5 tips for a great night’s sleep

“Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting Dr Matthew Walker Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist

Nothing can quite beat a good night’s sleep … but how many people feel they have a decent night’s shut-eye every night? I have over the years going from port, then as a pilot to having mandated rest periods as we knew our performance dropped (and we would be more dangerous) without sufficient sleep. As a father to 3 youngsters under 8? Well read on!

Probably very few, with many waking up after a night’s disturbed sleep feeling bleary-eyed and listless the next morning.

Let me introduce you to sleep hygiene, a term to describe the different practices and habits necessary to have good night-time sleep quality and full daytime alertness.

Insomnia can be a real problem for some … but trying to get that ‘good night’s sleep’ is something everyone yearns for yet remarkably few achieve night in and night out. Many have fallen into bad sleeping habits which range from going to bed too early to working right up to a few minutes before they turn in for the night. The mind doesn’t automatically shut down when you think it’s time for bed. “The WHO has decided to classify any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen”

The problem is that many people simply try too hard to get off to sleep and can easily commit some basic mistakes while struggling to do so.

The good news is that the solutions are simple and can be highly effective. Basically, only try to sleep when you feel really sleepy and don’t disrupt your sleep patterns once your body has slipped into an effective sleeping routine.

Many people will have an early night if they’ve a big day the following morning – everything from a job interview through to competing in a sports event. Trouble is, when they turn in early they may not be sleepy. So, once between the sheets or under the duvet their mind quickly gets into thinking mode about the day to come … and then the mind starts trying to tell itself to go to sleep when it’s really not ready.

That’s when it becomes a real problem. Sleep’s not something you can turn off and on. The body has to be sleepy to fall into a deep slumber and the key here is that it’s not the quantity of sleep but the quality that counts. Six hours decent kip will leave you feeling way better than 8 hours tossing and turning. “Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting”

In fact, many sleep researchers believe you get most benefit from your first 3 hours of deep sleep. So make sure your body and mind has hit what’s known as a high sleep drive before your head hits the pillow, which means you’re absolutely ready to sleep. When it comes to sleep, the mind and body can’t fool themselves. If you’re not sleepy you’ll probably struggle to nod off into a deep slumber whereas if your eyelids are truly drooping and you’re struggling to keep your eyes open then you know it’s the right time to hit the sack.

A low sleep drive means you may well be heading for a restless night as you were never really ready to sleep in the first place and that’s only going to lead to sleep anxiety. Remember, the degree to which you feel rested depends on how much deep sleep you get, not how long you’re in bed.  

“Regularity is most important – go to bed, and wake up at the same time every day” Sleep needs a routine and you can mess that up simply by having a lie-in at the weekends. For many, if they wake up on a Saturday and Sunday at the usual time they’d get up on a weekday but then keep dozing they’ll often end up feeling fuzzy-headed. In short, think of it as sleep jet lag. That dozing has done more harm than good. It may not be what you want to hear but it’s best to wake up at the same time each morning whether that be a weekend or a weekday.

A real issue happens if your sleeping is becoming so bad you then start to associate your bed with wakefulness, a condition known as Problematic Sleep Conditioning. That’s why it’s crucial to only go to bed when you’re genuinely sleepy. If you can’t sleep then it’s pointless staying in bed worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again.

You may come home tired but that’s different from being sleepy. Don’t confuse the two. Tired means you may feel fatigued or exhausted but sleepy is a very specific term for when your body is ready to fall asleep.

To get into that mode you need to glide down what’s dubbed the sleep runway – genuinely unwinding and relaxing so both the body and mind are ready for sleep. Everyone will find their own triggers for this but you normally can’t beat reading a good fiction book in bed – certainly nothing too heavy or newsy that may set your mind off again. You could even listen to an audio book. 

“We are a dark deprived society in this modern era” – this lack of darkness is destroying out quality of sleep. For others, watching TV, simply listening to music or doing yoga or meditation will do the trick. The more cluttered your mind is with the troubles and pressures of the day, the longer the runway you’re likely to need to wind down. Relax the mind by gently distracting it – looking at your mobile phone, iPad and other electronic devices may stimulate it and there’s even a suggestion that the light from these screens can have a negative impact on sleep.

And forget drinking yourself into a good night’s sleep. While alcohol is well-known to help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol.  

