If you’ve ever attempted to start an exercise routine or change your diet while living with your family, you will understand that doing so without your family following suit is difficult. It doesn’t mean that they have to do everything that you do, but if they are accustomed to regularly eating fast food and not setting time aside for exercise, the attempt to improve one’s health becomes astronomically more difficult. That’s why when attempting to improve your health, getting your family on board with the process is important and can improve their lives as well. It’s important to maintain healthy family habits that improve their relationships and health.
Everyone’s family is different, with different backgrounds and traditions that influence their daily lives. For this reason, finding healthy habits that the whole family can agree upon can be a challenge, but the general idea is that constant effort from each family member is what will build success in the long run. This means that the relationship they hold with each other and their motivation also need to be supported in the process.
Three things contribute greatly to a healthy family:
- Healthy family relationships
- Healthy family habits
- Healthy family lifestyle
Focusing on these aspects of your family not only improves their overall feelings towards each other and their long-term health but also improves their relationships and attitudes outside of family matters. Supporting your family at home often extends outside the home, giving them more confidence and knowledge regarding what healthy relationships should be.
Why Healthy Family Relationships Are Important
There are many reasons why you’d want to improve your family relationships. For children, seeing a healthy family relationship can show them what a healthy family should look like when they grow up. Many people don’t recognize toxic relationships if they come from a family that had poor relationships with each other. Showing them how communication should be and how they should interact with friends and those close to them will transfer vicariously to them in the long run. Children learn best by example, so having a long-term positive relationship with them and others in the family will dictate how they interact with others later on.
Even if you don’t have children, long-term healthy family relationships also improve the wellbeing of individuals. Strong bonds improve trust and positivity, helping them feel supported and stable in their life. Stress and anxiety are slow and insidious killers that can cause many future health complications but having someone you can rely on helps reduce negative emotions substantially. Many people need to have a person they can communicate with that understands them and supports them with whom they can freely talk about things that bother them.
Ways to Improve Your Family Relationships
Habits are one of the best ways to improve family relationships. Healthy family habits are concerned primarily with how you interact with one another regularly. Being part of a family means interacting with each other often to get to know one another and develop trust.
Here are four ways you can improve your family relationships through habitual interactions:
1 Creating Quality Family Time
Most healthy families try to make time to spend together. Quality time can take place just about anywhere.
Some of the most common activities include:
- Sharing meals
- Exchanging stories
- Recreational activities
- Making plans together
- Setting aside alone time with your partner
Just simple actions like this can improve the communication in a relationship and will set up a solid foundation with trust and care. Most of the time, these quality moments can be incorporated into your daily schedule without having to worry about going out of your way. They also let the entire family be included in any plans that you might have, letting them know they are a part of the decision-making process and giving them some autonomy, which develops trust.
2. Respecting One Another
A critical factor in maintaining healthy family relationships and building upon them is respect. Giving space when needed and giving some autonomy to the family members helps prevent disagreements and shows that you trust them. When disagreements arise, respect, affection, and emotions make an impact on how they are handled. It’s important to not raise your voice or argue in front of children and take into consideration the other party’s feelings when working through disagreements.
Each member of a family has their own personality, qualities, interests, and goals. Giving them autonomy and showing them your support are key factors in respecting them as people.
3. Communicating in a Relationship
Lack of mindful communication is the number one killer of any relationship. Sharing achievements, experiences, and criticism in positive, supporting words means a lot to people. However, simply telling someone how you are feeling can be difficult to do in a way that they can understand sometimes.
Here are a few ways you can improve your communication with family members and those around you:
- Use simple terms that are direct and easy to understand.
- Clear doubt by emphasizing trust in communication.
- Be transparent about your goals, solutions, and the future to set a common ground.
- Actively listen to what the other person is saying and respond accordingly.
- Include everyone in decisions that affect them.
Working as a family and creating a team is the most effective strategy at preventing anyone from feeling left out. Including your other family members ensures that no one will be left out or felt unwanted in the decision-making process.
4. Be Mindful of Your Parenting Style
If you want to fully endorse healthy family relationships in children, you might need to modify your preferred parenting style. Many parents don’t let children in on the decision-making process but being conscious of them in the process can play a big role in how they see their place in the family. It can influence how much freedom they have and how trusted they feel when included in such a big topic. The autonomy mentioned earlier might not be full autonomy to act as they see fit but giving them age-appropriate chores or responsibilities in exchange for something can help them feel part of a more active family. It’s all about how you work together and communicate how you feel towards your children.
Creating a Healthy Family Lifestyle
A healthy family lifestyle will vary from household to household based primarily on parenting style. However, most healthy family lifestyles boil down to taking care of your family physically, mentally, and spiritually, which is the same as if you were to take care of yourself. The main difference is that instead of attempting to satisfy your own needs, you must include your family’s needs as well.
