As western medicine moves towards a deeper understanding of the body/mind connection, the psychological community is also understanding more the impact of lifestyle factors on our sense of well being. In psychotherapy communities, these are referred to as therapeutic life changes, or “TLC’s.” Not only are these important ways to show ourselves some tender loving care, but in cases of mild to moderate symptoms, they can be used as an alternative to medication
In an article that was published in January, 2011 in the American Psychological Association’s online publication of American Psychologist, Roger Walsh, PhD, MD, of the University of California, Irvine College of Medicine, lists eight major therapeutic life changes that can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, increase physical health, and promote a sense of well-being. Many of them are also “neuroprotective,” meaning that they reduce the risk of age related cognitive losses. These eight are:
• Nutrition and Diet
• Time in nature
• Relaxation and stress management
• Religious and spiritual involvement
• Contribution and service to others
Increasingly, our lives have become more hectic. We are less closely connected to friends and family, cut off from nature, and have less time to cook fresh food, exercise, or cultivate our spiritual life through prayer, meditation, or contemplation. We may feel alienated from the religious practices of our childhood. Perhaps we’d like to be of service to others, but we don’t even know where to start in terms of volunteering. All of this has a direct impact on our self-esteem and our sense of well-being. We can end up feeling isolated and lonely in a big city.
These TLC’s are potent. Some of them are as powerful as medication, without the side effects. A study in the UK in 2007 at the University of Essex showed that 71% of participants reported a decrease in symptoms of depression with 30 minutes walks in nature five days a week. Many studies have shown that diets rich in a wide selection of fruits and vegetables (a “rainbow diet”) and rich in fish oils can ameliorate symptoms of depression and anxiety, while at the same time increasing the body’s immune system and protecting from cognitive loss as we age (for recommended nutritional supplements, see below).
Combining these TLC’s may actually potentiate them – for example, a hike in nature with a group of friends not only combines exercise, time in nature, relationships, recreation, and relaxation, but also may be more powerful than exercising alone. A weekend meditation retreat can combine stress management, spiritual involvement, and relationships.
I practice these TLC’s in my own life and stress them in my practice. It’s clear that self-esteem affects our experience in life. It’s now becoming clear that our experience of life affects our self-esteem, and I often check in with my clients about where they are in regard to these TLC’s and what their goals might be. In some cases, implementing TLC’s in ones life may provide relief and on-going support without medication. In other cases, medication may still be necessary and appropriate, but TLC’s can increase their potency and help offset the impact of potential side-effects. I’m happy to discuss challenges that might arise as you work to sustain these and help you develop resources to create healthy habits around them.
The following supplements are created by the Nutrametrix company specifically for healthcare practitioners with ingredients backed by scientific studies. You can order the products simply by clicking on the image of the product you want below. This will take you directly to the Nutrametrix website which will give you much more information on each product including a list of ingredients, benefits, the science behind the product, and faqs (which include important information on how, when, and when not to use these supplements). After testing the products myself and finding them effective, I have made them available to many of my clients who have found them effective in improving both physical and mental health.
OPC: OPC-3 A potent antioxidant that helps the body's own mechanism counteract the activity of stress hormones.
Omega 3s may be effective for mild symptoms of depression.
Tryptophan: an excellent, all-natural, non-addictive sleep aid that can also alleviate mild symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Bliss Anti-Stress Formula promotes relaxation without drowsiness, helps stabilize mood.
ACTs works specifically to promote healthy adrenal gland function, cortisol levels and thyroid function to help control stress levels and minimize weight gain that is associated with increased stress.