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Optimising Human PerformanceShort Read

Green Room: Maximizing Mental Fitness with Outdoor Wellbeing Coaching

EPISODE 9Maximizing Mental Fitness with Outdoor Wellbeing Coaching

Martin and Jonpaul are joined by Emma Higginson-Smith and Martin Brennan from The Green Room, which provides outdoor wellbeing coaching, leadership, and organisational development to maximise mental fitness and prevent burnout. They discuss the importance of mental fitness, the role of wellbeing coaching and introduce the concept of the ‘green room’. 

Guest, Cast & Crew

Martin Brennan was a police officer for 30 years and has represented UK Policing at the United Nations as an advisor to UN peacekeeping missions. He has led police teams during high-risk dynamic investigations. Today, he is an international expedition leader and an experienced outdoor wellbeing coach. 

Emma Higginson-Smith is a high-impact behaviour change coach and consultant. She is committed to personal and organisational wellbeing & is passionate about human performance, health, nutrition and the benefits of the outdoors.

Hosted by Martin Jones & Jonpaul Nevin https://www.ophp.co.uk 

Edited by Bess Manley

Produced by WavellRoom https://wavellroom.com/audio/ 

Resources

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Chapters

02:00 The Importance of Coaching

04:48 Inspiration Behind The Green Room

13:50 Understanding Mental Fitness

15:51 Challenges in Promoting Mental Fitness

20:21 Societal Stress and Mental Health

25:56 The Fascination with the Outdoors

26:31 Rediscovering the Inner Child

29:03 The Benefits of Nature on Mental Health

31:59 Personalizing Your Green Space

38:27 The Importance of Mental Fitness

41:28 The Future of The Green Room

46:08 Final Thoughts and Contact Information

Up Next

Next week, we’ll be joined by Colin Espie, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford. Colin is a world-leading expert on sleep and the treatment of sleep disorders, particularly the use of cognitive behavioural therapeutics to treat insomnia disorder.  

Transcript

 INTRO: Hello and welcome to the Optimizing Human Performance podcast. I’m Martin Jones, a Human Performance Specialist, Researcher and Educator. And I’m John Paul Nevin, a former Royal Armoury Physical Training Corps Instructor turned academic. Each week we talk to world leading experts about how to unlock the full potential of those who operate in high stress, high stakes environments.

We discuss the latest science, innovative strategies, practical wisdom and inspirational stories in the rapidly evolving world of human performance optimization. The Optimising Human Performance podcast is produced in partnership with The Wavell Room and the Tactical Athlete Performance Centre at Buckinghamshire New University.

Today we’re joined by Emma Higginson Smith and Martin Brennan from The Green Room. The Green Room provides outdoor well being coaching, leadership and organisational development to maintain and improve mental fitness and human performance for those who serve the public. In today’s episode, we discuss the importance of coaching and introduce the concept of the green room as a safe space for people to be honest and open about their mental fitness.

We talk about the power of being in the outdoors and show why mental fitness is so important for individuals and organizations. 

Martin, Emma, great to have you with us today on the Optimizing Human Performance podcast. How are you doing today?

[00:01:21] Emma: Very good. Thanks. Looking forward to having a good old chat.

[00:01:25] Martin Brennan: Yeah, likewise, good to see you 

[00:01:26] Martin Jones: guys. I’d like to give you this opportunity to introduce yourselves. 

Tell us who you are, what you do, and how you’ve got to where you are today.. 

[00:01:35] Emma: Okay, so I’m Emma, I’m a behavior change specialist. I’ve worked in politics, organizations, and also as a high level coach looking at cultures, leadership and human behavior, human dynamics.

So my background really prompted me to look at what is missing in leadership competencies and it is mental fitness. So Alongside Martin, 

we set up The Green Room, which is an organisation, offering wellbeing coaching, organisational coaching and leadership coaching. It’s about getting people outdoors and tackling what mental fitness is and the impact it has on your human performance. It is about the self, it’s about organisations, it’s about big institutions and supporting those people who are perhaps burning too white hot.

Maybe they’re burning out, but it’s also about looking at families, those people around you, unmasking, looking at how good you really are.

[00:02:37] Martin Brennan: And my name’s Martin. And as Emma says, part of TGR coaching setup. an outdoor wellbeing coach. I’ve sort of brought that together with two main careers, really, I 30 years. investigating serious organized crime and having a great career there. And whilst transitioning out of that, that service, I started to become, a professional coach.

my biggest passion was outdoors, leading expeditions, climbing, all that kind of stuff. so I’ve sort of blended all those skills together to become this sort of, mental gym, outdoor, human performance 

coach. 

[00:03:13] Martin Jones: That’s fantastic. Thank you very much. The word Coaching has come a few times, you know, your company, the green room, it’s a coaching company. I’ve got a lot of experience working in elite sport, worked with lots of high performers. And I think one of the things you see a lot with sports people is they always have a coach, golfers, tennis players, footballers, there’s always a coach somewhere in the background.

You don’t see a, a lot or I haven’t seen a lot in, in a lot of other sectors, a lot of other high performance environments. Why is that, do you think? And, and why is coaching so important for everybody?

[00:03:45] Emma: Coaching is critical for everyone. It supports your behaviours, holds you to account, lets you be the best possible version of yourself, which then impacts the organisation you’re working in. If you’re a high performer, high achiever, who’s checking in with you to make sure you’re okay? And particularly in those high stress environments, it is fundamental and 

 Coaching is all about psychological safety. It’s about listening to yourself. It’s about being honest, recognizing the behaviors you have and giving yourself permission to address those. 

