Category Archives: Wellbeing

Experiments in Wellbeing – Matters of the Heart

I’m giving a short talk on my current experiences of meditation at Workplace Trends this week. As part of this wellbeing experiment, I’ve been using an emwave device made by a company called HeartMath. The emwave measures certain physiological outputs to help determine how I respond to different scenarios when sitting at my desk.


The device measures my respiration, heart rate variability and blood pressure rhythm in order to determine how coherent I am, or am not. The definition of coherence as offered by the good people at HeartMath is a ‘state of optimal function’. The emwave is simple to use – I just clip it to my earlobe, plug the other end into my computer, fire up the software and off I go.

At Work

At work

This screenshot shows me at work, just doing regular work stuff at my desk. My heart rate variability is at the top of the screen and my accumulated coherence is shown in the blue graph (on this shot you can just see the ‘ideal zone’ represented by two lines disappearing off the top of the chart. In the bottom right hand corner is a reading of low, medium and high coherence.

When I’m at my desk, I ‘reward’ myself with frequent short breaks as a way of recharging my mental batteries. I often used to take five and play video games – something I’ve done since I was a kid.

Playing Video Games

Playing video game

The second chart shows me on one of those short breaks – playing video games. The differences between the two screenshots are marked. Note the scale on the blue graph; it peaked at just short of 30 while at work, and doesn’t get past 5 while playing games, in fact for the most part I don’t register a score at all (there’s a video game related reverse high score analogy hidden in there somewhere). What I thought was a useful distraction from regular work, was in fact just a good old fashioned distraction. When I return to work after this distraction it takes time for me to settle back into a more productive routine. I still play video games, I just don’t use them as a way of taking a break at work so often.



This third chart shows me at rest, you can call this meditating if you want. Taking time out, just being there, and nowness all work just as well for me. The point is that when I take time out like this, it clearly has a markedly different affect on me than regular work and/or taking a break in the way I used to. In this case you can see my heart rate variability is much smoother, and the scale on the blue graph is north of 300. You can see the ideal zone I pointed out in the first chart too – this time I’m right in the middle.

When I return to work from meditating, or taking time out, what I notice is I am able to carry this sense of coherence with me a while. I am more focused and I get stuff done. Sure – as I get more and more stuck into work and the general distractions around me – this condition deteriorates, and I can choose to go back and top it up from time to time if I want.

In my talk at Workplace Trends I’ll delve into the subject in more detail. I only have a few minutes to do so, which is partly why I thought it would be useful to share this information here and now – so you can look at it in your own time. This is one aspect of an emerging experiment – I’ve only been checking in with myself for the past 270 odd days, so everything still feels new and very uncertain at times. If you want to ask me anything about my experience so far – feel free to do so and I will do my best to respond usefully.

Intention Deficit Disorder

Yesterday I started an experiment to carry out a random act of kindness every day for 30 days. I was unsure how to kick the process off – and while at the post office, I bought a little something for Carole and Keira. When I headed into London later, I left the gift waiting for them at home, along with a hand made card.

My reason for travelling to London was to catch up with friends gathering to celebrate a new adventure for the very lovely Ollie Baxter. I’d previously made some art to reflect the idea of changes at work, which I packaged up and gave to Ollie, who took the envelope, thanked me and said he’d open it later. On the way to the party I offered my seat to someone on the train who smiled broadly and politely declined. On the way back from the party I offered round a bag of sweets to fellow train passengers, all of whom smiled, and politely declined.

I sat pondering my day. At that time I’d not received any acknowledgment for the gift I left at home for the girls. The gift I’d given at the party had remained unseen in its envelope. No one wanted my train seat, or a share in my sweets. I felt odd about all this until it struck me that my intention was in completely the wrong place. I’d been doing all this stuff with some expectation of satisfying myself, not those around me.

To the extent that altruism is defined as ‘disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others’, I am not sure it exists, by which I mean that the act of giving creates beneficial feedback for the giver as well as any positives which passes to the receiver. That said, I feel I’m off to a bad start and I need to put my own expectations into a different place. I’m going to leave the word ‘random’ out of the equation from now on – this is an intentional process after all.

Day two of the experiment beckons, and with it a chance to relax, let go, and just be kind.

Experiments in Wellbeing – Acts of Kindness

Ty Sullivan is one of my friends over in the USA. Today, he and others are starting a 30 day random acts of kindness pledge. Ty is inviting others to join in, optionally using the hashtag #OneGoodThing. Having previously enjoyed the #100HappyDays and the #RWRunStreak experiments, I’m going to give this one a go too, and yes, I know, signing up for something like this does take some of the ‘random’ out of random acts of kindness.

I’m curious to learn how I get along with this – although I enjoy giving I frequently find myself wrestling with kindness. I’ll keep you posted, and if you fancy giving it a go and sharing your experience too – that would be great.