Mental Health Problems ARE Learning Problems #YouAreNot Broken #Learning

Japanese Pottery

For any of you who have been following along with my ramblings about our wonderful adaptable learning brains, you know that I love to follow the research findings and apply them to life. The evidence is with the Psycho-Social Model of mental health and wellbeing (research says so). Meaning that we all grow up under different circumstances, in different contexts, experience different adversities and learn different things along the way. Those factors need to be considered when exploring and explaining our psychological distress and working our way through it #adapting.

We are not not broken, we are beautiful humans with a history, developing resilience along the way, with wonderful adaptive capabilities!


“Mental disorders are brain diseases caused by neurotransmitter dysregulation, genetic anomalies, and defects in brain structure and function.


…scientists have not identified a biological cause of, or even a reliable biomarker for, any mental disorder.”

Dr. Brett Deacon, 2013


So what is the alternative way of thinking? …I hear you asking…

Well, research evidence is showing up all over the place because of new technical advances like the funky fMRI machine and the ability to measure our Cortisol (Stress Hormone) and Oxytocin (Social Bonding Hormone). So yes, we can now measure the effects of exercise, being in nature, social connections and psychotherapeutic interventions, showing that our brains actually change by just doing stuff! This is the Psycho-Social Model of Mental Health and Wellbeing.

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Psycho-Social Model of Mental Health and Wellbeing

The psychosocial approach looks at individuals in the context of the combined influence that psychological factors and the surrounding social environment have on their physical and mental wellness and their ability to function.


A term coined by psychiatrist R.D. Laing, in The Politics of the Family and Other Essays (1971), a medical model is a “set of procedures in which all doctors are trained.” … Simply stated, the medical model treats mental disorders as physical diseases whereby medication is often used in treatment.

We Need to be Better!

If we want the stigma to subside, if we want people to grow through what they go through, if we want to empower people, we need to shift our thinking and apply the research findings to approach mental health and wellbeing differently.

That means recognizing that our mental health and well-being depends on…

the things that happen to us,

    how we make sense of those events

    and how we respond to them.

  Dr. Peter Kinderman


A Prescription for Psychiatry: Why We Need a Whole New Approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Ok, Enough PsychNerdy-ness

Have I convinced you to take on this 10 week Psycho-Social Journey in Changing Your Brain?!?!


Great! come on along!

Start with thinking that you are not broken. You have just been through things, have grown through adversity and, as a human, you continue to adapt by learning strategies to positively adapt to life challenges.

Over the next 10 weeks I will be posting psycho-social related growth ideas, suggestions and strategies in 10 of the most beneficial adaptive areas for human flourishing (I think). 


10 Things You Can Do to Be Nice to Your Brain

  1. TODAY! Mental Health Problems are Learning Problems.  #YOUARENOT BROKEN #LEARNING (Theme: Learning to Tolerate Ambiguity)
  2. The Psychological Value of Being Open to New Information and Experiences #MindBlown(Theme: Be Open to New Information)
  3. Learning to Reframe Adversity: Yes Bad Things are Terrible, But so is Giving Away Your Power! (Theme: Learn to Reframe Adversity)
  4. You Don’t Have to Act the Way You Feel…Seriously Cut it Out
  5. Zone in on Your Purpose in Life
  6. Master Motivation aka “fire under your butt strategies”
  7. Seek Out Peak Experiences
  8. Stay True to Your Values – Who do YOU want to be in this world?
  9. Learn the Art of Balance
  10. Apply the “Power of Yet” in Your Life

Week #1


Learn to Tolerate Ambiguity

This means staying in uncertainty, or staying with the question, despite the discomfort of not knowing the answer, or not knowing where you are going. I know this is scary!  That is the point. Anything worth developing does feel a bit uncomfortable because it is new and your brain has not learned how to process this yet. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe, good work brain! But sometimes we need to help it to calm down when we are doing things that are just new, not dangerous.

It will take time to relinquish control, learning to enjoy the puzzle without a solution, letting life unfold while knowing that have built some skills along the way that are helpful. You can survive this yucky emotional experience! This is such an important skill for life if you want to feel less anxious. This could open up so many opportunities for you! There might be numerous ways of answering the same question or solving a problem, each with different but potentially positive results.

Check out this wonderful TEDTalk to get you started on teaching your brain that ambiguity is good and that your Amygdala (part of the fear process in your brain) is not always needed:

Some Ambiguity Tolerance Building Tips from and Excellent Blogger

Source: Tolerating Ambiguity by Maggie Dugan

It makes sense that if you can stand to hover in the gray areas between black and white distinction, you might get to a more creative outcome. But how do you cultivate this tolerance for ambiguity?

  • Stay neutral and suspend judgment.
  • Stay curious.
  • Enjoy the mess.
  • Take time.
  • Try things on.

Check out her blog post for the details 🙂

A Little Extra!

Trust Issues?

Check out this recent research:

 People More Likely to Trust and Cooperate if They Can Tolerate Ambiguity


Tell me about your journey!

#YouGotThis #LiveFully #MentalWellness


Dr. Heather Drummond,  C.Psych.

Psychologist * Passionate Advocate for Flourishing * Human Muddling Through


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