It seems there are no shortage of riffs on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid and (newer) choose my plate graphics, which depict the food groups that should be included as part of a healthy diet. A few weeks ago, we blogged about the Food for Thought Pyramid, a tongue-in-cheek look at what really makes us healthy.
Here’s another, the creation of Daniel Siegel and David Rock, who wondered what the equivalent ‘diet’ would be for a healthy mind. They developed The Healthy Mind Platter, with seven daily essential mental activities they claim are necessary for optimum mental health. These activities serve to both strengthen your brain’s internal connections and your connections with those you share your life with.
There is not a temporal serving size for each component, as every individual is different and their needs may change over time. The goals of The Healthy Mind Platter are to draw attention to a spectrum of essential mental activities and to encourage people to take steps toward achieving balanced mental health by including each of those activities in their daily routine, even if only for a few moments.
I was particularly interested by the yin and yang, the opposite and complimentary nature of the activities. For example, ‘focus time’ is defined as time spent pursuing tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain, whereas ‘down time’ is non-focused time, which allows the mind to completely wander and relax, allowing the brain to recharge. The same contrasting nature exists between time spent sleeping and time being physically active, or time spent connecting with others versus ‘time in,’ which they describe as time spent quietly reflecting internally.
I wonder if individuals have a tendency to spend more time on one end of the continuum than on the other end and whether the task of investing equal amounts of time on both ends of the spectrum is challenging. For example, I sometimes have a tendency to overbook connecting with friends and family, and this leaves me little time for meditation and journaling, which are activities I’ve found to be equally important to my ability to recharge.
One way the platter’s creators suggest using the tool is to map out an average day in your life and see how much time you spend engaged in each activity. If you find there is an activity that is not a part of your routine, consider whether there is there a way to insert even 2 or 3 minutes of it each day. After all, we appreciate the importance of variety in a nutritionally balanced diet, so why shouldn’t it be the same when it comes to mental health?
– Catherine Wilson