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The HR Scoop

Cindy Bjorkquist from BCBS Michigan | From Contagion Effect to Mindfulness

Season 6
July 8, 2024

In this HR Scoop episode, Andrea interviews Cindy Bjorkquist, Director of Wellbeing for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, about their Blue Cross Virtual Wellbeing program. Cindy explains how the program is uniquely accessible to everyone and its commitment to offer engaging weekly shows on various health topics. She discusses its mission to improve community health, the importance of authentic content, and the global reach they’ve achieved. Cindy also highlights the significance of mental health and work-life balance, emphasizing her commitment to supporting others through these wellbeing initiatives.


Andrea: Welcome back to another episode of the HR scoop, this podcast that I enjoy so much. And today I am happy to share with Cindy Bjorkwist, the director of wellbeing for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. So welcome Cindy.

Cindy: Oh, thank you for having me. I’m so excited about this.

Andrea: It’s always fun to have different people and perspectives on the show and a director wellbeing.

I think. Is something that a lot of our listeners probably want to know more about. And the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has some really unique things. So I’m excited to get into it. Thank you. Yeah. So I guess just jumping in one, a unique offering I know that you have is something called a virtual wellbeing, which is also accessible to the public.

So this is a little different than, you know, just your standard company That you offer to your George employees, maybe their, their families. [00:01:00] So can you describe to our audience what that means and maybe even a little bit of the background of how it came into existence?

Cindy: Yeah, for sure. So if, if you haven’t gone there yet, I’m just going to do a little plug that you can find it at BlueCrossVirtualWellbeing.

com. It is open to everyone, like you said, and so anybody can participate in these shows that we produce every week. But, you know, if you look at the mission statement of who I work for, which is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, It’s to be a trusted partner by providing innovator products that improve the health of the members and the community.

That’s about 5 million people across the U. S. So the question came into my mind, a little history on it, cause you asked, in 2018 is what’s next for wellbeing under that mission statement, right? How can I apply wellbeing to support that? broader mission statement of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. So how do I play a role?

And, [00:02:00] and in order to reach and support all of those people in their wellbeing, because I translate health obviously to wellbeing, we needed a way to scale up a solution. Like, how do I reach so many people? But we also wanted to support employers In that journey as well, because we want to talk to people and help them with their health, but we wanted to help employers who carry Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or Blue Card Network.

So how do I do that? How do I scale up to those thousands of employers at one time? And the also thing that was rattling around in my head is that we knew it was critical to support the social circle of a person that we’re talking to, right? Because of the contagion effect. Um, if you are changing your life to become healthier, the people around you play a big role in that change.

So we knew we wanted to do that. That’s even more people. So how do we do that? All these things were like in my head, summer of 2018, believe it or not, I was on my bike and I was riding around [00:03:00] lakes and on sidewalks thinking about this because there’s science about. Coming up with creative things. When you exercise, you probably know that Andrea, right?

Scientists support that. So I’m on my bike. I’m riding around and I just start asking random people on parks, in parks, on sidewalks. I went around a Lake and there was an older couple on a bench and I said, Hey, If I wanted to talk to you about your wellbeing and I wanted to help you with your life journey, would you dial in and listen to me talk to you about it every single week?

And the resounding answer from all these people was yes, but you have to do it in a fun way and it’s got to be authentic and it can’t be boring. And I’m like, Oh, I’ve got that. I can do that. So that’s really what I pitched to Blue Cross, which ironically enough, um, was this idea that I could every single week, take a different topic and do it virtually.

So I could hit all of those millions of [00:04:00] people, all of those employers, all their family, all their friends, and help people on this journey. And, um, I have like the best definition of virtual wellbeing in here. It is, um, a 30 minute window of time. In a person’s day, they can watch live or watch on demand later where we get the opportunity to expose people to a science based wellbeing topic that might interest them.

It might urge them to even contemplate applying it to their life in order to live a more meaningful life or improve their wellbeing journey, or. Just help them at that point in time that they need it. And that’s a really super long definition, but that’s kind of the mission of what we set out to do in 2018 on this development.

And I think the biggest difference in what we do is the way we deliver the content. And so when I’m talking [00:05:00] about talking to people every single week about their life and their journey and a well being journey, It’s, it’s very unusual. Like you said, in the beginning of a health plan to, instead of doing a PowerPoint for, you know, an hour and just kind of talking to people that way, we have an unusual, authentic way of taking that research and applying it and talking to people in a raw way.

