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Jimi Hunt is a mental health advocate, speaker, author, adventure seeker, and co-founder of the Live More Awesome charity. Having recently released his second book—A Guide To Live More Awesome, Kate Robertson caught up with Jimi to talk about some real worthy of your time shit.
K: How did Live More Awesome come to be?
J: It came about after my adventure called Lilo the Waikato. After that my mate Dan and I decided we needed to talk about mental health differently in NZ, and around the world, so we decided to set up a charity to do that.
K: Why do you think we still struggle to talk about mental health?
J: At the dawn of time we came up with two names for the parts of us—one was physical health and one was mental health. Over time we’ve put physical health on a pedestal and stigmatised mental health.
What’s interesting is if you ask people about it they’ll go “oh no, I don’t have mental health,” because they associate mental health with mental illness. The truth is, every single person on the planet has mental health just like they have physical health. The problem is we don’t know what we should be doing for our mental health. We’ll go to the gym four times a week, but we won’t work on our mental health four times a week.
K: It’s a sad reality that mental illness is on the rise, do you think that is in some way making it easier to talk about in more public spaces?
J: Yeah, it’s slow though. Most people still aren’t comfortable talking about their own mental health. To change a stigma you need to have as many conversations in the public realm as possible. The more conversations we have, the more people will feel comfortable to talk about it with their friends or family or the public. It’s people like me, John Kirwin, Mike King—whoever—going “hey, I have mental health. Sometimes I have mental health problems. There are ways you can deal with this.” That’s the whole point of my book—we should be working on our mental health all of the time so that we don’t end up having mental health problems.
K: Do you think everyone could benefit from reading A Guide to Live More Awesome?
J: Everyone. Everyone from someone who can’t get out of bed today to Richard Branson or Jay-Z. Everybody can improve their mental health. Both of those people can live more awesome by improving their mental health.
K: I know on campus there can be such competition between peers for grad jobs and internships, every person trying to be more successful than the next. People think success will create happiness. Where do you suggest is a healthier place we look for such fulfilment?
J: My big example is in 2013 when I built the world’s biggest waterslide, wrote a best-selling book, opened Tedx Auckland, funded a national ad campaign, was a finalist for Innovator of the Year and New Zealander of the Year, and for me, I had a shit year. I wasn’t happy. Jim Carrey says, “I wish that everyone in the world could be rich and famous so they realise it’s the answer to nothing,” and so both of those points—one a famous movie star and one my personal experience—both prove that happiness is not something that you find externally. You won’t find happiness in a new job, a new car, or a new relationship. That’s not where happiness lies. You will only find it by going inside and finding it internally.
K: What changes did you make that you think had the most impact and that other people could start doing today to begin turning things around?
J: Learning how to meditate, and then using it has given me a lot of clarity on a lot of things. The other things I have are truths that I came to. There’s a quote I really like from John Maxwell that says “you cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically anything.”
K: *awkwardly chuckles while realising the fucking realness of said quote*
J: In the grand scheme of things practically everything is unimportant, and yet we make the most trivial things the most important to us. When you let that go you suddenly have peace.
You mentioned fighting for grad jobs and internships, it doesn’t mean don’t do the work, you should still try your best to get the grad job or the internship, but if you don’t get it, it’s actually unimportant. There’s another one to go with that—I met a lady and she said “you don’t pray for outcomes” and that’s basically the opposite of what people pray for. People always pray for outcomes. The truth is that we don’t know what’s right for us. If you miss out on a job it just sends you off on new and better directions.
K: It’s so easy to become so heavily fixated on a narrow-minded view of what your path should look like and then when it doesn’t work out it’s this massive disappointment.
J: And who are you to know the best thing for you?
K: Yeah, *please hold, just internalising and processing some low key major realisations*
J: Dating is a good example of that. We all think we know who our perfect person is. When you talk to someone who found their perfect person, ask them if that’s who they actually thought they’d end up with—the answer will probably be a big “no.” We end up with the person we’re supposed to end up with, not the person we think we should end up with. It’s the people who hold onto the idea of what they think they should have that end up in the most pain.
K: Looking back, retrospectively, can often be very confronting for those very reasons.
J: Perspective is a big thing I talk about in the book. It’s very hard to have perspective when you’re in the moment. When my marriage was breaking up it was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but looking back on it that’s actually the best thing that has happened in my life because it sent me in this beautiful direction. That wouldn’t have happened had I stayed on that path. It’s taken me many years to get that perspective, and the question is how do we train ourselves to have that perspective in the moment rather than years later.
K: So what would you say if someone was thinking “shit, I want to change something in my life this isn’t how I want to be living.”
J: The introduction to my book talks about the ant hill philosophy. We go, “right, I’m going to make a change,” and then we start to do a thousand things and we get annoyed and pissed off when we’ve only done five, and then we give up. The ant hill philosophy asks how does an ant build an ant hill? One grain at a time. The decision’s been made to improve your mental health, great, now you only have to do it one grain at a time. Everyday one grain. If one day you 100 grains and the next day you only do one grain that’s fine, because everyday you’re improving your mental health.
We’re too hard on ourselves. There’s a lot in the book about self-love. Being able to truly love yourself is the answer to many of our problems because we’re all guilty of being hard on ourselves—how we look, how we talk, the way we act. Sometimes rightly so, but you still have to love yourself and be self aware. Most people are unaware of their mental health and the parts of it that they should be changing. The first thing is identifying it and being self aware, the second thing is being brutally fucking honest with yourself about those things and getting to the core of them, and the third is changing them.
Change is a really big topic and it’s got a lot to do with the fact that in society we’re told it’s hard to change or we can’t change. I changed by making conscious decisions over and over and over again.
K: As someone who’s been down that path, the self love thing is the big one. Being on the other side of it you just want everyone to realise that you don’t have to feel like shit and that it shouldn’t be the norm. You want to shake people and tell them how good they can actually feel.
J: That’s the thing, if you break everything down it’ll pretty much always come back to a lack of love for thyself. Eating disorders or depression or anxiety. When you strip them right down they’re a lack of self love. I make the claim in the book that depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, cancer—they’re not diseases, they’re just symptoms. They’re symptoms of our choices in our environment and in our stimulus that has created them. Instead of treating the symptom you treat the cause. You still have to treat the symptom so you can be capable of treating the cause, but if you look at depression in pretty much all the new research, it’s environmental factors that are causing people to end up in that state. There are ways we can change our choices and who we are in order to affect the symptoms which play such an important role in our mental health.