The Feel Good Factor

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We all want to feel on top of our game – but how can we achieve it? Here Anthony Landale of Illumine looks at the key issues and the ways in which organisations are encouraging their people to feel more vital.

We all want to feel good - but how would you respond to your leader demanding that you bring more energy to work? Of course it’s undoubtedly true that when we bring our zest for life into work it makes a difference to our motivation, our relationships and our performance. But how do we turn on our vitality when we are being run off our feet, when we are struggling to meet tough deadlines and when we are suffering from information overload?

According to Clive Lewis, MD of illumine, this is an issue which nether individuals nor business can ignore. “People who are exhausted clearly don’t give of their best – they don’t concentrate, they don’t have creative ideas, they withdraw. In contrast those who are healthier and happier are more efficient and more productive. Indeed research from the Institute of Health and Performance Management (IHPM) suggests that people who are in good health are 20% more productive than those who are not. And those who went on an IHPM healthcare programme were found to have reduced their absence levels by an average of 5.9 hours a month - a startling figure.”

So vitality in this context is all about knowing how to sustain health. As Gillian Burn, author of The energy and wellbeing pocketbook explains: “Companies want their employees to have ‘get up and go’ but they realise that many people will only show this quality if they learn to look after themselves. As a result companies are increasingly willing to run wellbeing programmes which encourage employees to change their habits”.

So how exactly can you generate more vitality? What habits might you have to change? In this respect there are three key areas to focus on – exercise, nutrition and worklife balance.

Energy through exercise
Unfortunately when it comes to exercise while 80% of us think we are pretty active, in reality only 37% of men and 25% of women are active enough to benefit their health. Both the Department of Health and The British Heart Foundation suggest that we should be exercising moderately intensely for 30 minutes at least five days a week. However this may not require us to join a gym club. On the contrary it appears that the message if we want to enjoy good health is to engage in exercise which motivates us – and this could be anything from walking to dancing and from gardening to DIY.

One of the courses that illumine has run recently was for the European vaccine company Sanofi Pasteur MSD and they were particularly interested in how their employees could be encouraged to incorporate exercise into their busy working schedule. As part of an approach to show them what they could do all course participants were given a pedometer so that they could start to gauge how far they were walking every day. The thinking behind this innovative approach is that once people become aware of what they are doing then they can immediately see what they have to do to improve their current situation.

Vitality through nutrition
The second key area is nutrition and one of the most useful reminders here is that of hydration. We need to drink sufficient water to maintain our energy levels and the recommendation is to drink 2-3 litres a day and to avoid drinking at mealtimes as this dilutes the digestive juices. If you are addicted to tea and/or coffee this certainly points to a potential change in habit, as any drink with caffeine will put your body into a stress response. Vitality requires you to think of ways to manage your energy on an ongoing basis so, for example, herbal teas and juices are much better for you as they are high in vitamins and minerals protecting the heart and lowering the blood pressure.

As for people who have a tendency to snack out, the advice is to avoid those rich pastries, biscuits and, of course, chocolates which are laden with preservatives, sugar and hidden fat. Fruit and nuts and seeds are the sensible choice and those valuable Omega 3 fatty oils (often considered as brain food) can be found in sardines, herrings, pilchards and salmon.

Wellbeing through balance
Third in the quest for vitality is the requirement to make time for yourself. This ‘me time’, is all about paying attention to when and how to relax and recharge your batteries.

But how is this possible in a working world? How can you just down tools when the pressure is on and deadlines are looming? Is it feasible?

One way forward is to take mini breaks at work that put you back in touch with yourself. Perhaps surprisingly this is one of the benefits that smokers have in going outside to have a smoke. However, there are undoubtedly healthier alternatives to smoking and one of these could include going to get that glass of water you’ve been promising yourself or taking a short walk around the block. Other quick techniques are to take some time out to focus on your breathing, remembering your favourite piece of music or even creating an image of your happiest memory.

The real secret here is to do something that makes a difference. It doesn’t have to be any of the techniques above, they are just suggestions, but it should involve you taking some action. This might fall under the heading of thinking positively about ways to solve your problem, introducing a new habit into your daily regime or giving yourself a regular treat. Whatever it is that appeals, your challenge is to commit to something that you believe will make a real difference to you and introduce it into your daily working life.

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