A Great Day at the Office Summary

A summary of the book by Dr John Briffa Amazon UK. I recommend this book to anyone interested in improving their daily lives.

This summary page is a simple way for me to revise what has been taught in the book.

1. Energy to Burn

  • Stable blood sugar levels are key to ensuring buoyant and sustained levels of energy throughout the day
  • Spikes of blood sugar are disease-promoting, and also encourage the storage of fat via the action of the hormone insulin
  • Many starchy carbohydrates (including bread, potato, rice, pasta and breakfast cereals) are disruptive to blood sugar levels
  • Blood-sugar-stabilizing foods include meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and non-starchy vegetables
  • Dietary fat does not appear to be inherently fattening, and low-fat diets are generally ineffective for weight control
  • Saturated fat is not linked with heart disease, and eating less of it does not reduce heart disease risk or other chronic health issues
  • Monounsaturated fats (found in foods such as nuts, avocado, olive oil, meat, eggs and butter) appear to be good for heart health
  • Excesses of omega-6 fats found in ‘vegetable’ oils, margarine and many processed foods have the potential to harm heart and general health
  • Partially-hydrogenated and trans fats, found in margarine and processed foods, appear to be particularly toxic to heart health
  • Omega-3 fats found in oily varieties of fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardine support heart and general health
  • Diets lower in carbohydrate and richer in protein and fat than is traditionally advised generally lead to improvements in a range of disease markers
  • Dairy products are a quite common cause of food sensitivity, though yogurt is generally better tolerated than milk (and butter is rarely a problem)
  • There is abundant scientific evidence that the best diet for us is one based on natural, unprocessed, ‘primal’ foods such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit
  • Thinking ‘primally’ with regard to our diet helps us make quick, accurate and future-proof judgements regarding the best foods for optimizing our energy, effectiveness and general health

2. Fluid Thinking

  • Maintaining hydration is key to ensuring optimal levels of energy, particularly mental energy
  • Aim to drink enough water to keep your urine pale yellow throughout the course of the day
  • Sugary soft drinks pose hazards to the body and should be avoided
  • ‘Diet’ drinks have not been proven to aid weight control, and some evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners may actually promote weight gain and have other adverse effects on health
  • Fruit juices and smoothies contain a lot of sugar and are best avoided except in very limited quantities
  • Coconut water contains about half the sugar of regular soft drinks, and also contains useful quantities of nutrients such as potassium and magnesium
  • Both tea and coffee are linked with health benefits but are best drunk with little or no milk
  • The health benefits of alcohol have been overstated
  • Alcohol has the capacity to disrupt sleep and often affects performance the following day
  • Simple strategies for drinking less include avoiding undue hunger and thirst, as well as matching each alcoholic drink with one of water
  • Vodka, lime and soda is the smart option if you want to get drunk but minimize the damage and the risk of a hangover the following day

3. Movable Feast

  • Going too long without eating can cause us to get too hungry which can make it very difficult to eat healthily
  • Hunger can drive us to drink more alcohol in the evening
  • Many people can turn into not very attractive versions of themselves if they get too hungry
  • Hunger is not a prerequisite for weight loss and, in fact, generally the less hungry people are, the easier it is for them to control their weight
  • Hunger saps willpower, which can make life harder on a number of levels
  • There is no one ideal pattern of eating
  • As a rule, aim to eat the right foods regularly enough to ensure you never get very hungry

4. Dream Ticket

  • Sleep is important for psychological and physical functioning and performance
  • Lack of sleep can lead to a wide range of mental deficits
  • Lack of sleep can predispose to chronic health issues including weight gain and type 2 diabetes
  • Symptoms of ‘sleep debt’ include not feeling refreshed on waking, use of the snooze button, the need for caffeine in the morning and the need to catch up on sleep at the weekend or when on holiday
  • Going to bed earlier is one simple strategy that often helps to ensure we get optimal amounts of sleep
  • Performing a ‘brain dump’ and constructing a to-do list in the evening can often help clear the head and help sleep
  • Both caffeine and alcohol have the capacity to disrupt sleep
  • For the best sleep, it’s best to avoid bright light exposure from room lighting or devices in the evening
  • Eyeshades and earplugs can sometimes be very helpful for ensuring deep, restful sleep
  • Ensuring blood sugar stability generally helps to improve sleep quality and prevent episodes of waking in the night
  • Napping (ideally, ten to twenty minutes) often really helps to improve energy and brain function
  • Jet lag can be combated using a combination of strategies including basic good sleep habits, flight time choices, seeking and avoiding bright light and supplementing with melatonin
  • Sleep tracking devices can be useful for monitoring sleep

