November 2011


You may be familiar with the old food pyramid, which showed the guidelines for healthy eating. The USDA has changed the healthy eating guidelines from the food pyramid to Choose My Plate, a pictorial overview of what your plate should look like at each meal to optimize physical health.

Dr. Daniel Siegel,  a respected clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, asked the question, what would the equivalent of a recommended daily diet for a healthy mind look like? To answer that question he created the Healthy Mind Platter.  a pictorial overview of seven daily essential mental activities you should do each and every day to optimize brain matter and create well being.  The seven essentials are;

1. Focus Time When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, we take on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.  These connections are not created when we multi-task.

2. Play Time When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, we help make new connections in the brain.

3.Connecting Time When we connect with other people, ideally in person, and when we take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain’s relational circuitry.

4.Physical Time When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, we strengthen the brain in many ways.

5.Time In When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we help to better integrate the brain.

6.Down Time When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, we help the brain recharge.

7.Sleep Time When we give the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.

What I found most fascinating is the science and research behind these seven essentials.  And even better, they are easy and fun to do.  So play, connect, get physical and in the process fight off mental decline and increase happiness – what’s not to like?


Valorie Bender


The Healthy Mind Platter was created by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute and Clinical Professor at the UCLA School of Medicine in collaboration with Dr. David Rock, Executive Director of the NeuroLeadership Institute.

Worksite wellness programs are becoming the norm in corporate America.  The key to having a successful program is through the creation of a supportive environment in the workplace. As cited by an employee who has both experienced a program that was mandated and then at a later date made optional, but with tools to make it both interesting and inspiring, “ The last program we had was force-fed.  We felt like it was part of our job and not a personal choice. Now we can see management taking strides to support all of us and themselves in creating a culture of healthy living.”

Best practices in the field of worksite health promotion states one of the seven benchmarks of creating a results-oriented worksite wellness program is to create an environment that supports a culture of wellness.  Research shows one factor that heavily weighs the success of a wellness program is having senior management commitment to the experience through personal actions in leadership. This removes, to some degree, the barrier that employees put up because they feel their employer is dictating their personal life choices. The see that management is in the game along side them, also making changes that better their health and quality of life.

Wellness is not a “one-size-fits-all” initiative. Each participant has unique life circumstances, medical histories and risk factors as a result. When there is group level support as well as individualized attention to personal goals setting research shows successful programs are born.

Employers taking the first steps to be well are leaders in the initiative.  Some initiatives that have successfully aided in the transition to creating a culture of health are as follows:

  • Making the workplace smoke-free by putting into place policies that prohibit smoking on the property and implementing a smoking cessation support program
  • Wellness Challenges that engage and motivate. Each campaign centered on increasing physical activity, proper nutrition and better self-care.
  • Offering a steady stream of relevant health-related information and education to employees. This being done to promote on-going excitement and inspiration through the power of knowledge.
  • Sharing success stories and testimonials is one of the easiest ways to engage the heart of the employee that is on the fence about changing their lifestyle. It helps make possibilities real.
  • Implement healthy eating guideline policies to make certain healthful options are always made available in vending machines and all catered company functions. Companies with cafeteria offerings may consider offering a discount on all healthy meal options as well as sharing food-labeling information to encourage making healthy choices.
  • Implement an hourly over-head chime reminder to promote getting up to stretch, move or change position.
  • Start a stairwell program.

Creating an environment of support to the whole employee population, as well as the individual takes time. Each company has its unique needs.  Finding the balance is what will make it work. Happy, healthy, cared for employees have been proven to be more productive. Having a healthy workforce is a powerful tool for success. Let today be the day you take the first steps toward creating a culture of health in your workplace.

By Melissa Naborowsky, RN