But do think about getting a bit more exercise into your life. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling during the day, can drastically improve night-time sleep quality.   www.sleepfoundation.org

And think about what you’re eating. According to The National Sleep Foundation, heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion for some people. When this happens close to bedtime it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep.

Finally, make sure you have a comfortable mattress – after all, you spend around a third of your life in bed so it’s well worth the investment!

Here are my 5 good sleep tips:

1.     Only go to bed when you’re sleepy.

2.     Do something that you know relaxes you on your sleep runway.

3.     Don’t break your natural sleep pattern by having an early night or a lie-in at weekends.

4.     Don’t drink too much booze or eat rich food. During deep sleep at night, there is a sewage system in the brain that cleanses the brain of all the metabolic toxins that have accumulated throughout the day

5.     Make sure you’ve invested in a really comfy mattress. Humans beings are the only species that deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain.

Why trust has to be at the centre of everything we do

Why trust has to be at the centre of everything we do 

It’s a small word that passes many people by but if it’s not central to all you do in life you risk losing everything.

It governs all we do from our personal relationships and politics through to how we shop in the technological age to how successful we are in business.

That one simple word is … trust. It’s something that always has to be earned but it can also be so fragile if not carefully cared for, leading to disastrous consequences

There is a saying that “trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.”

Without it – or if you lose it – then everything can quickly fall apart and can be so difficult to put back together again. If couples don’t trust one another it can rapidly lead to relationships crumbling. Every time we buy something online we are trusting the seller – people we’ve never met and who sometimes live thousands of miles away – to provide what we paid for. If trust falters in a business then that signals the beginning of the end of that business.

The late American businessman and keynote speaker Stephen Covey, who wrote the popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said: “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” 

Look at the world around us now and there is a clear crisis of trust wherever you look.

The whole General Election was about trust. Did the voters trust Boris Johnson to get Brexit done or trust Jeremy Corbyn to get a better Brexit deal and then put it to a public vote. The landslide victory shows which party the British electorate trusted most on this (and their other policies) … but only time will tell if this trust was well-placed or misplaced.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s reputation has taken an international battering since two of its new 737 Max planes crashed in Ethiopia and Indonesia, claiming hundreds of lives. Former Boeing engineers and aviation analysts seem to be blaming faulty sensors for the crashes and the incident has caused other safety concerns surrounding Boeing to surface.  

The 737 Max planes have been grounded worldwide since March, costing the company a fortune … but it could prove to be costlier in the lack of trust passengers and even some employees now have in the company. Rebuilding that trust needs to go far further than a solution to the cause of the crashes being passed by regulators so the Max planes can fly again. The company will need to show to the world it has learned from what has happened and there has been a major culture change within it when it comes to safety.

There’s been a crisis of trust at Facebook too with its users’ confidence in the company plunging by 66% as a result of revelations that data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica inappropriately acquired data on 87 million Facebook users which it used to target voters during the 2016 USA presidential election. A survey showed that only 28% of Facebook users now believe the company is committed to privacy, down from a high of 79% the previous year. Imagine how long that’s going to take to retrieve.

In September 2020 hackers managed to get into 30 million Facebook accounts and take all kinds of data including emails and phone numbers.

The question is who will now trust Facebook’s new dating app and another new app it’s brought out which allows people to share videos and make video calls given its recent poor track record on protecting people’s data?

Qualities you’ll need to earn people’s trust include being reliable, dependable, competent, and sincere and if that trust slips you’d also need throw in humility and by this I mean being able to admit mistakes to rebuild it.

Yes, trust can be earned out of something that’s gone wrong. Sandra Sucher, an economist and professor at Harvard Business School, asked market researchers to study what happened when a customer experienced a problem at a company. She discovered that if the business sorted out the problem to the customer’s satisfaction then their trust in the company was not only reinstated but actually increased.

She said: “This is so different from how we normally think about trust. It’s not as fragile as we believe. Trust can actually be regained and it may not be lost forever.” 

When it comes to the workplace trust is all about teamwork. 

David Armistead, a consultant to businesses and communities seeking to thrive in the emerging new global economy, said: “Trust each other again and again. When the trust level gets high enough, people transcend apparent limits, discovering new and awesome abilities for which they were previously unaware.”

If people feel part of a team and trust one another to do their jobs well then the business will thrive but for this to happen employees need to have the self-discipline to hold themselves accountable by making sure they don’t let themselves or anyone else down by failing to do their best at all times.

