Stoptober is on its way…

You can’t help but to have heard about Stoptober, the national stop smoking month. Whether it’s the adverts on the telly, posts on Facebook Optic Junior 027and Twitter, or promotional events by your stop smoking service, there is no doubt that it is on the horizon.

On 1st October, smokers across the country are taking the plunge and committing to being smoke free for the whole month, taking the opportunity to give their smoke free journey a kick start. Did you know that by joining others during Stoptober, you are five times as likely to quit and stay quit?

As a stop smoking adviser, I see people from all walks of life with a wide range of motivations to give up smoking. Health can be a major factor; whether it’s a current diagnosis or a family history of certain health conditions, or even just an understanding of how damaging smoking is to health. Others might want to feel the benefit in their pocket and have more spare cash to spend on the things they really want – it’s amazing how it adds up once you quit!

For some, it’s the non-smoker lifestyle that they crave: not wanting to smell of smoke or have discoloured fingers, not wanting to be tied to their habit and feeling the need to nip out every so often for a quick cig. Whatever the motivation, there is no better time to join 1000s of others taking that first step on the road to being smoke free.

Throughout Stoptober, Stop4Life will be sharing useful tips and advice here, and if you want to kick start your journey, you can set your date and join others on Puffell – your FREE space to set goals and track your success.


Sue Melville, Stop Smoking Adviser, Stop4Life (0800 612 4580 /

Priceless benefits of working for free

Why would anyone work for free?

When I said to friends and family that on my return to the UK after two years in New Zealand and Australia I would be undertaking a work placement, they thought I was bonkers.

“All that experience and you’re going to work for free?” they asked suspiciously. “Why would anyone do that, isn’t that just for graduates or young interns?”

Ten or so years ago I left university puffed up with optimism. I left with that ‘who wants me?’ swagger that comes quickly crashing down as job offers become worryingly silent. Having a degree filled me with unrealistic expectations that I would just walk into a job.

After a number of knock-backs and a job I applied for withdrawn; I jumped up and offered to do the job for free. They accepted and after three weeks, they found a way to create a paid position for me. Two years later I was the creative director for an art gallery and still think back to what an opportunity I was given.

Anyway, it was with similar thoughts and before my return to the UK that I approached ICE – a company I had been watching grow and develop over the last four or so years (some may say stalking). I loved their vision, the cut of the job and the positive attitude that came across in their newsletter, releases, work portfolio and social media.

So, why not just apply for the role?

This, as my first experience undertaking a work placement, is something I see as a great opportunity for the employee and employer to temperature test each other and get a feel for how you both work. It is an on-the-job free education and experience you can’t get in a classroom and it’s a chance to get not just a foot in the door, but a boot in the door into a company that might not have seen you. It turns a dry CV into a real human connection.

We spend the majority of our lives in work, so making the wrong decision can be disastrous. A placement builds connections and relationships that could lead to future opportunities; meeting role models, references, future employers and mentors.

It seems that many jobs aren’t advertised in the traditional way and it is often through building networks that people are securing or hearing about roles. The downside? It’s not cheap. In fact, it can be very expensive to work for nothing; it’s not feasible for many, but this has to be balanced against the potential long-term benefits.

Here’s a few of my top tips for making the most out of a work experience placement:

  • Make yourself indispensible and a valued member of the team
  • Have a good project plan and set up realistic expectations of what you are willing to offer; and have a good idea of what you want to achieve
  • Target people and skill sets you want to develop; pick people’s brains – how they work, what led them here etc.
  • Listen and be an active listener, take notes and show initiative by finding ways you can assist
  • Find a mentor, someone you look up to and can trust, but also look for opportunities where you can be a mentor to others and add value
  • Make the most of the opportunity and be proud, utilise the value of social media to tell your network what you are undertaking (but remember to ask permission and do this in your own time)
  • Say thank you! It takes up a lot of people’s time and effort to help you/train you and bring you up to speed in a placement.


Written by Kieran McCann, Marketing and Communications Work Placement, ICE Creates Ltd

Designing a great business

You might look at me and think,”I can’t possibly take that girl with pink hair and a big smile on her face seriously. What value can shedesigning a great business add to an organisation’s growth and development? Surely her excessive big Mac monitor, Pantone books and sketch pads can’t help an organisation flourish?”

It’s common for design not to be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about business. After all, designers spend most of their time drawing and making things look pretty. Colouring in is what they do, isn’t it?

It’s a typical stereotype about designers and their work. However, you may be surprised to learn how much your business can be enhanced through good design and innovation.

