MENTAL HEALTH by DESIGN: How to Edit Your Mental Health Equation for Improved Mental Health

Updated September 8, 2020

mentalhealthequation

Every person’s mental health equation, including yours, is uniquely different and yet every person’s mental health equation shares common denominators.

According to Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury‘s Positive Psychology article What is the Mental Health Continuum, “The mental health continuum is a range having mental health and mental illness at the two extreme ends.  The shift between the distinct markers of healthy point, problem point and disorder point are determined by a person’s internal and external faculties.” Below if the image from Madhuleena’s article.  Please visit the link and read.

continuum

I have always been envious of people who appeared to be able to consistently stay at the healthy, happy end of the continuum.  After years of experiencing a range of mental health continuum points for a variety of reasons, and recovering from depression using a variety of strategies, I am able to stay close to the healthy, happy point of the mental health continuum most of the time. It is much easier to be resilient during times of stress when one is healthy and happy. Greater resilience during challenging times is my ongoing quest. To start a return to, and stabilization at the healthy, happy point of the mental health continuum; one needs to look at their mental health equation and the common denominators they share with others.

A common denominator is a commonly shared theme or trait.  You will no doubt have heard people speak about the common denominators for success in business, relationships and people who live to be healthy past 100.  A common denominator is also a common element in a mathematical equation. In math class you learn to rewrite your math equations to change the undesirable answer. When things are not adding up in your life you may be prompted to start subtracting out potential causes; analyzing and rewriting your mental health equation by subtracting out contributing factors and adding in supports, can help you to restore and maintain better mental as well as physical health.

In the midst of the additional uncertainties and stressors added to our lives and the lives of the people around us due to the Covid-19 pandemic, adding in additional supports would be a good place to start to restore and maintain better mental health. These have been really challenging times for all of us, setbacks are not uncommon, especially in the ability to cope with stress and maintain resilience.  According to the Psychology Today article Pandemics and Psychoneuroimmunology, our mental state can be a determining factor in how significantly we are affected by the pandemic.

“Viruses use the same receptors as neuropeptides to enter into a cell, and depending on how much of the natural peptide for a particular receptor is around and available to bind, the virus that fits that receptor will have an easier or harder time getting into the cell. Because the molecules of emotion are involved in the process of a virus entering the cell, it seems logical to assume that the state of our emotions will affect whether or not we succumb to viral infection.” Dr. Candace B. Pert

“COVID-19 reminds us to include a discussion of psychological factors in being able to fight off the virus by maintaining optimal immune functions. Staying positive, remembering to laugh, and maintaining hope and optimism may be crucial to maintaining a strong immunity and our very survival. We must also grieve the tragic loss of so many who have fallen from this deadly virus.” James F. Zender, PhD, The New Normal 

There are many free mental health supports available, depending on where you live. I have listed several supports at the end of this post. Subtracting out some of the mental health challenging factors, like those I highlight below, may have to wait until a later time after isolation, when your regular healthcare provider and other qualified practitioners can guide you. You now have the time to do your research and planning, make diet changes, add in exercise and mind body strategies to help you in your quest to sustain a healthier, happier mental health state and ‘thrive in spite of everything’.

During times of Covid challenges I often think of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful,  where “a father interprets the world for his young son upon their arrival in the bestial barracks of a Nazi concentration camp. In the horror of a concentration camp, the father’s task is impossible but simple: invent a story that will help him and his son survive”.

During a very dark mental health continuum point in my life, a caring family member suggested I read Man’s Search for Meaning. It seemed like a very depressing pick at the time. “In Man’s Search for Meaning, psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) wrote about his ordeal as a concentration camp inmate during the Second World War. Interestingly, he found that those who survived longest in concentration camps were not those who were physically strong, but those who retained a sense of control over their environment.but turned out to be just what I needed.” I am so grateful for the recommendation.

How do you rewrite your mental health equation?  

