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November 2016 Archives

Helping others makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but did you know it is also good for your mental and physical health? Emotions and behaviors that are focused on other people are associated with better well-being, health, and longevity. Yes, being altruistic could help you live longer!

APA has a committee of staff dedicated to improving the health and well-being of employees. This November, APA’s Health and Wellness Committee challenged APA staff to focus on acts of kindness for one week. Each participant committed to one intentional act of kindness per day. Through small or big acts, the focus was on helping others and creating a better workplace for all of us.

Participants were involved in a community email thread through which people shared ideas, struggles and outcomes. Some people held the door for another person or hung signs reminding people they are valued; others gave up a seat on the commuter train or bought lunch for a coworker. The effects of the challenge could be seen throughout the organization as staff members found ways to brighten the days of their colleagues and improve morale in the workplace.


The group took the challenge one step further and spent two hours volunteering at a nearby men’s homeless shelter during the workday. Tasks included folding laundry, making beds, and serving lunch with a smile. APA realizes giving back to the community affects all levels of the organization and the community in a positive way, and that's why employees are given 3.75 hours of paid volunteer leave each year. This lets employees take a half day of work time to give back to the community.

One participant shared this about her experience at the shelter: “In the middle of a hectic APA workday, it was profoundly moving to volunteer some time tending to these gentlemen’s most basic needs by making beds and serving lunch. It was a reminder that caring for our community doesn’t always require more than empty hands and a full heart.”


Gratitude is another “warm and fuzzy” word that actually has evidence-based positive effects on well-being. Research shows people who practice gratitude consistently have stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, and report experiencing more joy and pleasure and less loneliness and isolation.

APA’s November Healthy Hour (think happy hour, but with healthy snacks and games instead of alcohol) featured a Gratitude Gathering.

Participants wrote out things they were thankful for on cardstock in the shapes of fruits and vegetables, and added them to the wall’s cornucopia of thankfulness. Another activity was a Gratitude Grab, through which employees took a challenge out of an envelope and reported back later about their experience. Examples of challenges included: go for a walk at work and write down all the good things you see; tell a coworker three things you like about them; eliminate gossip and negative talk from your vocabulary today. This focus on gratitude seemed to have a positive effect on morale, particularly given the anxiety and uncertainty existing for many post-election.

In this way, it’s important to think about what your staff truly need at a specific moment in time when deciding which programs to implement. Though these activities focusing on altruism and gratitude may seem small, they are far-reaching. By affecting the well-being of an employee at your organization, you can also impact their families and communities, and who knows where the ripple will stop.

Editor's note: This post is part of an ongoing series that shares some of the initiatives, events and activities that support employee health and well-being at the American Psychological Association. We don't only talk about how businesses and organizations can be psychologically healthy. It's a model we've also adopted for ourselves.


Tara Davis is director of the Staff Initiatives Office, which is part of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.



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This page is an archive of entries from November 2016 listed from newest to oldest.

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