The 3-Prong Approach is my current strategy for building wellbeing in a balanced manner.
Once stability is found in the body, the first of the three prongs, it is time to bring the same stability to the mind. However, I must give the caveat that sometimes long-term physical issues are rooted in metal hangups. If a bad habit in the body domain is not budging, jump ahead to mind work to examine the resistance. This may require professional assistance in the case of addiction.
The mind domain is commonly referred to as mental health, and its management is less straightforward than that of physical health. Mental development requires brutal assessment of who you are, which takes courage, honesty, resilience, and a genuine desire to forge a better path. For many, this is too much to ask. That is, until either circumstances get so severe that mental health can no longer be ignored, or sufficient baby steps in personal growth have been made that the hurdle is not so high. That said, moving forward can be immensely rewarding as those daily snags seem to melt away and the world can been seen with more clarity.
Below is my personal curriculum for developing mental health. Each item is a prerequisite for the next, but bounce around as curiosity leads you. If you hit a wall (not experiencing growth), fall back to building the skills of previous items.
It bears repeating, across body, mind, and spirit, the 3-Prong Approach covers a lot of material. Don’t let it be overwhelming. This is a broad map intended to help you find the one, most impactful item to focus on to improve your wellbeing. Think of yourself as a teacher who takes a regular inventory to find which lesson the class most needs to learn this week. You are the teacher and the pupal. You are going to be with yourself for a long time, so approach each weekly lesson/intervention with supportive care and humor.
- Curiosity: Engaged exploration
- Learning: Find topics to geek out over. This should be a treat, not a chore.
- Problem solving: Imagine creative, even absurd ways to solve everyday problems.
- Consider one quick fix.
- Consider one long term solution.
- Consider one thing you could change about your thinking so that the problem is no longer a problem.
- Systems thinking: Improving understanding of a thing’s significance in different contexts. Ex: its social, cultural, political, economic, etc. aspects.
- Reflection: Curiosity directed inward
- Direct journaling: My method for doing quick daily check-ins on the few items that are currently most pivotal to my mental health.
- Therapy: This is akin to personal coaching for Reflection. It is incredibly beneficial to receive outside feedback, and for it to come from someone who won’t just tell you what you want to hear.
- Emotional Intelligence: Reflection practiced in real time. Gracefully recognizing and managing my motivations and those of others, ideally in the moment.
- Nonviolent Communication: This is a method for navigating conflict.
- Honest, heart-to-heart conversations: Maximise curiosity, calmness, and care. Minimize accusation, defensiveness, and judgement.
- Therapy: Provides a controlled, low-stakes environment to train in Emotional Intelligence.
- Stories: A deeper dive into emotional intelligence that examines underlying motivations, the often buried, destructive stories that we believe and react to.
- Identifying stories
- Byron Katie’s work: An elegant protocol for discovering your stories.
- Internal Family Systems: Another approach to identifying stories. This is a style of therapy, but can also be self guided.
- Therapy: Most therapeutic approaches involve working with stories.
- Reframing experience: Thinking about things differently shifts the story and thus your reaction.
- Stoicism: A practical philosophy that views obstacles as valuable opportunities to make things better. Most books contain reframing exercises.
- Meditation: Mindfulness training that helps one notice thoughts and reactions as distorted products of one’s own making, and to let go of them swiftly.
- Low-medium dose psychedelics: Shown to improve neuroplasticity, allowing the brain to break away from old habits and thought patterns and to be more receptive to new, particularly empathetic ways of seeing the world. [Do your research and know the risks.]
- Therapy: More of the aforementioned story work.
- Identifying stories
- Healing: Contextualizing stories to address emotional wounds and insecurities
- Internal Family Systems: A potent model for healing insecurities and rewriting stories.
- Low-medium dose psychedelics: Most effective with professional guidance. [Again, do your research and know the risks.]
- Therapy: This is the long-term goal of therapy.
Yes, get yourself to therapy. Myself and countless friends consider it the best money we have ever spent.