Six Important 2020 Wellness Trends


As we head into the final weeks of winter and look forward to spring, we’d like to share six important wellness trends that we believe will impact the industry this year.

1. The Whole-Person Approach

As wellness programs have become a staple of the modern-day workplace, they have expanded in scope. We believe they will continue to do so. Employees have begun to count on their employers to provide resources that can help them improve their lives, and employers have increasingly recognized that true wellness is a concept that stretches across every facet of the human experience: physical, mental, emotional, social, work-life, and financial. A holistic wellness program is one that has the capacity to address each one of these issues, taking better care of any organization’s greatest asset—its people.

2. Financial Wellness

Most Americans struggle to save money; in fact, according to the Harris Poll’s CareerBuilder Online 2017 survey, 78% reported that they live paycheck to paycheck. Unemployment is at an all-time low, but a 2019 study by the Center for Financial Services Innovation reveals an American workforce that is in need of financial help:

  • 44% said their expenses were more than their income in the previous year and they relied on credit cards
  • 42% said they have no retirement savings
  • Only 28% meet the requirements that define “financially healthy”

According to PWC’s latest Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 59% of employees rate financial challenges as their #1 stressor. More organizations are exploring financial wellness programs that deal with budgeting, saving, and spending wisely, and we expect this trend to strengthen in the upcoming years.

3. Personalization

Technological advances have transformed—and will continue to transform—the experiences that employees have with the wellness programs offered to them. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can interpret data as a human would, only more efficiently. This gives employers greater insight into the particular needs and desires of their employees, allowing them to personalize their wellness programs accordingly. AI will continue to make it easier to implement the most important missing pieces into existing wellness programs while also identifying the pieces that are providing the most benefit.

We believe the personalization trend will also be fueled by the adoption of communication technologies that employ psychographic segmentation (or more simply, psychographics) in wellness. Psychographics, which has long been used in the marketing of consumer products, allows the delivery of messaging and content that is cultivated to engage various segments of a population differently based on their values, attitudes, and priorities. Psychographics can be used in health promotion to increase participant interest and boost motivation—and we’ve already begun doing some work in this area. Based on our initial findings, we will be surprised if psychographics does not become a more prominent element of wellness programs in the coming year and beyond.

4. Mental Health

According to Johns Hopkins, mental health disorders—including depression, in all its forms—affect 26% of US adults in a given year. In 2017, only about 42% of those who needed it received some sort of mental health treatment. Further, if time, energy, and resources are not properly managed in our fast-paced work and home lives, stress and mental malaise can take a heavy toll without necessarily creating a diagnosable condition. Employers have been responding in recent years, going outside their traditional EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to offer convenient online stress management and resiliency programs like LivingEasy and, in some cases, onsite and/or phone-based stress-management coaching. As we head into 2020, mental health is getting the attention it deserves in the workplace and we see this as a trend that will continue.

5. Platforms

Platforms are related to the first entry in our list, the holistic approach, in that they allow companies to pull together disparate components of a personalized wellness program in one efficient, easy-to-manage solution. As the personalization trend continues, platforms are the answer to efficiently leveraging the constant technological advances and influx of new programming elements available. That is, platforms are designed to facilitate the addition of missing pieces as the need for them becomes evident—they are flexible, scalable, and aim for comprehensiveness. We believe that more companies will enhance operational efficiencies by incorporating platforms that seamlessly interweave all their various wellness program components.

6. Data Security and Privacy

Data security and privacy concerns are no longer limited to computers and servers—especially when it comes to health data. There are devices used to monitor almost every conceivable detail related to health and our daily routines—they are wearable, interactive, and even aesthetically attractive (sometimes). The questions for many users (and potential but hesitant users) are: What happens to all this data? Who sees it? What is done with it?

The concerns are justifiable (and not completely new—there has always been a subset of employees who were more guarded about their personal information). All the devices and the new technologies only make proper security and privacy even more essential, as it can alleviate the concerns that users may have about leaked data leading to a raise in premiums, job discrimination, etc.

So what’s the trend we’re seeing here? More companies will invest in data security measures and require their wellness vendors to do the same, going beyond what is legally required to ensure users have confidence that personal information is safe and secure.