And, and by that, I mean this, When we talked about cold water plunging and the benefits of inflammation, and I use it every day, so I love cold water plunging. We actually went to a lake, cut a hole with a pickaxe in the lake and talked about the science and then live on the show dove in. And so people from Sweden and Australia and the Netherlands, they were all Cindy, you’re so funny.

We do this every day and you’re making a big deal out of it. And it was really fun. To get the feedback globally, right? Or we went, uh, and did a show on the farmer’s market. We went to a farmer’s market and, uh, talk to people about that. [00:06:00] We did a show on connecting with pets. And so we both brought our dogs on the show and talk to that.

So it’s the way we’re doing it in this, um, kind of authentic way that builds those relationships and the connections that we’re building are not Cindy and my cohost, Marissa talking to people. It’s Cindy and my cohost, Marissa. Talking to our friends. And we really do feel that way because we have people that come back and we make these connections and people will, um, will email us.

You did a show during COVID on hugging trees because the Iceland park rangers, you know, did that. They cleared snow away to hug trees because you couldn’t hug your family and friends. So they. Of themselves hugging trees, you know, I mean, how, how cool is that? Or, you know, the email from the person saying, I listened to your show on suicide awareness and my friend’s daughter just died by suicide.

So I sent her your show, you know, that’s the kind of [00:07:00] connections that we build with people. And I think that’s. Raw, authentic relationship. And I really do consider all of these thousands of people that come, my friends, and we know some of them by name. They they’re chatty Kathy during the show. So it’s just a little bit different, but you know, going back to what it is, what we develop, that’s kind of how we deliver it.

We’re. What we developed was this thing called Blue Cross Virtual Wellbeing, and we have three shows per week, one for employers on Tuesdays. So I will talk to an employer about a wellbeing topic and say, this is what it is. This is the science. Do you want to use it at your workplace? Yes or no. We give them downloadable content.

We give them the science and we even give them challenges around it and everything. And they take that and they run with it. Then we have the matching show on Thursday. So those employers will listen to us talk about maybe resilience, and then they send all their employees to our Thursday show as a part of their own wellbeing program, and all of a sudden they can [00:08:00] virtually send all their employees to Where we talk and present in a different way.

We talk to employees. So Tuesday employers, Thursday, the public and the employees of the employers, and then Wednesdays we do meditations. Um, so it’s just this way to deliver this authentic, uh, wellbeing conversation, if you will, to a bunch of our friends.

Andrea: Wow. That is amazing. It really is very different.

And I love the range of topics and activities. And really, we do see such a gap in publicly available wellness information that does give science based information. And ideas and the reasons why, but in an approachable and interesting way, usually, I mean, it’s a bit harder for people to, to make the jump from, Oh, I understand that on an academic level.

I understand why the science is good for my body, but I’ve never seen anybody jump in cold [00:09:00] water and like on purpose. Right. Exactly. I think BERT helps. And you mentioned the contagion effect, and this is something I think it’s also really interesting that we can all think about. There’s some science, and I’m probably going to get the exact phrasing wrong, but it’s something like you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time around, which makes sense, right?

If you’re hanging out with people who have healthy habits, you’re more likely to have a healthy habit because that’s what you’re around. Um, so I, I think that makes a lot of sense and as we can share this in it, I understand you also do things for your clients and customers and health plans and companies, but even just The publicly available information, if you can share that and be like, Oh, this is so funny.

They went to a farmer’s market or not the farmer’s market. Funny. They’re delightful. But you know, if you could just share that with your friends, you’re more likely to increase your contagion effect.

Cindy: Yeah. I think the most, the shows that are, um, people tell us they [00:10:00] share the most are probably the shows that we based on psychology and neuroscience.

You know, the, um, the amygdala hijack, you know, effect or how to be more resilient or, um, you know, uh, suicide awareness or behavioral health or, you know, things like that are people will start to think about their social circles, their friends and their family, send them that link across the world. We found out.

And then that’s how that stickiness of bringing those friends and family along with you on your wellbeing journey or supporting you, that’s even more important with that contagion effect is that I can affect other people in my social circle, but they can affect me. And so it’s not, you know, the old saying years ago when people started talking about the contagion and all the books came out, you know, 10 or 15 years ago.

