Total Health: Gunter Swoboda of Swoboda and Associates On How We Can Optimize Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
Published in
16 min readOct 24, 2022


Be consistent and persistent in exercise and relaxation practices. An easy way to do this is to establish ritual around what you are trying to achieve. Simplest approach is to pick a time for exercise and relaxation that is locked into your schedule.

Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally, or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gunter Swoboda.

Gunter holds over 30 years’ experience as a psychologist. His passionate perspectives and scrutinies on what make human beings thrive allows him to develop relationships with people to ignite their aspirations. Gunter is exceptional in facilitating outcomes in learning, productivity, and communication by providing a safe environment with unobtrusive assistance and guidance wherein participants experience the flow between content and context. Swoboda is the creator of the Making Good Men Great movement which gained attention of BuzzFeed and Oprah. Swoboda is the author of Surfing the New Wave of Masculinity available in stores and online everywhere. He is the writer/producer on the social documentary Masculinity That Inspires Change on Amazon Prime and Host of Inspire Change on iHeartRadio.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My family migrated to Australia from Austria when I was twelve years old. I fell in love with the ocean and the land. Because I had to learn English, I wasn’t a very good student initially and focused more on surfing, music, and girls. I ended up working in a bank for two years which really didn’t suit me or the Bank too well. Because I felt stuck, I was open to taking a day off and going with a friend to his university lecture in first year Psychology. In ten minutes, he was asleep, and I was hooked. Unfortunately, I could not attend because I had no entrance qualifications. I ended up doing my SAT equivalent studies of two years in one. It was a struggle but worthwhile.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

At the beginning of University, I met my wife and soulmate. She and I have shared a lifetime of love and adventures, including sharing our passion for our work in philosophy, gender studies and psychotherapy. Most recently, we have become partners in crime in co-writing fiction. More importantly, my wife is an essential part of the Making Good Men Great faculty. We have focused that our integrity of living our values is a true measure of practicing what we teach.

It is part of our commitment to helping men and women work together in a non-patriarchal way. Recently we finished our first collaborative work that is now with the editors. The beautiful thing was how easy it was to do, when we stuck to all the principles that support a good relationship and teamwork.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Without a shadow ion doubt it must be my wife. As I said above, she was the person that had me commit to my career. The first year of university was a challenge mainly because I wasn’t yet disciplined enough to focus as I needed to. So, surfing often competed with lectures. This was not good for my academic grades. My wife basically taught me to see University as a job that you do 9 to 5. I was a bit resistant at first but then got on a roll. The rest is history.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you during your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

The first day of university was enrollment day. When I handed my academic program to the advisor, she looked at it and asked, “Are you doing a Psych major?” ‘Yes,” I replied, puzzled. “Well, you can’t be. You have not included the required Stats courses.’ I was shattered. I was always bad at mathematics, and Statistics seemed worse than Math. Fortunately, the course convener assured me that they have many students in the same frame of mind, and they help them through. I subsequently revised my program accordingly. The takeaway for me was not to panic, ask for help, and with enough determination, most of the time, we can succeed. It’s mostly about attitude and discipline. The other lesson was read the fine print.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are two books, although I couldn’t count all the numerous books that have influenced my thinking and work. However, the first one was Viktor Frankl Man’s search for meaning, and the other was Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. Both books laid the foundation of resilience for me. To me, it was not about being happy but ‘anti-fragile’ or resilient.

Frankl ultimately suggests that life is not a quest for pleasure but meaning. We can discover meaning in life in 3 ways: by creating a work or doing a deed; by experiencing something or encountering someone; by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism presented me with several core ideas and attitudes. That is to live every day as if it were my last; failure is natural, regret is foolish; focus on the small things; check my ego; focus on what you can change and don’t worry about the things you can’t.

These two books have had an enormous influence on me as a person and as a psychotherapist. In my framework being authentic as a therapist, that is being aligned as both a person and therapist is essential for my own sanity but also to be of service to my client or clients. It is also at the very core of Making Good Men Great. Each time I work with a man I bring myself to the meeting. This requires integrity to be aligned in my purpose.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger”. Remember that, like most things in life, getting strength from adversity is a choice. It is your decision to see the value of adversity in the face of a chaotic universe; that is what is outside of me and what I do not have influence or control over. Ultimately, you can choose what you do with what comes your way in life. This ties in with the lessons of Frankl and Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic philosophers.

I’ve recently had to have a shoulder replacement. I had managed to get to my sixties with no broken bones or any type of surgery. So, I was somewhat apprehensive. But I got through it better than I thought I would in managing the pain and the rehab. Most importantly, it taught me personally to be patient with myself.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

We continue to be hampered by patriarchal values that are ultimately destructive because they disregard fundamental human needs. To that effect, I am encouraging people to challenge and deconstruct patriarchy. As a result, we can shift away from the ideology of exceptionalism, privilege and power to a place that is inclusive, respectful, and cooperative rather than competitive.

