Mental health is just as important as our physical and even spiritual health. The sad reality is that all three aspects are affected by changing lifestyle patterns. The stress levels at work have increased, and the work timings are irregular, coupled with the stresses of travel time, deadlines to be met, the ever-rising cost of living, and so on, has played a number on our mental health.
A child’s mental health, too, is affected, there is competition even at their level to get into a good school, to get good grades, get into a good college, and the cycle continues. Parents have even put their children in additional activities like music, sports, and art to balance their lives, but they have also ended up making their lives stressful. Children don’t have the time or the opportunity to run around and play with their friends to let off some steam. With all this mounting stress and pressure in all directions, there is bound to be a blowout somewhere.
We need to handle and take care of our mental health before it reaches this stage, maybe even changing our daily habits. Try including these habits in your everyday life and improve your and your child’s mental health.
1. Eating Well
When we avoid junk food and eat foods rich in nutrients, it prevents mood swings and irritation due to hunger. A diet consisting of whole, unprocessed foods, fruit, and vegetables keeps us full longer. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids and folate will also boost mental health.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Our body needs sleep to heal and repair itself. Healthy sleep, especially REM sleep, is required for the brain to process emotional information. During sleep, our brain evaluates our thoughts and memories and consolidates the positive ones necessary for our mental health and well-being.
3. Activity and Exercise
We’ve all heard that exercise makes us happy, so what better activity to boost our mental health than to indulge in some physical activity? When we exercise, physical activity causes the brain to produce feel-good hormones called endorphins which help reduce stress and elevates our mood.
4. Be Sociable
One of the most fun activities for good mental health is socializing. When we associate, we are away from the stressful work environment and are with like-minded people. The atmosphere is lively, and we know we are there to have fun. This helps us lighten our mood. There is a sense of belonging, safety, and security, a place where we can let off some steam and confide in our friends
5. Manage Stress
Stress affects both our bodies and minds. Long-term effects of stress can lead to high blood pressure, digestive issues, insomnia, and the risk of other health problems. Simple techniques like meditation, being mindful of the present situation, and even preplanning and preparation can help manage stress and maintain our mental health.
6. Avoid Alcohol, Smoking, and Drugs
Vices like Alcohol, smoking, and drugs cause specific chemical changes in our bodies and brain. If we are already stressed, these chemical changes can easily lead to negative feelings like anger, anxiety, and even depression. Alcohol also tends to slow down our brain’s processing capacity, thus making it more challenging to realize the consequences of our actions.
7. Helping Others
When we help others, it gives us a sense of purpose and belonging. These stimulate the reward centers of our brains and make us feel good. Research has proven that those who help others experience less anxiety are less depressed and have better health. Doing selfless acts makes us happy, and happiness is always good for our mental health
8. Ask for Help
Asking for help should not be seen as a manifestation of weakness, which is a sign of strength and awareness. A symbol of power because you can recognize that a particular situation is complex and that you need assistance to handle the problem effectively. So, instead of struggling alone, reach out and ask for help.
The above activities and habits work well for adults, and a few could also work for children. However, children’s stress factors, levels of stress, and mental health are very different from that of adults and need to be handled differently. Know more about the list of the top 10 healthy foods for kids to gain weight.
Let’s try these mental health games and activities to improve our child’s mental health
The Other Hand Challenge
Most of us are either right-handed or left-handed. Encourage your child to use the non-dominant hand to do simple day-to-day activities in this activity. So try improving your self-control by switching your hands to hold the glass while drinking water, picking up fruit to eat, and even trying drawing and coloring with your’ other hand.’
Make a Gratitude Jar
Even a gratitude tree would work. For this activity, you can stick a dried branch into a pot or find a way to keep it standing, or get a clean glass jar and decorate it. Then every day, you can write one or more things that you are grateful for, write it on a ‘leaf-shaped’ paper for your tree and tie it to the branch or write it on a strip of paper, fold it, and put it in your jar. It could be as simple as being grateful that mom made pancakes for breakfast today, or dad came home early and played with you in the evening, or you spoke to grandma on the phone. Then on the days, you’re feeling sad and down, you can always read these notes and cheer up.
The Scribble Challenge
Here’s a fun mental activity that can be done anytime. For this, all you need is some plain paper and some colored pens. To begin with, use one color to draw any shape or scribble a single design. Then you can use the same color or different colors to change that shape or scribble into something familiar or even turn it into a funny character.at first, you can make the scribble with your eyes open and then make it more challenging. Scribble with your eyes closed and then convert it. This is a tremendous mental health activity to help children think of alternatives and promotes creativity.
Be Your Best Friend
This is a beautiful activity to promote your child’s mental health as it highlights the positives. For this activity, take two sheets of paper; on one, draw a picture of your face, and on the other, draw a picture of your best friend’s face. Now imagine your friend is having a terrible day or that they are unfortunate. Think about all the things you would tell them to cheer them up. Next, make speech bubbles near your picture and fill in everything you would say to your friend. Keep this picture handy and cheer yourself up when you have a bad day.
