Listening to Michael Dunstan’s swelling catalogue of addictive indie-folk you probably would think mental health is not something he cares greatly for. His tunes sway between sunkissed acoustic ditties and spacious, meditative tracks, all which conjure up the impression of a flourishing artist at peace – the kind of person who always gets by.
Michael, however, is actually a keen advocate for mental health, to the point that he will be donating $1 from every ticket sale from his current national tour to mental health charity Happy Monday. It’s a charity spearheaded by his touring buddy Daniel Hedley who is aiming to raise $1 million for mental health by riding a penny-farthing from Brisbane to Perth (yes, you read that correctly).
We’ve been spinning Michael’s tunes all day in the office and we’re not alone. He’s currently amassing nearly 100,000 Spotify listeners per month, which proves he’s not only a good bloke, but he also knows how to write a tune. We strongly recommend you get yourself to one of these shows below and catch him in the flesh – tickets here.
For now, check out some of Michael and Daniel’s tips to a lighter mind below:
This thing is a bible, for every-day use, not just for when you’re feeling grim. One of the founders, Andy Puddicombe, has a powerful way of using words sparingly and simply, that helped me embark on my journey with the practice of mindfulness from scratch 3 years ago. This app alone has made me realise that no matter what happens in our lives, there is always a place of calm that you can reach out and readily exist in with a bit of practice.
I did a bit of research one day on some good reads to dive into with regards to expanding my knowledge on mindfulness. For a book that concerns some deep thinking, it is explained with simple and eye-opening every day examples that I feel almost everyone could relate to. The kind of perspective one can gain on their lives from reading this book alone is pretty liberating, and is definitely a book that influenced my latest album.
Visiting places that make you feel insignificant, can leave you with lasting changes in perspective. While cooped up in the city, I often notice myself becoming quite upset and overwhelmed at things that are really nothing to worry about at all. Whether it’s a hike to a high vantage point, or a dive in the depths of the ocean, doing something that makes you feel small can put your everyday concerns into a much more rational view.
I talk to so many people who are afraid to journal because they believe “they can’t write”. You don’t need to write perfect poems, or meaningful things, it can be as easy as writing down how good you feel, how bad you feel, or maybe just what’s in front of you while you’re sitting in a passenger seat. Time spent in a journal is better than time spent on a screen for the mind, and once again will help you be aware of how your mind works, patterns of thought and also give you a little more space from your thoughts.
Sounds trivial and is often overlooked, but staying hydrated is an easy way to keep mental clarity high. Even being mildly dehydrated can affect your cognition, mood and overall well-being, so top yourself up and get into the waters.
When I started training for this cross Aus ride that I am currently on I started really focusing on what food I was putting in my body. I tried a plethora of different diets and really started to understand how different foods made me feel. When you move out of home it is easy to fall into the trap of takeaway food and washing it down with 10 beers every night without putting a thought into vitamins and minerals.
Discovering what food makes me function my best has been a bloody eye opener, so if you are feeling anxious, tired in the arvos or getting brain fog quite often, maybe try taking a look at what your putting into your body and changing it up a bit.
Setting a goal is great way to work toward something and justify to yourself that it is okay to say no to going out and getting blasted every night. Before I had this ride on the cards I wouldn’t have anything better to do than drink a beer, so I would. Now going for a ride or a run in preparation for my goal comes in as priority which is a way healthy choice for the mind and body.
I am still guilty of blowing this one out of the water from time to time, but there was a point in my life that I was drinking so much coffee I’d launch myself into an anxiety attack and not realise why. If you find yourself getting anxious after some brews maybe try dialling it back a bit or even cut it out all together.
Like Michael mentioned in his ‘visit places of large scale’ I think travel is essential to realising there’s a whole world outside of the bubble of the city you live in. There’s something so satisfying about returning back home after a big trip away and realising all those little things that you were concerned about before you left don’t actually matter.
Seems simple but this one has been the biggest help to me. A lot of people see fitness as something to improve your physique but for myself it has been all about improving my mental wellbeing. The improvements I have seen in my own mind simply from getting out there and getting the heart pumping has been unbelievable. I’ll swing this one back to ‘setting a goal’. If you struggle to find the motivation each week, sign yourself up to a half marathon or something similar later in the year, throw it on social media and tell your friends that you’re doing it. This will force you to train for it and get those healthy habits in motion!