Tag: #hwbinspiration

How exercise helped support my wellbeing during lockdown….

This blog, written by our co-founder Claire, is a look back on how exercise has supported her during an unexpected lockdown.  It builds on her original blog from May 2020.

We at HWBInspiration have written several blogs on how being active has helped us:

  • Wyn, our guest HWB Ninja, has written about the head runs and how they have helped him be present and supported his mental health
  • Su has written about how becoming more active led to the discovery and successful treatment of breast cancer in 2018
  • I wrote about how exercise had boosted my wellbeing and is one of the 10 keys to happier living

9 months on, I have re-read my blog from May 2020 and I read it with a smile on my face.  At the time I didn’t know I was pregnant and oh how the world has changed in a wonderful way since welcoming Joseph into our lives last December (2020).

Back in May I wrote about how maintaining my exercise may be a challenge due to competing priorities. When I found out I was pregnant I decided to stop cycling and re-start running.  I set myself a goal to run at least 2 times per week.  I continued to run up week 36 of my pregnancy.  I became much slower in pace and had to shorten the distance that I ran, however, the sense of achievement I had in doing what I love to do was immense.  I recently took a look at my Strava account and realised that I clocked up over 220 miles of running from June – November.  I was the fittest I had ever been during my pregnancy, I was eating healthy, I wasn’t drinking alcohol and I was getting out running.  My overriding goal was to be physically and mentally healthy and fit to be able to look after the new little man in our lives when he arrived and it certainly paid off. 

Last weekend, 7 weeks after Joseph arrived and 10 weeks after having to hang up my trainers, I took a run in my local park with Joseph in the pram.   It was great, I loved it. Again, my pace was slow and my distance was reduced. However being able to run and talk to Joseph about the deer’s in the park was a moment I will always remember. I was present, I was with Joseph and it was amazing.

Poor Connections: Part Two – Is this remotely working?

Poor Connections: Part Two – Is this remotely working?

This blog from our HWBI Ninja, Lou Harris, reflects on working remotely and the impact on your health and wellbeing.

When done right working remotely can improve employee productivity, creativity and moral according to  Abrams (Abrams, 2019).  Nuffield Health in their white paper have also found “overall remote working was found to be positive on wellbeing.  Where the negative effects were found, it was largely the result of individual traits or factors that can be addressed organisationally such as ensuring appropriate technology to enable access to work material” (Health, 2019)

For employees remote working  can mean greater flexibility, work life balance and save them time (daily commute) and money (travel and childcare costs).   

However, it can also mean social and professional isolation.  One study found for those who normally work remotely,  19% report loneliness (Buffer, 2019 ).  Research has shown loneliness can be “twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).  There can also be a blurring of boundaries between work and life.   Professional obligations  can extend beyond the workday  and prevent people who work remotely truly disconnecting which can lead to burnout.  A survey in 2019 by Digital Ocean found 82% of remote tech workers in the US felt burnt out with 52% reporting that they work longer hours than those in the office and 40% feeling as though they need to contribute more than their in office colleagues (Swanner, 2019). 

Parry also reminds us that much of the evidence about remote working is based on studies of individuals who have chosen to work at home (Parry, 2020).  With coronavirus many people have been forced to work from home and the sudden removal of individuals from their work based social circles can have a negative impact on the welfare of some people.  Similarly, she also cites work life conflict can reduce work satisfaction particularly for those people trying to work at home with young children or caring responsibilities. More recently San Jose has reported on a new survey of US workers with 50% of respondents saying remote working has had a negative impact on their emotional of mental health (Jose, 2020). The figure was higher for parents with school age children.

So, with more of us working remotely how can we help prevent the negative aspects?

Organisations need to shift culture and norms to support the new arrangements such as re-evaluate policies around remote working and performance evaluation according to Shockley a Professor at University of Georgia.  Managers are no longer managing by presenteeism, busyness or working late but by results which requires a huge transition for some managers.  To alleviate feelings of isolation some companies are encouraging virtual coffee breaks during work hours or a “watercooler” channel to encourage break time chatter. Managers should  also foster social and professional interaction with their teams including daily check in’s and promoting access to support services. Jose (Jose, 2020)suggest that organisations should provide training to employees on how to work remotely, provide clear policies and expectations and provide the right tools such as ICT etc to help the remote work experience.

Employees also need to play their role too and cultivate effective routines, set boundaries with managers and colleagues and make an effort to stay socially and professionally engaged.  

