5 minutes with... JIMI HUNT
Jimi Hunt is builder of the world’s biggest waterslide, co-founder of the charity Live More Awesome, and a self-described “mental health change maker”. With exercise a proven way to boost mental health, he’s getting behind the Tauranga International Marat
QWhat are some of the top things we can do today to increase our mental health and wellbeing?
ARealise that you have mental health! Most people don’t. Most people dismiss it because they can’t see it like they can with their physical health. And they also lie to themselves about it. I used to, badly. Step 1: Be aware of it. Step 2: Be brutally honest to yourself about it. Step 3: Change it. Without writing a novel here (I’ve already written two), the best thing you could ever do for your mental health, and life, is to learn to meditate. It’s the secret sauce to becoming calmer, reducing your stress, increasing your capacity for love, compassion, empathy, towards yourself and towards others. Do it.
Q AIn what ways does exercise boost mental health? Exercise, even if it’s just 30 minutes outside walking per day, is great for your mental health. In fact, 30 minutes walking outside is way better for your mental health than going to the gym. Vitamin D is key for good mental health, especially during the winter – you need to be
outside getting as much sun as you can. You can use that time as meditation. Don’t listen to music, just spend time with yourself, checking in on yourself. If you’re not doing it by yourself, it can be a great time to socialise with others; just make sure you keep the conversations productive. Gossip, complaining, dwelling on the past is not great for your mental health. Create an exercise goal to have something to work towards – like entering the Tauranga International Marathon! You can walk or run it and there are different lengths starting from 2km, but having a tangible goal to work towards over winter is so good for your mental health.
Q AWhat does an average week look like for you in terms of health and fitness? Mental health is the most important thing to me. If you get the inside right, everything else falls into place. So
each morning I start with 30-45 minutes of meditation. I personally detest ‘exercise’; you’ll never find me in a gym. I do, however, realise I need to move my body and keep it in a reasonable order, so each morning I do a set of exercises called the Five Tibetan Rites. They’re an ancient Tibetan spiritual and yoga practice consisting of 5 asanas (yoga poses) that take about 10 minutes to complete. I also try to go for a 30-minute walk every day, whether it be practical (going somewhere for something) or just a casual stroll. My biggest form of ‘exercise’ is adventures. I will climb, scramble, bush-whack, run, jump, whatever, if it gets me to a waterfall, to the top of a beautiful cliff or stunning view. I find my exercise needs to be practical; I’d rather move three square metres of dirt for a friend than run on a treadmill or lift weights.
Q AHow do you get motivated to exercise on days when you just don’t feel like it? I don’t. If I truly don’t feel like it then I don’t do it. But what I do do is check in on where those feelings are coming from: Why are they there? Why are they doing something to me to stop me doing what’s best for me?
If I can find out the answers to those questions and then work on them, the reasons that stopped me should disappear. You are also less likely to miss days if you have someone helping you be accountable or have a personal goal that you are working towards. It’s also good to be kind to yourself. It’s absolutely okay to miss one day, but don’t miss the next. And if you do miss the next? Then you should go back to asking that question, ‘Why?’, and then work on fixing it.
Q ADo you think New Zealanders are becoming more open to talking about mental health struggles? They are. We’re a long way from where we need to be though; we have really only just started the discussion. That discussion also has to move along from being just about mental illness to being about mental health. We all have mental health. We need to start looking after it before it turns into mental illness or a mental health problem. We have PE at school. Where’s ME?
Q AWhat are some of the best ways to support someone who is struggling with mental health issues? Love. Unconditional love. Empathy. Compassion. They have to feel like no matter what they tell you that you will understand and be okay with it, that they won’t be judged. They’re simply scared. Scared to talk. Scared to act. It feels hopeless and, strangely, it also feels familiar and comfortable. They need to know that they can get better and there are ways and means to make that happen, including my free ‘Basic Reset’ programme. It’s a really tough line to straddle; you need to gently encourage them to take the first steps towards getting help but you can’t force them to do anything. Unfortunately, no one can do the work in their head except for them.