The Four Circles of Brain Health and Illness

Four Circles of Mental Health

Many people think mental health problems stem only from the mind. A growing number of people agree that there is a mind-body connection in terms of overall wellness. This is true, but there’s even more to mental well-being. There are actually four aspects of a whole life that influence mental health, cognitive health, and behavioral health in either a positive way or a negative way. At Amen Clinics, this is referred to as the Four Circles of Mental Health.

The Four Circles of Mental Health are:

  • Biological Circle: How your physical body and brain function (body)
  • Psychological Circle: Developmental issues and how you think (mind)
  • Social Circle: Social support and your current life situation (connections)
  • Spiritual Circle: Your connection to God, the planet, past and future generations, and your deepest sense of meaning and purpose (spirit)

To optimize mental balance, all of these circles need to be evaluated and any issues within any of these circles must be addressed. Let’s take a closer look at each of these circles, how they impact mental health, and how to optimize them for stronger mental well-being.

BIOLOGICAL CIRCLE

The first circle of a whole life and a healthy brain is biology—how the physical aspects of your brain and body function together. To operate at peak efficiency, your brain’s biological machinery—cells, connections, chemicals, energy, blood flow, and waste processing—needs to work right. The brain is like a supercomputer, with both hardware and software.

How the Biological Circle Influences Mental Health: Think of the biological circle as the hardware. When the brain’s biology is healthy, all these factors work together in a positive way to maximize your success and sense of well-being. When any biological issues in the brain are troubled, you are more likely to suffer from a wide variety of symptoms. Similarly, any physical ailments—such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity—can negatively impact brain health and contribute to symptoms of psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or ADD/ADHD, as well as cognitive problems such as memory loss.

Optimize the Biological Circle: Eat a brain-healthy diet, take targeted nutritional supplements to fuel your brain, exercise daily to boost blood flow to the brain, protect your brain from head injuries, learn something new every day to activate the brain, avoid toxins that damage the brain, and get adequate sleep.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CIRCLE

The psychological circle includes how you think and how you talk to yourself—the running dialogue in your mind. It also comprises your sense of self and body image. Your upbringing, any past emotional traumas, and significant developmental events play an important part in your psychological realm.

How the Psychological Circle Influences Mental Health: This circle helps you decide if you’re enough—good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, rich enough, and so on. When you feel like you’re enough, you’re generally happier and more successful in relationships and work. Growing up in a stable environment, receiving positive messages, and feeling confident and comfortable with your abilities and your body all contribute to good psychological health. Being brought up in a chaotic environment, being neglected or abused, or feeling inadequate contributes to mental health issues. When you feel less than enough, it drives a sense of sadness, anxiousness, and failure, and increases the likelihood of substance abuse and other problems.

Optimize the Psychological Circle: Learn to manage your thinking by killing the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that steal your happiness, practice gratitude and appreciation, meditate, and address any past emotional trauma.

SOCIAL CIRCLE

To continue with a computer analogy, the biological circle is the hardware, the psychological circle is the software, and the social circle is the network connections. The social circle includes the quality of your relationships and any current stresses at work or school or in relationships.

How the Social Circle Influences Mental Health: When you have fulfilling relationships, a healthy family, a job you love, and enough money, mental health tends to be much better than when any of these areas are troubled. Dealing with difficult life circumstances—such as a pandemic, a divorce, credit card debt, moving, a job change, troubled teenagers, or the death of a close family member—elevates stress hormone levels and makes us more vulnerable to many psychiatric conditions, including major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and more.

Optimize the Social Circle: Surround yourself with people who encourage you and who are healthy role models, notice what you like about others more than what you don’t like, and dedicate quality time to the important people and relationships in your life.

SPIRITUAL CIRCLE

Beyond the biological, psychological, and social aspects of our lives, we are also spiritual beings. To thrive and be our best, it is important to recognize that we are more than just our cells, thoughts, and connections. We are all spiritual beings created with divine purpose, whether or not you believe in God.

How the Spiritual Circle Influences Mental Health: Having a sense of purpose and a moral code, as well as connections to God, the planet, past generations, and future generations reminds us that our lives matter, we have a role to play, and a calling to fulfill. Without this spiritual connection, many people experience a sense of despair or meaninglessness, which can lead to depression, addictions, and thoughts of suicide among other psychiatric disorders.

Optimize the Spiritual Circle: Find your life’s passion and purpose, perform random acts of kindness, and live according to your values.

OPTIMIZE THE FOUR CIRCLES FOR MENTAL WELLNESS

If you’re struggling with any mental, cognitive, or behavioral health issues, medication should never be the only treatment method you employ. Be sure to look at all Four Circles of your life and optimize them. By doing so, you increase your chances of minimizing mental illness symptoms and enhancing mental health and overall well-being.

Anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

9 Comments »

  1. Thank you for your Brain Health. I read it all and it helps.
    I am a second world war victim and just lost my love of 10 years to cognitive decline. Living in a small town helps.

    Comment by Edith Foley — May 18, 2022 @ 3:22 AM

  2. your comments very helpful to me thank you

    Comment by Georgette Battistellayour — May 18, 2022 @ 4:17 AM

  3. Great advice which I’ve read in End of Mental Illness and also You, Happier, both amazing, research-driven books. I find the computer/network analogy a bit mechanistic and reductionist. It would be helpful to me if you were to develop the four circles by an analogy of the brain with a garden, aurora borealis, or other more natural images, as Rahul Jandial does. The mechanical analogies do not resonate as much with me. Thank you

    Comment by Jean — May 18, 2022 @ 9:10 AM

  4. I have several brain injuries and memory issues. I developed anxiety afterwards. My daughter has a rare neurological disorder called trunkel ataxia, they think. We need help.

    Comment by Carla Hester — May 18, 2022 @ 12:44 PM

  5. thank you; important truths

    Comment by teresa baumgartner — May 18, 2022 @ 2:27 PM

  6. Wonderful information -thank you.

    Comment by Wendy H. BARRIOS — May 18, 2022 @ 3:04 PM

  7. Thank you very much for your explanations.. When i get knowledge I am strengthened.. I thank God for finding you. Blessings

    Comment by Zenithe — May 19, 2022 @ 1:25 AM

  8. excellent information! thank you all for sharing this.

    Comment by Doug Morris — May 19, 2022 @ 7:45 PM

  9. You talk a lot about the ants. Every time you talk about the ants it would be good to emphasize the affirmations that positive thoughts can bring. I have a tattoo on my left with the letters SC. It stands for stay calm. I look at this affirmation many times during the day and it helps me maintain the calm in my life.

    Comment by Jon Cousins — May 20, 2022 @ 9:14 AM

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