Some of my favorite memories as a child were of my family outside and moving. We played backyard baseball and sometimes croquet. Every Sunday we took a walk together around the neighborhood, stopping to talk to friends who were out enjoying their front porches. Each summer we took a trip a mountain cabin and hiked and played in the river. My family enjoys many of these same activities today, and we've added some new ones.
Habits are very powerful things. In the book The Power of Habits, Charles Duhigg explains that each habit you form creates a pathway in your brain leading from a trigger to an action. This makes it very hard to change a habit. The pathway will always be there, and so even after a habit is changed, it is easy to fall back into it. Those habits our children form when they are young, will stay with them into adulthood and will be very hard to break in the future. This makes it very important to create healthy habits in our families. Though it is possible to change a bad habit, it is easier if we form good, healthy habits in the first place.
Here are 10 habits of healthy families:
1. Foot power. Create a no-drive zone around your neighborhood. This is the area in which it is reasonable for you and your children to walk or ride bikes, skateboards or scooters. Try to include in your zone fun stuff like your school, a playground or a place to get a sweet treat. If you need to drop off something to a neighbor or if your kids have a play date close by, then walk.
2. Drink water. Skip all the sugar and empty calories. Make water your default drink and drink plenty of it. Staying hydrated increases energy.
3. Sleeping is for more than just beauty. A reasonable bed time is important for the whole family. Not getting enough sleep leads to fatigue, inability to concentrate, fighting and tantrums. It will affect your kids, too.
4. Here comes the sun. Get some sunshine and fresh air everyday. Even in cold weather you should bundle up and take a walk around the block or sit and sip hot cocoa on your porch. From improved concentration to faster healing, spending time outside has been shown to have numerous health benefits.
5. Screen free. Limit TV and video game time. Instead, encourage family members to spend time using their imagination or working on and accomplishing a project. Accomplishing big goals or even small tasks leads to better physical and mental health and increased self-esteem.
6. Backyard fun. Use your yard. Play games, grow a garden, eat outside, watch the sunset or sit and visit with neighbors.
7. Eat together. Make your meals fresh and cut down on eating out. Your family will consume less calories in a homemade meal. Dinner around the table is also a great time to strengthen family bonds. (If your kids want to eat, they have to talk to you.) A study from the University of Florida shows that family dinners have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, eating disorders and an increased chance of graduating from high school.
8. Home grown. Whether it's growing vegetables, raising chickens or keeping honey bees, a little self-reliance in your food chain will teach your kids the value of hard work and give them gratitude for the stuff on the table.
9. Get moving. Exercise to promote a healthy family culture. If you take a walk, bike ride or hike together, your kids are more likely to continue those activities into adulthood. Make these activities family traditions and include them in your vacations. You'll make great memories along the way.
10. Pay it forward. Make charity and service a part of your family's healthy lifestyle. Service is usually an active event, like shoveling an elderly neighbor's snow, and also promotes, selflessness, gratitude and civic mindedness. Join an organization to provide weekly service, work hard on a large project or just look for little ways to help those around you.