Aletheia Hunn started her business, Founded Wellness, to bring the benefits of yoga, meditation, and other wellness tools into the workplace.
PHOTO BY FOUNDED WELLNESS.
It’s no surprise that workplace wellness is one of the sectors predicted to see the strongest future growth by the Global Wellness Institute. Given the number of hours spent at work during a lifetime—feeling good at work matters, and, it also has a flow-on effect to other areas of your life.
A CBI report late last year showed that “1.3 million people suffered from new or longstanding work-related illnesses” in the previous year and “up to 5 million workers are thought to suffer from a mental health condition each year”.
So, what’s missing to get people feeling good?
Aletheia Hunn, Founder, and Director of Founded Wellness believes that it’s all about having a greater understanding of the connection between your body and your mind. Nobody is exempt from well-being. It comes from an ability to be aware of what’s happening in a holistic way, in order to know how to navigate yourself back to balance.
Founder, Aletheia Hunn, believes working with both the body and the mind can bring about balance for individuals and their employers.
PHOTO BY FOUNDED WELLNESS.
Having started her wellness business two and a half years ago, she says she’s been wearing many different hats and has at times spread herself thin. However, it’s been the permission to take time out and the awareness of the ‘intelligence of her body’ she now has that allows her to keep coming back to center much quicker.
Staying stuck in a heightened stress cycle for too long leads to things like chronic anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and a suppressed your immune system. So having the awareness and tools to ‘come back to center’ quickly is critical to your long-term health and well-being—it’s not just about feeling good at the office.
Aletheia says that many people either don’t have access to that kind of ‘time out’ in their workplace, or rather, the idea of stopping in the first place just feels too challenging and uncomfortable, so it doesn’t happen. She says there needs to be more of a meeting in the middle for both employers and employees to “create a bit more lightness”.
Her own experience of wellness, particularly her yoga training, was born out of a desire to simply ‘feel better’ in her personal and professional life. At a time where she was in that “classic, slightly stressed London life”, she said her physical activity was much more ‘mindless’ and focused on driving the next ‘personal best’. Which meant both her body and her mind were constantly active.
Aletheia suggests that when we’re stressed or feeling the day to day pressures we’ve lost that sense of connection with our bodies (and minds). Bringing about balance is about understanding what it is you need most in those moments. Too often we keep pushing on, instead of acknowledging how we’re feeling. She believes there’s so much intelligence in our bodies to support us back to balance but we’re not giving ourselves permission to take notice.
Practices like yoga and meditation help to regulate those emotional responses in the body. And there are numerous studies showing the negative impacts on physical health when you don’t regulate, and instead, stay in heightened states of stress for too long.
Practices such as yoga and meditation can help regulate emotional responses that trigger stress.
PHOTO BY FOUNDED WELLNESS.
Which is why at Founded Wellness they’ve been focused on bringing the benefits of yoga, meditation, and other wellness activities out of studios and clinics and into the workplace.
We’re passionate about supporting the working population, those in great need of more attention and care for their wellbeing. Our ambition is simple, to improve how everyone lives and feels each day at work.
For Aletheia now, she’s much more mindful about knowing when and why she’d slow down to bring herself into balance. And this helps her spot her owns signs of stress too—anything from sleep being impacted to feeling like she’s not able to engage in anything fully—much more quickly.
And that’s really what it’s all about. When it comes to workplace wellness it’s all about giving people ways to spot their own signs of stress and imbalance faster, enabling them to bring more of that harmony into their lives which ultimately impacts their work too. A mentally happy workplace is interdependent with employee engagement, productivity and even profits.
Aletheia suggests that something as simple as a yoga class can bring that sense of inspiration into the workplace and create a bit more lightness for people to spark their own journeys back to connection.
Aletheia Hunn is one of eight UK ‘Women In Wellness’ I interviewed across different types and stages of business, to understand how they are growing successful businesses whilst bringing balance and well-being into their own lives. Business Coach and Founder of Welltodo, Lauren Armes, also talked about the importance of feeling good and doing what you love. The remaining articles will be published throughout March in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Author ArticleJournaling can transform not only my physical health, but also emotional and spiritual health.
