Mentally healthy or healthily mental? Nick Ward talks physical and mental wellness.
Mental health is often used as an euphemism for the mentally unwell.
When we speak about mental health it’s frequently mental unhealth we think of.
The depressed, the anxious, the unstable, the paranoid.
Thankfully, mental health is being seen more and more as part of overall health.
We are recognizing that the modern urban hustle can leave us all a little mentally overwhelmed.
Think of the frantic career mom keeping her kids on the road to acheivement while keeping her pre-partum body.
Or the recent immigrant working three jobs, eating on the road and neglecting their health.
We could come up with a multitude of similar examples but the point is that our society isn’t conducive to mental health.
Queue a billion dollar industry to help us manage stress, anxiety and depression.
By now it’s clear that pharma-therapy should only be used for extreme cases lest we give ourselves chemical labodomies.
For the rest of the cases, we are left with spa treatments and tropical getaways for the affluent; alcohol, drug and food self-medicating for all and the path of spirituality; yoga and meditation becoming an ever-growing trend for the mainstream.
Forgetting the spas and Bali retreats for a moment (I mean unless you want to hire me as your personal travel buddy) let’s do a little side-by-side comparison.
I’ve talked at length about how I used food, weed and alcohol to keep myself somewhat sane working the Toronto hamster wheel.
I faced an anxious mind since I don’t know when.
I remember being in grade 8 and feeling the churn of my stomach before most days at school.
In high school I was able to cut school much easier so I was able to ride about my accute bouts of anxiety and depression.
By the time I hit university, I hit my first major experience of prolonged depression.
In second year at McGill I was part of clubs and extracurricular activities and was elected to the executive of the Association for Baha’i Studies.
I was also engaged to be married and my Dad’s business had gone under, turning me from a privileged kid to someone who had to work nights at UPS to pay for my tuition.
Needless to say the waves were crashing over the sides of my mental health boat.
I remember spending days and days in bed reading spy novels and dredding human company of any form.
I would rouse myself to attend events but I would skip nearly all my classes.
My diet was a buffet of processed, sugary delight.
One week I ate only pasta from a can and cinnamon and sugar on toast.
Eventually I came out of it and moved on with my life but what lingered was a fear that this could happen at any time.
Throughout my working life in my 20s I’d often call in sick 4-5 times a year for no reason because I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed.
If you’re wondering, food poisoning from bad Chinese food can be deployed in most situations to get out of work. It implies details better left unsaid with a tinge of racism to really sell it.
I’d often lash myself with negative self-talk:
Once I started working at more career-focused jobs I woudn’t be able to call in as much so I began to increase my alcohol, weed and food cocktail after work and on weekends to keep the anxious wolves at bay.
Then I discovered yoga and meditation.
By now most of us have tried or at least are aware about what yoga is all about.
I practiced off and on for a few years, always feeling markedly better after a session.
What made the difference and helped me shift to yoga, meditation and spirituality as my mental health routine was when I discovered Kundalini yoga.
Kundalini (aka kriya yoga) is a style of yoga practiced to prepare the body to sit for long periods of time in meditation.
Basically it involves specific exercises meant to open up the body to receive universal energy and peace.
If you’ve ever experienced Reiki or other energy treatment, Kundalini energy feels similar in the body.
What I find most beneficial for my mind is that ability to experience inner peace and calmness that lasts throughout the day.
The combination of activating the physical, mental and spiritual alleviates anxiety, depression and angst.
It’s like combining a good workout, a walk in nature and a psychadelic adventure all in one.
It’s not airy fairy or woo woo, it’s predictable and measurable.
These days I still feel anxious and depressed from time-to-time and I’ve got a great tool-kit of resources to help me get through it.
The best club in my bag is meditation, assisted through yogic exercise.
Whatever healthy approach you take I’m so grateful that we are able to talk about mental health without the stigma.