Category Archives: Wellbeing

What Have I Learned from Running?

Back in December 2014, when I took part in the Liverpool Santa Dash 5k, I thought running would be a one-off experience. Looking back now in hindsight, this was the beginning of something new and fulfilling, that would become a major part of my life.

It was not until January 2016, that I took up running as a hobby. This was because I wanted to do something different for a New Year’s resolution, and to improve my fitness.

Initially I would go for a run once a week. However, I was quickly bitten by the running bug, and was soon covering longer distances, as I was consumed by my growing enthusiasm for running. This led to me to running the 2016 Scouse 5k for charity, where I raised £980 for Maghull Young Adults Social Club, for young adults with autism like myself. I have since gone further by running in longer events in Liverpool, Port Sunlight, Hoylake, and Southport, culminating in running the 2018 BTR Liverpool Half-Marathon for the first time, which was a great experience, despite completing the race with an injury. In simple terms, outdoor running has forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone and has also taught me more about myself, than I could possibly have imagined previously.

My life has changed considerably since taking up running. Apart from getting physically fitter and stronger, it has given me plenty of self-confidence, in addition to having something in common with other enthusiasts, and it gets me outdoors and into the fresh air.

Running outdoors has also allowed me to explore my surroundings. From the streets of Liverpool, to country lanes and coastal areas, I have been able to take in sights of pure natural beauty and picturesque landmarks, some of which have been memorable. One example is running along Otterspool Promenade with the wind blowing in from the River Mersey, whilst another is running from Ormskirk to Kirkby on a glorious October morning with blue skies, little cloud, surrounded by peaceful countryside. However, my personal favourite was on holiday in Paphos, where I would run from my hotel to the town and back, complete with spectacular views of the early-morning sun, rising over the Mediterranean Sea.

One of the most spectacular views I have come across when running. An early-morning run from the town on Paphos to my nearby hotel, when on holiday in 2019.

I have found running to be an ideal way of relieving stress after a hard-working day. Running allows me to clear my head of mental strains, anxieties, and other negative thoughts, as endorphins are released in the brain, making me feel good afterwards. This makes running beneficial to good mental health and well-being, and it can be meditative and helps to get the creative juices going too!

Apart from what I have mentioned already, there are other benefits associated with running. These include the following below:

  1. Anyone can take up running.
  2. Running is a cheap way to exercise.
  3. It helps with getting a good night’s sleep.
  4. When running in sunlight, it is a good source of Vitamin D.
  5. Running also boosts creativity and can improve your memory.
  6. It also helps in strengthening your joints and bones.
  7. Running also improves your cardio-vascular health.

Of course, there are other things that I have learned from my running experiences, including the following:

  1. Always listen to your body.
  2. Strains and injuries can be picked up if you are not careful (yes this has happened to me).
  3. Ensure you take a bottle of water for hydration (this is especially important when running in warm weather).
  4. In warm weather, wear light clothing i.e. shorts and T-shirt, along with a cap and put sunblock on.
  5. Run at a pace that you are comfortable with.
  6. When running outdoors, be mindful of your surroundings.
  7. If taking part in a race, put in as much practice and preparation as you can.

Looking back on my running journey, I can say that taking it up was one the best decisions I ever made. Running has given me structure, discipline, fitness, and it has proven to be extremely valuable in coping with the daily stresses, strains, and anxieties of modern life, and I also enjoy it very much. In addition, running has given me plenty of moments, for myself and my family to be proud about. There are also millions of others like myself, who have changed their lives through running, and have proudly felt the same passion and pride as I have done.

In conclusion, I hope you have enjoyed reading about and understanding how much I have learned from running, and why it has become a passion of mine. I can guarantee you, that I shall be keeping the running habit going.

Thanks for reading!

The Joy of Work by Bruce Daisley – A Book Review

Following on from my review of March’s BIMA Liverpool event featuring Bruce Daisley, who is Twitter’s European Vice-President, I have recently finished reading The Joy of Work. This was a book that offers several fun and imaginative ways to enhance the workplace culture of businesses, which made an incredible impression on me.

I enjoy reading books about business, self-help and personal development. From contemporary to classics, I have read several titles from authors such as Tony Buzan, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and Professor Steve Peters. After reading The Joy of Work, I can honestly say it is up there with the best of them, as I found it to be a delightful read, and full of ideas to improve workplace culture. Even better is that the ideas listed are fun, sensible and practical, whilst also based on solid and meticulous research.

The book is structured into three parts, which are Recharge, Sync and Buzz. Recharge looks at twelve ways to help in making you feel happier about your work. With Sync, this looks at eight ways to make teams closer, whilst Buzz looks at ten secrets of teams that are motivated and energised in what they do. Each of the three parts is broken down and clearly explained in simple terms, which are straightforward to understand and easily digest.

