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Science-Based Ways to Build Mental Health Skills

I’m always looking for evidence-based ways to help clients improve their mental health. There’s so much pseudo-science out there, that I was delighted when a friend told me about the website of Greater Good in Action: https://ggia.berkeley.edu/. All of their practices are based on scientific studies and trials. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all of their suggestions will work for you. It only means that they work for many people.
 
The Greater Good in Action at UC Berkley encourages these practices:
  1. Awe: Observing nature and the beauty of the world
  2. Compassion: Loving-kindness, eliciting altruism, feeling connected/supported
  3. Connection: Effective apology, forgiveness, shared identity, friendship, gratitude
  4. Empathy: Increasing closeness, letting go of anger, active listening, positivity
  5. Forgiveness: Forgiveness, letting go of anger, effective apology
  6. Gratitude: journaling, letter-writing, positivity, nature, relationships
  7. Happiness: strengths’ focus, random acts of kindness, best possible self, gratitude
  8. Kindness: shared identity, feeling connected, compassion, make giving feel good
  9. Mindfulness: body scan meditation, mindful breathing, self-compassion break
  10. Optimism: three good things, best possible self, silver linings, strengths, gratitude
  11. Resilience to Stress: mindful breathing, response to challenges, forgiveness
  12. Self-compassion: letter to self, self-compassion break, response to challenges,
How skilled are you at these practices? Here’s what I’ve seen in my 30-plus years of clinical work. Many dysregulated eaters have enormous compassion for others and not so much for themselves. They often have difficulty with intimate connections and, therefore, isolate, fearing dependence on others. They’re highly fearful and often pessimistic. They lack gratitude and focus more on what they don’t have than on what they do have. Their connections are somewhat tenuous and they often pick people they can’t depend on or be themselves with. Some hold grudges and others can forgive others easily, but they have difficulty forgiving themselves.
 
Review the above list, then re-order these “practices” from ones that you’re already pretty skilled at to ones which challenge you and in which you could use some practice. Then focus on a practice a week until you have completed the practices in all 12 areas. Assess how you’re doing after three months, then return to the areas in which you’d still like to improve. Make some of the most effective exercises part of your life. In fact, make as many of them routine as you have time and energy for. Then watch as your best self slowly emerges and your relationship with food improves.
 
Best,
Karen