I didn’t always love my body. In fact, for years, I hardly thought about it at all.
My body was a machine that I worked relentlessly and neglected constantly. It was simply a tool that my brain used to get where it needed to go. I paid no mind to aching muscles, searing headaches and other signs of stress and exhaustion. I ignored my body’s needs until a major health challenge forced me to stop and recognize the obvious: my body isn’t a machine at all. It’s an integral part of me that requires love, care and respect.
I began journaling every day as a way to get back in touch with my body. This practice has transformed not only my physical health but also my emotional and spiritual health. I started listening to what my body was telling me and making decisions to embrace a full, healthy and balanced life.
Researchers have been tracking the positive effects of journaling for decades.
And a 2017 study from the University of Arizona showed that for people going through a divorce, narrative writing exercises – telling the story of their divorce, not just documenting their feelings about it – improved how their bodies responded to cardiovascular stress.
Journaling helps us strengthen the mind-body connection that we often neglect. Putting pen to paper supports us in large and small ways, making room for our thoughts, feelings and experiences in a tangible way.
How to Start Journaling
Make it a daily habit.
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You may want to write lengthy entries every day, but start with a smaller, more manageable goal. Commit to writing for five minutes or a few lines, and congratulate yourself when you reach that goal. If you want to keep writing, go for it (and celebrate that victory too).
Build on your gradual start, and make your small journaling goal a part of your daily life. Find a time of day that works best for you – such as when you’re drinking your morning coffee or you’re about to get ready for bed. Don’t debate whether you should journal or not; just make it a daily habit.
If you can’t figure out what to journal about, try free-writing. Simply jot down anything that comes to mind without filtering or editing it. Keep your pen moving until you reach your writing goal.
5 Journaling Prompts
Take several deep breaths, and do a mental scan of your body from head to toe. What feels good? What feels off? What is your body telling you?
Imagine you have an entire day to pamper yourself. What do you do? How does each part of the day rejuvenate you?
Write a love letter to your body. What do you appreciate about it? What are you thankful for? How can you express your gratitude?
Describe a sensory experience that has stuck with you – a meal, a smell, a hike, a physical activity. What did it feel like throughout your body? Why did it make such an impression on you?
Write about a time you felt wonderful in your own skin. What was happening? Why did you feel strong, beautiful, capable or empowered? How can you recreate that feeling?
Journaling is a powerful way to care for your body, as well as your mind and spirit. Make daily journaling an essential part of your journey to total aliveness.
Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights From the Frontier of Evolutionary PsychiatryRandolph M. Nesse Dutton (2019)
Globally, the burden of depression and other mental-health conditions is on the rise. In North America and Europe alone, mental illness accounts for up to 40% of all years lost to disability. And molecular medicine, which has seen huge success in treating diseases such as cancer, has failed to stem the tide. Into that alarming context enters the thought-provoking Good Reasons for Bad Feelings, in which evolutionary psychiatrist Randolph Nesse offers insights that radically reframe psychiatric conditions.
In his view, the roots of mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, lie in essential functions that evolved as building blocks of adaptive behavioural and cognitive function. Furthermore, like the legs of thoroughbred racehorses — selected for length, but tending towards weakness — some dysfunctional aspects of mental function might have originated with selection for unrelated traits, such as cognitive capacity. Intrinsic vulnerabilities in the human mind could be a trade-off for optimizing unrelated features.
Similar ideas have surfaced before, in different contexts. Evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, for example, critically examined the blind faith of ‘adaptationist’ evolutionary theorizing. Their classic 1979 paper ‘The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm’ challenged the idea that every aspect of an organism has been perfected by natural selection (S. J. Gould et al. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B205, 581–598; 1979). Instead, like the curved triangles of masonry between arches supporting domes in medieval and Renaissance architecture, some parts are contingent structural by-products. These might have no discernible adaptive advantage, or might even be maladaptive. Gould and Lewontin’s intuition has, to some extent, been vindicated by molecular genetics. Certain versions of the primitive immune-system protein complement 4A, for instance, evolved for reasons unrelated to mental function, and yet are associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia.