There was plenty I learned from reading the book. In fact, there is so much to share that I could write forever, which is why I have listed the key learnings below that I have learned and that resonate with me.

  1. Get a good night’s sleep.
  2. Concentrate on one task at a time.
  3. Go for lunch away from your desk.
  4. Ban phones from meetings.
  5. Remember to know when to leave people alone.
  6. Suggest a tea break and laugh.
  7. Focus on issues and not on people.
  8. Have pre-mortems, rather than post-mortems.
  9. Champion diversity.
  10. Admit when you have made a mistake.

From the points listed above and more, I was able to understand how work can be joyful and fulfilling. The book has also reiterated what I learned at the BIMA event about creativity suffering when under pressure, and what can be done for it to thrive in the workplace.

It has given me plenty to think about, and I have since successfully applied some of Bruce’s suggestions to my professional life. These include focusing on issues faced, being honest about mistakes made, and having lunch away from the desk during lunch breaks. By applying these ideas, I have been able to maintain a positive attitude to my work, as well as learning from my experiences to develop as a person.

If I could conclude with why I recommend this book, it is for the following reasons. Firstly, it is intelligently written and concise, making it easy to read and understand. Secondly the ideas suggested are simple ones, which can be tried and applied to your organisation. Finally, these ideas can also be applied by anyone, from office workers, cleaners, shop workers, CEOs, managers, company directors, entrepreneurs and many others.

I recommend purchasing the book from Amazon, any other bookstore, or even download the Kindle version. You can also download the audiobook from the iTunes Store. I have since downloaded and listened to the audiobook, and I enjoyed listening to Bruce speaking the words. Suffice to say The Joy of Work is now a permanent fixture in my collection.

If you enjoy Bruce’s book, you can also listen to his highly successful Eat Sleep Work Repeat business podcast.

BIMA & The Joy of Work with Bruce Daisley – A Review

In every organisation, the workplace culture has a considerable effect on the productivity of employees. This is because if a working environment makes them feel good and positive about what they do, they will be more productive. However, if the environment is infected with negativity, this has the opposite effect on employees feeling disillusioned and stressed, sometimes to the detriment of their health.

I recently attended an event organised by BIMA (British Interactive Media Association) at The Plaza in Liverpool. Presented by Bruce Daisley who is the European VP of Twitter, the purpose of this event was to look at how workplace culture affects an employee’s productivity. The event began with a delicious lunch, followed by Bruce’s talk, a Q&A session, before finishing with an opportunity to have a free copy of Bruce’s new book The Joy of Work, signed by the man himself.

Following the lunch, Bruce introduced the talk by starting with his background. This was before speaking in detail about how the modern workplace environment is becoming increasingly permeated with stress, affecting not only the physical and mental wellbeing of employees, but also the creativity and productivity of organisations. Reasons include the changing digitalisation of the business world, the feeling of being overworked or underutilised, and the constant daily overload of information. In simple terms, as the modern workplace has changed, the levels of stress has soared through the roof.

I was impressed with how Bruce talked about how stress and negativity in the workplace affects creativity. This is because when under pressure (e.g. sitting at your desk waiting for ideas), the thinking of fresh ideas when under the microscope destroys an individual’s creative capacity. I have always believed that good ideas only come to you when you are relaxed, and this certainly reaffirmed this for me.

Bruce also made other interesting points related to stress, and the negative effects on creativity. These gave me plenty to consider about what the workplace environments of the future need for employees to feel positive, and for creativity to thrive.

These points include the following:

  1. Modern working systems thrive on overwork.
  2. Physical productivity goes down when we are overworked.
  3. We are very close to a burnout generation.
  4. Creativity gets killed when put under the gun.
  5. The human brain is configured to make a certain number of decisions per day.
  6. Mental fatigue is when the quality of decisions made drops.
  7. In order to be productive, it is vitally important to recover well.
  8. Weekend e-mails are a fast way to workplace burnout.
  9. Sleep is a real performance-enhancing activity.
  10. Creative offices have more face-to-face conversation between people.
  11. Time when travelling is creative.
  12. Stress lingers in the mind like a hangover.
  13. Creativity is the last competitive advantage.

To promote a working culture that embraces creativity and encourages new ideas, there is plenty for organisations and individuals to consider. These include providing a workplace environment that supports employees by managing stress, promoting wellbeing and preventing overworking to maintain productivity and quality of decision making. Communication barriers must be removed to prevent individuals, teams, departments and groups from working within silos, by encouraging face-to-face communication between all parties.

