Mental Health Champions: Why & How Gareth Dauncey of Mood Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

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Understand how I’m feeling over time — This is key and much easier now that I have Mood on my phone. I benefit from the insights of seeing long term patterns and perspective as well as the day-to-day views (I now know much earlier when to take more self-care).

As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Gareth Dauncey.

Gareth Dauncey is a Welsh architect specializing in low impact design and adaptive reuse of historic buildings. After years of spreading himself too thin, the stress of work and everyday life began to negatively impact his mental well-being. And that’s why he created Mood, a new mobile app that lets users track their mood with one tap a day.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in the coal mining valleys of South Wales. I was very lucky to have a loving family and good friends, with lots of freedom and outdoor space. There was a real sense of belonging to a place and knowing everybody that lived there.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address? We’re trying to help people be consciously aware of how they feel over time, in an easy, private and engaging way. To literally help a person ‘see how they feel with one tap a day’ and take charge of their mental well-being. This seems to be the missing foundation to achieve a more positive and healthy sense of mental and overall well-being. I also hope to create the standard way of visualizing how a person feels, which may in turn help to chip away at stigma by using easily understandable colored images instead of words.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I’d been depressed and anxious for several years but didn’t know how bad it had been or how long it had lasted. I tried a lot of things to turn it around, but eventually realized that I needed to actually see how I really felt over time to create a baseline and learn what was helping and what wasn’t. So I started using a calendar and colored pens to mark how I felt each day. I did this for about 18 months and it was the key to turning things around for many reasons. I showed the colored calendar to many people and found it was a common problem, but without a simple answer that would make it easy for people to do the same.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I’d joined a couple of online communities during the Covid lockdowns. One of these was called Frazzled Cafe that was set up by the comedian and mental health advocate Ruby Wax. After showing the calendar and pens at a Frazzled meeting, it was clear that it could also help other people, so I drew up the initial design of Mood and mocked it up on my phone. Ruby then asked if she could mention it in her latest book, “A Mindfulness Guide for Survival.” I said yes and was then duty-bound to try and make it real.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

The whole story. It only makes sense looking back, but it seems crazy how many independent dots had to join up to get to this point. For instance, I developed the app in collaboration with a close friend called Marco Murillo who lives in Austin and is design director at a boutique brand consultancy called Red & Co. But we first met at an event in a cowshed on the West Coast of Wales. And the Frazzled connection. I’d been an admirer of Ruby’s work for a long time, but was only able to attend a Frazzled meeting because it went virtual in response to the Covid lockdowns.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Marco and a friend called David Hieatt. I go in the sea most days with David who co-founded The Do Lectures and Hiut Denim, and I met Marco at an event called Breakthrough that David organized on his farm. Marco and I became friends and I started to help him with an architectural project. I eventually showed him my Mood mockups and he offered to help. This was the turning point, as I then became part of the Red & Co. team working on Mood. David wrote a lovely piece about the whole story on LinkedIn that you can read here.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

The whole topic is so badly understood that it’s often seen as something that’s equated to weakness or not being worthy of being taken seriously. From my perspective of being a self-employed architect, I was scared that talking openly about what I was going through would result in not being trusted as a safe pair of hands and work drying up. It’s not always the case, but I’m glad to say I was wrong on both counts.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

I’m not even sure the term mental illness is helpful, as for me it’s almost about learning to live with a mind in the world (I don’t know if I was ill as such or if it’s a natural result of living in modern Western society combined with knowing how that affects the rest of the world). But In terms of support, I found that there isn’t any. So a few good places to start would be school education as a part of learning about overall well-being, properly funded mental health services and to generally change the unbalanced way we live by investing in things that bring people and communities together instead of championing the individual.

What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Understand how I’m feeling over time — This is key and much easier now that I have Mood on my phone. I benefit from the insights of seeing long term patterns and perspective as well as the day-to-day views (I now know much earlier when to take more self-care).
  2. Stay connected to close family and friends — This is super important to me anyway, but was invaluable when I was ill. Even though I felt completely alone, it still helped to know that people close to me cared. And I will always be there to do the same.
  3. Spend as much time in the garden as possible growing veg and fruit — Very grounding and great in all sorts of ways. Closer to nature, very meditative, taking some responsibility for your own tasty and organic food (albeit in a small way), reducing carbon footprint, getting your hands dirty, the list goes on!
  4. Get in the sea as often as I can (daily if possible) — For me, this has a lot of common ground with growing veg, but with the added benefit of having a buddy system, which helps me do it all year round. It’s also very humbling being small in the sea in all weathers and the cold is a great tonic as well. It helps me keep a clear head and is like emptying a bucket of thinking each day.
  5. Read — To help myself, I tried to learn as much as I could about how my mind works and still continue to do so. I read a lot around religion, philosophy and self-help, but have found that the main learnings are similar across the board and could almost be summarized on one side of A4. I read a couple of the most helpful books continuously and just start again each time I finish (see below).

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Ruby Wax and Frazzled Cafe

The Hilarious World of Depression podcast (now titled Depresh Mode)

The Daily Stoic

The Happiness Trap

Matt Haig and anything he writes

If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

When you help others, you are not just helping them, but also yourself. I really like the idea that if everybody gives, then everybody receives. And to walk it as you talk it. That’s super important to me.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter, and Instagram for Mood.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Mental Health Champions: Why & How Gareth Dauncey of Mood Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.