5 steps to greater wellness

Many companies are busy establishing employee wellness programs, looking for ways to motivate employees to increase their health and wellness and thereby reduce health-related costs (insuring an employee will escalate from $10,616 in 2012 to $11, 283 in 2013). Even so, it's up to the employees to take advantage of these programs.

A recent study by a large provider of wellness programs, ComPsych, found that 39 percent of employees say losing weight is their top concern and 26 percent say that they are stressed has their attention. Another 17 percent said that exercise is a major area they want to stay on top of in 2013, while diet improvement and smoking cessation rounded out their list of top concerns.

This all sounds great to me. Employees appear to recognize that the vast majority of premature deaths are caused by poor nutrition, physical inactivity and tobacco use.

What's it really take to do something about this? Engage the mind before, and while, engaging the body. Cultivate what's healthy instead of simply abolishing what's not. Supporting health takes a proper, healthy, optimistic and rationally positive mindset"”the kind that creates health-boosting dopamine, GABA, serotonin, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, phenylethylmine, melatonin and oxytocin, among other "feel-good" neurotransmitters.

So, while better health insurance and wellness programs are terrific ideas, follow these steps to be sure you are doing all you can to boost your own health:

1. Add pleasure to your life with more connections, social engagement, physical activity, healing foods and, yes, more sex.
2. Stop demanding that you have no flaws (you aren't perfect), that other people treat you the way you insist (they will treat you the way they want), and that your life should have no unfavorable circumstances (it does and will). You'll immediately reduce your feelings on the spectrum of depression, anger, and anxiety.
3. Keep in mind that you are responsible for creating your own emotions and actions. Not feeling those feel-good neurotransmitters? Check your irrational thinking before you do anything else. Make more realistic views a part of your daily life. You'll create a deeper level of self-satisfaction and self-acceptance by doing so, and those neurotransmitters will start to gush.
4. Believe it or not, believing in belief beyond yourself adds years to your life and fights illness along the way.
5. Love your mattress and pillow(s)? If you're aiming for improved immune health, aim for more shut-eye contact with these two friends.

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. is the Senior Fitness Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise, earned his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, and has served as a behavioral psychology consultant to many fitness industry organizations including IHRSA, Total Gym, Dimension One Hot Tubs, AARP, and Les Mills. He is the Chief Behavioral Scientist for Anytime Fitness gyms and a member of the Sports Medicine Team at the Sporting Club of San Diego/La Jolla. In addition to his frequent interviews in national health and fitness magazines, and weekly TV segments, he maintains a private behavioral science coaching practice in La Mesa, California for clients for emotional wellness, fitness and health related issues.