People don’t often put a lot of thought into their own mental health. We can’t see the brain, so we don’t make talking care of it a priority like we do with other aspects of health. It is a lot easier to put our focus on the exterior things like our body fat, skin/acne, hair and nails.
Taking care of our minds is the most important of all.
1 in 9 Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease which equals about 5.3 million currently living with it. These statistics are expected to triple by year 2050 according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The typical life expectancy after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is 4-8 more years. According to the CDC, it is the 6th leading cause of death in America and there is no cure on the horizon either.
The development of Alzheimer’s begins 30 years before ANY symptoms even appear.
Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and sleep apnea are all linked to the development of Alzheimer’s. This shows a huge connection between the health of the mind and body. As a matter of fact, as weight goes up, brain size and function go down. That is enough motivation for anyone to want to start shedding pounds!
The brain effects how we think, feel, act and interact. An unhealthy brain creates a sadder, sicker life where we make poorer decisions, but a healthy brain helps us to be happier, healthier and make better decisions.
It is becoming clear why it is so important to start supporting a healthy brain for your kid’s at a young age.
What accelerates brain aging?
- Brain injuries
- Sleep Apnea
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Bad decisions
- Low conscientiousness
- Unhealthy peer group
Top 10 ways to start protecting your children’s brains early
1. Diet – Feeding your kid’s a diet rich with nutrients is one of the most important things you can do for their overall health. Try to stick to whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. Reduce the amount of sugar, bread, and processed foods that they intake. Remember, if it has a laundry list of ingredients and additives, it probably isn’t a good choice.
2. Exercise – Everyone is well aware of the importance of physical activity to promote a healthy lifestyle. Today’s children are spending a lot more time in front of their T.V.’s, tablets, and other electronic devices instead of going outside to play. The little bit of time they get at recess and gym while at school just isn’t enough. Encourage your little ones to spend more time outside, or even invite them to join you for your exercise routine. This may even encourage you to find ways to make it more fun and enjoyable for yourself as well! Getting your kid involved in sports is another great way to keep them more active.
3. Sleep – It is vital that kid’s get enough rest not only to function better in school the next day, but for a lifetime of better brain function! Start by checking the recommendations for how many hours of sleep they should be getting based on their age here. It is also important to cut off their screen time an hour or two before bed to allow their brains to wire down. The blue light from electronics signal to the brain that it is daylight, throwing off the circadian rhythm. This suppresses the body’s ability to produce the melatonin needed for sleep.
4. Environment – Toxins in our environment can range from pollution, household cleaners, self-care products, to even clothes and other seemingly harmless household items. When you buy new clothes, bedding, or furniture, they are covered in flame retardant chemicals that are not good for our bodies. Be sure to wash all new clothes and bedding before using them and try to opt for organic options as often as possible. You can buy safer household cleaners or even better, make your own at home! Other great steps you can take are to purchase a high quality air purifier for your home and fill your home with plenty plants to keep your air fresh.
5. Head injuries – I understand that kids will be kids. They are going to fall down, scrape their knees and even bump their heads. I’m not saying to keep your kid in a bubble to try to protect them. (Does anyone remember the movie Bubble Boy?) However, you can encourage them to be more careful and aware of their surroundings. Contact sports like football are not going to be the best choices if you are wanting to protect their precious brains. The good news is, there are plenty other sports to choose from that are a lot safer.
6. Peers – Studies have shown that you are only as healthy as the people you surround yourself with. It makes sense, if you hang out with alcoholics you will be more likely to drink, but if you hang out with bodybuilders you are more likely to get your butt to the gym. There is even a study showing the correlation between friends and obesity. I’m not telling you to not let your kid play with little Timmy because he eats chips and drinks sodas, but there are some things you can do. You can set the standard and be the positive influence to encourage those around you to make better health decisions. There are also online communities where you can connect with other parents who are passionate about healthy holistic living.
7. Good Choices – You can teach your kid how to make good decisions in all aspects of life. Start by setting a good example in your own life choices because more than anything they look up to you! Allowing them to start making decisions at a young age helps them to flex that muscle and be better at it as they age. Depending on their age, you can have them choose between a few choices of what to wear, have for dinner, or what pet to pick out. It is not about punishing them for making bad decisions, but talking them through why they made it, why it wasn’t the best choice, and of course praising them for the good choices they do make it life.
8. Learning – Learning new information stimulates the brain and helps keep it young. By following all of the other steps for a healthy brain, you are increasing the ability for them to learn new information easily. This allows them to do better in school and retain more information, but school is not the only place they should be learning. There is a set number of things they actually have access to learn in the classroom. It is important to continue the learning at home. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sit down with them and do lessons either. Real world learning happens in daily activities; it is up to you to find those opportune moments where you can take the situation and turn it into a lesson.
9. Gratitude – This is one of those concepts that is so very important to be taught at home. Expressing gratitude for at least 3 things every day, increases overall happiness. When you get them in the habit of being appreciative for all of the things around them, they are a lot less likely to focus so hard on what isn’t perfect. You can simply tell each other a few things you are grateful for before bed or first thing in the morning to create the habit. With more gratitude comes more happiness and with more happiness comes less depression. Such a simple thing can really go a long way!
10. Conscientiousness – Last, but most certainly not least is conscientiousness. Conscientious people are more careful, efficient, self disciplined, and dependable. When they are more conscious, or aware of themselves and the world around them, every other piece to this puzzle falls into place so much easier. That deep level of awareness brings more gratitude, desire to make good decisions, learn more, and take better care of themselves, others and the environment. The best way to bring about a deep sense of consciousness is through meditation. Calming the mind and getting in touch with one’s self does absolute wonders for people. I recommend starting with a few minutes a day before bed and increase the time frame up to 30 minutes as they become more capable of sitting still longer.
It is important to start protecting the future of your kid’s health by being proactive and following this simple guideline.
Do you know any other ways to care for children’s mental health? Leave a comment below and share with the rest of us!
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