The burden of life unfolding not according to plan can be the trigger that sets a mental health problem in motion, such as falling into depression after divorce or suffering PTSD after experiencing a trauma. Other times, life’s situations exacerbate problems we were already prone to, such as profound anxiety that takes hold after the loss of a job. Plenty of times, there’s no rhyme or reason as to why emotional and psychological problems emerge when they do. In any of these cases, it can be extremely beneficial to work with an experienced and caring psychotherapist, counselor or other mental health professional.
While you and your therapist cannot undo big life changes that have already transpired, you can work on healing, developing coping mechanisms, and nurturing strength and resilience within yourself. Healing, in particular, sometimes involves looking years earlier in your life, exploring situations that profoundly affected you and sorting through how they’ve shaped your worldview since then. Then there is the journey forward: how do you get from where you are to where you want to be? Most often, the goal of therapy can be summarized simply: a good life. This doesn’t mean having no troubles or challenges, and as mentioned above, therapy doesn’t undo the past. But even with past and future trials, a good life is possible.
But “a good life” has even broader meaning—or perhaps, a more specific meaning. In addition to the positive benefits of counseling, therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) can also have a surprisingly profound impact on one’s well-being. According to a University of California-Irvine study, TLC can be just as effective as prescription drugs in improving one’s mental health. Examples of such lifestyle changes include exercise, fresh food, time spent in nature, good relationships, recreation, relaxation, spiritual involvement or meditation, and service to the community. Individually, these things have each been linked to positive personal benefits. Together, they paint a strong portrait of a balanced, enriching life. You may have decided to find a therapist to address problems, or low points, in your life: but don’t neglect the cultivation of good things, too. It’s amazing the benefit that can come of it.
Walsh, D. R. (n.d.). UC Irvine Release: Therapeutic lifestyle changes as useful as drugs in improving mental health :: UC Irvine TODAY. UC Irvine TODAY. Retrieved April 10, 2013, from http://today.uci.edu/news/2011/02/nr_walsh_110222.php
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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