Helping your mental health and your happiness

This photograph was taken yesterday morning at St Albans parkrun where a record number of participants walked, jogged and ran the 5k route, supported by a group of volunteers. What has that got to do with mental health and happiness you may ask? Well read on and it should become clearer.

Too often, people feel afraid to admit that they are struggling with their mental health. This fear of prejudice and judgement stops people from getting help and can destroy families and end lives.

There has been huge progress made to tackle stigma surrounding mental health in recent decades, but it still remains a key issue driven by negative associations, experience and language.

This text appeared on the Heads Together website, providing background to the campaign that was spearheaded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to end stigma around mental health.

Heads Together was the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon Charity of the Year. Billed as the World’s First Mental Health Marathon, it did much to raise awareness of the need to address stigma associated with mental health.

During Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, I have been fortunate enough to attend a number of events and hear from people across sport, entertainment, charity and business sectors speaking very openly about their own mental health challenges and experiences in an effort to help others. What was reinforced to me time and time again is that success in your chosen field does not bring mental health immunity.

As we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, more people are talking openly about their own mental health and it is so important that we keep this dialogue going so we can continue to address the stigma. We all have both mental and physical health and should be able to discuss either without fear of prejudice.

Talking however is only one way of helping ourselves and others deal with mental health. More and more we are learning that the relationship between our physical and mental health is inextricably linked. In 2008, 5 Ways to Wellbeing were developed by NEF as  part of the Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing.

Action for Happiness have based their GREAT” daily activities on these 5 Ways to Wellbeing in their 10 Keys to Happier Living, shown in their diagram below.


As you prepare for the working week ahead, why not have a think about how you could integrate these activities into your daily life if they are not already part of it. Small actions can have a hugely positive impact both on you and others, mentally and physically.

That takes me back to why I like this photograph of St Albans parkrun yesterday so much. For me, it embodies every aspect of GREAT.



Introducing… Little Bit of Calm


“A calm mind helps our human intelligence to assess the situation realistically”

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Being a great business leader, role model, mentor, partner, parent, carer, sibling or friend is not easy in today’s “always on” culture. Frequently we see these roles, and others we perform, competing for our attention and converging, regardless of time and location. That’s before we even begin to think about making time for personal development, exercise, hobbies oh and of course sleep. And that’s where Little Bit of Calm comes in…

Imagine a scenario where you have invested heavily to brand your organisation and your culture as a people centric business that wants to attract, develop and retain high calibre individuals who are central to the current and future success of your business and bringing life giving and saving products to market; people who will work hard, give the best of themselves in an environment that will at times be challenging, uncertain and require your people to work across cultures, functions and time zones dealing with multiple and sometimes conflicting priorities in this “always on” culture we live in.

Then imagine that same scenario but add in the word support to “attract, develop and retain” and what does that make you think of? A company that has a culture where mental health or mental illness is not stigmatised and spoken about in hushed terms or brushed under the carpet, a culture where it is ok to say “I am struggling” and “I need some help”.

Key statistics:

  1. The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) used in the UK Health and Safety Executive’s 2016 statistics report* on work related stress, anxiety and depression reported that stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health in the UK
  2. The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days which was an average of 23.9 days lost per sufferer
  3. This same report defines work-related stress, depression or anxiety as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work*
  4. These numbers quoted only relate to the UK and the cost of mental ill-health at work to the UK economy alone is £26bn**

When I took a career sabbatical 18 months ago I knew I wanted to take some time out for me, to recharge and decide what my next career chapter was going to look like. I knew I loved the Life Sciences industry; the intellectual challenge; learning every day and knowing that collectively all of us were making a difference and changing peoples’ lives for the better around the globe. During this sabbatical I also realised that we ask (and give) a tremendous amount of ourselves to our companies, colleagues and roles and at times, this may be to the detriment of our own health, be that physical or mental.

