Men’s Health Series: Part 1 Mental Wellbeing
by Janelle Bertler, Traditional Naturopathic Practitioner
Little did I know that finding myself dating again in my 40’s would lead to a new found appreciation for men, yet this story isn’t about my dating experience. It’s about the many MANY amazing human beings that I have met along the dating journey. Couple this appreciation for men with a desire to assist everyone to show up as their best selves, and at that crossroad is where this series of articles was born. Let’s begin.
It’s a “no-brainer” that men are important to society for their contributions to family, community, leadership, education, innovation and more. Now more than ever before in history, the state of the world is having an effect on everyone, and the stressors continue to compound! For any healthcare practitioner, whose goal is to support the physical health of any human being, they must look at supporting the mind, body and spirit. We know that the body is so intertwined and connected that if you affect one of these systems, it in turn affects the others.
Here are some statistics in regards to the physical-mental health connection:
- Men with depression have a 30% higher risk for developing heart disease.
- Men with mental health disorders are at a higher risk of developing cancer and are more likely to die from the disease.
- Men with mental health issues are more likely to struggle with substance abuse. Men with substance abuse are at a higher risk of developing liver disease, heart disease, and cancer.
- Men with mental health conditions are more likely to experience chronic pain.
- Men with mental health disorders are more likely to experience sleep problems, which can lead to an increased risk of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
- Men with depression have a 60% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to men without.
- Men with mental health conditions are more likely to be obese, which can lead to a variety of physical health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- According to the World Health Organization suicide rates among men are about 3x’s higher than women.
Mental health has a significant impact on men’s physical health. This highlights the importance of addressing mental health concerns as a key part of overall health and well-being. It is true that men may be less likely to seek help for mental health issues. They are more likely to cope with mental health issues on their own, possibly due to social/ cultural norms that stigmatize mental health as a sign of weakness and vulnerability. Let’s dive into what men can do to support a healthy mental wellbeing!
We all know we should eat right, sleep well, exercise, blah, blah, blah. I’d like to share with you the “why” and some other areas that you may want to incorporate into your life.
- Healthy eating reduces inflammation and reduces stress. It supports a healthy gut, deeper healing sleep, improves mood and increases energy.
- Prioritizing sleep has all the benefits of eating healthy, as well as assisting cognitive function, reducing irritability and increasing healthy emotional regulation.
- Exercise not only improves mental health, but it also reduces the risk of chronic disease, improves sleep and relieves stress. Don’t forget about weight-lifting exercises. Muscle mass is important for supporting healthy testosterone levels, proper glucose control, bone health and improved self-image.
- Maintain healthy relationships – Find your balance between family connections, friends and social groups. Loneliness and social isolation has been linked to an increased risk in depression, cardiovascular disease and decreased longevity. Males thrive on having friendships with other males, someone to talk to when times feel tough, and I’m not just talking about the superficial “sports” buddy. I’m talking about meaningful deep friendships. Finding friends as an adult might be easier by using a “finding friends” app or by joining groups that fit your favorite activities. A “gym buddy” might be a great way to fill multiple needs.
- Take time for activities that bring joy and relaxation. It is important to find out what you need and enjoy. This will be different for every person and it may take trial and error to discover what works best. Carving out a little time in your life to feel elevated emotions can be very powerful, and we all need to find a little more relaxation to balance out our very busy lives.
- Practice mindfulness in the way that works for you! This can take multiple forms: yoga, meditate, practice breathing exercises and/or try legs up the wall. There are all types of apps that can assist in this category; and remember to fill your spiritual needs as well.
- Limit screen time. Not only does blue light suppress melatonin making it harder to fall asleep, but devices keep your brain active and alert. Reducing screen time allows the brain to slow down and focus without distractions. Overtime this increases the ability to regulate emotions. Not to mention that media can have either a beneficial or negative effect depending upon what you choose to consume.
- Serve others! Sometimes it takes getting out of our daily life and personal needs by putting attention on supporting others to get us out of the depths of mental health struggles. Volunteer your time. You might be amazed at how connecting in this way feeds the soul.
- Detoxify the body! By reducing the toxin load of the inner terrain, your Naturopath can assist you in feeling your best.
It is when we feel our best that we have more “bandwidth” to deal with the everyday stressors of life. Put your own oxygen mask on first. Fill your own cup first. Take time for self-care! That way you are able to choose how you interact with those around you each and every day. Imagine a world where everyone has grace for everyone around them and can gently respond with kindness because everyone feels their best. That is the world I want to live in. Please join me in creating this world by caring for yourself and sharing this information with all the men that are important in your life. If you find yourself needing support in feeling your best, we are here to help!