3 New Year’s resolutions all families can (and should) make

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Follow me on Twitter @drClaire

It’s the beginning of a new calendar year, that time when we resolve to do new and better things. This is such a wonderful idea, because doing new and better things can make us healthier and happier. Resolutions can be particularly good for families to make. Not only is it good to work together on something, it’s a good way to keep everyone accountable.

The best resolutions are the ones that are simple. By simple, I don’t necessarily mean easy (if they were easy, we wouldn’t have to resolve to do them). I mean that they are resolutions that you can lean into and work toward, achievable in whatever way works for you. It also helps, obviously, if the resolutions are fun.

Here are three very simple and very healthy things that all families can resolve to do together and that can be adapted to the realities of family life — and can be fun.

1.  Exercise together. Adults should get 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise) a week, and children should be active for an hour a day. Most people do not get that much exercise, sadly. It would be great if each and every one of us could resolve to be more active, and certainly all families should be thinking about ways to get everyone to the gym or sports practice or out for a run more often in 2018. But aside from that, try a family resolution to exercise together, as many times a week as is feasible, with as many family members as is feasible. Keep it simple: go for a walk together, for example (if you have a dog, bring more people along for walks). If going for walks isn’t possible or pleasant where you live, turn on some music, move the furniture, and dance in the living room or kitchen. If there is a pool, go for family swim, or go skating, sledding, or biking. Just be active, and do it together. You will be setting an example, helping to build healthy lifelong habits, and spending time together — all of which can make a big difference.

2.  Eat healthier meals together. Notice I said “healthier.” The idea is to move the needle, not achieve perfection (although if you want to try for perfection, go for it). Add a vegetable or fruit to each meal. Try some new grains, like quinoa — or just more whole grains. Serve water or plain milk with meals, rather than juice or soda. Try out small changes, one at a time, with the goal of having a healthier family diet. If everyone is doing it together, it can make it easier. It may be that you begin simply by eating more meals together. Preparing a meal and eating it as a family not only helps everyone eat better, it helps bring families together, which can be very important for the emotional health of everyone in the family — and leads me to the last resolution…

3.  Spend more time together. Whether it’s by exercising or eating together, or family game night or movie night, or simply hanging out, the time you spend together can not only strengthen each and every one of you, but also give you a chance to touch base and find out what is happening in one another’s lives. Turn off the cell phones (making family meals a phone-free zone is a good idea) and pay attention to each other instead. As a resolution, just try to spend more time together. Start small if small works — and then build on it.

If you can do these things, even a little, and stick with it, it will absolutely make for a happier, healthier year for all of you and hopefully lay the foundation for habits that will stick for a lifetime.

Comments:

  1. Sheila Malhotra

    Hi Claire,

    Thanks for sharing such an interesting article. The quote (“A family that eats together, stays together”) really suites your articles.

    We just need to include exercise in it to for a healthy lifestyle. So the new quote would be like “A family that eats together & exercises together, stays together”.

  2. Ruth WIlding

    How does a patient approach their MD about dizzie spells. What are they to ask in order to get the question answered and understand what the MD is telling them. If the MD avoids the question or asks with another question how does the patient handle this situation. As the patients get older and hearing is beginning to go it becomes difficult for the older generation to respond and understand. I believe that many patients in the older generation need some guidelines.