[00:04:18] Emma: . Everybody can have, a psychologist or a fitness coach, but what we’d say is get to the mental gym and that’s what 

Green 

Room’s about. 

[00:04:27] Martin Jones: Thank you. and Martin, in your previous role in, in the police, did you have coaches in your job? Is that something that was common in that sort of high performance environment? 

[00:04:36] Martin Brennan: You know what, it’s a great question because as you posed that I was thinking about it and the short answer is yes, but they weren’t called coaches. and I think that’s, where we’re all with a lot of this really is that I’m sure we’ve all had experience when we’ve worked. in teams and environments where there’s just somebody that’s just held us in a really safe space, that would be able to have conversations with, that’s been really helpful.

And actually going through the coaching sort of profession, when I’ve looked back at it, I thought I’ve probably been a coach for a while. I’ve just sort of, put it into some sort of structure and process now and I certainly looking back, even from my school age, I had a coach. it wasn’t called a coach, but he was definitely a coach.

I look back on it now because he was somebody that was just there, to support me and, and sort of just offer different, views and perspectives, really. 

[00:05:22] Emma: Access to coaching can be quite elitist, but we strongly believe that it should be available to everybody because if you don’t focus on all tiers of your workforce, you’re You’re not going to have future leaders that are coming up. And it’s about culture. You could have one light on, which is one person receiving coaching and they really accelerate and they tackle those things that they know are holding them back, that perhaps hijacking their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and are manifesting in cultures.

But if only one light is on. That light will go out quite quickly if there aren’t other coaches supporting other people around to see their light, put it on and keep

it on. 

[00:06:02] JP: Guys, I’m curious, what inspired you to set up green room? sort of drove you? 

[00:06:08] Emma: From my side, I worked in politics and higher education. I’ve consulted with CEOs and boards. And the trend in all of those high performing settings where it’s high stress with multiple responsibilities, high stakes on decision making, is people are burning out. And they still are. So what are we getting wrong?

The mental fitness blueprint is not active in our leadership frameworks and our leadership programs. And I really saw that when I stepped in to learn to be a coach quite a while ago, that actually the value of that conversation recruited People it retained people it returned on investment to organizations, but it saved people and actually we’ve had comments like that really that people feel saved.

They feel rebuilt, had a profound experience. It’s creating a new normal. And I think I’m passionate about that because. Let’s face it, everybody can be close to burnout. We all know somebody who’s burnt out, somebody who’s experienced that. And I’ve seen that in my own family personally, we’re always juggling a lot.

I juggle a health condition. I juggle a busy life with my family. I juggle a career. And actually, that’s, probably the wrong order. Families should come first and the lessons can be learned in a hard way. If I’m not strong and I don’t give myself permission to focus on myself, others around me will not be as strong, but also they won’t

benefit and so my well being roof could fall down. And that has a big consequence with psychological absence rates we see in frontline services, so blue lights NHS, in the military. We’ve got to get it right. We’ve got to be future focused, so really super motivated about Changing the narrative and creating a gentle culture shift.

I think organisational development work really lends itself to starting to say, hold on, there’s a pattern, there’s a trend. We know how many mental health challenges we’ve got right now in society. Economically, it doesn’t add up. What are we not learning as humans?

[00:08:20] Martin Brennan: Yeah. And for me, really, there’s two real drivers for me to sort of get into coaching and sort of set up what we’ve got now is one from a personal point in terms of, I’ve got experience of burnout, and the other driver for me really is, that my specialist background was, was covert policing and demanding kidnaps. And the only way to get back control of a kidnap was to negotiate. You know, until you start to negotiate with the hostage takers, you’re never in control.

And that’s what sort of morphed into our model that you know, you need to step into a space, and to negotiate it. And that’s where sort of the mental gym exercises come from in terms of what is hijacking you, because actually, if you’re not negotiating with it, It’s in control of you.

Now, by exception, that’s fine. But if that’s an ongoing thing, which was certainly in my case, is that that leads down to a road to burnout. And that’s what we want to really prevent now in others, as individuals, and in organizations, as Emma said, to sort of change that cultural sort of norm that actually, by exception, this is okay, but actually the norm isn’t to be hijacked by our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, 

[00:09:32] Martin Jones: it’s really interesting to hear that the word green room. I initially thought. You know, actors waiting to go out onto, onto stage . When you said the green room, is that right? Is that why you called it the green room? What, why the green room? What is the green room? 

[00:09:46] Emma: The green room is a place where you can psychologically go or physically go to prepare, but also to bring in the expertise that you need to be honest with yourself. 

We advocate strongly getting outside. We can learn a lot from nature. It’s about removing the four walls that we’re trapped in, but it opens up conversations. It changes perspective. It gives you photons. It gives you the opportunity to stop.

Really be active and present. Listen, and, that is a proven model, so we embed that in our work. But ultimately, this is about being brave, about stepping into your own green room to be able to say, hold on, what am I being held hostage by? Who do I need to invite into my room? Who am I giving permission to?

[00:10:41] Martin Brennan: Yeah, and so from the sort of connection really from the sort of kidnap world is that whenever there was a kidnap, whenever this chaotic circumstances or incident was going on, we would always step into what we call the green room. And that is a space where you can just pause and just relax a little bit and say right, Okay, what is going on?