Once a workplace has that ethos managers will have confidence in employees designing their own jobs and creating systems to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Trust is about sharing information, caring about other roles, opening yourself up to constructive feedback and providing support even when it’s not your job to do so. 

This is helped by managers acting more like mentors than taskmasters and providing positive feedback on how people are doing. Telling someone they’re doing a great job will fill them with more confidence and they will feel they’ve reached a high standard they won’t want to let slip.

For, as author Ernest Hemingway said: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

But let’s leave the final word to someone people have no problem trusting, the Dalai Lama, who said: “To earn trust, money and power aren’t enough. You have to show some concern for others. You can’t buy trust in the supermarket.”

How being ever so humble can make you ever so successful.

Successful managers need a motivated workforce. However, many bosses make basic mistakes which quickly lose their staff’s respect, leaving them facing an uphill battle to drive the business forward.

Top-down leadership has passed its sell-by-date. Forget the loud, brash, tell-them-what-to-do school of management, because there is another, gentler and ultimately far more successful style to adopt. Being humble.

No, not in the same way as smarmy creep Uriah Heep from Charles Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’ who kept mentioning his ‘umbleness’ as a smokescreen for his malevolent manipulation.

Instead, to be humble in the most positive sense of the word requires an open mind along with a sense of humility and the mindset to listen with sincerity. It’s a style known as ‘humble leadership.’

At its heart, staff need to feel appreciated by managers who are committed to bringing out the best in their employees and are open to feedback because this ultimately makes employees happier in their work. Staff want to feel encouraged, supported and energised, not downtrodden, ignored and taken for granted.

Top-down, dictatorial management simply doesn’t work. If employees have a fear of failing or missing targets then they’ll start to feel negative about the work they do, which will ultimately have a detrimental impact on the business.

After all, everyone wins when people feel motivated and look forward to going to work – relishing each day as a challenge, leaving with a sense of fulfilment, instead of approaching it with a sense of dread.

Autonomy is key to an engaged workforce:

If changes need to be made in the workplace then ask for opinions from the workforce and listen to what they say with sincerity and an open mind.

If their ideas aren’t used then explain why and encourage them to keep coming up with more. Any business is only as good as its people and everyone who deals directly with customers has a role to play in how these customers perceive the business. That can show up in every phone call an employee makes and every email they send. They may well know their customers far better than management and could suggest bright ideas that had never crossed managers’ minds before.

After all, how many TV programmes have we seen where the CEO goes undercover on the shop floor to find out just how the business runs and is often shocked how much of a daily struggle it is for many staff. Yet some employees show amazing resilience, hard work and innovation to overcome it.

Embrace change

The words “we’re doing it this way because we’ve always done it like this” shouldn’t pass managers’ lips. That shows a closed mind to new innovations or fresh outlooks that could improve policies, procedures and how customers perceive the business to be. The world never stops moving forward and businesses shouldn’t either. If you close your mind you may as well close your business.

Investing in people has almost become a cliché these days but it’s true. No matter how great your product or service, without good people to deliver it then it will never reach its full potential.

Dan Cable, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, describes managers with a humble mindset as “servant leaders” which sounds like a bizarre prospect at first but actually means they regard themselves as serving employees as they develop in the workplace, providing them with both practical and emotional support.

Prof Cable sums it up perfectly by saying: “Servant leaders have the humility, courage and insight to admit they can benefit from the expertise of others who have less power than them. They actively seek the ideas and unique contributions of the employees they serve. This is how servant leaders create a culture of learning and an atmosphere that encourages followers to become the very best they can.

“Humility and servant leadership do not imply that leaders have low self-esteem or take on an attitude of servility. Instead, servant leadership emphasises that the responsibility of a leader is to increase the ownership, autonomy and responsibility of followers — to encourage them to think for themselves and try out their own ideas.”

Putting it into practice is surprisingly straightforward. Instead of telling employees how to do their jobs better, ask them how you can help them to do their jobs better. By encouraging and helping them to get new skills and to enjoy their jobs you’re more likely to keep them and so avoid the cost, time, hassle and uncertainty of trying to replace them should they decide to leave.

After all, how many managers have struggled to replace a brilliant employee and never quite managed it before eventually realising those lost skills have harmed the business.

The end result of a servant leadership style should be a positive workplace ethic and atmosphere that everyone is in it together, everyone has a vital role to play and everyone should be actively encouraged to contribute ideas to continually move the business forward. Strong companies foster an atmosphere that everyone should be a potential innovator, not simply a follower.

