positive steps to take for better mental health

17th October 2023

Depession, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Eating Disorders, even serious disorders such as Schizophrenia, can be helped through attention to lifestyle changes and developing an arsenal of coping skills.

Many mental health disorders can go into complete remission through some of the steps mentioned in this article. It takes effort, time and patience, as well as a lot of work, but it can and has been done.

30-35 million people suffer with depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, anxiety disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, OCD, about 10% of the population in the US. This has become increasingly true also of children. The number of children who are taking psychiatric medications has increased dramatically in the US, Britain, Australia, and many her countries.

Approximately 10% of all children in the US also may taking prescribed pharmaceutical drugs at the present time for mental health disorders. The decision to medicate or not can be an agonizing decision for parents. Empathy and compassion is extended to anyone going through mental health problems and everyone's decision and viewpoint may be different on these matters.

What is Natural Psychology and Why?

Pharmaceutical treatments for mental health are being overprescribed and some forms of mental illness are being overdiagnosed. Natural psychology refers to a non-pharmaceutical method of working through mental health problems. It can be effective, safe, and it works.

By attention to lifestyle, much can be accomplished in a positive way. This is written out of sincere concern and empathy. We sincerely hope that some of the material that is found in this site can be of help in a spirit of giving.

Self Help

There are many options in treating mental health disorders. In Great Britain, doctors are known to prescribe self-help books to patients as a first line defense strategy. Medication is given secondary consideration.

There are many therapies that persons can participate in, and some of them are listed below. However, use of psychiatric medications for both adults and children has increased between four and five times in the past decade, some say it has increased seven-fold. This is proving to be true even for children as young as four years old.

There are a number of well-written books that provide useful guidelines, written by physicians and by psychiatrists. Natural Prozac, by Joel Robertson, Prozac Backlash, Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, Rethinking ADHD, by Ruth Neven from Australia, The ADD & ADHD Question and Answer Book by Dr. Susan Ashley, are all helpful references for both depression and ADHD.

Lifestyle changes can help a person to regain and maintain mental balance without having to resort to medications. It takes courage to face one's problems and make changes in one's life and to swim against the current, There is personal responsibility in our decisions and our decisions cannot be relegated to another person, not even to a doctor, family member or other professional.

Coaching for those with ADHD or depression is also available. There are organizations that can give you a list of coaches in your area. Some coaches work through the phone. They are there to support you or your child, to give practical suggestions and encouragement. Coaching is less costly and is often used in addition to the role of a therapist, but at times has been used instead of a therapist. The suggestion has been made by one mental health organization, that some who may not want to go on medicine or see a psychologist, might try coaching as a first line of defense.


A Long Term Approach
We need to keep a positive attitude.
Lifestyle changes lead to a more permanent solution.

Some principles and tools for good mental health can be summed up as follows:

  • Love
  • Purposeful living
  • Mental hygiene
  • Spiritual hygiene and attention to spiritual needs.
  • Physical activity & balance
  • Cleanliness & Order
  • Mind Strengthening and creative activities
  • Art as a natural mood stabilizer

  • Honesty & Humility
  • Communication concerning the present and past.
  • Effort.
  • Finding good companions and avoiding isolation.

Why a Non-Pharmaceutical Approach?

By taking time to look at lifestyle changes, mental hygiene, possibly physical aspects of one's life, or past experiences that might still be effecting one's emotions, it can give insight into how to overcome mood disorders more permanently.

It does take more effort and time initially for both the person who is experiencing mental health problems, and for professionals who might be working with someone who has mental health problems. It also takes patience and commitment on the part of family members, but in the end a non-pharmaceutical approach to treating mental illness can be more effective. If family members are involved in the treatment plan or counseling, this can result be benifiical.

One psychiatrist stated that diagnosing the illness and prescribing what he felt was appropriate medication, was the easy part, helping people with family issues, employment issues, issues from the past which might still be effecting his emotional or mental state, helping clients adjust lifestyles, was the hard part, it required more time, effort as well as commitment, and it was the more difficult part of his profession.

Lifestyles Changes

It has been found that by addressing lifestyle issues, much can be done in a positive way, that can help a person successfully cope and even overcome many mental health disorders. This is true of not only mild or moderate depression, but also even more serious psychiatric disorders.
By addressing these lifestyle issues, many have found more permanent, long-term, and even immediate relief from mental distresses and mood disorders as well as dealing with such problems with their children. The positive results for some with serious mental health problems have been permanent. Strict mental hygiene is something that many may need to give attention to.

Mental Hygiene

When we floss our teeth, we are surprised how much food is stuck in between. Our teeth looked clean, but daily flossing helps to preserve the life of one's teeth. In the same way, our minds need "mental flossing" quite often, attention to the details of what we are allowing into our mind on a daily basis can work wonders for our mental health. This is true both of adults and children.

