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UPMC Physician: Make New Year’s Resolutions a Family Affair

New Year’s resolutions can be helpful for developing healthy habits, and habits are easier to stick to if you’re not in it alone. Why not try resolutions the whole family can be involved with? They can be excellent motivators for parents trying to start their kids on some healthier habits and are a great opportunity for bonding.

When you start to think about creating these resolutions, it is important to not push your goals on the whole family. Make choosing these resolutions a family affair — it will only work if every family member feels invested in the goal.

Here are 10 ideas to help get you and your family started with creating new, healthier habits in 2023:

Limit Screen Time

Parents are usually just as guilty as their kids for walking around looking at their phones and other devices. Most cell phones have a screen-time tracker, or you can use one of many apps available to track and limit the amount of time you spend on your screen. Don’t forget other devices as well like televisions and tablets. Look at your current usage and establish limits to reduce dependence on screens. Consider replacing screen time with fun family activities such as board games, art projects, or reading time.

Don’t Sleep with Your Phone

According to recent surveys, 65.7% of Americans admit to sleeping with their phone at night and 65.6% of people say they check their phones up to 160x a day, that’s once every nine minutes. We can all make excuses as to why we always need our phone by our sides — it is our alarm clock, we read before bed on it, and it is our only phone for emergencies — but that constant need to be connected can affect your physical and mental health, especially sleep. The bedroom is for sleeping and having your phone nearby can interrupt healthy sleep. If you must have it in your room, plug it in across the room, not within arm’s reach, and consider your devices “do not disturb” function during certain hours of the day.
Avoid Texting and Using Your Phone in the Car

We all know it isn’t safe to text and drive, but just using the cell phone in the car can be a distraction for everyone. Use the time in the car to concentrate on the road or talk to your kids in the back seat. Drive time can also be a bonding time for the whole family.
Exercise Together

Exercising together gets everyone up and moving. According to the Center for Disease Control, 30% of adults in Pennsylvania are obese, and nationally one in five children are considered obese. Obesity, especially in children and adolescents, can have lasting effects on health. One of the simplest ways we can fight obesity is to be more active. Try a family exercise plan. Local gyms and studios offer a wide range of classes, and many activities are available on the internet so you can easily create an exercise class right in your living room. Not a gym family? Go for a bike ride, walk, or hike, or start a family sport league with other families and friends. Try something new and work up a sweat and potentially some laughs.

Eat Dinner Together

Eating together means sitting at the same table together, not just eating at the same time. Eating dinner together is important for many reasons. Not only is this precious family time spent together, you also have the opportunity to promote healthy eating habits. Since you are planning a family meal, now is the time to add more fruits and vegetables to the menu. Try a plant-based meal one night a week to show your family that vegetables can be a tasty menu option.

Eliminate Soda

A 12-ounce can of soda contains approximately 40 grams of sugar — equivalent to 10 teaspoons. Soda is loaded with sugar and provides no nutritional value. While it’s okay as a treat occasionally, habitual drinking increases your risk for obesity, high blood sugar, and developing diabetes. Switch out your sugary drinks for water. Not into plain water? Consider adding fresh fruit to your water for natural flavoring – or try seltzer water which can give you the fun bubbles found in soda. Switching regular soda to diet can make you hungrier and it is not considered a healthy alternative, so it best to avoid any kind of soda.

Limit Fast Food

Sometimes your lifestyle demands a quick meal. As you run from basketball practice to band concerts, you just need to get food in your stomach. The key is to limit the amount of fast food your family consumes. Put a limit on how often you hit the drive-thru, and plan when possible to have healthy snacks or portable meals perfect for on-the-go.

Start a Weekly Family Night

Family time should be quality time — time that you spend building memories which your kids will carry with them throughout life. Whether you plan a movie night, game night, a simple craft you can all enjoy, or a quiet reading hour, it is important to have planned family time. Cherish the time you have together and make sure to incorporate some laughter.
Volunteer as a Family

Teaching your children the importance of giving back should start at a young age. Most communities have families in need of support and services. Check with local churches, community organizations, or at the local hospital — there may be an event you can make even more special by lending a hand.
Start a Gratitude Jar

It is easy to get caught up in complaining about what is wrong in life, but we all have something we can be grateful for every day. Start a gratitude jar. Grab a container from the cupboard and some small sheets of paper. Have every family member write something they are grateful for every week and read them back at the end of the month, year, or whenever your family may not be feeling so grateful.

New Year’s resolutions are a great way not only to let your children participate in an annual tradition, but it can spark a conversation that gets the whole family on a path to having a healthier and happier new year.

Make New Year’s Resolutions a Family Affair
By Sunkesula Sagar, D.O.
UPMC Primary Care

Sunkesula Sagar, D.O., is with UPMC Primary Care and sees patients at Family Medicine at Montoursville, 900 Plaza Dr., Montoursville. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Sagar, call 570-368-3321. For more information, visit