Healthy lifestyle, healthy mind: the link between mental & physical health.

It’s no secret that an unhealthy lifestyle can undermine our mental and physical health, and whilst my lifestyle isn’t the primary cause of my chronic illness, I think it’s important to consider a more holistic approach to recovery alongside medical care and medication.

As part of a series of blog posts exploring coping mechanisms, I caught up with good friend Dave Howlett to find out how he maintains good physical and mental health through exercise and diet. Dave is a motivational key note speaker and founder of the Real Human Being philosophy.

I was introduced to Dave Howlett through a debate on a thread on Facebook. He liked the way I could disagree with someone but still keep a sensible debate going. We became Facebook friends and I instantly loved his ethos and the way his posts brightened up my feed.

Dave lives in Ontario, Canada, but has connections from all over the world. Through the delivery of his keynote speeches and networking, Dave has built up a community of likeminded people all with a wealth of different skills and experiences.

So what is RHB?

Dave is the founder of a movement called Real Human Being, or RHB for short. RHB is an ethos consisting of different intentions or ‘gears.’

For example;

The gears applied to a doorway

1st gear (narrow self interest) – you walk through the door and let it slam in the face of the person behind you

2nd gear (extrinsic reward) – you open the door and let the person behind you walk through it, but they have to show appreciation, otherwise you get upset and go back to 1st gear.

3rd gear (intrinsic reward) – you open the door and let the person behind you walk through it. If they say thank-you, you’re pleased. If they say nothing, it doesn’t upset you. This is because you opened the door because that’s your character. Any appreciation from others is a after-effect, not an expectation.

Recently Dave along with his beautiful wife Barbara, launched a new Lifestyle page to promote RHB, and I’m already a huge fan. For me, people like Dave and Barbara help a lot to break those negative patterns in my thinking. Having a mental illness means I’m often irrational, and sometimes very negative when I’m depressed. Having RHB lifestyle on my feed helps me retune when I’m out of key, and perk up my feed with a bit of positivity and encouragement.

In one my previous posts I mentioned Dave and Barbara were taking part in the IronMan 2018 competition in Austria. IronMan is a gruelling triathlon and not for the faint hearted. With the big day looming, the pair have thrown themselves into training. I caught up with Dave to see how that was going and to get his advice on keeping positive when your struggling with your mental health.

So Dave, this isn’t your first Iron Man is it?

No, Barbara and I started doing them a number of years ago, This will be our 20th Ironman (combined) race.

Wow. How do you find the motivation to commit to something like that? Do you have to be strict on yourself?

Barbara and I make a good team. I’m the “reach for the stars – we can do it!” big picture kind of thinker and she’s the “we need to put together a schedule” kind of thinker.  It’s been our experience that most people can do much more than they think they are capable of. They just need to have a combination of passion, strategy and a support team.

What made you think ‘I can do this’?

When Barbara and I first met, I was 35 and she was 29. I suggested we started doing things together, I was thinking of movies and restaurants. Barbara declared, “I’ve always wanted to run a marathon!” So it was a series of baby steps that led us to where we are today.

They say healthy body, healthy mind. Has exercise had a positive impact on your mental health?

Absolutely. I’m 59 years old and many folks my age are starting to suffer from complications due to poor health. Many of these problems are from bad lifestyle choices (nutrition, exercise, stress etc)  Both Barbara and I find that  we always feel mentally better when we move our bodies. I do know that there have been many scientific studies that demonstrate regular exercise helps moderate the mind. For example, my grandmother, who emigrated from England to Canada after the war, suffered from PTSD as well as depression. She used to receive electro-shock therapy to help her with her depression. I’m fortunate that I don’t seem to have depression but I do know that I definitely feel mentally stronger when I eat right and when my body is moving.

It hasn’t just exercise that has helped you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you’ve also been trying a new plant based diet – how is that going? Have you seen results?

About 6 months ago, we decided to eliminate all animal-based products from our nutrition. Frankly, we were almost there as we hadn’t eaten red meat for years and Barbara was lactose intolerant so we had very little dairy products in our diet. The switch to veganism has been pretty rewarding. Barbara used to have frequent bloating and cramps as well as pain in her fingers and wrists. Since we went plant-powered, all those symptoms have disappeared.

We also find that our meals are much more varied and because we try to stick to a whole plant diet (not processed), we don’t really have to measure food or count calories. Some folks tell us they could never go plant-powered as they’d miss things like cheese or ice-cream or steak.  I understand that, I was a big fan of those products as well.

But it’s interesting how your tastes adapt. Besides, dad developed diabetes when he was my age and I don’t want to go down the same path. I’m likely in the best shape of my life now. So, the goal of our new real Human Being lifestyle page will be to help people become the best version of themselves for life.

What are your top tips for self care? Or for anyone embarking on a lifestyle change?

I’ve found that if you want to make a change, go for the baby steps. Think about trying one day without animal products. There are lots of websites out there for people who want to try plant nutrition. Regarding self-care, I think it’s important to enlist what I call an accountability buddy. Find someone who has similar goals: exercise a little more, eat a little better, perhaps be a little kinder. The journey is a lot easier if you have a mate or two on the path with you.

Tell me more about RHB lifestyle! What can we expect from RHB in the future?

The RHB Lifestyle page will have four pillars: Wellness, Life/Work, Travel and Growth. We will be posting content about all these subjects, all underlined by RHB values (try to be in 3rd gear, an amazing person.) We will also be looking for content from people who like the idea of the RHB gears and who have some perspective or knowledge in some of these 4 pillars.  Any of your readers who want to know more can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or be part of our mailing list.

Thanks Dave!

So there you have it, proof that anything is possible with the right attitude and a healthy lifestyle. Not content with competing in one of the toughest competitions there is, Dave has set himself yet another challenge! For his 59th birthday he has pledged to swim, run and cycle for 59 minutes each. All he’s asking for in return is that you donate $59 or pledge 59 minutes of your time to your favourite cause. You can find out more here about how to sponsor Dave.

And if like me you want a bit of positivity and motivation on your newsfeed, then you can follow Dave and Barbara on their new venture by following them on their social media sites:



Twitter @RHBDaveHowlett

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