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Small changes in six specific areas can make a big difference in your life. New studies in neuroscience show the importance of integrating what some have deemed “therapeutic lifestyle changes” (TLCs) into traditional methods of therapy.

These changes enhance therapeutic results, promote wellness, decrease stress, and facilitate the development of new neural connections, which increases brain health.

In Part 1, we looked at the positive effects of exercise, nutrition and social relationships on mental and physical health.

Here in Part 2, we’ll take a look at the final three.

Cognitive Challenge

No one likes being bored or stuck. Change is hard, but it is also exciting, challenging, and creates positive effects in the brain, “jiggling the synapses” created while young. You don’t have to jump out of an airplane or move to a hut in the jungle to create meaningful cognitive challenge. Sometimes challenging held assumptions and beliefs is enough. Convinced you aren’t musically inclined? Take a music class. Feel like you could never speak in front of people? Take an improv class. Learn a new skill or read a challenging book. Take up a new hobby. Challenge yourself in some way and help your brain develop new neural pathways.


While the exact amount of sleep that everyone needs is different, most scientists recommend around seven to eight hours a night. This number sounds preposterous to many people who struggle to get even six hours a night. Even if we get in bed on time, our brains refuse to shut off and let us get some sleep. Some helpful tips to help our brains and body relax at the end of the day include creating a bedtime routine, turning off the TV and grabbing a book, meditation/guided relaxations, and limiting caffeine after a certain time.


A daily meditation practice (even just 10-20 minutes a day) has been shown to positively affect gray matter in the brain, lead to greater emotional regulation, and increase mindfulness. In today’s world of tablets and smartphones, there are many apps that can help even the most meditation-inept among us to develop positive mindfulness and meditation practices.

Enacting these six changes will create positive change in your life, change that enhances the efficacy of counseling and can help you create a healthy and authentic sense of self.


Psychology World Rena McDaniel, MEd

Walsh, R. (2011, January 17). Lifestyle and Mental Health. American Psychologist. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1037/a0021769

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