5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Family’s Health And Wellness
In today's day and time, it seems like we’ve got so much stacked against us when it comes to our health and wellness.
Our lives are so incredibly busy we often sacrifice sleep just to get everything done. Screen time now robs hours once spent outdoors. And, due to hectic schedules and the simple factor of convenience, fast food and other processed food options have replaced real whole foods as a staple in our diets.
As a nation, we’re seeing the effects of these things through disease, obesity, depression, and more.
The thing is, when it comes to family units, we often overlook a powerful tool when it comes to health and wellness - there’s power in numbers!
It’s been proven that our “health behaviors tend to mirror those with whom we spend the most time.” And, both the encouragement and accountability of a group leads to greater success in implementing healthy change.
So, successfully improving your overall health and wellness doesn’t have to be daunting when you seek to do so collectively, as a family. You can even have fun while doing it!
Check out the following tips to see just how easy it can be to improve your family’s health…
Together Everyone Accomplishes More
If you have a spouse/partner and/or children, you essentially are part of a family team.
One acronym for that word, those letters: t-e-a-m, is together everyone accomplishes more. And, that’s exactly what experts have found to be true for those seeking to improve their health.
Actually, most health professionals recommend implementing any healthy changes with a buddy, friend, or family member to provide needed support and accountability.
And, science backs these recommendations as studies have shown when implementing changes to improve your health and wellness, doing so with a partner or family member leads to greater success, no matter the endeavor, whether it’s quitting unhealthy habits like smoking, incorporating healthy habits like exercising, or eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Especially in a family unit, as we often spend the most time with these individuals, our health can be impacted for either good or bad depending on the habits we partake in as a part of this group.
Therefore, when involving your entire family in health and wellness improvement, you are taking the first, big step towards success!
- As a family, you can be accountable to one another and utilize this as a tool to kindly keep moving forward in your commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
- As a family, you can encourage one another on both good and bad days.
- As a family, you can celebrate your healthy choices together.
- As a family, improving your health and wellness can be fun! Being active together and sharing meals together, for instance, can help you stick to these commitments as it’s simply more fun to do so with others.
So then, now that we see the wonderful asset a family can be when it comes to incorporating healthy habits, let’s look at the following 5 easy tips for taking your family’s health to the next level.
1- Healthy Eating
Eating healthy as a family is multi-faceted as there are many ways you can include others as you make healthy eating choices, and these not only provide immediate benefits but also set your children up for a lifetime of nutritional health.
First, involve your entire family in the meal planning process.
Have discussions about what healthy snacks you’d like to have for the week. And, try new food items as a family. You can even make it exciting by allowing your children to select a new fruit or vegetable from the fresh produce department to incorporate into weekly meals or snacks.
Talk about the meals you plan to prepare for the week and the ingredients you’ll need to include on your grocery list to prepare them.
Then, include the entire family in snack and meal prep. For children, when they contribute in this process, they’ll feel more invested and may even get more adventurous when it comes to trying new foods or overcoming pickiness.
And, while we realize many families are incredibly busy throughout the week, whenever you’re able, be sure to sit down and eat together as a family.
The simple act of eating together as a family has been linked to the following benefits:
- Better academic performance
- Increased vocabulary skills in early childhood
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy
- Lower risk of substance abuse
- Better self-esteem (in children and adults)
- Greater sense of resilience
- Lower obesity rates
- Reduced risk of depression (in children and adults)
- Less likely to develop eating disorders
- Healthier nutrition in adulthood
- Better heart health in teen years
So, set a goal, perhaps you can plan to shoot for three meals a week? Then, plan, execute, and enjoy those meals together!
2- Activity And Exercise
Being active as a family doesn’t just improve your health, it allows you to spend quality time together as well.
And, this time spent being active even sets your children up for a healthy future as studies suggest parental involvement of children in physical activity is vitally important for future healthy outcomes.
At the base of this, simply put, when mothers and fathers are physically active, it sets a good example for children. But, this is amplified when children are included in these activities as well.
Even if your children are involved in school sports, seek to get in quality family physical activity as well.
Consider going for bike rides as a family. Take a walk around your neighborhood each evening after dinner (or any time). Take a weekend hike through the trails at a nearby park. If you have a pool, do more splashing then floating, staying active with your children through swimming.
Maybe you can sign up for an event together, like a 5K, to give each of you something to work towards and accomplish together?
And, be sure to make the activities fun, especially for younger children.
While on your evening walk, turn your active time together into an adventure as you have young children search for items on your journey.
Or, simply involve your kids in common household chores like cleaning, vacuuming, raking leaves, sweeping your sidewalk, even planting, tending, and harvesting in your garden.
