According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mental health is defined as “our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.” A strong sense of wellbeing helps us to feel good about ourselves and the way our lives are going, and can have a hugely positive impact on teen mental health.
The phrase “mental illness” and the word “disorder” both have a long history of stigmatization. However, every day we see growing evidence of a mental health crisis in adolescents. Let’s break the pattern, talk about it with our kids and each other, and bring awareness about behavioral modifications we can all make and provide resources for helping our loved ones.
Rather than point blame at technology, screen time, relationships, life circumstances, and the plethora of other known sources that are known to contribute to mental health issues, we’d like to focus on ways to support our adolescent’s mental health in today’s post.
Behavioral Tips to Incorporate into Our Lives:
⭐️ Practice active listening without judgement: Being an active listener when our kids talk about their day, their troubles, worries, and/or exciting and fun experiences creates space for an open dialogue and improves the likelihood that they’ll come to you when they have a problem or mental health concern.
⭐️Eat a healthy breakfast: According to research, eating a nutritious breakfast with a variety of foods can positively impact adolescents’ cognitive function, memory, mood, and behavior.
⭐️Enjoy meals as a family: Regular family meals together have been shown to positively affect self-esteem, well-being, and academic performance. According to experts, eating meals together and encouraging our kids to talk about their day is proven to improve kids’ communication skills and strengthen parent-child relationships.
⭐️ Talk about emotions: Understanding and naming emotions helps kids talk about their feelings more clearly and avoid or resolve conflicts instead of just reacting. Understanding one’s emotions and being able to put our feelings into words improves one’s emotional awareness skillset, which in turn builds better relationships.
⭐️ Spend time outside: Clinical studies demonstrate that adolescents who regularly spend time in nature have reduced stress and anxiety levels and improved mood and outlook. Engaging with nature fosters creativity, imagination, autonomy, executive function, and moral development, while also improving gross motor skills and attention in your child, and relief from mental exhaustion.
⭐️ Change your state of mind by moving your body: Research from 1999-2022 overwhelmingly supports the positive role that exercise and physical activity play in one’s mental health.
⭐️ Read a book: reading is proven to lower your heart rate, reduce muscle tension, and yes, REDUCE stress by up to 68% according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
⭐️ Volunteer with your favorite organization: Helping others and kindness are associated with “stress-buffering” effects that positively impact our well-being and happiness.
⭐️ Laugh: 🤣 Yes, laughter is scientifically proven to be amazing medicine for both our body and our brain! After all, it is known to be the best medicine!
⭐️ Practice mindful breathing: Mindful breathing, meditation, and if you want to combine two on this list, YOGA, for both moving your body and breathing, are proven methods to improve concentration and memory, while also reducing stress in the body.
Poor mental health impacts our daily lives and can fuel eating disorders, drug or alcohol use as a coping mechanism, suicidal ideation, along with other mood, behavior, and anxiety disorders. With so many of us, adults and adolescents, experiencing mental health disorders, let’s make it a priority to talk about it, help each other, and encourage those that need medical attention to get the help they need.