Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dr. Roger Walsh - Physical and Psychological Benefits of Physical Activity, Diet, Relationships, Fun, and Spirituality

Would you like to live longer? Healthier? Happier? With more vigor, enthusiasm, sex drive, curiosity, and joy? You can - the choice is yours.

Roger Walsh released a research study conducted at UC Irvine that offers a comprehensive, integral approach to mental and physical health - a lot of what he offers is nearly identical to the material that has come out of resilience research.

Walsh is one of the founding members of the Integral Institute - and he is Ken Wilber's personal physician. This press release from UC Irvine details some of the findings from his recent study (to be published in American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association) on the benefits of an integral approach to health.

This came to my attention through a promotion from Integral Life and Boulder Integral (which I posted at Integral Options Cafe: Jeff Salzman and Dr. Roger Walsh - Integral Health and Healing). The video at Integral Life is very good, but it is subscription only. Fortunately, the link in the article gives us a pre-print PDF of the whole article - very cool.

Below this, I want to include a documentary on stress featuring Dr. Robert Sapolsky.

Therapeutic lifestyle changes as useful as drugs in improving mental health

UCI study details benefits of physical activity, diet, relationships, fun and spirituality

— Irvine, Calif., February 22, 2011 —

Getting more exercise, spending time outdoors and helping others are among the activities that can be as effective as drugs or counseling in treating an array of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, according to a UC Irvine study.

In determining this, Dr. Roger Walsh, professor of psychiatry & human behavior, philosophy and anthropology, as well as adjunct professor of religious studies, reviewed research on the effects of what he calls “therapeutic lifestyle changes.” Other TLCs might relate to nutrition, relationships, recreation, relaxation, and religious or spiritual involvement.

“I found that lifestyle changes can offer significant advantages for patients, therapists and societies, yet they’re insufficiently appreciated, taught or utilized,” Walsh said. “TLCs can be effective, inexpensive and enjoyable, with fewer side effects and complications than medications. In the 21st century, therapeutic lifestyles may need to be a central focus of mental, medical and public health.”

Study results appear online in American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association. Among Walsh’s findings:

  • Exercise doesn’t just boost people’s sense of well-being. It can help children do better in school, improve cognitive performance in adults, reduce age-related memory loss in the elderly, and increase neuron formation in the brain.
  • Diets with plenty of fruits, vegetables and fish may enhance kids’ school performance, help maintain cognitive function in adults, and reduce symptoms in schizophrenic and affective disorders.
  • Spending time in nature can promote cognitive function and overall well-being.
  • Good relationships can reduce health risks ranging from the common cold to strokes, as well as multiple mental illnesses, and can dramatically improve psychological health.
  • Recreation and fun can lessen defensiveness and foster social skills.
  • Relaxation and stress management can treat a variety of anxiety, insomnia and panic disorders.
  • Meditation can enhance empathy and emotional stability; decrease stress and burnout; and boost cognitive function and even brain size.
  • Religious or spiritual involvement that focuses on love and forgiveness can promote well-being and reduce anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
  • Contribution and service, or altruism, can foster joy and generosity, benefit both physical and mental health, and perhaps even extend lifespan. A major exception, Walsh noted, is “caretaker burnout experienced by overwhelmed family members caring for a demented spouse or parent.”

Obstacles to TLCs, he said, are the sustained effort they require and “a passive expectation that healing comes from an outside authority or a pill.” Walsh also observed that people contend with a daily barrage of psychologically sophisticated advertisements that promote unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol and eating fast food.

“You can never get enough of what you don’t really need, but you can certainly ruin your life and health trying,” he added.

Everything that Dr. Walsh teaches in his article is essentially designed to prevent or combat stress - and we suspect that stress is the fundamental cause in 80% of all illnesses, including cancers. But we must take a proactive stance, and maybe this documentary will help motivate you to do so.

Stress: Portrait of a Killer

Stress, Portrait of a Killer

The stress response: in the beginning it saved our lives, making us run from predators and enabling us to take down prey. Today, human beings are turning on the same life-saving physical reaction to cope with 30-year mortgages, $4 a gallon gasoline, final exams, difficult bosses and even traffic jams — we can’t seem to turn it off. So, we’re constantly marinating in corrosive hormones triggered by the stress response.

Now, scientists are showing just how measurable — and dangerous — prolonged exposure to stress can be. Stanford University neurobiologist, MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, and renowned author Robert Sapolsky reveals new answers to why and how chronic stress is threatening our lives in Killer Stress, a National Geographic Special. The hour-long co-production of National Geographic Television and Stanford University was produced exclusively for public television.

In this revelatory film, discoveries occur in an extraordinary range of places, from baboon troops on the plains of East Africa to the office cubes of government bureaucrats in London to neuroscience labs at the nation’s leading research universities. Groundbreaking research reveals surprising facts about the impact of stress on our bodies: how it can shrink our brains, add fat to our bellies and even unravel our chromosomes. Understanding how stress works can help us figure out ways to combat it and mitigate negative impacts on our health.

1 comment:

IrvineMarriageMounseling said...

Roger Walsh you are doing a good job and this is very difficult because i am also doing research on this.
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