Between the early sundowns and the ongoing uncertainties of the world, supporting our family’s mental health is more important than ever. Nutrition, physical activity and meditation are just a few of the ways that we can help our families to thrive.
“Even in the most difficult times, our kids are capable of boundless joy; their fertile imaginations provide solace when our grown-up world falls short.” - Jessica Grose (for the New York Times)
Moving for a Healthy Mind
Nothing keeps our minds happy like moving our bodies. Playing a game of Simon Says or going on a walk together will give the whole family a mental boost! That’s because physical exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our bodies. The weather may not be warm enough, right now, for bike rides or backyard badminton, but there is no shortage of fun family winter activities. Snowshoeing, tobogganing and ice skating are just a few of the ways you can get moving with the little ones. Yoga and walking also stimulate pressure receptors that benefit our overall well being.
Staying Mindful Together
Staying mindful is balm for the brain. Try setting aside time each day, as a family, to observe the present moment and focus on your breathing. Take advantage of Apps like Calm Kids, which include soundscapes and meditations that teach calming techniques like deep belly breathing. These days, we are loving Thomas & Friends Learn to Meditate and the Adventures in Perfect Harmony series, with Princess Poppy from Trolls!
Making Connections Through Music
Music uplifts us! Research shows that listening to music, especially classical and ambient genres boosts your mood and promotes relaxation. Playing a musical instrument has similar benefits, so grab that harmonica or plastic drum and let loose, the sillier the better! If you don’t have any instruments, household objects, like pepper shakers and tin cans, can easily become music makers.
“Playing music reduces stress and has been shown to reverse the body’s response to stress at the DNA-level.” - Dr. Barry Bittman
Another fun way to connect through music is to curate a playlist of your favorite family songs and throw a dance party! Not only will this get your bodies moving, but it’s also sure to encourage laughter, which releases happy-making endorphins. If you have babies and toddlers at home, check out the The Countdown Kids and Toddler Dance Party playlists by Spotify. Older kiddos will love the Kids Party playlist by Apple Music Kids!
Eating for Your Mental Health
What you eat and how you feel go hand in hand. Nutrient-rich, whole foods are fuel for our brains and we love delicious snacks that also give us a mental lift! Check out our Tavares family recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins.
A person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected. - Harvard Health
Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins
Total Time: 30 mins
Difficulty Level: Easy (parental supervision required)
- ⅓ cup liquid coconut oil
- ½ cup maple syrup or honey
- 2 eggs, preferably at room temperature
- 1 cup packed mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
- ¼ cup milk of choice or water (we use almond milk)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups flour of choice (we like blending old fashioned oats)
- Dairy-free chocolate chips - we eyeball it!
- 1 tablespoon old-fashioned whole rolled oats
- Preheat the oven to 165°C/ 325°F. If necessary, grease all 12 cups of your muffin tin with coconut oil
- In a large bowl, beat the coconut oil and maple syrup together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well. Mix in the mashed bananas and milk, followed by the baking soda, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon.
- Add the flour to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined. If you’d like to add any additional ingredients, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now
- Divide batter evenly between the muffin cups, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with oats Bake muffins until a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes
- Enjoy right away or put in the freezer for a later date!