I did a lot of keynotes on that and it was, you know, get rid of your toxic friends. And so this gives people the opportunity not to do that, but to maybe send a show [00:11:00] on health or resilience or, uh, relaxing the mind or how to not, you know, tip over into being reactive. You can send that to a friend with love and, and then they watch the show and then you both can have a conversation about it.

We, we say a lot on the show. To people, I’ll say, you know, discuss this at the dinner table with your family. You know, we want you to expose your children to these concepts. We want you to expose, uh, your teenagers to the stress they have in their life and the value of just taking that mindful breath before you react.

And so, you know, that dinner table conversation is what we kind of push people to do all the time as well.

Andrea: Well, that’s where real change happens, right? Yeah, exactly. I mean, we can all read the articles. We can. You know, watch the news or watch whatever source of science that we’re going to receive, but unless you can talk about it with people, you know, and somehow integrate it into your life and make it a habit, none of that is going to stick.

And it’s more likely to stick if you have [00:12:00] some accountability, which almost sounds like a harsh word, but I mean, it could be spent accountability. It could be talking at the dinner table or. You know, having a, a cold water challenge with your friends or on a cold day, going to hug a tree. I do love that.

And so I guess that’s how it started and kind of a little bit of how it’s going. But when you think about, you started this podcast or all of these, These things and then it’s getting reaches across the globe. Like how, how has it changed with that integration of, you know, the mindfulness and the content and global?

Has that changed what you put out or have new topics come up or are people just people?

Cindy: It’s so funny that you called it a podcast and you corrected yourself. You know, we, we struggle with what to call it. Ironically enough, it’s so funny. It’s, it’s, it’s not a podcast. It’s not a webinar because a webinar to me and to everyone I asked on that [00:13:00] bike ride in 2018, when I said we’re doing a webinar, they thought, One hour, death by PowerPoint, you know, you’re just going to give me information, so it’s not that either, so we, we call it a show, actually, and, and it’s, it’s funny, there’s a whole conversation about what we call it, but I think because that matches the evolution over time, right, we, just to your point, we started calling it a webinar, And then people started tagging onto it going, Oh, it’s not an hour.

It’s 30 minutes. Well, yeah, it’s 30 minutes for a reason, because when I asked all those people in my random bike riding focus group, how long they wanted it, they said between 20 and 30 minutes. And we did 20 for a couple of weeks or months and it just wasn’t enough time. So we landed on 30. The evolution over time is an interesting journey.

Very quickly into after we launched in January, 2019, we added meditations on Wednesdays. I mean, I knew that people learning the value of mindfulness, the value of taking a deep breath was so [00:14:00] connected to their overall wellbeing that I didn’t want to send them anywhere else to do that. And so I wanted to kind of control over that.

So we added those Wednesday meditations and those meditations range from You know, one minute to 20 minutes, but it gave me the opportunity to, to say on the show on a Tuesday or Thursday, if you want to use mindfulness or meditation and all the different kinds that are out there, then we’ve got you covered.

And so we have, you know, people that go on Wednesdays, we have employers that show up on Wednesday and they broadcast the meditation to their entire workplace, which is really cool. People wrap incentives around it because we can do reporting. There’s a lot of things we can do. So supporting people with the various types of meditations right off the bat was important and Marissa, if anyone out there is listening and they want to experience these meditations, go to blue cross virtual being.

com. Uh, on the member side, there’s these meditations and we archive everything on demand. She is [00:15:00] all amazing. I cannot say. It’s hard to put into words how she’s taken this role. And I think she started in about 20, 21 with this role and, and doing meditations, every type of meditation you can think of, but all different videos, we have people all over the world, send in videos.

Like this one lady in Alaska, she was taking a video for us because we encourage our members to send in videos and then we set a meditation to it. So this lady in Alaska was on a vacation with her dog, beautiful video of Alaska water, the mountains in the back, you know, she’s in Alaska. So she’s shooting this meditation for us and we just wanted, you know, like four minutes or five minutes.

Her dog jumps in the water and grabs a stick. She starts laughing and she, she keeps shooting the meditation and then she sends it to us and says, Hey, you guys, I tried to get you a good meditation in Alaska, but my dog jumped in the water and grabbed a stick. So [00:16:00] sorry. I’m like, wait, no, we can use this. So I send the video to Marissa and she does an overlay and I just say, do a joy meditation because that dog is having so much joy in his life.

