Below the Neck: Working for a Healthier Body

What Do You Mean, “Below the Neck?”

In reaction to the statistic that people who live with psychiatric brain disorders have an average life expectancy of 53 years, which is 25 years shorter than the 78 years average life expectancy of the general population in the U. S., NAMI developed the “Hearts and Minds” program. This program has three parts: smoking cessation, nutrition, and exercise. Each part provides ideas that can help people to become healthier. The goal is for people, through “Hearts and Minds” to learn to make life style changes.
The emphasis is on beginning by taking small steps, making small gains. Smoke 10% fewer cigarettes a day, eat an additional serving of fresh fruit and one or two servings of vegetables daily, and cut back a little on fats and sweets every day. Start walking 15 or 20 minutes a day, 5 or 6 days a week. Research literature indicates that small improvements in diet and exercise habits make a difference in health and life expectancy. The “Hearts and Minds program is inexpensive and most of the materials can downloaded at no cost by going to the NAMI web site at
The title of this feature, “Below the Neck: Towards Whole Body Health” reminds us that “brain health” and the health of the rest of the body are inextricably linked. This will be a regular feature on this web page. We will draw on many resources in addition to “Hearts and Minds” to provide people who are consumers with ideas and resources that can help them to become healthier, including reports from individuals on how they began to become healthier.

It is likely that by now the reader of this article has realized that the approach taken here is intentionally like Recovery. We work toward whole body health one day at a time. Working this way involves an attitude of hope. Respecting our bodies is an important part of respecting and appreciating the people that we are.

As the old expression states, “ the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” When you finish groaning and rolling your eyes, do realize that you can incorporate whole body health into your recovery program.