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7 Strategies to Improve Mood and Mindset

7 Strategies to Improve Mood and Mindset

As a parent, there is so much you can do to improve your child’s mental health. Those small everyday moments that we tend to neglect contribute to who they become, including how they manage stress. 

Beyond physically nurturing them, we can foster a strong sense of courage, compassion, connection, and confidence in our kids. By letting your children play, explore art, and appreciate age-appropriate literature, they develop into their own beings. 

While what happens in their surroundings is sometimes beyond your control, what you show them determines how they problem-solve and make decisions when you aren’t around. Moreover, working with your child to develop an open and positive inner dialogue can help them perceive their surroundings with hope and courage. 

We want to give our kids the tools needed to have a calm mind and regulated behavior. 

A calm mind is a healthy and creative one. When you guide your child in developing the necessary coping mechanisms to manage their fear and foster a sense of gratitude for the little things, you cultivate positive feelings and maintain mental wellness throughout life’s challenges. 

Here are some of my favorite strategies to improve mood and have a positive mindset that every parent can use to build an internal anchor for stress inoculation for children.

Conquer Your Fear-Driven Brain

#1 Conquer Your Fear-Driven Brain

Have you ever ridden a roller coaster? After a long, slow climb, the roller coaster reaches the top of its track and hesitates for a split second at the peak. You know it’s about to go into a wild, fast descent, and there’s no way to avoid it. You hang onto the handrail, palms sweating, heart racing, and brace yourself for the wild ride down.

Sometimes your fear is greater than your faith in yourself. We want our kids to feel confident and be good decision-makers when we aren’t around.

What Is Fear?

Fear is an intrinsic human emotion living within us to keep us alive. When we sense danger or feel unsafe, we respond with fear.

This emotion is natural and helpful in some situations, as it helps protect your child from danger and prepares them to deal with it. Fear can be like a warning signal, cautioning them to be careful.

Like all emotions, fear can vary in intensity, depending on the situation and person. It can be brief or it may last for a more extended period. Fear can start with something logical and real or be totally illogical. The brain doesn’t know the difference and treats them the same.

Fear can have a big impact on the brain! It can escalate worrying, start the sympathetic nervous system, and send hormones from the amygdala to the rest of the body.

The amygdala controls the body’s fight or flight response. When our child is fearful, sometimes for no logical reason, their fight-or-flight response activates. It can help them survive because their entire system is on high alert, allowing them to move fast to defend themselves or run away. 

But being in this state can be stressful for your child’s body. So, fear should be rationalized, meaning they should calm down when there is no imminent threat. The problem is we are living in a stressful world that has created a sympathetic overload brain state.

The opposite of fear is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of relaxation where healthfulness and creativity are at their peak. You teach the brain to slow down enough to be mindful of your breathing, body sensations, and the environment. 

Mindfulness-based stress reduction activities can be woven into a child’s day. Art, games, walking, and other activities that help them to regulate create opportunities to connect with themselves. For example, I love playing eye spy with my kids when we are at a restaurant instead of being on our devices. 

A mindful, calm brain fosters executive functioning skills such as planning, creativity, good communication, and focus.

Conquering the Fear-Driven Brain

Humans are naturally fearful. This instinct developed early in our evolution when we fend for ourselves in the wild and live in constant threat of coming across a tiger.

The same fear can be helpful when we’re walking on the street at night, and we encounter a stray dog that’s barking at us. Fear signals us to pause and turn back, or run if necessary. 

While fear can be helpful, it can also be stressful when we worry about things beyond our control. For example, some people say that watching the news too much negatively impacts their mental health. Fear can hinder us mentally and physically when our body becomes stuck in a stress state and thinks that “we are under attack” when we aren’t. 

Exploring various techniques to manage fears can help your child overcome them. The first step is to rationalize whether the fear is valid. Is the thing you are worried about important in the long term? Is it within your control? Is it irrational? Is it obsessional?

Find ways to help your child manage and cope with their fear. For instance, when listening to the news, explain distressing details to your child and help them process information. Listen to your child’s questions and have them create solutions.

