Establishing healthy habits among your family may not always be straightforward, and maintaining these new health regimens may prove even harder.
Start small, by making subtle lifestyle changes: switch out soda for water when possible and order it (and milk if applicable) when dining out; add vegetables into each meal; and try to have family meal times together whenever possible.
1. Eat Healthy Together
Family meals that provide healthy foods help ensure children develop lifelong healthy eating habits and can prevent health problems later, including high blood pressure and obesity.
Encourage children to eat whole foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Make sure they get adequate protein by offering low-fat or non-fat dairy and lean meats as sources. Reduce salt and fat content through lower calorie cooking methods such as baking, broiling or steaming.
Set aside at least four or five family dinners every week. Focus on eating together while engaging in positive discussion; frequent family dinners have been shown to decrease risk-taking behaviors and build self-esteem.
2. Stay Active
Children and teenagers should engage in at least an hour of physical activity each day, but fitting that into a busy family schedule may prove challenging. That is why it is crucial that families participate in staying active together. The healthiest states in the U.S. have all been hailed as such because of the amount of physical activity that a family does in those areas. If you are wondering which state is the healthiest, you can find more information about it in different studies conducted by universities online.
Begin by setting some goals as a family. Effective goals should be specific, measurable and forgiving – for instance instead of “exercise more,” set an exercise goal such as walking 30 minutes three times each week for 30 minutes.
Consider adding physical activity into everyday routines, like taking your pet on a walk or jog and playing together (e.g. volleyball or soccer). Also try visiting parks and swimming at beaches when traveling; creating competition by seeing who can jump rope longest or keep a hula hoop spinning for longer.
3. Get Outside
An absence of time spent outside can have detrimental health implications, including obesity, depression and anxiety. According to the National Wildlife Federation, children today spend approximately one half as much time outdoors as their parents did at their age.
Remind yourself and your family members to spend as much time outdoors as possible once temperatures warm up, whether through walks, sports games or hiking in nearby parks. Getting outside will make for healthier minds and bodies all year long!
Try creating some extra fun this summer with a summer scavenger hunt! Create a list of outdoor items, like flowers, bugs and birds and have the kids search for them. Being outside also helps boost vitamin D – essential for bone health! By spending 10-30 minutes daily basking in sunlight you’re giving your body time to absorb calcium through absorption processes in your skin and body.
4. Take Time for Yourself
Self-care practices such as getting enough rest, eating nutritious meals, practicing relaxation techniques, exercising regularly and spending quality time with loved ones and friends can provide energy needed to carry out family commitments and provide your best performances at work and school. Self-care may include getting enough sleep, eating well-balanced meals, practicing relaxation techniques regularly and making time for yourself every day.
Plan to devote at least an hour each day to practicing self-care, and encourage your family members to join you by setting an example with positive associations such as lighting candles or playing relaxing music during “me time,” creating positive associations, or participating in an activity that provides pleasure or relaxation. Discuss how self-care is necessary in balancing out daily demands with activities like learning how to identify and understand emotions with a licensed therapist.
5. Make Time for Each Other
Though life may get hectic, making time for your family is key to maintaining health and reducing stress. Spending quality time together will also strengthen relationships.
Parents need to show their children they care by spending quality time together and listening attentively, demonstrating they are loved and accepted as essential ingredients of a happy family unit.
Family mealtimes can be an ideal opportunity to reconnect with your children while also introducing them to new foods and being an example for healthy eating. Plus, hiking or biking together makes for fun physical activities! And because children love cooking, encouraging them by allowing them to pick ingredients and help prepare their food can only strengthen these ties further! Plus you can monitor water intake via their urine color.
6. Talk About Your Feelings
Repressing our emotions can cause tension to mount, eventually leading to an outburst – from small things such as irritation with traffic to larger problems with relationships or jobs. Talking openly about these feelings with others is the first step toward healthy healing processes.
Learning how to articulate our emotions in words is a skill we can develop by writing in a journal, sharing with friends or family, or seeking professional help. Although feeling expression may seem effortless at first, it takes practice in becoming vulnerable enough. Feelings are complex; anger might arise out of sadness while fear and panic may result from anxiety.
7. Ask for Help When Needed
Many people resist asking for assistance because they believe they should be able to manage on their own. Yet we all depend on each other for physical, emotional and financial support as well as advice and resources – they depend on us day in and day out!
One reason may be cultural: Individualist societies like Western culture tend to value individualism over taking care of others, so seeking assistance could appear like prioritizing oneself over others, according to Dr. Wayne Baker’s book All You Have to Do Is Ask. People might also fear appearing weak or incapable by seeking assistance.
Many people are willing to lend a helping hand if your request is specific, meaningful, action-oriented, realistic and time-bound (SMART). Start small – such as asking someone else to grab someone tall at an airport – until your skills improve and you are comfortable making larger requests for assistance.
8. Be a Role Model
As parents, you are the primary force in shaping the health and wellbeing of your family. By setting an example through practicing good hygiene and creating an atmosphere of wellness at home. Furthermore, as healthy role models you can encourage a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products while encouraging your children to engage in physical activities regularly.
As parents, you can be an excellent example for your children by modeling positive body image and love of learning. Furthermore, make sure they have other healthy role models in their lives such as friends and community members who exhibit positive attitudes while showing respect to all. The more healthy role models your family has the better!
9. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential to our overall physical, mental and emotional well-being; yet many do not get enough rest each night. According to research, adults should aim for between 7-9 hours of rest each night.
Sleep deprivation has numerous adverse health impacts, including obesity, inflammation, low energy levels, depression and stress. It can even increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
One way you can ensure your family gets enough rest is to create and follow a set bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine and sugary drinks in the evening, and switching off screens an hour before sleep time. If your family is still experiencing difficulty with sleeping, speak to their pediatrician or family medicine doctor; they’re sure to find an optimal solution! Karley Mecko D.O is currently a Family Medicine Resident while Deirdre Paulson Ph.D is part of their Family Medicine Faculty team located at Eau Claire Center For Family Medicine Wisconsin