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How to build a healthy brain with Kimberley Wilson

How to build a healthy brain with Kimberley Wilson

Amy Lanza

Kimberley Wilson is a very talented and inspiring Chartered Counselling Psychologist with an additional degree in nutrition. Kimberley is unique in her approach to the “Whole Body Mental Health”.

She believes that “the way that we typically think about mental health – as being separate from the body – is fundamentally flawed.

For example, the brain is made up of certain nutrients that you can only get through the diet, so in that sense your brain function is completely dependent on your diet”

In addition, factors such as sleep, light exposure and exercise can literally reshape the brain: “I believe that treatments for our common psychological concerns would be more effective if we took the physical health and structure of the brain into consideration. That’s what I try to do.”

She was our 2020 Creative Impact Award Winner for the Best Nutrition creative – take a look at @foodandpsych and alongside the typical work of a practitioner psychologist (providing treatment for mental health concerns) she also considers the role of nutrition and lifestyle on brain and mental health.

How to Build a Healthy Brain

We could not be more grateful and in awe of Kimberley Wilson and her dedication to the brain and our bodies and her first book, “How to Build a Healthy Brain” was released in March 2020 to help us “reduce stress, anxiety and depression and future-proof your brain.”

“The book started as a CPD (continuing professional development) training seminar that I put together for other psychologists. But I soon became frustrated that this information wasn’t getting to the people who needed it most – the public. So I opened the session up to everyone and got some great feedback. At the same time I started working with an agent who saw the potential of the seminar to be turned into a book and she got the ball rolling with that.”

“The feedback from the book has been really heartwarming so far: “I receive messages from people who say it has helped them with their own mental health or older children who want to support their parents who are transitioning into old age. Clinicians have been recommending it to their own patients, tutors are putting it on their course reading lists. I’ve even heard that it has been ordered for prison libraries, which makes me very happy. Everyone deserves better mental health.”

The education and accessible read is aimed at anyone and everyone that wants to protect their brain. While it is jam-packed with knowledge and tips, we pressed Kimberley for a few key take-homes you can expect from reading her book:
mental health is the health of the whole body dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing and we have a lot more power than we think to improve the structure and function of the most important organ in the body.

Thinking Space Book Club and Podcast

As well as writing her own book, Kimberley Wilson is a keen reader, too and has a great book club! “Thinking Space is a mental health book club where we think about the psychological or emotional themes of a range of books.” This online book club is free and open to everyone and Kimberley aims to “select books that focus on issues that we all struggle with – relationships, emotions, purpose, habits.”

From books to podcasts, Kimberley is also the host of Stronger Minds (where does she find all the time, you ask?!). “The podcast is where I can deep dive into mental health issues that I see people struggle within the clinic and hopefully provide some useful resources for other people.”

The podcast deals with a range of issues and interviews a whole host of interesting guests, though one of the most popular episodes, and Kimberleys admits, one of her favourites, is called “Understanding Anger.”

Anger is a “very misunderstood emotion. I’ve also done special series on Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder (also a very poorly understood condition) and Crime & Nourishment, a funded-series looking at the role of nutrition in violence in prisons.”

Previous guests have included Professor John Cryan, one of the leading researchers in the gut-brain axis, Prof. Felice Jacka, who lead ground-breaking research on nutrition and depression, and Juno Mac & Molly Smith, sex-workers and authors of Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights. Kimberley wants to open the stage for a wide range of guests, “basically, anyone with something interesting to say.”

 

The role of social media

With the book club and her podcast running alongside her social media account as well as day job in the clinic, we wonder how Kimberley Wilson finds time to do it all? Her secret?

See Also

“I put myself under absolutely no pressure to be all things to all people. I don’t post every day. I batch respond to emails. I keep my phone out of the bedroom. And I take my own advice – eat a brain healthy diet, exercise regularly, prioritise sleep and watch comedy every day.”

You heard it here first, you don’t need to post everyday and be on social media 24/7 to build a thriving and loyal following. On her account @foodandpsych, she shares research that she finds interesting, while making it as accessible as possible.
“Having worked with patients for over a decade, I also like to share practical resources to help support mental health like the #FlattenTheAnxietyCurve series I did at the start of the pandemic.
Things are tough out there and people are struggling, especially at the moment, so I like to be able to help if I can. So I guess I choose things that will be useful for others.”

Such useful tips can help us all live happier and healthier lives every day.

We were curious to see if Kimberley Wilson had any non-negotiable acts that make her feel her best.

She keeps it simple: “I try to cover my bases first – making sure my brain has the nutrients it needs to function well: I eat a lot of veggies, fibre and fermented food on the daily; trying to get low solar angle (early morning light) to support my sleep; exercise regularly to help grow my brain.

I avoid drama, try to focus on the feeling of having ‘enough’ and have excellent boundaries. Boundaries are an underappreciated cornerstone of mental health.”

New projects

While setting boundaries to protect her own health, Kimberley Wilson continues to invest her time in new and exciting projects like the BBC Radio 4 podcast called Made of Stronger Stuff which she co-hosts with Dr. Xand van Tulleken. You will also be able to hear her giving talks and seminars later in 2021 (fingers crossed in real life rather than online!) and she has her sights set on putting together some courses for 2022. Oh, and she wants to sketch out some ideas for a second book.
Kimberley is definitely a woman on a health and scientific mission – for which we are so grateful. Her daily work to help us better understand our own Whole Body Mental Health online, in clinic and on her podcasts continues to inspire us all. For all her optimism and the positive change she is making in the industry, she fully believes that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity” and we cannot wait for the opportunities to come.

Top book recommendations from Kimberley’s book club

  • The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad You Did) by Philippa Perry – So many of our emotional strengths and vulnerabilities have their roots in our early life and our relationships with our parents or family of origin. I think Philippa does a great job of providing practical advice in a compassionate and non-judgemental way.
  • The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi – Behaviour change is hard, but it’s even harder when you try to bully yourself into it. This book is all about the power of kindness and self-compassion to propel change. I think it’s brilliant.
  • Mistakes Were Made (but Not By Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson – I think this book should be recommended reading for all humans. We are all vulnerable to confirmation bias and self-justification. Essentially, we can trick ourselves into thinking we are right about something and then finding or distorting evidence to fit our worldview. It’s a huge problem in the world today and I think if more people knew this we’d be in a better position to have productive conversations about difficult issues.

To find our more about Kimberley Wilson, be sure to follow her on social media and take a look at her website, too.

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