So she did a joy meditation with the dog and that’s the kind of organic cool things that she does. She’s just amazing. So meditations we added right away. Um, another. The way that we’ve evolved is during COVID, a lot of people were gaining weight. And so one of the executives at blue cross asked me if I could add a weight loss component to virtual wellbeing.

So on Thursdays at the end of our regular topic, we have what’s called drop five virtual weight loss community. A bunch of people that come together, there’s no cost, no registration. We all support each other in weight loss. And we’ve never let it go. It’s been going for four years and it’s just going tremendously.

We have people that share in and live chat their weight loss. Um, so that’s something that we added. And then because we went [00:17:00] global in about 2021, we. We make sure that we support wellbeing with global research. And so that’s kind of another way that we’ve evolved as well as making sure that we not only bring global topics to Americans, but we support globally what other people and their issues are around the world.

Um, probably the biggest. Partnership we’ve had is with senior health services. And so, uh, two years ago, I had a chat with one of the executives on the senior health services side for Medicare. And I said, there’s so many people who are seniors and retired that are on the show, let’s do a partnership. And so I get to leverage their physicians.

And so their physicians will come on and co host with Marissa and I and do, you Irritation, uh, falls prevention, you know, physical activity as a senior. So we get to leverage their physicians for those clinical conversations, which has just been priceless. They’re [00:18:00] amazing. Um, and then lastly, I think the biggest evolution is.

We had no idea that we were going to have such connectedness to the people that we talk to people who, who, who chat into us their personal, personal stories and, um, and feel very connected to us. And we’ve very. feel connected to them. And I was not expecting that. And that’s probably the best evolution that we’ve had of virtual wellbeing over time.

Andrea: This is all so great and really reiterate some of the basic things that we all know, but it’s so good to see them in practice to have an example of what it can look like. Yeah. Right. Because when we think about incorporating these ideas, yes, you, you have a wonderful platform on the show and people who can You know, weave things together, but you can also do that inside of smaller organizations, you know, even sharing.

We used to call them [00:19:00] active selfies and people would send in photos of them or them and their partner, them and their family doing something active that brought them joy, that increased their wellbeing and we would frame them in the office and you can do that. And the, the images and the videos and. You know, any, we even have done in the past, um, like a show, almost a show and tell people take amazing photography and do art and create things that, you know, it just really comes down to creating those personal connections.

Which at your scale, at the scale of, you know, global is very difficult. So I love the way that you’re still able to bring it all the way down to that personal level and feel connected to the individual who’s benefiting from all of this work you’re putting in and in smaller companies, it’s the same effort.

You know, it might be a little easier, but it’s still the same effort. And we are craving personal. Connection, because real life doesn’t exist [00:20:00] in the computer screen.

Cindy: No, there’s science behind that, right? I mean, that’s a, that’s a risk for, for mortality is, uh, not having those connections and being socially isolated.

And so, and I think during COVID, it gave people the platform to feel connected to someone. Um, and also to help them get through that. But then after COVID, um, I, I think the, one of the things that surprises me the most, I think about this whole thing is that, um, people, people on their life journey, they, they want to get information, but they want to make a change in their life.

It’s just helping. empower them to make that change. And I think that’s what we all strive to do is, especially in virtual wellbeing, is to empower people to know what they should do. Like kind of, we all know what to do, right? I mean, we, we might not know some of these abstract [00:21:00] global things that I talk about, like Nixon, the power of just being silent, you know, or, you know, Or the amygdala in your brain, and it can, it can hijack your thoughts, and how to help that not do that.

Some of those things are very science based, and it’s, it’s very, um, it’s very maybe educational to them. But at the end of the day, how do you help people on their journey To change their habits and their lifestyle, and there is no one solution that fits for everyone. And so this just gives people the opportunity for us hopefully to translate that information to them, but then empower them to make a change.

And on, and on your point about accountability into some, you know, kind of abstract space, they feel accountable because they’re on the show. And they actually live chat with us. So they’ll tell us later by email, cause we have a generic email of how they did those. I have my staff that runs the email. She keeps all of those.

So [00:22:00] whenever I’m feeling really burnt out or stressed or my meditations aren’t working, I will go, I’ll have her send me the latest emails and I’ll read them. And I’m 100 percent energized back for my job for, for a couple of months because there are things that, you know, like I started walking, you know, um, for the, you know, for it’s been 10 years and now I’m walking or I stopped jogging because I had, um, bladder, uh, leakage.

