Emotional Health is Key to Mental Health

This article at Men’s Health fired me up! I absolutely agree with the article, but it’s essential that we address our emotional health as well.

If you’re interested, here are some freebies to consider for your emotional health: https://burtlo.info/offerings/the-emotional-development-series/

 

The Case Against Grit

Inspired by this article at The Atlantic, I had some further thoughts on The Case Against (and For) Grit.

The Case Against Grit

I absolutely concur with the premise of the article, that it’s a challenge to know whether the first passion in a person’s life has sustainability; I put that word in italics because it’s relevant on numerous levels.

Sustainability can be considered on the personal interest level, which is what the article’s premise discussed, but it also has to be considered on a financial level, a social impact level, and others relative to the pursuit. A young child may not realize the financial difficulties of being an artist, yet that’s a challenging thing to be conclusive about with a budding talent; they may truly be able to earn a livable income, or not care if they don’t, difficult to say with such a young human.

On the other hand, there’s so much benefit and growth when focusing on a singular pursuit, and that’s hard to find. Dismissing a young passion because of fears of practicality may miss a tremendous growth opportunity for the child, and can impose self doubt and insecurity depending on how the child interprets the guidance.

When To Reconsider?

I also know that there are times for adults where they feel stuck, overly obligated, to continue a path that no longer inspires or fuels them. This is such a personal choice, to apply grit and stick it out for the payoffs of maintaining said obligations (i.e. being a provider for a family), that each person has to make their own decision.

Regrettably, this quality of grit is often lost or diminished because of cultural expectations. I believe many men are struggling with their sense of masculinity because circumstances like these provoke feelings of emasculation, confusion, or loss of identity, when considering changing their role as provider.

Note: I’m describing a very narrow, albeit common, manifestation of circumstances. In no way am I trying to make broad statements on all providers or all situations of obligation.

How To Make Changes?

Making changes to established structures in life can be challenging, but certainly do-able. Communication is key, and conveying emotional content is very important.

Sharing how you feel as you consider, or act upon, changes helps those that might be impacted to understand you at a core, human level. Sharing openly amongst those that can easily be supportive is important as well, so that you feel supported in this potent, personal decision.

Feeling supported in also important, because it’s likely that you’ll encounter resistance and opposition from those that will be impacted. Whether you allow that resistance to dissuade you is a personal choice, but when you already have support, you can feel more relaxed and able to hear and receive the impact of your choice from others without feeling defensive, without simply feeling the need to cave into the desires of others.

The Takeaway

Simple steps, but often challenging in application. Change is absolutely possible, and care is often required while making it. It’s your personal decision whether it’s the healthiest thing for you to continue applying grit, or to change course because circumstances no longer serve you.

On Sobriety Challenges…

Please consider this, that the point of removing vice is to get clearer about your core being.

I’m not talking about your core physical being, I’m talking about your core existential being, your spiritual self.

What’s the opportunity of getting sober?

Inspired by this article on vice.com, I was moved to express a more complete consideration of giving up vices.

The exercise that can be played with is noticing the filters that are added, or not, with various substances. Spending weeks, months, or years using alcohol on a regular basis, and fundamentally alter your perceptions and your interpretations. Same is true with any mind altering substance or process. Sex, overworking, gambling, are all processes that alter your mentality, and whether that’s past an unreality threshold is up to you to decide (though it’s highly recommended to consider this with a healthy, objective advocate).

It’s up to you to determine whether or not that affect is beneficial to your life or not, but a period of sobriety can give you a chance to compare and contrast how to affect you. The same as with any other substance or process, take work versus vacation as a simple example as well, and compare and contrast the difference of your being in each of those different activities.

A greater, more fulfilling payoff

It seems to be trendy and exciting to simply remove vices, but the opportunity presented is much greater than just getting through a 90-day challenge of not partaking.

Thus, I propose a distinction between “sobriety” and “recovery”. In recent personal research, I found numerous alternatives to AA being listed as “Top XX Ways To Get Sober”, but the distinction with AA is that a fundamental part of the process was to reconsider how we were moving through the world, what type of character we were living with.