Help your kids assess the things that you can do as a family and let them understand that there are things that are beyond your control at the moment. It is important to not overly reassure your child and instead, teach them to tolerate discomfort. 

Sometimes, distressing news, such as anti-black violence, can bother your child for days. Help your child figure out little steps to make things better, such as being kind and respectful to people and vouching for equal opportunities whenever possible.

The next step is the focus on the moment. Help your child set a time and space for thinking about solutions. When they are uncomfortable, let them know that it will only last for a few minutes and ask them what they can do to get through it. 

We all have a future to worry about, yet we must also live and be productive in the present moment. Enjoy food and conversations with family members. Foster social connections. Take time to rest and get a good night’s sleep. Worrying is normal, but  we should be concerned if their worries become too big. Remember that a child needs frequent reassurance.

Listen to your child’s thoughts and know if they get anxious about bad things happening. Help them refocus and find ways on how to cope. Problem-solve the situation and remind them that there can be positive outcomes, too — especially if they can concentrate on being productive and becoming a part of the positive change. 

#2 Practice Gratitude 

Practicing gratitude in the family is more than just saying thank you. It is really about those little acts of service to each other. The best way to start is to be a role model for your child by displaying grateful language and behavior. 

You or your child can create a gratitude journal to maintain a positive outlook and memorialize what is important. There is also quite a bit of positive research around the use of gratitude journals on mental health. 

Gratitude cultivates positive emotions within us and that extends into a positive energy that the people around us can feel and appreciate. It is hard to feel fear, anger, and negative emotions when you have a grateful heart.

Many people have heard of gratitude, but few appreciate its significant effects on good mood and mindset. Gratitude extends beyond outward courtesy. Inwardly, it increases your child’s appreciation for the good things they already have and enhances your enjoyment and quality of life.

Gratitude affects mental health in a great way. It improves overall mental and emotional well-being. It also improves depressive symptoms, reduces anxiety, lessens self-criticism, increases motivation, boosts optimism, and enhances likability. When you are happy and gratified, you rest better, become more creative, and radiate positive energy that attracts people.

Always take time to appreciate the little things. When we show kids how life’s little moments bring joy into our life, they develop those same behaviors.Grateful kids are so much easier to parent and don’t seem to sweat the small stuff. 

#3 Start Small

The journey from childhood to adulthood can be overwhelming, especially during periods of rapid growth such as puberty. When your child is feeling unsure of themselves and experiencing stress or clinical mental health issues, imagining better possibilities can feel like an impossibility. 

Getting into a more positive mood and mindset requires time, patience, and practice. It also means you have to start with small steps. A positive attitude and mindset don’t just happen; it is cultivated over time. That means lifestyle changes. 

Just as getting into sound physical health requires healthy eating, regular exercise, and rest. Nurturing your mental health and moving on from negative feelings requires a focus on restructuring unhealthy thought habits and implementing new ones, such as gratitude or conquering fear. 

This will take time. But you can help your child begin with small, consistent steps, and your brain automatically shifts to healthier mindsets. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You got this. Keep going, and change will happen!

#4 Get Moving

Exercise and mental health are like peanut butter and jelly. Both taste good on their own, but when put together, they are unbeatable. 

The word exercise is a word that strikes excitement in some and stress in others. That is okay. Flip that script and think about movement. There are various forms of movement and exercise, from simple cardio like running outside or taking a short walk to group activities and new activities you can enjoy with friends. 

Movement can be a powerful tool for mindfulness. No, that does not mean you have to run on the treadmill for 30 minutes 5 days a week. Mindful movement refers to any physical activity or exercise that is done with awareness.

Tap into your child’s curiosity and try activities like dancing, tramboling, hiking, exploring, or even indoor stretching and yoga. Exercising as a family can be fun and motivating. Mindful movement can decrease stress and anxiety and engage new brain areas!

Supplements for Anxiety

#5 Try Supplements for Anxiety

Some nutrients are beneficial to brain function and mental health and boy do we all need ways to help the brain calm down and combat those daily stressors. 

