Updated: Aug 24, 2022
Since our beginning in 2011, there have been two books that, for us, acted as a large part of the base upon which we built our practice. The first book was "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain", written by Dr. John Ratey and published in 2008. In "Spark", Dr. Ratey goes into great detail, thankfully in ways that are quite easy to understand, on all of the ways that exercise impacts our brain and improves our mental health from a physiological perspective. We had done quite a bit of research on our own prior to reading his book, but "Spark" ultimately led me to realize that exercise is truly the best mental health "medication" available on the market today, and comes with the world's best "side effects"!
Then, sometime in 2012, we discovered "Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders: Therapist Guide", written by Jasper Smits, PhD and Michael Otto, PhD (published in 2009). In Smits' and Otto's book, not only do they also cover a significant amount of the scientific research demonstrating the efficacy of exercise as a form of treatment for mood and anxiety disorders, they also provide great suggestions and guidance for helping those who are struggling with mental health issues to establish and maintain a regular exercise routine.
Last week, my partner here, Tim, sent me a link to the podcast, "Broken Brain with Dhru Purohit", where he interviewed Kelly McGonigal, PhD on her new book, "The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage". What she said in this interview led me to immediately buy her book, which I started reading a couple of days ago. While I've only made it to page 52 thus far, what I've read to this point and what I heard in her podcast interview has me genuinely excited. I'm feeling at this point that I may have found what I consider to be the Next Great Book on the topic of exercise as a valid and highly-effective form of mental health treatment.
Like "Spark" and "Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders", "The Joy of Movement" is based in research which provides us with important information on the many different ways that exercise impacts the functioning of our brain, leading to both immediate and long-term mental health benefits. Along with that, Dr. McGonigal is focusing a lot of her attention on how exercise makes it easier for us to connect with other individuals, deepening our sense of love and belonging, which can lead us to experiencing what may be the greatest of all emotions...joy.
As I said, I'm only about 1/4 of the way through her book, but based on what I've read so far, I believe this will end up becoming as important to us as Dr. Ratey's book, and Smits' and Otto's book. I also believe it will end up leading to some significant changes to some of the programming at our practice, which will lead to even better outcomes for our clients!. In fact, I already have a few pretty damn good ideas, but more on those at a later date. :)
I would like to end by saying "thank you" to Dr. McGonigal, and thank you to all those who continue to bring new information on this topic to light. I believe the work you are doing is as important as anything else currently being done in the field of health and health care, and I believe your work will change the lives of many.