About three weeks ago I made a decision to get healthier, eat better and exercise more. I don’t expect quick changes, but I hope for lasting changes. Three weeks later, I don’t look that much different. But my mood is much better. I feel more positive and motivated.
Oddly enough, I rarely think about applying psychological principles to myself and my behavior. There is a strong interrelationship between our feelings, our actions, our thoughts and our physical well-being. In many ways, they work like interconnected cogs in a system, so a change in one of these areas affects the others. My positive actions of eating better and exercising more have these positive effects on my thinking and mood.
Understanding our psychological makeup in this way can give us great insight into why we get stuck in certain patterns of behavior and/or thought, and also give us clues on how to change things for the better. In fact, more importantly, as a parent, it can give you great insight into your child and why they are the way they are, and most importantly, how you can help positively influence and change them.
Imagine your 13-year-old daughter trained really hard for Camogie. The club championship is approaching and your daughter is dying to be part of the team. Unlike some of her friends who have given up the sport completely, she is motivated to go to training to impress the coaches and has high hopes of making the team.
Then, a week before the first game, she twists her knee and further tests by her doctor reveal ligament damage that will keep her out of action for three to four weeks. She has to use crutches, which limits her exercise and movement. You notice that when she comes home from school at night, she seems lethargic, irritable, and very negative about everything. A big change from her usual positive, happy self.
If we apply the interaction model above, we can find that since she cannot exercise, she is not getting her usual exercise and may be missing the feel-good factor that comes with exercise. She may be feeling drained because she’s not going to practice and therefore doesn’t have the usual interaction with her friends, who are all preparing for the championship. This leaves her upset as she also worries about not healing and not getting a chance to play.
They also notice that she sits around a lot more and her phone rarely leaves her hand. She gets irritated when you suggest she put it away. Within a week, you can have the dramatic effects of that physical injury on every other area of your thinking (now pessimistic), feeling (generally upset or grumpy), and your actions (lethargic, dismissive, and constantly on the phone).
However, this is the same teenager you know to be typically cheerful, active, and motivated. While you cannot heal her physically, you can help her refocus her thinking. Remarkably, because of the interconnectedness of the four domains, even a small positive change in their thinking leads to a corresponding change in their behavior, mood, and even physical health.
Many research studies show a connection between, for example, mood and physical health: happy people live an average of seven years longer than unhappy people. So your job is not to become disillusioned when your daughter descends into negativity and lethargy, and instead focus positively on the potential for her to regain full fitness.
While acknowledging her current frustration with the injury, you may be able to refocus her thinking on a positive level and perhaps encourage her to think about what she will achieve once her knee heals. You could consider her wanting your help, perhaps to create a progressive and realistic rehabilitation plan for her knee that includes a physical therapist’s advice.
Perhaps you can get some of her teammates to visit her for company as she may lack the usual interaction and banter at training. Or you can persuade her to attend the training sessions as a spectator so she can continue to connect with her team and feel part of the preparations. Helping her take those positive steps will have the same power to improve her mood and maybe put her back into a more positive mindset.
I’m glad I actually took some steps to do things differently with my own diet and exercise. The interrelationship between physical health, mood, behavior and thinking is a powerful tool in staying mentally healthy; The key is to remember to use it, both for ourselves and for our family.
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/when-it-comes-to-your-familys-mental-health-theres-a-key-ingredient-that-easy-to-forget-41567991.html When it comes to your family’s mental health, there’s one important ingredient that’s easy to forget