S. Petersburg, FL (PressExposure) May 26, 2015 -- Introduction
A "Celebrate Wellness" program officially opened the 40th National Wellness Conference (NWC). I was one of seven veterans of this storied summertime conference who offered ten-minute assessments about the record of and prospects for wellness. This featured session was followed by a concert and fine dining in a festive atmosphere. It was all conducive to community-building, a trait for which this annual conference is renowned.
There were three featured speakers on the following three days of the event. The tiles of each session and a bit about each of the presenters can be sketched:
1. "The Upside of Your Dark Side: Embracing the Value of Both 'Positive' and 'Negative' Thoughts and Feelings" - Todd Kashdan, PhD.
Mindfulness, kindness, and positivity can take us far, they cannot take us all the way. Sometimes, they can even hold us back. Fortunately, there is a solution. Cognitive, emotional, and behavioral flexibility is the key to success in almost every area of life. Unfortunately, psychological rigidity is a natural result of normal psychological processes. Dr. Kashdan explained the counterintuitive processes that lead to greater psychological agility.
Dr. Kashdan is Professor of Psychology and Senior Scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University. His research has advanced our understanding of why people suffer, the nature of well-being, and psychological flexibility to living a well-lived life. This work has been published in over 150 scholarly scientific articles and he has edited two books. To advance the public understanding of science, he has also written two trade books, Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life (2009, Harper Collins) and The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self-Not Just Your "Good" Self -Drives Success and Fulfillment (2014, Hudson Street Press).
2. "Rebranding Health as Well-being: A More Compelling Motivation for Sustainable Behavior Change" - Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH
Have you ever wondered why it is that people who desperately want to adopt healthier lifestyles don't stick with them once their initial burst of motivation fades? This presentation showcased the science of sustainable behavior change. Dr. Segar explained why logic-based reasons for behavior change (e.g., better health, disease prevention) keep people stuck in cycles of starting and stopping but not behavioral sustainability. Using a science-based story, she will describe a novel approach to promoting self-care, health, and wellness behaviors that can be used across contexts (organizational, health care, fitness, coaching, etc.). Attendees will leave with a more strategic way to communicate about and promote the sustainable behavior necessary for achieving improved health and well-being.
Dr. Segar researches the methods and messages that foster sustainable behavior change, and she directs the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center at the University of Michigan. She has a Ph.D in Psychology and master's degrees in Health Behavior/Health Education and Kinesiology from the University of Michigan.
3. "Explaining Health Disparities: Place is More Important Than Race, But Race Matters Too" - Thomas A. LaVeist, PhD
Dr. Thomas LaVeist has studied race differences in health, and has described why these differences were so great and how race seem to affect length of life. He is the William C. and Nancy F. Richardson Professor in Health Policy and Director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is also Executive Director/Writer of "The Skin You're In," a documentary.
The Legacy Session
The moderator of the Legacy session was Meg Jordan, an author, professor and health journalist. Like the seven legacy speakers, Meg participated in NWC gatherings since the early 1980's. The other six veterans of the wellness movement honored by the National Wellness Institute with this historic opportunity who shared their perspectives on the movement's legacy and future were John Travis, Bill Hettler, Elaine Sullivan, Jennie Trotter, Craig Washington and Anne Abbott.
More on the Whence (from where) and Wither (to where) of the NWC
Dr. Travis and I conducted a follow-up workshop. We elaborated on the legacy of wellness and gave our respective visions for a richer legacy in the decades to come. That session took about an hour and fifteen minutes. It was entitled, "Two Not-Yet-Dead, Lovable, Old White Guys Go On About What Was, Is and Could Be."
We discussed our evolution as wellness pioneers on how Dr. Halbert L. Dunn's breakthrough wellness concepts, introduced well over half a century ago, were interpreted, ignored and/or expanded. We discussed the relative role of several factors in the initial rise of the wellness movement. We identified qualities that distinguish what we view as real wellness from the ersatz forms on offer at company worksites, universities, medical centers and other institutions. Finally, we assessed the odds of specific alternate futures for the wellness movement.
Be weller than well and look on the bright side. Develop the capacity, in Robert Green Ingersoll's words:
"To cultivate hope, to see the calm beyond the storm, the dawn beyond the night, to do the best that can be done and then be resigned. This is the religion of reason, the creed of science. This satisfies the brain and heart."