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Your mom said it first

When I was a kid and any of one my siblings was moping around the house, my mother said what probably countless mothers generations back had been saying to their kids:

“Get out of the house.”

Not, Get out of the house and don’t come back, you morose teenager, but rather, Get out of the house and get your body moving, soak up some sunshine, and think about something other than your problems.

It’s an age-old motherly piece of advice, one that scientists are now confirming with each new study of lifestyle and moods.

This piece outlines four pieces of advice that will boost serotonin levels and set things right in mind and body. They are:

1. Don’t mope about the house!

Even on cloudy days, there is more light outside than inside. Our bodies evolved to need that light for all sorts of things. In this case, sunlight triggers serotonin production. As the writer mentions, sunlight also triggers skin cancer, so we have to balance and think about how we get the sunlight. Best to keep it off your nose and the top of your head (prime areas for skin cancer because of years of accumulated exposure), but let it in for at least a while every day. Kids especially need to be reminded to go outside these days. It’s so easy to spend the day jumping from car to building and back to car again.

2. Human touch is important

The writer points out that the studies have been specific to massage, but I’m guessing that human touch in general is part of a healthy psyche. One of the reasons why solitary confinement is such a cruel punishment is that those confined miss the touch of other humans. And it’s not just prisons. I was shocked when I heard about “no touch campuses” — schools where they’ve made a rule that no one can touch anyone else, ever. Sometimes the gentle touch of an adult is what a child needs to focus and settle her body.

3. Exercise does more than keep us slim, lower our blood pressure, and all those other wonderful things

Getting daily exercise also promotes well-regulated emotions. Study after study finds that kids labeled with disorders — ADHD, especially — show fewer symptoms if they get regular exercise, preferably outdoors. This, again, is something that our modern lifestyles leave by the wayside. When I was a kid, kids walked to school. And if they lived too far to walk, they had to walk to the bus stop. These days, I have to admit, even my family with our emphasis on healthy practices would drive our son to his bus stop, a mile away.

4. Don’t dwell on your problems

Simply thinking happy thoughts actually makes us happier. Yes, we do need to face our problems, but not all the time. As adults, we’ve learned that when we let ourselves get sucked into a sea of bad feelings, it feels almost impossible to drag ourselves out. We can help our kids by teaching them how to pull themselves out by focusing on the positive whenever possible.

Posted in Health, Parenting, Psychology.

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