My program is called ‘Making Good Men Great for a reason. It is to help men to realize that they have bought into a toxic ideology that is killing them and others. Ultimately, I want this to carry into being a movement. A movement like this requires everyone to engage in their growth as a human being and their own evolution. We can then begin to engage in a process that engages social change. Men need to come to terms with the realization that patriarchy has objectified them and others. In such a relationship there can be no true intimacy, only relationship that are transactional. Once we have unchained ourselves from patriarchy, we are then able to focus on our humanity rather than on our gender.

In line with the program, I am also working on my podcast, Inspire Change with Gunter. I’m looking to literally inspire my listeners to reflect on themselves and how they conduct their lives in a simple and reasonable manner so that they can thrive and not simply struggle with surviving in this often-toxic world we have created. Again, the core idea is that we change our beliefs to reflect what good science tells us, and how live in an ethical and moral way. This requires that we deconstruct Patriarchy and its operational arm, neo-liberalism. Both these ideologies have created an enormous harm to people and societies.

We need to create more inclusive and respect relationships and appreciate that we are not all the same. I don’t want to be a McDonald’s Hamburger or a bad reality TV show.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives: Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Let me put this in order of how it can be practically applied and lead to good habits for living well. You need to remember that a sound mind requires a well body and healthy relationships. The foundation is to provide the body what it needs: healthy sleep, exercise, relaxation, and healthy nutrition.

Mental wellness comes from three sources. A healthy attachment to Self, a logical and rational mind and emotional maturity. Emotional maturity means that you are flexible, adaptive, and resilient. This allows a greater degree of emotional regulation. This includes emotional wellness. If I want to be more precise mental wellbeing is about my inner cognitive landscape, that is my thoughts, values, attitudes, and beliefs.

Much of this comes from being clear about your sense and understanding of your values, beliefs and attitudes towards yourself and others. Part of this is an appreciation that to know oneself is to experience the connection to others and our environment. Without this, we are at a loss wherein we feel isolated and alienated. Read books on philosophy, history, and psychology. However, avoid pop psychology. This might be a little difficult as a lot of this genre presents itself as scientific when it isn’t.

If you’re not good at reading books use audiobooks.

Get spiritual. What do I mean with that? Appreciate nature, become a part of it. That doesn’t mean you need to get off grid. But make time to get into the outdoors. Even if it is just an hour a day. Connect with an animal; you don’t need to own one. Just watch them, like watching birds park or dogs playing. Immerse yourself in water, salt water or freshwater it doesn’t matter.

Manage technology, don’t let it manage you. We are only just beginning to really understand the harm social media is causing. This is not confined to individuals, but it has directly been used to undermine secular democracy and as flawed as democracy is, it is better than the alternatives.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

I suggest three exercises essential to physical and mental wellbeing: Abdominal breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation PMR, Zazen, or Zen Meditation. The aim of Zazen is to let go of all judgement and goals. You are aware of all sensations and thoughts that arise in you only to let them pass by. It is about being fully present in the moment. I suggest the three exercises because abdominal breathing is about setting the parasympathetic nervous system, PMR is about assisting muscles in letting go of tension, and Zazen is to liberate the mind and body. The three in combination are, in my mind, the perfect combination for wellness. However, there are a host of other practices that fall into this category, Tai Chi, Yoga, Transcendental meditation and so on. Ultimately, each practice focuses on aligning the body and the mind in a way to let it support your wellbeing, which hopefully will allow you to be a better member of society.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Cultivate healthy sleep habits. You need to think about a few things here; sleep hygiene, sleep quality and sleep quantity. How can you do this? Firstly, give yourself some time to wind down in the evening. That means for example no screen time after 9.30 pm, set a bedtime e.g. 10:30 pm, however, you need to calculate average of seven and half hours of sleep.

Eat in moderation. Our culture has steeped itself in excess everything. People get excessive about everything, that includes food, but we also exercise often excessively. Consume alcohol modestly. It is the vice in our society that creates the greatest amount of physical, psychological, and social harm. Consider your portion size. Also be aware if you are using food as a reward or to sooth yourself but remember that it is not soothing of you feel guilty and ashamed for what you’ve eaten.

Be consistent and persistent in exercise and relaxation practices. An easy way to do this is to establish ritual around what you are trying to achieve. Simplest approach is to pick a time for exercise and relaxation that is locked into your schedule.

Do you have any thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Keep in mind that I am not a dietician or nutritionist, I’m coming at this from a psychological and behavioral perspective. Become aware of why you’re eating, when you’re eating, and how you’re eating. Let me explain this a little more in depth. Essentially, we need three meals a day. The amount depends on how much activity we engage in. The more active I am, the more calories I may need. In our affluent society, however, we are eating above what most of us need. We often use food to sedate unmet emotional needs, or we have gotten into a habit of grazing between meals to satisfy a restlessness. Check your portion sizes. Dressing with the lockdown during the COVID epidemic, many people were working from home. It was easy Roget up walk a couple of feet and raid the fridge or the cookie jar.

