Smashing the stigma around men’s mental health | 5 tips to improve your wellbeing

In his groundbreaking book MindJournal, Ollie Aplin explains the practical ways men can improve their mental health, despite the stigma surrounding the issue. Here are five tips inspired by his book to get you started. 


1.     Stop asking for permission

Many men hold themselves back from seeking help for their mental health issues because they feel they ‘aren’t allowed’ to talk about it or reach out. They wait for permission from others to take control of their health and take action.

Ollie believes that men should stop waiting for the license to live a happy life. In his book, MindJournal, he writes, ‘it’s not the responsibility of others to grant you permission to do the things you want to do.’

Whether you want to come clean about your struggles, make changes to your life, seek help, or start a conversation, give yourself permission to do what is best for you.

2.     Keep a MindJournal

Journals are different from diaries. You don’t have to write every day, write about specific events, or even write in chronological order. Journals are just places for you to put down your thoughts, feelings, or creative outbursts. You could write one word or five pages, tell a story or write a rap. The simple act of expressing yourself goes a long way to improving your mental health and learning to be open – something men are often taught not to do.

Journaling has been proven to help people understand and keep track of their mental health. Ollie’s MindJournal book contains specific journaling exercises, which help you reflect on different aspects of your life and build confidence.

3.     Check yourself

The popular use of social media means that we are often checking other people, constantly watching the highlight reel of their life. We spend a lot of time finding out what they’re doing and how they are feeling, without ever doing the same thing for ourselves.

Take a moment to check in with yourself, as you would with anyone else. Ollie suggests asking yourself the following questions: How are you feeling? Where in the body are you experiencing these feelings?

He recommends that you ‘acknowledge these feelings and accept them’, rather than fighting them out of the fear that your feelings are ‘wrong’.

4.     Think more positively about stress

It is generally acknowledged that stress is bad. But many studies suggest otherwise.

Studies conducted over eight years by leading US professors on 30,000 people show that stress only had adverse effects on health if participants believed that stress was harmful. Those who saw stress as positive did not suffer its effects. A study by Harvard University found that those who perceived stress as negative suffered reduced blood flow, a tightening of blood vessels, and strain on the heart.

Ollie suggests that you view your stress as a performance enhancer. If you feel stressed, remember that your stress can fuel you, and help you push through whatever you are going through.

5.     Don’t negotiate

People around you may think that taking care of your mental health is selfish or weak. Make it clear to them and to yourself that your mental wellbeing is non-negotiable.

Prioritising mental health may mean meditating, journaling, or exercising. Whatever you do to take care of yourself, make sure it comes first. Never compromise your wellbeing to make someone else happy.

6. Recharge

Ollie puts it best. ‘Sometimes you need to put yourself first. Let people down. If they care about you then they’ll understand. It won’t be easy. But it will be a hell of a lot easier than continuing on the path to burning out.’

Take a mental health day when you need it, no matter what others think. Do exactly what you want and need to do, even if that means doing nothing all day. Take the time to listen to yourself and recharge your body and mind.

7.     Practice affirmations

Affirmations are sentences or phrases you can say to yourself as a reminder to be positive and strong. Ollie’s affirmations are: ‘I refuse to not survive. I will not be defeated by life. I will figure it out. There is no other option. I will not stop.’

When he is struggling, he says these things to himself, or even yells them out loud, giving him the strength to pull through.

8.     Tell people how you feel

There is still a huge stigma surrounding mental health – and men’s mental health in particular. This stigma can make reaching out seem difficult; making men afraid they will be judged or ridiculed.

Despite this stigma, it is important to reach out to those around you and tell them you are struggling. The person you choose to tell could be struggling too.

If you are struggling with your mental health and feel you cannot reach out to the people around you, you can find help here:

United Kingdom: www.thecalmzone.net

USA: www.nami.org

Australia: www.lifeline.org.au

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