Five Family-Friendly Health Habits

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As 2017 kicks into full swing, many of us may already be struggling a bit with keeping our resolve to live healthier in the new year.  Achieving and maintaining a worthwhile goal can be a challenge.  But, like with most challenges, it can be easier to do as part of a team.  So why not engage your family as your team in becoming healthier this year?  The following healthy habits are guidelines that you can tweak and adapt to your family's particular needs and circumstances.

1.  Drink more water - You have heard this advice many times.  But, you may not be aware of just how important water is to your health.  Water is essential for your body to function properly.  It acts as your body's "lubricant".  When a piece of machinery is not properly lubricated, it can seize up and refuse to operate properly.  Same with our bodies and water.  Exactly how much water is required?  A good rule of thumb is to take your body weight in pounds, divide that in half and convert to ounces.  (So, a 120 pound woman should strive for 60 ounces of water per day.)  Your kids may be adverse to increasing their water intake.  You can entice them by allowing them to choose their own special insulated water bottle and keeping it in an easily accessible spot in the refrigerator.  Some studies have shown that it is most important to replenish your body with water first thing in the morning to compensate for night-time dehydration.  And some studies also show room temperature water is most preferred, especially in the morning.  No matter when or how you prefer it, the main thing is to drink more water.

2.  Get quality sleep - Although you have heard this many times, it sometimes seems it is difficult to follow through on.  If you have children, you probably strive to establish a routine for their bedtimes.  The same healthy habit can apply to you.  Consistently following a soothing bedtime routine conditions your body to recognize the sleep signals that support sound sleep.  Some healthy bedtime habits for both children and adults can include: limiting device time at least one hour prior to bedtime, taking a bath or shower, reading, coloring and controlled deep breathing exercises.  Keeping bedrooms free of noise and distractions like TV or work items can also help.

3. Be more active - As an adult, you may have the option of joining a gym or participating in structured activities at places like your local YMCA.  Your children may have the opportunity to be involved with activities like sports or dance through school or community programs.  But, what can you do together as a family that encourages healthy active habits?  Try getting outside!  A simple walk through your neighborhood or down a quiet country road can lift your spirits and offer a break from the winter doldrums.  If the winter weather makes outdoor activity difficult, try an indoor "dance-off" with your kids.  Or, set up a game of "Twister" and see your kids eyes light up.  Not only will these regular activities be healthy for your family, they will be fun as well.

4.  Manage Stress - You are probably familiar with the stressors you feel in your everyday life.  Juggling work responsibilities, household chores and family schedules takes a toll on your time, energy and health.  Children, especially school-age children, face their own daily stress in dealing with school and extra-curricular activities too.  One way to manage stress and encourage relaxation is to allow yourself downtime.  Even disconnecting from your daily routine for 30 minutes each day can revive and rejuvenate.  Turn off all devices - including television. Listen to soothing music, take a relaxing bath and practice deep breathing.  These tips can work for you and your children.  Another helpful tip is to cultivate a mindful sense of gratitude.  Instead of focusing on your to-do list, concentrate on your "already-accomplished" list.  Being grateful for all you have and all you have already done, puts a better perspective on your life.

5.  Eat a balanced diet - Yep.  You have definitely heard this one before!  But, as the business of everyday life crowds in, your good intentions sometimes give way to fast food and snack alternatives.  The key tip here is often planning ahead.  Enlist the help of your family members when choosing recipes, shopping for ingredients and preparing meals.  Including them in on food choices will make them invested in the process.  Whole foods are healthiest.  So, concentrate on meal items that include whole foods.  Think vegetables, fruits, yogurt, and whole grains.  Cut up carrots and other vegetables and fruits to keep handy in the refrigerator for snacking.  Popcorn (freshly air-popped, NOT microwaved) is another good snack choice. Use spare time on the weekends to prepare meals ahead for the upcoming weekdays when schedules get hectic. 

As you strive to establish healthy habits for your family, do not despair if there are some less than perfect days along the way.  The journey to optimum health is just that - a journey.  Relish the experience and all its challenges and nuances for yourself and your family.  After all, that is what a healthy life is truly all about!