Habits for Mental Health & Addiction

A video I made recently, about talking someone down off of a bridge, has gone viral. The video, and the story behind it, has me thinking a lot about mental health.

There’s a lot of addiction in my family. My uncle died of pills, and my grandfather died of alcohol. I have always been leery of my own addictive tendencies, and tried to steer clear of the worst of those patterns. Fortunately, my addictions – to things like exercise and cold plunging – have a lot of tangible health benefits, and are harder to abuse than, for instance, alcohol.

I started drinking regularly while running Robin’s Cafe and at my peak would have a drink every evening of the pandemic. Then, in September 2021, I gave up alcohol entirely. (This continues to be a bit of a challenge, since my girlfriend makes exceptionally good cocktails.)

In reading Wonder Boy, I see facets of myself in Tony’s story. He saw the world differently, and that allowed him to accomplish great things, but led him to struggle to exist in our shared reality. I’ve done things that people told me were impossible, and, as a result, found myself in situations that felt nearly impossible to handle.

I haven’t carried the level of responsibility Tony did. And, perhaps I also wasn’t born with Tony’s heightened gifts/challenges. But I do understand facets of what Tony faced. Even as I am, today, in the best physical and emotional health of my life, I worry that things might change. Life is extraordinarily fragile. In a moment, and without warning, things can shift, again, and we find ourselves in completely different – and worse – situations, and have to build back from there.

I don’t see a concrete way around this, beyond celebrating when things are going well, and reaching for gratitude even when they aren’t. All any of us can do is focus on the daily habits that build in the direction we want to go. I like who I am when I exercise a lot, so I take small steps towards building a life where I train movement for several hours each day. Building healthy habits and routines while things are good have given me a stable foundation to fall back on during tough times.

For you, that might be starting with 10 minutes a day – or some other habit entirely. Don’t compare yourself to me, or anyone other than who you were yesterday and who you want to be tomorrow. I often think of a quote from James Clear: “Every action you take is a vote in the direction of the type of person you wish to become.”

Who do you want to become this afternoon? Tomorrow? Let next year and other people worry about themselves. Just take one step in that direction of who you want to become.

Until next time,

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