By Eleanor Beeslaar
We hope our series on family health and wellness has helped you learn new information and build skills that can help you promote your family’s physical, mental, emotional, and relational health! There are many wonderful and creative ways to incorporate healthy choices into your family’s routine, while spending quality time and making meaningful connections with one another. You may use some of the tips or ideas we have provided throughout the past week, or you might be inspired to adapt the information you have learned to best fit your unique family!
Health and wellness is a lifelong journey that leads to joy, connection, love, and satisfaction. As we wrap up this series, we want to leave you with some words of encouragement as you continue your journey of improving your family’s health and wellness.
- Set attainable goals that will leave you and your family feeling accomplished and motivated to keep living healthier lives.
- Have fun! Try to make exercise and healthy eating fun by involving the whole family in the planning and decision making process. If everyone has a say in which activities you will be doing or what type of foods you make, your family will be more likely to stick to healthy routines.
- Keep trying! It is normal to fall behind or get off track with healthy habits, especially when your days get busier and time seems to slip away. Don’t let this discourage you and try again! If you are finding it difficult to stick to a routine, it might be helpful to try something new to re-energize your efforts.
By Eleanor Beeslaar
Healthy relationships contribute to positive mental and physical health! Meaningful and satisfying relationships with our loved ones increase our happiness, lead to fewer health issues, and are linked to a longer life expectancy (Harvard Health Publishing, 2010). Our relationships with our friends and family provide a valuable support network to lean on during hardships. Having a strong support network can provide relief during challenges and help reduce feelings of stress and helplessness, which can improve our mental and physical health outcomes during difficulties (Johnson, 2011). On the other hand, unhealthy relationships or a lack of positive social connections can increase the risk of developing adverse health effects, such as depression (McHenry, 2015).
Because healthy relationships are so essential to our overall health outcomes and life satisfaction, it is critical to treat them with care and make them a priority. We encourage you to resolve to put your relationships first and focus on making them stronger, healthier, and happier!
Here are some things to keep in mind when working towards having healthier relationships:
- Make time for the people who are important to you!
- Show gratitude and kindness.
- Focus on effective communication.
- Practice active listening.
- Use “I statements.”
- Avoid hurtful words or criticism.
- Remind yourself that you deserve kindness and compassion from your loved ones.
Harvard Health Publishing (2010, December). The health benefits of strong relationships. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships
Johnson, T. D. (2011, March). Healthy relationships lead to better lives. Retrieved from http://thenationshealth.aphapublications.org/content/41/2/20.full
McHenry, E. (2015, February 13). How relationships affect health and wellbeing. Retrieved from https://www.healthtalk.umn.edu/2015/02/13/relationships-affect-wellbeing/
By Eleanor Beeslaar
Families can foster health and wellness by promoting positive mental health and paying attention to when professional help may be needed. When you encourage healthy expressions of emotion, provide lots of love and support, and set expectations of trust and respect within your family, you create a secure base for positive social, emotional, and psychological development (Mental Health America, 2018).
Parents can also be mental health role models for their kids by expressing their emotions in a healthy way, encouraging positive self-talk, and practicing self-care. By inviting your child to talk about their concerns and emotions, you are creating an opportunity to teach them that it is normal to feel anger, sadness, worry, or fear at times. This can help them develop positive attitude about feelings and facilitate healthy expressions of emotions. Families can also promote positive self-esteem through practicing self-care and positive self-talk. Here are some tips for self-care and positive affirmations:
- Encourage family members to choose an activity to complete that makes them happy at least once a week.
- Celebrate accomplishments and encourage talents and interests!
- Encourage family members to talk about things they are good at and the parts of themselves that they love. A great way to do this is to say positive self-affirmations in the mirror! (“I love that I am kind to others.” “I am strong.” “I am brave.”)
- As parents, be mindful of the language you use to talk about yourself. When you model positive self-talk, your children are more likely to develop healthy self-images and have more positive self-esteem.
