When we think of resources, a vast sea of options come to mind. Finances, natural materials, time…our minds can run through a personal list in milliseconds.
But what is each individual’s greatest resource?
What if it’s health?
Without good health, how useful are all of those other assets? With poor health, how are those other resources used? We spend our time and our money on supplements, medicines, doctor visits, and procedures in an effort to achieve, restore, and maintain our health. With good health, we can focus the rest of our resources on other objectives.
Gandhi is said to have vocalized this concept. “It is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
Good health is an essential resource for optimal productivity and quality of life. However, would it surprise you to learn that this concept goes beyond the individual?
When we examine family health, we see a world of potential and far-reaching influence. Family health impacts the individuals within the family, and the effects are felt beyond the four walls of the family home.
But what is “family health?” How is it cultivated?
Family health can be defined as “a state in which the family is a resource for the day-to-day living and health of its members…it is in families that individuals learn about, and are exposed to, behaviors and patterns of living that may be key to their own health. ”
Encyclopedia.com notes that family health includes:
- A sense of self-worth
- Access to medical care
This simple list covers essential categories like physical needs, mental health, and healthcare. Family health is the overall health of the family unit and the day-to-day interactions that establish life-long habits, self-value, and physical health.
Cultivating a household culture of family health will benefit the individuals and the family as a whole. Keep reading to discover some simple tips to aid your family’s health journey together!
An obvious aspect of healthy living is nutrition. Without proper nutrition, our bodies don’t function properly, and our brains don’t run optimally. According to the CDC, a healthy, balanced diet can fend off disease and help with existing medical issues.
Proper nutrition is essential for growing kids. Proper nutrition is a crucial component of a child’s well-being. Merely ingesting a substance resembling a meal doesn’t necessarily yield optimal results. Food is information for the body. It provides cells and organs with the necessary nutrients to function correctly. Nutrition tells the body what to do, when, and where. Young bodies need a proper, balanced diet to operate and develop properly.
“We know that fuelling children with the appropriate foods helps support their growth and development,” the Eating Healthy Advisory Service notes. “But there is a growing body of research showing that what children eat can affect not only their physical health but also their mood, mental health, and learning.”
Some practical, easy tips for optimizing proper nutrition for the whole family include:
- Adults lead the way. Kids follow the lead of their parents. Purpose to establish healthy eating and snacking habits for the family as a whole.
- Stock the kitchen intelligently. If the fridge is overflowing with yummy but unhealthy food and beverages, that’s what the family will eat. Keep the junk food out of the house, and stock the pantry and fridge with yummy but healthy, beneficial items.
- Everyone needs portion control. Cultivate the healthy habit of portion control. Overeating is unhealthy and can quickly become a life-long habit with dire consequences. Healthline offers some tips on cultivating a habit of portion control, including eating slowly and beginning each meal with a large glass of water. Remember—it starts with you, Mom and Dad!
- Don’t do everything at once. It’s ok (even best!) to wean everyone off of unhealthy eating habits and introduce new, healthy foods a little at a time.
Cultivating a healthy diet and proper nutrition can literally change a family from the inside out. From happier kids to fewer visits to the doctor, your family will benefit in every way from a balanced diet!
Sleep is an essential process for the health of the body and mind. Our bodies cannot heal, rejuvenate, or regenerate without adequate sleep. Despite the vital importance of proper sleep habits, Americans are chronically low on sleep. Lack of sleep affects everyone in the family and affects health and well-being on an individual and family level.
The CDC recommends seven hours of sleep a night for individuals 18 to 60 years old. Children need even more sleep per night than adults. Children need anywhere from eight to seventeen hours a night, depending on their age.
Nearly half the kids in the US aren’t getting enough sleep. When children lack sleep, almost everything about them is affected, including:
- Level of happiness
- Alertness & attention
- Cognitive performance
- Vocabulary building
- Learning ability
- Memory secretion
To build healthy sleeping habits for the whole family, try these tricks!
- Cultivate an attitude of respect for sleep. Parents—this starts with you again!
- Routines are your friend! Bedtime routines can prepare the mind and body for sleep. Create and maintain routines for the kids and the adults to optimize bedtime.
- Form helpful habits. Habits help us maintain our goals. Having a regular bedtime is an excellent idea for everyone in the household!
