New Year’s Resolutions and Mind-Body Connections

For many, the start of a new year is marked by new goals and aspirations.

For many, the start of a new year is marked by new goals and aspirations. A report showed that some of the most common new year’s resolutions included increasing exercise, spending time with family, eating a healthier diet and reducing stress on the job.1

What do all these goals have in common? They have a clear mind-body connection, which is sometimes not emphasized enough. The mind-body connection can be defined as “the causes, development and outcomes of a physical illness determined from the interaction of psychological, social factors and biological factors.”2 For example, physical ailments like headaches can stem from interpersonal stress at home or at work. And on the flipside, dealing with a physical health issue can produce negative mental effects, such as cancer leading to anxiety and depression.

The new year is a time for employers to explore ways to optimize the health and well-being of their employees, starting with creative programs that enhance the mind-body connection. Below, we explore four areas especially affected by mind-body connection, recommendations of ways to bolster the connection and the benefits of following these recommendations.

Four Mind-Body Connections

1. Nutrition

Mind-Body Connection

  • Poor nutrition can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.3 Unhealthy eating habits include consuming large amounts of sugar, processed foods and sodium. A 2017 Lancet study analysis across 195 countries found that poor diets were responsible for 22% of global adult deaths from illnesses like cardiovascular disease and cancer.4
  • Nutrition can also affect mood. A diet high in refined sugars promotes oxidative stress and inflammation that can lead to impaired brain function and worsen mood disorders like depression.5 And when experiencing emotional distress, some may crave and over-consume unhealthy foods.6


  • Employers can support better nutrition by offering health coaching and nutritional counseling to employees. Health coaches are accountability partners who work with employees, with the goal of helping them make desired lifestyle changes. This process includes discussing goals and challenges, and by marking successes.7 Nutritionists help manage chronic and acute conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure through personalized diet plans and recommendations for healthy eating.8
  • Employers may promote healthier eating by providing free fruit in their kitchen and easy-to-access filtered water, as well as by partnering with food vendors to stock healthier options in vending machines.9 Ultimately, a better diet can increase energy levels and slow down or even reverse chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.10

2. Stress

Mind-Body Connection

  • Severe psychological stress can increase heart rate and oxygen demand, potentially leading to heart attacks and gastrointestinal diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcers.11 Mental stress also can lead to riskier health behaviors such as smoking.
  • Workplace stress can lead to burnout, where the brain becomes so overwhelmed that it undergoes neural changes, causing the brain to shift from thoughtful engagement to reactive disengagement.12 Also, stressed employees are more likely to have serious health conditions such as depression.13
  • In addition, traumatic and stressful events can trigger memory loss and affect how we perform tasks, often because the executive functioning part of the brain responsible for planning and reasoning shuts down, taken over by the “reptilian” and impulsive side of the brain.14


  • Employers can provide resources and spaces that promote mindfulness practices. Mindfulness helps bring focus and calm to an individual in the moment and promotes awareness of one’s present environment.
  • Meditation and journaling are some mindfulness exercises that help individuals focus on current thoughts and reduce distractions. Creating dedicated spaces such as well-being suites or calm spaces for guided meditation, yoga, journaling and other mindfulness exercises that meet the needs of employees is helpful.15 Also, offering mindfulness training to teach employees some skills/practices can equip them with the tools they need to be mindful on their own.15

3. Rest and Sleep

Mind-Body Connection

  • Sleep deprivation reduces productivity and efficiency and leads to poor decision-making.20 Poor sleep also increases risks for obesity, diabetes and early mortality.20
  • Furthermore, poor sleep leads to automobile accidents, further relationship conflicts and a low desire to engage in daily activities like exercise.


  • In the growing telework climate, employers can encourage employees to engage in relaxing habits like going for walks, getting fresh air and taking stretching breaks away from the screen.21
  • Employers can also encourage their employees to disconnect and not work during their off hours. Light from computer screens can delay the transition to sleep and lead to sleepless nights.22
  • Some employers are encouraging relaxation and rest for their employees right at the worksite. Space X has a wellness perk of an in-house masseuse to help relieve stress from long work hours.23 Such services can improve sleep by managing pain and tension in the body and reduces stress and headaches.24 Other on-site options include relaxation rooms where employees can go to take short naps in small increments.

4. Physical Activity

Mind-Body Connection

  • Physical inactivity is the 4th leading cause of global deaths around the world.25 Inadequate physical activity can raise blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels.26 Furthermore, increased physical activity can significantly impact mental well-being. One study found that the mental well-being of participants when they were physically inactive compared to when they became physically active after an intervention improved significantly in how optimistic they felt and how much closer they felt to people.27


  • Employers can offer benefits like access to an on-site gym, discounts for community fitness center memberships and/or subsidized equipment purchase, group workouts or mindful yoga classes, individual and small-group personal training, regional or company-wide team-based challenges, and incentives or rewards for participating in fitness activities.

With ongoing pandemic stressors, mind-body connections are worth exploring. Understanding the interconnected nature between the mind and body can enhance employers’ organizational culture and health and well-being practices to better support their employees and achieve optimal health outcomes.