Lifestyle therapy is an innovative approach to helping people overcome the challenges of living with a mental health disorder. Unlike conventional methods, lifestyle therapy focuses on helping you change your mental health through constructive, rewarding, and self-perpetuating habit changes that can last for years to come.
What Is Lifestyle Therapy?
Lifestyle therapy is a unique style of treatment that focuses on helping people make healthy lifestyle changes to improve mental health symptoms. Decades of scientific research have shown that lifestyle patterns play a large role in the development and recovery from most major mental health conditions.
Lifestyle therapy is a holistic approach to healing. It includes a number of different avenues and methods to help people achieve their recovery goals. Some of the core components of lifestyle therapy include:
Maintaining a regular exercise routine has long been linked to several beneficial mental health outcomes. Among others, starting an exercise routine has been found to help with disorders such as:
- Bipolar disorder
- Substance use disorders
There are a multitude of benefits to starting an exercise programme. First, exercise provides a healthy and rewarding outlet that people can truly learn to enjoy. Finding pleasure in a healthy activity can make people more likely to repeat it. Exercise also prepares your body for stress, making physical symptoms of disorders like anxiety more manageable.
In lifestyle therapy, exercise is incorporated into an overall strategy for healthy lifestyle changes. Our therapists will work with you directly to find an exercise regimen that works for you, help you build and maintain the motivation to solidify new habits, and collaborate with you to find new options if your first attempts don’t work out as you hope.
Importantly, incorporating exercise doesn’t have to mean starting weightlifting, competitive sports, or high-endurance activities. Even making small changes in your physical activity can lead to big improvements in your mental health, and our lifestyle therapists can help guide you towards the changes that fit your lifestyle.
Nutritional therapy is a unique approach to improving mental health outcomes by helping clients improve and understand their diets.
Many mental health conditions are associated with vitamin deficiencies, nutrition imbalances, or sudden changes in appetite. If left unaddressed, these challenges can lead to further physical and mental health problems, as the body and mind don’t get adequate nutrition to maintain healthy functioning.
Starting nutritional therapy helps our clients understand how food and metabolic issues can impact their day-to-day lives and provide actionable strategies that result in real improvement.
Our team encourages our clients to build a healthy relationship with food, create customised nutritional plans to meet their unique needs, and integrate healthy eating into a whole-body conception of mental health.
Sleep difficulties are one of the most commonly reported mental health symptoms. The connection between sleep and mental health is bidirectional; poor sleep can increase your risk of developing a mental health condition, and mental health conditions can lead to worsening sleep quality.
But like the other interventions listed above, making targeted changes to your sleep quality, quantity, and consistency can lead to a host of positive effects on your mood, health, and overall well-being.
Addressing sleep challenges in lifestyle therapy uses several different techniques. Typically, it begins with psychoeducation about healthy sleep hygiene, your body’s natural circadian rhythm, and how different behaviours you engage in may impact your sleep for better or worse.
For people who have continuing challenges with sleep, more intensive interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), may be required. CBT-I is a highly effective form of talk therapy for helping people with sleep difficulties, and it may be just what you need to get your sleep back into a healthy rhythm.
Putting It All Together
The examples above are just a few of the different intervention targets for lifestyle therapy. But understanding lifestyle therapy as a whole isn’t just about specific interventions. Instead, a lifestyle therapist works closely with you to understand your specific needs, the patterns of behaviour that cause you the most difficulty, and what you can change to start seeing improvements.
Lifestyle therapy is a uniquely customisable and integrative approach, spanning several different domains of treatment. It is less about implementing specific strategies and more about understanding what changes work within your life.
The very nature of lifestyle therapy is an individualised approach, catering to your specific needs. By pulling from several different scientific sources on the benefits of lifestyle change, you can make dramatic improvements in your mood, cognition, social connectedness, and overall quality of life.
What Can Lifestyle Therapy Treat?
Lifestyle therapy can be used in the treatment of any number of mental health conditions, including:
- Depressive disorders
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Substance use disorders
Due to the inherent flexibility of a lifestyle therapy approach, your specific lifestyle therapy programme can be customised to fit your exact needs.
But importantly, lifestyle therapy is not a cure for your disorder or a replacement for other treatment methods. While the improvements you can see from beginning lifestyle therapy can make a dramatic difference in your quality of life, it’s not always the best option for everyone — at least not when done without other styles of treatment.
When Is Lifestyle Therapy the Best Option?
