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Common started seeing a therapist while 'dealing with a heartbreak.' Now he's written his own guide to self-care.

Rapper, actor and author Common in a photo illustration.
Rapper, actor and author Common opens up about his mental health practices. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Getty Images)

The Unwind sees experts, influencers and celebrities sharing their approaches to wellness and mental health. Learn more about what prioritizing well-being looks like, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, vividly remembers the moment his mental wellness journey began just over 20 years ago. “I was dealing with a heartbreak,” the rapper, actor and activist tells Yahoo Life. “I really was down. I wasn't eating like I normally would. I just didn't see any way out of the tunnel.” That’s when his acting coach recommended that he see a particular therapist who frequently worked with actors.

“I tried her, and [therapy] was an opening to myself and an opening to healing,” he recalls. “It was a way for me to learn things about myself and to dig into things that I hadn't dealt with that were affecting my happiness and affecting my potential in the present. But I had to know that those things existed. If you don't know that these things exist, or you don't know how to deal with them, you keep behaving [a certain] way.”

He remembers his confidence being at an all-time low back then. “I didn't have the full self-esteem and the full self-love I needed in life,” he says.

The musician began to apply what he learned in therapy to everyday situations. “I started recognizing, ‘Oh, some of this is not about what this moment is — it's about some of my past traumas or past issues,’” he shares. “Healing myself and dealing with those things straight on — not running away from, not dodging, not pushing it down — really allowed me to be more confident, be stronger, be more joyful. I felt like, ‘Oh, man, I'm powerful.’”

And, as his acting coach likely suspected, all that work paid off in a professional sense too. “Therapy has helped me to go to freer places as an artist,” he notes, explaining that by fostering self-awareness he was better able to acknowledge and embrace his flaws. “You get teased for certain things that you had when you were younger, [but] when you have self-awareness and you're OK with it and you love yourself and you've done different things within therapy to get yourself to a place of belief in yourself and confidence and love for yourself, those things don't affect you in a way that they would before. It has allowed me to be my full self, and that results in me making better music and being a better actor.”

The Oscar-winning songwriter also says therapy has helped his personal relationships. “Because I'm more in tune with not only my feelings, but also I can pay more attention to others and listen to others,” he points out. “And that's so important. Whether it's being a father, a friend or a partner, or in acting, you listen.”

Diving into and sticking with self-work was also a no-brainer for the performer who describes himself as “a seeker who wants to be better in life.” It’s that philosophy that serves as the backbone of his latest book, And Then We Rise: A Guide to Loving and Taking Care of Self, out Jan. 23. The book is a how-to on becoming the best version of yourself, the New York Times bestselling author explains.

“It's about empowering the reader to say, ‘Man, let me find my path to be my best me,’” he says. “Playing tennis might be their thing, or taking a walk or yoga might be their thing. Not everybody has to be vegan. You have to figure out what works for your body. But you need to know your body and take care of yourself.”

Common also wanted to write a book that would “reach people who don’t have access to some of the health and wellness blessings and opportunities and pathways” that led him to be a “happier, better” version of himself. “I wanted communities, [like the one] where I come from [on the South Side of Chicago], and people across the world to feel like, ‘Love of myself and taking care of myself is one of the first things I need to do.’ Loving self is so important that I wanted to make sure that I was sharing that with the communities who don't think about it," he says.

That mission is a natural extension of Common’s existing work as founder of a charter school called Art in Motion (AIM) in his hometown of Chicago. In an effort to bring therapy “straight to the people,” he explains that the school’s curriculum makes mental wellness a key focus. “Instead of detention, we have a peace room where [students] meditate,” he says, noting that having access to activities like that bolsters awareness for kids. “Once you come across it, [you realize], ‘I do feel better.’ Daily access will be very beneficial and can change the game.”

He remembers feeling that way when he was first introduced to yoga following his bad breakup. “I was trying to find a solution to find peace, and one of my acting classmates said, ‘Come to yoga with me,’” he recalls. “I went to yoga, and I was like, ‘Oh, I needed this right now.’”

His efforts to care for himself mentally and emotionally fuel other aspects of his life. “Going to therapy has helped me feel stronger in everything that I do, because I feel stronger as a person,” Common says. “So my workouts are stronger.”

Now, the Grammy winner is passionate about celebrating the connection between physical, emotional and mental wellness. He sums up his approach with an expression shared with him by integrative physician Dr. Tracey Rico: “Your body walks in the environment that your mind creates.”

“Your mental health has to be in the healthiest place for your body to be in the healthiest place,” he notes. “No matter how much you’re working out, if you're not [caring for your] emotional and mental health, you will never be at your full capacity [as] the whole being you're supposed to be.”