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5 Ways to Improve Family Wellness

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

What is Family Wellness?

Family wellness is a relatively new concept that refers to having a healthy and happy family unit. The family unit could be your immediate family (whether biological or not) or your extended family that you interact with on a regular basis. An important aspect of family wellness is that members of the family should have fulfilling relationships with each another, that is, generally positive interactions between family members. Families that actively promote family wellness enjoy better mental, physical, and social well-being, as each member of the family feels a sense of respect and belonging. In 2022, we are busier than ever, often resulting in parents and their children not interacting as much. Children are also busier than ever on their phones or computers, having less time for wellness. It is important to note that no family is perfect, so all family units are tested in some areas of well-being.

Why is Family Wellness Important?

Kids learn good or bad habits from adults Thus, when parents show their kids healthy habits, these kids are more likely to be interested in developing the same healthy habits. If you tell your kids to brush their teeth and floss twice a day and they never see you doing it, your kids are more unlikely to do it on a regular basis. Having family wellness allows family members to help each other during challenging times and give kids in these families a greater sense of belonging.

How to Promote Family Wellness?

Five easy steps families can take to promote an environment of family wellness:

#1. Have a weekly family fun night.
#2. Eat 2-3 meals together each week.
#3. Go out and enjoy nature at least once a month.
#4. Develop these three healthy habits: Sleeping, Eating and Physical Activity.
#5. Volunteer as a family to help a worthwhile cause.

Let's look at how we could incorporate these activities into our family life.

#1. Have a weekly family fun night.

Who doesn’t like to have fun? Laughing and having fun with your family is one of the most powerful ways to promote family wellness. If you have difficult family members that don’t like to take part in group activities, try making the rules such that any family member can miss one family fun night each month with no questions asked. Let all members of the family have an equal vote in deciding what activity should be done during each fun night. In my case, my kids often vote for monopoly, which is not my favorite fun activity, but it is a good way to teach kids about money (life skills).

While the possibilities for fun night are endless, don’t do something you don’t like. For example, camping in the backyard just does not work for me.

#2. Eat 2-3 meals together each week.

A significant number of people worldwide eat mainly calorie sufficient but nutrient deficient foods. As such, it’s not surprising that many individuals are deficient in many essential nutrients, such as magnesium and potassium. Ideally, teaching kids from young is the best way to ensure they learn and understand the value of nutritious meals. Even if your kids are older and currently don’t eat healthy meals, getting started is the hardest part. Over time you will discover nutritious food that different members of the family enjoy. To add to the family wellness, teach your kids to cook by making meals together.

#3. Go out and enjoy nature at least once a month.

Did anyone say it’s time to go hiking in a scenic area? Count me in. Getting enough sunlight is essential for vitamin D production in our bodies. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with anxiety and depression. Walking and talking with friends and family is also important for our well-being. Nature adds another unique element that helps everyone feel calmer and more relaxed. All these benefits are combined when you hike with family. Try to get your kids to put away their phones during the hike so they get the benefits of being away from social media.

#4. Develop these three healthy habits
  • Sleeping

  • Eating

  • Physical Activity

Learn and then share information about the importance of adequate sleep, eating healthy, and exercise to your kids and other family members. Adequate sleep is important for general well-being and good performance at school. Lack of sleep is linked to lower scores on tests and depression in school-age kids. Adequate sleep is important for everyone, including soldiers. Studies on Army Rangers found that their testosterone levels were lower due to sleep loss during training. Since testosterone is the main promoter of muscle growth and muscle strength improvements due to resistance training, adequate sleep is needed for optimal training/exercise.

Proper nutrition is important for everyone. A 2016 publication provided evidence to suggest that more than 70% of deaths (across 195 countries) in 2015 were due to nutritional and lifestyle choices. People with nutritionally deprived diets have a higher risk of many diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. In general, most of the population overconsumes processed meat, red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and trans-fatty acids, and don’t consume enough of fruits, nuts, vegetables, calcium, fiber, legumes, polyunsaturated fatty acids, seeds, omega-3 fatty acids (typically from seafood), and whole grains.

One of the main dietary factors that increases risk of death is a low intake of fruits. Low levels of many minerals such as magnesium and calcium are linked to several medical problems.

Low physical activity increases the risk of acquiring several diseases including diabetes, certain types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and other diseases. Just walking as a family 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes during each outing can improve health.

#5. Volunteer as a family to help a worthwhile cause

Volunteering as a family connects you to other volunteers including your own family. The more time you spend volunteering, the more experience you will gain. One of the biggest benefits of volunteering is the beneficial effects of helping others (including animals). Has your family ever cleaned up a beach or park with other families? What about feeding those who are less fortunate? Children, teenagers, and adults who volunteer experience a sense of accomplishment and learn important life skills: kindness and gratitude. Find what volunteers opportunities interests your family and get involved (even if it’s for only one hour a week for one month in summer).

So, what are the other benefits of family wellness?

Besides having a happier and more communicative family, family members are generally more respectful to everyone around them, more self-confident, and develop better communication skills. One important aspect of family wellness is that children and adults develop greater emotional wellness (recognition and acknowledgment of feelings, respect, and trust). When conflicts occur (and they always do), strong family wellness helps both the parent and kid (or two cousins) resolve the conflict congenially. Don’t forget that kids observe their parents, so if parents are arguing often, the parents should try to resolve problems when their children aren’t present.

Many other possibilities exist to improve your family wellness. If your kids are still in the womb, talk and play relaxing music to the kid. When your kids are very young, read books to them, especially bedtime stories. Try to keep family members connected with distant relatives by visiting, writing, emailing and chatting on the phone. Reducing clutter at home can reduce stress for all family members. Don’t forget to limit TV and social media.

Remember, creating the optimal family wellness for your family is a slow process but the rewards are great if you regularly invest in your family.

Written by Aldrin V. Gomes, PhD, FCVS, FAHA

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