In 55 years of life I’ve experienced such highs and lows. There have been long dark nights of the soul, i.e. spells of depression, anxiety and self-loathing AND moments of pure joy such as the birth of my son.
After all this time, what do I know about health and happiness?
Well, I can’t speak for any man other than myself BUT for ME, here’s what’s made, and continues to make, a difference.
- Investing in what I am passionate about. In my case that has been about sharing stories, leading dance sessions (biodanza) and building friendships and communities. Professionally, first and foremost I am a Primary school teacher of almost 30 years. What do I like to teach? Officially I teach Literacy, Numeracy and many, many other things. Unofficially I teach The art of being human! How? Through the power of stories and music, two tools which take us out of our heads and into our capacity to feel and express our humanity.
What do you feel passionate about? Mending an engine and doing up a car? Hiking or climbing up a mountain? Making beautiful stone or earthenware pots? Researching and hosting a quiz? Growing veg in your allotment? Playing the part of Fagin in your local Am Dram society?
Whatever it is that ‘floats your boat’ make time to do it and connect with others who have interests and hobbies similar to yours. I suppose these people might be part of your ‘tribe’.
- Getting out into nature. For me, this has always been a source of joy. As quite a cerebral man, I’ve increasingly realised that going for a walk, cycle or run always makes me feel better. It grounds me, connects me with life. I love the song of the birds in the trees, the sight of bluebells swaying in the breeze, the smell of the freshly cut grass and the roughness of the bark of an old oak tree. This sensual world brings me back into the wonder of the present moment. And we all know what the present is, don’t we? It’s a gift isn’t it, (hence its name!)
- Having the support of close family and friends. This is very much a two-way thing; sometimes this means being ‘there’ for your partner and child(ren); not only doing the practical things but also listening and demonstrating you care in whatever way you can. The flip side to this is that you’ll have people you trust to call on if you’re anxious or depressed. At these times it’s essential to be open and share what’s going on for you; accept you need help and ask for it. Over the years, I’ve not only had the support of family and professionals but also male friends. I’ve shared my worries, concerns and fears (and my joys and triumphs too) for nearly 15 years in various men’s groups and found this be enormously helpful. Men have a habit of bottling things up and from experience I’ve learned this is the worst possible thing to do. As men there’s real strength in knowing when to reach out to others. You don’t need to be a rock, an island (as Paul Simon once immortalised in song)
How do keep a balance in my life? Well, I eat healthily. I enjoy fruit and veg and don’t eat much red meat. Bangers and mash with mounds of caramelised onions and gravy are a delicious occasional treat. As is a pint of good real ale. I also now do yoga. It’s a great practice as it combines some physical challenge with relaxation involving breathing techniques. You get a work out and chill out.
Do you have something similar to relax? Do you go out for a run or a walk? Or do you prefer a round of golf, a game of badminton or squash? Whatever you do, I’d definitely say there’s a lot to be said for getting active.
So, those of my musings about health and happiness. What do you do to be your best?
Noel Watkins is a Primary school teacher, storyteller and biodanza facilitator. If you’d like to join one of his dance sessions or hear him tell a tale or two why not drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website www.noelwatkins.co.uk. Like Noel, his website is still under development, adapting and changing to respond to the next twists and turns in his life.
Other good points of contact for men who’d like to find support are Andy’s man Club (https://www.facebook.com/andysmanclub) and Platform 1 (https://platform-1.co.uk) both of which have bases here in Huddersfield.