A University of California professor recently published a paper in the journal American Psychologist which suggests that certain lifestyle factors may have as much of an impact on mental health as they do on physical well-being.
Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D., said that exercise, diet, relationships, stress, connection to nature, spirituality and willingness to help others are all things that can have a positive influence on mental health when the factors are in balance and reflect healthy habits.
Walsh said that making improvements in these areas is something he calls “therapeutic lifestyle changes,” or TLC. These are effective, inexpensive ways to improve mental health without using medications, he added.
“Lifestyle changes can offer significant therapeutic advantages for patients, therapists and societies, yet are insufficiently appreciated, taught or utilized,” Walsh said.
In a fast-paced, advertisement-rich society, he said, it’s easy for people to turn to chemical relief from stress, such as drinking, smoking and pharmaceuticals.
The National Institutes of Health has reported that more than 4 percent of American adults have a form of mental illness.