Whatever works best for you and your family, in the words of Nike, just do it, and make movement a priority.
3- Sleep Routine
Okay, so we’re not suggesting you have a family slumber party each night, everyone camping out on the floor and snoozing a full 7-9 hours together each night.
But, research shows a large number of American children lack adequate sleep. Many children suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness because of this, and adolescents are especially prone to sleeping problems.
While you may not be turning in for the night as a family, healthy nighttime routines can ensure each member of your family rests well.
What would such a routine look like? Certainly this may vary depending on your family’s needs, but incorporating each, or any, of the following can set your children (and you) up for sleep success.
- Limit screen time after dinner. Whether it’s television, gaming consoles, computers, tablets, or smartphones, spending too much time in front of any of these blue light emitting devices, especially late in the day, can disrupt sleep patterns.
- As blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, exposure to this light in the evening essentially tricks the body into thinking it’s still daytime, prompting alertness and creating difficulty falling and staying asleep.
- And, even if you’re able to fall asleep, your body may not enter the phases of sleep needed for healing and restoration, making you more susceptible to illness and disease now and later in life.
- Remember the exercise we mentioned above? Getting physical activity as a family also helps achieve healthy sleep!
- Then, remember the healthy nutrition we mentioned earlier? If you’re skipping sweets, heavy foods, and spicy items for dinner, or within 4-6 hours of bedtime, this can help remove hindrances to good sleep as well (as these foods are known to disrupt sleep).
- Work with your young children, even teens, to ensure their room is set up for sleep. The goal is to keep their room dark, cool, and relaxing, so perhaps you could allow them to choose if they’d like to have a sound machine, darkening curtains/blinds, etc. And, seek to do this in your own room as well.
- Consider nighttime activities such as reading, something calming and quiet you can all do as a family when bedtime nears.
For young children, reading at bedtime improves literacy, enhances cognitive development, reduces stress, and it helps them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. For teens and adults, incorporating reading into your nighttime routine can improve concentration and creativity, boost cognitive function, increase empathy, decrease stress, and as with young children, it can help you fall asleep faster and sleep for longer periods of time.
If you can establish a nighttime routine, whether it’s a habit of quiet time, hygiene practices, room prep, then reading, or something that best suits you and your family, such a routine can serve to prepare your mind for sleep leading to more restful hours in slumber.
As a guide, it is recommended that school aged children get 9-12 hours of sleep each night. Teens are recommended to get 8-10 hours nightly, and healthy sleep for adults is listed at 7+ hours per night.
4- Screen Breaks & Family Time
Too much screen time is wreaking havoc on health across all ages.
Obesity, difficulty sleeping, behavioral problems, violence, decreases in creative play, and impaired academic performance have all been linked to too much screen time.
Time on screens also robs time spent together as a family.
I’m sure you know the scene, an entire family can be together in one room, but the only connection occurring is between each individual and whoever, or whatever, is on the other side of their screen. So, while each family member may be present in body, they’re not actually spending time connecting with one another, a vital need for health in families.
Spending quality time together, connecting as a family without screens, can improve physical, mental, and emotional health.
Of course, you can plan to limit screen time as a whole, but when taking a break from screens, seek to truly connect as a family. Perhaps this means setting aside a block of time each day or on the weekends to skip your screen to play a board game together, have a family meeting, do something for others, or spend time in nature.
Choose what’s best for your family, but do seek to consciously take a break from screens, even including time to spend together as a family.
5- Volunteering As A Family
One way you can spend time together as a family is by volunteering that time to help others. So, you can use this last tip here as a means for quality time, or as something completely separate.
We often think of health as only existing within the physical realm, but being healthy, individually and as a family, includes much more.
And, those families who volunteer, grow, and learn together prove to have a greater bond, are often less stressed, and are healthier mentally and emotionally as well.
Some experts believe there are six areas of wellness within a family: physical, intellectual, occupational, social, emotional, and spiritual. And, volunteering as a family unit can address each of these six areas.
Perhaps you can adopt an area of highway to clean up litter? Maybe you can volunteer within your neighborhood or at a local animal shelter, homeless or women’s shelter, or community center? You can even seek to collect items to donate to those in need.
Each of these requires research, planning, and time, all of which can bring opportunities for you and your family to work together to effectively help others. And, these practices can…
- Help you feel connected to one another and those within your community
- Give each of you a sense of purpose, responsibility, and accomplishment
- Teach life and thinking skills to children (and teens, and adults)
- Broaden your view and promote a sense of gratitude within your family
As you ponder these five tips, we hope you can find some ways to improve your family’s health and wellness.
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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Charles Livingston nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
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