A Conversation About Mental Health With Mindapples
Author: Sevtap-Nur Guctekin
Mental health affects how we think, feel and act, whether we’re in the workplace, college/university, or in our homes. It’s a topic that can still be hard to talk about. To discuss mental health, why it matters and how to improve it, I had the chance to interview Andy Gibson, the founder and Head Gardener of Mindapples.
Who are Mindapples and what do they do?
AG: I started Mindapples back in 2008 as a simple campaign to encourage everyone to take better care of their minds. Back when we started, there wasn’t much conversation about the positive side of mental health. There was discussion of mental illness and clinical services, but not much about the benefits of being mentally well and how to improve it. I started Mindapples to be the place to have that conversation, where everyone could share their experiences, and we could figure out how to live and work better together. We have grown into a social enterprise that promotes public mental health and public understanding of the mind. We work with major companies to promote workplace wellbeing, develop apps, and write books to help the public look after their minds, and support schools, universities and charities to promote wellbeing.
Why is looking after your wellbeing so important?
AG: Wellbeing has become a catch-all term for a lot of things we really care about. For some people it means feeling happy and relaxed, enjoying life and feeling motivated. For others, it’s about feeling purposeful and productive, able to concentrate better and get more done. In a workplace context, it matters because work shouldn’t make us ill, and by creating healthier work we can actually achieve more. For students, it can help with studying better and remembering things, and improve relationships. Whatever you are trying to do, looking after your wellbeing will help. The comparison to dental health is quite useful. We spend so much time caring for our teeth, but we should spend at least as much time caring for our minds. There isn’t one single thing that wellbeing is or does, it just gives us a great way to talk about how we can get the mind and the life we want.
What are ways to improve and maintain your mental health daily?
AG: There are a few basics that are worth making a habit. Natural light during the day wakes your mind up and helps you sleep at night, and a good night’s sleep is very important for every aspect of health. Drinking water is very helpful, and free, because dehydration can affect concentration and depress your mood. Eating well and taking exercise and particularly for mental wellbeing, positive social contact makes a big difference. Being with people who let you be yourself.
What can universities and companies do to help and build a safer environment?
AG: I think if we want to talk about problems with our minds, we should start by talking about our minds. The best thing is to ask people what they need. Mental health is very personal, we can’t build one-size-fits-all models for this; we have to ask people what works for them and help everyone do more of the things they need and make them happy. Gathering insights from people about what will help them, tailoring the environment to suit people’s needs, and giving people the autonomy and permission to do things for themselves all help us to build healthy and sustainable environments. We need to normalise the conversation about mental health. That’s why our mission at Mindapples is to make looking after our minds as natural as brushing our teeth.
What is the best advice you can give to someone wanting to promote mental health?
AG: My advice is to enjoy it! This is a fascinating topic, and it frustrates me that so many of the conversations about mental health and wellbeing feel stressful or awkward. It’s fun to learn about other people’s minds and find out what they love doing – and we make more time for things we enjoy. So, if all you manage to do is have a conversation with a few people about mental health, and they come away feeling it was enjoyable and interesting to talk about these subjects, you will have made a big difference.
To learn more about Mindapples visit their website on https://mindapples.org.