Micah Lynn
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Improving mental health with food

There has been a lot of study around food, how it affects the brain, and how it in turn influences mental illness and mood. This is where the Mental Health guidebook comes into play, it is a way to inform and guide the reader through ways to improve mental health with food, whether they have a mental illness or not. This is accomplished directly through the Stages of Change, which is a method of lifestyle change developed by psychologists.

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By using these Stages, readers are guided through the process of identifying and working through whatever stage they are currently in. For example, those who are just starting at the first stage of pre-contemplation will be ask to create a pro and cons list of why they would pursue this lifestyle change. The forth stage of action asks the reader to set goals and develop a support system to keep them accountable and on track. Other techniques like these are used throughout this book to lead through each stage until the habit becomes second nature.

 

Process

In collaboration with Sean Brennan (Brainfood Garden Project), this project originally started as an exploration centered on how we perceive food, and more specifically how can this perception is changed. This led to three different interventions: a program for school students to engage with foods, a planter for unused spaces in cities, and a guide for a healthy eating lifestyle.

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Guide for Healthy Eating

The biggest inspiration and reason to continue forward with a healthy eating guide was the fact that there is a hole in the way we approach lifestyle change when it comes to eating healthy and there are huge benefits of having this material for peer-to-peer groups. Most people know its good to eat healthy but have no idea what to eat, what to make, or how to make it. This is partially because there is an over-saturation of information online and in print about foods and the opinions surrounding them.

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Research

A lot of study was done around how the Stages of Change are used, what the mental health benefits of eating healthy are, and the brain-gut-axis.

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In fact, it turns out that ‘just doing it’ – before you are emotionally ready and properly prepared to take on a particular goal – may be one of the fastest ways to sabotage your success.
— Jessie Sholl
Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects from oxidative stress.
— Eva Selhub, MD
Having trained in conventional medicine, this idea was not intuitive to me even five years ago. But now,...working with patients to heal their gut and seeing the incredible improvements in mood, I’m convinced this is the starting place to heal anxiety and depression.
— Amy Nett, MD
 

How It Works

Through this research came the synthesis of a new way to construct a lifestyle book. Instead of the typical X + Y + Z gets you the "best life ever" method, I developed a process to guide the reader through the Stages directly in the books layout. This is not meant to be a sprint, but rather a marathon.

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Next Steps

If this project moves forward there are a several major things that will need to happen:

  • Compiling of food information and resources
  • Finding someone to partner with to write the book
  • User-testing the book