Men’s Health: Mental Health & Wellbeing
The myth of ‘manning-up’
Although the tides are changing, certain expectations about gender prevail. And thanks to centuries of societal conditioning, the fact remains that displaying strength, bravery and stoicism is still associated with masculinity. This ancient stereotyping has led to the ‘toxic masculinity’ that we now discuss in common parlance. But the bottom line is that everyone needs good mental fitness; men are no exception.
If you’re struggling with your emotional health, know that you’re not alone and there are plenty of ways to get help.
Human connection is a powerful elixir for emotional health. All humans want to be seen, heard and held. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seeking support doesn’t make you ‘weak’; it actually requires strength and courage. Find trustworthy allies you can talk frankly and candidly to about your mental health. This tribe will listen to and support you. If you can’t speak to friends, reach out to a GP or therapist.
Once you’ve found your tribe, make a conscious effort to share regularly.
If you keep everything bottled up, your mental load can become heavier and heavier. Sharing often is like cleaning the cogs of your mind. When someone asks, ‘how are you?’ don’t just respond with ‘fine’, as so many of us do. Take the opportunity to give a genuine answer.
Beyond opening up to allies, equip yourself with more tools to support your mental health and lead a life that serves you. Read self-help books; find communities online; research the best self-care techniques. Be more resourceful.
Application and integration
Time to take action. Implement what you’ve learned from speaking to your tribe and conducting your own research. Set yourself goals and hold yourself accountable. Remember, discomfort always precedes growth.
Be sure to balance difficult work with pleasure. Rest, relaxation, and restoration are just as crucial as pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
For destination ‘calm’, you may consider adding the following to your diet.
Colloquially known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’, magnesium contributes to normal psychological function.
Eat it: leafy green vegetables
Valerian root extract is a traditional herbal remedy used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances and mild anxiety.
St John’s Wort
St John’s wort is a traditional herbal remedy used for the relief of low mood and mild anxiety.
Often referred to as ‘Indian Ginseng’, ashwagandha is thought to possess similar adaptogenic properties as other ginseng herbs. This root is the perfect partner to magnesium and L-theanine.
There’s nothing a ‘clever’ cup of tea can’t fix. Some experts have attributed the naturally occurring amino acid L-theanine, to the restorative success of the nation’s favourite brew.
Rhodiola Rosea has been used for its herbal properties for centuries. It’s an excellent partner to magnesium and L-theanine.
Care for your cognition
Nut, noggin, noodle – whatever you call your brain, this powerhouse is the reason we’re such a successful species. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet to prevent cognitive decline – like wrinkles, it happens. That said, your lifestyle habits do matter. Tweaking or adding certain rituals to your regime will help to keep your grey matter limber and sharp as you age.
Did you know?
One of the most revered Harvard studies that followed participants for 80 years found those with stronger social connections were the happiest and healthiest. (18)
A moment of mindfulness
As with your emotional health, mindfulness meditation may also keep your brain in fine fettle. A systematic review reported that mindfulness meditation might protect against some aspects of cognitive decline, most likely due to its impact on memory, processing, attention and executive functioning. (15) Mindfulness meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to sit crossed legged or chant ‘Om’. Downloading a meditation app is an easy way to kick-start your journey to better health.
As a social species, social connection is vital for our wellbeing. Loneliness – which is, unfortunately, on the rise – can send us spiralling into poor psychological and physiological health. Research suggests there’s a reciprocal relationship between social isolation and low mood.(16) And studies even purport that loneliness may lead to issues with cognitive function, executive function and attention.(17) Make a conscious effort to prioritise social connection throughout your life: befriend a neighbour; join a new group; volunteer; strike up a conversation with a stranger.
- Malinowski, P., Moore, A.W., Mead, B.R. et al. (2017) Mindful Aging: The Effects of Regular Brief Mindfulness Practice on Electrophysiological Markers of Cognitive and Affective Processing in Older Adults. Mindfulness 8, 78–94.
- Cacioppo JT, Hughes ME, Waite LJ, Hawkley LC, Thisted RA. (2006) Loneliness as a specific risk factor for depressive symptoms: cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Psychol Aging. 21(1): 140-51.
- Angelina R Sutin, PhD, Yannick Stephan, PhD, Martina Luchetti, PhD, Antonio Terracciano, PhD., (2020) Loneliness and Risk of Dementia, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 75 (7): 1414–142.
- Harvard Gazette. 2020. Over Nearly 80 Years, Harvard Study Has Been Showing How To Live A Healthy And Happy Life. [ONLINE] Available at: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/