It’s hard to ignore the effects of severe dehydration. You’re extremely thirsty, and your mouth is probably dry. You might feel lightheaded or more tired than usual. We know that being dehydrated is uncomfortable, but we must remember that the consequences of dehydration can start even before those physical symptoms kick in. Your mood can start to suffer without you even realizing that you’re thirsty.
Drinking water supports overall health, and that includes our mental wellbeing. According to the CDC, dehydration can cause unclear thinking and even result in mood change. That’s why it’s so important to watch our water intake, especially with our kiddos.
Drinking Water and Mood Ratings
We all want our children to be healthy and feel confident and in-control. Understanding the benefits of proper hydration can help get them there. Slight dehydration can make anyone feel stressed or cranky. On closer examination, drinking water has been shown to improve happiness ratings in 6- and 7-year-olds. And that’s just the beginning. Other research has explored the relationship between hydration and a sustained attention span with young people. The findings are pretty encouraging.
Studying the impact of drinking water on mood may not be widely studied yet, but there have already been some interesting results. One recent study of 52 individuals showed that a 60 percent decrease in water intake had a direct correlation with “contentedness.” Within just three days, the subjects who were asked to lower their hydration reported a decrease in “calmness and positive emotions.” In the same study, those who increased their water intake reported “decreased confusion” after three days of drinking 2.5 L of water per day. (They also experienced less thirst—but that’s a little more obvious.)
Another measure to consider is someone’s general stress or anxiety level prior to drinking water. As the CalmClinic notes, dehydration can be one contributing factor to feelings of anxiety, and “dehydration absolutely can cause anxiety on its own.” When we pay closer attention to our water intake levels, we can help both our mental and physical health. Proper hydration relates to all types of positive outcomes. From supporting a calm mental state to building strong bodies, healthy drinking water habits can help families stay on track.
Encouraging Hydration at Home and School
There are a handful of simple ways to help kids (and adults) enjoy drinking water more often. But it takes time to get into a new routine. For little kiddos, the solution might be as simple as investing in some fun reusable water bottles or silly straws. For others, drinking more water might relate to taste. Because even minor dehydration can greatly impact our mood, it’s crucial to help everyone drink more water on a regular basis.
Now, on a more personal note: if you know Ben and me, you know that our oldest son is high needs. More times than I can count, we have been called to the school to pick him up, or to meet with his teachers. Too often I’ve found him in a state of tears (maybe worse) and scared, angry, and dehydrated. My first tactic was always to offer him some cold filtered water. This was functional and a peace offering all in one. It opened the opportunity for him to talk (instead of run) and ultimately listen to the voices of reason surrounding him. Then he could focus enough to see that the sky was not falling. Just from a simple water break.
For those of you out there that speak IEP, I ultimately had it written into his plan that if he was showing signs of agitation, the first step needed to be to send him to the drinking fountain. We ultimately filtered the water at all of the drinking stations so that all of the kiddos would actually want to drink water throughout the day. And this helped. Yes, we’re still working to teach our son to recognize his moods and to drink water consistently to help regulate them. These are lessons we can all take with us.