Here are a few influencing factors for creating a healthy family lifestyle:
- Eat healthily or cook at home. You can also include other family members in cooking, teaching them life skills they can use later on while spending quality time together.
- Exercise or recreational activities. This could be going to a soccer field, playing active games, walking, going to or signing up for sports leagues. Any number of activities that can be done in groups are perfect to include the whole family in.
- Keeping mindful communication. As mentioned earlier, communication is key to understanding and reciprocating feelings. You’ll have to play an active listening role to get to know how the people around you are feeling and what you should do about it.
- Although this one may be difficult, and it will depend on your own preferences, it could involve going to church, answering philosophical questions, meditation, or a variety of other various forms of spiritual liberation. The primary point is to establish morals and gain an ethical understanding of the world.
Once you have a plan on how you are going to approach these key factors, the hard part is starting to change. Your significant other will also need to be willing to change or at least recognize that you want to improve and create a healthy family lifestyle.
Creating a lifestyle is all about building healthy family habits that let each person grow in their own way constructively. It’s all about teamwork and building upon the relationship that you all have as a family while letting your children and the people around you experience the world. Transparency, communication, and desire play a big role in leading a healthy family lifestyle.
What Habits Are Potentially Damaging to Your Family Relationship
While healthy family habits exist, so do destructive family habits. These can come in a great many forms and cause serious distress among family members. Although drugs, alcohol, and similar external substances can contribute to unhealthy family habits, detrimental actions come in many other forms too.
Communication problems are often the biggest failure among relationships. Lack of communication or constantly having overly heated disagreements are both bad ways to go about having a healthy family relationship. Your partner and other members of your family are not mind readers. You will have to ask or be told how they feel, what they want to do, and you should expect to be asked or share how you feel too. Communication requires two people to be actively involved, otherwise, it’s not going to be effective.
Leaving things to speculation or not being open and transparent about something is also just as damaging. Having the habit of going behind someone’s back to get or achieve something completely undermines the trust that they have placed in you. Lying or avoiding potentially hard conversations contribute to this. If you wait too long to talk about something, it might be too late to mend the damage that leaving it out of the conversation has caused.
Not being mindful of the other person can completely undermine them. It’s not difficult to take into account how someone might feel — you just need to ask. Supporting your family through mindful listening and taking into account how they feel about certain decisions.
Finally, there’s the lack of spending quality time together. Watching TV or other activities that don’t drive some interactions aren’t really good quality time activities. You might spend all day in the same room, but if you hardly talk to the other person, you are likely to both feel listless towards each other. You may need to create specific days such as date nights or do something that you enjoy together.
What Family Habits Can Contribute to Health Problems?
Health problems may arise from family habits later on too. Our families dictate much of what we do during the day or when we have free time. You’ll need to be aware that certain habits can contribute to serious health problems later on. Usually, it’s up to one or two people to get together and come up with ways to improve their overall health.
Here are common aspects of family living that contribute to health problems:
- Lack of diverse vegetable-filled meals
- Eating fast food or on-the-go
- Little to no exercise or living a sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of sleep
- Forgoing difficult activities such as going to the doctor
Long-term exposure or actively sustaining any one of these can lead to serious health risks later on. It could be that you develop diabetes, chronic fatigue, or cancer-related illnesses. Actively prolonging involvement of any one of these aspects is a damaging habit for any family.
How to Keep Your Family Healthy
Keeping your family healthy is much easier once you get started. It will take some hard work for everyone but giving family members tasks and being open about how you want to change for the better can help.
Here are a few ways you can keep your family healthy:
- Cook home meals or prepare meals ahead of time
- Get healthy groceries delivered
- Set a curfew or bedtime for yourself and other family members
- Exercise or go play actively somewhere
- Go to regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments
There are lots of helpful ways you can get healthy food to your door if you don’t have time to cook. Many grocery stores have started to open delivery options, curbside pickup, and there are even dedicated online grocery stores that prepare meals in advance that you just need to cook or warm up. Setting a schedule ensures that you set aside time to exercise and time to sleep during the day. Overworking and stress pile up if you don’t let yourself sleep properly. You can even set fitness goals for yourself and your whole family.
Maintaining healthy family relationships, habits, and lifestyles is not easy, but it’s important for you and your family’s well-being. Children have the most to gain from living in a loving, supportive environment with healthy habits and a clean lifestyle. Communication becomes easier with your family the more you do it, and eventually, it will become second nature to you. It’s up to you to start developing new healthy habits for your family today.
Assistant Clinical Director
Lesley McKinney, LPCC, is the Assistant Clinical Director at Sage Neuroscience Center, and an individual therapist. Lesley has been foundationaly trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and loves working with individuals who have struggled to find success in therapy. In her non-work time, she enjoys being with her two kids, husband, friends, and family. She is completing a Masters in Healthcare Administration to continue to work on improving access to mental health care to her home state of New Mexico.