 Because when you have a critical incident, it’s fast flowing, it’s very dynamic. Stepping into a green room where you can just quiet everything down and say, okay, what have we got?

What are we dealing with? Who do we need in that green room? That green room was a success, certainly for me and a lot of colleagues in the police force in terms of investigating kidnaps.

and it’s used across all organizations because it’s a very simple model to use to say, where’s your green room? Let’s go into the green room and let’s have that conversation whether that’s across the UK or even abroad. So it’s just a very simple formula model to use.

And that green room could just be burying your head into a book. It could just be listened to some music. It could be going for that walk, It’s like, what will resonate with that person? Because we know that the people that we work with are really super bright. They know. what they should be doing. And they know all the hacks and stuff like that. But these self help books just become shelf help books because they don’t resonate.

know all the answers. And sometimes I feel quite fraud when we hold the programs, because we’re not telling anybody what’s going on. what they don’t already know. It’s just that they’re not in a green room, they’re not in a safe space and they’re not in a place where they realize what’s hijacking them.

You know, we quite often us people, you know, what’s that inner saboteur, what’s holding you back at the moment. And quite often people say, well, I haven’t got any. By the end of the day, there’s a whole list of things that are hijacking us. And why wouldn’t they? They do. You know, we do worry about things.

We do stress about things. We are the perfectionists. We are a hyperachiever. These are all things that are not bad, but we just need to negotiate with them and have a different relationship with those hijacking thoughts 

[00:12:37] Martin Jones: I like, that term, the shelf help book. I like gonna use that again. that that’s going in the, in the back pocket. 

 

[00:12:44] Martin Brennan: It is though, isn’t it right? Everybody knows this. You know, people aren’t, daft. a lot of the, senior leaders and commanders that we deal with, they’re, they’re hyper achievers. you know, we turn around and say, you need to drink more water.

Well, everybody knows this, but what’s holding them back from drinking that water? What’s holding them back from pausing and just doing a bit of mindfulness gym and things like that. So it’s working with that coachee here to say, okay, so what is it that resonates with you? Let’s work with that. That doesn’t become a shelf help book, that becomes something that’s got some traction for that individual.

[00:13:14] Emma: And leadership is lonely, isn’t it? Let’s be honest. If your audience listening to this are thinking, hold on, that’s me. I’m a high performer, high achiever. But when did I last talk to myself or get to know myself and realize how far away from who I really am I’ve become? And what’s that trajectory? 

Yeah, where are you going? And the self is often considered to be selfish, to look at the self, but it’s not at all. This is about recognising where you are right now, being present and getting out of your own way

And that’s really, really key knowing those things that can perhaps trip you up along the way. And therefore what are your real core behaviors and what are your learnt behaviors and what you’re going to start to put aside and.

Take off your mask, unmask. So I think the important bit about coaching and the space we feel really strongly about is, it’s all about psychological safety. If people feel they can be vulnerable they will open up and they will move on and they’ll move from self awareness to self management and then they’ll move to self acceptance and self belief, which is so empowering and really rewarding to see.

And it’s, it’s a phenomenal journey and often it can be a little bit disconcerting for those people who are like, well, I’m a high achiever. How did I not see this? And now look where I am. 

 There is a desperate need for people who are burning too white hot to have a safe space to get away from the noise and reconnect with themselves, connect with others, and also have a bit of fun.

[00:14:54] JP: Number of times this concept of mental fitness. Could you give us a definition of mental fitness? 

 

[00:15:01] Emma: I think mental fitness is all about recognising yourself, the link between your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. And being able to understand which habits you need to stack yourself to be a best possible version of yourself in order to show up for those around you, whether it’s in the workplace, whether it’s for friends and families, but actually you owe it to yourself.

It’s a multidisciplinary art really, mental fitness. It’s stopping and recognizing and committing time to understanding where you are and what works for you, which coaching model, which breathing exercise, how are you doing on a scale of 1 to 10, and it is honest conversations, and this may sound really basic, but unless somebody’s holding you to account, You’re not going to do it unless you start to commit to it.

 Wouldn’t it be great if, If individually we treated ourselves as the projects we’re working on, that is the success of mental fitness. I think if any of your audience working on a high complex scenario in a high stress environment, you turn the mirror on yourself and say, If I was the project, how am I treating myself?

And what’s my strategy? Am I really being honest with myself and who am I soundboarding with? Am I looking at being responsible, accountable? Who am I consulting with? Who am I informing? That stuff, you’ve got to put yourself as the project. And for me, that’s what mental fitness is. 

[00:16:36] Martin Jones: I was having a conversation not that long ago with a, a senior leader in one of the organizations that I work with. And this is. a bit of a hand grenade question, so, you know, put your tin hats on, get ready. He basically said to me, 

there was a few people had come to him, they were trying to offer him a, mental fitness program.

He turned around to me and just said, it’s nonsense. Mental fitness is nonsense. I’m not going to pay for that. Why would I how would you respond to that statement from senior leader in one of these high stressing organizations?

[00:17:06] Emma: I think what’s really fascinating when we get the question. of challenging whether or not investing in a future focused policy, i. e. mental fitness, is worth it. You’re always going to be hit with skepticism, cynicism. because it feels too shiny and new. But actually this isn’t shiny and new.

