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Key Takeaways:

  • Practicing positive habits keeps teenagers in good physical and mental health. They have more energy and are better at managing stress.
  • Teenagers can improve their physical health by practicing good personal hygiene, eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising.
  • Other ways to improve your teenager’s mental health include limiting screen time, fostering positive social relationships, and engaging in mindfulness activities.

Adolescence is a time when many teens can overlook the importance of healthy habits. It’s common for them to stay up late at night, spend excessive time on their phones, experiment with alcohol and other harmful substances, and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress.

However, reinforcing healthy habits for teens, such as personal hygiene, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep, are just as essential to a productive and empowering routine.

If your teen struggles with self-care, this guide is for you. Learn a few tips and tricks for introducing healthy habits into your teenager’s daily regimen.

The Importance of Healthy Habits for Teens

A teenager’s formative years shape their future successes. Adopting healthy habits before adulthood better equips teenagers to handle adverse encounters like illness and troubling social situations.

In addition, habits like healthy eating and getting regular exercise can improve a teenager’s energy levels and help them maintain an ideal weight [*].

Adopting healthy habits also improves mental health and emotional well-being. As children become acclimated to self-care routines, they become equally aware of their needs and learn to manage stress effectively.

9 Healthy Habits for Teens to Follow

If you’re looking for ways to manage your teenager’s physical and mental health, here are a few positive habits you can encourage.

1. Have a balanced diet

The human brain requires a lot of energy. In fact, it uses 20% of the energy the average adult consumes [*].

However, eating healthy doesn’t just entail making the right food choices—it involves maintaining a regular eating pattern. Maintaining a regular eating schedule creates more stable energy sources, enabling teenagers to feel energetic throughout the day. Eating every three to four hours keeps blood sugar consistent, allowing your teen to be more productive and feel more alert.

Of course, high school routines are occasionally unpredictable, so you’ll want to offset irregular eating with nutritious food sources. Encourage a healthy balance of nutritious meals and intermittent treats to keep your teen feeling good.

2. Exercise regularly

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the prevalence of obesity among children between 2 and 19 years from 2017 to 2020 was 19.7% [*]. Research generally shows that obesity is the result of a lack of physical activity. Thus, getting your teenager to enjoy a morning walk or engage in a sport is important.

However, it’s important to avoid forcing physical activity onto your teenager. Instead, follow their interests and take their lead.

3. Get enough sleep

Encouraging a teenager to sleep early can be challenging, especially when they are glued to their smartphone. Thus, simply confiscating their gadgets in the evening may not prove effective. Still, teenagers need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep daily, as it reduces anxiety levels and clears the brain of toxins.

Try alternative methods of introducing healthy sleep routines, such as reading together, listening to relaxing music, or reflecting on the day before you turn off the lights.

4. Learn how to manage stress

No two teenagers manage stress in the same manner. Encourage your teenager to identify an activity that helps them soothe and clear their mind.

For instance, you can suggest mindfulness activities like meditation, deep breathing, or free writing. Provide your child with the tools to discover outlets that work for them, such as being creative through arts and crafts or releasing anger through physical activity.

5. Build healthy relationships

Teenagers don’t want to be told who they should be friends with—they’ll often gravitate toward their own tribe. While it’s natural for any parent to feel insecure about who their children associate with, forcefully intervening can create even more tension between you and your teenager.

Instead, involve yourself in ways that are mutually beneficial. For example, you might offer to host your child and their friends in your household or provide your contact information to your child’s peers in case of emergencies.

6. Maintain good personal hygiene

Adopting good personal hygiene provides benefits beyond physical health—it also improves your teenager’s self-confidence. Start by having conversations about personal hygiene and why it matters—the earlier, the better.

Your child will undergo changes in their body even before puberty, so discussing topics like body odor, dental hygiene, shaving, and periods will give your child the confidence to confide in you if they experience something new.

7. Set limits on screen time

In the same way that it offers a wealth of information, social media can negatively affect mental health in teenagers. How?

Social media can lower self-esteem as teenagers become susceptible to comparison. They become self-conscious and develop insecurities based on how they believe they should look and behave.

If left to their own devices—literally—teenagers would spend most of their time on social media. Thus, providing adult guidance is necessary, but you’ll want to find methods that don’t feel invasive.

For instance, you can designate an electronics-free family time and enjoy no-screen activities like board games, baking, or trips to the park.

8. Schedule regular health check-ups

Annual health checks are necessary for tracking your child’s physical and mental development. Teenagers are often susceptible to bumps and bruises, especially when they’re involved in school athletics or enjoy spending time outdoors.

During these sessions, a medical professional will assess your child’s blood pressure, height, weight, hearing, vision, and overall development. They might also update immunizations.

9. Avoid substance use

Teenagers with poor coping mechanisms may become tempted to use substances like drugs and alcohol. In fact, adults with a substance use disorder often develop them as early as their teenage years [*]. There is a higher risk of substance use in teenagers with:

  • A family history of substance use
  • Association with delinquent peers
  • Low academic achievement
  • Mental health issues
  • Poor parental monitoring

Fortunately, there are many ways to support your teenager, including providing family support, getting involved with your child’s school, or getting professional help.

The Bottom Line

If you find yourself thinking “I wish I’d known this as a teenager!” during your moments of self-reflection, consider how these healthy habits can help your teenager today.

Are you looking for more health advice for teens? Explore our worksheet collections to find out what other positive activities you can incorporate.

Sources:

  1. “Changing Your Habits for Better Health.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2024.
  2. Quinones S, Mason S. “Feeding Your Brain.” Maricopa.edu, 2020.
  3. Suba Rajinikanth B, Sujatha U, Yadav S. “Prevalence of Obesity and Its Relationship With Hypertension Among School-Going Adolescents Aged 12–16 Years.” Cureus, 2023.
  4. Gray KM, Squeglia LM. “Research Review: What have we learned about adolescent substance use?” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2017.