And so I miss running so much, but you did a show on that. And I went to the doctor, I went to PT and now I’m back running and my life feels whole. I mean, really those kinds of things. Or I hugged my grandchildren the other day and thought about the connection I had with them because you did a show on connection.

My Heboglobin A1c is down. Um, I’m a part of your drop five. I’ve lost a hundred pounds. These things are, Our feedback that the [00:23:00] people watching listen to us talk about, but then feel like they want to share that with us by sending us an email or live chatting during the show. That’s true connection to me.

That’s what keeps us going with all this work because, because we want to support them, but then they want to, I think in some way, want to support us back to keep doing the show and keep giving them topics. And they wanted that stickiness and that’s heartwarming. So You know, the goal of the show is to educate and help people, but it’s the heartwarming connections I think that are making it global and why it went viral.

Andrea: Yeah, it’s a positive feedback loop and really highlight, I think what we’re always trying to say and another thing we know, but when you feel connected to the mission and the value that your organization is adding to the world, it gives you a lot more resilience to get through the ups and the downs of regular work, say, and we.

When you’re directly getting feedback from people, of course, it’s easier to see [00:24:00] that, but I do think it’s an important note for everybody that if you’re, if someone in your company’s job wasn’t critical to the company, they wouldn’t have it. So how are we making sure that those people know that and feel connected to whatever the company is doing?

Um, it’s just a really good reminder of that.

Cindy: Well that goes back to sense of purpose, right? So when, when in our industry and wellbeing, when you talk about a person’s sense of purpose, which feeling connected to the company, like you just said, you know, that, that’s one of the trailing themes of the show over the, you know, four years, no, five years we’ve been doing this is that.

That’s why we split the show to Tuesdays. If you take sense of purpose, we would talk to employers about sense of purpose and helping them understand that. When you have people that work for a certain company doing a certain thing, if they feel just like you said, more connected to the mission and the [00:25:00] products that they develop, that gives them the work sense of purpose.

And then if you trail that over to my, what I call life sense of purpose, cause I split them in my head. Then my life sense of purpose is being the best mother I can be to my two boys, you know, or being the best person that I can be in my life. That’s my. Life sense of purpose, um, helping people I think is a very strong sense of purpose that I’ve had my whole life.

I just, I, you know, if you’re in, you know, in a store and you’re pushing your shopping cart in the, in the parking lot and you see an elderly person, there are some people that would just. You know, push their cart by, but there’s some people that are just saying to my, and this is what’s in my head. I’m going to wait for that person, maybe to get all the bags out so I can help them and just take the cart for them and, you know, put them in the cart corral for him.

That’s where my head goes. I think that’s my sense of purpose in life that I just want to help people. I just want to help people be the best they can be in their life. [00:26:00] And. And, and me knowing that gives me a higher state of well being. And so just to your point about sense of purpose, helping people flush that out, both on the employer side, help them feel connected to their mission, and on my private side is a huge part of well being.

Andrea: Huge part. I agree. And I think it really brings up. The blur that we have experienced, I’m going to say in both directions, positive and negative of quote work life balance over the past few years, because it used to be work is work, home is home, and we have to balance how much we’re working with how much time we have at home.

And here we’re talking about the sense of purpose in every place and connection with your family, but also your workplace and what is your employer providing to help you be a better, yes, employee, but also, you know, person out in the world, because we know that when you are feeling whole Your overall [00:27:00] wellbeing, your mental health, your physical health is, you know, in a good place, you are a better employee.

So there is a benefit there, but I think that’s a harder sell this blur and what the employer obligation is, especially in smaller or midsize or even slightly bigger companies. Because there’s not, here’s the RTO and the metrics and the, you know, all of these, all of these things that we can point to that are super objective, it’s more, you know, happy people, happy customers, happy bottom line.

Cindy: Yeah. Yeah. That it’s so funny. You brought up work life balance because in my career of, I don’t know, 40 years in this industry talking a lot, right? I have the gift of gab for my dad who was a teacher. Um, I, I’ve been asked so many times to do presentations or keynotes on a work life balance and the. Yep.

