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Published on December 24, 2019

11 Simple Yet Powerful Habits of a Healthy Family

11 Simple Yet Powerful Habits of a Healthy Family

Ever since Stephen Covey published his bestselling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989, the subject of habits has been in vogue. There’s no shortage of information if you’re looking to find useful habits to adopt for yourself. That said, many of the habits out there relate to business or personal success. But if your goal is a healthy family, you might want to take a page out of the expert “habit” books and apply them to your family life.

In 1997, my quest for family health and habits were put into motion when I founded LifeWorks Wellness Center with my wife, Sue Minkoff. From its inception, we always sought out to create a healing center where people would not only get the best possible medical care but in an environment that made you feel like family,[1] while also being passionate advocates for families looking to strengthen all facets of their household.

As such, we have amassed 11 simple but powerful habits of a healthy family over the past 2 decades:

1. Eat Together

When families sit down for a meal together,[2] rather than eating in “shifts” or grabbing food on the go, they tend to eat healthier things. Vegetables, fruits, and whole foods are more often consumed, rather than processed and fatty foods.

In addition to the physical benefits that come with healthier meals, research[3] shows that family time helps children get better grades and avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs.

If your family doesn’t share many meals together now, it might not happen overnight. Perhaps start with a goal of two meals per week. Stick to that, build the frequency over time, and establish it as a habit.

2. Cook Together

Similarly, cooking meals together is beneficial for a healthy family. Not only is homemade food generally healthier, but family members who cook together are spending time together and creating memories. The kitchen is often the hub of a home, so it’s a good place to come together.

Making meals together also allows family recipes to be passed down. Children who learn to cook are developing a valuable life skill, and the work involved is shared – Mom or Dad doesn’t need to feel as though meal prep is their burden alone.[4]

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3. Plan Vacations Together

How often do you go on a vacation with your family and encounter complaining children? Something’s too boring, or you’re too busy. Involving the whole family in vacation planning might help.[5]

Giving children a voice in family plans allows them to communicate and stand up for the things that they want to do, as well as to consider others’ input and even learn to compromise. If you’ve gotten into the habit of the parents being authoritarian in planning activities, you can certainly try to get into the habit of getting everybody involved.

4. Respect Alone Time

As great as it is to do things together as a family, it’s also inevitable that all members of a family will want some alone time — and that’s a healthy thing.[6]

Spending time alone allows a person to reflect, unwind, problem-solve and more. Especially in this age of connectedness, when everyone seemingly has a mobile device tethered to them, it’s important to allow each other to disconnect when they feel the need. Healthy families make a habit of respecting each other’s alone time.

5. Learn to Listen

Parents are no strangers to talking to their kids. But productive conversation is a two-way street, which means talking with your kids is important — and talking with someone involves more than simply talking.[7]

True conversation involves listening, and healthy families make it a habit to listen to each other rather than just take turns speaking. What you tell your family members is no more important than what they have to say to you. Family members that make a habit of two-way discussions are more understanding of one another, and therefore closer.

6. Make Health a Routine

If you want to build healthy habits, health must become a routine that all family members follow. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control highlights consistency, predictability and follow-through when it comes to structuring family routines for health.[8]

That might mean everyone in the house brushes their teeth at the same time after dinner. It might mean that no one eats sugary snacks after a certain time of day. It means scheduling regular checkups, cutting off screen time after a certain hour, and making sure everyone gets enough sleep every single night. For an advanced take, consider alternative health options such as acupuncture[9] for the family.

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Make these things a daily routine, and you’ll develop healthy family habits.

