10 Material Things That Help My Mental Health

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

- Marcus Aurelius

I am a fan of the Stoic philosophy, and the idea of controlling the controllables, and doing my best with the things that just cant be predicted. At the core of Stoicism is not being reliant on external or material things, and having the awareness that possessions don’t bring happiness.  Being able to temper negative reactions to unpleasant or disagreeable situations, and dealing with them in a way that is rational with  a focus on the desired ultimate outcome as opposed to surrendering to th urge to engage in a reactionary fashion that only serves to satisfy the short term urge to get the frustration out of the system with any real progress towards the ultimate goal is also something that I have found to be very useful. However, this article isn't about Stoicism or building mental fortitude in the face of negativity or adversity. Its about 10 material possessions that I have come to realise are pretty sweet to have and that seem to offer some healthy benefits!

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

― Epictetus

…Last Stoic quote of the day I promise! I agree with the quote above 100%, so the following list isn't a luxurious list of hard gained trophies. More of a wee list of things that I have slowly accumulated over the years and that have stuck around with me because they offer real value to my day to day life. In fact, I would say that I am somewhat of a minimalist, and in the last 5 years or so, I have definitely got rid of many more possessions than I have accumulated. The same can be said for the training facility of ACLAÍ. Over the years, our training systems have become more refined, requiring less and less equipment, and being able to do more with the basics.

Anyway, this post is a follow on from the ‘Things I Do To Care For my Mental Health’ post, and as I said in the last post, this is not a post to deal with mental illness, which is something that requires professional help. Its a light hearted list of things that bring a bit of joy to the days and that help keep my personal mental health on the railroad.

You might have different things on your own list of creature comforts, or maybe you don’t have any if you are a hard core Stoic, but I set out this morning to write a blog post and this is what came to mind. So here we go!

Coffee Making Stuff

Mocha pot, small 8oz cup from Established Coffee Company in Belfast, and a Porlex hand grinder. The first thing I do in the morning on a regular day is to grind up some coffee beans (usually purchased from FILTR, Soma, or Alchemy in Cork city), and make a pot of deliciously smelling coffee in the mocha pot on a gas stove, and pour it in to a cup that reminds me of home. The whole ritual of putting the beans in the grinder, grinding the beans, filling the pot, and pouring it into the cup is just as good as sitting down to drink it for me. It’s a mindful process and a bit of a meditative start to the day. I remember reading a story about the Samurai and the Tae Maker years ago and it stuck with me that any activity can become a powerful mindfulness practice if done with full attention and intention, and maybe that why I like this early morning ritual so much.

Denim Jacket

I got one of those denim jackets recently with the wooly inside, and realised a couple of weeks ago while down at Oireachtas na Samhna in Killarney that wearing it on a chilly day is like getting a nice big comforting hug. Buying clothes these days needs to be a conscious decision, and in the last couple of years, I have tried to buy clothes that will last a long time rather than gear that will fall apart or that will only get work once in a blue moon. Coming into the winter months, a cosy jacket is something that I am very grateful for!

Parker Pen

I got one about a year ago that has a little clip on the top so that it can be stored nicely on my coaching jacket at work. Very handy for taking impromptu notes without having to search around for a pen, and also has served as a reminder for me to write letters to people every now and again, which has been another great mindfulness practice for me in recent years. It has also been my constant reminder that 'the pen is mightier than the sword', and to not react immediately to situations that would be better dealt with during a period of clear and calm thinking as opposed to when the blood is starting to boil a little on the inside!

 Hardback Book

Ever-present in my life are hardback notebooks. I have tried several electronic forms of note keeping, list making, and journaling, but the hardback book comes out on top every time. Daily lists, training programs, brain dumps, and ideas are all poured into my hardback book every day. If I didn’t have some form of outlet for what's going on inside my head every day I don’t know what would happen. Implosion maybe. And nobody wants that.

Backpack

Family secret time…we are pretty forgetful as a clan. It might be because we have so many high level thoughts going on in our advanced brains that we don’t have time to remember where we left our keys, laptops, hats, and jackets…or some sort of genetic defect. Either way, having my things together neatly in a backpack than can hold work stuff, training gear, and a bit of food is essential for me to not feel like there are pieces of my spread all over the place. I splashed out on a nice NorthFace rucksack about this time last year and it hasn’t failed me.

Headphones

In May 2017 when I decided to go car-free and sold the wagon on DoneDeal I went off and invested in a decent set of Bluetooth headphones as a companion for all the daily walks to work not that I would not be travelling by car anymore. They are still going strong and have been most useful in getting myself into the zone for blocks of work, writing, and relaxation. I went for Sennheiser Momentum Over Ears. Right now, I am listening to Bonobo's BBC 1 Essential Mix on SoundCloud with them.

Book to Read

Always. When I have a good book to read I am but a few seconds away from being able to relax. At the moment I am making my way through the Harry Potter series, have go John-Boy Ó Muireagáin's book 'Gáire i Éag lined up. I reading has the capacity to bring us to far away imaginary lands, or into the head of another human being. Fair play to whoever invented reading.  

Sunrise Alarm

I started using a sunrise alarm clock about 4 years ago and it has been a constant in my bedroom ever since. It gradually gets brighter approaching the wake-up time, and then plays some nice bird song as the alarm sound. It wakes me up nice and gradually, as well as making the room bring and making it easier to actually get out of bed. It also means I don’t have to have my phone near the bed, and is much less of a shock that a shrill alarm sound. They also say that sunrise alarms are good for Seasonal Affective Disorder where there the shorter sunlight hours during winter can affect your mental state. Check out the Joe Rogan podcast with Matthew Walker on sleep for more about how important it is to get a quality sleep!  

Queen's Greatest Hits on Vinyl

I always had good time for Freddie and the boys, but after going to see Bohemian Rhapsody in the cinema recently, I have had the Greatest Hits album on vinyl on constantly. Especially Killer Queen, Another One Bites The Dust, Fat Bottom Girls, and Bicycle Race. Feel good tunes at its best!

A VERY Sharp Knife….

….for cutting vegetables of course. There is something seriously relaxing and meditative about cutting vegetables. The food that has been grown for our consumption should be treated with respect, and there is something about using a knife that could slice your finger off with one rogue movement that makes me pay attention to what I am doing when chopping veg up! I picked up a Sabatier knife from TK Maxx a couple of years ago and its still going strong with a regular swoosh through the sharpener to keep it on point (pardon the pun).  Earlier this year I actually went to a forge and made my own knife which was also a great experience, but that’s a story for another day!