to yourself, you may begin to dislike who you think you are. You get the idea! The good news is that all of this is reversible and preventable. Also, if you practice more, you will get better at it.
Physical muscles get stronger the more you use them, but so do psychological ones! For example, if you take steps to do things that scare you, you will become braver. And I don’t mean you need to jump from a plane. For some of us, being brave is all about making eye contact and speaking up at a meeting.
So, what emotional muscles do you need to strengthen, and what are you willing to do to flex them? You might try taking a Dale Carnegie class to hone your presentation skills or try out some daily affirmations. You never know what you’ll discover once those emotional muscles start moving!
What Does Wellness Mean to You?
Judging from the number of participants in this year's commonWELL events, the campaign has been a resounding success. It has brought the Commonwealth home office together toward a common goal, plus given each of us the opportunity to think about what positive changes we could make in our individual lives.
I hope you have taken inspiration from what Holly, Amy, Sarah, and Ciara have been generous enough to share. As the new year approaches, perhaps you’ll even make a resolution to focus more on yourself—and spend some time thinking about what wellness means to you!
What aspects of wellness are important to you? Which of our tips could you apply to your life? Please share your thoughts with us below!