It is also critical for family members to be aware of the warning signs of potential mental health problems that may need the help of a professional. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable
- Feeling overly anxious or worried
- Excessive anger
- Hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
- Major changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Loss of interest in friends or things that are normally enjoyable
- Lack of concentration or inability to focus
- Falling behind in school
Mental Health America (2018). Children’s Mental Health. Retrieved form http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/childrens-mental-health
By Eleanor Beeslaar
An essential part of promoting wellness within your family is making healthy food choices! Good nutrition is a critical component of living a healthy lifestyle, as it reduces the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.). Did you know that good nutrition not only increases your physical health, but it is also connected to your brain function and influences your emotional health? According to Harvard Medical School, your brain functions best when it is fueled with high-quality foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, so it is really important to be intentional about what we eat. The foods we put into our body also affect how we feel. In fact, 95% of our serotonin is produced in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract! Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter, plays an important role in regulating our sleep patterns, appetite, and mood. The production and function of serotonin is greatly influenced by the “good” bacteria, which line our GI tract, so it is important to be mindful about choosing foods that keep your gut healthy! For more information about the connection between nutrition and psychological health, check out the following article: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
Families can encourage healthy eating habits while spending quality time together! A great way to get the whole family involved in mealtime is to have family meals. By working together to prepare meals, parents can be healthy eating role models and teach their kids about nutrition. Through this process, kids can learn how to cook, be introduced to new and healthy foods, and learn how to make healthy food choices! Family meals also create an opportunity for families to develop traditions, connect, and talk about what is going on in one another’s lives.
Here are some important tips and ideas to keep in mind when thinking about promoting healthy food choices in your family:
- Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
- Turn fruit into an option for desert.
- Choose whole grains.
- Choose foods that are low in saturated-fats.
- Vary your proteins and include beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Have treats every once in a while!
For more ideas and resources about fun ways to promote healthy eating habits in your family, visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/families#mealtimes.
Selhub, E. (2018, April 5). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
U.S. Department of Agriculture (2018, July 18). Start with Small Changes. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/start-small-changes
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.). Importance of Good Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/importance-of-good-nutrition/index.html
By Eleanor Beeslaar
Physical activity is an important part of health and wellness, regardless of your age. It can lead to many positive health outcomes, including a decreased risk for health problems and diseases, lower levels of stress and anxiety, improved mental and emotional well-being, and a longer life expectancy (American Heart Association, 2017). Promoting family physical activity is especially important for kids, because it helps them develop healthy habits and grow into healthy adults!
A great way to increase your family’s level of physical activity is to make it a part of your routine! Find time throughout the week to incorporate exercise into your family’s schedule. You don’t have to do anything elaborate or take up lots of time to be active. Think of fun and simple activities that the whole family can enjoy and be flexible if activities don’t work out or need to be rescheduled.
Here are some ideas to get your family moving!
- With younger children, one of the best ways to get moving is to play!
- Take family walks around the neighborhood, on a trail, or at a park.
- Plan weekends with physical activities like hiking, going to the park, or swimming during warm weather. Greensboro has many great parks for families to visit!
- Have a family dance party!
- Plan a day of family gardening, where you can experience great weather, enjoy the beauty of nature, work together as a family, and get lots of exercise.
- If you have a dog, take it on a walk.
- Support your children in trying different sports.
- If possible, take the stairs or walk whenever you can.
Increasing physical activity in your family not only promotes health and well-being, but it also provides many wonderful opportunities to spend time together and create deeper connections.
American Heart Association (2017, January 14). Why is physical activity so important for health and wellbeing? Retreived from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/why-is-physical-activity-so-important-for-health-and-wellbeing
The Healthy Relationships Initiative strives to promote happy, healthy, and safe relationships by helping community members develop different ways to foster lasting relationships and build strong families. We believe that an important part of building healthy families and communities involves engaging in a holistic approach to health and wellness.
According to the National Wellness Institute, higher levels of health and wellness are connected to life satisfaction and overall well-being. By making positive choices that focus on your family’s physical, mental, emotional, and relational health, you can promote crucial skills and knowledge that lead to living a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.
As the new year begins, we encourage you to think about what changes you can make to prioritize your family’s physical, mental, emotional, and relational health. Stay tuned throughout the rest of the week for ideas and tips to promote health and wellness within your family this year!
National Wellness Institute (n.d.). The Six Dimensions of Wellness. Retrieved from https://www.nationalwellness.org/page/Six_Dimensions#