Comedian Kevin Hart says mental health isn't a joke: 'People can truly struggle'

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Kevin Hart dishes on using running as a release and his new mental health partnership with Headspace. (Image: Getty; design by Quinn Lemmers)
Kevin Hart dishes on using running as a release and his new mental health partnership with Headspace. (Image: Getty; design by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

The strain on our collective mental health right now is “not a joke,” says Kevin Hart.

For the comedian, an avid runner who’s completed both the New York City and Chicago marathons in recent years, living mindfully means lacing up his sneakers and moving. “It kind of became my space of meditation,” he admits.

Hart and his LOL Studios have also partnered with the app Headspace to create content that highlights the importance of prioritizing mental well-being. That includes daily “Energy Shots with Kevin” dishing out empowering, health-positive prompts to subscribers, and the brand-new “Meditate With Me” YouTube series, in which he and fellow comedians (including Tiffany Haddish and Hasan Minhaj) talk through their own meditation journeys.

In this edition of The Unwind, Hart unpacks the role fitness plays in his personal well-being

For the comedian, self-care means time alone in the gym or on a run. (Photo: Courtesy of Headspace)
For the comedian, self-care means time alone in the gym or on a run. (Photo: Courtesy of Headspace)

Running seems to be your big wellness practice. How has it helped you de-stress?

I love running — or I’ve grown to love it, I should say, over the years. It’s not something I started out having a passion for, but as I got a better understanding for it and found a calm within it, it became a go-to. For me to be able to step away, put myself in a space where it’s simply me against me, and I can talk to myself, I can think for myself and about myself ... and just find clarity within it, it kind of became my space of meditation, for lack of a better word.

Do you listen to music when you run, or do you like to be alone with your thoughts?

It depends on the mood and the setting of the morning. There are times when the feet on the pavement, or the treadmill, act as my music. And there are times when I want something a little more soothing, maybe slow music. And times when I’m looking for a crazy amount of energy within the run, so there’s hip-hip. It literally is day-dependent.

Beyond running, are there any other self-care rituals that you do?

I think anytime where I put myself in a space to kind of just be by myself, that acts as my moment to gain clarity. So the gym is my sanctuary, and I normally have about a good 30 to 45 minutes of gym space by myself before my trainer or friends or anybody gets there. That time when I’m stretching, that time when I’m warming up, it’s normally just a time to relax, breathe and just think about my day ahead, think about the week that I have, think about goals, think about expectations, things that I can improve on, things that I should make sure that I’m aware of. It’s just time to really think and be OK with my thoughts, good or bad. It’s just time to do that.

As a comedian, do you find it hard to confront issues or struggles head-on rather than brushing them off or making light of them?

That’s my job, so regardless of the day that I’m having, that has nothing to do with people’s expectations from me and what I chose to do as a career. I’ve learned to put those things aside, through the course of me doing my job, and once my job is over, I can sit down and deal with the problems that I may have. It’s just understanding how to separate the two, and I think that through the years I’ve gotten a lot better at that and grabbed a much more effective way of solving that problem when it occurs.

It seems like mental health has become a much more open conversation, particularly among celebrities, no doubt in part due to the pandemic.

I think that ... understanding the importance of taking care of your mental [health], of working on your mental [health], is something that people should prioritize. In the pandemic you got to see how real it is. You got to see how some people can truly struggle in this space. And it’s not a joke. It’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked. I applaud those that have stepped up and voiced their problems and their struggles because it’s given other people the courage to do the same.

Now with the help of Headspace, you’re able to tap into something to help you figure out the way to navigate your thoughts, or to learn a good way of approaching mindfulness, or approaching the steps in just getting clarity and understanding. It’s real ... The idea of understanding mindfulness is something that people are now starting to gravitate towards, and that’s a big thing. That’s a huge thing.

What brings you joy?

My family. Nothing more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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