Lifestyle is the general attitudes, interests, behaviors, and social orientations of a person, family, community, or nation. Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler first introduced the word in his 1930 book, The Case of Miss R. With the emphasis on “the basic nature of a human being as established at early childhood,” Western psychologists took the concept to an entirely new level. For the purposes of this article, the focus will be on how the definition of lifestyle relates to an understanding of mental health. All other aspects of mental health will be examined in later discussions.
In The Case of Miss R, Alfred Adler uses several devices to show how Miss R lives, acts, behaves, and even thinks. First, the focus group is used as a device to ask the question, “What is her lifestyle?” The analysis thus turns into a mirror of Miss R’s thinking, feelings, motivations, habits, personality, and strengths. This is important because any healthy change in lifestyle can have profound effects upon those around the affected person and themselves. Adler uses various techniques used in today’s popular focus group discussions to show how Miss R might act or react when exposed to various situations.
The central point is that change is difficult but must occur. Adler focuses on four key lifestyle changes: First, he describes a pattern of behavior called the “normal pattern of thinking.” Next, there are three other things like “racing thinking,” “fixed idea pattern,” and “momentum pattern of thought.” These four things are all related in the way that they change over time, so they must be viewed in the proper context.
When we think we will lose weight, we are probably experiencing a fixed idea pattern with a goal in mind. There are no circumstances that can trigger our habitual thinking of losing weight, so it is not a matter of chance. In order for these lifestyle changes to work, you need to take a good look at your life. There may be too many habits that are tied to your normal daily routine, and trying to get rid of these habits can actually make your attempts to lose weight more difficult.
For instance, Adler points out that you can easily become addicted to the media, such as television, computer, cell phones, etc. This lifestyle content increases your emotional responses, increases the speed of your metabolism, and provides you with a constant “high.” However, if you stop watching the television or stop taking the computer and cell phone calls for granted, you are likely to experience a withdrawal effect. Instead of being “high,” you become “down,” and your coping skills fall apart. Therefore, you must change your lifestyle content, or you will find yourself unable to lose weight.
Another lifestyle change is going through a minimalist lifestyle. Minimalists live a very minimalist lifestyle in most aspects and have adopted a spiritual approach to living as well. They do not own a lot of possessions and live in either a one or two-vehicle type of lifestyle. Instead of spending money on unnecessary items, they use money wisely by saving for emergencies or investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other safe investments. A minimalist lifestyle is similar to a Buddhist lifestyle in its approach to life, and both have a heavy emphasis on getting well, doing good, and being present in the here and now.
In the book “The Self-Mastery Technique: Revealing the Power of the Absence of Self,” several concepts of Alfred Adler’s “word lifestyle” are illustrated through examples. For example, when an individual goes through a scarcity response (loss of control over self-esteem due to a perceived lack of material possessions) in which there is an immediate loss of social media communication, they are more likely to experience compulsive behavior such as shopping until they have everything they need, constantly searching the internet for the latest fad product, feeling guilty and worthless, and so on. The same goes for an individual who is experiencing social media deprivation. Instead of spending quality time with friends, family, and relatives, they will spend their time on the phone, texting, playing games, etc. These individuals also tend to feel guilty about not having enough time, which causes them to put even more effort into the phone calls, computer games, etc., causing even more deprivation for the individual.
The key concept of the “word lifestyle” described by Adler is one that can be applied to many areas in life, including relationships. When people put themselves through this sort of situation, often they cannot help but fall into the trap of behaving compulsively. As a result, they become compulsive in all aspects of their lives. This is because all aspects of their lives are affected by this “need to have everything, including the need to have social media,” which ultimately prevents them from growing, doing the right things, living a fulfilling life, and much more.