For teams who can now work virtually across departments, industries and time zones communication and shared identity within a team can mediate the effects of physical separation according to Wilson (Wilson, 2014).  Other studies have found formalising virtual teams goals, roles and communication methods at the outset can improve effectiveness (Gibson, 2019). Hoch also found that how teams are led is also important with shared leadership rather than traditional hierarchical leadership associated with improved team performance (Hoch, 2014).  This is because it can be impossible for one person to direct an entire project as teams become more virtual, so leadership needs to be shifted to team members with specific expertise.  

Remote working is a management tool just like any other according to Gajendran “When done well remote working has the potential to improve performance, increase satisfaction and benefit a business. 

HWBInspiration co-founders, Su & Claire, are grateful to our Associate HWBI Ninjas for sharing their knowledge, skill and insights.

“You’ll feel better in the morning” – The benefits of sleep on your wellbeing.  Guest Blog from Nicola Blakeman, HWB Ninja

“You’ll feel better in the morning” – The benefits of sleep on your wellbeing. Guest Blog from Nicola Blakeman, HWB Ninja

The Effect of Sleep on Resilience

Resilience is a well sought after quality and we often heard it said that we should learn to build resilience. Many of us have tried to strengthen our resilience by learning special techniques. Sometimes it’s said that life experiences teach us resilience or that certain personality types are more pre-disposed to being resilient. Often successful people are hailed as having admirable resilience. But we don’t hear much at all about the impact that sleep has on enhancing our resilience. Or conversely, how sleep deprivation can severely deplete it.

What does being resilient actually mean

In order to dig a little deeper into this, let’s examine what resilience actually means.  A dictionary definition usually summarises it as the ability to bounce back quickly. To me, bouncing back quickly has several components. When we experience an unpleasant event or a set-back it means being able to: control our emotions in the moment; assess the situation accurately; make objective decisions in the immediate aftermath; and be objective when we look back at the event so we can take the learning, detach from the emotion and move on.

And here’s the thing, as research scientist Matthew Walker explains in his book Why We Sleep, scientists are now proving that each of these things are extremely affected by our sleep or lack of it. Not just by our natural temperament or how much we have learned from bitter experience but simply, did we get enough sleep the night before the event and will we get enough sleep in the nights following.

Let me explain each of these steps in more detail.

Step 1 – Controlling your emotions

When an event happens, we are often filled with emotions. We can feel them flooding in. Anger, frustration, sadness, disbelief. The more primitive parts of our brain responding quickly with raw feelings to try and steer our immediate reactions. But thankfully, our more highly evolved cognitive parts of the brain fires in response to receive, sift and balance the data coming in and allow us a more measured and analytical response. Unless that is, we haven’t slept well the night before (or cumulatively lost sleep over several nights). In this situation, we experience a kind of disconnect between these two parts of the brain; our cognitive thinking not quite being able to control our emotions as it should. Leaving us open to experience mood swings of high emotion back and forth from excitement to sadness or anger and back again.

Step 2 – Objective decision making

Of course, if we are in this situation, we often fail to realise this, and this leads us to the second and third points. We are unable to assess the situation accurately and we start to decision make in the moment based on our emotions rather than our rational thinking. Studies have showed two key things happen when we don’t get enough sleep. We are more likely to view situations with a negative lens and effective decision making is detrimentally impacted. Also, in laboratory studies, participants found it harder to register when a solution wasn’t working and so they would not change course. Let’s take a practical example of how this plays out. Your colleague says something terse to you. As you are tired, instead of thinking objectively that she is probably just having a bad day herself, you are immediately vulnerable to your emotions and negative thoughts and start to feel angry. She’s being rude. She doesn’t like you. You knew she had a problem with you and now this proves it. You quickly decide to be a bit terse back. She reacts accordingly. Your brain at this point perhaps not detecting this wasn’t the best course of action, you plough on, until a very tense exchange ensues leaving you both feeling hurt and awkward.

Step 3 – Learning and moving on

This leads to the final point. As you walk away from the exchange you immediately feel a new flood of emotions, which are also unable to be checked properly by your rational brain, of course, and, as you are now susceptible to mood swings, the anger is quickly replaced by remorse and sadness. Why did you do that? Now it’s going to be weird when you next have to interact. You mull over this event all day, at the mercy of your feelings and mood swings.

