In the United Kingdom 45% of all work related sickness is related to stress and other mental health challenges. Almost everyone in the country has been touched by the challenges surrounding mental health and most of us have experienced our own emotional ups and downs.
As a man I know what it’s like to be challenged by mental health. For several years I suffered from a great deal of anxiety – it was overwhelming to the point I never wanted to leave my home. Only two winters ago (even after 10+ years of meditation) I was hit with a hard case of seasonal affective disorder and couldn’t get myself out of bed until the afternoon in the winter months.
For some reason we as MEN find it difficult to express our need for support when it comes to our mental wellbeing. We seem to think we can muscle through it and although this can be a temporary diversion it certainly isn’t a solution.
One thing that’s been helpful to me is the thinking that my mind is a muscle too. I know what it’s like to train every day at crossfit and reach a point when my body is so sore all I need is some time to rest and recuperatation. That time that I take to recover allows me to come back stronger and gives me the power to go further.
Your mind is a muscle – daily it needs nutrients to feed it and it needs regular opportunities to recover in order for you to be your best. What I have found is that when it comes to the moments we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed and depressed – these tools might not pick us up right away – it’s not going to be fixed in one meditation. Think of what is offered here as your daily vitamins – something that you can have to help you when you’re low or have a deficiency.
Here’s my top tips for positive MENtal health:
Don't hate, meditate
Meditation is my mental health first aid kit. It’s that practice I can go to and it saves my ass every time. What I have found is that many people only reach out to meditation when they’re in an all-time low – and with that being said it can take a while to gain recovery. For me, the practice of mindful meditation is a daily practice. I know for certain that if I didn’t have the practice I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I certainly wouldn’t recover from low points as quick as I do.
To begin meditation, it’s important to know that it’s NOT about silencing your mind – it’s about cultivating an awareness of how you really feel and what’s going on in your mind. Instead of responding to all the thoughts and feelings you have coming up – you just become a spectator of them.
To try meditation there are so many great apps out there but a great tip is just setting a timer for 5-10 minutes and vowing not to leave the spot you’re sitting in until the timer goes off. Even if your mind is busy, even if you’re feeling all the feels, even if your phone gets a text or your other half shouts on you. Just sit there and breathe – that’s meditation.
Expert tip: Add a 5 min timer onto the end of your HIIT workout or at the end of a work out to reign in on all the endorphins.
Put the gentle in man
There are countless science papers out there backing the health (both mental and physiological) benefits of kindness. It’s so cool to be kind and it has the capacity to help you feel good, helpful and purposeful. One of the biggest mental health challenges that many of us face is that we don’t fit in, we are misunderstood or that we don’t have a place to belong – but that’s not true, we can live purposefully.
You can practice kindness and bring the gentle back to your man energy by sharing simple acts of kindness and not seeking reward for them. For example if someone does something helpful at work instead of taking it for granted – point out their goodness. When you’re on the bus or commute to work and you see someone you see every day – say hello! If you’re seeing someone struggling with heavy luggage at the station offer a hand up the stairs.
There are lots of kind acts that you can share without having to spend money, break the bank or break your back. Get kind and feel the good feels from your positive acts of service.
Hug a day, doctor away
Us lads could be doing with more hugs. We love a handshake, fist pump and even bumping elbows but did you know that hugs are good for you? Holding a hug and I mean a REAL hug has the capacity to lift your serotonin levels to increase your levels of happiness. Not only that – sharing a hug with a friend, loved one or someone you care about also has the capacity to help you feel safe, supported and accepted – a lack of these feelings are major causes for anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Not only that – hugging is also good for your body. It is said the more you hug with meaning – the less chance you have of getting sick and it has the capacity to boost your immune system. How cool is that?
Challenge yourself to hug with meaning. Who do you know that needs a hug? Who have you not hugged enough. Who have you never hugged but would like to? Be mindful with your hugs and always check with those you’re unsure about before coming in and then give them a real hearty squeeze and share the love!
Expert tip: It’s said that hugs are even more beneficial when you can get heart pressing on heart.
Can't score without a goal
Did you know that when you write down a goal you have a 70% chance or more of achieving it? Having goals that you know are within your grasp (and some bigger ones too) are great ways to help you stay mentally focused and well.
Having goals set up for your day, week and month ahead can be a great way for you to stay mentally focused and prepared. Having simple goals like things you need to sort out and personal intentions for the week ahead will allow you to have something to work for. A great way to get your goals running well is having an accountability partner – that’s someone you share your personal intentions with who can check in with you on where you’re at with them all.
If you have targets and goals at work – why not spruce them up yourself? Take time to write them down, put them on post-it notes around your screen and daily check in with yourself how close you are to achieving them. You can score goals – you just have to set them.
Expert tip: Take time to acknowledge any past goals you’ve achieved. Giving yourself approval in the areas of your life you’ve worked hard is a great step towards increasing your confidence and in turn this will support your intentions and goals.
Power up with a pose
Now I’m sure when you seen the topic of this piece you didn’t think you’d be getting encouraged to stand like a super hero – but you are. If you’ve not already heard about power posing – then say no more it’s time to get powerful. Google any image of superman and you’ll see him standing strong, head up and chest wide – you’ll see it makes him look strong, resilient and if you ask me like a total bas ass (even if he’s in tights).
It turns out this super hero pose is actually a real thing – there are countless psychology posts and even a TED talk focused on the power surrounding your posture. It is said even if you stand in a powerful pose before an interview (chin up, chest back, arms on waist with elbows pointing out and two feet firmly planted) and no one sees you beforehand there’s still a greater chance of you scoring the job?
Posture is everything so it’s time to power up with a pose. Take time daily to stand for 3 – 5 minutes in a powerful pose. Just a quick search around online will show you other suggestions that you can bring into your home or office – but you are legitimately rewiring your energy and people are going to start noticing you.
Expert tip: when standing in power pose think powerful, exciting, positive and life affirming thoughts – you’ll be the king of the world!