Let’s talk about “manliness”. One might initially resort to defining manliness as being brave, strong and confident. But the definition or feeling of one’s manliness has changed throughout history and over culture. It has often been associated to being a warrior or serving in one’s national military. It’s been associated to having certain privileges or rights of passage. Many have related manliness to occupying a male dominated job such as policing, guarding, or saving lives. It’s also been associated to being the family bread winner. But, all these definitions have had trouble holding true over time, leading one to question whether manliness is more than just a judgement of status, physical strength or the amount of money you make.
Perhaps the best way to describe manliness might be the ability to be healthy in the mind, body and spirit. And if you can attain this, manliness then becomes being the best version of yourself; the best son, brother, husband, father, friend and citizen that you can be. That’s right – being well is the new manly, and doing it right requires you to man-up to taking care of number 1!
After speaking with a variety of men including fathers, husbands, firemen, and businessmen amongst others, here are the top 8 wellness and mindfulness take-aways that will get you well on your way to manning-up to wellness:
- Set goals, but plan for falling off track.
When you set goals, big or small, there is a good chance that at some point you’re going to fall off track. Making your commitment known to a friend will help to keep you on track. Choose someone who you respect and who has a positive attitude. This person will help to keep you accountable and focused. This person will also help to re-motivate you when things go rogue. Recognize milestones and set aside 30 minutes each week where you can check on your progress and consider course corrections.
- Be social – see friends and spend time with children.
Not only do they provide good feelings, laughter and good times, good friends provide you with accountability, alliance, and friendly competition. Spend time with the friends who add value to your life and who aspire to better themselves as well. A good friendship allows everyone to feed off one another and grow into the best human he or she can be. Good friendships often result in deeper thinking and information sharing with the aim of bettering one another. Seeing friends is self-care at it’s best.
Likewise, if you’re a father, uncle, or have little ones in your life, spending time with them can increase your overall mood. The relationships we have with children are some of our most meaningful relationships. Devote time to your children each week and genuinely try to see the world through their eyes. There is so much to be learned from them.
- Understand that the mind-body connection is real.
When we exercise, we are sharper in the mind. When we stand up tall, we feel better and more capable in our bodies. When we puff out our chest, we feel confident. When we collapse forward, we feel defeat or shame. When we reflect, journal or review goals, we tend to have more energy and better focus. When we smile at, or hug someone, the brain produces mood enhancing hormones that make us feel better. When we think about our favorite foods, our mouth waters. When we worry or become anxious about something out of our control, our digestion slows. When we consciously focus on deep breathing, our heart rate goes down.
These are all examples of the mind-body connection and the more we understand this connection, the better able we are to manage stress within our lives.
- The quality of your mind determines the quality of your life – start meditating.
If you want to live a quality life, you need to tend to the mind. The mind thinks involuntarily and if we aren’t careful, can spiral out of control with thoughts that reduce our quality of life. We are all programmed with a negativity bias that historically has kept us safe when it comes to anticipating threats to our safety. But because the human brain is capable of having 50,000 plus thoughts each day, it’s important to get on top of the negative thinking and feedback loops you may have established.
Most negative thoughts tend to take shape in the subconscious mind, meditation is a great place to start when it comes to recognizing them. Here, we take a few minutes each day to simply observe our own thoughts without identifying with them. Through practice, as we recognize the thoughts that aren’t serving our greater good, this allows us to create space for choice. When the space is there, we can choose whether we want to identify with our thoughts or not. We can also choose how we want tor respond to our circumstances, as opposed to reacting to them. The goal is to experience better clarity and awareness not only in meditation, but within your life, whether that be in your relationships, your work, or your health.
- Sleep is sacred.
Sleep is not optional – it’s a necessity. Your sleep is directly correlated to your mental and physical health. Consistent good sleep entails 7 to 9 hours of shut eye each day. It also implies staying consistent with the times you choose go to bed and wake up. As we sleep, the body is restoring cell function while the brain balances hormones. We also process our emotions and experiences as we sleep assisting in memory, cognition, and our ability to perform a variety of different tasks while we’re awake. There are many good things that take place in the body and mind when you get good sleep, but there are even more negative events that take place when you are sleep deprived, including a shorter life expectancy, illness and disease. Key takeaway: Sleep is sacred.
- Watch your caffeine intake – the amount and time of day consumed.
Caffeine is a stimulant that passes into the bloodstream making us more alert and awake. Caffeine can stay in the bloodstream for up to 10 hours so it’s important to limit your intake after 12:00 pm if you don’t want to compromise your sleep. Caffeine is also a diuretic which means it can cause dehydration if you aren’t balancing your intake with additional water. Aim for 200mg each day, which is equivalent to 2 cups of coffee.
- Know the power of getting out in nature.
Getting out in nature not only provides us with exercise and a good dose of vitamin D, it clears and resets the mind. Nature is what we have evolved from, but we have lost our connection to it somewhere along the way of being more and more engrained in our jobs, to-do lists, and other responsibilities. The more pressure we feel throughout our day, the more of a need that exists for us to get out in the natural environment. However, it’s not about putting another item on our to-do list to check off; it’s about really immersing yourself in experience itself. There’s a reason why so many men take time off work each year to go hunting, camping or hiking. When we get out in the wilderness and fully submerge ourselves with all five senses, we become less stressed, less anxious, and more sound of mind. We check in on what’s truly important in life.
- Reflect or journal regularly and don’t forget to include gratitude.
When we commit to reflecting daily, it isn’t too long before we notice a difference in our behaviour as well as how we feel both mentally and physically. That’s because when we journal or reflect on how the day went and what we did or didn’t achieve, we start to identify behaviour patterns. So you might find that you start to notice a correlation between your sleep and your level of stress, or your mood and the type of food or drink consumed. When we recognize these correlations, we become more conscious of them and more capable of making better decisions going forward.
Finally, practice deep gratitude. In the developed countries, we are very accustomed to having things. When we grow accustomed to having, this puts a damper on our happiness because the having becomes an expectation. Don’t simply list one thing you are grateful for as you journal. Pick that one thing and then ask yourself why. Breaking down the gratitude is the best way to get yourself really immersed in the feeling.
By Erica Matechuk, RYT 200