Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Roger Walsh's Eight "Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes" for Increased Well-Being

This brief article from 's Single at Heart blog (at Psych Central) looks at eight lifestyle changes recommended by Roger Walsh - personal friend and physician for Ken Wilber - that are better than drugs or therapy. There's not doubt each of these is better than drugs, but I won't go so far as these suggestions are better than good therapy. There are many things that simple lifestyle changes cannot address, such as trauma of various forms. 

Still, it's a good list. These are things that are part of building resilience to stress and illness, and part of the coping strategies I teach to my clients (so Roger, some of us are doing this!).

The whole article is linked to below. And if you didn't notice, this blog is focused on single people

lifestyle changes 
Roger Walsh is not a specialist. He is a University of California professor of psychiatry with degrees in neuroscience, psychology, physiology, and medicine, and joint appointments in anthropology and philosophy in addition to his primary appointment in Psychiatry and Human Behavior.

On the basis of all that, and maybe also his stint as a circus acrobat, he has a big tip for you: make some lifestyle changes!

If you are a reader of writings on happiness and self-help, many of Walsh’s tips will sound familiar. What is different is where Walsh is coming from. He’s a mental health professional telling other mental health professionals that they just don’t get it about the profound importance of what he calls TLCtherapeutic lifestyle change.

In fact, on the basis of scientific evidence, he believes that some of these TLCs are more effective than drugs or therapy. What’s more,
“Unlike both psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, they are free of stigma and can even confer social benefits and social esteem.”
Professor Walsh is not anti-therapy. Well, not any more. As he explained to a reporter for a publication of the University of California at Riverside,
“I went into therapy because I didn’t have much faith that it really worked, and I wanted to see for myself,” he says. “A couple years later, I staggered out of there a very different person. It was perhaps the most transformative experience of my life.”
Without further ado, here are Professor Walsh’s Big Eight TLCs (not in any particular order), from his article in the October 2011 American Psychologist, “Lifestyle and mental health”:
  1. Time in nature
  2. Relaxation and stress management
  3. Service to others
  4. Relationships
  5. Recreation
  6. Nutrition and diet
  7. Exercise
  8. Spiritual or religious involvement
From what I have learned about people who are single, and especially those who are single at heart, I think that the suggestion to spend more time in nature is especially likely to resonate. I also especially appreciated that Walsh’s section on relationships begins with a paean not to coupledom but to friendship.

Here is the abstract for the original article, which is available online.
Mental health professionals have significantly underestimated the importance of lifestyle factors (a) as contributors to and treatments for multiple psychopathologies, (b) for fostering individual and social well-being, and (c) for preserving and optimizing cognitive function. Consequently, therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLCs) are underutilized despite considerable evidence of their effectiveness in both clinical and normal populations. TLCs are sometimes as effective as either psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy and can offer significant therapeutic advantages. Important TLCs include exercise, nutrition and diet, time in nature, relationships, recreation, relaxation and stress management, religious or spiritual involvement, and service to others. This article reviews research on their effects and effectiveness; the principles, advantages, and challenges involved in implementing them; and the forces (economic, institutional, and professional) hindering their use. Where possible, therapeutic recommendations are distilled into easily communicable principles, because such ease of communication strongly influences whether therapists recommend and patients adopt interventions. Finally, the article explores the many implications of contemporary lifestyles and TLCs for individuals, society, and health professionals. In the 21st century, therapeutic lifestyles may need to be a central focus of mental, medical, and public health.

Full Citation:
Walsh, R. (2011, Oct). Lifestyle and Mental Health. American Psychologist, Vol. 66, No. 7, 579–592. DOI: 10.1037/a0021769

1 comment:

Christina Martin said...

I'd say those qualifications you listed do indeed qualify Dr. Walsh as a specialist. I just heard of him today and set out to read a little more about the 8 TLCs. I think there are a couple I would add to his list (learning/growth and accomplishment), but I think it's a very useful list just the same. Thanks for posting it.