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My Formula: Cooper Chapman on building mental resilience
We speak to Cooper Chapman, professional surfer and founder of The Good Human Factory, on our ability to change the world through positivity, kindness and redefining success.
In late 2018, professional surfer Cooper Chapman realised something needed to change. Having lost people in his family and wider social circle to suicide, he experienced the effects of the global mental crisis first-hand and felt compelled to do something about it.
In his native country Australia, 2000 people died by suicide in 2019 alone. Currently, this is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44. His organisation The Good Human Factory raises awareness of mental health by looking to inspire a positive and balanced life by focusing on gratitude, mindfulness, values, kindness and empathy.
Empowering his audiences on social media, in schools and in workplaces to build mental resilience and find happiness, The Good Human Factory offers workshops and shared experiences that teach the tools to continually grow and improve quality of life.
What is your inspiration behind The Good Human Factory?
The driving factor was when my sister lost two friends to suicide in her last year of high school. That combined with losing an uncle to suicide when I was 10 and watching my dad suffer from depression a lot of my childhood led me to be aware of and take care of my mental health from a young age.
What is your personal experience with mental health?
Because I have taken it upon myself to look after my mental health, I believe I have a quite balanced mind. I definitely have my good and bad days like everybody else but I have various techniques I use to bring me back to the healthy side of the mental health spectrum.
What impact does surfing have on your mental health?
Surfing has given me everything! From a career, to travelling around the world, to just having an escape when the world on dry land gets too much. Every time I enter the surf, it puts me into a calm state—the ocean has some very magical qualities.
How do the mental resilience workshops work and how did you develop these?
I believe there's no perfect solution when it comes to mental health. Everybody is different and needs to explore ways to maintain good mental well-being. My workshops share my experiences and the skills and techniques I use daily to stay in a good mindset.
How long does it take to build mental resilience?
It’s infinite. There’s no timeline for resilience, we are all constantly growing and changing. Resilience is the ability to adapt to situations and overcome them. This can be done through experience, and also courage. Being courageous allows us to step out of our comfort zone and realise how much potential we truly have as humans.
What do you think we can do to nurture our mental health during this pandemic?
I think making sure we check in with how we are feeling at least once a week is important. And if we aren't feeling our happy selves, we need to do something about it. Inaction won’t create change. We need to take positive action to make ourselves feel better, whether it be a walk in nature, a meditation session, journaling or calling a friend. And also not being scared to seek professional help; I work with my psychologist weekly!
How can we teach the fundamentals of mental health to children and why is it important early on in life?
I think storytelling and sharing our experiences is how I learn best. I want to inspire students to take action. I think if we can educate children on how important working on our mental health is, we can make a change. Mental health is just as, if not more important than physical health and I think it's time we start to educate around that.
The Good Human Factory doesn’t just focus on managing mental disorders, but actively encourages happiness and positivity. Where did that objective come from?
I believe everybody has the right to be happy. My definition of success is happiness. The more people I can inspire to chase those special moments in life rather than material things the better. And positivity and kindness is the key to changing the world. It's so easy to be kind to people and it costs nothing yet we forget so easily. I think we need to promote this more as its a great way to not only help out our own mental health but also others.
How do surfing and your work for The Good Human Factory compare in terms of challenges and satisfaction?
Definitely different! Both still bring me so much joy; surfing is very personal and competitive which I love but my mental health work brings me into a whole new world. I love being an entrepreneur and being creative daily, and getting messages from people saying I’ve saved their life or had a positive effect on their child struggling with some mental health issues is the most fulfilling thing in the world.
What are the best tips you’ve learnt from others?
I love reading biographies and learning about the different challenges that everybody faces, especially people who are very successful. The tips that continue to work for me are meditation, gratitude and being strong and seeking help when I need it.