This is the question Parsley Health founder Dr. Robin Berzin wants you to ask yourself—especially right now. We’re entering year three of a global pandemic and it’s not just our physical bodies that are bearing the burden. Our mental health is suffering more than ever before: According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey of 2021, anxiety rates in American adults are now 35.9%, up from 6.1% pre-pandemic. “The most frequent diagnosis code in our patients is anxiety, across all demographics,” says Dr. Berzin.
That’s one of the main reasons she felt compelled to write her book, Prescription for Happiness: How to Eat, Move, and Supplement for Peak Mental Health (formerly titled State Change), "I saw how many of our patients' lives were changed when we helped them address the things that were physically holding them back from peak mental health,” she says. “The book is an easy to use roadmap for anyone, anywhere that gives them the information they need to raise their mental health baseline.”
To help empower you to improve your mental health, Dr. Berzin shared some top takeaways from her book, now out in paperback.
The first step is to address any chronic health conditions you have—60% of US adults have one, and many go undiagnosed. Oftentimes anxiety and depression can be symptoms indicating that something isn’t working physically.
In addition to assessing for any underlying health issues, there are five core actions key to achieving what I call a "state change": address what you eat, how often you move, your screen time, how well you’re sleeping and your alcohol intake. If that feels overwhelming, don’t worry! I offer easy-to-follow tips for each of those areas in your life in the book.
Your health biography is the story of your health. The way you feel today didn’t just happen, it’s a result of what’s been happening for the past however many years: migraines could have been triggered by a surgery you had 10 years ago, or antibiotic treatment for chronic sinus infections could have led to a microbiome imbalance that’s causing abdominal pain and anxiety.
If you just try to treat the symptoms you have now, you’re missing the whole picture. Your health biography holds the key to understanding the root cause of your symptoms—that’s why we conduct an in depth health assessment of every new member at Parsley Health before we begin treating them. When you combine that information with the type of in-depth lab work we recommend, that data gives us what we need to diagnose the root cause.
We developed a quantitative, medically validated way of tracking your symptoms over time—called the Parsley Symptom Index (PSI)—because most of us can’t remember what we had for lunch, nevermind how bad our bloating was a month ago! In order to objectively assess whether you’re getting better or worse, we saw the power in a score that looks at your whole body that you repeat over time.
I outline the PSI process in the book because I want to give people a way to quantify their symptoms. Knowing where your score is today is an amazing starting point. From there you’re able to figure out whether implementing a certain change such as taking a supplement is improving your symptoms. Knowing whether those things are helping or hurting is really powerful.
What you eat every day isn’t a lifestyle choice or a habit—it’s a core action: You eat multiple times a day every single day, and those foods are truly driving how you feel. At Parsley, we talk about how food is medicine. How is food making you feel right now? Not just, this food might lead to diabetes ten years from now.
I almost always recommend an elimination diet to see if common foods like gluten, dairy or excess sugar are drivers of symptoms like brain fog, irritability, or anxiety—sometimes it’s proof that you need to cut out more of foods than you need to add. Getting enough omega 3 fatty acids is also important because of the evidence that omega 6 fats are depleting your brain’s ability to utilize serotonin and driving increased inflammation.
People often have misguided expectations of supplements—they think they’re either a magic bullet or they’re not going to work at all—and usually neither is the case. Supplements can be powerful therapeutic tools and should be taken seriously, and yet there are a lot of supplements on the market that are mislabeled, or don’t contain the ingredients they claim. There’s also the problem that people don’t understand how to use supplements and need a provider who’s educated in them to use them for therapeutic purposes. For example, anyone can buy magnesium off of the shelf - it’s the quantity and formulation that really matters. In that sense they can be problematic, but when used with a licensed provider’s guidance, they can be part of your overall health and wellness protocol.
To support reducing anxiety and boosting energy, we developed the State Change: Prescription for Happiness Bundle , which includes Parsley's D3 + K2, Probiotic, Mega Omega 3, and Daily Dose Multivitamin. Shown to lower neuroinflammation, trigger healthy neurotransmitter production, and plug nutritional deficiencies, these four supplements help prepare your body and brain to achieve your own state change.
The body is designed to process emotions through movement—almost any kind of movement will work. But often we’re living in a state of fight or flight, and for some people, the additional stress mode when doing a HIIT class or intense cardio class might be increasing your stress hormone cortisol. So I encourage people to find ways to move that aren’t also agitators to your nervous system—yoga, walking, weight training, dancing, swimming. These activities allow you to get cardio and gain strength but also discover better emotional wellbeing—focus on workouts that align the body and mind.
80% of Americans don’t feel comfortable having their devices less than five feet away from them at any given moment. We’ve developed a deeply emotional attachment to these devices and many of the platforms are designed to be addictive. So we have to set boundaries around them. One of the boundaries that I recommend is 30 minutes or an hour before bed to not be looking at the screen, because you’ll have deeper sleep and less anxiety. You will free up that time to have a bath, to meditate, to pack your lunch, to exercise—it allows you to set a boundary around the platforms that are sucking up a lot of your time but are designed to be anxiety-provoking—we have to recognize that and use them for their benefits but not let them run away with us.
We’re all about outcomes at Parsley Health. We don’t just want to tell you how to improve your health, we want to help you implement those changes so you can feel better. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try the 30 day kickstarter plan in the book—it’s easy to follow and will set you on the path to demystifying your symptoms and resetting your body, mind and mood. When you’re ready to dive deeper, follow the advanced plan which involves seeing a functional doctor like the ones on the clinical team at Parsley .
Parsley Health is the doctor that helps you live healthier, longer, by treating the root cause of symptoms and conditions. Our medical teams—staffed by leading clinicians and health coaches—spend more time with you, order the right tests, and prescribe food, sleep and movement alongside medications so you can get better—and feel better.