As humans we’ve known for a long time we need to focus on our, our mental capabilities. We use mental fitness because mental health is a very negative term. It’s about what’s not working. Mental fitness is about what is working and it’s about empowerment does it work? We’ve seen that with senior leaders. This absolutely works. People who’ve said, I’m spiraling and now I feel saved and rebuilt. And instead of leaving their organization or the public service, they’ve decided to stay and reinvest the expertise that they have in new recruits in cultures to create a new normal.

I think it’s. An unsafe place for people to go sometimes, and it takes a lot of guts and commitment to do it, 

This is about shaping and walking with people, leaders who’ve got challenges and going, we’re not going to go too fast. What challenges have you got what needs to be looked at and what isn’t working right now within your leaders and who’s burning out? Let’s just look at the psychological absence stats.

They’re too high. You know, we’ve got the NHS on its knees. We’ve got military arenas having high discharge rates We can’t carry on like this. We’ve got to do something radical. And I think this is where I get very passionate because I’ve seen this in pension reform. I’ve seen it in bribery legislation.

 I think those that are already experiencing the impact of mental fitness are actually showcasing what human performance looks like when you get it right. The other side of this is the three core components of burnout are cynicism, inefficacy, and exhaustion. If you look at those leaders around you, how many are displaying those signs? How many can’t entertain a new idea? How many are in that state and it’s impacting their decision making? That’s how to look at this and that’s how to understand what mental fitness could do, I think.

[00:19:31] Martin Brennan: And if I, if I can add to that, because I think that’s a real nice segue in that 10 years ago, I was probably that same leader and I’d have given you the same response. because I just hadn’t got time with it. too busy. It’s too pink and fluffy as all said and that.

And, and as Emma’s just said there I was displaying evidence of burnout and what, what I love to share embarrassing, but almost funny and comical to look back on it now. I saw myself as a high performing top detective in, top roles.

Yeah, I couldn’t even detect my own mental health, my own mental fitness, because quite frankly, the signs were all there, all those exhibits that I should have been bagging and tagging and saying, Oh, this, this is something this is a warning here, I chose to ignore them. think that that’s part of the culture that we find ourselves in, we see it as a vulnerability, I can’t do that, because I want to get that promotion, I want to get that next right, I want to be seen as that person that can deliver that job.

 This body that we own is an amazing thing. It will tell us we’re not right. And we use a phrase now that actually we want to hear the whispers, not the shouts. We want to hear our body whispering to say, this doesn’t feel right.

And be curious about that and say, actually, Well, what’s happening here? And if I’d have been that detective and I’d have been curious back then, I wouldn’t have had my own burnout. I wouldn’t have been that grumpy boss. I wouldn’t have been the person that said, that’s a load of rubbish. We don’t need to do that.

doing all this, high end smoke and mirror stuff. it was a mistake. what we want to do is to say that that should be by exception that we work really hard like that. We need to take time out and we need this culture to realize that it is okay to say, I’m not feeling great. I don’t know what quite what it is, but can we have a chat about this?

And that’s where we’re seeing with the leaders now that they’re happy to have that environment to go. Yeah, actually, I don’t feel great. 

[00:21:18] Martin Jones: That was a way better answer than the one I gave to the leader. So next time I’m just going to replay this episode. I just say, say that, to this,

[00:21:26] Emma: Excellent. I 

[00:21:27] JP: here’s another hand grenade question for you guys. Looking upstream, what’s driving this change in society now? Whereby people at all levels are apparently more stressed. Their mental health and fitness is being adversely affected. Why?

[00:21:41] Emma: It’s a really really good question JP, an absolutely brilliant question I would put that back as a devil’s advocate to everyone. Why do you think? I can give my answer but you individually probably know why you feel stressed or what you’re not doing. 

But is it different? Has it always been there? Have we just not been very good at stopping? I mean, society is so busy these days with, all the tech, the noise, the alerts but the pressures that we put on ourselves come from us. Yes, they can come from the careers that we’re in about hierarchy, pressure to perform, but actually our boundaries.

Or what can make us burn out and maybe we’re just not very good at that or maybe we’ve lessened our impact. So maybe it’s time to say, what am I not doing right? who’s speaking to me? How am I managing? And. Honestly? If I was talking to myself, what are my behaviors? Why am I so stressed? And, and changing our own patterns, really.

[00:22:49] Martin Brennan: I don’t know if it’s directly answering your question, JP, but I’ll give it a go. And I personally think some of that is down to the wider sort of family and friends now, because If you think about it, for so many years, people have just got on with it not showing any vulnerability and just, you know, carried on and been cynical or whatever, all the examples that we’ve talked about.

But they take that home with them. and we will have countless examples where we’ve taken baggage home and we’ve offloaded it at home, or we’ve offloaded it in 

an abusive way, whether that’s with, beer, going down to the gym too much, all those kind of things. We, we have to release it somewhere.

And, and I truly believe, the family and friends soak that up a lot.

[00:23:28] JP: It’s interesting. There’s a book that’s been published about two months ago by Jonathan Hyatt titled The Anxious Generation. And he makes a very strong argument that mental health has been adversely affected predominantly by the onset of social media and electronic devices. , but there’s another school of thought that society, especially within the West has become more individualized over the past four or five decades.

It’s about the individual, it’s about the me. There’s that loss of cohesion, culture, being part of a group. And when you sort of think of these two elements, these two strands, you can sort of think, Both can potentially act as a catalyst to this issue, which we’re seeing because this issue has always been there for sure.

 but It’s just more prevalent than it ever has been. And it’s more about, well, what is causing this? What is the driver? Because we need to identify the driver, because if we can identify the driver, we can address that upstream and then downstream, potentially, obviously, we can, oh, that’s a greater effect.

