Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Great Day at the Office

You may have heard him on the radio or seen him on the television commenting on health issues, nutrition and medical research.

I first met Dr John Briffa in real life at a corporate well-being staff conference in Peterborough last autumn when he challenged delegates with the question ‘Are you putting diesel in your petrol engine?’
His new book, published at the start of the year, follows a similar theme. It is aimed at helping us all get more out of our working day and, just as importantly, having enough in reserve for the time leftover.
The premise of ‘A Great Day at the Office’ is to unwrap a series of simple strategies offering us the chance in the process to recharge our batteries and take our workaday effectiveness and productivity to new heights.
Sounds like just what we need in our modern world where potential stress points lie at every turn?
Drawing on recent studies and his own real-world experience, Dr Briffa’s purpose is to equip us with the knowledge required to run our body and brain as efficiently as a finely-tuned machine.
His book explores fundamental factors that determine our vitality, mental functioning and mood - and how to put them together to enhance performance and sustainability.
It offers a number of insights into a broad range of influential factors - diet, physical activity, sound and light exposure, breathing, psychology and sleep.
The key ‘takes’ from ‘A Great Day at the Office’ could be rounded up as follows:
  • A crucial dietary tactic that ensures sustained levels of energy throughout the day with no ‘mid-afternoon slump’.
  • Common but under-recognised causes of insomnia, and how to get the sort of deep, restful sleep that leaves us fully revived in the morning.
  • A simple breathing exercise that can induce a state of calm and focus in just a few seconds.
  • How to maintain health and fitness in as time-efficient a way as possible, and without the need for a gym or exhausting exercise.
  • How to use light technology to optimise sleep, mental functioning and mood.
  • Three simple psychological strategies that harmonise body and mind.
  • A mental ‘trick’ for banishing bad habits and establishing healthy ones – with ease.
By putting just some of the strategies offered into practice Dr Bfriffa suggests we stand to be rewarded with a tangible increase in energy and vitality, along with the ability to ‘get more done’.
To gain maximum benefit from his advice and assess its personal relevance you probably need to read the book for yourself.
But as a taster - and at the risk of being taken out of context - here is a para-phrased summary of some randomly selected hot tips:
Value sleep
This is not an unproductive time - it actually prepares the body both physiologically and psychologically for the day ahead. So, go to bed earlier because an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after.
Brain dump
Write a ‘to do’ list for the next day rather than letting lots of anxious thoughts run through your head in bed.
Limit caffeine
It’s a stimulant. Alcohol too has the capacity to disrupt sleep and has been shown to suppress REM sleep, which may impact on mental functions.
Alcohol also disrupts blood-sugar levels - a peak in blood sugar caused by alcohol in the evening can lead to a trough in the middle of the night.
The body will then correct this by secreting hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol, that stimulate the release of sugar from the liver. These are also major stress hormones – the last thing we need coursing through our system when we also need deep, restorative sleep.
Lighten up
Melatonin (which helps us sleep) is made from the brain chemical serotonin. Lack of sunlight during the day can lower serotonin and reduce melatonin at night.
Darken up
This includes the lighting from tablets, televisions and laptops. Set a time each evening for turning off all electronic equipment.
Regular readers of this blog will also be aware that excessive ‘light at night’ and the creeping effects of light pollution have been the subject of some of most popular Lighthouse Keeper posts. See Blinded by the night if you missed out and want to read some more.
‘A Great Day at the Office’ might not be for everyone because, if we had the time to really sit down and think about it, much of the advice could be classed as good old-fashioned common sense.
But in our time-hungry world we are all too easily cast drift and caught in the fast-moving currents of corporate business life and modern consumerism.
And sometimes it is helpful to have some practical answers, alternative solutions and justifications laid out before us - this is just such a book.

‘A Great Day at the Office: Simple Strategies to Maximise Your Energy and Get More Done Easily’ by Dr John Briffa is published in paperback by Fourth Estate, ISBN 978-0-00-754791-3 and is available from local bookstores and Amazon.
Note: title not to be confused with a previous Lighthouse Keeper blog ‘A good day at the office’ in which our Prime Minister David Cameron was adjudged to be having a bad hair day after bathing in the afterglow of Andy Murray’s historic Wimbledon victory.
The Lighthouse Keeper is written by Clive Simpson - for more information or to get in touch click here

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