All you need to do to see my point is to look at a list of the world’s most successful brands to recognise that integrating a design culture into the heart of a company can be absolutely key to creating a thriving, profitable business.

Brands like Apple, Audi, Nike, Virgin and Ikea are not just companies. They represent much more… a philosophy and a brand identity that runs through everything they do; from the products and services they create to their advertising, their stores and the way they communicate with their customers.

Great design is a fundamental part of a successful and thriving business. It’s a powerful tool to effectively communicate the message and reinforce business practices. It connects with the audience and fulfils their needs and desires – all essential to achieve success.

Designers challenge the status quo. They innovate.

Design is about big ideas and tiny details. It’s about discovering new and exciting ways to connect with other people and wanting to understand them, connect with them and serve them. It’s about problem solving with a beautiful outcome.

The design offer is endless; from creating bespoke brands that will make you stand out from the crowd and outsmarting your competition with engaging campaigns, digital and social media solutions, and simply helping you reach the right audience with impact.

We all have big ideas. I’m really lucky to work with a great team and to be able to bring those ideas to life in a way that captures, engages and is ultimately believed in.


Milena Polak, ICE Creates Ltd ( / 0151 647 4700)



Celebrating ‘Read a Book Day’

This year, book readers right around the world will be celebrating as Saturday 6th September marks ‘Read a Book Day’.

It’s not the most common awareness day, but it’s a much needed reminder of why I, and many others alike, love books. There’s read a book daysomething magical about losing yourself in a good old book – romance, thriller, crime…maybe even horror (unless, like me, your imagination runs away with you on the first page).

But many people, myself included, take the ability to read for granted – not fully appreciating that reading is a means of language acquisition, it is communication and sharing of information and ideas that will be passed on for many years to come.

I could go on about my love of books for hours; I love nothing more than catching up with others who share my passion for reading. But these days, to be able to read is more of a necessity, as more and more people communicate through technology such as smartphones and tablets (texts are replacing the calls and emails are trying to take over face-to-face conversation).

It’s the way times are changing and the majority of us seem to be OK with this, excitedly keeping up with the pace; yet in stark reality, around 16% of the UK population alone is described as ‘functionally illiterate’.

This fact was a bit of an eye-opener for me. Yes, I love engrossing myself in a book and drifting off to a fantasy world, and in my role at work, which involves proof-reading and copywriting, I would struggle to get through the day without relying on written sources – but what I never seem to do is appreciate the depth of the language in front of me, and in fact, where this came from and how much of what I know now comes from the lessons learned when originally written.

Even whilst writing this myself and reading more about ‘Read a Book Day’, I’ve been thinking about what I can do to make a difference to those who have not yet experienced the fulfilment and enjoyment reading can bring, often for reasons beyond their control.

So, instead of my usual routine of buying a book and then placing it on the shelf for another couple of years once I’m done, I’ll be sorting through my collection and passing them on to someone else, and donating them to my local community centre and library.

My passion for reading will stay with me and I hope that by making this small gesture, I can give someone else the opportunity to experience everything I have so far. If you’re a bit of a book-lover like me, why not do the same?


Danielle Dixon, ICE Creates Ltd ( / 0151 647 4700)


4 reasons why volunteering will change your life

Are you out of work, looking for work-experience or just fancy doing a good deed for a change?

Volunteering can do wonders for your life and somebody else’s.

But why?

1. Volunteering makes you more employableVolunteer

Volunteers may wish to increase their skill set, gaining experience within various environments to improve future job prospects. Employers will look favourably on those who give up their time to volunteer. It can expand your network and expose you to new fields of work, gaining invaluable experience. The possibilities of experience and skills gained by volunteering are endless.

2. Volunteering enhances self-development and personal growth

Charities and non-profit organisations often attract a larger proportion of younger volunteers and students who are more likely to be aware of the benefits of volunteering, but organisations welcome people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved.

3. You can make a real difference

As a volunteer, you have the chance to make a profound difference to people’s lives. By volunteering your free time, you are providing an invaluable resource to an organisation, which without you, may not be able to provide necessary services to vulnerable people. Just one day volunteering can make a huge difference to someone’s life.

4. Volunteering is good for your health

Volunteering can reduce the risk of depression. Social isolation is a key factor in depression and can be lowered by becoming involved in community organisations and projects, which connects you to others, increasing your support networks, as well as improving your skills. Volunteering can be fun, as well as challenging and can be an interesting way to spend some of your free time. It can renew your energy, open you up to new experiences and increase your overall motivation. The health benefits of volunteering include a renewed sense of wellbeing, as well as improving your self-esteem and sense of achievement.

