The science of health and happiness is clear: The more hours you spend on the couch, the less healthy and happy you are. Yet we’re all busy and time-crunched these days. So how can we make sure we’re not spending all our time in front of a screen or eating junk food?
The answer is simple, but it takes some effort to get there: Build healthy habits into your daily routine, and eventually they’ll become second nature. Here are five things every family can do together to live healthier and happier lives.
They eat breakfast together every day
This is one of those things parents always say they’re going to do, but then never quite get around to doing. But if you want more time together at home and less time worrying about what’s on the school menu (or what your kids might be eating at school), make sure everyone eats breakfast at home every morning. If this means getting up earlier than usual, so be it!
They spend time outside every day
Going for a walk or run together is great for establishing a routine and getting the whole family moving. It also gives you a chance to connect and enjoy each other’s company. Plus, being outside is good for your health — studies have shown that even brief exposure to sunlight can make you happier and more energetic.
They sit down at dinner together as a family at least five nights out of seven
This is the single most important habit we have found for creating a close-knit family. You can’t just eat whenever everyone gets home — you need to set aside time for your family, for one another.
They do something fun together each week (maybe bowling or playing board games)
Whether it’s going out to eat as a family or playing board games at home, one thing every amazing family does is make time for fun every week. Even if it’s just an hour or two on Saturday morning, they carve out time each week where they can enjoy being together without any work-related distractions or other obligations getting in the way.
They get enough sleep
This is especially important for kids’ cognitive development and emotional well-being, but it’s also good for parents’ mental health and physical health. Adults who sleep less than seven hours per night have an increased risk of chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression; those who sleep less than six hours per night have an even higher risk than those sleeping seven hours or more per night.
They exercise together
Exercise is great for everyone in the family, but if your kids are young, it’s especially important to get them involved early so they can learn good habits from the start. Find an exercise activity that everyone enjoys and do it together as often as possible. If your kids aren’t interested in running or swimming yet, start with something like walking around the neighborhood or going on bike rides — anything that gets you moving!
They eat real food
They don’t rely on processed or packaged foods. Instead, they shop at farmers markets, visit the butcher and cook from scratch using fresh ingredients. Also, more and more families are opting for their own hydroponic farming. In this way, they get quality plants in a short time.
They sit down together to eat meals. Whether it’s breakfast or dinner, they make it a priority to sit down together around the table and enjoy their food.
They don’t snack all day long. They avoid eating between meals and instead focus on having three meals a day with plenty of water in between to stay hydrated and satisfied.
Read books together as a family
Reading together can improve literacy skills, increase empathy for others, and strengthen relationships between parents and their children. It also helps kids learn how to identify characters’ emotions by reading facial expressions and body language on the page — an important skill for developing healthy relationships later in life.
Spend less money on stuff and more on experiences
You’ll be happier with less stuff in your home, and you’ll have more fun with more experiences. Why not spend money on an experience that brings the whole family together?
Don’t fall into the trap of living beyond your means. You don’t need to live in an expensive neighborhood or drive expensive cars because someone else does it — or because you think it will impress people or make them like you more. It won’t! All it does is make things harder for yourself when unexpected expenses come up or when you’re no longer working full time.
As a parent, it’s natural to want to give your children everything you never had growing up. But if we’re honest with ourselves and each other, most of us don’t really need more stuff in our lives. We already have more than enough stuff! What would be better is if we focused on experiences instead of things — like family vacations or a night out at the movies.