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Free Ranging for Mental Health

Free Ranging for Mental Health

The 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon is over and the runners will be celebrating their successes and perhaps resting their legs. This year the event was not only a triumph for legs but also for heads, as this year we witnessed the first ever mental health marathon, with Heads Together as the lead charity.


At Fusion spaces we fully support conversations around mental health and absolutely believe its #oktosay.  We also believe that mental health and wellbeing needs to be addressed in the work place and we call this concept #FreeRangeBusiness.


So we are delighted to welcome mental health champion Geoff McDonald to our blog. Geoff is the former Global Vice President of HR for Unilever. A role he held for 25 years, until a diagnosis of work related anxiety and depression changed his life’s purpose.


geoffIn January 2017 Geoff shared both his story and the why behind his passion for work place mental health, with the Telegraph. Today he he joins us on our blog to share how being free range supports his mental health and why he believes being more free range at work is a #NoBrainer.


Jayne: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Geoff, we know you have a busy schedule actively encouraging conversations about mental health. What are your thoughts about humans spending 21.6 hours a day inside and often sedentary and it’s impact on mental health?


Geoff: It’s the norm, it really is the norm that people are working inside most of the day, in office spaces that are often dull and very poorly lit. There’s no connection to nature and very little encouragement to move or take time out to rest and recharge. I believe these things are vital to human physical and mental wellbeing.


And when people venture out into nature they often bury their heads into smartphones and their social media apps, it’s like a type of addiction really, they seem unaware of the healing potential of the natural environment that surrounds them, because they are just not present.


Jayne: You told me that you used the outdoors for your mental health recovery. Can you tell us more about that?


Geoff: Walking in the outdoors, for me, is an opportunity to be in the here and now and not the past or the future and yes, that’s something I have used in my own mental health recovery.


From counting butterflies to the number of times I saw the colours red or green and the sounds of nature, birdsong, these are all mechanisms I’ve used and still use today. I see it as a kind of discipline, a practice in which you remind yourself to be present and to notice.


Jayne: I know being active is also important to you Geoff. Is this also part of keeping yourself mentally well?


Geoff: Yes. I know exercise is good for me, both physically and mentally and apart from walking I also love cycling and swimming. When I swim it keeps me present because I’m just fully focussed on the bottom of the pool or on my strokes. I’ll ride my bike instead of taking the tube or a taxi when I’m in London. I’m taking in the sights and sounds of the City, riding through a park or watching the road. Again this keeps me present, naturally mindful without the need to be necessarily sitting for a specific time in quiet practice or using an app.


Jayne: Yes, Geoff, everyday mindfulness in the outdoors is a great mind tool, for everyone to use. I think many of us understand that moving and being outdoors is something we all need for our wellbeing but often it gets reserved for holidays and weekends, I know we both hope we’ll encourage others to make time for their minds during the working day, both both inside and out. This leads us perfectly to your charity bike ride that begins on Friday the 28th April. Can you tell us about the charity you’ve chosen and the ride itself?


Geoff: We’re riding for the charity MQ:Transforming Mental Health. The reason behind my choice is that their mission is to find out more about mental health through vital research. Currently research into mental health is about 50 years behind physical research.


Also, in all the work I’m doing to help the workplace address stigma, data is going to be key. MQ is a young charity with a unique mission to fully understand, through their research, the causes, treatments and prevention of mental illness. Their vital data will be centralised, something we just don’t have access to right now.


So 7 of us are cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats and we’ll be riding about 100 miles a day over the course of 8 days. We last did this 10 years ago for a friends 50th  He’s now turning 60, so we are doing it again but this time for mental health. You can follow updates on our blog and social media.


Jayne: Thank you Geoff for sharing a part of your mental health story with us, it’s a true inspiration.


When you speak to Geoff or you are fortunate enough to hear him speak he absolutely radiates positive energy. An energy that not only makes you want to sit up and listen but spread the word and even speak about your own mental health. Something we chose to do on LinkedIN.


You can keep updated with the ride by following MQ’s hashtag #WeSwear and of course follow Geoff on Twitter.


Please take the time to visit Geoff’s fundraising page and support the magnificent seven, who are riding for mental health, which is something we all have.


Good luck guys and happy free ranging!



Wellbeing’s Fusionary

Posted Friday, April 28, 2017

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