Decades earlier, the evolutionary theorist George C. Williams explored perhaps the most perplexing aspect of human biology: our inconvenient tendency to age and die. He suggested in 1957 that some of the genes that cause ageing evolved because they enhanced fitness early in life (G. C. Williams Evolution11, 398–411; 1957). Such ‘antagonistic pleiotropy’ — in which a single gene controls at least one beneficial and one detrimental trait — suggests that the design of biological structures is a complex optimization problem involving multiple trade-offs. Emotions and other aspects of mental function are not like machine components, each with a set function; instead, they are embedded in complex overlapping biochemical pathways.
In 1994, Nesse teamed up with Williams for Why We Get Sick, a manifesto for “Darwinian medicine”. Their insights opened up new perspectives on the origins of diseases, arguing for ‘proximate’ causes (driven by anatomy, biochemistry and physiology) and higher-level ‘ultimate’ (evolutionary) causes. They noted that evolution selects for reproductive success rather than for health and happiness; hence, the existence of human diseases and disorders. They also detailed the contingent and sometimes ‘irrational’ nature of biological legacies, such as the nerves and blood vessels that run across the human eye’s retinal surface. Cephalopod eyes don’t have this ‘flaw’.
Good Reasons for Bad Feelings builds on these insights. Adopting an “engineers’ point of view” on mental illnesses, Nesse suggests that anxiety, although apparently undesirable, is a design component with utility in certain situations — for instance, as a “smoke detector” for potentially life-threatening events. Depression might also perform adaptive functions. The psychiatrist Aubrey Lewis argued that by signalling distress, depression could prompt others into providing assistance through foraging and other activities. It has even been suggested that depressive behaviour in vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) evolved to signal loss of status, deflecting attacks from dominant males.
Yet, however functional its components when appropriately regulated, mental illnesses cause suffering, and evidence-based treatments are sparse. Indeed, the field has seen no significant pharmaceutical breakthroughs for many years. Biological causes remain elusive, and biomarkers non-existent.
Psychiatry as a field, meanwhile, quivers with theoretical uncertainty. It has not become a sub-speciality of neurology, as one might have expected if mental illness mapped directly to neural behaviour. And common genetic variations with large effects on mental disorders are elusive. The various incarnations of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM) have enabled diagnostic consistency and the objectification of mental illnesses. But the DSM has resulted in overlapping diagnoses, and contrived symptom-cluster checklists. At times, it impinges on the territory of healthy mental function. Allen Frances, chair of the task force that wrote the manual’s fourth edition in 1994, revolted against out-of-control mental diagnosis in his 2013 book DSM: Saving Normal.
From adaptive to maladaptive
Nesse argues that evolutionary theory could foster therapeutic breakthroughs by providing a robust theoretical foundation for psychiatry. He posits that it might also help to prevent people from equating psychiatric symptoms with diseases and viewing extremes of emotion such as anxiety as disorders. Nesse also suggests that mental illnesses might result from the disruption of regulators that maintain equilibrium in the body, such as the endocrine system. The normally adaptive function of thoughts and emotions could, in such instances, become maladaptive.
The future success of clinical psychiatry might depend on an evolutionary framework being integrated with whole-genome sequence-data analysis; this could help to identify mutations predisposing people to mental illness. Given the small contributions of individual genes and the diverse mechanisms involved, this will demand analysis of the genomes of hundreds of thousands of people. As a result of the extensive and often paradoxical entanglement of genetic networks, future treatments might, by necessity, require mental circuits to be engineered to release them from hard-wired evolutionary constraints.
In Theodicy (1710), German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz argued that God, being omniscient, must have created the best of all possible worlds. (Fifty years later, in his novel Candide, Voltaire lampooned Leibniz as Doctor Pangloss, who opined that faults in the world are necessary, like contrasting shadows in a painting.)
Ironic readings aside, the philosopher’s optimism might now be shown to have rational echoes in contemporary science. As Good Reasons for Bad Feelings boldly posits, many of the core dysfunctional components of mental illness ultimately help to make us human.