Starting the new academic term well - the four pillars for good health
A new academic term is a great time to focus on positive changes for better health and it always pays to take care of the basics first. The four pillars for good health are:
1. Getting enough, good quality sleep. Keys to this include:
Setting a bedtime routine so the mind gets into the habit of knowing when the time to sleep is approaching;
Relaxing (preferably device free) for half an hour before bed;
Switching phones off or setting them to 'silent' so that sleep is not interrupted by regular pinging with alerts and messages. Encourage them to use the “Do not disturb” feature if their phone has one, which will automatically silence alerts at the same time each night;
Working out optimum sleeping time (for most teens it’s between 8 and 10 hours) and going to bed 15-30 minutes before the sleep time needed. It’s easiest to work backwards. If you’re teen needs 9 hours sleep to function well and they have to be up at 7.00 am, then they need to be asleep by 10.00 pm;
Getting up at a similar time each morning and, hard though it may be, limiting lie-ins at the weekend to just an extra hour or so in bed. Long lie-ins disrupt their sleeping rhythm,making it harder for them to go to sleep.
2. Being active – every day!
People are designed to be active, but increasingly we live sedentary lifestyles, sitting at desks, on devices and in front of the TV. Make sure your teen takes part in at least 30 mins activity every day, such as playing sports, dancing or swimming. If they can do more, all the better;
Being active keeps the body supple, helps circulation and releases frustrations;
Encourage them to take regular walks to boost circulation, stretch their muscles and be outdoors. It is very important that they spend some time being active outside every week – preferably every day.
Exercise (or activity) releases feel good hormones which help combat negative thoughts and feelings, improving mental wellbeing as well as improving physical health.
3. Supporting positive mental wellbeing, by regularly forming habits that are known to help good mental health, such as:
Being grateful and appreciative every day (a gratitude journal can be great for focusing on this – such as “Things that don’t totally suck” designed for teens);
Taking regular exercise, especially activities that involve being out in nature (which includes parks and commons);
Learning to manage stress by reframing, meditation, mindfulness and breathing;
Knowing when to ask for additional support.
4. Eating well – treats are fine from time-to-time, but your teen needs a balanced healthy diet to be physically well and mentally alert. This includes:
At least five portions of fruit/vegetables every day;
Not too much sugar, processed/refined foods, caffeine or fat (a small amount of some fats can be healthy, such as olive oil, but not saturated fat);
Plenty of water to stay hydrated. The best way to make sure your child is drinking enough is to ensure they have water on hand at all times – at their desk, in bottles in their bag when on the go, and served alongside food.
Find our more:
There’s plenty more about what you can do at home to help your teen create lifelong healthy habits in: The Parents' Guide to Homelife and Study - GCSEs and The Parents' Guide to Homelife and Study - sixth form