7. Get Physical

The physical fitness mantra, especially when it comes to the current childhood obesity epidemic, is to “eat less, move more.” Healthier eating habits can be derived from adhering to some of the habit-building already mentioned, but if you want your family to move more, you have to make an effort.[10]

Go on family walks or bike rides. Plan for weekend activities that involve play. When you have a family gathering for a birthday, organize a relay race before cutting the cake. It hasn’t stopped me, that’s for sure — by the time I was 70, I had already competed in 42 Ironman races.[11]

The takeaway is that you can plan activity into your life, and healthy families make a habit of moving. It works in reverse, too — people who engage in regular exercise tend to be more effective in their family roles.[12]

8. Get in Some Downtime

Families are busy. There’s homework, kids’ sports schedules, social events to attend. The weekends, especially, can feel like the time when you’re always jetting from one place to another.

If you feel you need a break from all the activity, your family probably does, too. It’s great to honor social obligations and keep the kids busy, but sometimes you just have to chill out. If your weekends are constantly booked, try to make it a habit to set aside just one weekend a month to have no plans.

Give yourself a rest. Give your spouse a rest. Give your kids a rest. Spend a Saturday morning watching cartoons in your pajamas with your children. Take a weekend with no plans, and just see where it takes you.

If planning active days for your family helps cover your physical health, sometimes taking lazy days to relax and do nothing can help your entire family’s mental health.[13]

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9. Learn Together

How many parents, when their child comes home from school, ask: “What did you learn today?” It’s fairly common.

But what would you do if your child flipped the script and asked you: “What did YOU learn today?” Could you give them an answer?

There is value in being a lifetime learner. People don’t like know-it-alls for a reason. If you, as a parent, can shoulder the same responsibility for learning something new every day, which is the expectation placed on kids, aren’t you and your child both growing?

There are plenty of studies that show that being a lifelong learner is a key to success. And every parent wants their children to learn new things. So why not combine things? Research supports this strategy as a way of adding significant value to the whole family’s home life.[14]

Watch educational shows or documentaries as a family. Start a family book club or even decide to write a book that aligns with your passion. Your children are not your peers in very many ways, but learning new things together is a way to level the playing field a little, encouraging inquisitiveness in your child while letting them know you’re open-minded, too.

10. Watch the News as a Family

The news can be a scary thing for children. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably had at least a few moments where you think to yourself, “I hope he/she doesn’t hear this.”

But guess what? They probably do hear it. And because to kids, some of the things in the news are confusing at best and frightening at worst, it’s important to digest news as a family.

It’s your chance as a parent to reassure your children. It’s their chance as children to express to you the extent of their grasp of things, as well as any misgivings they have. Your instinct as a parent might be to shield your children from things like school shootings, war, and the like, but they’re going to hear about them. Digesting the constant stream of information together, and using the time to digest and discuss, is healthy.[15]

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11. Be Open and Honest

Relationship counselors will tell you that being open and honest with your partner is imperative to having a positive relationship. It’s the same with families, which are often an extension of an existing relationship.

That’s why it’s critical to be honest with every member of a family. It’s especially important to not hide anything. If you’re a spouse and a parent, you want your partner and your children to be open and honest with you, so should you get into the habit of being open and honest with them.

One of the foundations of a healthy family is trust, and trust can only be established with honesty and openness. Don’t hide from the truth. Don’t think you’re protecting your family by being less-than-open. Honest and open discourse is how societies advance, and making a habit of being consciously honest and open with family members is a fundamental part of establishing a healthy dynamic.[16]

Final Thoughts

Family life can be tricky. Not all families can be described as “healthy.” But if you aspire to that category, these are some guidelines you can follow to develop habits that build healthy families.

While different families may benefit from unique strategies of their own, one thing is universally true:

Commitment to a healthier family is an investment that never stops generating returns.

Featured photo credit: Anna Pritchard via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. David Minkoff

Health Expert | CEO BodyHealth | Co-Owner and Medical Director at Lifeworks Wellness Center | Author

Having Trouble Sleeping? 9 Quick Fixes to Help You Sleep Tonight 11 Simple Yet Powerful Habits of a Healthy Family 10 Mood Boosting Foods to Help You Feel Good Instantly Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Weight Loss? 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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