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Habits are harder to build than you think: Four habits for improved mental health

  • Written by Tess Sanders Lazarus

When Gary Fahey became a household name as a competitor on Channel 7’s SAS Australia in 2021, he was already used to being in the limelight. Fahey was part of the Australian Federal Police for 18 years and his illustrious career in the police force saw his career grow from strength to strength: from running and organising national and international operations, to leading the Australian Prime Minister’s Protection Team, to managing the Office of Commissioner as the Executive Officer.

Fahey, however, suffered a public fall from grace, after gambling away $2 million and charging $45,000 to his corporate credit card. The root cause of it all? Stress and a major depressive disorder. Fahey has now turned his life around with a Master of Brain and Mind Sciences and a new consultancy company, Strong Men’d, focused on helping men to understand the causes and effects of their stress loads, and channel them towards building success in their personal lives and careers.

Men are brought up to be tough, strong and stoic and to succeed. But the reality is that being all of these things, all of the time, is not only impossible, it isn’t right. Men walk around with emotional body shields on, trying to hide their emotions, when in fact, they should be showing and sharing them,” Fahey said.

It is not hard to see why men start to break inside and feel ashamed and worthless when they can’t keep up the façade. This is what happened to me. I fell into a deep spiral of despair, depression and anxiety and started acting out to try and save myself and my family.

All I did was destroy myself. I am not alone. Men across the world have been suffering from the same issues all their lives, to varying degrees. The problem is, the higher you get in life, the further you have to fall. I discovered this, and it was hard.

Now I help men to understand that you can succeed and be happy in life, but you have to do it in a real and authentic way. If you want to be happy, healthy and successful, you need to be yourself and put some habits in place that will support you to get to where you want to be.

Developing good habits is harder than you think. In fact, it is the reason why most people fail in their endeavours, because they don’t put the mechanisms and infrastructure in place to support themselves to succeed.”

According to Fahey, there are four key habits that all men must build.

  1. Eat well

I know this sounds straight forward, but the body needs energy and nourishment in order to operate at optimum levels, and nutrition is often overlooked as a contributor to mental health” Fahey said.

Eat dark leafy greens, good fish like salmon and minimise your intake of processed foods. Try and cut out as much sugar and salt as possible and add a good quality multivitamin to your daily diet regime. Good mental health is supported by a healthy diet. Science shows that whole foods rich in goodness support improved overall health and wellness including mental health.”

  1. Have a cold shower every morning

Have a cold shower every morning as soon as you get up. Having a cold shower every day imposes a small amount of stress on your body which helps your nervous system to get used to dealing with moderate levels of stress. In addition, doing something hard improves your will power, and ability to deal with discomfort, an important element to manage the stresses life throws at you,” Fahey said.

Cold showers come with a number of physiological benefits. There’s no doubt they wake you up, fast, and increase your level of alertness, but the flow on is an improvement in concentration and focus for prolonged periods of the day. They also help to reduce the levels of CO2 in the body through an increase in breath rate, while activating an increase in white blood cells, the body’s natural disease fighting armoury.

Cold showers also increase your metabolic rate and stimulate the activation of brown fat. Brown fat is a particular type of fat tissue that in turn generates energy by burning calories. So, they are useful in helping you lose weight as well.”

  1. Exercise

Exercise is essential for good mental health. People who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing, and lower rates of mental illness. Exercise is important as it not only boosts our mood, concentration and alertness, it also improves our cardiovascular and overall physical health,“ Fahey said.

A recent study out of the University of South Australia suggests that exercise was 1.5 times more effective in treating mental health conditions than medication or therapy.”

  1. Deep breathing

People talk a lot about relaxation and meditation, but the key underlying mechanism involves controlled breathing. Breathing deeply with longer exhales is known to help support psychological relief and reduce stress. So try consciously breathing for five minutes a day every day,” Fahey said.

Recent studies have found ‘physiological sighing’ as more effective for stress relief than other common breathing techniques or meditation. Find a quiet spot somewhere in the house, and a comfortable chair. Sit in it for five minutes and breath. Take one big breath in over a second, followed by a quick sharp extra breath to top up. Then exhale deeply. Keep repeating this pattern for five minutes.

As a practise, this breathing exercise can improve your overall stress management, but deployed tactically it can also immediately reduce your stress levels and your blood pressure when you are in a heightened state.”

According to Fahey, while having good habits is important, the hardest element of building good habits is the actual building process.

Habits are things that we do on a consistent basis, but everyone seems to think that habits are easy to build and maintain. The fact is they are not, which is why most people fail at their New Year’s Eve resolutions within days, he said.

Building and maintaining a habit requires commitment and a systematic approach to their management and compliance. You need to be accountable to yourself and ensure you have processes in place to keep yourself on track.

I have developed a journal I call the Fourplay Focus Journal, which I provide to my clients and the community for free. It is a tool that I have personally used and continue to use not only to help me achieve my goals, but to find an inner peace and create an environment that supports positive change in my life.

To create and maintain good habits, we need a system to keep ourselves accountable and on track every day no matter what, otherwise, we won’t achieve the change we want to see in our life.”

About Strong Men’d

Founded by Gary Fahey and offering a national service, Strong Men’d offers men in high profile, high pressure, high stress situations who need support navigating the mental health issues that may arise as a result of the pressure and stress of their careers. Through coaching and counselling (and if necessary, crisis intervention), Fahey helps clients through programs aimed at helping men understand what their experiencing and how to begin the process of moving forward by implementing strategies for success and accountability.

Key initiatives by Strong Men’d

Strong Men’d offers two key initiatives. Firstly, an online course and group coaching model that will help executives access the systems and strategies that Fahey has developed and implemented.

The purpose of this course is to help men understand what they’re experiencing and how to unlock the mechanics of the process of moving forward.

The second initiative revolves around crisis intervention for high performance, high pressure and/or high profile individuals who have either experienced, or are on the cusp of a serious life changing issue or dramatic fall from grace.

This initiative helps men to understand the root cause of their issues, what’s at risk, and through a ‘tactical trouble-shooter’, stop offending behaviours as quickly as possible. Both programs are designed with deep scale strategies to provide greater confidence in long term lasting success.



Please contact Tess Sanders Lazarus for further information and interview opportunities.

Tess Sanders Lazarus

Chief Publicist

Invigorate PR

P: 0432 978 174



Invigorate PR is a full service boutique public relations company that works with idea champions and businesses of all sizes throughout Australia and across the world. We are what PR should be!


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