How to Boost Your Wellbeing at Home
We speak to Ben Channon, an industry thought-leader in design for wellbeing.
Meet Ben Channon, whose day job is to create healthy, happy buildings (he’s Head of Wellbeing at Assael Architecture). Ben's also a mindfulness practitioner and an industry thought-leader in design for wellbeing. He’s done a TEDx talk and everything.
Why are we introducing you to Ben? Well, we thought he could teach us a thing or two about how to be our happiest selves at home, and we were right (shock).
Plum Guide: Have you transformed your home since isolating?
Ben: I've moved my desk to be right next to a window, so that I can get daylight in and views out (see photo above). I've also surrounded myself with plants which are shown to be good not only for air quality, but for our mental wellbeing. I've also bought lots of home gym equipment as I'm getting married in September (hopefully!) and am slightly worried I won't fit into my suit by then!
Plum Guide: How are you staying sane?
Ben: For me, it has come down to three main things: routine, exercise and food! We know a sense of routine is key to good mental wellbeing, so as far as possible my fiancée and I have been sticking to a fairly normal 9-5 type schedule. Exercise is vital for both our physical and mental health, so we're cycling around ten miles a day at the moment – it also contributes to that sense of normality as we normally cycle to work. And food has become one of the few ways we can really treat ourselves right now, so we're spending most of the money we're saving by not going to the pub on getting really tasty, healthy food for most of the week – then spoiling ourselves with a treat day (or two!) on the weekends.
Plum Guide: Any hacks for working from home?
Ben: It sounds boring, but the biggest thing is to get a really good desk chair and lots of space around you to work. If you can't get hold of your normal office chair you can improvise – for example a rolled up towel can make a great lower back support. Tidying your home office regularly is key too: while it might feel like a waste of time we know that messy spaces can result in the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, making us feel more uptight as we work and subsequently less productive.
Plum Guide: What about your downtime?
Ben: At the moment podcasts and movies are definitely helping me survive lockdown! If you like both, then it's hard to beat the Kermode and Mayo film podcast (just make sure you say hello to Jason Isaacs). I'd also recommend Greg Jenner's 'You're Dead to Me' if you're a history lover, and if you're a foodie or just a fan of comedy then check out 'The Off Menu' podcast by James Acaster and Ed Gamble. TV series have been a great escape too: I've just binge-watched the second series of Ricky Gervais' 'Afterlife' and have been travelling vicariously through the BBC series 'Race Across the World' (available on iPlayer). I'm currently reading 'Joyful' by Ingrid Fettell Lee – it's all about how we can bring joy into our designs, so right up my street!
Plum Guide: Favourite recipe you’ve tried in lockdown?
Ben: The Hairy Bikers have a great book called 'Chicken & Egg', and I've been working my way through their repertoire fairly steadily since lockdown kicked off. My favourite so far has to be their African peanut and chicken stew: it's packed full of flavour, protein and veggies so will certainly be the first one I make again.
Plum Guide: Have you set yourself any isolation goals?
Ben: I've been recovering from a long-term back injury, so a goal has been to build up the distance I can cycle and run without doing myself any further damage. I've also been running mindfulness classes twice a week for staff at Assael Architecture, which has been a good way of encouraging myself to meditate most days. Right now it's great to have just ten minutes where I can switch off, and I really find it helps in terms of understanding my thought patterns, which, like for most people, have been fairly erratic as we try to process this very surreal experience.
Plum Guide: First place you’ll visit in your home city?
Ben: I live in London and Richmond Park is currently closed to cyclists. It's a shame, as it's one of the easiest ways to access nature and greenery for many people, which we know is actually really important for mental health. Unfortunately our apartment doesn't have a garden, so losing one of our only real outdoor pleasures has been frustrating. As soon as the restrictions are lifted I will be heading over there to do a few laps and see the deer again.
Plum Guide: The first trip you’ll book, when it’s safe to do so?
Ben: I'm hoping it will be a mini-moon after we get married. I've really wanted to take my fiancée to experience Lisbon's amazing food, wine, history, architecture and atmosphere since visiting a couple of years ago. So the plan is to soak up some Portuguese sunshine!
Ben's book, 'Happy by Design' is out now | Say hi: @_benchannon @happybydesignbook | Photo credit: Philippa Gedge