With Bell Let’s Talk Day: Supporting ourselves and each other coming up on January 26th, this week’s blog highlights three actions dads can take to boost their own mental health. It also includes three ideas to support others in caring for their mental health.

As dads, the topic of mental health isn’t discussed enough. Let’s invest in these actions and ideas, plus anything else that can support mental health.

Three Actions That Support Mental Health

Get Active

Simply moving our bodies generates so much positive benefit for our mind. One article from the American Psychological Association says, “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong…..Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”

But that’s only scratching the surface. It goes on to indicate how exercise can have longer-term benefits like helping alleviate depression, reduce anxiety, and boost brain-building chemicals. As one researcher was quoted, “Exercise may be a way of biologically toughening up the brain so stress has less of a central impact.” Source: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise 

Dads, get active today to invest in a healthier tomorrow. Do it with your kids or the whole family for an added bonus!

Get Emotional

Despite what popular opinion and media may convey, men and dads experience emotion.

The challenge is that society has created such a negative stigma around males who express them. I believe some use the term ‘toxic masculinity’ to describe the societal construct of unfeeling men (among other things).

I’ve never been a fan of the term, but men and dads are truly in a bind as a result. Here is the thing, if men’s mental health is to improve, we must acknowledge and express emotions. We must learn the full range of emotions we feel, and find ways to communicate them in healthier ways. Unexpressed and repressed emotions are like a toxic pressure building inside.

It’s time the notion that it’s not ok for men/dads to express emotion gets shattered. For everyone’s mental health – let’s all learn how to get emotional.

Get Outside

“Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.” This excerpt from a Harvard Medical School publication makes it pretty clear that nature boosts mental health.

Specific findings from this article included this validating commentary:

“Many men are at higher risk for mood disorders as they age, from dealing with sudden life changes like health issues, the loss of loved ones, and even the new world of retirement,” says Dr. Jason Strauss, director of geriatric psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance. “They may not want to turn to medication or therapy for help, and for many, interacting with nature is one of the best self-improvement tools they can use.”
Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature

The evidence is in. Get outside to invest in your mental health.

Three Ideas to Support the Mental Health of Others

Give Grace

Grace could take on many different meanings, but in the context of supporting others’ mental health, I’m referring to showing freely given, unmerited favour. Put simpler – be kind. Be kind even when others don’t deserve it. Be kind, even when you’re stretched thin. Be kind to whoever you meet, and however much strength it takes.

As Robert W. Service wrote in his poem Compassion:

For God knows it is good to give;
We may not have so long to live,
So if we can,
Let’s do each day a kindly deed,
And stretch a hand to those in need,
Bird, beast or man.

Give Time

“If you want to live longer, try helping other people.” That’s the opening line of a MarketWatch article that shares insights from a study about giving time/energy and longevity.

The insights are summed up this way, “Giving one’s time — care giving, volunteering etc. — and “pro-social traits” characterized by being concerned for the well-being of others were associated with a lower mortality risk in older adults.

So the act of giving time is a double bonus. Giving time helps you as a n individual, while also helping others. If someone needs a listening ear – give time. If they need your advice – give time. If they just seem lonely and unsure – give time. No matter what happens, giving time will help.

Give Space

January 26th is Bell Let’s Talk Day and World Mental Health Day is on October 10th. Wonderful initiatives to bring more awareness to mental health. But more is needed.

As the World Health Organization asserts, “the need for mental health and psychosocial support will substantially increase in the coming months and years.”

So let’s take that as our call to action and give space. Give space for mental health conversations. Give space for mental health breaks. Give space for mental health check-ins. Give space for mental health investments. Let’s give others the space they need to know their mental health matters.