Dr Gregory Scott Brown, author of The Self-Healing Mind, helps us bust myths surrounding mental health and self-care. We discuss the difference between mental health and mental illness and the keys to teen well-being.
Bonfire Digital Wellness has a diverse team of seasoned, compassionate school counselors, ready to coach your teen. Check it out today and take advantage of a 1-month FREE trial: BonfireDW.org/talkingtoteens
Full Show Notes
As parents, we spend a lot of time thinking about our teens’ mental health. Often, the first things that come to mind are mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. However, there’s a key distinction between mental illness and mental health. While illnesses like depression undoubtedly take a toll, mental health refers to overall well-being - things like motivation, focus, emotional regulation and connection.
So how can we support the mental health of our teens? This week, we’re talking self-care - those small, daily practices that equip us to handle life’s ups and downs. To break it all down, we’re joined by Dr. Gregory Scott Brown, psychiatrist and author of The Self-Healing Mind.
In his book, Dr. Brown outlines what he calls the five pillars of self-care: sleep, spirituality, nutrition, breathwork and movement. He explains how these pillars not only stave off mental illness, but also strengthen the skills and habits teens need to build mental resilience. Things like focus, self-awareness, stress tolerance, healthy relationships and more.
The Healing Potential Of Self-Care
In our interview, Dr. Brown explains that self-care practices have scientifically-proven healing effects on the mind and body. Breathing exercises can stimulate relaxation responses by increasing GABA and alpha brain waves. Adequate sleep allows the brain to replenish and solidify memories. Movement and yoga help us cultivate conscious body awareness and presence. And healthy eating provides the building blocks for neurotransmitters that regulate mood.
Rather than erasing unwanted feelings with medication, self-care helps us sit with discomfort and understand the message behind our emotions, Dr. Brown explains. However, self-care can powerfully complement medical treatment for those facing clinical diagnoses like depression or anxiety. Like a ladder that helps someone climb out of a ditch, meds offer initial relief, but self-care helps sustain mental health over the long run.
Daily Self-Care For Busy Teens
The best part about self-care is that it takes no special skill or money to practice - just intention and consistency. Dr. Brown suggests starting small by choosing one or two pillars to focus on. Teens might start going on nightly walks with a parent or friend. They could set aside 10 minutes before bed to journal. Or challenge themselves to put their phones away during mealtimes.
On top of specific techniques for sleep, eating, breathing, meditation and more, Dr. Brown provides tips for making self-care stick. Like scheduling it into each day or week. Or practicing it preventatively, not just when stressed. He also explains how parents can model self-care, and even make it a shared activity through things like breathwork before bed. By living self-care, not just preaching it, we’ll inspire the next generation to make it a lifelong habit.
There’s so much more from our conversation with Dr. Brown about the remarkable impacts self-care can have - both big and small. To learn more, be sure to check out The Self-Healing Mind wherever you get your books!