From our friends at the Alzhimer’s Reading Room. If you’re not reading their blog, you’re missing out!
The Healthy Mind Platter Overview
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently replaced its food pyramid with a needed revision, a “choose my plate” pictorial example of a dish of food groups to remind us of what a daily diet should consist of to optimize physical health. What would be the equivalent of a recommended daily diet for a healthy mind?
With an obesity epidemic rampant in the US, this change is welcome and hopefully will inspire people to be aware of how they compose their day’s food intake. Our mind, embodied in our extended neural circuitry and embedded in our connections to others and even the way we relate to our planet, is also in need of careful attention to establish and maintain mental health. Poverty, hunger, and homelessness threaten the essential needs of many throughout the world. War and natural disasters fill many lives with fear and suffering. And even for individuals in more stable environments, modern life can be filled with an overwhelming focus on the outer world and an experience of being isolated from meaningful connections with others. Multi-tasking with its fragmented attention and the sense of becoming overwhelmed with information overload frequently fracture a sense of wholeness. In each of these conditions, the embodied and socially embedded requirements for a healthy mind are not being created in daily life throughout the world. Many are deficient in a daily regimen necessary for mental well-being.
So what would be included in The Healthy Mind Platter? In the field of interpersonal neurobiology, we define a core aspect of the mind and also propose that a healthy mind emerges from a process called “integration”— the linkage of different components of a system. That system can be, for example, the body as we connect upper and lower regions to one another. Integration can also include how we connect with others in a family or a community, honoring differences and promoting compassionate linkages with each other. If we embrace interpersonal neurobiology’s proposed definition of a key facet of mind as an embodied and relationally embedded process that regulates energy and information flow, how can we make a practical definition of mental habits that can help people with their diet of “daily essential mental nutrients”? How can we use the focus of attention to strengthen integration in our bodies and in our relationships on a daily basis? What would the fundamental components of such a health-promoting daily regimen of mental activities be?