Having launched MLA, I really wanted to see how I could contribute to helping our industry help its people and so, in early 2016, I then became involved in Minds@Work. For those of you who have not heard of it, or Geoff McDonald, one of its founders, Minds@Work was launched in 2015 and their mission is to help break the stigma associated with mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety, in the workplace.

Most people who know me know I have a passion for health, wellness and having a positive impact on the health of others. What perhaps is not so well known is that I am also a qualified yoga instructor.

Over the last 12 months as MLA has evolved, so has my thinking. My career to date has afforded me direct insight and understanding of the challenges and growing pressures of working in our industry and hence the creation and now launch of MLA’s Corporate Little Bit of Calm workshops; structured and bespoke workshops designed to help you help your team maximise their well-being both in the workplace and at home.

We do great work in the Life Sciences industry developing and bringing lifesaving products to patients around the globe and you look to identify, attract and retain great employees to do this. Surely you and they deserve that bit of calm to be and give your best?

Click here to find out more about our Corporate Little Bit of Calm workshops.


*‘Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence’.
**Centre for Mental Health

Connectivity and convergence, healthcare 2017 style

As we begin week 2 of 2017, CES 2017, the global consumer technologies innovation conference  has already wrapped in Las Vegas, and JP Morgan, one of Life Sciences’ largest annual conferences, bringing together executives and investors from around the globe kicks off in San Francisco today.

CES 2017 was all about looking to better global living through connectivity and innovation be that in digital health, AI, VR, robotics, smart cities, 5G, cars, sport or travel. Trends from last year’s JP Morgan included personalised medicine, value based care, data and technology and consumerism of healthcare; yes we are seeing and continue to see, a seismic shift in both mind set and expectations of patients to those of consumers.

With aging populations, growing chronic disease burden, on-going global pressures on healthcare cost provision and rapidly changing political landscapes, one thing is for sure; whatever trends emerge from this year’s JP Morgan conference, the connectivity and convergence of technology will continue to play an increasingly important role in our future healthcare.

Patient centric architecture for terminal care comes to Glasgow

Work is beginning shortly on a new hospice building in Glasgow. A good friend shared this link with me today and knew how much it would mean to me; Glasgow, my home town and its new hospice, created with patients and their families in mind from the very beginning.

Right from the start of my nursing training, caring for patients who were terminally ill, along with their family /carers was a passion for me. I know some people may find that unusual however for me nursing was always about giving  patients quality and dignity in life and in death.

As a student nurse 30 years ago, the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow was in its infancy. Today it receives over 1,000 new patient referrals a year and it provides patient care through Inpatient, Day Services, Clinical Nurse Specialist Community team and input to Acute Hospital teams. In addition it provides support, help and advice to families and carers,allowing them to help their loved make informed decision about where they want to die. Some patients want to be at home,others prefer to be in a hospice with their nearest and dearest beside them.There is no one size fits all or right or wrong when it comes to making the decision about where we want to die,assuming we are in the position to have that choice.

By taking patients and their wishes into account in the design of Glasgow’s new hospice, I hope that more patients can approach those final months, weeks and hours of life with the dignity, quality of life and peace we would all wish for our loved ones. I know from personal experience what a difference that can make.

Patient centricity at its very best in my book.


International Yoga Day 2016 -quietening your mind and improving your physical and mental health

Today, June 21st 2016, is International Yoga Day. Big deal you may say, why should that make any difference to you, your family, your team or your business?  Well if you take a few minutes to read some of the growing body of evidence of the benefits of yoga perhaps it can help you make very positive impacts on all of these areas in your life.

Firstly let’s kick some of the preconceptions of yoga into touch … yoga is not about being  the bendiest or stretchiest in a class ; it is not only for super fit individuals in sprayed on lycra who can manoeuvre and contort their body into positions others may only dream of or pay to see in adult rated films ; you don’t need to be a muesli eating, practical sandal wearing, single person of a certain age ; and most importantly of all, you don’t need to be able to touch your toes to practice yoga. So pushing these stereotypes firmly aside, what is yoga and what benefits could it bring.