Yep. Yep. And the very first thing I say to anybody that contacts me is, I don’t believe in that concept. So can I change it? And they always say yes, but I have to explain to them that the traditional [00:28:00] work life balance to me is based on time. The time you spend at work, the time you spend at home in your private life.

And what does that look like? And can you, can you just cut it off? You know, by hours, I look at it a little bit differently, which is what I get to emphasize on the show is that for me, it’s more about the brain. It’s more about the neuroscience behind. Your work and your life, let’s call it. So when you’re at work, if you’re a mother and you’ve got a small child, you can’t turn off that stress or that feeling that you have about what’s going on in your family and vice versa.

When you’re at home, sometimes if you’re having a conflict at work or a stressful project, you can’t turn that off. I don’t think you can. So for me, it’s more about supporting people to understand the different Techniques, well being techniques, let’s call them, that they can tap into to help them at work and at home.

So if they’re at work and they’re really [00:29:00] trying to let go, maybe say an argument they had with their significant other in the morning. Can they use mindfulness techniques? Can they take deep breaths? Can they use sigh breathing? Can they journal at night? You know, there’s so many things in research that they can do.

Do Nixon, go for a walk, spend time in nature, all the things that you can do to help you cope and get through what you’re thinking about and where your brain is taking you. And then at night, the same thing, those same techniques you can apply at night to your private life to help you. not black out what’s happening at work, but to understand how to deal with it, to change your brain patterns into thinking in a different way.

So all of those techniques that people can use to, I’m going to turn the work life balance into. Um, Um, work life brain activity, maybe, maybe I’ll write a book someday on that, right? Um, that’s what we’re talking about. So we just give people all the [00:30:00] information and techniques that they could use. And not every technique that we talk about is going to resonate with every person.

And we’re very clear on that with some people on the show, this may not be for you, but just listen to the science, listen to the technique and then apply it if it, if it works. And, and that’s, that’s kind of the. the impetus behind all the different topics that we do and all the different ways we present meditation.

We want people to live their best life on this journey of life and with wellbeing, but we want them to have all of these things in their arsenal that they can use to live that best life. And sometimes we need to be reminded of what our parents told us when we were young. I don’t know about your parents, but my parents, because I have a personality that is out of control.

Go take a breath, Cindy. Or at the dinner table, my siblings never got a word in. So my parents would let me get all of my chatter out and then say, now you eat and let her talk, you know, [00:31:00] or before dinner, my mom would tell me to run around the house. a certain number of times. And I am not making this up today.

It’s 15. So before dinner, I would run around the house 15. There’s the value of exercise or spending time in the woods with my dad, you know, cutting with a chainsaw wood to burn in the fireplace. Those are all concepts of spending time in nature, exercising, taking a deep breath. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of those things as adults to make us.

Yeah. have an easier path when it comes to our well being.

Andrea: I agree. And I think it’s a very good point that, of course, not everything works for everybody. And not everything works for you every time. Even if something worked for you a year ago or six months ago, as you develop healthier habits, you may need to shift what works for you.

And that’s normal. And I think sometimes we get in a rut, uh, well, but I did my five things of gratitude journal this morning and yet I still don’t [00:32:00] feel very grateful. Maybe you need to read journal for a minute. I don’t know. Mix it up. Um, the other thing,

Cindy: but on that point, you make a really good point because, um, something that I’ve been investigating that I’m going to do a show on this year is, uh, toxic positivity.

And to your point, I know. To your point, you know, um, for years in the wellbeing industry, we’ve been telling people, you know, journal and you can rewire your brain and there’s neuroscience on that and happiness and be happy, happy, happy, happy. But the acknowledgement I think, um, with COVID came this direction of it’s okay not to be okay.

It’s okay to exactly what you just said, journal and And be empathetic and, you know, uh, journal your gratitude and do all these things. But at the end of the day, if you’re down or you’re not feeling it, that’s okay. That’s okay. And so, yeah, that’s a show coming up. So Toxic Positivity, you just made me think about that, that I’ve been [00:33:00] reading a lot of research on that and how people are positioning it.

And um, I think in the fourth quarter this year, um, I’m feeling drawn to do something on that.

Andrea: It is a culture killer. Absolutely. Yeah. If you can’t have a bad day, then you can’t be a human, which means you can’t get your productivity and your creativity. And that’s just not real. And a lot of times people do it with the best of intentions, which makes it really hard because they’re trying to lift your spirit, but you’re not acknowledging real life.

