Building Wellbeing Builds Effective Leaders

This blog, written by part of a series of blogs as companions to the interview with three renowned experts from The Ohio State University.  Rustin M. Moore, DVM, PhD, DACVS, the dean and Ruth Stanton Chair of Veterinary Medicine in the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).  Second is Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, VP for Health Promotion, University Chief Wellness Officer, Professor and Dean of the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University, and Professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at OSU’s College of Medicine. She’s an internationally recognized expert in evidence-based practice, intervention research, child & adolescent mental health, and health & wellness, and is a frequent keynote speaker at national/international conferences on these topics. Third, Jen Brandt, MSW, LISW-S, PhD, Director of CVM Counseling and Consultation is leading the effort to provide veterinary professionals with the communication, interpersonal and teamwork skills essential to quality veterinary care, veterinary career success, and life satisfaction on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on April 4, 2017 focusing on exploring the impact of mental health concerns in the general workplace and or veterinarians and vet students. It is designed to remove the stigma about getting help and equip colleagues and bosses have some idea for addressing it. The participants discuss general data on prevalence of mental health issues within the general population, veterinary data on prevalence of mental health issues within profession and veterinary students and factors to these issues in society in general and finally recommendations to identify issues and address them.

What is wellbeing?

According to Dodge et al., wellbeing is when “individuals have the psychological, social and physical resources they need to meet a particular psychological, social and/or physical challenge.” 1 Wellbeing includes “…the presence of positive emotions…the absence of negative emotions…satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning.” 2

Why is wellbeing important?

With all of our best intentions, it can be difficult to slow down and tune in to what we need to walk the tightrope between resources and challenges. Our drive to succeed can come at a cost to ourselves and others. We may yearn for simplicity and yet struggle to find it. We rationally understand the importance of balance, yet many of us may be hard pressed at times to achieve it or maintain it. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, however, as wellbeing is associated with numerous individual, family, and community related benefits including decreased risk for injury, illness, or disease; enhanced immune functioning; and increased longevity. Individuals with high levels of wellbeing are more productive and more able to contribute to their communities. 2

A Wellbeing Framework

Wellbeing stems from an interactive relationship between various dimensions of wellness. There is no single perfect plan for wellbeing. Rather, there is an entire spectrum of useful strategies and the optimal plan for one person will likely change over time. What “works” on a given day is dependent on a number of variables including environment, individual preferences, personal accountability, available resources, strengths, interests, and life phase.

The essential skills of being a whole, healthy veterinary professional include intentional integration of the following dimensions: 3

Occupational Wellness

The professionally well person engages in work to gain personal satisfaction and enrichment, consistent with values, goals, and lifestyle.

Intellectual Wellness

The intellectually well person values lifelong learning and seeks to foster critical thinking, develop moral reasoning, expand worldviews, and engage in education for the pursuit of knowledge.

Spiritual Wellness

The spiritually well person seeks harmony and balance by openly exploring the depth of human purpose, meaning, and connection through dialogue and self-reflection.

Social Wellness

The socially well person has a network of support based on interdependence, mutual trust, respect and has developed a sensitivity and awareness towards the feelings of others.

Emotional Wellness

The emotionally well person can identify, express, and manage the entire range of feelings and would consider seeking assistance to address areas of concern.

Physical Wellness

The physically well person gets an adequate amount of sleep, eats a balanced and nutritious diet, engages in exercise for 150 minutes per week, attends regular medical check-ups, limits use of intoxicating substances, and practices safe and healthy sexual relations.

Financial Wellness

The financially well person is fully aware of personal financial states and budgets, saves, and manages finances in order to achieve realistic goals.

Creative Wellness

The creatively well person values and actively participates in a diverse range of arts and cultural experiences as a means to understand and appreciate the surrounding world.

Environmental Wellness

The environmentally well person recognizes the responsibility to preserve, protect, and improve the environment and appreciates the interconnectedness of nature and the individual.

Putting Wellness Into Practice

Exercise One: Raise awareness. Find a quiet location to write about the following:

  • For each dimension of wellness, which do you currently have the resources to adequately meet the challenges?
  • For which dimensions are additional resources needed to adequately meet the challenges?
  • Rank each dimension in the order you value them, with 1 being the highest value to you, and 9 being the least value to you.
  • Reflecting on your rankings, which dimensions receive most of your time, energy, and attention? Which dimensions receive the least? Is there a gap between the dimensions you value the most and the ones that receive most of your time? If so, what are your thoughts about that?
  • If there is a mismatch between the dimensions you value most and the dimensions that receive more of your time and energy, what’s one small step you can take today to bring your values and behaviors into closer alignment?

Exercise Two: Three-Good-Things Writing Exercise

Dr. Martin Seligman is a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He reports that within 6 months of engaging in this simple habit, you’ll statistically have less depression, less anxiety, and higher life satisfaction. 4

Write down three good things that you experience each day. (You can use the 9 dimensions of wellness as a foundation for the topics you write about). The three things can be small in importance (“I took time to sit down and chew my food. I didn’t multitask during lunch.”) or big (“I decided to hire a business coach!!!”). Next to each positive event, write about one of the following: “What does this mean to you?” “How can you have more of this good thing in the future?” 5

Big changes are the result of many small changes applied consistently over time. So, start small. Monitor what you value the most and where you spend most of your time and energy. When values and behaviors are out of alignment, get curious. Keep a notebook with you and jot down 3 good things each day until it becomes a habit.

About the Author

Jen Brandt, MSW, LISW-S, PhD, Director of CVM Counseling and Consultation is leading the effort to provide veterinary professionals with the communication, interpersonal and teamwork skills essential to quality veterinary care, veterinary career success, and life satisfaction. Her professional coaching, consultation and interpersonal skills training offer applied learning opportunities to increase self-awareness, improve wellness and resilience, resolve conflict, and enhance veterinary team communication.

She is a nationally and internationally acclaimed guest lecturer at veterinary colleges and conferences and has served as a master trainer and facilitator for the Institute for Healthcare Communication since 2003. She began working with The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997 and currently serves as the Director of CVM Counseling and Consultation Services.

  1. Dodge R, Daly A, Huyton J, Sanders L. (2012). The challenge of defining wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing. 2012;2(3): 222-235.
  2. Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL). Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hrqol/wellbeing.htm.Published May 27, 2016. Accessed January 2017.
  3. 9 dimensions of Wellness. Student Wellness Center. Office of Student Life. The Ohio State University. https://swc.osu.edu/about-us/9-dimensions-of-wellness. Published 2017. Adapted with permission January 2017.
  4. Seligman M. Resilience training for educators. Authentic happiness. University of Pennsylvania. https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/es/learn/educatorresilience. Published 2017. Accessed January 2017.
  5. The PERMA Model: Your scientific theory of happiness. Positive Psychology Program. https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/perma-model/#seligman-perma-model. Published June 19, 2015. Accessed January 2017.
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