May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a good time to review the different factors that play a role in child, teen, and adult mental health. Seeking out a therapist can be helpful in recovering from mental health concerns. However, the reality is, children and families going to therapy usually spend 1 hour a week (or less) with a therapist. A therapist plays an important role in supporting clients’ growth, but most of the healing process takes place out of the therapy room during clients’ day-to-day life, as children and families put their goals into action. The following six factors that affect mental health often come into play as children and families learn to find more balance in their lives. See which factors you and your family might want to work on to support healthy mental health.
What we eat plays a big role in how we feel. Sometimes kids are not aware of how what they eat affects their mood. Parents can help children make the connection between diet and mood, by planting “seeds” of awareness. For instance, parents can share how certain foods make them feel, or gently point out possible diet-related changes they notice in their children.
If you or your child are motivated to learn more about how nutrition and diet play a role in mental health, you can consult with a naturopathic family physician who specializes in helping children and families adjust their diets to reach their health goals. Reading more about nutrition can also help you learn more about what kinds of foods might be good for you and your family.
Humans are animals! Our bodies were designed to be active every day. Due to the advent of modern technology we sometimes forget this. Everything we need is at our fingertips.
Being physically active can have a big impact on children’s mood and well-being. Finding ways your children can be physically active in Southern Arizona can sometimes be a challenge in the summer heat. Consider obtaining a jump rope, hula hoop, or small trampoline, to ensure your child or teen stays active even if they need to be indoors. Dancing and the martial arts are also great forms of exercise that children and teens may enjoy.
Kids and families need to spend time outdoors. As Intuition Wellness Center’s Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, Gabe Rischall, likes to say, “Children need nature and nature needs children.” In Southern Arizona, it helps to wake up early in the summer to spend time outside while it’s still relatively cool, or go up into the mountains. If neither of these are possible this summer, consider bringing a little bit of nature home with you. Did you know that caring for houseplants can help promote healthy mental health, as well as clean toxins from the air?
Humans are also, by nature, social creatures. Kids and families need to spend time with others to thrive. The pandemic has shown us just how costly isolation can be. Even if your child seems solitary by nature, it doesn’t mean it is healthy for them to isolate. Research shows people need contact with others to remain mentally healthy. Consider what kind of activities your child or teen enjoys and find opportunities where they can have fun with others who have similar interests.
Brains cannot function well without sufficient sleep. Lack of quality sleep greatly affects kids’ mood and behavior. You and your family may be surprised by how much sleep kids and teens require. Check out how much sleep your family really needs, and learn more about the things you and your family can do to promote healthy sleep.
Connection to Something Larger Than Yourself
Last, but not least, cultivating mental health often involves finding time to connect to something larger than yourself. This could include a form of meditation, an artistic practice, or a religious or spiritual practice. For parents who don’t have a lot of time, connecting to something larger than yourself could involve mindfully performing simple day-to-day activities, such as being really present as you fold the towels every week when you do laundry. Connection to something larger than yourself is important for children and teens as well, and helps provide a sense of purpose and hope.
At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.