‘A Well Mind’ by Dr Lisa Parkinson Roberts: Book Review

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Why are we taught how to care only for our body and not our mind?   That’s the question that is the driving force for Dr Lisa Parkinson Roberts’ new book, ‘A Well Mind’.  I have often asked the same question! As Lisa rightly observes: “while this is slowly-changing, it is “more in the context of ‘Better do crosswords and talk to people daily so we don’t get Alzheimer’s,’ or ‘Better see a doctor if I’m feeling depressed.” 

With all the discussion about mental health, as a society, we still remain focussed on treating the symptoms of disease. Little attention is given to cultivating a well mind. Good health is, however, about more than the absence of disease and that’s why I whole-heartedly recommend ‘A Well Mind’ to you dear Reader. As well as being informative and engaging, this book is refreshing to read.  Positively uplifting in fact. As Parkinson Roberts says, “You have more control over the wellbeing of your mind than you might currently believe.” This is a message that I am keen to share as it can make such a profound difference to one’s overall health and treatment outcome.

Imagine if in school we had lessons on cultivating a well mind.  Imagine being given tools to calm our nervous system, tools to ward off anxiety and depression, foods to nourish and heal our mind.  Imagine if we were taught that we are not our thoughts; rather, we are an audience who has the power to choose which thoughts to watch and nurture, and which thoughts to dismiss.  Imagine if we were taught how to rewrite the narrative in our head, and let go of what doesn’t serve us.” 

Lisa Parkinson Roberts PhD

Published by Exisle Publishing, ‘A Well Mind’ (RRP £12.99) is a comprehensive and holistic guide to improving your wellbeing by eating well and maintaining healthy routines. Dr Parkinson Roberts looks at why the health of one’s mind is just so important. She investigates nutrition, sleep, stress management and exercise to achieve optimal mental health and to help you to regain control of how you feel. She likens her journey to reduce inflammation in her body and mind to that of a person embarking on a weight-loss journey. 

The Author’s candour, her realism and compassion is striking. This is an author and academic who knows what she is talking about, not just from years of study and clinical practice (she has a PhD in Nutrition Science) but from deep and at times, most painful experience. Her personal journey makes the book all the more compelling to read and her passion and curiosity shine through.

Lisa Parkinson Roberts, Ph.D. Author of ‘A Well Mind’

Diagnosed with Bipolar at the age of fifteen, also depression and OCD, Dr Parkinson Roberts has struggled with mental health for most of her life. She now manages her mind by using “food as medicine”. Dr Parkinson Roberts found successful methods for coping and she shares these tools and her academic expertise with her readers. She learned an important lesson during her journey: “struggle can alchemize into growth, and we all struggle; the struggle just presents differently for each of us.” 

‘A Well Mind’: In Summary

Parkinson Roberts explores the Gut Brain Axis, the role of the microbiome, and explains how the diversity of our good bacteria and the foods we eat influence our mind and emotions. She highlights important nutrients, vitamins and minerals to consider for optimum mental, emotional and physical health.

Supported by the latest scientific research and case studies, the Author also explores Epigenics; the benefits of immersing in nature, mindfulness techniques; the importance of breathing properly, nourishing food and nurturing relationships; the value of community and the value in finding gratitude, purpose and meaning. Dr Parkinson Roberts is only the second person I know to reference Eudaimonic wellbeing in the context of contemporary wellness. One of my mentors, Patrizia Bortolin, the innovative Spa Director at Preidlhof and a leading Transformational Wellness Coach is the first. I must take Patrizia a copy of the book when I go to Italy!

Aside from the solid nutrition and lifestyle advice, I particularly like Dr Parkinson Roberts’ mind-changing or ‘shift’ exercises. These are very helpful – powerful too. I place a great deal of importance on mindset in my own nutrition work with clients. Our thoughts affect our gut health, our emotions, our behaviour, and vice-versa! Indeed, our overall health. Our thoughts and emotions can also manifest in physical symptoms. It was a ‘change of mind’ that helped me in my own past struggles with ulcerative colitis. One day, I changed my mind. I decided to be well… that I really was going to get better. That mental shift was profoundly life-changing.

The beauty of a well mind is that it alters the landscape surrounding us.  We can move from living in the past, and with it anxiety and regret, or from being caught up in the future, and with it uncertainty, to experiencing each day
mindfully and calmly.” 

