Before I start I want to say that I in no way encourage or endorse anyone going against their Doctors recommendations in regards to medical treatments for any illness, both mental and physical.
What I DO highly recommend though, is that everyone engage their brain and their own informed judgement. There is work to be done if you want to change. It doesn’t happen by itself and it doesn’t happen without using your intelligence. I don’t believe in following advice or trends blindly. I believe in:
Reading, not just scanning articles or headlines
Doing your own research and deliberately looking at both sides
Learning to look at the actual science not just the medias interpretation
Not using social media as a form of education
Experimenting, because we are all different and there is no one size fits all solution
Not being afraid to find a new doctor, coach or seeking help if you aren’t making the kind of progress you want to see.
At the beginning of my recovery from depression, two essential things happened. I changed my food, and I learned how my brain and emotions worked. Sounds deceptively simplistic I know, but bear with me because these two things are the foundation of what I believe to be real and lasting change in any aspect of our lives.
You are literally what you eat. Every single one of your cells is built out of what you eat. If you build with straw, your house gets blown down. Same thing with your body.
Quite my accident I started reading a book that I thought was about making myself look more physically attractive. One of the pillars of my depression was a crippling belief in how ugly I was, which contributed to a very destructive relationship with food, cosmetics and my self image. At the time that I found the book I was convinced that if I just got thinner and prettier I would become someone else and my depression would be gone.
Instead I learned about the impact that nutrition has on our over all health, our moods and most importantly our mind. Making some simple changes in what I ate (or didn’t eat) resulted in the first “miraculous” experience. A shift in my energy and more balanced moods.
I discovered its a lot easier to deal with life and make the kinds of decisions that change your life when you don’t feel like a tired sack of garbage all the time!
While I and others have been talking for years about the impact that our overall nutrition and food choices has on our mental health and ability to regulate our brains and moods, in recent years our experiences have been validated with study are study (including some groundbreaking research in neuroscience) showing a measurable and repeatable change. This is hugely important because it means that no, its not just in your head that you feel crappy when you eat crappy. And YES you have another tool that can helped you lead a happier life. I wont go into too much detail here because as I’ve learned, doing your OWN research is essential, but I have linked a list of books I’ve found very helpful below. Click on the books to read more about them.
The bottom line with this change is very very simple. Eat more real food. Cut out the processed crap. Its also the easiest part to change and is a huge support system for the mental changes.
You are not your brain or your emotions.
The second big shift for me was mindset and learning to understand my brain and how that linked with my emotions.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this or make this seem like a quick fix like so many coaches do, but this is is where the REAL and lasting change happens, its also the hardest as it takes work single every day.
Most of us are completely unaware that we are 100% in control of what we think, what we feel and the choices we make. Its also a really tough thing to accept for two reasons. 1 - It puts the responsibility for your own life right in your own hands. and 2 - Because its hard to know where to start when you’re used to just being on autopilot and reacting automatically.
This is not an easy thing to take on, but I absolutely guarantee that accepting that you have a choice and that you CHOOSE how you react to life will create the biggest change of your life.
Again without going into too much detail, I’ll just go over a few basic truths. The first is that your brain is an organ. Just like your stomach or heart. Which means that it operates on a “rules” which are predictable and everyone’s brain does it. The most important rule of how your brain works is that it runs on patterns, or habits. Every single time you do something your brain gets better at doing it and repeating it automatically.
And it doesn’t care if its good or bad. If you keep doing it, your brain will make it super easy. This is physically how the brain organ works, the more you repeat a thought or behavior, the more the brain strengthens the neural pathways supporting that thought or behavior.
The second important thing, and my personal favorite, is Neuroplasticity, This is the brains ability (at any age!) to change. Which means that the thoughts and habits you think you’re stuck with, you can change. You can quite literally change who you are. You can rewire your brain. And its never too late to do it.
The most important part of this is a simple flow of how we function on every level and in every aspect of our lives.
We think… that leads us to feeling something about those thoughts…. that leads us to making a choice about how we react to those feelings. And its a loop. One that either works for you or against you, but you get to chose.
There are thousands of incredible books out there, these are just some that I found useful to get started.