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Mental Health Prevention I

“Do you know the steps necessary to improve physical health?” With this inquiry, Dr. Nancy Buck, a developmental psychologist, author, and founder of Peaceful Parenting Inc., initiates a crucial discussion on mental health prevention awareness in the International Journal of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy (2023). She further clarifies, “I’m not inquiring whether you desire improvement, but rather if you possess the knowledge of how to achieve it.” Buck emphasizes that a significant majority of surveyed individuals share a common understanding of the steps needed to enhance physical health: increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, reducing intake of sugar and alcohol, engaging in more exercise, and ensuring adequate sleep. This analogous approach extends to dental health, where the necessary actions are universally acknowledged: brushing teeth twice daily, flossing, and regular dental check-ups.

However, the same readiness to answer does not apply to improving mental health. For years, the definition of “mental health” in dictionaries has revolved around “the absence of mental illness,” a definition that, to say the least, does not facilitate effective prevention. While we learn from an early age the benefits of consuming an apple daily, guidance on fostering better mental health remains elusive. Consequently, in the forthcoming discussions, we will attempt to delineate specific steps to address this gap.

The Rule of the 3 Cs

The cornerstone of mental well-being lies in the optimal functioning of the nervous system, which necessitates attention to sleep, sport, and substances.

Sleep

On average, adults require 7-8 hours of sleep daily. Failure to achieve this or experiencing disrupted sleep compromises optimal nervous system function. Hence, it’s crucial to identify and eliminate factors disrupting sleep to establish healthy sleep patterns. Relying on sleeping pills long-term constitutes a harmful habit. Step 1 entails ensuring a minimum of 7 hours of sleep.

Sport

Exercise serves as a natural mood regulator, triggering a beneficial hormonal response after a 30-minute cardio session. Many individuals instinctively turn to exercise during times of stress, unknowingly aiding their return to optimal function. However, maintaining consistency in exercise can be challenging without early socialization in these activities, and sedentariness poses significant health risks. Step 2 involves engaging in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily to break a sweat.

Substances

Mind and body are one, so ingested substances do impact mental health. While substances like cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs are commonly recognized as harmful, excessive consumption of caffeine, sugar, energy drinks, and unbalanced diets can also detrimentally impact mental health. Moreover, the trend of indiscriminate use of dietary supplements and other products is concerning. While medically necessary for some, for others, these supplements may not offer substantial benefits. Step 3 entails eliminating at least one harmful dietary habit.

Further Steps

The Rule of the 3 Cs, as coined by myself in recent years, is the first step in improving mental health and a foundational lesson my clients learn in counseling. I challenge those facing mood issues to implement this rule in their daily lives for the next three weeks. Even without subsequent cognitive interventions, significant improvement is likely. Once the foundation is established, explore further mental health prevention strategies in subsequent discussions.

 


You can see more about me and the cognitive behavioral approach .

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