Looking Ahead

So those are some of the more important trends we’ve been seeing in various stages of development throughout the last year, and we expect each of them to make their mark on the industry in the coming year. Stay tuned for more in the months ahead …

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Wellness 2020: Why most New Year's resolutions will fail

New Year's resolutions

Another new year is almost here, and as it is every year, so many people—likely a good portion of your employees included—are high on hope, optimistic that this is finally the year when they’ll eat healthier, start exercising, quit smoking, etc. Of course, last year was the year too, but for so many people, it didn’t stick.

Most resolutions to get healthy are made with sincerity and conviction, but studies like this one show that shortly after the January 1st fanfare dies down, life goes back to normal for most people, and the optimism that blooms with the new year turns back into the reality of the daily grind. And in the daily grind people are worn down, too tired to exercise, too busy to cook a healthy dinner, too stressed to put down their cigarettes and forgo their evening wine.

The vision so many people have of reaching new personal pinnacles of health fade slowly, and somewhere around the beginning of February gyms are back to half-full, the fast-food drive-through lines are bustling, and you can almost hear the deflated masses whispering, “there’s always next year.”

The truth is that there is no magical “new year’s switch” that allows your employees to suddenly break unhealthy habits that they’ve repeatedly embedded into their brain’s neurocircuitry all year (and probably many previous years). Habits are habits, no matter the time of year, and some are harder to break than others.

So why are some unhealthy habits so difficult for your members or employees to change even though, in some cases, their lives depend on it? For instance, unhealthy eaters with high blood pressure or obesity know that a change in diet can help improve their numbers, yet many keep eating candy and drinking soda.

Two Types of Habit

All habits are formed through repetition. Some habits, like your route to and from work, serve a practical purpose. After going to work and then home every day for a while, you no longer need to think about where you’re going and how to get there. If you wanted to take a new route, it would just take a few days—a couple weeks, tops—before it would become the habit and you could drive it without having to concentrate, just like the previous route.

Some habits, however, are not so easy to break. Smoking, mindless eating, certain drinking patterns, or even the avoidance of exercise (yes, sedentary living is a habit) are a different and far more stubborn breed of habit.

These habits have deep emotional roots that link them with a strong need for comfort that is stored in the brain’s subconscious limbic system. When trying to change these habits, this part of the brain feels threatened so it sends out alarm signals—feelings of discomfort, stress and desire. These feelings produce cravings or urges that seemingly can only be satiated by the old behavior. In other words, this part of the brain actually perceives these desires as a need for survival.

For a short time (just following the new year, as an example) these cravings or urges can be resisted, but they grow stronger when the emotional driving force behind them is ignored, and in most cases they become so powerful that they eventually overwhelm the willpower. These habits have usually been practiced over years, and they have become so deeply ingrained that they have transformed themselves from mere habits into psychological addictions.

You see, your employees are not weak, nor are they stupid, or reckless, or lazy. They are simply unaware of the underlying brain function driving their behavioral and lifestyle issues. Many of your employees—probably even most of them—have one (or more) unhealthy behaviors they want to change. The problem is that they go about trying to do so without knowing how to be successful. They don’t understand the real problem (the deep emotional and psychological foundation of their unhealthy habits) and it’s nearly impossible to solve a problem when you don’t even understand it.

So how can you help your members understand and address the real problem so that next new year they won’t have to re-tackle the same issue?

How to Be a Hero

First, understand that for many people, developing permanent healthy lifestyles requires more than the meal apps, food trackers, nicotine gums, and other behavior modification techniques typically found in wellness programs. Permanently changing a lifestyle requires a cognitive-based solution that trains the brain to produce a healthy new trained cognitive response to substances and situations that trigger relapse. The key to truly helping your employees is to give them access to cognitive behavioral training programs that are specifically designed to address psychological dependencies.

SelfHelpWorks has programs that target the most common and destructive habitual behaviors, including LivingLean (food and eating), LivingFree (tobacco), and LivingSmart (alcohol). There are also programs designed to help with managing conditions, like LivingWell (diabetes management), LivingEasy (stress management and resilience), and LivingWellRested (sleep issues). All of these programs combine principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, health-coaching techniques, and our own proprietary cognitive behavioral training component to diminish—and eventually completely eliminate—the power of the urges. It is these urges that, left unaddressed, almost always lead back to the old behaviors and poor condition management.