Nutrients particularly affect the production and operation of neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that carry signals along the central nervous system. Thus, some supplements help improve anxiety symptoms. Some of the best supplements for anxiety include magnesium, L-theanine, GABA, essential fatty acid, vitamin D, vitamin B, and Ashwagandha.

Fish oil supplements are high in Omega-3, which boosts brain power by supporting proper blood flow in the brain. Not only is it helpful in reducing stress, but it also helps to improve focus and has many other health benefits. 

I like to give fish oil to my boys in the morning to help their brains get ready for school. They like the liquid type, which they drink with a small amount of juice or a smoothie. 

These supplements are evidence-based and can help calm the brain naturally. With the high-stress lifestyle we adopt and the lack of nutrition in our diet, these supplements can help bring the brain back to a resting state of normalcy. 

Consult a health provider to see if these supplements can help you.

#6 Set Your Phone on Airplane Mode

Swap out some screentime and replace them with mindful activities such as having a quiet coffee, trying a new recipe, walking, listening to jazz music, exercising, tai chi, and fully engaging in delightful dinner conversations without your phone on the way.  

Make setting aside phones a family dinner habit, so your kids can’t complain you are on yours too!

Technology is not a bad thing. And social media can be a lot helpful in connecting with friends and promoting your business. However, social media can also influence your mood too much. News, while informative, can also be distressing for our kids and us.

It also helps to be mindful of who your kids are following on social media. You want to encourage your kids to follow people that inspire them and exude positivity. 

From time to time, take a family social media hiatus. Turn your phone on airplane mode and allow yourself to disconnect for a while. Take part in some mindful movement or play a family board game and recharge before connecting back to the digital realm. 

It is important for kids to avoid browsing their phones when trying to fall asleep. The blue light can boost alertness, which is not good if you’re trying to get eight hours of sleep.

If our brains are always stimulated, they can get overwhelmed and cause chemical imbalances and lead to anxiety and depression. It’s best to give our minds a break every day for at least 30 minutes in order to appreciate the physical world around us and connect with our bodies.

#7 Say “When,” Not “If”

Having the right mindset is very important in nurturing one’s self-confidence and calmness and keeping unwanted thoughts at bay. 

Teach a positive mindset within the family through remodeling positive self-talk.

In self-talk, it is essential to shift from “if” statements to “when” statements. “If” statements stir self-doubt and feed the monster of negative emotions, causing the mind to spiral. Kids who are prone to negative thinking, don’t just worry, they catastrophize.

It is like they are just waiting for the worst to happen. I recall one boy, Jimmy, who would express his worry with a bunch of rapid fire negative statements. “The kids will hate me. Nothing will be fun. They will have nothing I can eat. I won’t like it there. Who will I talk to?” all in about 40 seconds before his mom could finish, “It is time to go to the birthday party.”

Change the script by saying “when.” “When” statements foster self-assurance and subtly remind you that your goals and potential are bigger than your challenges and you will get there despite the setbacks. Reinforcing kids when they use “when” language is a powerful way to shape positive behaviors. 

It also will help the nervous system lower stress levels and optimize brain function. Remember, a calm brain is a healthy and creative brain. 

The bottom line is that people with a positive mindset live happier, healthier lives, and isn’t that what we want for our kids? Start small and watch your child’s attitude become more positive as their confidence rises, and kindness toward themselves and others amplify.

Citations:

Barak, M., & Levenberg, A. (2016). Flexible thinking in learning: An individual differences measure for learning in technology-enhanced environments. Computers & Education, 99, 39–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2016.04.003

Teenshealth (2022), Fears and Phobias

https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/phobias.html

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. 

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your struggling child or teen? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about solutions, so you are in the right place! 

There are 3 ways to work with Dr. Roseann: 

You can get her books for parents and professionals, including: It’s Gonna Be OK™: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child’s Mental Health, Teletherapy Toolkit™ and Brain Under Attack: A Resource For Parents and Caregivers of Children With PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalopathy.

If you are a business or organization that needs proactive guidance to support employee mental health or an organization looking for a brand representative, check out Dr. Roseann’s professional speaking page to see how we can work together. 

Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of  media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.” 

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2022

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