Lifestyle therapy fits a unique space in the mental health treatment continuum. It is not always a catch-all approach and sometimes shouldn’t be used as a first-line treatment. However, there are many times when lifestyle therapy is the best choice for helping you overcome your mental health challenges.
Mild Mental Health Problems
The vast majority of mental health disorders occur on a spectrum. Taking the example of depression, the International Classification of Disease 11 — the primary diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals — lists three levels of depression severity:
- Mild depression
- Moderate depression
- Severe depression
Lifestyle therapy alone may not be sufficient to bring about recovery from severe depressive disorders. Typically, severe depression is treated by specialised therapies, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, or through the use of psychotropic medications in a medication management programme.
People with severe depression would still see substantial benefits from lifestyle therapy, but it is typically used in tandem with other effective treatment methods.
People with mild depression, however, may see enough of an improvement with lifestyle therapy alone to achieve their recovery goals. Milder forms of depression are more easily changed through lifestyle habits, and clients are more able to put the strategies of lifestyle therapy into practical application in their daily lives.
Subclinical Mental Health Problems
There is another category of mental health severity not listed in the ICD-11, known as subclinical mental health challenges. People living with subclinical symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health challenge still face serious impairment in their quality of life but don’t meet the strict criteria needed for a formal diagnosis.
Lifestyle psychiatry is a highly effective method of helping people with subclinical symptoms, and it can help people make dramatic improvements in daily functioning, mood, and cognition.
People with subclinical mental health symptoms are often turned away from conventional therapies. But the core of lifestyle therapy is to improve the well-being of anyone who feels they’re not living up to their full potential, using natural and holistic methods to create lasting change.
In Tandem With Other Treatment Methods
It’s not typically recommended for lifestyle therapy alone to be used to treat severe or moderate mental health challenges. But lifestyle therapy can be a critically important component of a comprehensive mental health treatment plan, working in tandem with interventions such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, deep transcranial magnetic stimulation, or medication management.
Serious mental health challenges often require more targeted interventions. Yet these interventions are often more narrowly focused, helping people resolve problems and symptoms without improving holistic well-being, enjoyable activities, and sustainable lifestyle changes.
By integrating both styles of intervention into your mental health treatment plan, you get the best of both worlds. Targeted interventions help you to alleviate your most pressing concerns, while lifestyle therapy helps you make durable and lasting changes that allow you to truly reap the rewards of recovery.
Treatment Options at APN London
At APN London, we pride ourselves in offering a truly comprehensive suite of mental health services to our clients. Our holistic model of healing incorporates both the best in traditional, evidence-based treatment options and novel interventions that have only been discovered in recent years.
Among others, some of the treatments you can find at APN London include:
Individual and Group Therapy
Our individual and group therapy options connect you with therapists and counsellors using time-tested, evidence-based approaches to mental health recovery. We use a wide range of different treatment modalities, including:
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy
- Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing
- Dialectical behaviour therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
These treatment methods are delivered in both individual and group therapy options, providing you with opportunities for in-depth, one-on-one sessions and supportive and collaborative approaches to recovery.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) is an exciting new technology for people with treatment-resistant mental health conditions. Using the findings from neuroscience and an innovative technology, regions of the brain that are underactive in common mental health conditions can be directly stimulated with this non-invasive procedure.
dTMS has quickly proven its effectiveness at treating a wide number of mental health conditions, including depression, PTSD, and OCD. It can create lasting results that persist well after you’ve completed the treatment protocol.
Medication management pairs you with a psychiatrist who works together with you to find medication options to alleviate your mental health concerns.
However, it’s about more than just a prescription; medication management allows our psychiatrists to monitor your progress, make adjustments to timing and dosage as needed, or help you switch to new medications if one isn’t working out the way you hoped.
Ketamine-assisted healing is a novel approach to therapy that utilises the dissociative psychedelic ketamine to enhance and incubate the therapeutic experience. Just a single session of ketamine-assisted healing can produce breakthroughs in treatment that could take months in conventional therapy alone, and evidence has shown that these changes are lasting.
Start Treatment at APN London
At APN London, our holistic program for mental health recovery incorporates all of these effective elements of healing under one roof. Best of all, you can combine interventions such as lifestyle therapy with any of our other treatment options to further enhance and improve your chances of long-term recovery success.
To get started at APN London, reach out to our team by calling 0203 984 7699 or by filling out our confidential online contact form for more information. We’re ready to help you understand your options and choose the path that best suits your needs.
- “Benefits of Exercise.” NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/. Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.
- “ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, icd.who.int/browse/2024-01/mms/en#578635574. Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.