Appreciate the present moment — Being grateful for the present moment is one of the easiest ways to improve your mental wellness. Constantly dwelling on disappointments of the past or fears of the future are some of the main causes of mental suffering. When you show gratitude towards the present moment, you’ll decrease mental clutter and improve your mental well being.
As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.
What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?
One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron Henry PA-C, MSHS, CHWC
Aaron Henry is an Iraqi war veteran, licensed physician assistant, and men’s health coach. Aaron is the owner of TrueGuide Health Consulting LLC, which focuses on helping men improve their lives through proper mindset, nutrition, and fitness.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?
I grew up in a pretty tough inner-city environment where drugs and violence seemed like the way of life. I knew at a very young age that I wanted more for myself, so I decided to join the United States Navy after high school. I’ve always been a big fan of science and the human body, so I decided to enlist as a hospital corpsman. Joining the Navy was one of the best decisions that I could’ve made because it taught me the importance of discipline, hard work, and leadership. After seven years of service including two tours in Iraq, I decided to leave the military in order to become a physician assistant. As a PA, I’ve worked in healthcare settings ranging from chaotic emergency departments, to primary care. After practicing medicine for 10 years, I was amazed by how many men were suffering from diseases that were easily preventable. I got tired of writing prescriptions for conditions that could easily be controlled through proper nutrition and fitness. As a result, I decided to become a health coach in order to teach men how to improve their weight and health through prevention.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting story that I can recall is about a patient who I had to intubate due to respiratory failure. He was in pretty bad shape and I honestly didn’t know if he would survive. Thankfully, he managed to pull through and came back to thank me weeks later! I will never forget that story because it shows how someone can be so close to death, yet make a complete recovery.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t you’re right.” I really like this quote because it emphasizes the importance of your mindset and attitude. I believe that in life, our minds can be our best friend or worst enemy. I remember when I made the decision to apply to PA school, and all the mental obstacles I faced. I wasn’t the best math student, and I became very intimidated by some of the prerequisite courses like bio chemistry and physics. I vividly recall thinking of all the reasons why I would fail, which became paralyzing. Instead of dwelling on failure, I decided to shift my mindset toward success, and was able to overcome that challenge. I am grateful for that experience because it helped me realize how important it is to pay attention to your thoughts.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
One of my all-time favorite books is “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle. This book is powerful because it focuses on the importance of living in the present moment. I discovered this book years ago while working in a busy emergency department. Being a healthcare provider can be stressful, and requires a high degree of attentiveness and communication skills. When you’re busy, it can be hard to devote your full attention to each patient. Reading that book reminded me of the importance of being present, especially while interacting with other people.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’ve recently developed an online course called the Armor Fit System, which teaches men simple ways to improve their weight and health. I’m very excited about this program because it focuses on the most common issues that men face when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. There is so much confusion about healthy living, and my goal is to demystify the whole process.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
A good friend and fellow men’s coach Anthony Treas, of Strong Men’s Coaching, helped me tremendously. As a new health coach, one of the biggest struggles that I faced was making a shift from a healthcare provider mentality. Most health care providers are trained to use an authoritative approach to medicine. By this I mean that we examine our patients, formulate our diagnosis, and then tell them what they should do. As a health coach, the approach is more client-centered and collaborative. Health coaching focuses on understanding the client’s needs while helping them achieve their health goals. Anthony helped me focus on the right things at the right time, which saved me a lot of time and frustration.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?
To me, gratitude means fully accepting what is. When you are able to fully accept things for what they are, it becomes easier for you to have a spirit of thankfulness. For example, when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, they have two choices. They can either resist their situation, or they can let go of their mental burden by fully embracing it. Through acceptance, they can develop mental clarity, let go of the past, and have gratitude towards the gift of life.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
Unlike any other time in history, we are faced with enormous challenges. Besides a pandemic that’s crippling nearly every aspects of life, our society has evolved towards acquiring more things. Many of us buy large homes that we can’t afford, drive expensive cars to impress others, and go to great lengths in order to “look”successful. I believe that living this way makes it extremely difficult for someone to be grateful because they will never feel like they have enough. To me, one of the main ingredients of gratitude is humility, and once we realize that as a society, our world will change for the better.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?
Having gratitude can improve your life in so many different ways. For starters, it helps you to get in touch with yourself. When people complain for instance, they often forget about all of the things that are actually going right in their lives. By doing a mental inventory of all your successes and achievements, you will be reminded of all that you should be grateful for. Gratitude can also improve your life by helping you connect with others. I find that I become more grateful when I think about how many other people are suffering more than I can ever imagine. By putting myself in someone else’s shoes, I immediately develop more gratitude along with a more positive outlook on life.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Gratitude is one of the most effective yet underrated ways to improve mental wellness. During these trying times, a large percentage of people are suffering from anxiety. Since anxiety is mostly based upon fear of future events, practicing gratitude can improve mental clarity by being present. Depression is also a very common mental illness that causes feelings of self-doubt and hopelessness. By using gratitude, people who suffer from depression can rewrite their mental narrative by focusing on the positivity in their lives.
Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?
In order to be grateful for the things in our lives, the first step is to accept ourselves. As humans, we all make mistakes and unfortunately, it’s very easy to be too hard on ourselves. By practicing self-acceptance, we can improve our mental well being by showing gratitude to ourselves.
2. Have an abundance mindset
A great way to use the power of gratitude is by having an abundance mentality. It’s very easy to compare yourself to other people who may have more than you. When this happens, it’s easy to feel like your life is lacking in some way. By using the power of gratitude, you’ll be thankful for what you have, which will prevent feelings of scarcity and low self-worth.
3.Give to others
When you practice gratitude, you also help other people! When you are in a state of gratitude, you are more likely to give. Studies have shown that giving is one of the best ways to improve your mental health. When you give to others, your brain releases hormones like dopamine, which is linked to feelings of contentment and wellbeing.
4. Be thankful during the bad times
Let’s face it, we all have bad days. Although certain situations are out of our control, we do have the power to decide our state of mind. By using the power of gratitude, we can elevate our mood by recalling all of the good things and people in our lives.
5. Appreciate the present moment
Being grateful for the present moment is one of the easiest ways to improve your mental wellness. Constantly dwelling on disappointments of the past or fears of the future are some of the main causes of mental suffering. When you show gratitude towards the present moment, you’ll decrease mental clutter and improve your mental well being.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
During stressful times, many people tend to isolate themselves. Although solitude can be useful in certain cases, it can be detrimental to your mental health in the long run. Humans are social creatures, and one of the best things we can do during these times is to connect with other people. Other practices that I find useful include: meditation, exercise, mindfulness, and gratitude.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
I would highly recommend the book “A Man’s Search For Meaning,” by psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankel. I think that this book is a great example of mental strength, perseverance, and gratitude.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be focused on teaching people how to program their minds towards healthier living. Aside from COVID-19, we are facing another health crisis in the form of preventable diseases, including obesity. Having a healthy body starts with a healthy mind, and my goal is to improve the lives of millions.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Readers can visit my website at www.trueguidehealth.com, where they will find links to my blog, Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube channel!
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!