Twenty young Kiwis tell their stories of fighting depression in a new book, How We Got Happy. The Herald on Sunday is featuring three of them. Today, Hamilton DJ Tyler Staunton.
Ko Ngongotahā tōku maunga
Ko Awahou tōku awa
Ko Te Arawa Whakatōhea raua ko Ngāti Awa ko Ngāpuhi ōku iwi
Ko Te Arawa tōku iwi
Ko Ōmarumutu tōku marae
Nō Rotorua ahau
Ko Joffrey Staunton rāua ko Juanita Williams ōku mātua
Ko Tyler Staunton tōku ingoa
I always keep busy with something relating to my career and physical health, and that helps me keep moving forward. I love the challenge of improving myself.
Keeping active to improve my personal health through high-intensity interval training has been both a mental and personal challenge. It turns bad days into good days and makes good days better.
I landed my first big opportunity in marketing when I was 22. I thought it was so cool to have a job in an industry like that, and it was a dream come true. It gave me a big confidence boost and I realised that I could really achieve my goals. My boss was great, and I was so grateful to be there that all I wanted was to do the best work I could. This is where I learnt the value of having cool goals that I really like, goals that keep me excited about growth and working hard.
I use that lesson in my life now. I'm always thinking about ideas I want to develop, and growing new projects that move me in the direction I want to go.
Looking after my well-being is a mental, social and spiritual thing. A massive part of that for me is family. It's that taha whānau. It helps me, keeps me grounded and connected.
A massive step for my wellness was the day I realised I could actually get help from my family. They're really important to me. It's probably one of the biggest things that makes me feel good.
I had a period where I moved in to live with my grandparents for six months, and that was awesome for giving me that sense of home again. The whole time I was there I made a really conscious effort to shift my mindset to a positive angle. I'd walk around and try to think about everything from a glass-half-full perspective.
It seemed really forced at first (because it was) but I put in heaps of effort and committed to it. Over a few months I found the positive perspective became easier and more natural, allowing me to put my energy and effort into other areas of my life. That's what I call shifting my perspective. It was really hard to do, but so worth it.
Another reason my family is so awesome is that my grandad does reiki. Alongside my dad, my grandad is definitely "my guy". We've got a really close connection, and I often go to him to talk through things that are on my mind. His intuition and his mana are unreal. Sometimes, grandad knows what's going on with me before I've even said anything.
We used to do reiki a lot, and we still do it every so often. If I check in with myself and sense a shift coming up, some change, then I'd ask myself, "Am I prepared for it? Do I feel strong?" And if not, then one of my options is to go see grandad.
The spiritual aspect is a big part of reiki for me. I've come to think that I don't fit into any standard religion. Though I do believe there's a higher energy. Reiki is all about personal energy, and the higher energy being able to flow through you freely.
One time visiting my grandad, I didn't have anything particularly worrying happening in my life. For once, my visit with grandad was for a positive reason. This was probably the most important lesson I learnt from my grandad, that I could use reiki during the good times, not just the bad. I've since applied this lesson to other aspects in my life, in particular my fitness and meditation.
Something else that feeds my soul is music. I love music. I was always recording songs off the radio onto cassette tapes and bringing in my new CDs to play to my friends at school on the class portable stereo. Playing and sharing music has always made me feel good.
I've been a DJ in a few clubs in Hamilton, and I'm so stoked to be able to have music as a weekend hobby. At times it can be daunting playing to a crowd, but I love doing it! It's the perfect hobby for me. There's pressure to keep the crowd and give them a good time which totally consumes me. It's a really good mental exercise that gives out positive feelings.
In DJing, there's no room to think about anything else. It's about building up the energy in the club, expressing myself through the music I love, and vibing with the crowd to give them a good time. The whole environment feeds into my soul.
A tool I have used since 2018 is meditation. I use an app called "Headspace". At first, meditating was difficult to do, and only by using the app's basic training courses have I been able to discipline myself into using the app on a regular basis. To me, meditation is the reverse practice of DJing. Instead of focusing on external factors to create feelings, I have to focus on feelings and learn to acknowledge internal factors.
Sometimes when I'm feeling overwhelmed, worried or stressed, meditation will help me focus on my breathing and help me ground myself. For me, this is during difficult conversations, during an overwhelming day or when my mind is still racing at the end of the day.
When I'm in a situation like this and these feelings arise, I have a place to briefly shift my focus to my grounding, which helps me keep calm and overcome any busy thoughts.
Learning to apply meditation to positive aspects of my life helps me approach life and situations with more confidence.
I think my surroundings have played a huge part in who I am. My friends, workplaces and home life have all had an effect on me. Talking about my feelings, both positive and negative, takes courage, but if I'm aware the environment is negative, I think it's important to focus time and energy on changing it — whether by trying to work on it and improve it, or by removing myself.
Opening up is still important, and I know I should still do it, but I know I feel even better in the long term if I've got the surroundings right and I'm living in a supportive environment too.
In my experience, surroundings that need changing can be as simple as that friend or family member who never has nice things to say, or as complicated as a toxic workplace or home life. From past experience, once I have made a surroundings change and have created a positive, new environment, I notice new waves of energy that I thought I never would've had!
Once my energy has been put into making that change, I can soak up the vibe of the new environment and use that energy for something that excites me. Making positive changes to my surroundings has been one of the best influences on my mental wellbeing.
Tyler Staunton is a 25-year-old Kiwi from Rotorua. Of Māori descent, he attended boarding school in Hamilton, before starting a radio station and working on his own businesses.
A life-long music lover, Staunton is a regular DJ in night clubs in Hamilton, where he now lives. He operates and markets online businesses for a living.
He experienced depression between the ages of 15 and 24. He was living at boarding school while his home environment underwent a lot of changes.
How did it make you feel?
In an overwhelming rut, unable to take even small actions.
Did you take prescribed medication?
I took Prozac for a month. However, I was not comfortable taking it as it did not seem natural to me. My grandfather offered to support and help me without the medication and suggested reiki as a natural alternative.
Was there a turning point when things started to get better?
Yes. My grandfather was incredibly supportive and agreed to do reiki healing on me. Before then, I'd gone to a few friends but didn't really find much support or understanding. The real turning point wasn't reiki, it was realising that if I kept searching, there was help and understanding out there that suited me and I was comfortable with.
Getting my first job post-university was another really good step. After that I got a marketing internship, and that helped even more to feel like I was moving forward.
• How We Got Happy: Stories of health, hope and happiness from 20 young Kiwis who beat depression, by Jonathan Nabbs and Eve Macfarlane, photography by Mark Hamilton, published by Bateman Books, RRP$39.99, Release date September 13.