When it comes to considering mental health in teens, it’s important to remember the foundational basics that can contribute to them doing well or not.
While there’s an element of mystery as to who fares well and who doesn’t (brain chemistry, hormones, social media effects, etc.), every teen can and should pay attention to 3 primary pillars of mental health.
According to a recent study by the Department of Psychology from the University of Otago in New Zealand, sleep, diet, and exercise emerged as the primary pillars for mental health to allay depressive symptoms and bolster well-being.
The 3 primary pillars of mental health:
It’s important to note other research has shown that teenagers with mental health disorders are much more likely to pursue numbing their uncomfortable feelings through harmful substance use.
In fact, kids with “any prior [mental] disorder significantly increased the risk of transition from nonuse to first use, and from use to problematic use of either alcohol or illicit drugs.”
Specifically, the study found that teens with more and better sleep quality were much less likely to experience depressive symptoms.
Those who added more raw veggies and fruits to their diet were more likely to report feeling better about their overall well-being.
Of course, kids need guidance and support throughout adolescence to engage their prefrontal cortex and develop self-awareness and emotional regulation skills. But don’t overlook the foundational pillars, which might be so obvious that they go unnoticed.
To support kids for better quality sleep, consider the following:
- A consistent bedtime routine at approximately the same time every night
- Avoidance of any caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon or evening
- Turn off all devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime
To support kids with a better exercise routine:
- Exercise together
- Watch an engaging show or listen to a fun podcast while exercising
- Pick an activity or sport that they really enjoy
- Incentivize them somehow for at least 15-20 minutes of exercise daily
To support kids with a better diet:
- Make smoothies – there are all kinds of awesome smoothie shake products available. Add Banana and peanut butter or blueberries
- Keep raw veggies and fruits accessible and cut-up, ready to eat
- Get some fun dips like hummus or peanut butter