If you would like to volunteer and don’t know where to start there are a few things to consider first:

  • Would you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
  • Would you like a hands-on role or behind the scenes role?
  • How much spare time do you have to commit?
  • What skills do you have and what skills do you want to develop?
  • What causes are important to you?
  • Are you prepared to be reliable as an unpaid volunteer?

No matter what your role or how much time you dedicate as a volunteer, you will be making a positive difference to individuals and you local and extended community – which is always a good thing!

And before you ask, yes, I have volunteered for over four years, which helped me get this job!

I have never looked back.


Max Willis, ICE Creates Ltd ( / 0151 647 4700)


Social media is your power tool – time to give it a service!

iStock_000015134230LargeThere aren’t many organisations who are now not using social media to engage with the public. Customers, citizens, patients – however you define them – they all expect you to have a social media presence.

Social media isn’t an end in itself: it’s like a power tool. You don’t need a drill, you need a hole in the wall – it’s just that a drill is a really effective and efficient way of making one!

But power tools need regular maintenance and servicing.

Here are three tips to giving your social media engagement a new lease of life:

1. Refresh your visual content

Across all social media platforms, visual content has become one of the most important elements. Facebook posts with images in them tend to get more clicks than texts or links… Twitter recently changed the user interface so visual content gained emphasis. Is it time to refresh your organisation’s profile picture, cover photos and banners? Also, think about what visual content you are posting. Does it tie in altogether in a cohesive way? Is it good quality?

2. Remember to use video

You don’t have to post videos of cats to engage with your target audience! Be real about what you do: use short videos to describe services and products – reflect your values in fun and engaging ways.

3. Go for short burst campaigns

Short, sharp and targeted campaigns on social media allow you to make new connections and grow your audience reach through manageable bursts of activity.


Short of time or ideas? ICE are helping a wide range of clients with their social media. It’s time to service yours, so get in touch!


Richard Forshaw (07540 412 304 /


Could pets and gardens help our ageing population?

I’m really lucky to live by the sea. All that open space, long sandy beaches, sea air and stunning views across to the Welsh mountains are a real incentive to get outdoors, take some exercise and re-charge my batteries – even more so with the warm and sunny weather we’ve been enjoying this summer.

Spending time outdoors, either by the sea, in my local park, or even watering my plants in my little garden boosts my mood, helping can outdoors cope with the stresses of work, family and everyday life.

I’m fortunate. I am in good health and have my mobility and independence. We often take for granted being able to enjoy time outdoors, surrounded by plants, nature and sunlight – but what about older people, patients in hospital, or those suffering from dementia?

I’ve come across a number of interesting articles recently promoting health benefits for some of these groups, if they are able to spend time outdoors or surrounded by nature.

The first refers to a study which reveals how gardens could provide promising benefits for patients suffering from dementia. According to the article, which is based on research carried out by the University of Exeter Medical School, reports suggest that “7.7 million new cases (of dementia) are identified each year. Almost half of the elderly people living in residential care have dementia or dementia symptoms, a figure which increases to more than three-quarters in nursing homes”.

The article goes on to explain how having access to outdoor spaces in care homes could bring health benefits for the person with dementia and improve the wellbeing of family and carers too. “Gardens promote relaxation, encourage activity and reduce residents’ agitation.” They can also provide sensory stimulation and help trigger memories of skills and habits which have brought them enjoyment in the past.

The research is ongoing and will include further investigation into potential risks to residents, as well as the available time for care staff to spend outdoors with them. The evidence in this first report is encouraging and is backed up by further evidence from the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) in Stirling.

With a growing older population and dementia on the increase, let’s hope that the findings will influence policy makers to prioritise more and safer access to outdoor spaces for sufferers and those supporting them.

My parents are 83 and live close by. They are fortunate to be physically and mentally well and still able to enjoy walks in nature, the scents and sounds of flowers and wildlife in their garden. One thing (in fact two!) that keeps them active is their dogs – a gentle, kind natured Airedale and a high-spirited, excitable fox terrier.

I was interested, but not surprised therefore, to read in an article from The Positive about the positive benefits of owning a dog, particularly for the over 65s. In a recent study by two Scottish universities and the University of Newcastle, older dog owners in Scotland were found to be 12% more active than their counterparts and to be undertaking a comparable level of exercise to people 10 years younger than themselves.

