David Aftergood, MD
May has always been my favorite month. The natural world is waking up in all it’s splendor. Flowering trees budding in mid April, burst into color and settle into the calm cool green of May. May is my birthday month and in and all honesty, don’t most of us favor our birth month? May is also the month designated for Mental Health Awareness.
As an integrative psychiatrist, I am very appreciative of the growth of interest in mind-body tools such as meditation and yoga. I have personally benefitted greatly from their practice. The medical literature has reflected their usefulness with publishing more than 3000 articles since the 1990’s with Mindfulness in the title.
It is important, however, to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. As human beings we are the products of many millions of years of evolution. Complex neural and behavioral circuits exist in our brains and bodies that were important in our evolution and are no longer adaptive in our present culture and times. This can lead to maladaptive patterns that get triggered automatically. Nowadays, you don’t need to be chased by a lion in order to have a massive fight or flight adrenaline release that leads to a panic attack. You can have one triggered while sitting on your sofa at home worrying about a potential job loss.
For optimal health we are challenged to get our physical, emotional and cognitive selves onto the same page so that we can have loving relationships and function in a complex world. In my estimation, a truly holistic approach to mental health would allow a seat at the table for everything and everyone including meditation, yoga, spirituality, nutrition, exercise, sleep, retreats, charitable work emersion in nature, psychotherapy, couples, family work, and medication.
There are no simple solutions. A good start is to open awareness to the complexity and individuality of each one of us sacred human beings, and then become educated as to the variety of approaches that can lead to a path that heals.