You can rewrite your mental health equation by subtracting out or cancelling your well-being challenging contributing factors and adding in strategies to help eliminate your depression and other mental challenges. The combined approach strives to ‘right the wrongs’ that may be a part of your depression/mental health equation; allowing your body’s natural healing mechanisms to heal your brain and restore your brain chemistry and function to normal. It took me years of research and trial and error strategies, while also working on my multiple physical health equations to achieve the improved health results I have. This post focuses on the mental health equation factors that I and my clients have addressed to achieve improved mental health.  Obviously brain damage and past trauma are additional factors that will need to be addressed with additional medical and psychological supports. This is a process that will take time. It is not as simple as the equation image below.

lifemath

I suffered from depression at various times in my life.  My understanding and definition of what was possible about being depression free were limited due to everything I was told and read. My father had suffered from depression and I was told once I had two episodes of depression in my life I would probably need to be on medication for the rest of my life for it. I changed my definition of what I believed was possible, I am a bit of a rebel; and then looked for ways to make it happen. I analyzed my depression equation, started researching and then started editing my depression equation, subtracting out potential causes and adding in supports. I am now 100% depression free and have been for many years. I do not take medication or regular supplements for depression. Not only that, I feel upbeat and happy and blessed! I am finally at the envied, happy end of the mental health continuum. My quest now is becoming more resilient using strategies to be better prepared to cope with the unexpected challenges that will come my way, like pandemics.

You may need to rewrite your definition of what is possible in terms of becoming depression free so that your brain and body are on the same page. This may require a paradigm shift. Every person may not be able to stop taking medications, but you may be able to reduce your medications and improve your mental health by editing your mental health equation.

Do not reduce or stop taking your prescribed medications or start editing your depression equation without the supervision of your regular healthcare provider.

“According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway. Because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.”[1]

Understanding the Genetics and Environmental Factors of Your Depression Equation

Although you may have a family history of depression or mental illness, it does not mean that you will have or continue to suffer mentally.  Genetic predispositions are inherited but do not always become expressed, allowing for a condition, unless they are turned on by environmental factors. Although you cannot subtract out genetic factors, you can prevent genetic predispositions from activating due to environmental influences, preventing the related health challenge.

Environmental factors or external factors, like your lifestyle, including work and life balance, diet, exercise, pollution and physical, mental, emotional and spiritual stressors can affect your brain chemistry and brain function, mood, resilience, ability to cope and stay positive. You have control over most of these factors and for those out of your control, there are supports that you can add in to cancel out or minimize their negative impact.

Your general health, diet, nurture, supports, medications and habits can affect your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. This is an area where you may have to make some hard and radical decisions, which should only be considered and implemented under the care of qualified health practitioners.

“After completing an enormous study, scientists have dismissed claims that single gene variants, or even a small group of them, can dictate susceptibility to depression. Instead, they suggest that any genetic risk for depression likely arises from very large numbers of variants, each contributing a small effect.”

“In an American Journal of Psychiatry paper, the team concludes that early theories about ‘depression candidate genes’ are wrong and that studies identifying them have likely done no more than produce ‘false positives’.”[2]

“A genetic predisposition (sometimes also called genetic susceptibility) is an increased likelihood of developing a particular disease based on a person’s genetic makeup. A genetic predisposition results from specific genetic variations that are often inherited from a parent. These genetic changes contribute to the development of a disease but do not directly cause it. Some people with a predisposing genetic variation will never get the disease while others will, even within the same family.”[3]

“However, it appears that even with a genetic predisposition to mental illness during birth, resistance to mental illness is possible. Resilience is heightened because of a favorable nurturing environment after birth or perhaps due to exercise. People should create enriched environments where they help and support each other, exercise actively, and gain resistance to stress.”[4]

Environmental pollutants can become a part of your body pollution and mental health equation. As a teenager I pumped leaded gasoline at my father’s gas station. The combination of toxic gas ingredients negatively affected my brain.

Benzene, toluene, and xylene; and the additives ethanol, methanol, and methyl tertiary butyl ether are efficiently absorbed through the lungs so living, working and commuting in polluted environments can add to your toxic load.

Reported in the Meet the Neurotoxins: The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains post “Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread behavioral and cognitive problems. But the scope of the chemical dangers in our environment is likely even greater. Why children and the poor are most susceptible to neurotoxic exposure that may be costing the U.S. billions of dollars and immeasurable peace of mind.”

I started to suffer from depression at that time.  While investigating my depression equation later in life, when I once again suffered from depression after off gassing of a new house, I made the environmental pollution connection and implemented whole body detoxification, a two step detox; through natural strategies to deal with my accumulated body pollution.

From Architectural Digest – What You Need to Know About Off-Gassing: Even after an install, a project’s furnishings and finishes can leach harmful chemicals into the air for years through a process called off-gassing. Here’s how you can combat it.

To fully understand the impact of dangerous off gassing check out Harmful Toxins in Living Environments and their Hazardous Chemical Impact.

