Celebrate National Mental Wellness Month!
January is National Mental Wellness Month and a chance to recognize our mental wellbeing as part of our total body health.
Mental wellness is defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Mental wellness teaches people to take care of their health before they develop an illness. Stay healthy by doing the following:
- Eat well
- Exercise daily
- Get enough sleep
The same approach is valuable for mental wellness and a proactive approach is crucial to warding off a negative mental state.
While there are skills and practices a student can learn to improve mental wellness, over time these can turn into daily habits. Consider the following tips to instill mental wellness in your student…
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Students with positive attitudes are apt to be happier, more successful, and are better able to focus. Positive thoughts and a positive attitude help to create a better perspective on circumstances or events in their day-to-day life at home and school and will help guarantee personal and educational goals are met.
Develop Emotional Resiliency
Everyone has moments of uncertainty and self-doubt, but when those feelings start to dominate, it may be a sign of mental illness.
True self-esteem is the basis of emotional resiliency, which gets severely tested at several points in childhood — especially around early parent-child separations and in the “tween” years. Encourage your student to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and avoid allowing any negative speaking about themselves.
Create Positives from Negatives
A crisis – no matter how big or small – can seem monumental in a student’s life. Teach your student to view a crisis situation as an opportunity. Creative problem solving, like listing the positive things that can result from the problems a student is facing, can expand their options and help to cope and recover with problems.
Remember to Laugh
Humor has been proven to be a great stress reducer. In addition, laughing can improve both physical and mental health, as humor activates the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, generating emotions and relaxing the mind.
These “good feelings” can boost a student’s ability to bounce back from stress, solve problems, think flexibly, and even fight disease. Encourage this by ensuring time for your student to take a break to watch their favorite comedy or cartoon.
Developing and maintaining friends and an extended support network is crucial for a state of well-being.
People need one another to share and cope – and a classroom setting is full of people who are enduring similar hardships. Encourage your student to share their problems with their fellow classmates, this can lead to finding a solution while making them feel less isolated.
Regular physical exercise – at least three times a week – has been shown to increase energy and release important neurotransmitters in the brain to ward off depression and anxiety.
But a student should also be flexing his brain muscles regularly too as self-awareness and mental exercises such as yoga, games, hobbies, and musical instruments have been shown to reduce stress and improve mental wellness by keeping the brain active and healthy.
Nurture With Nutrition
Good nutrition is a natural defense against stress. However, during times of stress, people often skip meals, overeat, or eat bad foods. A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and fiber will help maintain the physical and mental stress needed to maintain mental wellness. Ensure your student is starting their day with a balanced breakfast followed by balanced meals and healthy snacks throughout the day.
For more on the importance of nutrition, see our blog post “Food for Thought: ADHD Children & Healthy Eating”.
Get Enough Rest
This should be a no brainer. A tired mind is an unhealthy mind. Adequate sleep – a child is recommended to get eight hours a night – is needed to improve physical health and cognitive function. A student is more alert and less prone to stress after a good night’s rest.
Mental Wellness Fast Facts
- There are four dimensions of mental wellness: thoughts, bodily functions, behaviors, and emotions.
- About half of mental disorders develop before the age of 14.
- Around 25% of children and young people in the developed world have an identifiable mental health problem, of whom 10% fulfil criteria for a mental health disorder.
- Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.
- Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders are at a higher risk for some mental disorders than children without.
- Mental disorders increase the risk of getting ill from other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- Between 70 and 90% of people with mental illnesses experience a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life, with proper care and treatment.
Sources include: Education Development Center, MHWW.org, MyGutInstinct.org, OxfordJournals.org, PsychCentral.com, Sovereign Health of California