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Common wishes for increasing your mental health



During the coronavirus pandemic, Common, the Oscar-winning songwriter, rapper, and activist, saw the news and he didn’t like what he saw: fear-based conversation and division. In the meantime, he worked hard to renew himself and stay in good mental space. “I understand that some people feel the weight of the moment, but I also thought: What are the things that help me have a positive attitude to say? Spirituality, fitness, eating healthy meals consistently, and I meditated more than ever, ”he said.

This resulted in Com & Well, a new 6-episode You Tube series that features lessons from people he relies on to support his own physical and mental fitness. I met with Common to discuss how he began taking care of his mental and physical well-being, and his hopes of helping you with that, too.

Take the first healthy steps

Gregory Brown: What inspired you on your own wellness journey?

Common: I was like 22 years old and people exposed me to a healthy lifestyle. To be with my brothers who were Muslim and non-pork eaters who said you shouldn̵

7;t eat pork; it’s not good for you to be with enough people who said to me, hey man, there is a better way to live. Then I made the decision to stop eating beef. Strangely enough, KRS-One had a song called “Beef” (laughs), so I would like to thank KRS as well. What our communities need are people to connect with and see themselves in so that lifestyle doesn’t feel so strange.

GB: I’m black, so I know that jokes and setbacks can sometimes arise even in our own family, especially when discussing being vegan or vegetarian. Did you come across any of this?

C.: (Laughs) Oh man. When I first came to my family and talked about being a vegetarian, they were still trying to push some turkey or beef or pork even into the greens. My mother, what about “what are you doing?” But you have to understand that part of the way they want to show love is cooking just for you, and they cook what they know is good. It takes time and that’s one thing I want to tell people. It’s a process. I’m not saying everyone has to be a vegetarian, but it’s about paying attention to your diet, seeing what’s clean, and how your body feels. Now my mother cooks vegetarian food that is incredibly good.

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GB: When you changed your diet, did your mind feel different?

C.: 100%. I knew myself better. I felt stronger in my head, clearer. I felt like I was better at making decisions and I am a Pisces so I am very undecided. I felt like I could see things from a higher level. I really started to eat healthier because I wanted to feel better. When I changed my diet I felt it, man.

GB: Wellness is personal to both of us. In addition to being a psychiatrist, I have overcome depression and believe that developing a yoga practice has played an important role in my own recovery.

C.: Much like you, I had a very difficult time in my life and a woman in my acting class took me to yoga and it was a healing for me. It felt a little hard at first and I was cynical, but I hurt and was open to anything that could help. I started opening up in yoga class and when the class was done I sweated away the pain and felt new. The problems obviously didn’t go away forever, but in that moment I felt good and I took that moment and moved away from there.

Why it is so important to stay tuned now

GB: We live in a time of civil unrest. How can we stay in the fight for racial justice while maintaining our sanity?

C.: Mental health is essential to social change and racial justice. If we don’t care about our minds, then how can we go out and be full for the movement? It can actually weigh you down whether you are an activist or not. Personally, I have my therapy sessions and I feel better – I have to do this for myself so I can go out and do what I have to do for the world. Part of making the world a better place is making yourself better. Self-care is part of the fight for racial justice.

GB: What keeps you awake, inspired, and hopeful?

C.: I believe that God’s vision for us is to lead happy lives. When I know that, I’m always hopeful. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the pain, disappointment, and anger. One of the things I try to deal with is a food analogy. I put good things in my body, I don’t keep digesting things like: The world is ending. I don’t say these things because our words have power. You also need to take steps towards happiness, joy or healing, which means you need to find yoga and you need to find meditation and exercise, and healthier food and scriptures or mantras.

GB: How should the lasting effect of Com & Well be?

C.: I hope that some young children who are feeling stressed will find something in their diet or try to eat more fish and vegetables. Or a Latino kid, or even a poor white or black kid in a town in this country, would say, man, I could think about meditating. I want Com & Well to have the kind of effect on others that KRS has had on me.

This interview has been edited for clarity and style

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