The habits of a Better Man.
Below are a few of the very simple and positive things we can all do to change our situation, step outside of Modern Life and get perspective again. All of them take some effort, but then nothing in life worth doing is ever free.
These are the sort of things that will help Modern Man to be a Better Man, not a Perfect Man or and Ideal Man, but a Man who looks to do something every-day to improve himself and simply be better than he was yesterday.
The connection with exercise and the production of endorphins (the ‘neurotransmitters’ in the brain that increase our feelings of happiness and reduce the sensation of pain) has been known for a while now.
The simple act of going for a long, purposeful walk can lift the spirit and clear the mind. When the Modern World gets on top of us: just 30 minutes of exercise will make us feel much more able to cope, and there is good scientific information that 30 minutes of ‘strenuous’ exercise a day will go a long way to ensuring a long and healthy life, both physically and mentally.
Unfortunately, the low mood that can come with the pressure of modern life can make the thought of getting up and doing something strenuous feel like the last thing we would want to do, and it can take a lot of willpower to overcome that lethargy. There are many theories, courses and books on the subject, but ultimately it comes down to will-power and experience. When we get pleasure out of the exercise we do, we are much more likely to do it again.
Being in Nature
From a simple walk in your local park, to climbing a local hill or mountain, being in Nature is a great way to alleviate stress, away from the noise of Modern Life and out of range of a mobile signal. There are few places in the UK that that don’t have green spaces that you can get to with relative ease, especially on a bicycle. You can also take some time to study a local map, find a spot that is off the beaten track, away from housing estates and public parks, somewhere that you could make your own private place.
Working with your hands
There is something deeply rewarding for a Man in creating something with his hands. From building a brick wall to whittling a stick. All involve a level of concentration and dexterity that can push the Modern World to one side, and allow the mind to still. Assembling a piece of furniture without looking at the instructions is great mental exercise and gives an incredible sense of achievement when completed. Using a spade instead of a Rotavator, a paintbrush rather than a spray-gun, a hand-plane rather than it’s electrical cousin. All these put you more in touch with the material you are working with, and require more concentration and effort, again helping to free the mind to concentrate on the job in-hand.
Out in the elements
The British Weather is often used as an excuse to curtail some adventure into the wild, but for most British Men, the changeable and often wet weather should come as no surprise. The simple fact is that we are more than able to dress to accommodate bad weather: layered clothing and cheap, waterproof outer layers with a pair of waterproof boots or wellies give us all the protection we need in the UK. Being out in the elements offers solitude and a chance to feel nature at its most elemental, with the promise of a hot drink and a warm towel when you get back home.
Making a campfire
Making fire has to be one of the most ancient and masculine acts. It provides warmth and safety, draws people together and can lift any mood. Survival experts list making a fire as one of the most important steps to surviving in a disaster, as it not only helps to draw the rescue services to your location, but it provides a sense of safety and accomplishment, essential to creating the right positive mindset needed to survive. There are hundreds of ways of making a fire, from the simple Bic lighter and a few dry twigs through to the frustrating fire-drill and a nest of dried bracken. Learning how to make a fire responsibly, to keep it alight, and to put it out safely when its time, all are fundamental skills that a Man should know.
Creating your own camp, whether it is for just you, or with your family and friends is an art and a science. There are many aspects that should be considered to ensure that you are warm, dry and properly fed whilst in the wild. Most modern campsites have all the facilities on-site that means the most complex job is setting up the tent, but when you go to more wild campsites, or if you choose to ‘Wild Camp’ then a whole raft of considerations and skills come into play. Solo camping in the wild can be unnerving to the uninitiated man, but brings with it a huge sense of achievement and peace. In the UK, there are very few places where the worst weather conditions or local wildlife would threaten your life, but even so, sleeping alone in the wild is a challenge that very few men have undertaken, but one that we highly recommend.
Navigating with a map
The need for old-fashioned paper maps is falling into significant decline. Even the Ordinance Survey have all their maps available for use on smart-phones and tablets. These devices also have access to Google and Apple maps, all of which can direct you from point A to point B without even having to look at the screen. The result is that Modern Man has very little idea of the ‘lay of the land’ around them, and – should the battery in their device fail, they have very little idea of how to get home. Gone are the days when men would heatedly discuss the merits of the A47 over the A12 and little known rat-runs that avoid traffic jams. Getting a cheap compass and an old ‘OS Explorer’ map (mountains, forests and footpaths very rarely change over time) and setting off to explore a local area is challenging and rewarding, and will develop a skill which was once a core Man skill.
Learning a practical skill
There is nothing like learning a new skill to give you a sense of accomplishment, be it learning to play the guitar or master the fire-drill. Every time you try it you get a little better, to the point that you can share that skill with others and even pass that skill along. Mastering that skill takes patience and commitment. Making mistakes and learning from them is all part of the process, and can drive us to try harder, or to quit. When we feel overwhelmed with life the fear of failure can erode our self confidence, and make the choice to do nothing seem like the most logical path, but it is in this moment that perseverance can raise our spirits and change the status quo. By letting go of the things we cannot control to focus on the one thing – in that moment – that we know is simply a matter of perseverance and patience, we can accomplish a small step towards mastery, and the satisfaction that it brings. If you struggle to master a new skill on your own, then find other men that share the same desire, and learn together. Being with others and helping them to overcome the parts that once challenged you, and in-turn allowing yourself to be encouraged and guided by others.
