Telomeres – helping me extend my health span

I constantly seek research and findings that effectively and meaningfully link academia and the real world. This week’s example that sparked my imagination was discovering the works of Elizabeth Blackburn a Nobel prize winning, molecular biologist.

In a world that constantly seeks to improve well-being she focuses on the positive application of theory and science to open the world to Telomeres and how they influence your health span.

Studying mental ill health, I have become increasingly and uncomfortably familiar with the negative vocabulary that currently prevails in the literature. “The Telomere Effect“ offers a refreshingly positive vocabulary and vibe as it presents a strong scientific representation of the effects of stress on one’s body and health span. The book powerfully articulates the levels of control we can exert on our own and others health by focusing on our Telomeres.

Quick definition required here, Telomeres are the caps at the end of our DNA strands, they offer a protective sheath often likened to that at the end of a shoe lace. It prevents damage to our DNA strands and protects the chromosome.

Chronic stress and negative thoughts can shorten your Telomeres whilst meditation has been shown to strengthen them. As an advocate of the power of empathy, self-awareness and mindfulness her book has given me a novel scientific narrative to translate research into reality.

An excellent preface, or substitute if time is of the essence, to the book is her TED talk, it offers an invaluable bite size insight to Telomeres and her work.

You have the power to change your well-being, explore the possibilities. I am!

Neena Speding
Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Emotional Intelligence Thought Leader & Collaborator
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Your journey in 2018

  • What do you want to see and experience along the way?
  • Who is travelling with you?
  • What are you really looking forward to?
  • How do you want to feel?

I have decided wherever my road takes me, the journey is going to be an easy one. Easy is my word for 2018.

After all it’s easy if I think it is.

Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
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It’s not about perfection – it’s about correction

Is my new favourite personal mantra especially when I’m learning something new or focusing on improving something in my life.

I’ve realised that perfection is overrated, it’s the enemy of getting things done and more than that it stops us living fully and enjoying life.

I’m embarrassed to say that I was one of those people who gave ‘being a perfectionist’ as my flaw in interviews back in the 80’s thinking I sounded cool and hard working.

Eventually I woke up to how limiting and joyless striving for perfection is. And still, under stress, I default to trying too hard to get it right – hence this mantra is on a yellow sticky note above my desk.

This phrase keeps me going because it gives me permission to do the new thing less than perfectly and to expect to fail a few times before I start to get the hang of it. I have learnt that any change that matters requires me to get out of my comfort zone – to actually do something differently, and that always feels uncomfortable.

It reminds me that making mistakes is part of the process of learning because only by experiencing what doesn’t work and making a correction do I grow and improve.

Awareness is everything and when I notice I’m off course, I’m kinder to myself and by not wasting time on self judgment I can correct what’s not working and move on.

Life seems less serious too, lighter and more fun – like a series of personal experiments by my crazy inner scientist!

Try it out for yourself.

What mantra will you create to help you move forward this week?

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Sir Richard Branson

Carol Conway CPCC
Coach & Collaborator
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A guide to mental ill-health at work

I came across this guide earlier today.

It’s a very practical and pragmatic guide to creating mentally healthy workplaces.

On reading this guide I was shocked by this statistic…

“One in six people experience the symptoms of a mental health problem in any given week in England”

The Mental Health Foundation website lots of resources available, please use them to raise awareness and make a difference to people you work with.


Neena Speding
Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Emotional Intelligence Thought Leader & Collaborator
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Dear Alcohol – a poem

Dear Alcohol…

You silently crept into my life when I was so young, using your seductive powers to lure my mum

Slowly but surely her time spent with you grew, till she’d not enough strength to say goodbye to you

You were stuck to her side like glue when I needed her most; I felt powerless … I just felt like a Ghost

As the years went by I struggled to see, how she would rather spend time with you than with me

You hurt her badly, she was under your spell, you had somehow bewitched her and, she couldn’t tell

Then one day I had a family of my own, it was then I decided to let you both go and disown

I said to my mum “its me or your friend” I can no longer stand by to see how this ends