At the simplest level, I was taught that yoga is about calming the mind and through this process becoming open to experiencing our true self – this is achieved through breathing (pranayama), meditation (dhyana), exercise (asanas), diet (sattvic) and relaxation (shavasana). Now if I have nearly lost you at this stage, and I know you have limited time,  let’s pull you back in with the article below that was published by Greg McKeown in the Harvard Business Review in October 2014 where a Microsoft Exec found over a period of time that using a number of tools helped reduce his stress and longer term proved life changing for him.

Today, on International Yoga Day 2016, why not try your initial introduction to yoga  through breathing ? No muesli, lycra or gym membership needed and certainly no toe touching required – see if this helps you to feel calmer and more engaged and if it does then tomorrow try if for longer. As you progress and feel the benefits then perhaps introduce it to your team, family and friends. If like me, you embrace new  technologies as you strive for health and wellness, then a great free app to help you on your breathing journey is the biobeats “Hear and Now” app. This app, based on clinically validated stress-reducing and mindfulness practices, will remind you to breathe and guide you through the process, showing you how your heart responds to deep, focused breathing using just your mobile device.

Wishing you a more enlightened introduction to yoga, happy breathing and Namaste






Are you going to positively impact on Global Running Day 2016?

Today, June 1st 2016, is Global Running Day, “a day for people around the world to celebrate the joys of running…to share your passion for the sport and inspire others to get moving”.

What does running mean to you? Is it the far distant memory of a cold, wet and muddy cross country field at school and the knowledge that you only had to go round the course one more time and you could hang up your trainers for ever? Is it cheering your kid as they run in the school 100m race and you crossing your fingers that they wouldn’t be last to finish? Or, is it you smiling, punching the air in triumph, falling to your knees in sheer exhaustion or gratitude as you / your run buddy cross the finish line at the end of that 5k / 10k / half marathon / marathon / ultra-run you / they have trained so hard for? Whichever it is, I’m with you – well save for the kid’s 100m race, that was my parents crossing their fingers…

Whilst I have always been physically active and enjoyed sport, until my early 40’s I was never a “runner” and the mere word scared me. Fast forward 8 years and today I cannot imagine my life without running in it and all it has taught me along the way. In addition to sharing fantastic experiences and friendships, running has had a positive impact not only on my physical and mental wellbeing but also on the wellbeing of friends and family who have put on their training shoes and joined me on the paths /trails. Being a catalyst and seeing another person’s self-esteem and confidence grow is hugely rewarding – knowing that in parallel they are improving their physical and mental health whilst having fun, well fun most of the time, is a true privilege.

Last month saw the launch of Heads Together, a campaign spearheaded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to end stigma around mental health. Heads Together is the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon Charity of the Year and Heads Together “aims to change the national conversation on mental health and wellbeing, and will be a partnership with inspiring charities with decades of experience in tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing vital help for people with mental health challenges.”

Whilst a marathon of 26.2 miles may be 26 miles too far, perhaps today, Global Running Day 2016 is a great day to call your partner, kids or friend(s), leave the office on time and together start your running journey of 0.2 miles and see where it takes you from there. You may be surprised where you get to and what you get out of it…. Enjoy, I plan to with a couple of my friends.



Digital Age in Life Sciences, is your business tackling the challenges and embracing the opportunities?

As the behaviours, expectations and demands of patients, carers, payers and healthcare providers change rapidly in today’s digital world, in the attached article, I spoke with a number of cross industry digital strategists and specialists to gain their views on how well Life Sciences companies are adopting new technologies, and where there may be opportunities to create competitive advantage by learning from other industries.

At MLA we are HUGELY excited by this digital evolution, all it entails and  the opportunities it presents to dramatically improve healthcare and wellness for current and future generations. How about your business? Are you embracing these changes and do you have the right digital savvy people in place to devise and implement the appropriate strategies to create and maintain competitive advantage?