The Mental Heath and Wellbeing Workout for Teens

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By Paula Nagel      

How we think about things affects how we feel and behave and we know that persistent unhelpful thinking can underpin feelings of anxiety and low mood which, when left unaddressed, can lead to significant long term problems.

Statistics released last year about the mental health of children and young people in England, suggested an increase in emotional disorders. Perhaps now, more than ever before, we need to help young people prioritize their emotional wellbeing with a focus on practical coping strategies, with the aim of preventing more serious issues taking hold. Although there are many ways to promote mental wellbeing, becoming familiar with thinking habits and how to manage them is a good starting point. Take Kye. He can’t stop scrolling through Max’s Instagram, and when he does, his unhelpful thoughts take over.

Everyone loves Max. Look at that picture – over 500 likes already! I’d be lucky to get 5! I have to take my photo hundreds of times to look half decent …

Social comparison (aka the self-hater) is one of the common unhelpful thinking habits identified in The Mental Health and Wellbeing Workout, which draws on real life experiences to explore a range of unhelpful thinking habits, and exercises to manage them, including;

Warm up exercises – noticing and recognizing unhelpful thinking habits.

Stretch and flex-ercises – practicing flexible thinking and ways of responding to thoughts.

Think-ercises – challenging unhelpful thoughts and changing their shape, just like exercising to strengthen a muscle!

After using the workout Kye was able to practice noticing his thinking habits, so he could accept and change the way he responds to his unhelpful thoughts.

It’s normal for me to think this way when I look at Instagram – but they’re just thoughts – I can let them come and go.

I’m going to try to become my own social comparison and compare myself with me, by looking at my own personal progress in Art this term. 

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Workout for Teens: Skills and Exercises from ACT and CBT for Healthy Thinking by Paula Nagel  is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and is available to purchase at:

Paula Nagel is the Principal Educational Psychologist for national children’s mental health charity Place2Be.