During this time little did I know, your other friend was creeping into my life and secretly starting to show

He crept from the shadows so I couldn’t see; starting also to lure my dear husband from me

As the years rolled on the strain was immense, I felt so alone as I sat on the fence

I would watch you play together, games that were cruel, having fun and laughter, I felt again such a fool

As your friendship with my husband then started to grow, I knew I was powerless to get you to go

When you were around my heart felt like a stone, till I could no longer cope and had to leave home

Now I look back over my life and see, just how much of my loved ones you’ve taken from me

I will never forget you now you’re both gone, but at last I feel free I now also move on, to a more joyous life where I know I will find, those that truly Love me, having left you behind.


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From cacophony to calm

With two millennials, one teenager and an even bigger kid with a passion for all things hi-fi in the house you can probably imagine the cacophony of sounds that sometimes greets me. With music ever present, rather than attempt to fight it, I was led to thinking about how I could use it to get mindfulness and calm into the family dynamic. This had the positive consequence of also assisting me with a client’s request for mindfulness amongst their leadership team.

 Mindfulness is an ancient science that is still serving us today
I believe that the deliberate cultivation of self-awareness and listening are central to conversations, learning and development, leadership and well-being. Having been asked by clients, from the boardroom to the classroom, about how to start practising mindfulness my answer was that their approach will be as unique as they are and to just experiment till they found what works for them. They kept asking. So now I often lead a guided exercise as a way of introduction and to date have seen even the most sceptical acknowledge that they became more focused and able to release their minds from distractions. Before I share this with you first here comes some science bits.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of our brain to change our neural wiring and pathways, regardless of age. Functionally, chemically and structurally our brains support us in learning and development.

Neurogenesis is the ability of our brain to grow new neurons. Whilst this an emergent field of study it is exciting and if you have a spare 10 minutes, head over to this TED Talk by Sandrine Thuret.

Bottom line is that our brains keep developing, evolving and you can harness this energy by diet, activity, lifestyle and most importantly listening to and being aware of your mind, body and soul.

For consideration
There is no one size fits all but here is a suggestion that you can take a group or team through and is one that can integrate across generations, cultures, into daily life and empowers individuals to experience mindfulness throughout their day.

Adapt the following guided exercise as you consider appropriate and personally engage in it alongside the group or team.

 The focus is on listening
1. Ask people to bring in a piece of music and headphones
2. Find a suitable location
3. Eyes open or closed is up to them – I have witnessed many a makeshift eye mask/blind being created from ties, scarves and sheets of paper.

Introduce the exercise with…
“What I am going to be asking you to do is really listen to the music you have brought.
Initially you may find distractions fill your mind, let them pass and don’t fight them but keep bringing yourself back to the present and to the music.
Really listen.
Try not to sing the lyrics or predict the next phase of the melody.
Really listen and immerse yourself in the music.
A gradual release from distractions is difficult so perhaps try and focus only on one element of the music; the lyrics, the piano, the bass, the drums or identify what focus works for you.
Really listen.
Try it.
It isn’t easy but here’s the thing.
I guarantee that you will pick up on at least one thing that you never noticed before.
It may take more than one go but you will discover something new”.

4. Indicate that the exercise has started and ask participants to cue up the music they have brought and press play
5. You do the same
6. Announce the end of the exercise as appropriate hoping of course that no one brought a 14 minute remix version of their favourite song
7. Ask participants to reflect on their experience, either personally or by sharing
8. Remind them to take it as an experience, not a challenge. It’s just about being in the present.

As an alternative try mindfulness bells, there are many versions accessible on line. This one works for me and always takes me to listening to my heartbeat, awareness of my breathing and being in the present.

With practice, you will find that you can switch off the cacophony of sound all around, focus on your inner sounds and in being in the present. In fact, the more you practice you could eventually stop playing any music or sound and instead replace it with just the sound of you.  You are after all the best witness and conductor to take the cacophony of sound in your mind, body and soul to a place of calm.

Neena Speding Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Emotional Intelligence Thought Leader & Collaborator
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