Healthy habits lead to improved mental health


There are many things that impact the health and happiness of today’s youth. Now more than ever, anxiety, ADHD, and depression are being openly discussed and better understood. As we learn more about mental health, we realize not only how important it is, but how it is intertwined with physical health, activity, and nutrition.

The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. “There is no health, without mental health” WHO.

As children grow up, they are developing habits that will follow them into adulthood and later, shape the next generation. Developing healthy habits, like eating fruits or vegetables as a snack instead of chips, will lead to fewer diseases and better overall health.

There have been several studies which link physical activity to a decrease in anxiety and depression in youth and young adults.  A child who gets the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day is likely to do better in school, improve their attention, and lower their stress levels. Sixty minutes may seem like a lot of time to devote to physical activity or active play, but the average 11-18-year-old watches 5 hours of television a day. This could easily be lowered to allow time for something more active.

Physical activity has been found to

• Decrease Anxiety

• Improve symptoms of ADHD

• Reduce Depression

• Reduce the risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Physical activity can not only be used as a healthy coping strategy, but also increase someone’s overall confidence. Exercise or active play, releases endorphins, a natural chemical that increases your sense of well-being and happiness. Improved confidence, and endorphins are just two of the ways physical activity can help reduce anxiety and depression. Encouraging active play at a young age, can create a healthy habit that follows a child into adulthood.

Simple changes in nutrition can also reduce the risk for these and other health related concerns. By following nutrition guidelines, you ensure proper amounts of vitamins and nutrients your body uses to fight off disease and improve its immune response. Things like reducing the amount of sugary drinks in favor of water or no sugar added fruit juice, making sure half your child’s plate is fruits and vegetables, and encouraging healthy snack choices rather than chips or candy, can all improve physical and mental health.

Developing healthy habits as children will influence every aspect of health. Children who are physically active have shown more focus in school, leading to improved grades and classroom behavior. Anxiety and depression have decreased in youth who got at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Physical activity and proper nutrition are also linked to a reduction in obesity and diabetes, which according to the CDC is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Mental, physical, and social well-being, as well as disease prevention are all influenced by daily routines, nutrition, and physical activity.