Jan 5, 2021, 11:58:13 AM CST Jan 5, 2022, 10:27:52 AM CST

Healthy New Year's resolutions during COVID-19

How to set goals for 2022 that promote physical and mental well-being

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There is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year. When 2021 arrived, along with COVID‑19 vaccines, everyone was hopeful that the year would be better. However, this past year remained challenging for many people – especially parents.

"Both children and adults have experienced more isolation, anxiety and depression during the pandemic," says Katherine Bahcall, LPC, Behavioral Health Care Manager at Children's Health℠. "Generally, people thrive when they know what to expect. But given the continued spread of COVID‑19 and its variants, that hasn't always been possible."

Many people are feeling physically and emotionally drained after living in uncertainty for nearly two years. Others have struggled to adjust back to normal routines, such as in-person school or activities. This fatigue, combined with other factors, may mean that your family has settled into unhealthy routines.

The good news is that a new year offers a natural chance to pause, reflect and set goals to help your family feel healthier and happier. As we begin 2022 – or at any point throughout the year – consider how your family is feeling and if there are any changes you want to make to improve your well-being.

"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 for 2022

This past year has shown how important it is to prioritize physical and mental well-being. Think of ways to establish healthy routines in 2022 – both for your mind and your body. Here are a few ideas for inspiration.

1. Connect 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 – and children 5 and older now able to get vaccinated – consider a a renewed commitment to connecting with others in safe ways.

"Socialization is an incredibly important part of children and teens' development," says Bahcall. "Many children have experienced increased separation anxiety this year and may need extra support and encouragement. If you’ve fallen into a routine of social isolation, think of ways to connect regularly with family and friends."

2. Get moving

For many families, the pandemic has meant less involvement in extracurricular activities – and more time spent at home. In addition, as overall time spent on screens increases, we’re spending less time moving. Too much sitting has been linked to health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

This year, think of ways to encourage 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

Your family may have spent more time together this past year, but that doesn't always mean quality time. Many parents have balanced work and child care – or may be feeling the added weight of parenting during a pandemic.

"Being at home doesn't always mean being present," says Bahcall. "It's easy to feel disengaged when you're juggling so much. Make an effort to be intentionally present, with the aim of enjoying time with your child."

This might mean setting aside a certain amount of time every day or week 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

A new hobby is one way to fight burnout and COVID‑19 fatigue. 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. Think of activities that give you joy but you haven’t made time to pursue. Consider hobbies that can replace screen time or excess time spent scrolling social media.

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. These are helpful ways to decrease feelings of stress and anxiety.

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 can 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.

"With uncertainty and stress comes difficulty with sticking to goals, but one step forward is better than no steps at all," says Bahcall. "I encourage families to make short-term and long-term goals, and celebrate every accomplishment, big and small."

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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