 I’m sort of going down a philosophical avenue here, but it’s just something that’s very interesting. And it’s a trend, which we’ve sort of observed, I think, over this, this season thus far.

[00:24:40] Emma: That sounds fascinating. And I, I think if you layer onto that as well on a world stage, those big issues that are happening around us and how often we have access to that information. So wars. COVID fear that is projected into daily narrative, the challenge of the economy and people struggling financially, all of those elements are sticking to our mental health.

And if people can’t make sense of those because of groupthink, then that is a very difficult place to be. Mental fitness requires discipline, it requires self discipline, and it’s not embedded in the curriculum, it’s not embedded in workplaces through leadership competencies. Mentally fit individuals are not recognised in appraisals. Different things are assessed. So I would challenge that. Actually, this is about recognizing cultural growth within our workforces to say this is the culture we’ve been in. But where are we going next? And therefore, we recognize All of those macro micro elements that you’ve talked about and say, yeah, so do we need a new set of competencies?

Do we need a new conversation? And what is generation Z saying? There’s not enough conversation that is intergenerational. And it’s still too top down. So I’d like to pick up on the point that Martin mentioned about families and intergenerational. cultures that are projected into particular arenas.

So for example, I know a family I’ve done work with the ambulance service. Like, Oh yeah, well, my dad was in the ambulance service, or my uncle and actually my cousin. And so the, the culture that they experienced, they are perpetuating because it’s locked in. It’s locked into their human behaviors and it’s never been discussed or challenged.

It’s like, Oh no, 14 hour shifts. Don’t worry if you can’t eat, that’s okay. So I think having honest conversations about these cultures that we’re inheriting and maintaining and projecting forward is going to be critical if we’re going to evolve as humans in society and in our organizational cultures. 

[00:27:03] Martin Jones: Yeah, fascinating stuff. I could literally talk about this all week. passionate. about I find it fascinating. 

Absolutely fascinating. 

 

[00:27:11] Martin Jones: I’m really interested in the outdoors component. JP and I were just talking before we start this recording, we’re saying let’s, we need a meeting.

We need a meeting, right? So, you know, do we go on zoom? We’re going to, isn’t that we’re going to let’s go to Dartmoor. Let’s just go out on Dartmoor. We’ll have a walk on Dartmoor. We’ll walk and talk. And, you that sounds like a great day out to me. You said to me, let’s have a nine to five meeting.

I’d be putting my head in my hands. me outside, walking, talking. I’m all over that. But why? Why is it so important?

[00:27:41] Martin Brennan: I think for me, it’s going back to those inner core values if we were having this conversation 30 years ago, I think we could say 30 years ago, 

you 

know, Oh, 

[00:27:51] Martin Jones: sorry, 

I went bald very 

very young.

[00:27:54] JP: Yeah, there’s no way you’re 25 

[00:28:01] Martin Jones: all just 

[00:28:01] Martin Brennan: be chilled out and we’d be having a laugh and we’d be, exploring, we’d be looking at things, we’d we’d be doing all the things that just kids just do. and I think what, what happens in, in life, this is, you know, a bold statement from Martin Brennan, but we just get all stuff that comes in. on top of us, whether that be, through education, through jobs, through family, all important stuff. But we lose that inner child in us.

And I think what the outdoors does, certainly for me and the experience I’ve seen, is it just breaks all that down for people again. There’s something that just resonates with someone, just goes, I remember this, you know, I mean, one of the mental gym exercises that we often ask people to do is just to wiggle your toes.

On the ground now and people look at me and say, what’s What’s this guy going on about? And then you start to do it and you think, I don’t think my toes work. I don’t, I don’t think I can move. And then eventually they, you can start to wiggle your toes. And the reason I say that is that, you know, if you look at a child in a pram.

What are their feet doing? They’re going bonkers. You know, they’re curious about it. They’re putting their toes in their mouth and all sorts of things. And I think as, young kids and young adults, we just love the outdoors and we just love being there. 

So I think When we’re able to invite people into the green door and use that nature as the green room, it taps into something that people just go, Yeah, I haven’t done that for ages. I’ve been, as you said, I’ve been stuck in front of that zoom for too long. And it wouldn’t be great just to go into Dartmoor.

I had a conversation with another coaching organization said, Martin, we really love the fact that you do coaching outdoors, but what do you do when it’s raining? And I kind of, fell off my chair really. I said, well, we go outside and we coach and we do, we do.

Yeah, but it’s raining. And I said, when was the last time that you purposely went outside and got some rain on your face? and, and it’s just that switch where we get into this norm of, oh, we need to be in front of a, a screen. We need to be in a, an organization. We need to be in an office because we’re safe and whatnot.

Let’s just change that. Let’s just get out now. I, it’s just nice to go out and feel the breeze and feel the rain and, and, and I was gonna 

say hair Martin, but I, I. 

[00:30:05] Martin Jones: I’ve got a beard. If it’s particularly windy, the beard. 

does go. 

[00:30:08] Martin Brennan: wind in your beard and all that kind of stuff. So I just think that’s, for me, why people, they get this, because we’ve all had experiences as a child of the outdoors, and it’s usually a good experience, whether, even if, when we fall out of that tree, we hurt ourselves, it’s a good memory.

