Mental Health is a ‘whole person’ therapeutic solution

Mental Health is a ‘whole person’ therapeutic solution

If we are to improve our Mental Wellness, we need to start focussing on a perspective that comes from looking at how the whole person engages with themselves and the world around them. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is profound benefit in therapy, counselling and using psychological tools to develop greater resilience and a deeper understanding of ourselves and learning how to deal with our pasts and our current relationships. However, we often seem to focus on just one or two aspects of what contributes to good mental health and recovery. 

There are 5 general areas we can work on to underpin any efforts we make to our overall mental wellbeing and provide a structure on which to build any therapeutic interventions– including counselling & therapy:

Physical movement

A continuous improvement in the quality and quantity of any type of exercise – from stretching to triathlons – will be beneficial for your physical and mental wellness. Exercise releases Endorphins and can stimulate the release of dopamine and serotonin – all of which play a role in mood regulation. As a note, taking on too much exercise at once could hinder rather than help. Making regular, incremental increases is a lot more sustainable than trying to do a park run if you’ve never run before. 

Nature and animals

We all associate outdoor holidays (whether it’s a beach holiday, in a wood or in the mountains) as being a place we can relax & unwind. Being in nature is calming and therapeutic. However, you don’t have to wait until you’re on holiday to relax. A brief time everyday outside, whether in the garden, in a local park or even going to a local nursery can help to bring about a sense of calm. 

It is also known that animals help with stress & anxiety. Dogs are often used as a therapeutic tool. If you don’t have a dog of your own, you could volunteer to walk a neighbour’s dog or spend some time at a local dog or pet shelter. Even something as simple as owning a few fish can be helpful. 

Nutrition

Because our digestive system requires so much co-ordination to process what we eat and drink, a thin layer of neurons (about the same amount as in a cats brain) is found from the top to the bottom of our digestive system. These neurons are also known to communicate with those in our brain via the Vagus nerve. We also know that the bacteria in our gut help to produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine & GAMA – all of which play a role in our mood.By eating a wider range of foods, we can help to feed a wider range of gut bacteria, helping our body to produce greater quantities of mood enhancing neurotransmitters.

Emotional Intelligence

In a previous blog post, I highlighted our ability to recognise and regulate our own emotions. This requires being able to do so will help us to manage the situations we find ourselves in and help to impact that situation. Having positive outcomes from doing so will help keep us in a better frame of mind than allowing our emotions to over-rule us, resulting in a negative outcome. 

Social Intelligence

In a previous blog post, I spoke about how our ability to read others emotions through body language, tone of voice, words used, socio-cultural nuances, can help us in responding appropriately within any given situation, potentially leading to a more positive outcome. It can also help to build stronger relationships with those in our immediate community – promoting a sense of belonging and purpose. 

The more areas we work on, the greater the integrated impact that each action will have on another e.g. taking a dog for a walk will help you spend time outside, improve your physical movement and potentially engage with others within your community. 

There are many other tools that we can use to underpin a good mental health recovery and potentially enhance any counselling or psychotherapy we receive which will help to encourage a better lifelong positive mental health state.

Caveats: These are just a few of many things we can do to naturally help improve our overall moods. Each of these ‘therapeutic areas’ are not solutions in and of themselves. There are, however, positive benefits that can be gained from engaging in each of these areas – all of which have been shown in research to help create a better state of positive mental wellness. This also does not take into account deeper psychological issues that require medical and more intense therapeutic interventions. 

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