On Tuesday, June 28th, 2022, in partnership with EVRYMAN and Men’s Health, Rhone hosted our 2nd annual virtual Men's Wellness Summit (watch the full recap HERE!). An incredible group of inspiring men, wellness experts to professional athletes, entrepreneurs, and more, joined forces to lend their expertise, share their stories, and foster conversations.
Throughout the Wellness Summit, these experts offered tactics and strategies for individual’s when it comes to strengthening their minds, optimizing their health, exercising emotions, and nourishing their spirits. To kick things off, we welcomed author and Men’s Performance Health Specialist, Myles Spar, MD, and author and Nutritional Psychiatry Advocate Drew Ramsey, MD, for a discussion on ways in which we can all work to optimize our mind and physical health. Moderated by Aaron Kahlow, EVRYMAN’s VP of Product and Community, the conversation dove head first into the idea of wellbeing. Myles noted wellbeing as, “Having some kind of proactive intention” with the ability to move in the direction of that happiness. As for how to achieve that wellness and helping men feel at peace, he referenced the parasympathetic nervous system, and the idea that our fight-or-flight mode can have a large impact on finding that achievement. When there’s too much cortisol being released and we’re constantly in a heightened state, it can interfere with creative thought and feeling calm/at peace. Myles suggests finding a physical marker you can attribute to know when you’re in the stressed “zone,” and allowing yourself to trust your body to tell you when you’re off. A more data driven tool? Looking at your HRV.
As the conversation went on, the focus shifted to answering the question: where do those men, who have no idea where to start when it comes to their overall health and wellbeing, look to as a starting point? The first major callout? Find a clinician who can look deeper than an annual physical, to get a baseline. Get some bloodwork done, understand where one is at with biomarkers, etc. The concept of connection continued to arise throughout this conversation. Aaron noted, “Men haven’t been trained to connect with each other from an early age, we’ve been trained to compete, trained to socialize at a level that’s fraternal at the collegiate sense, and not trained to connect in a holistic sense.” Further, Drew pointed out that we know that when we’re connected, whether that’s with other men, women, our community, etc.) it does amazing things for our overall health. Physiologically we influence each other and each other’s health and wellness. When you’re surrounding yourself with other men who are taking care of themselves, it’s not unlikely that you’ll fall into the same or a similar pattern.
Two other big takeaways from the conversation between Aaron, Myles and Drew were that of habits and breathwork. Together, they highlighted the idea of starting to talk about your habits–both the good and those that you’d like to change. Drew touched on the example of drinking, noting that if you find that you’re drinking too much, first recognize those moments when the habit is actually making you feel good (maybe it’s in a social situation, a celebration, etc.). That can help in regards to taking the shame out of what you’re considering to be a bad habit. From there, work to find replacements for that habit and work those into your routine. Using Drew’s example, if someone finds they like to celebrate the end of a work day with a beverage, a replacement could be a non-alcoholic beverage beer or a soda water. One of the main takeaways from Myles was a concept he referenced from the book Tiny Habits that highlights the idea of focusing on one step at a time and then measuring its impact. It’s about choosing those smaller habits or steps that you tie to an instant win that will eventually lead you to creating that main habit change you’re looking for. As for breathwork, it was a topic that came up often throughout the entirety of the summit that both Myles and Drew had input on. Drew was direct saying, “if you don’t have control over your breath, stop complaining and start focusing on our breath.” This wasn’t to say that some people do need outside help when it comes to regulating their emotions and anxiety but more to call out breathwork as an extremely important tactic for anxiety and mental health; to highlight breath as a tool to dig into yourself and to really get in touch with yourself in a moment. To put that into action, Myles highlighted the 4-7-8 breathwork method in which you take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds, hold that breath for 7 seconds and then exhale through your mouth for a full 8 seconds. Shifting into the second session of the summit, we were fortunate enough to have Dr. Gregory Scott Brown, author, professor and Mental Health Advocate, as our moderator. He was joined by Andy Dunn, Bonobos co-founder and author of, Burn Rate: Launching a Startup and Losing My Mind, Carl Radke, Bravo TV’s Summer House, Actor, Model, TV Personality, and Rhone’s very own Co-Founder & CEO, Nate Checketts as they dove heavily into the idea of self-care, stress and mental health.
For Carl, as a TV personality, his life has been on full display over the last few years and after struggles of his own, he came to the realization that he could bring light to mental health and the stigma that surrounds it. “When you put what you’re dealing with out there in the ecosystem, you’d be surprised at how many people can connect with you,” he said. It was really the camera, he noted, following him around, that became a mirror into his life and a catalyst for change and speaking out. He came to realize that if he could make changes for himself, he could use that as a way to help other people. After the passing of his brother, as a way to work through anger and grief and to better understand his brother, he worked to reframe his thoughts around mental health and addiction. He started to understand and encourage others that it’s okay to not be okay, to break down your own walls and use the low moments as teaching moments–moments of growth. He was able to utilize his grief as a story to power his life in a better way. Now, as someone who could be considered a spokesperson for mental health, Carl points out the ways in which he works to stay present and grounded in his day-to-day life. “I spend each day trying to carve out a little bit of time for myself. For me it’s in the morning, I meditate–finding time to stay grounded. That for me has been pretty powerful. Remembering where you are in the moment and that you’re okay,” he says. And while it’s important to have both short-term and long-term goals, Carl is focused on appreciating the moments that he’s in, here and now.
