In 2011, Roger Walsh published a review of the research into ways we can improve our mental health and resiliency by changing how we live. He found eight that had both solid research behind them and strong effects. As therapeutic interventions go, these lifestyle changes tend to be enjoyable, inexpensive, and carry only positive side effects such as increased physical health, self-efficacy, and longevity. Despite that, mental health professionals do not emphasize lifestyle changes. This could be due to a spin on the instrument fallacy: Clients bring in a nail and all therapists can think of to use is their hammer. Walsh suggests this failing is because therapists have unhealthy lifestyles themselves.
Exercise: 30 minutes or more of exercise has therapeutic and preventative emotional and cognitive effects.
Nutrition & Diet: Fish, vegetables and fruit in the diet have both enhancing and protective psychological effects.
Time in Nature offers cognitive and emotional benefits and stress relief.
Good relationships: Being connected in rich relationships comes with cognitive benefits, happiness, and resiliency. In fact, the quality of a therapeutic relationship may account for a large part of the benefit of therapy.
Recreation & Enjoyable Activities (AKA fun): Helps with stress, mood, and well-being.
Relaxation & Stress Management: Mindfulness practices and muscle relaxation techniques can have strong and lasting positive effects on mood management.
Religious & Spiritual Involvement is associated with good mental health, maybe especially with faiths centered on love and forgiveness.
Contribution & Service: Giving time and energy to others boosts happiness, as long as it isn’t out of a sense of obligation.
[Originally published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape]