To help promote positive mental, physical and social health in our community this Men’s Health Week, here are five simple tips from the Mates4Mates clinical team:
1. Practice mindfulness
Daily mindfulness helps us become more aware of our thought patterns and emotions and how they impact on our responses to events or triggers. It also can help us to regulate our emotions more effectively.
However, practicing mindfulness doesn’t always have to be traditional meditation and can include activities that you enjoy which are done intentionally to ground yourself. An example of this could be the gym being a place to practice mindfulness for one person, while cooking could be another activity that if done intentionally could be just as beneficial as meditation for that person.
The most important aspect of mindfulness is to focus on being ‘in the present’ and to not be judgemental about what you may experience. It is worth thinking about the things you already do that give you perspective, calms your mind, or that you get absorbed in. Do more of those things and do them more often.
2. Remember the body and mind are connected
The relationship between exercise and enhanced mood is influenced by physiological and psychological factors:
Physiologically, exercise releases endorphins which decreases pain and promotes feelings of pleasure. It also increases dopamine and serotonin, also known as ‘happy hormones’, in the brain.
Psychologically, exercise is suggested to provide a temporary distraction from negative thoughts and emotions which may impact mood. The feeling of achieving something through exercise, whether it be simply completing an exercise session or accomplishing a health-related goal, also helps to improve self-esteem and self-confidence.
Being active and keeping your body feeling good, whether that’s through a walk, yoga, or other gentle exercise, will help stimulate your mind and can improve your mental health.
3. Some exercise is better than none
We understand that including regular physical activity into your daily schedule can be challenging but exercising and moving our bodies is vital for our physical and mental health – even if it’s just a little bit each day at first.
Exercise doesn’t require you to have a gym membership or expensive equipment, simply find an activity that motivates you. Activities such as walking, cycling. bodyweight strength exercises, yoga, Pilates, and many more are affordable and accessible ways to fit in your 30 minutes a day at a time that best suits you.
Another tip is to increase your incidental activity. You might park your car a bit further away from your destination and walk the rest, hop off the bus 1-2 stops before your usual stop, or perform a bodyweight activity routine during the ad-breaks when watching TV.
4. Invest in your interpersonal relationships
Feeling connected to others can increase our ability to get through difficult situations, lower symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve our ability to recover from physical injury, and improve overall physical health.
By repeatedly engaging in social connection activities, feelings of belonging will increase, and anxiety and depression symptoms will decrease.
While it may be challenging at first, try engaging with others through a social activity that you feel comfortable handling, whether that be an online activity or in-person. For example, if you love riding bikes and wanted to work on being more social, it could be helpful to find a local riding group. This can take the pressure off needing to connect but still help boost your confidence to socialise.
Group exercise classes also provide an excellent opportunity to meet new people and develop friendships while also creating a sense of accountability that can increase exercise adherence. Group classes also promote camaraderie as those within the class may be working towards similar physical and mental health goals.
At Mates4Mates, we hold regular social connection activities and group exercise classes, both face-to-face and online, to provide a safe place to build connections and find mateship. From weekly barbeques and coffee catchups to group physical therapy and hydrotherapy classes, there’s something for everyone.
5. There is no shame in seeking professional help
We all need help at times, sometimes more than what a friend or an internet search can provide. When you are faced with more serious concerns about your mental and physical health, seeking out guidance from an appropriate health professional is important.
At Mates4Mates, our psychologists, exercise physiologists, counsellors, and social workers are here to help support your health and wellbeing. Veterans and families impacted by service can access experienced support, a tailored recovery plan, and a like-minded community standing with them.
If you are a veteran or family member who has been impacted by service who is looking to improve their mental and physical health and wellbeing, please call 1300 462 837 (1300 4 MATES) to book an appointment with a Mates4Mates psychologist or exercise physiologist.
Written by Marc MacDonald, Mates4Mates Psychologist; and Michael Willshire, Mates4Mates Student Exercise Physiologist
Craft, L. L., & Perna, F. M. (2004). The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Primary care companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 6(3), 104–111.