And I think we’re tapping into something there when we go outdoors with people and we know movement is important. We know the photons and all that kind of stuff. So it’s just adding extra stuff to that mental gym really when we’re in, the outdoors.

[00:30:35] Emma: And seeing green and seeing blue, so green grass, blue skies, good for your mental health. It’s been proven, hasn’t it? Your senses, when your senses get triggered, the smells, sights, sounds but it’s about reprogramming your neural pathways, I think. Reprogramming to go, ah, I don’t have to have my phone on.

I don’t have to be thinking about anything else. I can be present and I can observe the gifts of nature around me The narrative of how that leaf has been created or how that tree has grown and become resilient around that rock. And then it allows us to have a narrative and a discussion in our coaching.

So everything we do outside, it’s about the power of the coaching conversation that we have. Whilst we’re outside, whether we’re sat around the fire, whether we are lighting flint and steel, creating a spark, the walk and talks give us all of those triggers and those gifts as coaches to delve deeper into a powerful that is just for that coachee or that group.

So it really holds people. And we do lots of things outside. as Martin has said, breathing exercise, there’s cold water immersion, there’s actually being creative and making something out of foraged materials, the reflections of your coaching program. So, we What does that look like? We’ve had some phenomenal things, haven’t we Martin?

dens, lived participatory dens, people getting active, big boulders being launched off a hill. And it is, you know, engaging with individuals and letting them experience something and participate in a coaching conversation by using the gifts that the outside gives us.

[00:32:23] Martin Jones: Now, this podcast isn’t, supported by the Devon Tourist Board, but I live in Devon and it’s a beautiful place. And I feel, I feel super lucky because where I am, Exeter is the greenest city in the UK. I think statistics showed relatively recently, it’s got the most green space within the city, most parkland.

Dartmoor is a stone’s throw. I can get to the, the South hams to North Devon to, you know, and get to the sea. I’m just spoiled for choice. Now, does it matter? do you find in your experiences that I’m going to get more of a benefit from going into Dartmoor, which let’s be honest, is a bit bleak.

Or is it best to go into a forest? Is it best to go to mountains? Can I just go into a park? Like where, where is the best place to get outside in your experience? 

[00:33:07] Emma: Oh, Martin, what a great question. And I’m going to turn into a coach right here and now and say, it’s personal. It is so personal. Where is your green room? What are you missing? And what fits in with your day? So don’t be too hard on yourself and think, Oh, I’ve got to go off to Dartmoor for a whole day once a month.

because you’re setting yourself up to fail there. all we say is if you have one percent of your day , that is 14 minutes and 40 seconds where you’re going to make a positive change, what are you going to do in those 14 minutes 40 seconds?

It could be sitting on a bench somewhere, but it’s outside. It’s away from your screen. It’s away from the noise, the anxiety or the thoughts that are holding you back. You’re creating a new behavior and you’re supporting a behavior with those 14 minutes, 40 seconds.

So for me, it’s being in a woodland. I love looking up at the trees in awe and thinking, wow, how have they grown so tall? But also smelling the earth and, stopping, listening to the things that are closest and the things that are further away. And then I haven’t got anything else coming into my mind because I’m focusing. 

[00:34:29] Martin Jones: Interesting. one of the universities I used to work with have a, of a research center where they look at the environment and health. And remember, they published a paper, I think it was around about 2019, where they actually quantified how much time you spend in nature to get these positive benefits.

And one of the findings that they showed was that if you can get around about 120 minutes per week, And that can be one hit, or it can be spread across that idea of 14 minutes a day aligns really well with that message from that research study that 14 minutes a day, seven days a week, you know, you’re going to be in and around that area of 120 minutes.

So you know what you’re saying there is is supported by that research. So really interesting to hear. 

[00:35:10] Martin Brennan: Yeah. And in addition to that, I mean, Devon’s a lovely man. I love it, but you can’t, not Birmingham, mate. 

We’ve got some canal 

systems 

around here. 

[00:35:18] Martin Jones: I grew up just north of Birmingham, so I know it well, I know it well, 

[00:35:21] Martin Brennan: there we go then. Apparently we’ve got more 

canals in 

Venice, I want to believe 

I it’s you’ve got more shopping in more canals than in that that all 

We’ve, we’ve, we’ve definitely got that as well. You’re right there. think it is really, down to that individual, where you want to go and, I don’t live in Birmingham anymore, but I still love going in there and I still love, you know, just looking at some of the graffiti, some of the art that’s on there.

There’s a Peregrine Falcon on the BT Tower there, you know, when do we look up and see if something’s coming into that? you can be really, really creative with your outdoor space. But in addition to that, What I’ve seen real traction is is when we get people into a meditative state or a hypnotic state if you like to say okay Let’s visualize that favorite place in Devon.

Let’s visualize that favorite place that summit that you were on because we know it’s all interconnected. So if we can actually simulate somebody into that circumstance, and they know they’ve been there, right? And quite often, I’ll ask them to describe it, see what’s showing up in their body, So we could actually be using those 14 minutes by just closing our eyes and thinking of that place. I’m convinced our brain will just go, well, we’re there because you’re telling me I’m there and I can feel it. I can remember that, sense, that taste, that whatever it is. But what you’re crucially doing is you’re in your green room.

You’re pausing, you’re stopping. And you’re not looking at your phone. You’re not checking your email that’s just gone off because you’re just investing in yourself. And if you do that to that mental gym, like the physical gym, if we go there and we go there, we start lifting heavier weights. We start rowing faster.

