Mental Health Over Matter: An Interview with Noah Chenevert

I recently got the opportunity to connect with Noah Chenevert, a mental health advocate and author of the recently published book “Mental Health Over Matter.” In this interview, we talked about the book, Noah’s approach to mental health, and his attitudes surrounding mental health in the current day and age. Thanks for taking the time, Noah!

The cover of Chenevert’s new book, “Mental Health Over Matter”

Congratulations on the recent publishing of your new book, Mental Health Over Matter! For those who haven’t read it, how would you describe this book?

Mental Health over Matter is a holistic book about the many areas influencing mental health. Nineteen experts demonstrate how individuals can stimulate their mental health in different areas such as exercise, sleep, and nutrition but also news, psychedelics, and sex.

What inspired you to write a book about mental health, and to have these thought-provoking conversations?

There are three major reasons why I decided to write this book:

  • Mental health is an extremely important topic and the number of people with mental health issues continues to increase. Many individuals need help but can’t (immediately) afford mental healthcare due to insufficient supply or budgetary constraints.
  • I found that a holistic view of mental health was missing. Good mental health is the sum of adequately incorporating many different practices. You can sleep and eat well, but your mental health will still suffer if you neglect other areas.
  • Improving my habits and lifestyle in these 19 areas has helped me/people around me the most. I wanted to share the wisdom, tools, and ideas of experts for everyone to learn from.
Noah Chenevert, author of the book "Mental Health Over Matter".
Noah Chenevert (photo via Chenevert)

Despite a change in attitude toward mental health in recent years, the mental health stigma still exists. Why do you think that is?

Although the overall attitude towards mental health does improve, the mental health stigma is unfortunately quite persistent. I have two explanations. First, many people still associate impaired mental health with ‘weakness,’ as if individuals (especially men) should always be strong. Depression or anxiety is not “sexy.” This often results from traditional beliefs which are fueled by toxic masculinity. Second, people still tend to underestimate the importance of mental health. If I break my arm, people can see that I’m injured. But when I would have severe anxiety or depression, it is more difficult for others to understand what I’m going through.

What is your approach to your own mental health?

At the end of my book, I identify nine overarching lessons that offer rules, attitudes, and guidelines you can adopt in your life to improve your mental health. Perhaps you will realize that you have already incorporated some of these lessons while others are new to you. (See attachment for the nine lessons)

What are the most important things that contribute to good mental health in your life?

I take a layered approach to mental health. The first layer consists of a good diet, sleep, and exercise. My mental health tends to suffer if I don’t pay enough attention to these three aspects.

The second layer is relationships/connections. A meta-analysis concluded that ‘the influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity’ and that ‘physicians, health professionals, educators, and the media should […] take social relationships as seriously as other risk factors that affect mortality. The third layer consists of other practices, such as going out in nature, mindfulness, and many other activities that have a good effect on your mental health.

If you could give one message about mental health and wellness, what would it be?

Focus on what works for you. Many people out there try to convince you that their way is “the magic solution.” But there is no uniform fix. What works for me might not work for you. And what works for me now might not work for me in a few years. We each must find our own way.

You can received more information about Noah’s book, “Mental Health Over Matter,” on his website.


The Challenges of Setting Goals

When it comes to living a mental healthy life, setting goals can be a good way to build a strong foundation. Whether your goals inspire massive change or a small shift, setting a goal is an opportunity. I’ll be honest – I don’t always take that opportunity. Achieving goals can be hard, but creating them can be difficult too. It’s hard to try and improve on something when you aren’t quite sure how to get there. So how can we get better at setting goals if the process can leave us so confused?

When I put forth an ambitious goal, there are immediately challenges that pop up before I can even begin. If I’m lucky, I know what I’m trying to do, but struggle in figuring out how to get there. More often, what happens is that not only are the steps toward achieving that goal vague, but so is the goal itself.

Balancing mental health can be challenging. Sometimes it can feel like we’re treading water, just trying to keep ourselves afloat. If your goal is to get from one day to the next (or sometimes from moment to moment) how can you improve outside of that? Regardless of how you tackle it, it’s hard work.

When all of this swirls around in my head, it usually leads to one thing: feeling overwhelmed. I lose train of my thoughts, or I have difficulty creating any original thoughts. My intrusive thoughts can take over, or I start to feel a pounding headache. I immediately feel the impact and know that I can’t move forward in that moment, which is very frustrating.There’s a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that I often think of in moments like this: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” And even when faith is an issue – faith in something else, or even faith in ourselves – that first step is vital. Improving our mental health doesn’t always happen by leaps and bounds. Most times, it happens one step at a time. Sometimes we know what the steps are along the way but other times, it’s a mystery.