“There are nearly 1000 substances which have been identified as having, or possibly having, neurotoxic effects. Exposure to sufficient amounts of these chemicals, either in the work place or elsewhere, can cause neurological and brain problems. Likewise chronic exposure (long term, lower level exposure) can also have damaging effects.” Toxic Exposures – Brain Injury

I knew that my brain had been negatively affected by many toxins, adding to my brain and body pollution, and compromising my brain function. At some point in my exposure history my blood brain barrier became compromised, allowing later toxins to easily enter my brain. Do you know what your body pollution looks like? Read my blog post on body pollution to find out.  A combination of whole body detoxification and BodyFeedback Interview and Therapy treatment for a client, eliminated a disabling 50+ year caterpillar phobia. After understanding that my compromised blood brain barrier allowed toxins to readily enter my brain, nervous system and body I learned the importance of protecting it. Read more at my blog post: NATURAL CURES: Protecting and Repairing Your Blood Brain Barrier to Restore Mental Health. If you are having mental health issues, your blood brain barrier may be allowing toxins to pass through into your brain and affecting your overall health.

According to The Brain’s Way of Healing by Dr. Norman Doidge, reporting on a NASA “self training” technique to prevent epilepsy, “astronauts were getting epilepsy from their exposure to rocket fuel”.

“A cocktail of harmful toxic chemicals has been detected in every person tested in a cross Canada study of pollution in people.”[5]

“In this sample of young adults with low levels of lead exposure, higher blood lead was associated with increased odds of major depression and panic disorder. Exposure to lead at levels generally considered safe could result in adverse mental health outcomes.”[6]

“Lead exposure in childhood appears to have long-lasting negative effects on mental health and personality in adulthood, according to a study of people who grew up in the era of leaded gasoline. The findings reveal that the higher a person’s blood lead levels at age 11, the more likely they are to show signs of mental illness and difficult personality traits by age 38.”[7]

“Vert and colleagues in Barcelona identified significantly increasing rates of depression among those exposed to a range of air pollutants, with doubling odds of depression”

“Emergency department attendance for depressive episodes were significantly higher for particular combinations of air pollutants at certain times”[8]

What we eat effects not only our physical, but also mental health. Although you may not have been advised to look at your diet when presenting at your doctor’s office with symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress; research has shown that diet is a key factor in brain health.  I was eating a fairly healthy but limited diet during my major period of depression due to food allergies.  Study through a Nutritional Consulting course provided me with an in depth knowledge of nutrition, detoxification pathways and health recovery.

“Few people are aware of the connection between nutrition and depression while they easily understand the connection between nutritional deficiencies and physical illness. Depression is more typically thought of as strictly biochemical-based or emotionally-rooted. On the contrary, nutrition can play a key role in the onset as well as severity and duration of depression. Many of the easily noticeable food patterns that precede depression are the same as those that occur during depression. These may include poor appetite, skipping meals, and a dominant desire for sweet foods. Nutritional neuroscience is an emerging discipline shedding light on the fact that nutritional factors are intertwined with human cognition, behavior, and emotions.”[9]

“Studies have compared ‘traditional’ diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to a typical ‘Western’ diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet. Scientists account for this difference because these traditional diets tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood, and to contain only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy. They are also void of processed and refined foods and sugars, which are staples of the ‘Western’ dietary pattern. In addition, many of these unprocessed foods are fermented, and therefore act as natural probiotics.”[10]

In a new study published in the July 15, 2020, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, study author Ka He, M.D., Sc.D., of Columbia University in New York states “Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to fight inflammation and maintain brain structure in aging brains. They have also been found to reduce brain damage caused by neurotoxins like lead and mercury. So we explored if omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect against another neurotoxin, the fine particulate matter found in air pollution.”  When my brain was extremely challenged after the off gassing of our second new build I searched relentlessly for solutions and found someone (not medical or scientific) who claimed that the Omega 3 resolved their depression so I started taking large doses of non GMO unbleached lecithin and after some time noticed improvement.  I now understand why it helped, having read this research.  I recommend that my clients take Omega 3 daily for improved mental health. For more on the steps I took to depression free read  my how to guide, The Whole Person Well-being Equation.

Dr. Emily Deans, in her Psychology Today article, reports that randomized controlled trials show that the right diet can improve depression.[11]

Stress, stress idling and stress sensitization can be contributing factors to depression, anxiety, compromised coping and resilience; factors in the mental health equation. Achieving a strong resilience and ability to cope with what life presents takes a lot of work, I am still a work in progress. Do not lose hope! These qualities are key to improving your mental health equation. Implementing ongoing stress management strategies throughout your life is important to living depression free and enjoying  good, consistent mental health and ability to cope and roll with life’s challenges. Hopefully stress management will be the first ‘go to’, as well as diet changes and exercise that doctors prescribe to people presenting with anxiety, depression and stress symptoms; not just a suggestion or after thought. You can read more about the impact of stress in my blog post on stress title STRESS IDLING & SENSITIVITY: A Modern Day Health Challenge.

