Even if you’d never heard of Canadian Men’s Health Week until this year (and I hadn’t), you have to admit that it could not have come at a better time.
An annual campaign that’s been run by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation since 2014, Men’s Health Week starts on June 15th and ends on Father’s Day. Here’s the basic premise:
“Canada is among the world’s healthiest countries, but research shows that many Canadian men face health challenges due to habits such as poor eating, inactivity, high levels of stress and social isolation. “Canadian Men’s Health Foundation
The goal of the campaign (which includes an opportunity to donate towards the foundation) is to encourage men to make some kind of adjustment in one of these areas, recognizing that COVID-19 has probably exacerbated many of the biggest health hazards.
After months of staying in our homes, eating too many chips, drinking red wine like it’s water (or maybe that’s just me?), the sun is finally shining. Parks are opening up again. Teachers are already getting lazy with end-of-year home schooling assignments, so we should theoretically have more time for self-care.
That means Canadian Men’s Health Week is ideally positioned to serve as a catalyst for starting on wellness goals we might not otherwise have made, or for encouraging us to make any at all.
While it may not seem obvious, I’ve always seen health inextricably linked to fashion and style.
Guy who grew up when I did may remember a Saturday Night Live Sketch featuring a character played by Billy Crystal named Fernando, who coined a catchphrase that, at one point, was repeated everywhere: “It is better to look good than to feel good.”
The truth, of course, is that when you feel good, you look better. Style is simply a personal way to express how you feel, so it makes sense to take care of yourself.
For me, taking care of myself includes (ideally) daily meditation for 20 minutes followed by journaling and prayer, working out (ideally) three times a week, near-daily basketball with my eldest son and intermittent fasting (combined with the slow carb diet a couple of times a year).
By no means do I maintain perfect consistency in any of this.
I absolutely have moments of over-indulgence and sloth.
Even as I write this, I wonder if I shouldn’t have filled my wine glass again.
The Best Way To Observe Men’s Health Week
Overall, though, I feel like I’m doing okay because I see my health as a long-term activity. The point of Men’s Health Week isn’t to do better for seven days and then fall back into bad habits. It’s using a week to start some better habits.
Beyond any of the things I mentioned above, there is one thing that I guarantee will do more for your health than any fitness regimen or change in eating.
It also feels like the best way to observe Men’s Health Week this particular year.
It comes down to this:
If you want to feel healthier, pursue some kind of service to others.
This could mean formally applying for a volunteer position somewhere.
It could also mean just setting up a Zoom call to give someone more isolated some company.
It could mean volunteering to go pick up groceries for someone who finds it difficult or is scared to leave their home.
It could mean writing letters to the government or companies about making a deeper commitment to anti-racism, or donating to one of the many causes in that area.
Being of service will improve your health on every level:
- By serving others, you take your mind off yourself — including all your anxieties, anger or other negative emotions. It is hands-down the best way to improve your own mental health. I promise.
- By serving others you are likely to become more physically active, even if you’re just spending time talking to another person. You’ll feel your heart rate elevate just by making the effort to foster genuine, compassionate connection. If you are being of service in any physical way, like helping tend someone’s garden or mowing their lawn, the results will be even better.
- By being of service you’ll be less likely to binge on bad food or drink excess alcohol because it’s very difficult to help someone else if you don’t feel up to the task.
I don’t say this as some know-it-all from on high, but in reflecting on the concept of Men’s Health Week and how I’ve focused my thoughts and energies during this pandemic.
For obvious reasons I’ve been primarily trying to preserve my health by constant hand-washing, wearing masks and staying as far away from other people as possible.
I’ll have to keep doing most of those things for the foreseeable future, but “healthy” in 2020 should involve more than simply not avoiding infection from the Coronavirus.
To be healthy should transcend “We’re all in this together” platitudes and lead to real transformation– which is usually best achieved by responding to a need rather than looking within.
You become healthier when you serve others.
You become a better dad that way.
You become a better man.
You realize that health is not about living your best life. It’s about living to make life better. Happy Men’s Health Week.