The recipe for a perfect nights sleep

Brian Dow, Chief Executive of Mental Health UK, reflects on the trip of a lifetime – joining Lloyds Banking Group colleagues on the Walk The Talk trek in Cambodia.


Having just returned from the Walk the Talk 19 trek in Cambodia with colleagues from Lloyds Banking Group, I discovered the recipe for a perfect sleep on a long-haul flight (economy class). It might surprise you:

1. Virtuous tiredness.

This is the tiredness that occurs when you have pushed your body and mind in pursuit of a goal that means something to you.  It ends with a feeling of satisfaction that is conducive to nodding off.  To achieve this take 35 inspiring people, put them in a really hot, beautiful and amazingly friendly country and get them to trek 80k in humidity that feels like treading through hot treacle to complete a challenge that they had raised over £4k each for.

2. Simmer gently.

If you’ve not been paying attention you won’t have noticed that in the kitchen of life the pot is constantly bubbling over. That, perhaps, is the inevitable outcome when two elements, designed to work in tandem are in a state of war – “I am right, you are wrong and I refuse to seek common ground”.  Make sure that there is a desired outcome based on compromise. It isn’t about winning or being first, making sure you end up with the biggest slice of pie – it’s about protecting and supporting – holding together the group by helping those when they need a hand, carrying their load so they can keep walking.  Call it the B word.  Benificence.  The best kind of politics.

3. Collect the right ingredients.

Put people together and tell them that success is about getting EVERYONE over the line and you re-find the essential human truth told often but ignored as frequently – namely that there is more that connects us than separates us.  We all have the capacity to be generous, kind, social, open and considerate – stripping away prestige and reward and all that comes tumbling out.

4. As Voltaire put it – God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.

Sure, things can feel grim – doesn’t the country that lost almost 2 million people during the genocide of the 1970s know just that.  But if the Cambodians can smile (and boy can they smile) so can we. If you can extend that to a guffaw, chuckle, peel or even a gale of laughter all the better.  Put the phone away and go to bed (sorry tent) with a bunch of people who have made you laugh for a week and you’ll feel like you are putting the cosiest blanket possible around you.

5. Pick a comfortable person to fall asleep next to.

And if you can do that after completing all the previous stages you will find that while the outward journey may have been sleepless the inward journey with the same person – now a very dear friend will pass in the blink of an eye.

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