Take on the ‘CAN DO’ challenge for Men’s Health Week

Luke James
Group Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Director of Healthcare Transformation
17 June 2021
Next review due June 2024

It’s Men’s Health Week (14 – 20 June) and the focus this year is around how to move forward. What you can do to support your mental wellbeing after a very challenging year.

The ‘CAN DO’ challenge is about finding ways to proactively improve your mental health by using the Five Ways to Wellbeing framework. Here, five men share ways their wellbeing has improved because of actions they’ve taken.

two men looking at a laptop


Chris joined a pub quiz to stay connected during lockdown

“During lockdown, I started to do a weekly pub quiz with some friends. It gave me a good structure for both speaking to people on a regular basis and having something to talk about. It made me feel much better.”

Evidence shows that feeling connected to other people and feeling valued by them is key for your wellbeing. This is why so many of us found lockdown and social restrictions so mentally challenging.

There’s even evidence to show that feeling connected can help you:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • control blood sugars
  • reduce depressive symptoms

The past year or so has really highlighted the importance of connection. We had to adapt to keeping in touch with loved ones via video or phone calls, and find new ways to work and exercise.

As you get to connect more with people and get back to doing the things you love, take a moment to appreciate them. Be present in the moment with those around you. Saviour those positive feelings and emotions you have during that time. 

Be active

Alex walks in the countryside to support his mental health

“I find keeping active really beneficial for my mental health. I’m happiest when I’m outdoors – I’m not a runner, but I really enjoy walking with my partner and our dog on my days off. We’re lucky to live in the countryside, so there’s plenty of nature on our doorstep.

“I’ve worked outside for many years, so I prefer not to walk when the weather is wet. But the dog is a great motivator for throwing on a waterproof and getting out for some fresh air!”

Exercising regularly and keeping active does wonders for both your body and mind. Since the start of the pandemic, many of us have had to adapt how and where we exercise or find different ways to keep active.

But it’s not just about doing a home workout and going for a run. Walking, cycling, playing outside with your children and gardening are all ways great to get your blood pumping and boost your mood.

two men playing wheelchair basketball 

Take notice

Graham noticed birds and birdsong during lockdown

“During lockdown, I started to take more notice of birds singing while out walking. I became curious about identifying different types of bird, which is something I’ve never been remotely interested in before!

“I bought a book on birds and started paying more attention. Now, when I'm out and about, I'll often take notice of the birds around me and spend moments marvelling at them.

“I have a young daughter and life can be a bit stressful sometimes, as it is for many parents! Looking out for birds is a simple way to fit a few mindful moments into my day. Our daughter enjoys looking out for the birds too!”

Becoming present in the moment and noticing your surroundings can enhance your wellbeing and help you to feel calmer.

Enjoy moments of mindfulness by tuning into your senses and become aware of what’s around you. This may be sounds, such as birdsong, smells, such as damp earth underfoot, or what you can see, such as trees, flowers, or wildlife.

A man pruning flowers 


Ben wants to learn more about being ‘outdoorsy’

“I’m currently learning about trekking, which involves camping and map reading. I’m going to Scotland to walk the West Highland way and I’ll be camping some of the time. I don’t have a clue about any of that, so it’s my mission to learn as much as possible before I go!”

Learning new skills can enhance your self-esteem, reduce symptoms of depression, and encourage a more active life.

Goal setting especially is strongly linked to higher levels of wellbeing, which is often part of adult learning.

You don’t have to take a formal course or master a complex skill to get the benefits of continued learning. Here are some simple, easy-to-access ideas.

  • Read a book. Simply pick a topic of interest and find a quiet spot.
  • Learn about tree and plant types (this will connect you to nature, which is also great for your wellbeing).
  • Do a crossword or Sudoku.
  • Explore the history of your local area.
  • Sign up to an online course or seminar.
  • Try your hand at a new sport.


Seb made use of furlough to start volunteering

“When I was furloughed last year, I suddenly had a lot of spare time on my hands. I became a driver for a local farm shop, who offered a grocery delivery service. As someone who lived alone at the time, it gave my day structure, but also a purpose by helping others.

“I definitely ended my day with a warm feeling inside, knowing I’d helped people in my community who were classed as vulnerable or elderly. I plan to continue volunteering when I have the time, and am keeping in touch with community projects.”

Giving and acts of kindness can help you feel good, as well as connected to others. Research shows that volunteering can have a positive effect on your mental health. It can enhance life satisfaction and wellbeing, and even help manage depression.

If time constraints or family commitments mean you can’t formally volunteer, here are some simple ideas how to give.

  • Do something nice for your partner, housemate or friend. Buy them a small gift, cook for them or run an errand to help them out.
  • Check in with your neighbours to see how they are. If they’re elderly, ask if they need a hand with anything.
  • Get involved with local fund-raising activities to give back to your community.
  • Give a friend or family member some time. Call them for a chat or go for a walk to catch up.

two men cooking at home 

In general, the CAN DO challenge, is about looking forward; thinking about where you want to go and ways to support your wellbeing in the process. I’ll finish with a quote I really like: “Let go of what’s gone, be grateful for what remains and look forward to what is coming.”

If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. You’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Luke James
Dr Luke James
Group Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Director of Healthcare Transformation

    • Five ways to wellbeing. Mind., accessed 15 June 2021
    • Five ways to mental wellbeing. Government Office for Science. GOV UK., published 22 October 2008
    • The CAN DO challenge. Men’s Health Forum., accessed 15 June 2021
    • Martino J, Pegg J, Frates EP. The connection prescription: using the power of social Interactions and the deep desire for connectedness to empower health and wellness. Am J Lifestyle Med 2017; 11(6):466–75. doi:10.1177/1559827615608788
    • Physical activity guidelines: UK Chief Medical Officers' report. GOV.UK., published 7 September 2019
    • Franco LS, Shanahan DF, Fuller RA. A review of the benefits of nature experiences: more than meets the eye. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2017;14(8): 864. doi:10.3390/ijerph14080864
    • Bailey RR. Goal setting and action planning for health behavior change. Am J Lifestyle Med 2019; 13(6):615–18. doi:10.1177/1559827617729634
    • Yeung JWK, Zhang Z, Kim TY. Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms. BMC Public Health 2018; 18(1):8. doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4561-8

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