- Screens and blue light are sleep’s enemies. Avoiding screen time for a few hours before bed allows the body to make the necessary adjustments and gives the brain time to wind down from overstimulation.
- Comfort helps. Allow your family’s bedrooms to cultivate an atmosphere that invites sleep. Lighting, temperature, and an uncluttered environment can aid the sleep process.
- Remember peripheral factors. Other aspects of life can affect sleep. Diet, exercise, stress levels, etc., all affect healthy sleep. Proactively optimize your family’s sleep by addressing other factors.
Our bodies are built for physical activity. Sadly, Americans suffer from a chronic lack of this essential undertaking. In fact, Fox News points out that “New statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that less than one-quarter of Americans are meeting the minimum amount of exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
For children, movement is absolutely vital. National recommendations for children suggest they should have vigorous physical activity for at least an hour a day, amounting to 10,000 steps or more. Unfortunately, according to The National Education Foundation, this is often not the case.
While at home, kids should be active and energetic. Children who attend school often suffer from a woeful lack of physical activity due to the very nature of our model of education. While schools should explore incorporating more movement into the classroom, families must also address exercise and physical activity at home.
Exercise, and the lack thereof, can affect a surprising number of things, including:
- Overall health
- Mental health
- Propensity to disease
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hormone imbalance
- Brain function
So, how can you get the whole family at a healthy level of physical activity? Check these ideas out!
- Get the kids outside—and you join them! Fresh air and sunshine go a long way toward combatting health, mood, and mental health issues. Get your circulation up and work your body with fun games, a hike, a scavenger hunt, or even a family walk.
- Prioritize physical movement and exercise. When the parents put a premium on healthy movement, the kids will adopt that attitude, too! Find ways to work it into your day and theirs.
- Set up routines. Having daily or weekly routines/schedules can help ensure that this crucial area doesn’t get missed in the busy hustle and bustle of life. Remember, while doing things individually can be rejuvenating and enjoyable, so can doing it as a family! Find what works for your household, but make sure everyone’s reaching that healthy goal.
Mental and Emotional Well-Being
Mental and emotional health are buzzwords in today’s world, but there’s a reason for that. Whether mental and emotional health is declining in our culture or as a society, or we’ve merely come to recognize their importance as a higher priority, the mental and emotional state of Americans is a big deal.
As a family, addressing these can be a daunting task. They are issues with seemingly endless aspects to them. Let’s address a few common ones:
- Stress. The Canadian Red Cross notes, “Stress has a psychological impact that can manifest as irritability or aggression, a feeling of loss of control, insomnia, fatigue or exhaustion, sadness or tears, concentration or memory problems…depression, anxiety or burnout.”
- Environment. Homelife affects the mental and emotional health of everyone in the household. Clutter, lighting, chaos, etc., all create an atmosphere that family members respond to.
- Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise affect our bodies in every way possible, including our mental health and emotional stability. Properly adjusting these can make a huge difference.
- Screen Time. Screen time carries its own risk to mental and emotional health, especially for children. But, in addition to screen time’s effects on an individual’s mood, mental health, and brain chemistry, it can also affect those around us when we choose the phone over human interaction. This is especially troubling as parents since our attention to the screen can impact our kids’ mental and emotional well-being.
So, are there easy ways to address mental and emotional health at home? We’re so glad you asked!
- Create a safe haven. Home should be where the heart is, but it should also be where safety is guaranteed. Not just physical security but mental and emotional safety, too. A pleasant atmosphere, a cheerful environment, and a cozy, loving haven that protects the entire family from the cares and influences of a cruel world beyond your four walls.
- Allow open but respectful discussion, questions, and problem-solving.
- Have rules – and keep them. Everyone does best when there are consistent rules and a predictable structure. No one, especially children, should wonder what’s ok and what isn’t and which straw will break the parent’s back. Consistency and predictability offer safety and comfort, even in the face of a rule they don’t like.
- Limit screen time. This one seems obvious today, with studies published seemingly every week and headlines screaming about the dangers of screen time. This one can also fall under the “have rules and keep them” category! If you’re interested in learning more about safeguarding your children and enforcing time limits, check out this article for helpful suggestions.
Healthy Families Create a Healthy World
Healthy families create healthy individuals. Healthy individuals make for healthy communities. Healthy communities make up a healthy world. It all starts in your home!
Start small and watch the difference your efforts make as you nurture your family and cultivate healthy habits together!