Why an Apple a Day Might Actually Keep the Doctor Away

By Hannah O’Grady, LMSW

I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before: take your meds, sleep 7-9 hours per night, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, etc. etc. Most of us can recite these recommendations in our sleep, and I personally can’t remember the last time I left a doctor’s office without getting lectured about maintaining a healthy diet. Yet, so many people continue to not take these recommendations seriously, despite the benefit we know they would have on our physical health. However…how would you feel if I told you that following these recommendations can also have tremendous impacts on our mental health? Would you start to take these recommendations more seriously if I told you they could reduce vulnerability to intense and undesirable emotions? If so, stay with me.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy that provides concrete skills for decreasing emotion dysregulation and increasing overall emotional stability. One of these concrete skills is the PLEASE skill; this skill is used to increase emotional resiliency and decrease the chances of us slipping into states where we may feel that we are at the mercy of our emotions. This skill is an acronym, where each letter highlighting an important aspect of our physical health to take care of: 

PhysicaL Illness: Our mind and body are very connected. When we are sick, we are much more vulnerable to negative emotions. Therefore, try to keep up to date with your doctors appointments and be sure to take your medications as prescribed.

Eating: Be mindful of what you eat and how it makes you feel. Do not overeat and do not under eat, either. And yes, you are allowed to eat sweets, as long as these aren’t the only foods you eat. 

Avoid Mood-Altering Substances: Drugs and alcohol can lower our threshold for experiencing unwanted emotions. Avoid mood-altering drugs, as these can have a strong impact on you both in the short-term and the long-term. If using alcohol, use in moderation and use wisely. 

Sleep: Do not under sleep or oversleep; the average person needs between 7-9 hours of sleep. Try to practice good sleep hygiene: avoid caffeine/nicotine/exercise 3-4 hours before bed, try to keep to a consistent sleep schedule, and prepare your room for sleep (not too hot or cold, not too noisy). 

Exercise: There has been extensive research conducted on the efficacy of exercise as a form of antidepressant. Try to get some form of exercise at least 5 days a week. Get creative! Exercise can entail a variety of things, such as running, walking, yoga, karate, etc. 

When it comes to implementing the above, start small. Do not put pressure on yourself to eat, sleep, and exercise perfectly. This would only be setting yourself up for failure. Even small tweaks, such as adding in a 20-minute walk per day, can have undeniable impacts on our mental health. I encourage you to give the PLEASE skill a try and see the benefits it could have not only on your physical wellbeing, but your mental wellbeing!


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