10 things Nick Bracks learned from the world’s best mental health experts

Mental health advocate Nick Bracks has a new podcast dedicated to gaining insight into the mental health struggles of high profile individuals and how they overcame them, as well as tips from some of the world’s leading experts. To acknowledge National Mental Health Month: 10 things Nick Bracks learned from the world’s best mental health experts, Body+Soul wanted to know what he’s learned.

After experiencing his own struggles, Nick Bracks has spent the last decade speaking at schools and organisations as a mental health advocate and ambassador for not-for-profit One in Five, which aims to find preventative solutions for long-term mental health issues and ultimately find a cure through scientific research. But of course, the best way to insight change is to talk about it, and that’s where Bracks’ new weekly podcast, Move Your Mind, comes in.

By having honest conversations with a variety of experts—from doctors to celebrities who experience mental health issues—Bracks’ aims to learn from each individual’s struggles and how they overcame them. Here are the top 10 things he’s learned.

1. Go at your own pace

“Dr Malcolm Stern talks about how life is made up of seasons and that we can do and have everything we want, but not all at once. We might be in the season of focusing on our career, and have less time for relationships or hobbies. That doesn’t mean we will never have time for these other things, but we need to be realistic about how much we can do at any given time,” he says.

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“I have a tendency to put enormous pressure on myself, forgetting that things can happen over time. Sometimes it can be really hard to keep a clear perspective, so this was a welcome reminder to continually check in and stop putting un-reasonable pressures on myself.”

2. Label your emotions

“Emotions can be hard to deal with but I find it helps dramatically to pause and ask ‘why am I feeling this?’,” he says.

“Dr. Marie-Helene Pelletier talks about labelling your emotions. When we are dealing with something challenging we often feel heightened emotions such as fear, guilt, and doubt.”

He continues: “When we experience this, rather than give into the emotion, pause and ask yourself ‘what am I feeling right now?’ Really think about it in the context of the situation.”

3. “Happiness is not a number, it is a feeling

“I live by this motto… Manu Feildel opened up about the struggles he has been through and how he dealt with setbacks and depressing times. It really hit home hearing him talk about his success and how no amount of money or fame will make you happy,” Bracks says.

“It is the feeling and joy that we allow ourselves to take from the simple things in life that make us happy. If we are trying our happiness to future events or external things, we will never be at peace.”

4. “I thought my value was in my achievements, or in the gold medal…rather than in me. I felt like I was just a coat rack for the medal”

“Similar to Manu, [Olympic diver] Matthew Mitcham was very candid about his experience with success and the emptiness it left him feeling. He dedicated his life to winning a gold medal and believed it would complete him, only to feel empty after winning it,” he says.

“Another lesson in never attaching yourself to external means, and how important self-love and enjoying the present moment is. Working on self-love is a never-ending process.”

5. “If you don’t get enough sleep you have twice the risk of developing dementia, and three times the risk of developing cognitive decline”

This is an area I need to work on! I find it so relaxing to be lying in bed watching movies with snacks and often stay up late… I spoke to a sleep expert called Dr Carmel Harrington and she discussed the many, many reasons why sleep is so important,” he says.

“Listening to Carmel really shocked me into wanting to make changes around my sleep habits – the benefits are enormous!”

6. “If you don’t know why you are doing something, you are going to get lost”

“Ever since I was a little kid I knew I had to follow passions and I still have not stopped,” Bracks says.

“Canadian actor and singer Paul Greene talks a lot about meaning and purpose, namely asking yourself ‘why am I doing this?’. It can be tough staying true to what you want but I would rather struggle for what I love than take a more conventional path.”

7. The perception of OCD in mainstream media is used like a catchphrase or a buzzword”

“This really frustrates me. We have not been educated about different mental health conditions.

“Actor Sarah Jeffery suffers from severe OCD and is bravely using her platform to talk openly about her own struggles. She is determined to dispel the stigma with mental health issues and educate the public on these issues.”

8. “There is no manual of life”

“Brian Chojnacki is an American TV host and wellness expert and spends a huge amount of his time mentoring others. We can spend so much time asking others for answers, when they don’t normally know themselves. Often we need to just follow our gut and trust that things will work out. Everyone is just trying their best. I truly believe that our gut always has the best answer.”

9. “Fear and anxiety are contagious”

“I am very sensitive and tend to absorb the energy of people around me, whether that be positive or negative. Dr Craig Hassed is a world-leading mindfulness expert and offered so many amazing pieces of advice. He talks about how fear and anxiety are also contagious, and how we can deal with uncertainty by using mindfulness and bringing ourselves back into the present moment.”

10. “We are like a tree on a windswept cliff

“This really hit home with me and reminded me how important daily wellness routines are. I exercise, meditate, do gratitude journaling, and breathing exercises daily, and this helps me deal with whatever life throws at me.

“Life keeps pushing us down, and often, we will not fully bounce back. If this happens regularly enough, we will eventually get pushed over. Dr Stan Rodski spoke about how important healthy daily habits are in helping us to bounce back and not fall over.

Nick Bracks is an actor and acclaimed mental health advocate. He hosts the podcast Move Your Mind and is an ambassador for the charity One In Five.