MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When it comes to nutrition, many people try to get five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Now, a behavioral psychologist is recommending that people try five small servings a day of things to reduce their stress and improve their mental health.
“I think there’s an assumption that it’s selfish,” said Seth Gillihan, a psychologist who created what he calls “a mental health five-a-day.” It uses the acronym BLOOM: breathe, love, observe, offer, and move.
Just like we try to optimize the foods we eat, Gillihan says we can optimize the way we think.
“It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Stuff we enjoy doing, just bring a little more intention to it, and do it every day,” he said.
“It doesn’t have to take a long time. We don’t have to sit and do 15 minutes of focused meditation. Just a single breath: breathe in. Breathe out. Just notice that I’m breathing. That can do a lot to reset our nervous systems,” Gillihan said.
And it doesn’t have to mean romantic love.
“We want to take time each day to be with people that bring out the best of us,” Gillihan said. “One of the simplest things we can do to build stronger connections is to be of service in small ways. One of our deepest needs is to meet the needs of others.”
This means taking notice of one’s thoughts.
“If we don’t question our thoughts, we’re going to live in a false reality and create a lot of unhappiness,” Gillihan said. It’s a challenge to observe our thoughts without obsessing, he acknowledged. “We want to notice we’re having thoughts, without getting lost in them.”
“There’s so much good in our lives, it fades into the background and we stop noticing it,” Gillihan said. He isn’t suggesting forcing feelings of thanksgiving. Instead, he suggests assigning yourself a gratitude journal.
“Waking up, that’s a good thing. Being able to breathe. There’s a vaccine for COVID. That’s a big deal. All these things that didn’t have to be that way, you start to notice them. Gratitude will emerge on its own and gratitude is often a pathway to joy,” he said.
“We know physical exercise is great for relieving stress and easing anxiety, it’s more effective on average than antidepressant medication,” Gillihan said. The type of movement doesn’t matter – just find something that gives you joy.