The ‘H’ Factor

Humility – let’s call it the H-Factor – shows that you can be humble yet ambitious and successful. Humble managers focus on the job, not themselves, and their egos are never so big they can’t fit their heads through the door. Egoistic managers may grab the attention but, more often than not, for the wrong reasons.

We’ll give the final word to former US President Teddy Roosevelt, who said: “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

By being humble you are, in effect, empowering your staff in so many ways to improve their own skills, confidence and knowledge which will ultimately enhance your business … and lead them into eventually becoming servant leaders themselves.

And that’s a very good thing, especially these days with all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Why smartphones are making us less smart

Smartphones: Millions of people may be suffering from ‘digital dementia’ 

Using our smartphones is often an addiction … and like most addicts, we don’t realise just how dependent we’ve become on our technological fix.

Of course, they are useful but there is also a darker – perhaps we’ll call it grey instead so it doesn’t sound too sinister – side to our mobile phones which are having a lasting impact on our brains.

And it’s this … our smartphones are, in some ways, making us stupid. I’ll give you an example and I doubt many of you will say you don’t do this. Someone wants to give you their phone number. Quick as a flash, the fingers and thumbs will be at work keying it into your phone. Gone are the days where we’d write it down or, God forbid, actually remember it. This means we are eroding our memory skills. If I was talking to a group during a presentation and I gave them a random seven-figure number now – say 6497234 – and then asked them five minutes later to recall the number and say it out loud how many do you think would remember it? Very few. Perhaps, ironically, only the technophobes.

You could even try it at home with your family’s smartphone users. Give them the number twice, tell them it’s important, and then ask them to recall it five minutes later.

If they can’t then they could be suffering from Digital Dementia, a brilliant phrase introduced to the world by neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer to describe an overuse of digital technology resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities. He believes that short term memory pathways start to deteriorate from underuse if we overuse technology and once this sets in then it will be with you for life.

Look at the world around us. Sit in a café and see how many people there are on their mobile phones, how many people walking past are on phones, how many people travelling past on buses or in taxis are on phones. Our phones are taking over our lives and, although some of us realise it, we are unlikely to change and the reason for this is because we’ve become addicts and we don’t know it.

It’s said that alcoholics are the last to realise they are alcoholics when everyone around them – their friends and relatives – are all too powerfully aware. They often change when they reach some kind of crossroads in their lives – usually a crisis such as a serious health scare – and then they try to do something about it.

A force for good

The big problem with smartphones is that they are ultimately such a force for good – our window to the world and a massive help in our daily lives – that the detrimental impact they’re having on our minds goes way under our conscious radars. We won’t see the potential pitfalls and how they are eroding our mental dexterity. A great example is 10 friends who went out for an evening meal. The bill came to £360 – it was a particularly good meal – and 3 of the diners had to get their Smartphones out to work out their part of the bill which was quite simply £360 divided by 10. By the way, the answer’s £36 for those scrabbling around for their mobile phones.

This addiction and its impact on our minds will only get worse. How many parents are totally exasperated by their children on their phones day and night?

The time has come to make a stand – ban smartphones from the bedroom, mealtimes and at school. And how many parents will now roll their eyes while reading this fearing that trying to bring in these bans is a lost cause.

There is a new generation of young people now entering the world of work who will have their smartphones between their hands and their keyboards their addiction is so strong and that surely is a serious distraction from what they should be doing. Even at a gym, you’ll see people staring at their phones while exercising and it makes you wonder if that means they’re automatically putting less effort in as their concentration is being diluted by their smartphones.

If you’re chatting to someone and they have their phone in their hand or even on the table do you, perhaps even subconsciously, feel threatened by it and that you are somehow not as important as that small yet smart device.

So beware and also be aware that digital dementia is costing us basic mind and memory skills. In short, we are outsourcing our brains to our Smart devices and losing the ability do some things that we used to take for granted.

And once those skills have gone, they’ve gone for good.

The Mindfulness Craze: The Benefits & Getting Started

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a process of purposefully cultivating non-judgemental attention to experiences in the present moment which can be achieved through many different practices including meditation. 

Professor Mark Williams from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre says that “it’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’.” Living ‘in our heads’ can often lead to rumination and worries about the future – a common factor in the onset of mental health problems. As such, mindfulness techniques are commonly used in areas of mental health treatment (e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to detract people’s attention away from the future, instead, bringing their attention firmly into the present (NHS, 2019).  It is time to get started, our minds are phenomenal parts of us. You keep your body fit, so let’s get our minds fit too.