Um, so I, that will be a great episode. I will tune in. Um, the other thing. Point, I think that’s important to follow up on those techniques that you mentioned. It’s super critical to have your list of what works for you, easily accessible, already written down and ready to go. Because when you’re activated, when you’re having a hard time, when you’re in a low point, Your brain cannot zoom out objectively, like, what I do to make myself feel better, because you’re going to go for the ice cream, you’re going to go for the unhealthy [00:34:00] coping mechanism, you’re going to scroll your phone, and that’s not going to make you feel better.

And so it’s just like saying, Oh, we have an EAP. If someone’s in the moment of needing that resource, they’re not going to scroll five pages down on the intranet to find the link, to call the number, to figure out where to go. Like, that’s not it. So, do yourself a favor, and your employees a favor, Make hotlinks, make, you know, very, very accessible resources and for yourself, make your own list that will change over time For many things that might work for you Depending on the context and what’s going on and the time you have and the mood you’re in But that’s gonna be way more successful Then knowing that there’s a list somewhere out there that could probably help you.

Absolutely. Uh, so I guess one, one interesting last big question I want to ask is just what are your aspirations for where this is going to go? Like, do you, I know we talked about toxic positivity, but [00:35:00] people are evolving. The. Culture worlds are evolving. It can be a scary place. Like, what do you see that maybe we should all be thinking about also for our employees or that we could expect might become more of a hot topic from your view?

Cindy: Yeah, I think, um, moving forward, there’s some easy ones. Um, we’re going to continue our goal to support people, employers, people, you know, all that. Um, I think for me going forward, what does that mean? The exploration of different topics that kind of border on the toxic positivity conversation we just had.

So. Years ago, if I was to do a show on joy, I would have talked about the science behind joy. You know, the science of what it can do for you rattled off all the studies and you know, joy, joy, joy, find your joy. But I get drawn back to a couple of years [00:36:00] ago. I was in a, a very large conference doing a talk on.

Um, a conversation and a presentation. And I gave, you know, those little composition books, there’s composition books that you use in college, but there’s little tiny ones that you can get little tiny ones, like the palm of your hand size. And I gave everyone in the audience. Um, so imagine there’s probably like 600 people in the audience.

I gave them all composition books and a pen. And as I was going through the wellbeing concepts, just to your point, I was asking them to write down certain facts that I was spewing out, you know, about physical activity, the CDC recommendations, do you reach that, write them down, say yes or no on the bottom.

Um, when I got to joy, an interesting thing happened. I said to everyone all spewing the science about joy and it connects in your brain and helps with your health and wellbeing and all that kind of stuff. And then I said, Write joy at the top of your paper, and then underneath that, I want you to write down an example of the last time you felt [00:37:00] pure joy.

And of all the people in the room, I would say it was shocking to me, maybe about half or 40 percent just looked at me with their pen in their hand. Like they couldn’t think of the last time they experienced joy. So I gave them about a full minute, which is really hard for me because I’m a talker, you know, to think about it.

And then after that minute was up, I said to them, did you struggle? Trying to come up with that example of joy. And a lot of them said, yes. So fast forward, I get done with the presentation. I’m picking up some random books that people had left there that didn’t take them with them. And I start flipping through out of curiosity, the joy page.

And this one person, I don’t know if it was a man or a woman at a table. He wrote, he or she wrote in there, which kind of gives me chills. He wrote, I cannot remember the last time I’ve experienced joy. And it literally almost brought me to tears because here I am, uh, you [00:38:00] know, spewing the science about joy and how you need it in your life and write it down.

And that person was struggling so much. They could not even think of an example to write down on that, on that piece of paper. So I think going forward with virtual wellbeing, that’s the kind of, Um, edgy topics that I want to make sure that I support people with. Yes. We’ll talk about joy. Yes. We’ll talk about happiness.

Yes. We’ll talk about exercise, nutrition, brain science, the neuroscience behind the amygdala hijack. If you don’t know what that is, you can go to the site and I have a show on it. All of those things. But then the people who are basically struggling in their life, I’m going to partner more with my behavioral health side of the house at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and have them come on to, to have those people dig a little bit deeper, you know, um, not to be a therapy show, but to give people some of that.

Acknowledgement around, they just might not be feeling that topic at [00:39:00] all. And they’re there to listen, but it’s not resonating with them. I want to support people in that way. We already have a tight partnership with, um, Julia Kyle and Dr. Beecroft and the various people on the behavioral health side that come onto the show and give their expertise on the show.

