“When it comes to health and well-being, exercise is about as close to the magic potion as we can get” – Tich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Monk)
There isn’t one single magic solution to developing a positive mindset but creating habits will certainly help get us there. In these uncertain times, a positive and optimistic mindset is extremely important. A healthy mind is just as important and a healthy body.
Recently we have all been affected by the struggles of lockdown and at School of Play, we want to provide you with some tips on how to keep you and your children thinking positively!
- Regular Exercise
There is now a lot of evidence to back up the theory that exercise is the most powerful tool we have to optimize our brain, so we have to ask ourselves, are we doing some form of intense movement every day?
We all know that exercise makes us feel better and is good for the body, but most of us have no idea why. Building muscles and conditioning the heart and lungs are merely side effects to the real reason we feel so good when our blood is pumping; it makes the brain function at its best.
Dr John J. Ratey states in his book Spark – “If exercise came in pill form, it would be plastered across the front page, hailed as the blockbuster drug of the century’ and I can’t help but agree with him on this.
In order to keep our brains at peak performance, our bodies need to work hard. Important neurotransmitters responsible for our thoughts and emotions such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, are increased through exercise.
Exercise also releases neurochemicals and growth factors that can reverse eroded connections in the brain caused by toxic levels of stress. Our brains are very much like our muscles, the more we use them the more they grow, and a distinct lack of inactivity can cause them to wither.
A scientific study done on high-school students in Naperville (USA) has shown that when students go for a mile run before the start of the school day, their focus and mood are improved; they’re less fidgety and tense, and they feel more motivated and invigorated.
The concept of neuroplasticity (to form new neural pathways) is fundamental to understanding how the brain works and how exercise optimizes brain function by fostering that quality.
We can therefore see how your child performing some form of exercise every day can help them develop a positive mindset and have a healthy outlook on life. At our breakfast, after school and holiday clubs, we offer unique sporting activities to the children on a regular basis. The aerobic activity will not only elevate neurotransmitters, create new blood vessels, and spawn new cells in their brain, but the complex nature of learning a new skill will put all that material to use by strengthening and expanding networks.
This half-term many of the children had the chance to take part in Yoga and American Football and coming up in the next couple of months we have Lacrosse, Fencing, and Dodgeball to name a few.
- Proper Nutrition
“Your diet is your bank account; good food choices are good investments”
One of the greatest forms of medicine is our diet, what we eat, and drink can affect how we feel, think, and behave. Just like other organs in the body, the brain requires the right minerals and nutrients to remain healthy and operate at its peak. Good nutrition can support healthy neurotransmitter activity within our brain and protect us from the effects of oxidants, which have been shown to negatively impact mood and mental health.
At our Urmston Primary School – Breakfast and After School Club, we believe fuelling children with the right nutrition will keep them bursting with energy throughout the day. We offer nutritious snacks that the children will love alongside encouraging sports and outdoor play. Providing children with the right minerals and nutrients is just as important as keeping them physically active.
“There are two gifts we should give our children; one is roots, and the other is wings.”
There is a lot of scientific evidence to prove that human beings are genetically hardwired to crave novelty and pursue joy, which is even more apparent in the uncompromising mind of a child.
Here are some of the best ways I believe you can fuel the joy in your child and help them develop a positive mindset.
Travelling – foreign places are known to fuel our joy. Many of the world’s greatest writers, leaders, humanitarians, CEO’s and history makers have all cited the benefits of travelling when it comes to doing their best work. Unknown environments have the ability to effect mental change and create new neural pathways in our brain, meaning new experiences we obtain when travelling can dramatically or subtly change our character and form new ideas or philosophies. Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and author of numerous studies on this topic states – “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility, depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms”.
Challenges – by being in uncomfortable situations we force ourselves to grow, mature, and improve who we are, and the same can be said for children. On their first day at school when they were clinging onto your legs and pleading with you not to go, think of the missed opportunities if you gave in and allowed them to stay at home? We often see this when children attend our breakfast, after school, or holiday club for the first time and they are reluctant to take that first step into a new environment. Every time they overcome that initial fear, they thrive, make new friends, and grow exponentially in just a few days.
“We become our conversations”
As we know, the world is becoming consumed by technology and reading is now a task that seems so long and tedious to carry out. A quick 2-minute video can of course provide a snippet of useful information but is it really filling or children’s brains with the intricate knowledge they need, and do they really contribute anything towards children’s cognitive development?
“By reading to children, you provide them with a deep understanding about their world and fill their brains with background knowledge” (Ellie Collier) Without all this information children would have a hard time understanding things such as empathy, relationships and how to deal with specific situations. How many times have we had to explain why we need to share toys with our friends or why we need to be extra nice when someone seems sad? The more the children read about these situations in story-telling form, the more they begin to implement these things in their daily life and interactions.
Reading not only benefits cognitive development but it also improves their literacy, language and imagination skills. Audiobooks can be great for younger children and their language development as hearing words being pronounced correctly can push them to repeat the words and use them in future conversations. But for more advanced readers, actually viewing the words on a physical book can improve their spelling and grammar as well. Ultimately, books broaden children’s (already extremely active) imagination. Their inner most thoughts can now be expressed to the world in which ever way they choose, because now they have the means to be able to express it!”
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank
Journaling allows us to process through unfelt emotions that can affect our daily choices, often at a subconscious level. It enables us to process anger, sadness or hurts that we may feel and helps us find greater freedom and make better choices. It also allows us to record our dreams, which promotes positive energy, creates hope, and gives us a richer experience of life.
Getting your child to journal just a few times a week could be a great way to ensure they maintain a positive mindset and experience a happy, fulfilling, and memorable childhood.
Here are 5 topics they could journal on:
Thanks for reading!