Awareness of this kind helps us spot signs of anxiety and stress earlier on and deal with them more effectively. Uncertainty about the future and the lack of control that comes with it can often provoke a great deal of anxiety, especially in young people whose brains are still underdeveloped in many areas of emotion regulation. As such, focusing on the present has a wide range of benefits and an increasing number of applications, beyond mental wellbeing.

Modern applications of mindfulness and its benefits

Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts in 1979 to treat the chronically ill. Since then, the application of similar mindfulness programs has extended into medicine, schools, prisons, hospitals and other government and business environments. Evidence from numerous meta-analyses indicates that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) can have a significantly positive impact on reducing stress, anxiety and depressive symptomology (Kabat-Zinn, University of Sussex, 2003). 

Some of the best athletes in the world turn to meditation to increase their focus, calm their nerves and reduce distractions, including NBA basketball players LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Meditation can generate “flow” or a state of total focus on the current task (Aherne, Moran, & Lonsdale, 2011; Kee & Wang, 2008) and often enhance performance. You don’t have to be a pro-athlete to reap the benefits of mindfulness; these techniques are widely applicable to your business world; key business leaders and advocates of mindfulness include Bill Ford, the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company and Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has aggregated some empirically supported benefits of mindfulness including improved stress management, emotional intelligence (EQ), improved working memory, greater emotional control and higher relationship satisfaction. Sound interested? Here’s how you can get started with mindfulness:

How can we more mindful? 

  • Sitting peacefully and breathing through the nose and out of the mouth to regulate breathing. If you feel your mind drifting, touch the floor or look at the room around you to bring yourself back into the present moment.
  • Try mindful colouring or mindful exercises such as walking and running.
  • We would recommend downloading the Headspace app or visiting their website which will help guide you through mindful meditation and help you get started.

Trying these techniques for just 10 minutes a day for a month or so, to vastly improve your wellbeing, mood and performance, for your work life, staying fit and well and for your relationships – helping you feel your best and perform your best!

Do please share, and get in touch with us at www.7milesaminute.com for further support, executive coaching @7milesaminute. Good luck!

Your inner voice

Why your ‘inner voice’ can be such a powerful force in your search for success in life

We all have it … and it yells at us every day although no-one else can hear what it’s saying.

Having the courage to follow your intuition

In this blog we are talking about your inner voice – also known as your intuition or gut instinct. Call it what you will, but listen to it.

It’s your inner sense urging you to do something – or perhaps even urging you to hold back from doing something – but how often do we ignore it, letting our logical thought processes take over instead to make that decision?

Yet how often has your inner voice been right even though at the time it surfaced in your consciousness you had no real reason to think that was the case?

One of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time was always insistent that you listen to your inner voice above your own thought processes and the arguments of others. The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Most importantly, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

To help you understand what this is all about let me give you the example of a man preparing for a triathlon who woke up one weekend knowing he needed to train but had a bad feeling about it. There was no logical reason why he shouldn’t go out for a long cycle ride, just something within him warning him against it.

Gut Instinct

He ignored his gut instinct, went out on his bike and within a couple of hours was lying in the middle of the road with a badly broken leg.

So what is this inner voice when it comes to making quick decisions in life? Well, the dictionary defines it as “the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning.”

Some would dismiss it as no more than a hunch. But how many times have you had a hunch that’s been right? I’ll bet it’s way more times than it was wrong.

Here’s a fact that will surprise you – 95% of our brain activity happens at an unconscious level? Studies indicate that a mere 5% of our cognitive activity – including decisions, emotions, actions and behaviour – comes from our conscious mind.

So your inner voice is shouting out from somewhere among that other 95% and from a  thought process that’s not being consciously processed. It may be it conflicts with your rational voice – the one that’s weighing up the pros and cons of doing something. The inner voice tends to say “just do it.”

Intuition

How does your inner voice shout out to you? Be aware that it’s not always a voice in your head. It may simply be a feeling that’s had an impact on your body ranging from a sensation – a shiver when, on the face of it, there’s no need to shiver – through to an emotion. Your gut feeling will emanate from your central nervous system. If you have a crush on someone it hits you in the pit of your stomach. If you know you’ve made a serious error – such as pulling out of a junction and causing a car crash – and knowing you’ll have to face the consequences it’s more than likely you’ll get a sickly feeling in your stomach first before your rational mind takes over, trying to quickly work out what to do next to sort the problem out.