This mental health activity aims to make the child realize that they are unique and special, to highlight a quality of theirs that stands out, and for them to know that they can make a difference in their way. We need a sheet of paper, a pencil and colored pens for this activity. Start by writing your name on the top of the page, followed by a hyphen and the word ‘amazing’ after that; e.g., if your name is Keya, then you will write ‘Keya-mazing’ or if it’s Arya then write ‘Arya-mazing,’ below that draw a picture of yourself dressed as a superhero, then color it in. Finally, write one quality that makes you different or that people have said they like about you. It could be that you’re kind and caring, give great hugs, love animals, or even have a great laugh. You can even write more than one quality that describes who you are. Pin it up where you can see it often and know that you are exceptional.
Make a Name Poem
This activity on mental health requires introspection and getting to know who you are. You’ll need a pen, paper, and colors to get started. First, on one side of the form, write down your name with letters below the other. Then beside each letter, write a quality about yourself or something you like that begins with that letter. Finally, make sentences to join these words, and try your best to rhyme. You can then use your colors to make your sheet of paper look attractive, and you can even draw in some pictures too. Have a look at these examples for Naisha and Ian. Know about Best Nursery Rymes for Kids.
N- Nice – I am friendly, and I am
A- Attentive – attentive, I listen and look and
I- Interesting – find things interesting all around and even in a book.
S- Strawberries – I love strawberries, bananas, dancing and flowers
H- Happy – I’d like to spread happiness and wish it were one of my powers.
I smile when I’m happy but not when I’m cross and
A- Amazing – I’m amazed to know I’ll be my own boss when I grow up.
It’s great to know me, ‘coz I’m number one. I know that together, we’ll have so much fun!
I – Intuitive- Intuitive is what I’d like to be.
A – Ambitious – I have high hopes and plans. How far I reach? We have to see
N – Naughty – Naughty and nice both describe me. I have to be precise.
If there is a place or mood you rather not be in, call on me ‘coz I’m your friend Ian.
This is an enjoyable Child Mental health activity, especially for preschoolers who can’t go out. It requires you to think of alternative ways to express your feelings or emotions through sound alone. There are two ways this game can be played, and one is taking/making different-sounding rattles and shaking them in different ways to create different sounds to suit your mood or feeling best. Another is to find things around the house that best describe how you feel, e.g., a hissing pressure cooker could signify you are getting angry, a pot of popping corn or blowing soap bubbles could tell excitement, a spoon stirring a liquid could show confusion, water dropping slowly could mean boredom and so on. This activity gets your brain thinking outside the box.
Jar of Happiness
You’ll need two clean containers for this mental health activity. One you can decorate to signify happiness and the other to convey sadness. Then take a few strips of paper and write as many things as possible that make you happy on each strip of paper. It could be eating ice cream, decorating a cupcake with icing and sprinkles, splashing in a pool, jumping on a trampoline, going to your friend’s house, or spending a day with grandma. Fold the strips up and put them all in the happy jar. Then on a day that you feel sad, take a strip of paper and write down what made you sad and put it in the unfortunate pot, then immediately take one chit from the happy jar and read it to make you happy and to make you smile. When the sad jar is complete, take a moment to think about the things you put in there and see if they still make you miserable. Then throw all the sad chits away, and you can start making happy chits again.
This activity is suitable for your child’s mental health as it helps them identify when they are happy or sad and gives them a feeling of control when they can change their feelings or emotions on their own. Know more about learning activities for preschoolers.
Tell them about a marshmallow and a piece of chocolate
A marshmallow is soft and squidgy, can bend and stretch, and in the end, when you leave, it comes back to its original form, whereas chocolate will break and cannot come back to its original condition. Teach your child that being adaptable like a marshmallow is better for you because, in the end, you remain who you are, whereas being rigid like a chocolate might break and change who you are.
Create a journal
Some children find it difficult to express themselves verbally. Whatever the reason, they may need an outlet for their emotions. Giving them a ‘special journal’ and a quiet, safe space for them to write in it might be the outlet they need. You can encourage their journaling by giving theme stickers, colors, stamps, and pictures they can use to make this activity fun.
Music and children have a unique bond. Children relate to it in many ways. So why not turn on the music and shake off all the crazy feelings? Use music to pep you up or wind you down. You can even use music to relax and relieve your stress. Pair the right piece with meditation and breathing exercises to calm and clear your mind and boost your health. Music therapy works for adults too.
These are a few easy mental health activities or habits that will help break the hold that stress has on your life. You will become happier, healthier, and more productive when you handle stress effectively. While work is important and necessary, it shouldn’t consume us, and we need to carve out time to have fun, relax and unwind.
Centers like EuroKids help children to learn and identify their emotions and give them plenty of opportunities to express themselves. Children are taught the correct ways to communicate and handle negative emotions like anger. Visit a center near you and see how even young children can be taught all about feelings.