Jan 5, 2021, 11:58:13 AM CST Jul 16, 2021, 7:37:01 PM CDT

Healthy New Year's resolutions during COVID-19

How to set 2021 goals that promote physical and mental well-being

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2020 was a difficult year for many families. Months of navigating social distancing, changes and disappointments have left many people feeling mentally and physically drained.

"Children and adults are experiencing more isolation and anxiety in this time of uncertainty," says Katherine Bahcall, LPC, Behavioral Health Care Manager at Children's Health℠. "Generally, people thrive when following a routine and when they know what to expect. But this past year, in particular, that hasn't always been possible."

But there is good news: The end of 2020 brought great progress with the COVID-19 vaccine. And a new year offers a natural chance to pause, reflect and set goals to help your family feel healthier and happier.

"There's something special about a fresh start with a fresh calendar," says Brenda Olvera, Health Educator with Get Up & Go by Children's Health supported by Kohl's Cares. "It makes sense to take advantage of that extra motivation to take action and make positive changes to your life."

How do I set New Year's resolutions my family can keep?

Remember to keep your resolutions realistic. Set goals you're likely to stick with. And, if you make a misstep or two, don't quit. You can always restart.

Also, instead of broad goals – like exercising more or eating better – think in specifics. Resolutions are easier to follow if you identify smaller, more exact goals, such as walking for 30 minutes every day as a family or incorporating at least two healthy foods into every meal.

"Begin with a family meeting so everyone is on the same page," Olvera suggests. Involve everyone in the family in brainstorming ways to keep resolutions fun and on track. And lastly, when you accomplish a goal, make sure to celebrate. This can help give you a sense of achievement and the motivation to continue.

Healthy resolutions during COVID-19

This past year has shown how important it is to prioritize physical and mental well-being. Think of ways to establish healthy routines in 2021 – both for your mind and your body. Here are a few ideas for inspiration.

1. Find ways to stay connected with friends and family

At the beginning of the pandemic, your family might have thought of creative ways to stay in touch with loved ones from a safe distance. With the new year, consider a renewed commitment to connecting with others. "Socialization is an incredibly important part of children and teens' development," says Bahcall. "Whether it is through video chat dates, movie streaming parties or a simple phone call, encourage your child to connect regularly with family and friends."

2. Sit less

For many families, more time spent at home has meant less time spent moving. Too much sitting has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Make a point of encouraging regular physical activity as a family. See ideas to get moving this winter, or incorporate easy, indoor exercises for kids. Consider giving each family member a step counter and encourage everyone to get in at least 10,000 steps a day.

3. Stay engaged as a family

While your family may have spent more time under the same roof this past year, that doesn't always mean quality time together. Encourage family members to take a break from screen time to pursue activities as a family. Have a board game night. Read a book together. Hold a family dance party or make a family craft. Consider making a family calendar to schedule special time together throughout the week or month to help you connect. Or simply make an effort to check in consistently with each other – such as sharing a "high and low" each day at dinnertime.

4. Pursue a new hobby

Challenge everyone to use their increased time at home productively. Kids and parents alike could set goals to learn a new skill like learning to play an instrument, beginning scrapbooking, learning to knit or completing a 1,000-piece puzzle. A new hobby is also a way to fight boredom and COVID-19 fatigue.

5. Incorporate healthy meal planning

A healthy diet is important for everyone – especially for growing children. Use resources like MyPlate to build well-balanced family meals that include protein, grain and healthy fruits and vegetables. "Organizing your food pantry and refrigerator together is a great first step in a goal of healthier eating as a family," Olvera adds. See more tips for healthy eating at home.

6. Practice self-care

Leave room in schedules for self-care, relaxation and fun. Allow your kids time to process their feelings – good or bad – and share them. Encourage them to journal and to talk openly about their feelings. As a parent, give yourself time to take a break and recharge regularly, perhaps through a phone call with a friend or a long bath or a favorite TV show after kids are in bed.

7. Focus on healthy sleep

Sleep is vital for physical and mental health. Aim for a consistent and healthy sleep schedule. Keep cell phones and digital devices outside of bedrooms. Reducing the blue light – and the temptation for late-night scrolling – will improve everyone's sleep. See more tips for a good night's rest.

8. Drink more water

Drinking enough water may seem like a simple task, but it's one that can have many health benefits. Skip the sugary drinks and encourage everyone to drink at least four to eight cups of water a day, depending on their age. See more tips for staying hydrated.

9. Try a regular quiet time

Consider starting each morning with short, five-minute breathing exercise to help reduce stress and anxiety and begin mornings on a positive note. Or incorporate activities to introduce mindfulness into your family's daily routine.

10. Keep communication flowing

Make a new family goal to share daily affirmations with one another. Tell each child daily one thing you love about them or one thing they did that day that made you proud. Encourage siblings to do the same for one another. Or, find things to be grateful for and share with each other. You can write down something new to be grateful for every day of the new year.

Above all, go easy on yourself

Most importantly, approach your family resolution-making positively and with a dose of self-kindness. Think of your resolutions as an opportunity for growth, rather than as a burden.

After a challenging year, it's understandable if your family is able to set only one or two small goals for the coming year. Taking any step towards better mental and physical health is something to celebrate – no matter how modest that step may be.

"Give yourself grace in 2021," Bahcall says. "This coming year may continue to be filled with challenging decisions, hard conversations and difficult circumstances. Modeling healthy ways to cope with challenging situations is important for your children to see."

After a challenging year, approach #resolutions with a dose of self-kindness. Think of them as an opportunity for growth, rather than a burden. See 2021 resolution ideas that help physical & mental health from @Childrens.

Learn more about COVID-19

Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more tips to manage anxiety and encourage mental health during COVID-19, or view more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.

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