Even like when MSU had their mass shooting and Oxford had their mass shooting. We stood up a show within the week and had them on and talk about, um, and, and offer a show with people to help them cope. Um, but giving people that support that they need, because when people talk about wellbeing, that is their mental health.

And there’s that line of Dr. Beecroft will always say on our show. If you’re not feeling it and you’re really struggling for 14 days, you need to get help. You know, you need to, and we say that a lot on the show, that if you’re struggling, we go get therapy, go to a counselor, do this and do that. So there’s that continuum side of wellbeing that kind of bridges over to mental health that I want to make sure that the [00:40:00] people who are attending feel that they’re supported.

So that’s going to be a large part of what we do going forward. Did it come out of COVID? I don’t know, but I just know that people are really struggling. So we want to make sure that we support them. And then outside of that, it’s just bringing every global topic that we can get our hands on, um, to present it to employers and present it to people to help them in their daily life.

Andrea: Yeah, we’re big fans of talking about mental health here also. And it’s a, it’s a good reminder, especially for all of the HR and benefits and wellness people listening. That we get excited. We think, oh, we’ve talked about mental health issues. We’ve talked about journaling before. We’ve talked to, we did a meditation.

We did it three times in a row last year. You really have to have a full spectrum of offerings because different things are for different people at different times, as we said, and if you can’t think of the last time you felt [00:41:00] joy, that’s an interesting thing to dig in a little deeper on. If you can’t look in the mirror, it’s so sad.

If you can’t look in the mirror and think of three things you like about yourself. That’s something to explore, and all of that is part of overall well being, which impacts you as a human, which impacts you as an employee, as a partner, as a friend. And so it really is full circle, but don’t leave, I don’t even want to say beginners.

It’s just the baseline. Don’t forget that that still requires attention. It’s not just the new shiny topics. You have to do a mix of all of it. Absolutely. So before we let you go, and I know everyone wants to hear so much more, but before we let you go for now, I want to ask you the question I ask all of my guests before they go.

And that is, tell us something about yourself that people may not know.

Cindy: Um. Okay. I think it would be a scenario that [00:42:00] drives me in my daily work, which is when I was in high school, my mom took me, my brother and my sister to a restaurant in East Lansing, Michigan. And of course go green. We’ve got the, uh, Spartans there and I remember seeing a, I think she must have been a student ’cause she was about student age who had a lot of students in, you know, in East Lansing, a student, um, crying outside the restaurant on a table.

She was at a outside table. So we must, I don’t even know what restaurant we were in, but we were inside in a restaurant. I remember seeing, and I asked my mom if I could go out there and talk to her. And my mom kind of said, eh, that’s probably not a good idea. I wish I would have done that. And I think that scenario to me, fast forward, you know, I’m going to be 60 this year.

So fast forward many, many years. I still think about that. I still think about that student. Sitting in that chair at that restaurant tearing up over food and how I could have helped her. And I think that drives me in [00:43:00] everything that I do in my job. It’s always been trying to spread the idea of well being or try to spread the word or help people.

That’s ingrained in my brain for some reason, but I think it’s good because it’s helped me get to where I am today and continue to help people. So It’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing. I hope she was okay, but it’s just something that rattles around in my brain.

Andrea: Being a Kentuckian, I have to say it.

Bless her heart. I hope she’s okay, too.

Cindy: Oh, yeah. I’m a Southern girl. I know, right? Oh, yeah. I mean it sincerely, too.

Andrea: Well, I think that definitely proves out that you have made your life’s work to help others. And you know, it’s always good to reflect on those moments that kind of altered our path, even slightly, but over time really kind of leads us on our own journey.

So thank you for sharing and honestly, for putting all of this accessible, really tactical, helpful information out into the world. That’s my favorite thing is to say, this is a great concept and [00:44:00] strategy. Now, what do I do with it? Um, so thank you for helping us at least have a few ideas and a whole content library that we can go dig into.

So thanks again. It’s been so wonderful to have you and we’ll see everybody next time.

Cindy: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you.

The HR Scoop

Humanizing Well-Being, Part #2

Season 2
July 22, 2021
The HR Scoop

Humanizing Well-Being, Part 1

Season 2
July 14, 2021

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