As the pandemic drags on, many parents are struggling with exhaustion and burnout from juggling multiple responsibilities at once. From feeding the kids to letting the dogs out to work and schooling from home, life’s sure gotten a lot busier in the past few years. Odds are you’ve shifted some priorities around to make it work. However, if you’ve let your family’s health fall by the wayside, it might be time to rethink your routine.
Luckily, you don’t have to overhaul your life to improve your health. All it takes is some simple, innovative ideas to inspire wellness — and better habits.
1. Take a Morning Walk
Going for a morning walk with your family is a great way to spend quality time together and reap the many benefits the sunrise has to offer. Studies show that exposure to natural light first thing in the morning can lower blood pressure, regulate your sleep schedule, clear your mind and even improve memory. Get up a half-hour early and walk the kids to school and enjoy extra-long strolls on the weekends.
2. Partake in a Fitness Challenge
Perhaps your kids would prefer to sleep in and skip the morning walk — especially if it’s cold outside. In this case, you might start a family fitness challenge to encourage more physical activity. Set a goal to run a 5k together or give up sugar for a month. Incorporate rewards when you reach specific milestones and remember to celebrate, even if you don’t beat records or win the race. That way everyone develops enough confidence to try again.
3. Make an Activity List
It’s ok if you and the kids get bored sometimes. However, if your first response is to reach for your phones or tablets, you might need to make an activity list. Have a powwow with the kids and compile a list of fun, healthy activities anyone can enjoy the next time boredom creeps in. Perhaps the kids can read a book, play brain games or visit the local playground. Remember to include both indoor and outdoor activities so there’s always something to do, rain or shine.
4. Sneak Veggies Into Meals
Persuading kids to eat their veggies can be tedious and ultimately unsuccessful unless you have a few sneaky recipes up your sleeve. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to serve salads every day to stay healthy. In fact, you can easily incorporate leafy greens, veggies and even fruits like avocado into classic foods like mac and cheese, chocolate chip muffins and pancakes. As long as you slice, dice and blend ingredients well, your kids will never even know those extra veggies are there.
5. Plant an Herb Garden
Anyone can grow their own herb garden, whether they live in a one-bedroom apartment or their parents’ basement. Sure, natural sunlight might be hard to come by — especially during winter. However, you can easily purchase grow lights if your plants need a boost. Plus, maintaining your own indoor garden will inspire you to think creatively in the kitchen and teach the kids about where their food comes from.
6. Visit the Farmer’s Market
If you’re less than confident in your green thumb, visit the local farmer’s market instead. This is your chance to stock up on organic produce that’s healthy and affordable. Talk to the farmers and producers running the stands and ask for recipe suggestions. How might they use that sweet corn or an entire head of cabbage? Odds are they have a few delicious — and nutritious — ideas to inspire you in the kitchen.
7. Use Smaller Plates
It might seem inconsequential, but the size of your dinner plates matters. In one study, researchers found that participants with larger dishes ate 30% more than those with smaller ones. Utensil size also played an important role in portion control. Those who used a larger bowl and spoons ate 50% more than those with small dishware. These findings suggest that swapping your big plates for little ones may help your family eat less and live happier, healthier lives.
8. Set a Lights Out Alarm
Getting the kids to bed on time can be a challenge. Oftentimes, they’ll want to stay up with you and watch movies, play on their tablets or chit-chat. Wouldn’t the whole fiasco be easier if everyone went down at the same time? Set a lights-out alarm for everyone in the house — yes, even you. Then, stick to it. Well-rested brains learn better, recover faster and remember more. Plus, it’ll be better equipped to regulate your mood and improve emotional well-being.
Thinking Outside the Box
Habits that are fun and memorable are most likely to stick. So think outside the box and lean into creativity. What innovative ideas can you come up with each season? Cater to your family’s passions and interests to get everyone involved. Soon enough, you’ll feel happier, healthier and closer as a family. It just takes one small step in the right direction to make a lifelong difference.