We start to feel good on the outside. That’s a great thing to look on the outside. We advocate you’ve got to feel and look good in the inside. And that’s what that mental gym exercise will give you. That’s what those green spaces will give you. And that by just thinking of those green spaces you go into the gym.

[00:37:10] Emma: you a question Martin? You talked about you’d really like to go to Dartmoor on this nine to five walk with JP. Are 

you going to do 

[00:37:18] JP: Yeah, 

we do It all the time. That’s how we have 

[00:37:21] Martin Brennan: It is, it’s where, it is our, it’s our meeting 

space.

[00:37:23] Emma: This is great. It’s great. Why are you going to do it again?

[00:37:27] Martin Brennan: that’s a good question. 

[00:37:28] JP: well, habit more than anything else. But for me, it’s spending time on the hill. So I love being in the mountains, always have done since I was a child. And obviously, living down in Wiltshire, there’s not many mountains. So Dartmoor or, Brecon’s are the closest. And to be perfect to answer for you, just being in that environment, you chew the fat, you have minimal distractions, alluded to, and you just, you can do so much more.

In that environment, talking, thinking, and it’s nothing new. You look at numerous historical examples of authors, poets, philosophers. They talk about their 

[00:38:02] Martin Jones: exactly how I describe you, JP. A philosopher, a 

poet, a thinker. 

[00:38:06] JP: Oh, thanks, man. I’ll take that one. But those epiphanies occur when you’re out walking and it’s nothing, nothing new. Yeah. So yeah, habit for us, so to 

[00:38:15] Martin Jones: love it. I love it. I think the same thing. I, the time flies for me. I can be out for hours and it doesn’t feel like it improves the quality of the thoughts, get clarity. Ideas seem to come in. I mean, it happens when I’m walking a dog, like if I’m just walking around extra with my dog, I get the same thing that low level of physical activity.

Just it just gives me a clarity of thought and being in a green space at the same time. You know, it’s a combination. I think it improves the way I think

[00:38:44] Emma: That’s so great to hear. And imagine if you were walking alongside with somebody. And as coaches, that’s what we do. We walk alongside with that individual. It does help you process thoughts and gain clarity. And the coach is the person that says, You had clarity. Have you done anything about that?

How’s it going? Remember when you were stood on the top of that mountain and you said, Ah, I’ve got a different perspective. Ah, it all makes sense now. And then you pick up again in the next conversation and say so what happened next and That’s really really key. I think 

[00:39:21] Martin Jones: if people are listening 

to this now, the things that we’re talking about is resonating with them. And they’re thinking, you know what, mental fitness, it’s something I need to start working on.

 Where do I start? So how can you help these people, where do they start?

[00:39:36] Emma: First of all, don’t be daunted, but be honest with yourself about where you are with your own mental fitness. This for me is about making yourself the project. And it’s being brave about looking into your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. We’d love to hear from you if you want any support, you want a conversation, or want to join one of our mental fitness programmes.

It’s about creating a new lane. So You know yourself, which lanes going around that athletics track you’re doing really well in? Which lane hasn’t progressed? Where is your mental fitness? And have you got anyone running alongside you with that? Where are you passing the baton to? for me, the biggest ask is, be future focused, focus on yourself, but really look at those around you and ask them, Are you all right?

But sincerely listen to the answer and how your leadership skills showing up in that arena, what’s going on in your organization and be brave because we will not improve those statistics if we don’t start and I believe everybody has the right to start somewhere. 

[00:40:51] Martin Brennan: Yeah. And for me, I’d be saying that, on two levels, really. One is from the individual, do what’s right for you as an individual. I can only look back on my own experience and people I’ve worked with where people have been a bit shy to do that because it doesn’t fit within the norm, whatever that norm is.

But if it, if it feels right, it probably is right. Go with that intuition. And, that’s being creative artistically or physically, or just Spending time with groups, just do that, take ownership of that as an individual. But in the same time, I think organizations have got to stop paying a lip service to this.

We see too many people that will give a well being policy. Yeah, we really do invest in our staff. And then as soon as the first crisis comes over, the thing that’s cut back is, the investment in people. and This takes time, it isn’t a shiny gimmick as Emma talked about earlier, we need leaders to really embrace this.

And we’re seeing that we’re seeing senior leaders come there and being vulnerable and going actually, This has been good for me, but actually this is where I can now take it back into the organization as well. . 

[00:41:54] Emma: If this podcast has triggered anything, it’s really important that you. with yourself about how you’re doing and where you are on a scale of one to ten. Whilst we’re talking about coaching today, there are provisions, of course, within organisations and your own EAPs that allow you to reach out for mental health support.

What we’re talking about is personal empowerment to help you walk through and move your scale of, say, a 10 to a 7 out of 10 in post traumatic growth and personal development. But if you do need support, please make sure you get 

[00:42:35] Martin Jones: Very important message. And what’s the future for The Green room as an organization? What have you got on the horizon? for you, for your company,

[00:42:43] Emma: The Green Room’s in a very good place. We’re committed to the challenge that is mental fitness. And this is a co designed collective approach really. We’re very future focused and there’s a lot of positive work going on. We deliver our programs but Ultimately, in 10 years time, I want us to be in a completely different place from a public policy perspective.