The SelfHelpWorks programs are strategically designed to reveal and help replace the beliefs and thought patterns that keep people emotionally tied to their unhealthy behaviors. The programs are personal and highly interactive: participants watch short videos, take quizzes to drive the information home, and complete a wide range of assignments that involve introspection at times and practical application to the world around them at other times. By the end of a program, participants have changed their way of thinking and the psychological context surrounding the unwanted behavior, urges are no longer feared, and the old lifestyle is officially in the past.

Watch the quick 2-minute video at the top of this web page to see how hundreds of organizations are successfully using SelfHelpWorks to empower their employees, improve workforce health and productivity, and build a better bottom line.

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The six unhealthiest habits... and how to break them

We recently conducted an educational webinar for a large audience of corporate wellness specialists.

Based on the surprising volume of thankful feedback received, we’ve now split the webinar into a series of short videos so anyone can learn from the information we presented …


1 - The Six Unhealthy Habits That Drive Most Chronic Diseases


What are the six unhealthy habits at the root of the 15 chronic conditions that account for 80% of total costs for all chronic illnesses worldwide?


2 - How Much Does Each of the Six Unhealthy Habits Cost an Organization?


How much do unhealthy employee habits cost their employer every year? How much is due to lost productivity alone?

(You can download the complete report and references mentioned in the video here).


3 - Why Are These Six Unhealthy Habits So Hard to Break?


The difference between the way the brain stores “practical” and “emotional” habits – and why the six key habits resist traditional behavior modification methods.


4 - How to Successfully Change an Emotional Habit


Behavior begins in the mind, not the body. The unhealthy habit will keep coming back unless you retrain the brain to think and respond differently.


5 - How SelfHelpWorks Closes the Wellness Program Gap


Our evidence-based, online Cognitive Behavioral Training process cost-effectively eliminates the hard-to-break behaviors that often don’t respond to traditional behavior modification methods.


6 - Outcomes


A wellness solution is only as good as its results. These sample studies and surveys speak for themselves.


7 - The User Experience


Keeping participants engaged—especially hard-to-reach populations—is our expertise. Without engagement, no wellness solution, no matter how sophisticated, will be effective.


8 - Capabilities & Pricing


SelfHelpWorks is highly flexible and easy to implement, integrating with existing platforms or as a stand-alone solution.

White labeling, detailed reporting, and multiple configuration options are just a few standard features in our cost-effective solution.

Download the fully-referenced behavioral cost report here (it’s free).

Or contact us now to find out whether SelfHelpWorks is a good fit for your organization.

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New report reveals staggering per-capita costs of unhealthy habits

Every self-respecting person in the healthcare or wellness industry is aware of the need for organizations to help their most important resource—their employees—live a healthy lifestyle. However, as many have found out, getting the attention and support of the C-suite and other senior decision makers can be a losing battle. Why?

A key reason is that senior decision makers have an obligation to protect the financial interests of the shareholders, which may differ from the needs of the employees. In other words, you need to do two things to get their full support:

  • Give them a solid business reason for spending company funds to help their employees live a healthier lifestyle; and
  • Quantify the business reason in terms of dollars.

One way to get decision makers’ attention is to show them how much their employees’ specific unhealthy habits are currently costing their organization—in dollars per year.

The numbers are astounding when you add them up. The statistics show that unhealthy workforce habits cost an organization an average of more than $340,000 per 100 employees each year! 

Getting hold of this often-hidden data can be difficult and time-consuming, however you’ll be glad to know that SelfHelpWorks has now done the work for you. Here’s how it happened …

Back in 2017, our research team began a project to comb the literature and dig up studies on the per-capita costs of specific unhealthy lifestyles. The data was originally intended for our internal use, but the bottom line is so compelling that we decided everyone in the industry needs to see it.

So, we’ve summarized key data in an easy-to-read report, and it’s now available as a free download for you to read and share with your colleagues.

