Before becoming a renowned doctor of clinical psychology, Dr. Venus Nicolino spent her childhood in West Philly, a working-class Philadelphia neighborhood. At dusk, tired workers arrived home to a friendly welcome: neighbors chitchatting on the row houses’ front stoops. Even as a child, Nicolino was fascinated by psychology. So when lives unfurled on the stoop each day, she watched a master class in human behavior. And this lifelong observation of the human condition has led her to come up with six solid mental health tips anyone can use, just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month.
“West Philly was an area filled with gritty people who didn’t have any quit in them — despite their problems,” Nicolino says. “As a child, I heard about various issues when neighbors gathered and chatted. And I sensed that more could be done to solve these problems.”
Now a Los Angeles Times bestselling author, Nicolino understands that her neighbors in West Philly accepted troubles as “part of life.” But as a doctor of clinical psychology, she knows people can relieve troubles and rewrite their stories in a brighter light. The call-it-as-she-sees-it Dr. Venus Nicolino — whose nickname is Dr. V — believes in the strength of the human spirit to rise, like a phoenix, and recreate itself.
Nicolino says, “You are absolutely capable of creating real and immediate change in your life. It can be as simple as changing what you wear, what you have for dinner tonight, or the route you take to work tomorrow. One change leads to another, and you may find the smallest action creates a domino effect you could never have foreseen.”
Dr. Venus Nicolino Lists Six Mental Health Tips That Can Improve and Save Lives
Nicolino helps people change the negative narratives that prevent them from flourishing. They can take small steps to address their problems; these lead to big wins. Her six top tips to get mentally healthy are the following:
1. “Write your own story.” Nicolino encourages people to acknowledge their struggles while understanding that they don’t define them or what they can achieve. So toss out the old narrative and write a new one.
2. “Courage trumps fear. Every time.” Dr. Venus Nicolino urges people to summon the courage to overcome fear. She quotes the Latin phrase: “Ad astra per aspera,” or “To the stars through adversity.”
Nicolino also likes to cite hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” You must take that first leap of faith when embracing a new endeavor, project, career path, or decision. Taking this leap requires bravery. As insurance, weigh the pros and cons with your trusted family, friends, and advisers to ensure you’re not entirely off base. Then, go forth fearlessly.
3. “By giving, you can have an impact.” Your foundation must be hyper-focused to build a large, engaged, and loyal following. Nicolino says celebrity status isn’t necessary to create an impact. According to some studies, anybody can harness social relationships to impact untold numbers of people.
You might want to be a teacher, artist, storyteller, healer, builder, planner, or adviser. When your goal is firmly in mind, you’re more likely to achieve it. And Nicolino says when meaning infuses your plan, you’re more able to give back to the community.
She says, “When you feel like what you do matters — and when what you do connects you to others meaningfully — other people feel that, too. Ask yourself how you want to give back in life, and your focus will shift from what you want to take from the world to what you have to offer it.”
4. “Calm. Creativity. Meditation. Repeat.” Sometimes you’ll be overwhelmed. Other times you’ll feel like you have nothing to do. It’s OK. But it’s critical to counterbalance these heavy or empty feelings. Take time for yourself. Explore your creative gifts, meditate, and take a nap. Make this time sacred and written in stone. You need uninterrupted “me time” to relax and refuel.
Nicolino says, “You don’t need to meditate on a mountaintop. Just slow down. Do nothing and give the machinery in your head a rest.”
5. “You matter. And you are beautiful.” Nicolino told interviewer Ming S. Zhao that internal beauty matters and is eternal, so to be beautiful, you must be unselfish, kind, and thoughtful of others.
You must understand that imperfections are vital beauty components as society perceives them. Such irregularities are valuable and can be flaunted as beautiful in an otherwise vast ocean of mundane sameness.
She also says, “Your greatest ally and worst potential foe can be found in the same place: The mirror,” she says. “So eat carbs.”
6. “In the end, it’s you against you.” Nicolino tells people they themselves are the only one who can propel or impede their progress. It’s important to internalize these six tips. They’re a north star for understanding your identity, determining your strengths and competencies, and making the most of every day, month, year, relationship, connection, and opportunity that comes your way.
“You matter,” Dr. Venus Nicolino says. “You are irreplaceable. And it’s because you matter so much that it’s vital for you to create a connection bigger than yourself. The world needs you. You matter.”
Sound Mind, Sound Body
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and, as always, Dr. Venus Nicolino is educating the public about mental health’s importance. Nicolino’s childhood inspired her to help “real people with real problems,” she says.
“My natural curiosity led me to a career in psychology, but it’s grown into something bigger,” she says. “Today, I steer people clear of self-help charlatans and offer them guidance relevant to their world — the real world.”
Venus. Nicolino’s parents maintained a strong work ethic during her childhood, and she became equally hardworking while achieving multiple university degrees. She holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from New York University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology.
Despite her years of education, Nicolino doesn’t take an overly academic approach to psychology. She’s so approachable that friends and fans call her “Dr. V.”
Admiring her authenticity, HarperCollins published Dr. Nicolino’s book Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of Bulls--t. The New York Post called it one of five books that will change your life “without making you feel like crap.”
Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of Bulls--t was a bestseller in rankings from the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. Dr. Venus Nicolino appears on various social media, including TikTok, Instagram, and a podcast, “The Tea With Dr. V.”
Additionally, Nicolino is the chairwoman and owner of SoundMind, a mental wellness app that uses music therapy to heal trauma. The app is clinically proven to reduce users’ anxiety and stress while improving their concentration, focus, and sleep.
WRITTEN BYSerena K. Johnson