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Therapeutic lifestyle changes as useful as drugs in improving mental health
Date:2/22/2011

Irvine, Calif., Feb. 22, 2011 Getting more exercise, spending time outdoors and helping others are among the activities that can be as effective as drugs or counseling in treating an array of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, according to a UC Irvine study.

In determining this, Dr. Roger Walsh, professor of psychiatry & human behavior, philosophy and anthropology, as well as adjunct professor of religious studies, reviewed research on the effects of what he calls "therapeutic lifestyle changes." Other TLCs might relate to nutrition, relationships, recreation, relaxation, and religious or spiritual involvement.

"I found that lifestyle changes can offer significant advantages for patients, therapists and societies, yet they're insufficiently appreciated, taught or utilized," Walsh said. "TLCs can be effective, inexpensive and enjoyable, with fewer side effects and complications than medications. In the 21st century, therapeutic lifestyles may need to be a central focus of mental, medical and public health."

Study results appear online in American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association. Among Walsh's findings:

  • Exercise doesn't just boost people's sense of well-being. It can help children do better in school, improve cognitive performance in adults, reduce age-related memory loss in the elderly, and increase neuron formation in the brain.

  • Diets with plenty of fruits, vegetables and fish may enhance kids' school performance, help maintain cognitive function in adults, and reduce symptoms in schizophrenic and affective disorders.

  • Spending time in nature can promote cognitive function and overall well-being.

  • Good relationships can reduce health risks ranging from the common cold to strokes, as well as multiple mental illnesses, and can dramatically improve psychological health.

  • Recreation and fun can lessen def
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Contact: Tom Vasich
tmvasich@uci.edu
949-824-6455
University of California - Irvine
Source:Eurekalert

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