Working as a volunteer might sound counter intuitive if you already have the pressures of Modern Life weighing you down, but making time to help a charity or community group can bring a real sense of achievement and self-worth you your life. The country is full of charitable organisations that are desperate fro an hour of your time, and would be overjoyed to have your support, and that support will be very gratefully received, never taking your offering for granted. The Modern World, the Media and our on-line lives conspire to negate the need for community, to the point where neighbours barely know each other, or care about each other any more. Working in community with other like-minded men serves to reestablish those connections and foster a real sense of connection that Modern Life is lacking.
Joining a men’s group
Men’s groups are seen by many as something of a taboo. Talking about ‘feelings’, or admitting you have a ‘problem’ can often feel like failure. If you do have addictions or mental health issues that are worrying you or affecting your life, then they may well be something that will benefit you in the long run, and talking to your GP is a good starting point. Men’s Groups also operate at a much less intense level, and aren’t necessarily based on a need to express emotions: from walking groups to restoration projects, many groups – specifically for men – exist and can be found on your local council website or in the library. Not all are exclusively for men, but many – because of their focus – will be mostly male. some will have a social aspect which may involve meeting at a local pub, but the men that meet there will meet to discuss the purpose of their group, rather than more trivial or less constructive things. For those men with a more spiritual or religious need, there are many groups of men that meet regularly to discuss their faith. One for the great benefits of Social Media and the Internet is that – no matter how obscure your interest or how far away you are from other men that share that interest, there will be a Facebook group that you can join.
Going 'radio silent'
The act of leaving the mobile phone at home for many is unthinkable. Being disconnected from the Internet and Social Media, not getting the news, texts from loved ones or from work. The fear that something might go wrong, or that we might miss out on something important keeps us connected. The constant weight of being there for everyone is exhausting and can create an unbearable stress which leaves you less able to cope, and more susceptible to the sort of stress that will take you offline for more than just a weekend. Unless you are waiting for a known event, such as a birth or death, the chance of something random and unforeseen happening that you absolutely have to be involved in is remote, and if your family and friends are aware of your absence, then they will no-doubt cope until your return. Setting your Out Of Office, posting your absence on Social Media, and changing your voice mail saying you are going off-air until a given future date will allow those that rely on you to make other plans and give you the uninterrupted space you need to disconnect from your pressures and recharge your batteries.
The average diet in the UK is not a healthy one. There are too many options for processed food which can be high in carbohydrates and bad fats. Fast food tends to be high in lots of things our bodies don’t need, and low in the things we do. If we don’t eat the right sort of food, we don’t have the energy to do the active things we need to stay healthy and mentally positive. if we go in to a a negative place, we either don’t want to eat, or binge eat on rubbish. this lowers the mood further and down the spiral goes. The other aspect to Diet is cooking. Many men either don’t know how to or don’t care to cook for themselves, thinking its either too difficult or too feminine in some way. Neither are true as some of the top chefs of the world will tell you. Granted it may take you a few years to earn your first Michelin Star, but there’s a lot of good cooking you can do between here and there. There will be a large number of local facilities that teach cookery from the most basic level upwards, alternately the web abounds with cookery courses, many free, from well known cooks such as Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith. you can practice with a sharp knife and a bag of vegetables in-front of YouTube with no-one being the wiser. And cooking is a great way to de-stress, take your mind of Modern Life, concentrate on making a meal and enjoying it.
There are two types of listening, Listening to Reply and Listening to comment. We all do the former, and need to practice saying the latter. Watch yourself next time you are having a conversation with someone. Are you only half listening to them, preparing what you’re going to say next in your head and waiting for the moment to jump in on the end of their sentence? Its a real challenge, especially in todays Modern World, where there is no time to think and consider a reply. Instant Messaging requires and Instant Reply. Social Media posts are shared and commented on after having only read the first sentence. If we take time to consider what is being said, the information that is being given, once that person has stopped talking, and we have fully processed what they have said, then we can give a considered response. When we spend time actively listening, and hearing what is being said, we are often less likely to say something thoughtless or stupid that will affect our own happiness.
Men are generally terrified of talking about stuff that is bothering them. Not football teams and car choices, but deeply personal stuff that is getting in the way of their life, or driving them towards ending it. As men, we really struggle with the idea of confiding in another man, because it makes us look weak, or we might damage the relationship with that person, or make a fool of ourselves. So we keep quiet, because society likes us to conform to the ‘Real Men don’t cry / discuss feelings’, and the pressure builds in us until something drastic happens. If something was deeply troubling you, such as loosing or gaining a faith, a change in your sexual persuasion or fidelity of you or your partner, who would you turn to who could simply listen to you without judgment? If we don’t have Men in our lives that we can talk to about anything that’s going wrong for us, then we bottle it up, and bad things happen.