The report gives you data and insights for specific lifestyle-related factors related to the six main behavioral drivers of chronic disease, as well as diabetes. It includes:

  • Prevalence (percentage of population affected)
  • Dollar costs of annual productivity loss per person affected
  • Dollar costs of additional annual healthcare per person affected
  • Average annual organizational cost per 100 employees

The report is fully referenced, and all the citations click through to the source data where applicable. Enjoy reading it … put it to good use … and please share it with your colleagues. Working together, we can make a difference in our country’s health!

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Did you know that... many "bad habits" are actually addictions?

Bridge over blue water

Did you know that… It takes changing at least 4 parts of our brain to make or break a habit or addiction? In other words, there’s good reason it’s so darn hard to break a bad habit.

Habits and addictions often shape the quality of our life and experience we have living it. Most people associate addictions with drugs like alcohol, cocaine, opioids, nicotine etc. I disagree with this assertion. Other than the drugs that the brain itself produces when it becomes addicted (yes, our brain becomes addicted, not us), there are many addictions where drugs play no role in the addictive behavior. Gambling, fast foods, pornography… even being a couch potato. Or getting emotionally and physically upset repeatedly whenever the person we say we love keeps trying to run our lives… or being prone to episodes of road rage when cut off on the freeway.

I personally define an addiction as “any recurring behavior or response we don’t or can’t stop that does physical or emotional harm to ourselves, others, or both.”

If it’s hard to see how our relationship with food, or how we respond to our loved ones, could be classified as addictive, then why is nearly 40% of our population obese? And why is it that 50% of primary relationships fail? For those afflicted, why don’t they just eat less or stop sabotaging the love that brought them together in the first place? It’s not because they are weak people or bad people. It’s just that our incredibly complex and addictive brains make it difficult for us to stop the behavior.

The distinction between a habit and addiction–other than the severity of the eventual pain associated with the consequence of the behavior–is that in an addiction, certain parts of our brain are willing to sacrifice nearly everything that “we say and know” is important to us in order to continue the behavior. Our health, our self-esteem, our personal integrity, our well-being, our relationships, job, time with the family, whether or not we go to the beach in summer, how we look, money and in some cases life itself.

Now, I want to be clear that I did not say that those of us who have experienced addiction have the desire or want to make that sacrifice–I said the addicted brain is willing to make that sacrifice. It’s willing because it has prioritized the continuation of the behavior substantially above whether we live a quality life or not. Once addicted, its job is to make sure we comply with its prioritization, and it has a variety of tools in its belt it uses to cause us to fail when we do try to change.

That being said, I’m also NOT saying we are NOT responsible for the addictive behavior itself or the breaking of it, because we are. We started it and we are the only ones who have the capacity to eliminate it. By the way, responsibility is not blame or shame. Blame or shame are ways of giving up responsibility. Change is not easy. It requires commitment, surrendering our points of view, vision, responsibility and the retraining of the brain.

Some people have been successful in changing their addictive habits, and for most it was not easy. It involved lots of failures before they either discovered the secret sauce by trial and error or got lucky. But either way they did it. They used the parts of the left and right frontal cortex—the areas they could access and had reasonable control over—to reprogram, collaborate with, and outwit the parts of their brain that perpetuated the lifestyle that was holding them hostage. Props for their persistence. And props to you if you made help available.

Next time I will talk more about the role of the brain in behavior change and outline the five broad steps required for it. I will also discuss in some detail the first step: “thinking about change”… and all that can go wrong with that. Have a great week.

Lou Ryan – Founder of SelfHelpWorks 

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HRA Study: 60,000+ Participants


A leading US wellness vendor compared the year-to-year annual Health Risk Assessment (HRA) information of 60,000+ employees across numerous industries who had taken a SelfHelpWorks program.

In this case study, you will learn how much the participants reduced each of the following costly health risks:

  • Stress
  • Physical inactivity
  • Tobacco use
  • Weight
  • Alcohol consumption

You will also gain valuable insights about: 

  • How much each of these unhealthy behaviors costs American employers
  • Average completion rates of SelfHelpWorks online programs
  • Two key factors that determine the success or failure or any population health management effort
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Featured download: Wellness vendor health risk reduction case study

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