1. What do you do to look after your own health?
Having a spinal cord injury provides some exciting challenges to maintain health. A big thing is eating right, which is probably the same for anyone really. I count calories on most days. I give myself one or two days a week to indulge. We have a spinal cord injury research lab. There, we are developing physical activity that can help maintain physical fitness otherwise.
However, I think what is fundamental to health is purpose and gratitude. Purpose and gratitude feed happiness. At a baseline, I feel great because of these things. I feel energised. There are plenty of stories of people whose health deteriorates when they lose these things. More than anything, these fundamentals seem to be the key to a fulfilling life.
2. In general, men can be challenging to engage in self-care conversations and activity. What are some ways for workplaces to help male staff to pay attention to their wellness?
I recently went to the Men’s Shed. Here, they provide a purpose but also an environment where men can connect while “doing things”. One of the guys at the Shed mentioned that men connect well while “doing things” together. Perhaps this is why golf or fishing is a favourite pastime of many, partly because they allow conversation while being active.
We live in an environment where workplaces have become very operational. But, culture is important. Connection is important. Would you want to live in a house with toxic people? Would you want to stay in a friendship that’s become purely perfunctory? If not, why would you want to spend a third or more of your life in a purely operational environment? Social connection is important not just for wellness, but performance.
We have to be proactive about creating ways to encourage social connection at work. That can be anything from a golf day to regular Friday afternoon hangouts – all of which I hear were once a thing, and would be worth reviving.
3. If you could give wellness advice to a younger version of yourself (say 5-10 years younger than you are now), what might you say to yourself?
I wouldn’t be who I am today if my younger self had had a different path. I had to learn the things that I needed to learn. I needed to go through the things that I did. If for example I didn’t experience depression, I wouldn’t have decided to go to medical school.
The one thing I would say is, “keep going, you extremely handsome bastard”.