There is some recent solid research that points to the effectiveness of non-counseling, non-medication interventions in improving the overall mental, physical and spiritual well-being of our lives. These are called “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes” (TLC's) Some will be very familiar to you, but perhaps what may not be as well known is the degree of effectiveness that these lifestyle changes can yield.
This alone has a significant effect on mild to moderate depression. It is an anti-aging strategy both physically and mentally. We all know this – and it takes discipline.
- Nutrition and Diet
We can significantly improve our feelings of self-worth when we eat right. We are less likely to be fatigued, we look better, and we will not be contributing to diseases that result from ignoring healthy eating habits.
3. Spending Time In Nature
All of the great Christian fathers (Jesus included) spent significant time in natural surroundings, away from people and noise. We have become a society of constant input – resulting in informational and auditory overload. We need to leave cell phones, computers, iPods, and the like at home and venture out where we can hear the voice of God.
Isolation can cause significant impairment to our perception of well-being as well as a real threat to our physical health. To quote one source: “the health risk of social isolation is comparable to the risks of smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.... [while] participation in group life can be like an inoculation against threats to mental and physical health” (Jetten et al., 2009). Good friends are a necessary component of good mental health.
- Recreation and Enjoyable Activities
We need to leave work behind for awhile and concentrate on having fun, whatever that might mean to you. It means developing a sense of playfulness and laughter where we can get away from the pressures of life. This directly relates to the following TLC.
- Relaxation and Stress Management
Anxiety rules so many of us these days and developing good stress-reducing habits are essential. Time spent in meditation and prayer, practicing good self-talk, listening to soothing or uplifting music can bring down our blood pressure and heart rate.
- Religious and Spiritual Involvement
Weekly participation in a church community has been proven to increase life expectancy by an average of seven years. Studies have shown that “religious or spiritual involvement is most likely to be beneﬁcial when it centers on themes such as love and forgiveness and is likely to be less helpful or even harmful to mental health when themes of punishment and guilt predominate.” Isn't it great to be in a community where grace abounds!
- Contribution and Service
Many studies have shown that a giver benefits even more than the receiver, when it comes to volunteerism. Whether we call it benign self-interest or not, it is a TLC that will produce increased levels of physical and mental health. Even adolescents that have been compelled to serve show marked improvement in attitude and a sense of self-value.
I know I have barely scratched the surface of all the implications attached to the above eight categories. It seems to me that the time spent in counseling would be greatly reduced if many or all of these TLC's could be implemented in clients' lives. It also occurs to me that God's kingdom would be enhanced by at least two of these areas. Any thoughts?