Most people work out but how many work in?
That's the question that prompted Dan Murray-Serter to launch new podcast Working In, a series of conversations that focus on caring for the mind just as we care for our bodies. As founder of brain health and smarter supplements business Heights, Murray-Serter has plenty of experience in this field.
His first guest? No other than national treasure Stephen Fry.
In the episode Fry describes his experience of living with Bipolar, and how kleptomania sent him to prison aged 17.
Fry says: "There are two opposite points of view you should have about mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder. One is you must never underestimate the seriousness of mental health disorders, and they should never be taken lightly. They can lead to serious ill health and death – we know that the suicide figures in this country and around the world are very alarming.
"Secondly, you must also bear in mind that some of the most remarkable, fulfilled, and inspiring people who have ever lived have had a mental illness.”
We spoke to Murray-Serter about the importance of working in.
What prompted you to start this podcast?
Because of lockdown, I was working out in my bedroom and I suddenly had the thought 'if working out is for your body, is 'working in' for your brain'?
When that idea was still with me the next day I started to think about all the fantastic people we are lucky enough to have at Heights as customers and advisors.
I thought it would be worthwhile seeing if they wanted to join me on a podcast to help share their wisdom about how to take care of your brain. Good news – they did!
How did your chronic anxiety and insomnia come about?
By total surprise, because I was at a particularly happy moment in my life where things were going well, so it very much felt 'out of nowhere'.
Turns out I wasn't taking care of my brain, by thinking about what I was eating/or rather what I wasn't!
How did you overcome them?
After six months of insomnia I was recommended a dietitian who suggested I took Omega 3s, B Vitamins and Blueberry extract supplements (and though I was a sceptic at the time, I was desperate).
They worked... within two weeks I was sleeping like a baby and became totally fascinated by the power, and scientific evidence, of how nutrition plays such a key part of your mental health.
You’re a very successful entrepreneur. Did you find it difficult to get people to take your mental health issues seriously?
That's a great question – it's been a real journey. I've always joked that my friends are often afraid to ask me how I am in case I actually tell them, so I've always been pretty honest.
I try to make sure I am open and honest with investors and my team from day one, and to be honest, all it does is open you up to have more meaningful conversations with people you respect even more, so it's really been a positive thing in my life so far, being so honest.
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What advice would you give to somebody who is struggling but mightn’t know where to turn?
Certainly listen to our first episode of Working In with Stephen Fry, after all he knows far more than I do and addresses exactly this.
In my experience, when I'm suffering or finding it difficult to talk about, I focus instead on trying to reach out to someone else to see how they are.
Contribution/giving back/caring for others is actually a great way to resolve some of your own mental health issues (depending on what they are, of course!).
What do you mean when you refer to ‘nutrition for the brain?’
It's a bit of a weird concept isn't it though we're very familiar with the idea of food for thought. We did some research last year with 2000 participants and discovered that 99% of people don't get the nutrients their brain needs to thrive, according to science.
Your brain is an organ. It's 60% fat, and 90% of that fat is a compound called DHA Omega 3. It is literally a key building block for our brains, and it's hard to synthesise as it mostly comes from algae and the fish that eat it.
So if you are vegetarian (like me) or vegan, it's especially hard, but it's still hard to get enough of even if you eat fish regularly.
On top of that, Vitamin D, B Vitamins, antioxidants are all key nutrients your brain needs, and nothing bad happens to you if you have too much of them – but if you don't get enough, it's a real issue.
Stephen Fry is an impressive first guest! What can we expect from this conversation?
An incredible first guest, it was a pleasure to speak with him.
We'll launch with a special two-part episode with Stephen. In the first episode he shares his experience of living with Bipolar, and how this has developed along the course of his life. Our conversation explores how mental health impacted his school years and how kleptomania sent him to prison at the age of 17.
He also shares his thoughts on intelligence and the role of the education system, upbringing and class have on one’s confidence and the ability to shift views on our own intelligence.
In the second episode, we discuss our attraction to wickedness, greed, sins, and philosophy.
Tell us one fact about the brain that will blow our minds..
Ooh pressure – there's so much to go off!
I'll keep it simple with something to think about though – your brain takes up 20% of your body's energy and blood flow despite being a relatively small organ, it consumes the majority of your body's energy. That number is 50% in kids!
So it's not just your most important organ, but your hungriest too – so you can see why feeding it the key nutrients it needs to thrive is so important. It's a bit of a game changer once you figure this out…
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