Most well-known as the co-founder of Bonobos, Andy Dunn is no stranger to the experiences that one’s mental health journey can bring. Before being clinically diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Andy experienced manic and depressive episodes that ultimately led to time spent in a mental hospital, misdemeanor assault charges upon release from that hospital and what he referenced as a year of “living hell” to follow. Now on that other side of that journey, for Andy, mental health not only means that he’s not going to harm himself or anyone else but it means having the ability to positively answer the question of what does it mean to be in charge of our own cognitive reality? “Those are table stakes for me,” Andy said. “I think mood [and mental health] is about being in a healthy zone, “blah” versus peak, but staying in those bounds. The foundation [for me] is keeping my mood in a certain zone (versus those 1-2 or 9-10 zones, depression or manic).” When asked by Dr. Gregory Brown about how he handles the idea that one must make time for self-care and mental health Andy noted, “I always thought when I got to a certain level I would feel some level of satisfaction with it. I built this company, I’ve written a book, I should now be able to take a step back and focus on my son and I’m still striving for that next thing.” It feels clear that self-care and mental health are a constant journey with moving targets. Andy referenced a book by Richard Rohr in which he explores the idea of ego which he related to the idea of self-care. Self-care can look like the legacy you leave behind and for many of us, Andy notes, there can be a difference between what your legacy looks like in the public eye and to those closest to you, your children for example and in the book, Rohr leads to the idea that the first 40 years of our lives are built constructing our ego and the next 40 are spent deconstructing our ego. It’s this idea that we are first in-service to ourselves to then be in service of others.
When Nate was asked that same question of the idea that one must make time for self-care and mental health, he pointed out that “it is a falsity that you’re going to achieve this perfect level of balance. Really, mental health is about having a tool belt and understanding how to help yourself when you’re having bad days, bad moments or if you’re feeling too high or too exuberant. It’s knowing how to manage yourself in those different moments.” For Nate, mental health and self-care is about having a standard measure for yourself so that you can better understand when you’re out of balance. A key takeaway from how he keeps himself balanced? His productivity planner. In it, he’ll architect what he wants to achieve for that entire week, big and small, personal and professional, and that acts as his blueprint or his standard measure he can reference during those times that he’s feeling out of sorts. That wasn’t just the only takeaway from Nate. In response to the question around what we’re striving for in regards to mental health Nate believes we need to try and separate judgment from our emotions. “Part of what keeps men from expressing all of their emotions,” he said, “is the fear of shame or judgment. So, they keep things inside without experiencing the emotions and then letting them go.” For him, the approach instead is to feel these emotions, even if they’re felt intensely, taking a second to separate the judgment from the emotion and then letting that emotion pass. And for those times when the emotions may be more negative or dark, Nate calls upon his “50 Greatest Life Moments” document–a space where he’s noted the 50 greatest moments to happen in his life, separated by the various chapters from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, that when referenced allow for him to dive into a good memory to try to work his way back to that balance.
To close out the summit, we were joined by Richard Dorment, the Editor in Chief at Men's Health and Laird Hamilton, a big-wave professional surfer, action-sports model and actor. For someone that is often putting himself into dangerous situations, Laird views these moments as time to really “go inside” of himself–to get introspective. And as someone whose career has depended on both his physical abilities and mental strength, it’s no wonder that Laird holds the belief that one’s relationship with mental health is connected to the physical. He noted, “we treat the body rigorously so it won’t be disobedient to the mind.” How does Laird approach those moments that test his mental strength? As a child, his mother gave him the platform to speak his internal feelings. It was instilled in him that men are meant to feel and express their full range of emotions–they’re not meant to be some stoic, steady figure all of the time. As an adult, Laird finds himself connecting with other men who hold that same value. “I always seek the company of the men that you could show weakness or fear to,” he said. “Those men that you could have a conversation with about it [mental health and emotions] and not ever worry about it being used against you.” Through Laird’s conversation with Richard, it becomes clear how important it is for men to have a group of other men that they can go to where there is mutual respect and an ego-free arena that allows for truthful exposure of feelings and vulnerability.
It may be that very willingness to feel and express the good and the bad that has allowed for Laird to have the mental strength and resilience that he does. Whether it’s in his career or his personal life, it’s important to Laird to recognize the role that failure plays. “You have to be okay with failure,” he says. “Failure is inherent in the pursuit. It’s a muscle that you train. You know it’s temporary, brief and fleeting, but it could be permanent if you’re not willing to be honest or get back on the horse.” If you’re not willing to recognize your emotions around failure or why you might be fearful of failure, it’s much more likely you’ll fail in the pursuit or fail to even pursue. It’s full circle–allowing yourself to feel all of the emotions allows you to more deeply understand the “why” behind them and so allows you to understand what next steps to take.
While there were more details and takeaways from the virtual Men's Wellness Summit than can be summarized in a single article, one thing is clear. The health of men, mental and physical, matters. From diagnostic testing to nutrition to frameworks for how one approaches every aspect of their day to embracing all of the emotions that encompass being a human being, Rhone, EVRYMAN and Men’s Health all stand behind men in support of their lifelong pursuits of progress, in every facet of their lives. It’s our hope to act as resources and outlets for men everywhere, to be a support system, hands of guidance, and confident in their unique journeys.
Missed out on catching the Men's Wellness Summit live ? EVRYMAN is offering the chance to watch the full recap. Watch Here!