On reflection, there were several takeaways that I learned. The first and most important was that stress kills creativity. The second is that being relaxed and loose in thought is when creativity happens. A third takeaway is that creative magic happens when humans work together. My final takeaway is the importance of mental recovery and replenish through sleep, relaxation and even mindfulness. What I have learned from all this and more, has given me a better understanding of what is required to be creative.

I loved every minute of the event. From the talk given by Bruce, to the intelligent and insightful questions asked by the audience, it was an experience that I gleamed so much learning from, of which I am truly grateful.

The event also allowed me the opportunity to network, mingle and share notes, experiences and compare understandings, with many familiar faces. These included Andy Kent from Angel Solutions, Ian Finch from Mando Agency, Gavin Sherratt of Mashbo, Phil Adams from Langtons, Alex Clark from Professional Liverpool, Leon McCowan from Your Business Mobiles, Nicola Forshaw from Mindfit and Sarah Lowe from Bruntwood. An added bonus was that I got a taste of using AR (Augmented Reality) technology provided by Holdens Agency, which involved viewing the venue surroundings in real-time over a superimposed image, which was an amazing experience.

My thanks go to Bruce for a thought-provoking talk, and for signing my copy of his book, which I am looking forward to reading and reviewing. Finally, I would like to thank everyone at Bruntwood, BIMA and LCR Activate for organising a terrific event.

Professional Liverpool – Networking Breakfast with Nicola Forshaw

By constantly dealing with the pressures of everyday life at breakneck pace, we put ourselves under plenty of stress. In these chaotic times of this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world that we live in today, the feelings of busyness, tiredness, as well as being distracted and overloaded can be overwhelming, to the detriment of our physical and mental health. This means we need to be non-judgementally aware and feel what is happening in the present moment all around and inside ourselves, which is also known as mindfulness.

Last month I attended a networking breakfast organised by Professional Liverpool. Held at the Cotton Exchange, this was delivered by Nicola Forshaw of Mindfit, which looked at mindfulness. I was curious to learn about how I could personally incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life. A second reason for attending, was I also saw this as an opportunity to develop a mindful approach to leading and helping others.pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast3

Nicola was a superb speaker with a great passion for her business. From start to finish, Nicola delivered a talk that was succinct, easy to understand, clear, knowledgeable and reassuring for the entire audience. Indeed, I was impressed with how Nicola clearly showed her expertise with a smooth tone and flow, leaving myself and everyone mesmerised.

There was plenty that I learned from Nicola. From using mindfulness personally in everyday life, as well as using mindful leadership to cultivate, nurture and support others, I learned and gained an understanding of mindfulness.

Below are some examples of what I learned about mindfulness:

  1. Mindfulness is a practice of living in the present moment without consciously passing judgement.
  2. If you worry or dwell on the past and future, you will miss out on the present.
  3. Drop into the present to get a sense of calm.
  4. The threat is in the mind most of the time through overthinking.
  5. Overthinking makes you ill.
  6. Meditation is clear seeing of the mind.
  7. Mindful listening involves being comfortable, connected and happy. This is required as you need to feel able to express yourself thorough your presence, clarity, focus and compassion to others.
  8. The quality of your presence has a diverse impact on another person’s thinking.
  9. Mindfulness is not a quick fix, as you must be committed to it for the long-term, and it requires patience and practice.
  10. Being a mindful leader not only improves your resilience, but also improves complexity, communication and collaboration with others.

From the above, I now understand that is important to make the most of the present, and not worry and overthink about the future. The latter is especially true with some things in life and business that you have no control over, as it is easy and understandable to feel concerned about what may or may not lie ahead.

To summarise my thoughts, I found the event to be a fascinating introduction to mindfulness. From this I have learned plenty of interesting points on mindfulness and mindful leadership, and how I can apply this to my own life and to assist others. I can pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast2honestly say this has been extremely useful to me as part of my personal and professional development, and I have since been trying to apply mindfulness in my daily life, by applying a few minutes every day to practice.

Overall the event was excellent. From meeting Nicola who was delightful to speak and listen to, from networking and catching up with several familiar faces including Chris Burgess, David Wafer, Lee Parry and Leon McCowan, there was plenty of conversation and opportunities to strengthen networking relationships. The breakfast provided was also delicious with fresh fruit, bagels, cookies, croissants, meat, cheeses and plenty of tea and coffee, giving a cultured and continental taste.pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast4

In conclusion, I would like to thank Nicola for being a wonderful speaker, and for opening my eyes and ears to the power of mindfulness. My thanks also go to Alex Clark, Emma Rittenberg and Keri Stanistreet of Professional Liverpool for putting together a fine networking event, and I certainly hope my fellow attendees got as much out of it as I did.

Thank you very much!