Want to be happy? It helps to be healthy, according to Duncan Young, head of workplace health and wellbeing at Lend Lease. And the best way to achieve good health? By building wellness into your everyday life.
Duncan shared his views recently at the Happiness and Its Causes conference in Sydney.
As we live longer lives, he says, the three-stage life model – full-time education, full-time work then full-time retirement – no longer applies. People now will work longer, take career breaks and have multi-stage lives. So an individual’s key asset will be their ability to keep working. That’s largely dependent on their health.
As institutional trust slips away, interpersonal trust becomes a more important role, so the ability to form and maintain social networks is also vital. Within our database of friends, we need to include different groups, giving us the exposure and ability to hear and accept opinions other than our own.
We need to relearn “the lost art of small talk”. By engaging and asking open-ended questions we can reconnect with each other to combat the lonliness epidemic. This kind of engagement is fulfilling for both parties; you can make someone else’s day, just by showing interest in them.
The fourth biggest killer in our society, he says, is physical inactivity. The most effective way to make change is to make it frictionless.
Recovery too, can’t be neglected. Duncan points out that athletes train in cycles, while most “corporate athletes” are stressed two thirds of the time.
Health is a journey, Duncan says, not an end point, and 70 per cent of us are merely functioning or failing, instead of living up to our full potential.
Small changes – big benefits
• Always walk like you’re running late for a meeting.
• Exercise can’t repair the effects of prolonged sitting (more than eight hours a day).
• Integrate exercise into the workplace (like walking meetings).
• Lead a purposeful life – optimists tend to live longer, possibly because they are more likely to look after their physical and social health.
• Refuel properly – you are what you eat.
• Get outside – one hour of sunshine per day will make a big difference.
• Recognise the importance of sleep – it’s crucial to lay down the memories of the previous four hours. Coffee, alcohol and late exercise all interfere with sleep patterns.