✔ Consistent sleep and wake time – Sleep is crucial for every single aspect of our health and particularly for mental wellbeing. Many young people today simply aren’t getting enough sleep, often hampered by excessive exposure to smart devices or gaming before bedtime, and distracted by notifications throughout the night. Good sleep is very much linked to winding down before bedtime, having a dark, quiet bedroom free from distractions and maintaining consistent habits. One simple way to encourage better sleep in children is to agree on a regular sleep and wake time (even at weekends)
✔ Eat breakfast – Many young people skip breakfast and arrive at school hungry, tired and irritable without any fuel to kick-start the day. With an empty fuel tank, and blood sugar levels starting to dip, many children then reach for a sugary drink or snack at break time, setting up a vicious circle of blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day. Making time for a nutritious breakfast before school is a great way to avoid this blood sugar rollercoaster and instead support balanced energy and mental wellbeing throughout the day.
Encourage your child to adopt a daily habit of a protein-rich breakfast such as scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast or nut butter on toast or even a protein rich smoothie on the way if time poor.
✔ Remove unhealthy snacks and access to buy them – many children are filling up on sweets, crisps and unhealthy drinks. This is blunting their appetite for healthy food, negatively changing their tastebuds, and affecting blood sugar levels which impacts on mood, concentration and energy. Snacks are only needed if there is a very long gap between meals or if your meals doesn’t adequately balance protein, carbs and fat along with veg or salad. A snack should ideally be fruit.
✔ Daily omega 3 – Omega 3 fats found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel are crucial for all aspects of brain health including mood, and yet the latest National Diet & Nutrition Survey shows that most people across all age groups fail to eat even one portion of oily fish per week. A daily supplement of a thoroughly purified, stable omega 3 fish oil is generally agreed to be a safe and reliable way to up your intake.
✔ Agree on boundaries around using smart devices – Evidence is starting to stack up to suggest that there are multiple ways in which smart devices may be impacting young people’s mental wellbeing and the developing brain. It is crucial therefore to evaluate what steps you can take to improve this. For some, this may involve agreeing boundaries around switching devices off a couple of hours before bedtime, perhaps not using a phone at mealtimes or limiting time spent on social media. This may mean removing WIFI at night
✔ Exercise outdoors – The benefits of exercise to support mental wellbeing are well documented and these can stack up even higher when you get outside in nature. Finding ways to encourage your child to engage in regular movement that they love is a great habit to support mental wellbeing and if it’s something you can do together, then even better.
✔ Daily dose of calming nutrients – The typical Western diet is often lacking in key nutrients that support mental health and wellbeing. Magnesium is often referred to as nature’s tranquiliser for its calming, relaxing qualities; zinc is known to support a balanced mood; vitamin C and B vitamins help the body to deal with stress; and vitamin D is essential for neurological development and to protect the brain too. Sadly, processed, convenience foods are often stripped of these essential nutrients. Optimum nutrition starts with a great diet first and foremost; a daily multivitamin plus additional magnesium can however be a great habit to help bridge the gap.
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