5. Light Relief

  • Light is important for brain function and mood maintenance, and lack of sunlight can have an impact on how we feel and function
  • Getting some natural light exposure each day is a good idea throughout the year, especially in the winter
  • The use of a bright light device may help those who are prone to mood or general wellbeing issues in the winter and find it difficult to get natural light exposure
  • There is evidence that suggests sunlight is not an important cause of malignant melanoma, though it does appear to cause other more common but less problematic forms of skin cancer
  • Sunlight and vitamin D are associated with protection from several other forms of cancer and other benefits for health
  • Vitamin D is linked with a wide range of benefits for body and brain
  • Vitamin D levels can be tested in the blood, and taking steps to optimize levels may enhance health and sustainability
  • Sunscreens do not appear to protect against malignant melanoma and may, in fact, increase risk
  • Getting sun exposure is important, but so is avoiding burning
  • For the most part, burning is best avoided using physical (rather than chemical) means

6. Fit for Business

  • Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling and swimming have benefits for general health
  • Walking has been shown to benefit many aspects of health, including fitness, brain functioning and back health
  • Using an activity-tracking device, along with daily stepping targets, can help ensure we get good levels of general activity
  • Putting activity in the diary reduces the risk of it getting squeezed out of our schedules
  • Resistance exercise is good for muscle strength and tone, and is important for maintaining functionality and preventing frailty in later life
  • Resistance exercise can be done in the gym, but home-based circuits requiring very little equipment are perfectly adequate too
  • For those who are already fit, high-intensity intermittent exercise represents a time-efficient way of achieving improved health and fitness

7. Sound Effects

  • Music can improve our mood and mental state
  • Music has been shown to have a positive impact on our physiological state too (including immunity)
  • Listening to upbeat, enjoyable music can put us in a more resourceful state prior to or during, say, a task or exercise session
  • Binaural beat technology may help induce specific states in the brain such as relaxation and mental focus

8. Breath of Life

  • Breathing allows absorption of oxygen into the blood so that it can be delivered to the tissues
  • Breathing also transports carbon dioxide to the lungs where it can be ‘blown off’
  • Some people are prone to over-breathing and low levels of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, which can reduce oxygen delivery to the tissues
  • Over-breathing can cause symptoms such as dizziness, breathlessness, chest tightness and anxiety
  • Slower breathing, particularly into the diaphragm, can help to ensure proper chemical balance in the blood and oxygen delivery to the tissues
  • Slower, diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to improve markers of disease including blood sugar levels and oxidative stress

9. Mind Control

  • The beat-to-beat variation in heart rate – known as ‘heart rate variability’ – is a marker for health
  • Healthy sleep habits, regular activity and diaphragmatic breathing can all help to improve heart rate variability
  • There is an important connection between heart and brain that can influence our state and effectiveness
  • Harmonized body–brain communication – referred to as ‘coherence’ – induces a more resourceful state and helps optimise our effectiveness and performance
  • Eliciting positive emotions through, say, practising appreciation, reflecting on what’s gone well, and practising random acts of kindness, can increase coherence and resourcefulness

10. Habit Forming

Habits to Develop

  • An emphasis on eating a ‘primal’ diet, based on natural, unprocessed foods
  • No or very few bread-based lunches A commitment to avoiding getting too hungry
  • Having nuts or some other snack food to hand to help keep your appetite in check, particularly between lunch and your evening meal
  • Drinking enough water to keep your urine pale yellow throughout the day
  • Getting into bed an hour or so earlier when possible
  • Avoiding bright light exposure in the evening
  • Doing a ‘brain dump’ and constructing a to-do list for the following day before going to bed
  • Seeking natural sunlight each day for at least twenty minutes, particularly in the winter
  • Incorporating a brief, brisk walk at the start and end of the day, and possibly at lunchtime too
  • Performing a brief home-based resistance exercise session on most days
  • Practising slower, diaphragmatic breathing for five minutes, twice a day
  • Listening to some uplifting music on the way into work, and those Spanish lessons you’ve been putting off on the way home
  • Spending a couple of minutes, twice a day, practising the attitude of gratitude
  • Reflecting at the start and end of each day on what went well
  • Executing one random act of kindness, however small, each day

Benefits from doing so

  • A greater sense of vitality and wellness
  • The ability to be more productive and get more done more quickly
  • Improved decision-making ability and creativity
  • Improved relationships, both in and out of the workplace
  • Improved sleep, and a feeling of being better rested in the morning
  • Weight loss, but without hunger, calorie-counting or extensive exercise
  • Increased sustainability
  • Reduced risk of chronic disease including heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Improved fitness and strength
  • Elevated mood and outlook on life
  • Improved image in the eyes of colleagues and clients
  • Speedier career progression