Nourishment for the Mind

Posted by Dennis Potter on March 8, 2016

We are all aware that we need adequate (sometimes healthy) nourishment for our bodies, which if kept in good shape, help our brains to function. But in addition to food, is there more we can do? I recently read an article called “The Healthy Mind Platter”, by David Rock, Daniel J. Siegel, Steven A.Y. Poelmans and Jessica Payne and I thought I would share some of their observations with you.

In today’s world, we constantly bombarded by interruptions and distractions by caused by latest and greatest gadgets for keeping up with the technology flow, news, and other information. We have laptops, tablets, phones and watches that keep us in constant touch with the world, with our work, and sometimes even with our families. We have voice mail, email, texts, and twitter announcements of what people are doing or thinking at the moment. What does all this do to our brains, which are not genetically programed for unplanned constant bombardment of all kinds of stimuli beyond our natural surroundings?

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We are aware that the level of stress we experience each day has reached a level that our brains were not designed for. As Rock et al point out, “with stress the brain will disconnect more often from the task at hand, and we may find ourselves staring at the computer screen experiencing a momentary state of reverie or trance.” When this happens we may feel the need to “buckle down” get back to work. Sometimes we may feel the need for more caffeine, and use that trip as an excuse to “visit” with a colleague for a few minutes, in spite of the work building up at our desk. We go home at night mentally exhausted, only to face the demands of those we might be lucky enough to live with, who now need some attention from us. We collapse in front of the TV screen for mindless entertainment, but at the same time are bombarded with commercials designed to let us know how inadequate our lives are unless we buy their product, take their medication, or purchase their services. No rest for the mind here.

So what do they recommend are things we should consider putting on our platter? They identify seven key ingredients for a healthy mind platter.

  1. Adequate sleep. The sleep hygienists tell us that most people need between 6.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep 7 nights a week. They tell us to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. We cannot make up for lost sleep on the weekends.
  2. Play Time. A time to laugh, and enjoy yourself. Play can stimulate the reward centers of brain and release dopamine to make us feel good.
  3. Down Time. They explain that this is different than having a hobby or sports. It is disconnecting from the “real world” for a few minutes. It might involve listening to music, taking a long hot shower without thinking about anything in particular.
  4. Time In. This can include techniques of Mindfulness or meditation.
  5. Connecting Time. This is taking time to cultivate social relationships and maintain them. Human beings are social animals for the most part. We are herd mammals that regularly need contact with one another.
  6. Physical Time. The thing we all dread to hear. Some form of regular activity of at least 20 minutes 3-4 times a week.
  7. Focus Time. Setting aside time for accomplishing goals/tasks, with minimum disruption.

So if we accept that these are good things for all of us to do better within our lives, would they not be some of the things we might remind others of after a disruptive event? Aren’t they all tools that will help us to be more resilient to the stress of daily living, and enhance resiliency to bounce back after significant events have disrupted our world?

Think about it. How can you use this platter in your own life? How can you share it with people who might find their coping skills temporarily disrupted by a life event?

DennisWAbout the Author: Dennis Potter is a licensed social worker, certified addiction counselor and a Fellow, by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Dennis helped to form one of the first community based Crisis Response Teams in the country, and was a founding member of the Mid-West Michigan CISM Team and the Michigan Crisis Response Association. Since 1989, Dennis has helped to train many of the CISM teams in Michigan and in 24 other states.

Dennis has conducted or consulted on all manner of traumatic events for communities, businesses, schools, police, fire and emergency services personnel, the U S Post Office, and community mental health agencies. He is frequently called upon for consultation after particularly difficult events. In addition to his trauma response experience he has received training and supervision in Cognitive Therapy from the Beck Institute in Philadelphia, PA and participated in train the trainer courses in Motivational Interviewing. He is a national and international presenter and trainer. He has presented at the last 10 International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) World Congresses and was awarded the ICISF Excellence in Training and Educations Award at the ICISF 2011 World Congress. He has provided motivational training to a variety of mental health, substance abuse agencies and businesses. In addition, he has provided training in both Latvia and Denmark.