On the heels of what has definitely been one of the most eventful school years ever, and as children across the world are headed into summer break, it is a great time to review a few best practices for keeping your family mentally healthy.
According to science, simple strategies such as exercise, eating well, getting enough rest, and setting aside time for reflection/self-expression can promote good mental health in adults. However, because these are considered “simple” strategies, they are often overlooked by many looking for a “quick fix” to their mental health challenges.
Let’s take a look at why these “tried and true” methods are so effective at making a lasting change to mental health issues that your family may be facing.
4 Key Ways to Maintain Good Mental Health at Home
There is a reason why doctors suggest that those suffering from depression should get moving for some instant relief.
The Mayo Clinic (2017) states that those who exercise at least thirty minutes, four to five times a week, may see significant relief from symptoms of depression. During this time, endorphins are released that will enhance one’s sense of well-being. While it takes thirty minutes, four to five times a week, to see significant improvement, even amounts as small as ten to fifteen minutes at a time will drive small improvements in symptoms.
If you are looking to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine, our article “Exercise for Mental Wellness – How to Get Mental Health Movement Moments Into Your Day” is a great place to start!
A Healthy Diet
A diet rich in whole foods and nutrients can be a valuable tool in fighting mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. For example, certain foods are scientifically proven to improve our mood. Here are some foods to try:
- Fish. Specifically wild varieties of salmon, mackerel, etc contain large amounts of omega 3 fats which can improve serotonin production. (Serotonin is an important chemical involved in mood regulation).
- Beans. When our blood sugar is too high or too low, our mood and energy levels are adversely affected. Beans are a great source of protein and fiber, helping to stabilize our blood sugar levels and regulate our mood.
- Poultry. Certain poultry products, such as chicken and turkey, are an excellent source of tryptophan, another chemical proven to be beneficial in serotonin production.
While some foods can help to improve mental health, others can be harmful. For example, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed meats, and fried foods may make symptoms of depression and anxiety worse.
On a personal note, my mood is always worse when I am not well-rested. Normal everyday annoyances that I could normally handle with grace and a sense of humor become unmanageable when I am tired.
The relationship between sleep and depression is somewhat complicated. Some people experiencing depression may find that they cannot muster enough energy to get out of bed, whereas others may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) suggests keeping a regular bedtime (regardless of whether it is a weekday or weekend) and making the bedroom a sanctuary for sleep as tips for improving sleep.
For more sleep hygiene tips, check out our article “The Do’s and Don’ts of Sleep Hygiene”.
Carving quiet time for self-expression and reflection can be an important tool for improving mental health. Stambor (2005), writer for American Psychological Association, affirms that self-expression (journaling, art, music, etc.) can lead to higher levels of reflection and creativity, which improves self-esteem and one’s overall well-being.
How to Know When You Need More Help
So maybe you’ve tried all these strategies, and it’s just not enough? In these times, it is important for the health and well-being of your family to reach out. Talk to your doctor or counsellor and they will be more than happy to connect you with further resources and support. I also highly recommend seeking support from those who have been in the trenches with you.
If you are looking for a web-based support group, The Lily-Jo Project has a wonderful online learning platform and FB community with information for parents and those that work with youth. I moderate the group, and we would love to have you join. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!
If you are looking for additional lifestyle tips for maintaining good mental health, you may find the following articles helpful:
- Mastering Anxiety: 6 Simple Steps from Lily-Jo
- 5 Tips for Creating a Stress-Free (Or At Least LESS Stressed) Household
- Top Anxiety Reducing Products for Teens and Young Adults
- Lily-Jo’s Top 5 Tips for Finding a Counsellor
APA. (2005). Self reflection may lead independently to creativity, depression. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/jun05/selfreflection
Clarke, J. (2020). Foods to help fight depression. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/foods-for-depression-4156403
Cummings, S. (2018). 5 sleep tips that can help with depression. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2018/5-Sleep-Tips-that-Can-Help-with-Depression
Mayo Clinic. (2017) Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495.
WebMD. (2019) Foods to Avoid If You Have Anxiety or Depression. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/ss/slideshow-avoid-foods-anxiety-depression
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is an early childhood educator in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com), her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.