Interviews

Ben May 18/11/20

So to start off, tell us a bit about who you are and what you’re working on atm? 

Hi, my name is Ben. I am the co-founder of an online tech end of life planning business called Aura, which is launching very soon. Alongside that I also own a skincare supplement company that’s been running for 3 years now (skinwoof.com). 

End of life planning, that's quite an unusual space to go into for someone so young. What is Aura and how did you get involved with it?


So Aura is the simple online solution to help people and their families plan for their end of life. One of my childhood friends’ dad has been advising me on my skincare supplement business. And about a year or so ago, he got me myself and a couple of others around a table and introduced the idea of Aura. And basically, it was born because he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017. It made him think about how he wants to be remembered, how he wanted to help his family and how he wanted to prepare for his end of life, and the ball just got rolling from there. Right now we’re really, really close to doing a full launch in about two or three weeks time from now. So that's the stage we’re at. 


For anyone who wants to find out more about Aura, where can we find you? 

So you can go to our website, www.aura.page , and you can actually sign up, create an account. At the moment it's a beta version. So we’re taking feedback and improving the platform, adding features and tweaks. Very, very soon, we'll have got the whole suite of features ready, next couple of weeks or so, so not long at all.

So you’re running two businesses right now, that must be tough to manage. How does it affect your mental health? Is mental health something you think about a lot? 

So it's an interesting one, because there's a lot more attention surrounding mental health these days, especially within the last sort of five or six years. And it's a similar timeframe to how I've thought about my own mental health. Before that, I wouldn't sort of read any further into some of the situations or feelings necessarily at the time. There might have been times 10 or 15 years ago, where I was feeling a little bit anxious, but I wouldn't have even considered that I was feeling anxious at the time, I wouldn't have even known really what it was. And I feel it is a really positive thing that people can more openly talk about their own mental health in this todays society. And because of that, it's made me sort of evaluate my own mental health. 

My own first real experience where I started paying attention to my mental health was a few years ago, when I had a health scare. I caught an MRSA infection from an operation. I found it very frustrating and it left me with a mixture of emotions. Alongside the physical side of me being ill, I noticed I was also experiencing some mental effects. Which is something I think is often overlooked when you get injured or when you’re ill. 

But ever since then I've been a bit more aware of it. And I've tried to manage it and look after myself, in that sense a lot better. Before that I felt like I was invincible, as a lot of young people do. I didn't appreciate my own mortality. And now, because of that negative experience that I had, I now live in a much more positive way, focusing more on my own mental health.

Focus on mental health can often be triggered by an event and it sounds like you’re MRA infection was that for you. How do you manage your mental health on a daily basis now? 

Exercise for sure. It’s one of those things which I believe is like nature's medicine, especially when it comes to mental health. It releases those good, happy hormones, along with the endorphins, so the feelings after you've exercised are amazing and really help. So whether it’s going for a run, a walk, or playing football. Exercise is something I try to do regularly.

Another thing, which has been a bit harder because of the lockdown, is spending physical time with people. Zoom calls are great. It makes things really easy in terms of, you know, how easily you can have a meeting and you don't have to really go anywhere, and they do work to a certain extent, but there is nothing that beats just being around people like face to face. And like with exercise laughter is another one of nature's medicines that makes you feel good. Like, you know, you're gonna have to catch up with your friends have a laugh, and you feel better, you feel better after it 


What's one thing you do for your mental healh that you wish more people would do?

I think one really big thing that everyone can benefit from is switching off from digital connections. Taking yourself off social media, or WhatsApp. It's slightly unnatural to be able to have everything in the palm of your hand on a mobile phone, it's not how we've evolved as human beings, although it does make our lives a lot easier. It doesn't necessarily make our lives better. And so sometimes giving yourself a bit of a detox, leaving it on the side, turning it off, or putting on aeroplane mode, for a day or two can really, really help. And it feels really refreshing because you can fully be in the moment.

What album/song/artist have you been playing on repeat recently?

A song that's a little older that I've been listening to quite a lot recently is golden touch by razor light. I don't know if you remember that one. It's a good one to belt out while driving along.

Recent book or podcast you've enjoyed?

The Chimp Paradox - Steve Peters
Also, if I'm out and about, I like to use Blinkist. It's not the same as reading a whole book - it gives you a one or two minute sumarry per chapter. But it's a good way of getting key messages from books you wouldn't necessarily want to read cover to cover. Like non-fiction, self help or business books.

Favourite show/movie on Netflix right now?

Haunting of Bly Manor

American Gangster - who doesn't love Denzel

Favourite lockdown activity 

I spend a lot of time basically on my own behind a computer, so going to see friends for a walk has really helped.

Favourite way to unwind

Having a bath really helps me switch off my mind. I’ll leave my phone out the room and just close my eyes and try to quiet the thoughts in my mind, almost like meditation. 

To continue following Ben's journey check out aura.page and skinwoof.com