I admit it – I do well with resolutions. I truly believe that people tend to accomplish more when they have a set goal in mind. I personally love to rise to a challenge, and find that setting a formal (and preferably public) goal definitely has a way of bringing out one’s competitive nature.
So when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I have to say I’m a believer. As someone dedicated to promoting health and safety year-round, I obviously think it’s important to set goals throughout the year. But if ushering in a new year happens to give you an increased sense of motivation, then by all means, run with it because now is the perfect time to shift gears from helping your children create holiday wishlists to helping them (and you) focus on setting some realistic family goals that are sure to deliver on the promise of an even happier, healthier 2012.
Okay, so what’s the best way to figure out what one’s family goals should be? While each of your family members’ individual resolutions can be customized according to age, ability, and circumstance, I figured it might be helpful to get you started by offering you some simple family-friendly resolutions – you know, those completely do-able resolutions that don’t seem nearly as challenging as, say, signing up for a gym membership in January only to lack the willpower come March to make use of it. Or running a marathon. While there’s nothing wrong with either of those resolutions (I’ve made them both myself in years past), there’s nothing wrong with first reaching for the “low-hanging fruit” resolutions that are sure to give your family both a sense of accomplishment and a big bang for your buck when it comes to improved healthy, safety and well-being.
– Walk more. That’s right, walk more. Around the block, to the grocery store, with friends, on the treadmill – wherever and whenever you can. Running is fine, too. But if that seems a bit daunting or impractical, the important thing for kids and adults alike is to be more active in 2012. As someone who just placed my own order for a FitBit, let me add that if you and/or your children are more likely to put their best foot forward with a concrete goal (or a cool new gadget), then using a pedometer may prove to be just what it takes to get up and get going.
– Sleep more. You see – I told you these resolutions would be attainable, if not downright desirable. I mean, who doesn’t want to sleep more? But as a pediatrician married to a surgeon and therefore accustomed to dealing with the demands of both professional schedules and with the many sleep-related challenges of parenthood, I fully understand why most of us simply don’t get enough sleep. I have also become increasingly impressed with how important sleep is to one’s overall health. So whether it’s an improved bedtime routine for babies or toddlers, taking/keeping the TV set out of your child’s bedroom, keeping tabs on your teenager’s sleep habits or simply placing more value on your own sleep needs – I strongly recommend it.
– Read more. Daily, whenever possible. Not just for work, not just when your kids are required to, but for fun. Read aloud to your kids. Read quietly alongside them. Make a point of reading the newspaper. Encourage your tweens or teens to start reading it too. Read on paper or in any electronic form you choose. Regardless of what angle you take, resolving to read more will enrich your family’s new year.
– Drink more. Water, that is. Just back from a recent trip to NY where I discussed water as a key aspect of health, hydration, and tackling the obesity epidemic with a wide range of magazine editors, I decided to toss it in my resolution list. It’s not just because I think drinking more water is the one and only solution to better health, but because it strikes me as such an easy one once you and your family set your minds to it. The goal in encouraging more water consumption in large part actually relates to getting everyone (kids and parents alike) to drink less soda, less juice, and less sugary liquids in general. If your family is not in the water-drinking habit, consider committing to milk with meals and water with snacks, and making water more appealing by filtering it (typically tastes better), bottling it (re-usable water bottles are both convenient and better for the environment), or simply adding some natural flavor (a wedge of lemon/lime or even a slice of cucumber!).
– Engage more. Social networking now seems to be the key to everything from successful weight loss to professional success. Yet one of the things we risk in what is sure to be an increasingly wired (or wireless) 2012 is the lack of meaningful, personal engagement with others in our community. That’s why I firmly believe that all families should set a goal of teaching their children to more actively engage and become contributing members of society. Taking some lessons from the Helping Hands curriculum at my child care center, this can be as simple yet meaningful as having even very young children visit the Humane Society or a local retirement home; send letters of thanks to those serving in the military; and/or collect mittens, books, pennies, diapers, coats or cans of food for those less fortunate. Whatever you choose, remember that one of the most powerful lessons we stand to teach our children (and live by ourselves) is that it is our meaningful connection with others that brings the most happiness.
– Laugh more. At yourself, with your kids….the point is that while resolutions can be a good way to improve one’s health, it’s just as important to make sure that stress doesn’t get the best of you. I’ve found the best way to do this is to remember to laugh, and always remind yourself of how fortunate you are to have your family, your friends, your health, and the gift of another year.
On that note, I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy, healthy and accomplished new year. I’ll look forward to sharing 2012 with you and everyone in the Live Well Nebraska community.
Originally posted on Omaha World Herald’s Live Well Nebraska