The Mind Needs Rest

Our minds need to rest at times. If you were to use a hair dryer, 24 hours a day, it would eventually, or quickly, burn out. the same is true of our minds. A person who is on the go constantly, even in a positive way, needs to find time to recharge the batteries. We need adequate sleep naturally, without pills or alcohol, for the mind to recharge.

By giving attention to lifestyle issues, one may also find that their mental health gradually is restored, and that a person can learn to both cope with these problems and even see them go into remission over time. This isn't a miraculous overnight transition. It is one that takes perseverance and effort and that might take some time to see significant differences in one's mood. But the end result may be a significant improvement or even a full and permanent recovery.

Do you exercise?

When we think of lifestyle changes, we might think of drinking, smoking or using drugs, changes in these areas can all be of benefit in our mental health, but there are also many small changes in one's life that can make a big difference in one's mental health and in that of a child. Some have found relief from depression by maintaining an exercise regimen.

It has been found that brisk walking for exercise, is more effective in treating mild to moderate depression than taking medication, in both the short and long term treatment, as well as with the recurrence rate. In fact, one study by Duke University demonstrated that exercise alone was even more effective than using medication, and more effective than when medicine and exercise were combined. This proved true in both the short and long-term.

Exercise, when practiced regularly, preferably daily, naturally raises the serotonin level and endorphins in one's brain and contributes to better mood; but because it is being accomplished without adding manufactured pharmaceuticals, it is something that can be maintained for one's entire lifetime, in addition to the physical benefits from the exercise itself.

Brisk walking and exercise is said to be a better and more long-lasting treatment for depression than that of medication.

  • It helps you to focus
  • It stimulates positive emotions
  • It contributes to positive self-worth
  • It helps stimulate endorphins and opiates in the brain, giving a natural sense of


  • It is gentle, it's positive effects are long-lasting when continued.
  • It helps one to be in shape physically and stimulates the heart.
  • It contributes to weight loss.
  • It can give the mind time to rest, if one walks without music.

Other forms of exercise also help. One man who at times has experienced depression and overcame it, takes no medication. Instead he swims three or four times a week. He says it is the only thing that keeps him out of depression and medicine-free.

Attention to diet and engaging in mind strengthening activities also are of benefit:

Regular, healthful meals, low sugar, balanced nutrition, a regular, healthful breakfast, are all essentail elements for good mental health.

Avoiding eating sugar, sodas, cakes, candies, ice cream and instead opting for fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts. Avoiding deep fried foods, too much butter, ghee, and switching to whole grains, whole wheat bread instead of white, whole grain rice, instead of white; all of this can help to live healthy, keep off pounds. It can also have a positive effect on mental health.

Mind Strengthening Activities

Additionally, engaging in mind strengthening activities can do much for positive long term gains in one's mental health. "Mental hygiene" is a term that has been coined in some psychiatric circles and it is something many need to give attention to in order to restore their mental balance.

Just a little bit of sand in the engine of a car can lead to it eventually being rendered inoperable. Small barnacles on the bottom of a ship can slow it down and shipowners regularly spend large sums of money to clean off the barnacles to keep the ship running smoothly.

The mind is a very senstive organ. Some are emotionally more sensitive than others. It doesn't take much "mental sand" for some to experience problems with their mental health. Thoughtful attention to this area of life can do much to help one to cope, and many mood disorders for both adults and increasingly today for children, can be overcome through attention to keeping one's mind clean. Avoiding violence in the media (movies, TV, video games), pornography, can help even many adults and even many children and teens.

Talking Things Out

In addition to lifestyle changes, for a person who may have experienced some serious trauma such as child or spousal abuse, or might have repressed memories, which can be a very real component in psychological problems for some persons, talking things out with a good listener or a trained professional can be of value in relieving oneself of these burdens. That person might be a therapist or psychologist, or it might be a friend, spouse, minister or teacher, with whom one trusts and can confide, sometimes on one or two occassions, but for some, over an extended period of time. This can often be of help in repairing emotional wounds. Not everyone needs to talk about the past, but for those who do, it can be one key to mental and emotional balance and it can help one to gain understanding into their problems and organize one's thoughts.

Writing in a journal is also very helpful, both of the present and of the past, in clearing one's mind of "clutter" and organizing one's thoughts; in unlocking the past and present.

Writing poetry can abe something of a creative catharsis, as well as a tool for
building self esteem for some.

Mike, mentioned in the introduction, stated that prayer was of help in his overcoming anxiety disorders. This can be true of depression and bipolar disorder as well. It can be a valuable source of strength, guidance and comfort. By prayer, it refers to speaking openly or communicating with God about one's problems and asking for guidance, strength and help.

In addition to mental, emotional and physical considerations, humans are also spiritual beings. Our mental health is tied up in our spirituality as well. Spiritual hygiene is vital to maintain our mental balance. There are many things that in a spiritual way that can effect one's mental health and emotional state. It takes much effort to be aware of one's spiritual needs and to fulfill those needs. Some have found daily Bible reading to be a strengthening aid.

