The changes in my life that eventually led to my recovery from severe depression and then creating Hospro, actually first began with fitness and exercise.
I’d realised that the photos and videos that I’d been taking drunkenly telling myself how much I hated what I saw, were a sign that my physical appearance, self-confidence and my physical health were negatively affecting my mental health.
I also though realised that these were all things that I had complete control over and could positively influence through lifestyle lifestyle changes. This one decision to change this area of my life led to several other big changes in my life and led me to be here today.
In saying this, regular exercise is something that I did struggle to maintain for most of my hospitality career and is something I feel is strangely a little bit stigmatised within the industry. If you hit the gym before work or instead of the pub after, at least in a lot of places I worked, you were given shit.
When you then add in the time, money and accessibility constraints, it becomes even less desirable and just ceases to be a priority in the hospitality lifestyle. And maybe I just worked with the wrong people, but these were highly regarded venues on both sides of the world.
It took me far too long to realise that we’re only given one body in our lives – so what’s so uncool about wanting to take care of it?
It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks – it is literally the most valuable thing we own.
I could not stress how important exercise has become in my life, and it’s not about superficial things like having the perfect body or getting the guns out – I do it because I enjoy it, it makes me feel good and it maintains my mental health and routine. The body wants to move, the endorphins want to flow.
being healthy makes me feel healthy and feeling healthy makes me feel good.
The benefits from physical exercise on mental health are so incredibly vast and the best part is that you really do not need to be destroying yourself in the gym each day to reap the benefits. Brisk walks, yoga, stretching each day will do just the trick if gyms and running is not your cup of tea. The key is to keep the body moving.
On top of the obvious physical benefits, engaging in physical activity for as little as 120 minutes each week is associated with a 63% reduced risk of developing depression as opposed to those who are sedentary. Habitual or regular exercise is shown to also protect against the development of new depressive illnesses.
It’s shown to influence serotonin transporters, serotonin receptors and serotonin availability (literally the things that help make us feel happy), as well as reducing stress and things like inflammation and oxidative stress.
If you made me choose between the long term effects of exercise against the long term effects of drinking, smoking, poor diet and recreational drug use (or even just one of these) – I know which one I’m choosing every single time.
But adding some physical activity into your life does not mean giving up your social life or being at the pub – it’s not about being an athlete, it’s about balance and self-improvement.
Exercise and the hospitality doesn’t need to be an all or nothing equation, you don’t need to give up your social life to be healthy but you also don’t need to give up your physical and mental health to excel professionally and socially in the industry.
So here’s a simple method that worked for me in terms of exercise – set goals and prioritise.
Sounds easy right? These goals though need to be achievable, they need to be important and most of all, they need to be something you actually really really want to achieve. The goals don’t need to be big, it’s actually better if they’re small at first – the satisfaction of achieving goals is addictive.
Write these goals down, set out a plan and remember your ‘why’ – make that fucker real.
Now when you go about your days, remember these goals and prioritise.
To achieve these goals do you need to put a little more focus on your diet? On your sleep? On when you wake up? On your routine? On your after-work activities?
If you finish work with the idea in your head that tomorrow you need to run 10k to continue your training for your first ever half-marathon in 6 weeks, you’re less likely to head out till 3 am and sink 10 pints. You may still go out and have two, but that’s fine – this isn’t about turning the industry into health fanatics.