“If the stress is continued or prolonged, it can leave adverse effects on body’s immune, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems. When chronic stress goes untreated it can result into serious disabilities like insomnia, weakened immune system, high blood pressure, anxiety and muscle pain. It can also play a role in developing major disorders like depression, heart disease and obesity.”[12]

“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go!” – Rumi

Sometimes past stress, trauma, memories and history are unable to release from the brain or body, resulting in ongoing unwanted symptoms or triggering. For one client, a 50+ year debilitating caterpillar phobia was dislodged using a combination of whole body detoxification and energy tapping to break the connection. Body scan visualizations and energy tapping can be combined to encourage the body to dislodge past stressors, traumatic events, memory and history, eliminating symptoms.  Find out how to customize and practice body scan visualizations in my book. Visualization is just one of the body’s amazing abilities.

The human body was created with many amazing abilities, often referred to as ‘the doctor within’. Understanding and utilizing those often misunderstood and mostly forgotten powers is crucial to well-being and eliminating depression. Exploring ways to continually develop and maintain strength of mind and body will enable you to better endure the demands of life with grace and confidence; ultimately allowing you to stay focused on the pursuit of meaningful goals. Change and fortitude often start with a healthy dose of fear. Sometimes fear comes through a ‘wake up call, something is really wrong’, like the debilitating symptoms of depression.

“Mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi don’t simply relax us; they can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression, according to a study by the universities of Coventry and Radboud.”[13]

You can find the summarized strategies that I used to edit my physical and mental health equations to improve my health, eliminating depression, toxicant induced loss of tolerance (TILT), multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), stress sensitization and multiple food allergies; in my book The Whole Person Well-being Equation. You can also find out about the additional supports that I use through my blog posts and social media pages which are listed at the end of this post.

If you are not one of the lucky people who finds themselves at the happy end of the mental health continuum daily, with superior resilience; do not despair. Many people find themselves regularly sliding back and forth to different points on the mental health continuum during challenging times. Set backs happen when it comes to dealing with anxiety, depression, coping with stress and achieving resilience. The goal, obviously, is to stay closer to the healthy, happy end of the continuum all the time.  The strategies, information and resources I have provided can help you with that goal, they have helped my clients reach their mental and physical health goals. Success in an endeavour is about consistent commitment.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other when you feel despair, keep moving forward, even if only by baby steps. You can do this!

There are going to be many hard days in life. I have had many and know life will continue to come with challenges and hard days. Consider creating a mantra to help you on the hard days that feel mentally and hope challenging.  Check out my mantra in my blog post SURVIVAL MANTRA: Words to get you through the hard times

flores-no-ceu-azulpdthriving

Follow my road map to help you edit your mental and physical health equations, restoring your health so that you can get on with your life and the pursuit of meaningful goals and relationships. Find alternate mood protecting and enhancing supports at My Green Medicine Cabinet. Consult your regular healthcare provider before stopping medications or adding in alternative supports. 

Consider escaping to a farmacy, garden, green space or botanical experience

‘for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ails’

escapetothefarmacy2

Escaping to, immersing in and eating from nature and botanical experiences brings so many body, mind and spirit benefits!

Using distractions as therapy has been one of my ongoing tools for coping with life’s challenging days. Although I no longer suffer from depression and my brain functions better than it has in year, I still use distraction therapy on days when life’s challenges mount, like those that present from the multiplier effect of having a large family and the present day challenges presented by the pandemic. There are many mind immersing ‘distraction therapy’ tools available. Follow my posts where I share some of my favourites.

These are very difficult times and existing mental health and addiction challenges can be magnified. If you have people in your life who are exhibiting threatening mental health behaviours towards themselves or others, it is important to take action through setting boundaries and incident reporting.  Failure to take note and action could result in serious consequences for you or other people, including your loved ones. The recent events in Nova Scotia highlights the seriousness of radical changes in a person’s mental state that led to the death of so many innocent people. Utilize and recommend the mental health supports that are readily available during the pandemic, through governments and community services. Check out the resource list below.