As the article mentions, “It is a known fact that regular moderate exercise can improve flexibility, bone strength and make you feel younger”. Owning a dog can also have a positive effect on blood pressure and mood, as well as providing companionship and more incentive for older people to exercise and be active outdoors. A four-legged friend can also help them to “overcome many potential barriers such as social support, inclement weather and concerns over personal safety”.

For older people unable or reluctant to have a pet of their own, participating in a dog-loaning scheme could provide a suitable alternative and help them to stay active. Another option I’d be interested in myself is a virtual pet app to “replicate dog-walking experiences” and set regular alarms to alert people of the need to go out for a walk. I’d love a dog, but being out all day at work means it just isn’t possible, so an app like this could be a great solution!

What about you? Do you make enough time to enjoy the outdoors? If you are lucky enough to be fit and healthy, do you set yourself targets to keep active and maintain regular exercise? If you don’t have a dog as an incentive for regular exercise, involving friends and family in your fitness goals can help.

Our interactive health and wellbeing platform, Puffell, helps you set goals and provides advice and signposting to local medical and professional support to help bring health and happiness to both you and the people you love and care for.


Marie Broeders, ICE Creates Ltd (

How to beat the holiday blues

With the holiday season firmly upon us and many of us looking to jet off to sunnier climes, we all know the bliss of taking time out from the daily grind, but is there a way to maximise the power of our ‘holiday brain’ and reap the benefits when we get home?

Waking up to sunshine and blue skies, a daily swim, reading an entire novel, lazing for hours outdoors and enjoying pure undistracted How to beat holiday bluesconversations with friends or partners are some of the true joys of going on holiday. Far from the stresses and hassle of everyday life, the rhythm of the day meanders rather than races, our anxieties fade and we find it easier to reconnect with those simple pleasures that our time-poor lives rarely afford.

With plenty of time at your disposal, a holiday is not only a chance to relax, but also to gain a clear perspective on life, away from your life. The change in tempo creates internal spaciousness. We have an opportunity to take stock, looking at the bigger picture; your work, where you live, your family and friends.

It’s the ideal time for reflection: how can you bring better balance to your life?

1. Do some forward planning and set intentions – things you’d like to put in place when you are home.

2. Make a list of priorities and think about things you don’t need - clutter from hobbies you no longer pursue or collections you no longer enjoy.

3. Resolve to clear these things on your return so you clear the way for new interest, hobbies and pursuits.

How can this be maintained when you’re back home and back to reality, with piles of post-holiday laundry, an inbox clogged with unread emails and the demands of work, family and friendships firmly back in the mix? It can seem impossible to stay focused on constructing the alternative reality you dreamed of on holiday. It’s crucial to think of this return to normality, not as a depressing step backwards, but as a real opportunity for change.

The people who realise their dreams just have more clarity about their goals – and more persistence in achieving them. So, however busy your life is, make a commitment to do a little bit towards your goals every day, whether that’s de-cluttering some of your junk or planning the next day out with the family.

Above all, take time to recharge and refresh and have a happy holiday!


Paula Clay ( / 0845 5193 423)


If you’re happy and you know it…

Are you happy? Are you content? Do you know the difference? Is there a difference?

It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to – I always thought I was happy. I laughed almost every day, felt settled at home and at work… but did that mean I was happy? Or did I not really have perspective on the bigger picture?

Looking at the results of a recent survey by Ipsos Mori, I’d say that I wasn’t alone in my thinking…be happy now

In the study of adults in 20 leading countries, more than three quarters of people said they were happy, but the majority of those asked wished their life was simpler. They had concerns about the future, the (fast) growing pace of globalisation and the effects of inequality.

I hadn’t even considered these factors when trying to figure out my happiness levels.

That said, when people were asked about their personal lives; their families and local communities, the response was more optimistic and positive. Whilst these did feature on my ‘Am I happy?’ list, they weren’t important – they weren’t a decision maker for me at the time.

Ben Page, Ipsos Mori’s chief executive says, “Against a pessimistic backdrop, this report shows the global public’s tendency towards nostalgia, allied to a strong sense that traditions are important, and a desire for a slower pace of life and simplification”.

It’s true – life passes by so quickly and it’s all too easy to miss opportunities and take for granted the smaller things that come our way. Like precious time with family and friends, having a quick catch up with your friends at the gym, taking time to appreciate what’s around you. All things that, on paper, seem so obvious, but not when hitting the gym becomes a chore and taking time out to socialise with your nearest and dearest feels like an inconvenience.