Lisa Parkinson Roberts, Ph.D

Dr Lisa Parkinson Roberts, I salute you!  ‘A Well Mind‘ is a keeper! I will enjoy recommending this book to my clients and revisiting it time and again.  Thank you!

A Remedy for New Year Resolutions

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How is your New Year Resolution going? Reportedly, most people give up on their new resolution as soon as the 12th January but if you are one of them, don’t lose heart. Most likely, your heart was never in it!

New Year Resolutions – along with the countless ‘New Year New You’ diets peddled by the media in January – are often built on a false premise. They are a social construct and a lot of people just feel compelled to make a New Year Resolution because they think they ‘should’ or ‘ought to’. After all, isn’t everyone else doing it?

Now, in my experience, anything you feel you ought to do, or should do, is really a red rag to the bull and doomed to fail. Whatever your mind might try and persuade itself, the rebel heart soon kicks in. Worse still, you are more likely to go to the other extreme – either immediately before or after the New Year Resolution – as a compensatory ‘reward’ for the ‘sacrifice’ made.

The trouble with so many New Year Resolutions is that they tend to have a self-denial aspect to them and, to me, there’s something inauthentic in that. Instead of thinking in terms of what ‘to give up’, I prefer to reframe this and ask, what is it that you would really LOVE to achieve? What do you honestly desire ? What do you want to do MORE of in life? For the simple fact is, that if we enjoy or are passionate about something, we are far more motivated and likely to succeed in our endeavours.

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Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, and if you really want to make a positive change, there is absolutely no point always doing the same thing, or going about it in the same way.

However, who says we have to start a resolution at New Year? There’s really no better time to start than today.

One of my personal definitions of good health is really about living or being in the here and now. You can’t change the past and I always think there is little point worrying about the future; after all the future is determined by what you do now. Today. This minute.

I know someone who used to smoke 30-40 cigarettes a day. After years of trying to give up, endless nagging from loved ones, and countless broken resolutions, one day he just stopped. He now hasn’t smoked for over 20 years. I asked him recently how he managed to finally stop. He replied “OH NO! Don’t ever say I have stopped! I just say to myself that I don’t want to smoke a cigarette today“. For him, the idea of ‘completely giving up’ in the forever after sense, had always made it too challenging and depressing to stop. The difference is that he takes every day as it comes but now makes the personal choice not to smoke.

So if you really want to make a positive change, it doesn’t have to be a massive step. That can be really intimidating and often impractical in the context of everyday life. The best thing is to keep it simple. Just take small steps and build up from there. Take each day as it comes. Before you know it, the weeks turn into weeks, months, then years, and you can get a great sense of achievement along the way.

I often allude to the ‘butterfly effect’ with my clients: the almost imperceptible and smallest flutter of a butterfly’s delicate wings exert tremendous force and energy. This can also be likened to the ripple effect of a small pebble thrown into a large lake.

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So perhaps today, you might just want to try doing something new, even for the first time. Just one small thing, and see how you feel, where your journey takes you. There is no pressure but it could be the start of an exciting adventure. The important thing is to try new things and to be open to new experiences as this mindset can really benefit the whole body – your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. With the right nutritional support you can also build your focus, energy and resilience, to support you on your way.

Here are just some suggestions as to small steps that you can yield surprisingly big results.

Small things that can make a big difference to health:

  • Swap your daily can of Diet Coke for water. Put the money saved at the end of the month towards a new outfit or an evening out.
  • Ditch the bathroom scales and visualise yourself in your favourite outfit in eight weeks time. Keep on visualising. ‘Weigh’ yourself more by how you clothes fit and feel.
  • Get outside and into nature more.
  • Aim for 12,000 steps a day – get moving more! If you walk just 5,000 steps a day, don’t worry, just start off by adding another 2,000 steps a day. Then see how you feel!
  • Switch off Facebook and Instagram and call or meet up with a close friend instead.
  • Variety really is key when it comes to promoting good health. Why not try out some vegetables, pulses and spices this week that you may not have tried before? Why stick to the same old repertoire?! Incorporate more variety and colour into what you eat every day. Then invite your friends round to share and enjoy the experience!
  • Slow down. Really chew and savour your food. Your digestion will really thank you for this. Chewing properly yields surprising results and it doesn’t cost a thing.

Give it a go but most importantly… have fun!