But building a strong foundation means that a setback doesn’t always been a step back. Sometimes we’re just stuck on a particular step, trying to sort out what the next move is. I like to think of setting goals in the same way. I tend to get stuck on a lot of things (mental illness can do that to a person), but I’m tired of beating myself up over it. I don’t need to figure out what works for just anyone; I need to figure out what works best for me.

However you go about your goals this week, I hope you can keep these things in mind. You are unique and special in your own way, and that means your process might look different than someone else’s. In fact, it might look different than the way you’ve done it previously. That’s okay! Each of these moments is a chance to get to know yourself better, to learn and grow as a person. And I’ll try to take those moments as often as I can.

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." - Martin Luther King Jr.

The Drawbacks of Going on Autopilot

Last year, I wrote a blog post about the trouble with being in ‘autopilot’ mode when it comes to our mental health. At the time, my focus about being on autopilot came in terms of awareness and understanding. Rather than simply recognizing the what and where, I wanted to understand more about the why. In time, I’ve learned how to harness that focus to get things done even when I’m experiencing symptoms of mental illness. However, there are also drawbacks to this approach and today, I’d like to reflect on some of what I learned.

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Ten Ways to Try and Get Out Of Your Head

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about getting stuck in my head. Some days, I really wish I could get out of my head. I have so much going on in my brain, it can be exhausting trying to engage with it on a daily basis. This is easier said than done, of course, but I’d still like to have that option when possible. But even when we want to get out of our own heads, where do we start? What can we do? I did a little research, and I’d like to share what I learned.

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Taking Things Day By Day

When it comes to mental health, there are many cliched phrases I find myself gravitating toward to talk about health and wellness. I like to think of these phrases are things to turn to when my brain is tired, or I feel like I’ve been moving too fast and need to take a moment to reacclimate myself. One of the phrases I turn to often is a reminder: take things one day at a time. Over time, I’ve realized how important it is to take my mental health day by day – and how often, it’s what helps me get what I need.

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A Reminder About Healthy Foundations

Earlier this week, I wrote about how everything we do serves a purpose when it comes to our health and wellness. I focused on physical exercise and my therapy sessions, but it applies to all areas of life. Each activity can serve a different purpose, and each moment can help us in a different way. Today, I want to elaborate further on that point because something else needs to be shared along with it. In the same way everything serves a purpose, there’s not one thing we need to do that will “solve” our mental health. There’s no magical elixir that will solve all our issues. It may sound obvious but it’s often forgotten, which is why that’s the reminder I want to share in this post.

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Everything Serves A Purpose

I’ve written about it before, but the way different aspects of our health connect is fascinating to me. I often think about the connection between my physical health and mental health. To be honest, the main reason I focus on my physical health is because of the way it helps me manage my mental health. But today, I want to talk about the unique purpose that certain activities have. Everything serves a purpose when it comes to our wellness, and it’s important that we acknowledge that.

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How to Deal With Feeling Stagnant

Earlier this week, I wrote about feeling stagnant. Even though it’s pretty common and everyone experiences it at various points, I always find this feeling challenging to deal with. There’s a shock I experience that becomes more familiar every time it happens; it’s as though I’m surprised to be in this position again. Regardless of the circumstances of why I feel this way, there are many ways to deal with these feelings that could be helpful instead of harmful. Here are a few reminders for when you’re feeling stagnant, and what you can do about it!

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Introducing My New Project: Negative Thoughts, Positive Person!

Happy Thursday! Earlier this week, I mentioned I’m cooking up a few new projects as part of my attempt to grow into more of a mental health advocate and activist. One of the biggest reasons I want to get into a different type of space (don’t worry, MBNB isn’t going anywhere!) is that in the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve come to understand the power of conversation. The ability to share my story and my experience has been profoundly important to my mental health, and without that space to learn and grow, I wouldn’t be where I am today. That’s why I’m excited to announce that starting next month, I’m going to be sharing some of my broader thoughts and reflections in a new form – an email newsletter I’m calling Negative Thoughts, Positive Person.

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We All Deserve Nice Things

Today’s post might be short, but that’s because the message is simple. Over the weekend, I checked off one of the biggest things currently on my bucket list – I saw my favorite musical on Broadway. And even though it still makes me uneasy to gush on this blog about things I love (here’s hoping I can get more comfortable with that!), I want to share some thoughts about what came to mind when I’d realized I’d done something that made me incredibly happy.

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