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Are God, Nutrition, Necessary For Good Mental Health?

Illustration by Billy Alexander

There is no magic bullet. Improving mental health and developing a positive outlook on life, whether or not you have a serious mental illness or not, takes time and may require a variety of approaches.

A pill, whether it is a pharmaceutical, a vitamin or herb, is usually not an instant “cure”. Neither is therapy.

We believe that emotional well-being is at least in part, a high-powered habit. By consistently, over time, using the tools you are given in therapy to reinforce making healthy choices, you lay down the foundation for continued mental health achievements and living an emotionally and spiritually rich life.

But there are other aspects of life that can benefit you if they are in place.

Some of our focus at Therapy Soup has been on topics that are required reading, but not necessarily all-that exciting, such as patient rightsadvocacy and the basics of good therapy practices.

There are, however, two things that we feel are vital to emotional well-being, which in actual professional practice don’t seem to be given more than lip-service. These are: God (religion-spirituality) and nutrition.

Sure, these two biggies are in the news all the time, and sure, we’re all aware of the importance of eating right and religion and spirituality. Most people like to read about this stuff, but are they really on their way to becoming an integral part of treatment for mental illness?

Are they in your treatment plan? They’re often in treatment for addiction, by the way, and we feel addiction treatment has a lot to offer mental health treatment (and vice versa).

We know that good nutrition is vital to good mental health and everything from different eating approaches to specific nutrients are in the news:  (Vitamin D and Autism, Autism Often Comes With Anxiety, GI Problems, Fish Oil and Depression, Nutrition and ADHD, Bipolar Disorder and Nutrition, Nutrition and Depression, Omega 3s (DHA) and Depression, Does Gluten Cause Mental Illness, and so on.

It’s probably a good idea for your therapist to share with you the fact that good health (both emotional and physical) requires good nutrition sense, and that he suggest you consider making a healthy eating plan part of your personal treatment plan.

It’s not just “uneducated” people who don’t eat right. Many highly educated people in treatment for depression and other mental illnesses, drink alcohol daily, eat highly processed foods, and snack mindlessly.

And the God factor? It’s true that a few Eastern religious outlooks and practices, especially Buddhism-inspired meditation and Hindu-based yoga, are pretty much taken for granted as being acceptable in many therapy circles.

But, what about other ancient traditions? Does your own religious/ethnic background offer wisdom and healing that perhaps hasn’t been part of your religious education? We explore in depth or lightly touch on this topic here and here.

And if the word “God” or “The Creator” push your buttons, what about “Higher Power” or “Good Orderly Direction” (terms taken from AA and 12-Step programs but very useful for mental health treatment).

Many therapists aligned with Eastern-religion or proponents of Eastern religious-philosophies and practices insist that their outlook is helpful, Universal, even.  Is this proselytizing?

There is ancient wisdom from the Biblical tradition that can help people find relief from anxiety, depression and other emotional problems, such as prayerful meditation. Is it proselytizing to suggest, in general terms, that a patient explore his or her relationship with the God of their understanding?

I’ve been in the field of mental health and addiction treatment for nearly thirty years and I’ve seen that talk therapy and medication, when necessary, can help patients. But I’ve also observed that patients who are offered a more holistic approach, a more inclusive mind-body-soul approach to treatment, have a consistently more positive outlook and a more lasting improvement than those who do not.

In my opinion, asking questions about and forming a relationship with God (Creator, Higher Power) combined with an intelligent approach to diet and nutrition, seem to exponentially improve healing time, heal anger and fear, and relieve symptoms far quicker than traditional talk therapy and medication alone.





Are God, Nutrition, Necessary For Good Mental Health?

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2012). Are God, Nutrition, Necessary For Good Mental Health?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 19, 2018, from


Last updated: 27 Sep 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Sep 2012
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