My time of sobriety was the most transformative of my life, and I can only wish others to experience the same depth of transformation that I had, or that I’ve seen in others that have seriously explored sobriety, or more specifically, recovery.

How quickly can I learn to NOT take things personally?

It can take an instant, if you’re willing; it took me a couple years because I wasn’t. When I finally became willing, things shifted very quickly.

For me, it had everything to do with the two-sided coin of: 1) self acceptance, and 2) unknowingly needing something from someone else, that being “acceptance”. When I came to understand that it was my job to accept myself, the opinions of others just didn’t matter.

I’ll use a crude, oversimplified, yet common, example on purpose: I feel insecure about how sexy I am. There are two people in front of me that have an opinion; one I feel attracted to, and another I don’t. With the latter, the one I don’t care about, they can say whatever they want, but I’m not putting my acceptance of myself in their hands, simply because they don’t mean as much to me. I have the ability to not take their comments personally, because I don’t value their opinion. For the other who I _want_ to like me, if they say “ew, you’re ugly”, I could take that personally because I’m giving them some authority over my sexiness.

If I’m in a healthy place of acceptance about myself, they could say I’m ugly, and I could easily not take it personally. Instead, I could joke about it towards having a good time together, I could ask them about it towards learning about their aesthetics, I could agree with them towards more vulnerability, etc…

Of course, as I change and come to know myself more and more, I find more of myself to accept. It’s a process and an attitude. We can’t just say, “as of today, I accept myself and will never have to do so again.”

Nowadays, if I get a twinge of feeling like something is a personal “attack”, I’m pretty quick to realize that it’s more (if not completely) about them, and/or it’s an indication of something I can own more of, take more full responsibility for.

Make sense?

Differences between fast and gourmet, nutritious and empty

With regard to food, you can get fast and convenient foods versus gourmet meals that take careful and timely preparation. You can also eat nutritious ingredients compared to things with empty calories. Then there’s the realm of things that are simply unhealthy for you.

All of these qualities can be quite independent of cost. More important, these analogies can be applied to other aspects of life.

Is your physical fitness narrowly focused, just treading water, and injurious in the long run, or are you engaged in progressive exercises, honing specific skills and abilities, and moderating your efforts to not compromise your future?

Are your relationships convenient, nutritious, or toxic? Or do you have deep acceptance and respect, attentive and compassionate, people that are nurturing and encouraging?

What about your sex life? Are you simply having the equivalence of fast food?

These are personal choices, certainly. My hope for you is that they are conscious choices, and that you’re fully aware of the potential ramifications.

If not for Enlightenment, then for a marshmallow?

Is competing against monkeys inspiring to you? Perhaps you’ve said to yourself, “if a monkey can do it, then I can!” Well, here’s something to step up to.

According to Philippens and Vanwersch (link), in their studies to test “neurofeedback and other brain-training treatments for epilepsy or ADHD”, they were able to coax monkeys to deliberately replicate the brain activity of meditation, resulting in the monkeys looking “restful [with] focus.”

“The monkeys may not realise that they are changing their brain activity, but it does show that they can consciously change their mood or state of mind,” says Philippens, and the monkeys were rewarded marshmallows for this behavior.

So, my question to you is: do you really believe that attaining a meditative state is difficult for you? I’d be happy to send marshmallows to you if that’d help inspire you. Or, perhaps you could gain results by staring at this monkey…

In all seriousness, the point of this post is that there are some things we can choose to do for ourselves, and some we can’t. A recent dialog on Facebook brought up the fact that, with the exception of people with untreated mental illnesses or mood disorders, attitudes are chosen; they are not involuntary, imposed on us by some other will besides our own. We can choose to be optimistic fearful, or ambivalent.

We can also choose our behavior, and there are countless benefits to slowing down our thinking, to becoming more aware and present; key benefits from building a practice of meditation.

You can always “act as if”. Like the old saying goes, “monkey see, monkey do.”