There is a battle going on inside everyone – instinct versus logic – and the more you think about it and analyse it the stronger the chance of logic winning the day.

Your instinct may tell you to apply for a new job but then logic takes over and could come up with a whole host of reasons why not to – it’s a longer commute, the hours may not suit your family lifestyle, the extra money’s probably not worth it. So you don’t bother applying.

Yet if you had followed your instinct and applied you may have discovered the employer is ultra flexible, your pay banding will rapidly increase once you’ve been through your probationary period and you can work two days a week from home.

Making time to listen

So how can you listen to your inner voice and give time to listen to what it’s saying before your rational self takes over and crushes it?

Give it a chance at least to communicate with you and that’s by trying to a find a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of normal daily life. Easier said than done but there will be that opportunity if you look hard enough. Get up a few minutes earlier when everyone else is asleep, perhaps go for a walk and, if you can get the house at a really quiet time, meditate.

You’ll find there is a time when you’re more in tune with your inner voice. For some people it could be in the shower, the bath or on the toilet. It’s a time when your mind momentarily stops thinking or racing and then that unconscious part gets its chance.

Life’s full of tricky decisions. Say you’re buying a house and you decide to go for it despite having reservations. If you’ve made the right choice those reservations will be overcome, fade away or become less important. But if your inner self still has deep reservations you’ll feel uneasy about the whole move and start to resist it.

There are very few certainties in life. Your inner voice may not always be right but, on the balance of probabilities, it probably is because it’s your whole being that’s trying to tell you something rather than just one part of it … your brain. 

If you walk around talking to yourself isn’t that simply your inner voice finding its way out and expressing itself? It can be a powerful tool to psyche you up. How many times have you seen professional sports stars yell ‘come on’ with their fist punching the air. They’re talking to themselves, not the crowd, reinforcing their self-motivation which has got them this far in their highly competitive lives. If you’re going into an exam or for an interview how many people talk to themselves, perhaps saying they know they are the right person for the job, now go in there and prove it. Psychotherapists sometimes try to teach people how to use their inner voice to overcome their fears. 

Psychotherapists will also tell you there us a powerful link between negative self-talk and depression with people who ‘talk themselves down’ suffering more stress and poorer health, both physically and mentally. The way to control these thoughts is to stop and evaluate them. So if you fear you can’t do something then think back to similar situations where you have overcome such doubts and ultimately succeeded. It will replace that ‘can’t do’ mentality with a ‘can do’ one. If you do something and it’s ultimately unsuccessful use your inner voice to evaluate why so you learn an important lesson for next time. See it as a first attempt in the learning process and focus your thoughts on how you can improve in the future.

In these ways your inner voice can boost your positive mindset, enhancing your mental health. If you can feel it making a difference in your outlook on life just think how powerful it can be in helping to defeat your negative thoughts.

Take some more time

If you need to make a decision and something is gnawing at you inside and making you feel uncomfortable then just put the decision on pause and say you’ll get back to the person. Very few decisions in life really need to be snap ones. Take time to explore the reasons to work out exactly what it was that made you feel uncomfortable and why. Your body may be telling you intuitively that something is wrong by perhaps feeling sick, anxious or being unable to sleep. The better you get at recognising these kind of reactions and why they are happening will lead you to think that your instincts can be trusted. The more you validate your instincts and show them to be correct, the more you’ll both trust and listen to them and the better you’ll feel within yourself.

In conclusion, you have a strong ally within yourself … and that’s your inner voice so make sure you use it to your advantage and this blog has shown how you can do that. It can enhance your performance and keep your mental attitude in tune with your body.

It will help you to reflect within yourself which may well lead to positive changes and can boost your self-motivation to help you achieve your targets and ambitions.

In short, when your inner voice speaks to you make sure you listen.

Thank you for reading, do get in touch would love to support you in your quest.

Let’s support one another – wellbeing is ours for creating

I have made time to focus and write this short 4 minute piece, have been struck again personally by this important issue.  After a colleague who had battled with his mental well-being, and lost, and left us all reeling in disbelief and shock, when he took his own life.  A gifted father, husband, a talented human being, and friend. Gone.  Why had none of us reached out? Just phoned to say “Hello mate! How’s tricks?”.  Upon reflection, we have now learned we all could have done so much better.  Give this some serious thought to your colleagues, and do better than I did please.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health problems are now the leading cause of disability in the UK, affecting 1 in 4 of us throughout the lifespan (World Health Organisation [WHO], 2017 https://www.who.int/). It is important to recognise that mental “health” extends beyond the absence of mental health disorders; it is a state of well-being in which an individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life and is able to work productively.