And we’re committed to do that with our coaching faculty, who are very experienced individuals of second and third careers, experienced coaches who’ve lived and worked in complex working environments. It’s no different to any other public policy challenge. It takes 10 years at least. It takes a lot of buy in and a lot of collaborative discussions where egos are not in the frame.

This is about really making a difference to individuals and cultures and changing those stats. So we’re in that space. We’re very excited because not only in the military community is there a strong need and a strong take up, also in chaplaincy, military chaplaincy, education, blue lights. So things are, busy, but we are pragmatic.

And this is about not losing sight of why we’re doing it. It’s to make humans better at performing. with mental fitness in an elevated 

state. 

[00:44:13] Martin Jones: the corporate sector must be ripe for this as well. the senior leaders I’ve worked with in different areas of the corporate world, the things that you’ve been discussing. It feels like you’re talking about them, even though, you know, you may be talking about other sectors of the other jobs, but it seems like this is just universal, in these high stress 

[00:44:32] Emma: It is high stress environments in every career. And if you think about law, you think about the prison service, you think about social workers, it does touch every single sector. We’re focused primarily right now on people who serve. People who serve the public those Nolan principles, coming back to that, but actually turning the Nolan principles into 3D and looking at mental fitness that underpins all of those things.

People who serve are very selfless. I’m not saying that others aren’t, but what I’m saying is that’s ingrained in the narrative and the culture of the contract. you can serve others. But you have to serve yourself. It’s the same as being on an aeroplane and putting on your oxygen mask. and that’s where we are. And we’re really hopeful and we’re super excited. 

[00:45:21] Martin Brennan: Yeah, and the thing I would want to add to is what I’m super excited about and it going back to my, my original sort of one of the answers that I gave to you is that there are already some amazing coaches out there that just don’t realize they are coaches. And what we’re keen to develop is an accredited sort of framework, if you like, where a lot of beneficiaries that we work with again, this is, I’m already doing this, how do I get into this area of business?

And we’re like, this is gold dust. We can always focus on the negative side to some individuals and the organization we work with. But on the whole, there’s some amazing people there. And there’s so many of those beneficiaries that are saying. Actually, I wouldn’t mind getting into this because I think I am a coach and they are and it’s going back to me a little bit.

I think I was a coach before I got a badge saying I was a coach. It’s just that I’ve developed that into a framework to say actually, through proper governance and all that kind of stuff that I know what I’m doing and I’ve got the confidence to do that. There are so many people in those beneficiaries that we work with.

are just fantastic coaches that we need to tap into, and they can be used across all those sectors that you talked about, whether it be corporate sports, military, police, and all that kind of stuff. They’re just amazing leaders and coaches already. They just sometimes don’t know 

that. 

[00:46:33] Emma: It’s about curiosity. Be curious, be confident, and be creative and go for it. This arena will not change if there’s only one light on. And it’s not about being precious. This is about being collaborative and working together. 

 It is exciting. And who knows where it can go, but where we are right now, we can’t stay here. If we stand still, we’re going backwards. We’ve got to think about sustainable change in this space. And the more coaches embedded within organisations with the same mindset, the better.

[00:47:08] Martin Jones: I’m really looking forward to seeing where, where you both go. I think it’s, it’s a really interesting concept and really needed. So 

What we like to do is to finish the podcast by handing it back over to you, the guests to give us the final words. And this can be repeating something that’s particularly important or maybe introducing something that we’ve not yet talked about. So over to you for the final words for the episode. 

[00:47:32] Martin Brennan: Yeah, from my point of view I’d like to ask you three questions and, and the first one is, where is your green room? The, the second question to that when you’re in that green room is, what is hijacking your thoughts, feelings, and behavior?

And the third is, what are you willing to negotiate?

[00:47:50] Emma: I think for me, I would just like to say, sometimes you have to get out of your own way and be quite brave. I have to, we all have to. I just Mental fitness is about making yourself the project. . Are you willing to do it is my challenge to you and if you are just start with that one percent that 14 minutes 40 seconds be good to yourself give to yourself that time and if you are the project what you’re going to do within that 

[00:48:20] Martin Jones: Thank you very much. We will put your contact details into the show notes, but you want to tell people where they can contact you, where, where do you prefer to be contacted?

[00:48:29] Emma: Thank you. Our website address is tgrcoaching. co. uk if you want to reach out and want to get in touch with us please feel welcome to do so. My email is emma at tgrcoaching. co. uk and Martin’s is martin at tgrcoaching. co. uk

[00:48:51] Martin Jones: Fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed today’s conversation. Now I’m going to go outside. I’m going to go and get some, some, some sunlight some nature 

[00:49:00] Emma: Thank you so much. Well, we’d love to see you both again. You’re really welcome. Come, let’s do a walk and talk together sometime. And, there’s always so much work to do in this space. 

[00:49:10] JP: Brilliant. Thank you. 

[00:49:11] Martin Jones: Thanks, a lot. 

[00:49:13] OUTRO: Thank you for joining us on the Optimizing Human Performance podcast, a Wavel Room production. If you’re enjoying this content, don’t forget to like and subscribe so that we can keep improving. And remember to visit wavelroom. com to find their latest articles, podcasts, and newsletters. If you know someone who could benefit from our discussions, please refer them to our show.

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The Wavell Room Team

The Wavell Room Team are a bunch of enthusiastic individuals who believe strongly in constructive debate, discussion and openness in order to arrive at a sound, non-bias and informed position on many subjects.  The team are all volunteers and support this non-profit in their own time.

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