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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

The mental health diet

I can’t tell you how often I hear that someone went to therapy years ago and it “helped for while, but it didn’t really work”.

When I ask what they mean, they usually explain that while they were consciously using what they learned, they felt better, but when they stopped using what they learned, they got worse again.

This is like saying I tried eating healthy and exercising, it “helped for a while but didn’t work”, because they went back to poor eating and not exercising – and began feeling crummy again.

Mental health is just like physical health. We feel better within 2-5 days of starting to exercise and eat well, and we feel worse within 2-5 days of stopping. Similarly, when we do things that connect us to our strong and healthy self (click here for reminder) we feel stronger, and when we don’t, we feel weaker.

What kind of mental health diet are you on? Keep reading and take our survey below to find out.

In my experience, both personally and professionally, there are far more mental health CONSUMERS than mental health USERS.


Many of us have read piles of books, attended workshops, have even been in therapy for years, and we still aren’t “better” (Consumers). Yet when we actually look at our experience, we are expecting to get better by going to therapy once/ week or reading a book, rather than by USING what we learned from them in the rest of our lives (Users).

Part of why pharmaceuticals still has such a big market is because lots of people don’t want to take responsibility for their mental health. It is easier to take a pill than do the work. In short, many people  are at the WISH and early WANT stage of readiness for change (see video for reminder). Sometimes we need medication to HELP us do the work, but no pill makes us OK with being in an abusive relationship, not feeling fulfilled at work or not making time for self care, and the pill won’t be effective in the long term if we don’t address those issues, even while we are taking it.

SURVEY TIME! Rate the following items as True/ False

  1. I eat healthy meals 2-3x/ day and little or no junk food

  2. I make and take quiet time during my day to meditate or connect to myself

  3. I do something just for me, that makes me feel stronger, every day (or most days)  i.e., Journaling, Dance, Playing music, walk in nature

  4. I do at least 20 min of exercise that gets my heart rate up 3x/ week

  5. I make time to connect with people who matter to me and I feel help meet MY needs at least 2x/ week

  6. I have honest and authentic interactions with the people who matter to me and ask for help when I need it

  7. I go to bed at a reasonable hour for my schedule, so I can wake up feeling refreshed

  8. I drink NO MORE than 1 cup of coffee/ day and no more than 1-2 servings of alcohol / night if any (click here for alcohol consumption guidelines in Canada)

  9. I consciously CHOOSE and PLAN how I want to spend my time instead of just reacting to what comes up

  10. I speak to myself in a positive, validating and reassuring way that makes me feel empowered

When you look at your answers, are you taking responsibility for being as healthy as you can be? Knowing of course that no one consistently does this perfectly, so it is important to take this as FEEDBACK and to TAKE ACTION on the items that are most important to you, and trust your gut on that one.  Even taking action to improve some of these areas, even when we are not doing them consistently yet, tends to help a lot!

For more on what we need to be well, watch this video!

Have a great week!

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