For years, I’ve taught a model of brain health which I call FLOURISH. My BRAIN STICKS™ classroom materials are based around this and it’s eye-opening, simple and empowering, suitable for any age.
In BRAIN STICKS there are masses of activities and materials to help teach Flourish principles, but I’ve created a free card for you (or you for the pdf click here) and I’m going to explain each aspect of FLOURISH below.
I’ve also used this model heavily in Positively Teenage. You can download the image of the Flourish card opposite – you’ll find it in my resources section.
So, here are the principles of FLOURISH, in a bit more detail. Do these things every day and you’ll be well on the way to a healthy brain and better wellbeing. As adults, you will know most of these things but children and teenagers usually won’t.
F = Food: our brains needs enough of the right foods to keep them fuelled. (Obviously, I also teach what those foods are!) I don’t go for the idea that any specific foods are “magic bullets”, though there are some (such as nuts and oily fish) with growing evidence of extra benefits but I show how a varied diet, including enough of certain proteins and fats, and low in added sugar, will help fuel the brain and aid concentration.
L = Liquid: we need enough water. But water is also the main constituent of all drinks, so it doesn’t have to be plain water, as long as it is not alcohol, not carbonated, and not sugary.
O – Oxygen: oxygen travels round our body and brain through the bloodstream and will obviously do so even if we do nothing; but, if we’ve been sitting for a while, or we’re indoors in a stuffy room, we will benefit from getting up and moving about every now and then to keep oxygen levels up. A quick burst of walking or jumping or a going up and down a couple of staircases will help. Going outside is even better.
U = Use: our brains respond to use, and different activities use different parts. “Use it or lose it” is how the brain operates, so if you don’t do certain activities your brain will lose connections (and therefore ability) in the relevant areas. So, practise the things you want to be good at and don’t drop the skills you want to keep.
R = Relaxation: taking breaks from our work and switching off will benefit our ability to learn, remember and concentrate; and it will help mood and mental health, too, preventing stress from building up. There is a lot of material about stress, particularly for teenagers, on Brain Sticks.
I – Interest: the brain likes novelty and variety and does not like to be bored. If you’re bored, your brain will lose its alertness and you’ll be less able to take things in. Sometimes, you have to do things you find boring, but make sure you break them up with a change of scene or activity; and find ways to make a boring task more interesting.
S = Sleep: sleep affects so many things – physical and mental health, concentration, performance, energy, growth, mood, even weight (because strong research shows that after poor sleep we are more likely to choose sugary and fatty foods.) The occasional terrible night is not a problem, but too many bad nights will have an effect. Luckily, there’s lots we can do to improve sleep. (I’m working on a set of lessons about sleep. Stay tuned!)
H = Happiness: learning happens most easily when we’re in a positive mood and feeling happy, so, if you can do things to boost your mood, you’ll benefit your work. Reward yourself when you’ve done well or worked hard. Laughter is great brain medicine: the act of smiling and laughing releases brain chemicals called “endorphins”, which are often referred to as “happy chemicals”. Keep your favourite funny YouTube clips handy!
So, a simple set of guidelines, and ones that everyone can understand and have some control over.
My brain is going to be fried by the end of today, as I’m teaching non-stop, but I will have food (nuts and oatcakes in my little plastic box) and plenty of water; I will be using lots of parts of my brain, keeping myself interested and I will do my best to be in a happy and positive mood. I’ll probably have had a good night’s sleep after my exhausting Spanish class the night before. So, that just leaves one more thing: relaxation. This evening!
NOTE: On the 1st of every month, I publish a FREE Brain Stick activity on my blog. AND I give away a free book to a random winner picked from subscribers to my free Brain Sane newsletter. Make sure you’ve signed up to be in with a chance of winning.
But there are over 100 activities on Brain Sticks, so, if you want to share this fabulously empowering, practical and fun knowledge with your pupils, please consider buying one. It comes with a hugely generous perpetual licence. All your pupils can benefit, year after year.