Summer’s bounty is fresh produce, warm weather, time to relax and enjoy friends. Though just a short 99 days, we look forward to this time all year long. This summer I have some tips for you to cultivate a healthier mind for the coming year.
The field of neuroscience has identified a defined set of behaviors for good mental health. In particular, Dr. Daniel Siegel, Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA (www.drdansiegel.com) has created the “Healthy Mind Platter” of seven daily activities for optimal mental functioning. Much like the Food Pyramid, he says we should regularly fill our plate with Time In, Physical Time, Sleep Time, Focus Time, Play Time, Connecting Time and Down Time. Why not load your plate with mind-healthy activities this summer?
Since I am in the business of promoting mental health, I am thrilled that Dr. Siegel has come up with a self-help concept for cultivating and feeding a healthy mind. Let’s talk about what these ingredients are. Time In is a practice of mentally checking in with how our body is functioning through our senses, feelings, thoughts and behaviors and allows us to integrate those components for optimal functioning. If we sense a headache, our mood is low, or we are thinking negatively or acting poorly, what action can we take to turn this around. He says that Physical Time or aerobic activity strengthens our body and our mind as well. Adequate Sleep Time is necessary to recharge and rest. Regular Focus Time on the challenges of living in a goal-oriented and meaningful way helps us develop purpose and enjoy success in our lives.
Play Time and Down Time are what most of us love about summer, but neuroscience tells us that these are critical for mental well being. So don’t feel guilty for lounging in the hammock or floating on a raft in the lake: you are cultivating a healthy mind! And last but not least, Connecting Time. Siegel reports that the time we spend in relationship with others, nature and our self helps us to appreciate our connection to the world around us and reinforces our brain’s relational circuitry.
The more we bring our attention to these mentally healthy activities, the more they get “hard-wired” in our brains and become our path to good mental health. So, this summer enjoy the bounty of a healthy mind platter and fill your brain for the year ahead!
Heidi B. Roeder, MS, LPC, LMFT was a former therapist at Franco Psychological Associates, P.C.