But what can you do?

Well, we all have our own ways of dealing with the challenges of everyday life, but for me, what worked was putting me first. Not in a selfish way (me, selfish?!), but in a way that made everything I did and do, no matter how big or small, count.

I started by ripping up my list – there’s no way to determine how happy you are, in my opinion. Just by taking notice of what and who was around me, the challenges I’d faced, the opportunities that came my way and by taking time just for me – for my goals, my aspirations and for my health in general – gave me a feeling of what I believe is happiness.

It’s my wellbeing, my energy, my positivity and my power to control far more than I first thought.

We can’t always control what goes on around us – it’s a big wide world, but we shouldn’t be ignorant to the factors that contribute to our everyday living. For me, acknowledgement and appreciation is key. They are two things we can all do with very little effort, but can actually make a world of difference to how we feel.

So, to answer my own questions, I’d say there was a difference in contentment and happiness. Maybe what I felt when I lived in the moment was contentment. I enjoyed what happened when it happened, but didn’t take into consideration the bigger picture… my own wellbeing.

More so than I first thought, my whole wellbeing is important; that includes contentment – the ‘living for the moment’ moments – my overall happiness and health.

After reading the article in The Guardian and reflecting on my own wellbeing, my pledge to myself is to take notice of as much as possible everyday, not just about me, but of what is happening around me. By doing this, I hope to continue feeling as positive and energetic as I am currently, so that I’m able to appreciate others and occasions far more. I can help out when my community needs me and I can support when my friends, family – even complete strangers – need me.

What would your pledge be to yourself, to ensure your own wellbeing and happiness?


Danielle Dixon, ICE Creates Ltd (


Want more advice on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Check out Puffell, a brand new health and wellbeing digital platform, co-created with over a thousand citizens and designed to equip people to understand their own priorities, set goals and make journeys to change the things that impact how well they live.

Try Puffell for yourself, for FREE –


Chronically ill and unemployed: benefits of returning to work

Is it harder to get a job with a long-term condition?

Times are tough these days and if you’re looking for a job right now, you’ll know that more than most. Getting your CV to the top of the pile seems like an impossible task. I know – I’ve been there!

What if you were unemployed with a long-term illness and what is classed as a chronic condition? Would this affect your chances of gettingChronic illness blog image 17.7
a job?

Employers aren’t allowed to discriminate against you, but the economic downturn means tougher competition in the job market. How would your new boss feel about time off work for appointments? The traditional working system of 9-5 will not work for everyone.

If only companies could be more flexible with their hours…

Here’s the good news…

Flexible hours: From Monday 14th July 2014, under new government measures, millions of employees will now have the right to request flexible working hours, but only if their employers ‘opt in’.

“Employers increasingly recognise the strong business case for flexible working, including enhanced employee engagement and the attraction and retention of a more diverse workforce” said the institute’s Chief Executive, Susannah Clements.

This is brilliant news for people employed for at least six months – but not such good news for those who are unemployed.

But what is classed as a chronic illness? Well, an illness controlled by medicines, but cannot be cured. These include:

Returning to work: Making sure you choose a job that fits around your condition is vital. If you’re returning to work, there are things to talk to your manager about:

  • Adjustments to your workspace
  • Changes to your working hours
  • Flexible working practices
  • Changing the way you work (for example, being allowed more breaks)
  • Equipment that may help reduce demands on you
  • Phased return to work after sickness absence
  • Adjusting performance targets
  • Redistributing work
  • Can you easily commute?
  • Can you go back to your current job?

“There is always something that you can do, and it might take a while to find out what that is, or it might change ten times, but there will be places out there that can help; whether that is working for yourself, someone understanding, or something else.”Natasha Lipman, chronic illness sufferer.

Working is good for your health – but why go to work if you have a chronic health condition?

Research has shown that working might actually be good for you!

“Working can also be a good way to keep healthy if you have a long-term condition like diabetes, COPD, heart disease, depression, stress, asthma or back pain.”Work4Health

Here’s how…

Working can:

  • Decrease social isolation
  • Help you remain active
  • Boost moral
  • Reduce physical symptoms
  • Improve your mood
  • Shrink depression or lower chance of depression

How to get back to work: If you want to get back into work and discuss your options, talk to your GP who can help you self-manage your illness. Failure to return to work has been linked to potential relapses of further long-term sickness absence.

Know your limits. Live the best way you can for the sake of your mind, body and health, and feel in control of your life again.


Max Willis ( / 0151 647 4700)



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