I started researching for my book and writing while I was recovering. My brain and some of my body are still ‘a work in progress’. There is more editing and healing to do, in terms of my 100% brain function goals. One of my left over quirks/deficiencies from my past chemical brain damage, is that while having a conversation a word will occasionally come out in a sentence that is not the word I intended.  Not sure where that comes from. My brain substitutes an alternate, unrelated word for the word that I intended. People tend to be a bit confused at times, as well as me.  Sometimes adds a bit of humour! It isn’t always easy to laugh at oneself when one malfunctions, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You will find many blog posts that I have written throughout my recovery from physical and mental challenges on my blog.  At the very end of this post I have listed several blog posts about brain challenges, so scroll to the bottom of this post to read more.

Wishing you whole person well-being!

Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C., C.B.P., Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Health by Design, http://www.mybodycanhealitself.ca/

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links for qualified product purchases.

My Bookshttp://www.mybodycanhealitself.ca/books.htm

https://www.facebook.com/HealthbyDesignForAHealthierYou/

https://www.facebook.com/LIVE.DEPRESSION.FREE/

https://www.instagram.com/elisabethlhines/

https://www.pinterest.ca/elisabethlhines/health-by-design-for-a-healthier-you/

Must Read Books for mental health recovery:

___________________________________

[1] http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bee_Movie

[2] Scientists quash claims about single ‘depression genes’, Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324884

[3] What does it mean to have a genetic predisposition to a disease? US National Library of Medicine, https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/mutationsanddisorders/predisposition

[4] Involvement of Genetic and Environmental Factors in the Onset of Depression, US National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3897684/

[5] Pollution in People, Toxic Chemical Profiles of 11 families and 5 adults across Canada, https://environmentaldefence.ca/report/report-pollution-in-people-toxic-chemical-profiles-of-11-adults-and-5-families-across-canada/

[6] Blood lead levels and major depressive disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder in U.S. young adults, US National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917196/

[7] Childhood lead exposure linked to poor adult mental health, Science Daily, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190123112330.htm

[8] Air pollution, mental health, and implications for urban design: a review, Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health, https://www.urbandesignmentalhealth.com/journal-4—air-pollution-and-mental-health.html

[9] Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses, Indian Journal of Psychiatry, US National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/

[10] Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Dr. Eva Selhub, Harvard Health Blog, March 26, 2020, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

[11] A Dietary Treatment for Depression: A Randomized controlled trial shows the right diet can improve depression. Dr. Emily Deans, Psychology Today, March 17, 2017

[12] Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression, Annals of Psychiatry and Mental Health, https://www.jscimedcentral.com/Psychiatry/psychiatry-5-1091.pdf

[13] Meditation and yoga can ‘reverse’ DNA reactions which cause stress, new study suggests, Science Daily, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170615213301.htm

Resources:

Check with your local and national government websites to find supports for your region and country.

Mental Health Commission of Canada – https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/external-covid-19-resources-general-public

Taking Care of your Mental Health During COVID-19, Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/mental-health.html

Canadian Mental Health Association – https://cmha.ca/news/covid-19-and-mental-health

Diet quality and depression risk: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studiesJournal of Affective Disorders, January 15, 2018.

Diet and Depression. Dr. Monique Tello, Harvard Health Blog, January 29, 2020.

Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, July 2017.

____________________________

More of my blog posts to help you edit your mental health equation:

THE POWER OF MIND BODY HEALING TO BECOME SYMPTOM FREE – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/the-power-of-mind-body-healing-to-become-symptom-free/

BACK TO ‘BALANCE’: Body, Mind & Spirit Life Balancing Self-Care Strategies – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/back-to-balance-body-mind-life-balancing-self-care-strategies/

YOUR BODY’S INTERNAL COMMUNICATION SYSTEM: Improving crucial messaging for better health – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/your-bodys-internal-communication-system-improving-crucial-messaging-for-better-health/

SELF-TALK REPROGRAMMING: How to Change How Your Body & Brain Response ‘for a healthier you’ – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/self-talk-reprogramming-how-to-change-how-your-body-brain-respond-for-a-healthier-you/

THE GIFT of a Healthy Brain: Strategies to Protect and Restore Optimum Brain Function – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/the-gift-of-a-healthy-brain-strategies-to-protect-and-restore-optimum-brain-function/

INDOOR AIR QUALITY: A Potential for Compromised Brain, Nervous System and Overall Health – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/indoor-air-quality-a-potential-for-compromised-brain-nervous-system-and-overall-health/

BRAIN & NERVOUS SYSTEM FUNCTION RECOVERY: More is Possible! – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/brain-nervous-system-function-recovery-more-is-possible/

HEAVY METALS: Dangerous To Your Brain – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/heavy-metals-dangerous-to-your-brain/

BRAIN INJURY: Natural Strategies for Recovery – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/brain-injury-natural-strategies-for-recovery/