What is Wellness?
Our society has become very concerned with the idea of wellness. A simple search on the Internet yields a plethora of websites dedicated to improving our wellness (including one for our pets!). But what is wellness? Dr. Bill Hettler, of the National Wellness Institute, defined six components to wellness: physical, intellectual, occupational, social, emotional, and spiritual.1 These six dimensions are areas in which we can exert some control over our lives by modifying our behaviors.
- Physical : diet, exercise, medical care
- Intellectual: problem solving, creativity, learning
- Occupational: personal satisfaction, achievement, ambition
- Social: personal relationships, community, connection with nature
- Emotional: awareness and acceptance of feelings, trust, respect
- Spiritual: meaning and purpose, beliefs, values
Here are 5 tips to help improve your family's wellness:
1. Cook with your kids
Instead of picking up dinner on the way home or popping something frozen into the microwave or oven, consider gathering up the whole crew to help make dinner at least once per week. You will probably prepare a healthier meal, have quality family time to talk and laugh, teach your children about mathematics and science through the cooking process, gain feelings of satisfaction for a well made meal, and start some long remembered family traditions. (And if the meal fails and you end up ordering pizza, at least you have a great story to tell at the holidays!) Remember that cooking with the whole family may take a little longer and require more patience, so plan your family cooking nights when you are not coming home late from work or having to run off to another activity. Here are some websites to help:
2. Family night
Designate one night a week as "family night" and plan to do an activity together. One idea is to play a board game as a family. Board games can teach children life skills and will provide opportunities for problem solving, learning how to deal appropriately with losing (and winning), lots of stress relief, and creativity. Other ideas include camping in the back yard (complete with a campfire and s'mores), family slumber party, annual awards ceremony (celebrate your family’s amazing accomplishments over the year), art evenings (make holiday cards instead of buying them), assemble puzzles, go stargazing—the possibilities are endless! The below website has a multitude of games from which to choose:
3. Hold regular family meetings
Children like to be part of the decision-making process. Weekly family meetings can allow even young children to help plan meals, determine who will do what chores, what activities the family will engage in, and the establishment of family rules and consequences. Talking to children about the family's finances in an age appropriate way can allow them to take a more invested role in caring for their belongings. The Family Meetings website is a wonderful resource for this.
4. Open those scrapbooks or photo albums
If you already have family albums, take time to review them. Bonding over shared memories and experiences can be a great stress reliever and allows each member of the family to see how much they have grown over the years. For younger or adopted children, reviewing family albums can give them a stronger sense of belonging to extended family members. Remember to add to your albums or scrapbooks, If you don't have pictures, have everyone journal about their experience and add those pages to your memories.
Find opportunities in your neighborhood or city and volunteer as a family. Clean up a stretch of beach or highway, help build a home, serve a meal at a homeless shelter, plant trees—there are no shortages of ways you can help. Volunteering connects your family with the community you live in, promotes a sense of accomplishment and pride, and helps teach children life skills and critical thinking. The following websites are a great starting point for finding a volunteer opportunity for your family:
These simple activities can help address all six areas of wellness for your family. Remember to have fun—your family is worth it!
Our Favorite Resources for Family Wellness
Apps available through iTunes
Family Traditions, Customs, and Celebrations
Developer: IndiaNIC Infocom Limited
This app includes information on a variety of family traditions that you can borrow for your family including some for Christmas, birthdays, and invented holidays.
Family Fun – Family Friendly Activities
Developer: Fireside Interactive, L.L.C.
A resource for fun, novel, and interactive activities that families can do together to help contribute to a stronger relationship between parent and child.
This site comes from Nemours, one of the largest nonprofit organizations devoted to children's health, and has information available in print and in an audio format on how to prepare for the first day of school.
Founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz, HealthCorps is a “proactive health movement.” They focus on education, community outreach, and advocacy. On this site you can find information and tools for schools, communities, and individuals.
A competition sponsored by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign for games or software programs that will help kids, especially those from 9 – 12 years old, eat healthier and be more physically fit.
Developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, this site provides an abundance of information on all aspects of health of children from conception to 21 years of age.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Child Development
When she's not out being a weekend warrior, camping in her travel trailer, Melissa is the supervisor of Children's Home Society's dependency adoption program in South Florida and an adjunct instructor with Kaplan University's Human Services Department.
Melissa has experience working with children and families in the foster care system, early childhood development, and children with serious special needs, including physical and mental diagnoses. She has a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Houston (along with a minor in religious studies) and a master's degree in social work from Barry University.
Melissa enjoys sharing her experiences with her classes and tries to inject humor and enthusiasm into every interaction with her students. Besides teaching and finding forever families for children in care, Melissa's passions include theatre, singing, having culinary adventures, and exploring the rich diversity of other cultures.
1. Six Dimensional Model of Wellness from National Wellness Institute.