“Wellness” is not a topic one expects to come across at psychiatric conferences. The emphasis is always on illness and its treatments. “When I was young,” Saundra Jain, a San Antonio-based psychotherapist let us know, “wellness was never mentioned.”
The venue was - a psychiatric conference.
Earlier this month, I attended the US Psychiatric Conference and Mental Health Congress held in San Diego. At a poster session there, I came across a study she was completing, titled WILD5 Wellness: Impact of a Five-Pronged (Exercise, Mindfulness, Sleep, Social Connectedness, and Nutrition) 30-Day Wellness Program …
“Instead of surviving, we want our patients to be thriving,” she told a well-attended session at the conference.
Knock me over with a feather. We have covered these topics many times over here at HealthCentral. We know from our own experiences the manifold benefits that mindfulness and exercise and all the rest bring. The catch is actually doing it and sticking with it.
Making even basic behavioral changes can be a huge undertaking. Dr Jain’s remedy is all about keeping it simple and helping patients stick with the program. Thus, the sleep portion of her program only demands that patients implement just one sleep hygiene practice (out of six). The nutrition portion simply asks that patients log their meals and snacks, not actually go on any diet.
For 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation, patients receive an assist from a downloadable app. The only exercise requirement is a daily 30-minute walk. For social connectedness, patients just have to make a daily call to a friend or family member.
So, if you recruit 36 patients into your wellness program and track them for 30 days, what happens? It turned out that 29 stayed in the study, and were compliant in the performance of their tasks for most days. The more they adhered to the program, the better the results. On average, depression scores dropped by 43 percent and anxiety scores by a similar amount.
The study also found significant improvements in sleep and diet habits and in various wellness measures. Paradoxically, the toughest part of the program to stick with - exercise - also produced the most real and perceived benefits.
Keep in mind, this was a pilot study, and one without a control group. But it would be foolish to dismiss the results. The benefits of mindfulness and diet and exercise and the rest have been documented in numerous studies. This is perhaps the first one to fold in all these elements into one study.
The implication is that each practice feeds off the other in a synergistic fashion. Thus, exercise may result in better sleep, mindfulness in watching what you eat, and so on. Next thing, we are seeing results and experiencing a sense of control.
And how does that feel? Exactly.
Dr Jain and her colleagues are planning on offering the WILD5 program to mental health professionals at no cost. For further info, please check out the WILD5 website.