Your mental health is determined by a range of environmental, socioeconomic and biological factors; poor mental health is often associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health and human rights violations. As such, we all have a responsibility in the workplace to create an environment where employees feel safe to be themselves and feel comfortable speaking to someone if they are having a bad day.

The World’s Most Common Mental Health Disorders

In recent years, we have opened up the conversation about the world’s most common mental health disorders.

Depression

The most common mental health disorder, depression, affects around 320 million people worldwide (WHO, 2017) and is characterised by ongoing depressed mood or “feeling low” and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. Other symptoms include changes in appetite, sleep disturbance, difficulty with concentration and memory and reduced self-esteem.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)

OCD is often misunderstood and is an incredibly debilitating disorder. It is characterised by obsessive, almost constant thoughts, images or impulses that are difficult to ignore (called obsessions), and a strong feeling that the person must repeat certain physical acts or mental processes (called compulsions) to help overcome such thoughts.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are characterised by excessive and disproportionate worries and difficulties controlling them. Other symptoms include restlessness, fatigue and sleep and concentration disturbance.

Other common mental health disorder include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Bipolar Disorder and Panic Disorders. 

Actionable Strategies for Advancing Workplace Mental Health

Wellness Committee

Forming an employee wellness committee in your business not only allows your team to learn more about mental health but also provides a point of contact for those who may need to discuss and receive support for mental health difficulties. A Wellness Committee could also extend its efforts beyond the office and engage in or host panel discussions and events that promote mental wellbeing. De-stigmatising mental health in this way will encourage employees to speak up when they need help – an initiative that has already seen great success in large companies such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car https://careersblog.enterprise.co.uk/now-is-the-time-to-talk-about-mental-health/ .

Communications (Chat, speak face to face, get to know one another)

It is important to establish communication processes that educate employees on stigma, psychological illness and safety relating to mental health. A useful method to ensure the mental well-being of your employees is to provide annual or quarterly confidential surveys that monitor the mental well-being of your team. For more information on this, visit the mental health report by the American Heart Association who propose some useful workplace strategies. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/03/05/top-ceos-offer-strategies-to-improve-workplace-mental-health

Community Partnerships

Identify ways to align with local organisations to improve mental health within your community. This is also a good way to evaluate and discuss other companies’ mental health practises to see if they will be a good fit for your company. Recent research has demonstrated the importance of physical activity and mindfulness-based practises in mental health and has been particularly effective in treating depressive symptoms. A range of UK businesses are now engaging with local yoga studios https://londonlovesbusiness.com/why-wellness-in-the-workplace-matters/ to promote work-life balance. This not only helps with stress management but also enables employees’ remain motivated and productive.

Leadership

Ensure leaders demonstrate visible and proactive actions to build an inclusive culture that supports a mental-health-friendly workplace (e.g. incorporating a health and well-being section into monthly employee one-to-ones is a good initiative to demonstrate support for your teams). Providing external annual training with experts in workplace wellbeing and mental health coaching is incredibly useful in helping them lead wellbeing conversations with your team. Mental Health at Work https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/ is a particularly useful site for smaller organisations that may not have the resources to offer comprehensive mental health support in-house. Businesses can find advice on everything from training in mental health awareness to structuring a full program of support. Senior leaders can also ensure that employees are made aware of the services and support the company offers for mental well-being.

7 Miles a Minute Ltd

Here at 7 Miles a Minute, we are a team of expert executive leadership performance coaches, keynote speakers and accredited Miro psychometric and Performance Climate System practitioners. We support businesses across the UK and US develop long-lasting mental wellbeing and develop action plans to help your team perform to the best of their ability. We help you identify your workplace climate and ways to ensure your people are happy at work, in turn, fuelling your team’s appetite to grow as a unit. 

Some of our clients include the Bank of England, FlyBy Technology, VISTAGE, and the NHS. If you wish to learn more about 7 Miles a Minute and what we can do to enhance your workplace health and well-being practises, get in touch today by emailing mw@7milesaminute.com

(+44) 7903 849 262

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