It’s important to be clear between what I need and what I desire. It’ll help staying well. You need good nutrition; you don’t need a bag of jellies.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Focus on the three A’s.

  • Awareness — This means raising my awareness of sensations, feelings, and thoughts and how they affect me.
  • Acceptance — accept things as they are, not how they should be and then decide if you can do something about it or not. If you’re trying to change something you have no influence over its a waste of energy.
  • Action — deal with what you can change. Meditate on the value of doing no harm.

These three require you to be honest with yourself. They require some time of regular reflection and meditation.

Do you have any thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

I think smiling is a very healthy behavior. Try walking down the street and catch someone’s eye and then smile. What reaction do you get back? Often the other person will smile back. In other words, smiling is contagious. And that is a nice bit of contact. However, many don’t but that could be for many different reasons and not anything to do with you.

To add another dimension to smiling, let’s look at some of the other benefits. For starters it is a good stress buster, so this helps your immune system. So, you are going to be healthier and more robust physically.

Being less stressed means that you are using less adrenaline and therefore less cortisol, a stress hormone. Studies have also shown that smiling activates pathways in the brain that help elevate your mood. And here’s the cherry on top, it doesn’t matter if the smile is genuine or not. In addition, smiling releases neurochemicals that help in the reduction of pain.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

The first thing to do in my view is to develop a healthy, safe, and secure relationship with yourself. Within this relationship foster self-acceptance and satisfaction according to sound values that you practice in your life with others. How can you have a healthy relationship with others when you don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself, let alone be spiritual.

Practice empathy. Without empathy, self-acceptance, and satisfaction with yourself can leave you simply being narcissistic and arrogant. The type of empathy I’m talking about however, goes beyond cognitive empathy, it is the felt experience of the other when you for a moment can share their pain or joy.

Unplug from the digital world and plug into nature. We are being drowned in the impact zone of an already crowded sea of technology we are having problems dealing with the changes and their demands. The key issue that began to concern me was the development of portable communications technology that included recreational computing; first pagers and then furthermore making phones mobile.

The next wave was more hardware development which targeted the reduction of scale for these devices and on top of that the development of email. The speed with which we were expected to communicate was accelerating and so were the expectations. People stopped giving others time and space to consider things more deeply because the expectation was that you were going to get back to them instantly. But now the volume of information was also growing exponentially. Not only were we expected to respond quicker we also were expected to have read more and deal with more. We were being immersed in an avalanche of technology that appears to have no “off” button

Then came smart phones. The boundary between work and recreational tool has now completely blurred. Now in of itself this technology is not a problem. The issue is how the availability of this technology influences common attitudes and expectations and therefore behavior. So now we have internet addictions, sexting, cyber bullying, and host of other problems related to our tech immersion.

To develop more spiritually, I can’t emphasize this enough. There are two parts to this. The first is to create solitude for reflection and the other is to read some books (not screen-based/eBooks) on philosophy and psychotherapy. This might include the two books I mentioned earlier, or a few others like Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey. Allow yourself to browse the bookshelves and pick that which resonates.

Do you have any thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

What we learn in the environment, in nature, will affect our decisions and behavior more positively. So, the inner need to stay in tune with the planet’s natural rhythms can be reawakened. In fact, it is my view that if we intend to survive and adapt effectively to the current eco-changes and geo-political forces through which this technology is released, then it is imperative that we also maintain a balanced contact with the outdoors and the wilderness.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The seed off the movement is here. It is about deconstructing the most toxic ideology in history, patriarchy. Patriarchy is about dominance, control, aggression, and competition. It is about transactional relationships where others are either owned or are simply of use to me. It lacks empathy, kindness, and humility. And we have socialized generations in this ideology that we have come to accept as being the nature of men, when in fact it isn’t. Our true nature is to be altruistic, empathic, distributive, and sharing. Our success as a species has been through co-operation and caring for even those that are sick and injured. A recent archaeological find has been the discovery of a stone age child who had a limb amputated. The child survived. This totally contrary the idea that it is the survival of the fittest. It takes a lot of people to care for someone that s ill or injured in a small tribe with little or no technology. Hence my mission is to get people to understand the toxicity of patriarchy and to begin to dismantle it brick by brick.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

There are two people. Barack Obama and/or Megan Rapinoe. In fact, let me stipulate that given the opportunity I want to sit down with a man and woman to begin a meaningful conversation about the need to shift our social, political, and organizational frameworks from a patriarchal foundation to a humanistic one.

Carl Jung said: Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by the integration of the contraries. I think that it is always useful to keep this in mind.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow my website at and also check out our movement:

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.



Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine

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