Preventive Medicine:

Dr. George Albee was at one time president of the American Psychological Association and professor emeritus at Vermont University, until his death in 2006. He advanced the idea that the roots of mental illness lay in the social structures and pressures, stresses and traumas that people have experienced.

He taught and wrote extensively that medications, were not the answer to mental illness, at a time when the use of psychiatric medications was just starting to become very widespread. He especially felt that children should never be prescribed psychiatric medications.

The widespread use of medication treatment in psychiatry is a relatively new practice. The first true psychiatric medications that were extensively used were developed in the 1950s, and it wasn't until the mid to late 1950s that thorazine, a psychotropic, atypical antipsychotic, was used in psychiatric hospitals. Since that time, hundreds, perhaps thousands of different psychiatric medications have been developed. Medicines such as barbiturates and amphetamines, developed in the 1930s, started to be used more frequently in the late 1950s and 1960s.


Children are being bombarded today with overwhelming social, family as well as entertainment issues. Family life has deteriorated for many. Children thrive on love and attention. They need the support and love of a father and mother. Up to 50% of children in the U.S. will be without one or the other parent at some time in their life. 25% of children are victims of child abuse in the country of Brazil as one example. Other countries show similar trends. In some Asian countries (India is one) that percentage soars to 50% for sexual abuse alone. The current statistics show that about 20% of all children are victims of child abuse throughout the world. (WHO). This can lead to emotional wounds and to mental health disorders. Love, support, and gentleness is the key to healing the mind and emotional wounds of children who have been abused.

Self Esteem

Self esteem is a vital component of a healthy mind. When we see tangible results of our own work, it helps to build a healthy self-esteem. Mind strengthening activities can help. Doing good things for others helps us to build positive feelings about ourselves. Creative endeavors also are of help in building self-esteem. Avoiding self-destructive behavior and having a regular job also build a positive sense of self-worth. Choosing associates who are a source of strength also is of value, rather than those who might be engaging in actions that are self-destructive such as hanging out at bars, drinking, or taking drugs.

Also, we need to get away from an all or nothing way of thinking. We all make mistakes, some of us worse than others, but everyone does. Many people these days are wounded from the past and present. We need to accept our failures, or mistakes, our shortcomings, work at overcoming them, but not to self-flagellate ourselves for past or present problems. We need to accept God's mercy, and look to Him for help. We need to learn to be merciful both to others and ourselves and realize that that is how God looks at things. He is there to help us, not to condemn us.

One high school teacher in a public school talks openly to students about God, and when she counsels them in a professional setting, she encourages them to look to God, someone higher than themselves, their Higher Power, whatever beliefs they espouse. "You need someone bigger than yourself," she says, to get out of the problems that you are in and to cope with them. For those that follow this advice, she says you are twice as likely to succeed as others. We need to accept the love and mercy of God and try the best we can. If we do the best we can, then we are doing good. And this goes for both those suffering with mental health problems and for parents and family of those who suffer as well.

"Don't think of doctors as God," is one suggestion on the National Resource Website for CHADD. In other words, we have to take charge of our own lives and make informed decisions. Parents need to do this if their children have mental health problems. Much can be accomplished on the home front.


Art, is a form of recreation, if it is kept in its proper place, can help calm the mind down in the same way that a tranquilizer does in a natural way. It can help to stabilize the mood of someone suffering with bi-polar disorder, as well as a child suffering with ADHD when it is engaged in regularly. It helps one to establish new thought patterns. It can be a natural mood stabilizer.

Art can strengthen the mind, and helps both children and adults have a healthy form of recreation. It can be a positive force to help one spend less time with TV video games or movies. It can be of assistance in breaking free from pornography. It can also be a tool for building self-esteem. It can be a peaceful healing tool for those who may have suffered from abuse.


Is a key element of good mental health.
Both the giving and recieving love is an essential
part of human emotional needs. Any time that we
spend in giving of ourselves to other people
can help us to have fulfilling and happier lives and can
contribute to healthful thought patterns.


It takes much effort for educators, parents and doctors to work together to protect children and teenagers, from potentially destructive influences and to provide a home, as well as a school atmosphere that gives a child love and peace, and that contributes to their good mental health. It takes effort for adults also, to break free from lifestyles or habits that may be contributing to mental health problems. It is something of most serious concern.

It is sincerely hoped that this information is a help in a better success ratio with the treatment of mental health disorders for both adults and children in this rapidly changing world.

Chemcial Imbalance?
Is the "medical model" view of mental health accurate?

Anyone wishing to come off medications such as antidepressants, should do so gradually rather than abruptly. Please see article, How to Quit the Cure, Newsweek Off-site link

This page has been produced by AYCNP which includes professionals in the educational field rather than in the mental health field. Please see here for more details about AYCNP.

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