Slice of life with Simon Albert
Simon Albert is the owner and Managing Director of Charity Challenge: the world’s leading fundraising challenge company. In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week, he’s joined us to talk about the importance of nature in looking after our mental health.
What inspired you to create Charity Challenge back in 1999?
I took part in a charity trek to Jordan over 25 years ago, sleeping in the desert under the stars, trekking through dry river beds carved out over millions of years, and finally reaching the incredible ancient red rock city of Petra which is entirely carved out of the mountains. It was the most incredible experience, and on my return to the UK, I decided to set up a company that would enable me to raise thousands of pounds for charity and allow me to travel to new places. To date, we’ve raised almost £60,000,000!
Your fundraising challenges take place all over the world; why is your next trek taking you to Jordan?
I haven’t been back to Jordan since my first trek where it all began, and so what better place to take the Minds in the Wild challenge for the Inside Out Leaderboard? If you want to switch off from the day-to-day noise and buzz, you can’t do much better than the wild and remote desert landscapes of Jordan. There will be no TV, radio, or 24-hour news; instead, we’ll be walking and talking, sharing, and learning from each other. It will be a great location to focus on our physical and mental wellbeing, and to learn from some of the great mental wellbeing ambassadors about how to return to our partners, our families, our colleagues and our workplaces better equipped to help ourselves (and each other) maintain and improve our wellbeing.
You developed Minds in the Wild for business leaders and their employees, with the important aim of improving mental wellbeing at work. What effect do you see nature and the environment having on challenge participants?
It’s well-proven that nature helps to reduce stress levels. Having spent over 20 years taking groups of people from all walks of life to various environments around the world — from jungles and deserts to mountains and rivers — you can see people unwind, relax, open up and be better versions of themselves! They tell me that; it’s not just an observation. After all of the trekking, you’ll be exhausted and have a great night’s sleep and wake up to see the sun rise, ready for another beautiful day in the great outdoors.
How important is nature for your own mental health?
Walking my dog in the woods in the morning, listening to the leaves rustle in the wind and the birds singing in the trees, and (occasionally) feeling the sun shine on my face, is just an incredible feeling that sets me up for the day ahead.
What advice would you give to employers when it comes to opening up conversations around mental health at work?
From personal experience, when you open up and share your own stories, other people feel more “entitled” to do the same. It all starts with one conversation that says: “We are okay talking about this kind of stuff.” My advice is to start the conversation and show it matters to you. You’ll be amazed at the response from your teams. I believe that most of us are good people and if we knew a colleague was having a difficult time, we would want to support them. When people keep their thoughts locked up for fear of being labelled, you never know what’s going on for them.