That night you go to sleep and your brain gets busily to work. It has a very clever solution to the risk of accumulation of too much “emotional baggage”. The brain waves of sleep act as a tonic, bathing the memory stored in your short-term memory banks, carefully extracting some of the emotional memory attached, leaving more of the facts of the event before carefully filing in your long-term memory.  Remember when your parents used to say, “you’ll feel better in the morning”? It’s not just the passage of time, scientists now think, but the processes during sleep that literally allow us to detach the bulk of the emotion so that we can wake with a more objective recollection. You wake up with renewed clarity, perspective and rational decision making ability and smile to yourself. What was all that about yesterday? I will just go into the office and find my colleague and tell her I was having a bad day yesterday and apologise. I’m sure she’ll feel the same and we can smooth it over. Unless that is, we cut short our sleep (or are unable to sleep). In this case sadly, the brain’s processes do not get time to complete, risking the retention of too much emotion and an inability to recollect objectively. In this scenario it’s easy to see how you could wake up still churning, still driven by emotion and go into work ready to relive the whole scenario again.

Resilience.  Such an important day-to-day life skill and one we often hear we need to gain more of. And we have in our gift a completely free and easy technique for raising our resilience every single day. A good night’s sleep. And in case you’re wondering how much sleep is enough. It’s 7-9 hours. Every single night. Not just on the weekend.  And now you know why.

A bit about Nicky

Nicky is a qualified adult sleep coach, a former sufferer of insomnia and a Mum of three. Having discovered how life-changing getting great sleep could be she is on a mission to share the secrets to sleep success with you.

She knows that you don’t just want more bland advice or sleep hygiene tips. You want a sustainable and natural approach to consistently great sleep which fits in with your busy life and gives you the energy and creativity to achieve your goals in less time.

HWBInspiration co-founders, Su & Claire, are grateful to our Associate HWBI Ninjas for sharing their knowledge, skill and insights.

E = Emotion – 10 Keys to Happier Living

This blog, written by HWBI Ninja Lou, explores how positive thinking, being aware of our emotions so that we can think differently can boost our resilience and wellbeing.

The benefits of positive thinking 

Have you ever noticed that despite facing some really big challenges, some people always seem to see the positives?  My Mum has always said to me and my sister “try to see the positives in everything”, I have always admired her glass half full outlook.  If I am being honest, I don’t think I have always shared this approach and over the last 12-14 weeks, my glass has been a bit depleted.  So I thought as a way to help me understand why and to see if there is anything I can do about it, I would revisit the benefits of being glass half full and if there is a way I can top up my depleted glass! 

Looking at situations in a positive light when they are not ideal is a good trait. Positive thinking is a mental attitude in which you expect good and favourable results, it doesn’t mean you bury your head in the sand and ignore problems but approach unpleasant situations productively.   

Thinking positive and being glass half full leads to experiencing positive emotions like joy and contentment which broaden your mind to possibilities and can lead to:

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved life satisfaction
  • Increased wellbeing
  • Increased problem-solving ability
  • Help you be better able to cope with difficult life events

Glass half empty – “It’s not the things in themselves which trouble us, but the opinions we hold about these things” Epictetus. 

Our thoughts are vital to our wellbeing, they help us make sense of the world and influence how we feel and behave.  One of the most useful things that I learnt about during cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was the impact of thought distortions.  I now help others become aware of thought distortions in themselves and others through delivering Mental Health First Aid Training.  

We all have familiar thought patterns – thinking habits and beliefs systems which have been shaped by our life experiences.  Thinking distortions are unhelpful thinking patterns, they can lead to distressing feelings and prompt behaviours which can maintain the distressing feeling.  We can be more prone to these types of thoughts when we are feeling upset, anxious or low (for example over the last 14 weeks since lockdown).  Learning to recognise and challenge thinking distortions can help reduce the difficult emotions that they cause or maintain.  Some common thinking distortions include:

  • Overgeneralising – making general negative conclusions based on one example or incident i.e. burning dinner once and deciding you’re terrible at cooking based on one example.
  • All or nothing thinking – Thinking in extremes or extreme possibilities and neglecting the more likely middle ground i.e. stumbling over a few words in a presentation and then thinking the whole thing was a mess.
  • Jumping to a conclusion – making a judgement and assuming its right with little or no evidence or facts to back it up i.e. waving to a friend you see across the street who doesn’t wave back at you and assuming they are upset with you when they may not have seen you.
  • Labelling – rating yourself or others with labels based on a situation or incident i.e. labelling yourself a failure when you burn the dinner.
  • Negative filter – seeing only the bad in something or dwelling on negative events instead of positive ones and or explaining away positives for no reason or down to luck i.e. not being successful in an interview focussing on not getting the job instead of giving yourself credit for coming so far in the recruitment process.

CBT helped me to recognise, challenge and address my own thinking distortions.  It is important to recognise the ones you struggle with before you can effectively change them.  Positive Psychology has a great resource that describes cognitive distortions to help you decide ones that you may be dealing with and ways to challenge them.  

