Mental Health Prescription: A Good Life

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.

Reference:

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 John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Carol C

    Carol C

    February 28th, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    One of the most important statements here is that therapy cannot undo what the past has wrought but it can be a great way of getting past some of it. Look \, therapy is not the end all and be all but i can help you come to some closure in life about certain things and that is the best that many of us can hope for.

  • Test

    Test

    February 28th, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    I totally agree with your sentiments. Some things will always be brought up.

  • Agustin

    Agustin

    February 28th, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    Me too!

  • Roy Huggins, MS NCC

    Roy Huggins, MS NCC

    February 28th, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    This is one way of talking about positive psychology, I think. Focusing on pathology can be useful if someone has a pretty severe and real pathology in need of treatment. But focusing on and moving towards greater happiness/contentment is an approach that works for a wide range of people. Deciding on and sticking with lifestyle changes can be very difficult, however.

  • Melissa Wright

    Melissa Wright

    February 28th, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    Great article!!People often want a quick fix or forget its a combination of many things that help use heal/be happy.

  • suzzane r

    suzzane r

    February 28th, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    although positive thinking and acting upon such thinking may improve things in a person’s life,there is no doubt that when something in a person’s life messes up to a fair extent there is really not much that can be done to make it perfect again.calling it fate would be wrong but the choices we make throughout our lives dictate these things.so we need to think about what we are doing and we need to think ahead of what are the consequences of our actions.

  • Jane

    Jane

    March 1st, 2011 at 5:35 AM

    If nothing else then therapy can at east give you the tools that you need to live your life to the fullest. How you then choose to use those are your decision but the education is there to hopefully get you going in the right direction.

  • kayleigh

    kayleigh

    March 1st, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Unless someone died, or you destroyed something, anything can be undone if you put your mind to it. I’ve made up with friends I’ve called everything under the sun before and vice versa. What happened can’t be truly erased, but their impact can be reversed. Forgiveness plays a big part in that.

  • vivian

    vivian

    March 1st, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    I’ve always believed that fresh air, relaxation techniques and staying positive trumps medicinal strategies. It’s nice to see the proof that therapeutic lifestyle changes do really work!

  • Belle

    Belle

    March 1st, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    To heal, you need to make amends with the injured party if you can and forgive yourself too. Doing volunteer work is a way you can give back if the person isn’t around anymore that you want to sort things out with or if you feel you cannot do that. We’re all connected.

  • Deborah

    Deborah

    March 3rd, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    There’s a big difference between making up for something that happened and actually getting over it. The latter takes a lot more time than the former. Meditation will clear your head and help you do that sooner rather than later in my experience.

  • Gael

    Gael

    March 3rd, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    Doing everything you can to change your life, including incorporating TLC’s and not letting mental illness take a hold of you, is within the bounds of human capability for the majority of us. To me, mind-affecting drugs are for people who are too lazy to do something else and just want a quick solution or those that are truly in the minority that can’t be healed in any other way. Explore all the options.

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