Here’s a post on Men’s Health that I hope you’ll find useful if you’re a man or care about one.
I’m a psychiatrist-therapist and a fatherhood advocate, both of which mean I see a lot of other people’s masculinity in varying states of health.
But this Men’s Health piece isn’t just about what I’ve learned from caring for other men and boys.
It’s also about what helps me and the young male people I helped bring into the world.
Meet GLëN, a biro stick figure superhero, pictured above as he appears on my fridge. He’s there where my primary school-aged sons can see him, to remind them of the four things he stands for.
They know that on most days you remember to do these four things, you’ll have a better day.
I taught them that after working it out for myself, based on my training, clinical work, reading, and four decades’ ownership of a male body I hope won’t conk out too soon.
GLëN fancies himself a bit modern and post-gender, so he is happy to help anyone, but I think he’s particularly useful for boys and men of today, which is why I made him a him.
(I made him a Glen because just about every Glen/n I have ever met is a humble decent bloke.)
I can do another post exploring why I think GLëN is helpful for guys in particular – it’s gender-sensitive stuff that needs some room for thoughtful attention.
For now let’s get straight into what he stands for:
GIVE: Donate your time, money or stuff. Volunteer. Support others – it can be something as small as showing interest in someone else’s pet or footy team, or letting someone’s car into the traffic. Go crazy – let in 2 cars!
Helping people not only makes the world go around, it’s also really good for you.
Yes, you can even do it just for you. It still counts.
LEARN: The best adults I know aren’t “grown-ups” because they aren’t done growing up. They stay open to learning, to being surprised by life.
What you take up as a learning activity isn’t as important as the process: new experiences, humbling yourself as you realise what you don’t know and can’t yet do – these are good for you.
ëXERCISE: This gets the ümlaut to remind us it’s 3 kinds of exercise. It’s not just exercise of the body, but also of your home and your community.
Your body benefits from exercise that is regular and sustainable, and so does your home, via housework, home maintenance and decluttering.
Exercising your community is via social contacts on all scales, not just scheduling time to see friends and family.
It’s about accumulating connection, via the briefest eye contact in the park or on the train, or even just choosing the staffed checkout at the supermarket and asking the person serving you how their day is going.
You can get a lot from these multiple brief and light-weight connections, but you also need enough deep-and-meaningful.
It helps to have at least one friend and one family member you can be with unhurriedly, who asks you how you are like they’d welcome a truthful answer, and vice versa.
NOTICE: Mindfulness has been a big buzzword in the mental health and self-help worlds for years, so much so it can sound stale now, especially when bandied about by bored middle managers at team-building days.
I’ve found my own quiet relationship with the idea – I just try to remember whenever I can, that every moment is an opportunity to connect with my senses and choose where I put my attention.
Just knowing I always have that choice is the most useful and liberating idea I have found around mindfulness.
Please know I don’t let this stick figure on my fridge guide me as often as I should. Like most guys my age I get busy and stressed and forget my GLëN.
But when I remember…
When he pops back into my mind and my plans, just as when I lie on the grass on a nice day, look up at the sky and notice what’s up there, I find myself saying
“Why don’t I do this more often?”
I can almost feel my blood pressure improving by the moment.
Now I think of it, there’s often a son of mine with me on the grass, spotting dinosaurs in the clouds, or wondering aloud how AC/DC’s lead singer sang like that all those years.
My babies were born noticers-of-stuff, and our crazy world steadily drills it out of them.
Which is why GLëN came to live on the fridge.
If we let him, he will help me and my sons live longer, and we will probably like ourselves more to boot.
There’ll be more fun in my house…and theirs when they finally leave home.
I hope GLëN can help your household too. Let me know if you decide to put him on your fridge, and if he does a good job there. He’d want to know he was being useful.