Glass half full 

Martin Seligman suggests that we can learn how to become more optimistic and train ourselves to see the world in a more useful way.  He adapted Albert Ellis’s ABC model of adversity, belief and consequence and added disruption and energisation creating the ABCDE model.

  • A = antecedent (i.e. the situation that triggers the response)
  • B = beliefs (out thoughts/interpretation of the situation/event)
  • C = consequences (the way we feel or behave)
  • D = disruption (effort to argue and dispute beliefs)
  • E = energisation (outcome or effects from redirecting your thoughts)

We tend to blame A (the antecedent) for C (the consequence) whilst it is B (our beliefs) that make us feel the way we do. Once we can see this, we can then dispute the way we are looking at a situation.  Disputing our beliefs can help us see the situation in a new light and change the way we feel.  

So how can we put this into practice?  

During the next few adverse events, you face in daily life, listen to your beliefs, observe the consequences and dispute your beliefs. Try recording this. Once you have done you can go through the process in your head. Below is an example which may resonate with a few people:


You arranged a meeting online and couldn’t quite get the technology working at the start of the meeting


I am rubbish at using online meeting technology, I won’t use it again


You turn down invites to other online meetings for fear of the technology getting the better of you and you miss out on important social time with family and friends


I haven’t had much experience of using online meeting technology

The technology is new

Others also had some technical difficulties too

After the first 5 minutes, the meeting went well

There are 4 ways to make your disruptions convincing:

  • Evidence – show the negative beliefs are factually incorrect – most are overreactions. What is the evidence for this belief?
  • Alternatives – are there different ways to look at the problem which are less damaging to yourself, focus on changeable causes i.e. I was tired and specific or its only one time this has happened?
  • Implications – de-catastrophize, even if you struggled with the technology it’s not impacting on the rest of your life
  • Usefulness – question the usefulness of your belief  


Consider how you feel now you have challenged your beliefs.

This is an ongoing process that you may need to repeat and remind yourself of as I have through writing this blog, however, if you use these steps when facing a challenge eventually it becomes easier to challenge negative thoughts and approach challenges with greater optimism.  

HWBInspiration co-founders, Su & Claire, are grateful to our Associate HWBI Ninjas for sharing their knowledge, skill and insights.

GREAT DREAM – 10 Keys to Happier Living                             Guest Blog from Lou Harris HWBI Ninja

GREAT DREAM – 10 Keys to Happier Living Guest Blog from Lou Harris HWBI Ninja

This blog is about the 10 Keys to Happier Living which describe the practical action we can take to boost our well being. The 10 keys are based on a review of research from psychology and related fields by Vanessa King and Action for Happiness. The first five keys GREAT are based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing and are about how we interact with the outside world in our daily activities, the second five keys DREAM come from inside us and are influenced by our attitude to life. 

I thought it would be interesting to explore the 10 Keys for Happier Living and see how we can apply them in our current climate after previously writing about the positive impact that the Five Ways to Wellbeing had upon my mental health recovery.  

Taking action to maintain and improve our well-being has never been more important. One of the classic positive psychology experiments asks people to write down “three good things” and why you think those three good things happen to you each night for a week. After six months they found people were happier but also noticed a decrease in depressive symptoms. Mental Health First Aid England suggests that the strategies contained within the 10 keys for happier living are:

  • Positive steps to suggest to anyone with a mental health issue, and
  • Positive steps for self-care for carers, and
  • Positive steps for all of us to improve our own mental health.

The 10 Keys that make up our series of blogs are:

HWBInspiration have reviewed each of the 10 keys to happiness and providing tips with how they can help and be applied in our current climate. So why not make a start today on “three good things”? Being grateful can help people to cope with stress but it’s something that we need to consciously learn to get into the habit of doing.  So why not give it a go:

  • Every night – before you go to bed think about your day and remember three good things that happened went well, you enjoyed or were grateful for – they may be small such as hearing the birds sing, making a new recipe and note them down
  • Think about why – for each thing you are grateful for, write down why it happened and why you feel good about it
  • Look Back – after a week look back at what you have written – think about how it makes you feel and consider any patterns
  • Keep it up – keep trying it can become a habit

At HWBInspiration we are quite a visual bunch and find that some of these tools are helpful to capture and track:

Gratitude Jar – Su Fowler-Johnson April 2020

HWBInspiration co-founders, Su & Claire, are grateful to our Associate HWBI Ninjas for sharing their knowledge, skill and insights.