How Teen Mindfulness, Nutrition and Yoga Affect Brain Function

Especially to a teen? Eating is brought on by two categories of signals in the brain.  Homeostatic signals, or feelings of hunger, come from the body’s need for nutrients. These usually work to balance intake with output. Non-homeostatic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs or hunger. Instead, these relate to the environment or to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. These cues are powerful signals to eat even when there is no physical need for food. Teen mindfulness is a vital life and health skill often overlooked in adolescence, during critical teen brain growth.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food – the experience of eating.  Eating mindfully helps reduce intake by affecting the response to non-hunger cues. High levels of mindfulness is associated with lower levels of obesity. Thus, creating mindful eating habits is critical for teen health and leads to greater lifelong health.

Mindfulness, Eating and Yoga

Yoga is a mindfulness technique using physical postures and stretching to calm the mind and gain a sense of presence. Yoga practice reduces emotional eating, reduces eating disorders, and improves mental health and dieting in those with obesity. Hence, yoga practice is another method improving healthy eating and physical activity in adolescents.

According to a study conducted by John M. de Castro, PhD, “Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Adolescents with Yoga”, adolescents who practice yoga have healthier diets and greater physical activity. This includes significantly greater consumption of fruits and vegetables and lower consumption of fast foods, snack foods, and sugar sweetened beverages. In addition, the greater the number of hours of yoga practice, the better the diets and greater the physical activity. In interviews, adolescents indicate yoga practice increases their mindful eating, cravings for healthier foods, and motivation for healthier eating. It also improves their management of stress and emotional eating. They additionally report yoga practice increases their strength and flexibility and their desire to engage in other physical activities.

“Yoga’s Potential for Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Behaviors Among Young Adults: A Mixed-Methods Study” in The International Journal for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity also reveals important findings.  Yoga supports:

-Healthy eating through motivation to eat healthfully

-Greater mindfulness and management of emotional eating

-More healthy food cravings

-A positive influence in/from the yoga community

-Physical activity

-Motivation to do other forms of active

-A generally active and healthy lifestyle

Conclusions of this study: young adult yoga practitioners report healthier eating behaviors and higher levels of physical activity than non-practitioners. Yoga should be investigated as an intervention for young adult health promotion and healthy weight management.

Bottom Line:  Critical Teen Wellness

The primacy of teen mindfulness, nutrition and yoga in brain function and general wellness cannot be emphasized enough,” states Holistic Learning’s Chief Wellness Officer Eli Marx-Kahn. “Efforts to further understand and address the entirety of adolescent growth are in sharp focus amid pandemic challenges and may end up driving dramatic positive change.”

Holistic Learning is an online learning platform helping high school students achieve academic success as well as personal and professional growth. This is possible through 1-on-1 tutoring, meditation & wellness courses, learning strategies, college and career counseling, career seminars, and life skills. Recognizing mindfulness is a vital component of student health, Holistic Learning helps teens stay focused and productive during COVID and beyond. Neuroscience-informed learning experts designed this space for adolescents to develop much needed skills ensuring future wellness and success.

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