In his latest book The Stress Solution, Dr Rangan Chatterjee describes the ‘Micro Stress Dose’ that you’re likely to get when you check into your Facebook feed and see your friend enjoying the holiday of a lifetime, when you’ve recently returned from yours. There’s your friend, sitting by the pool with a pina colada in their hand, while . . .

“you’re looking out of your office window watching a pigeon drink out of a dirty puddle on the roof of a vandalized bus stop.”

That wouldn’t be a problem for me of course, because being forced to sit by a pool with a pina colada would be my idea of purgatory; I’d be much happier drawing that pigeon!

stare at a tree
The Arboretum, Newmillerdam

I’m lucky that my day job includes many of the elements that Dr Chatterjee suggests for trying to combat stress: a daily dose of nature, getting out on a walk or just staring at a tree.



Ideally, he says, you should be trying to find what the Japanese call your ikigai, which translates loosely as ‘a reason for being’, but it’s something more than that. It should be something you love – yes, drawing is definitely that for me; something that you’re good at (OK, the jury’s still out on that one in my case) and, ideally, something that you can make money from. Well, I’ve survived for forty years as an illustrator, so I can tick that last box.

It should also be something that the world needs. Does the world need illustration? I can’t speak for the world in general, but I know how much I feel the need for art and illustration in my life.


The Boathouse, Newmillerdam

It seems that learning to paint is good for you. In an experiment on last week’s Twinstitute, on BBC 1, one group of volunteers were given a month to learn to paint, draw and throw pots on the wheel. This resulted in a reduction in their brain age of, on average, six years, with one of the participants reducing her brain age by nine years. A control group of twins who went on a diet of ‘brain-boosting’ foods for the same period saw no change in the their brain age.

A study by psychologist Myra Fernandes and colleagues at the University of Waterloo, Canada, suggests that the act of drawing something has “massive” benefit for memory compared with writing it down, so getting into a habit of drawing might help people who suffer from dementia.

One Small Step

One small step

But being an illustrator brings its own problems and Dr Chatterjee’s previous book, The 4 Pillar Plan, convinced me that it was about time that I did something about my posture. The hours that I spend hunched over my computer or my sketchbook aren’t ideal. He suggests plenty of simple solutions to bring movement into your daily routine and, in particular, his exercises for reawakening ‘lazy glutes’ convinced me that I should buy an exercise step. It’s in the corner of my studio so, once or twice a day, when I need to take a few minutes break, I can go through a short, simple work-out. No aerobics involved, thankfully, just getting those neglected muscles into action again.

But I won’t be giving up my daily dose of nature.


Stress Solution

Dr Chatterjee’s website:

I like the use of graphics and photography in Dr Chatterjee’s books which (along with his clear explanations) gives them an accessible, friendly feel. I’ve tried to echo that by using Adobe Spark Post to add some suitably inspirational captions to my photographs of Newmillerdam Country Park, all but one of them taken on Monday morning. Newmillerdam is always suitably inspirational whatever the weather, but the winter sun on Monday gave it an extra sparkle.

Drawing and memory: a study by psychologist Myra Fernandes and colleagues at the University of Waterloo, Canada

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