The New Year often brings desires to get fit. Many people resolve to acquire a gym membership or take up running while others vow to remove unhealthy items from their diet. The resolutions truly depend on the individual’s definition of fitness.
These days, there is a greater focus on holistic fitness; remaining emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically fit, rather than merely focusing on the physical. Not striving for holistic fitness is to resolve to stay in a state of imbalance. And it’s not only the individual that needs to maintain balance, the family does, as well.
With regard to dysfunctional families, this is the very reason maladaptation occurs. The family system is a whole, and when one person becomes dysfunctional, the family follows; they maladapt. It is an effort to maintain a sense of homeostasis or balance.
In the aforementioned situations, at least one family member is in an extreme state of imbalance, so each family member begins to overcompensate and becomes imbalanced, as well. The only effective way to restore healthy functioning to the family is to address the imbalance within it, not merely in one individual, but within the whole family system.
Since fitness equates with health, and holistic health is the focus, holistic fitness for the whole family should be the goal. With an objective of fun, togetherness and mental wellness the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental needs are addressed in ways that make families holistically healthier and bring the individuals within the family system closer. Additionally, this objective seeks to prevent, or possibly intervene upon, individual and family dysfunction.
So, how can you strive for holistic fitness within your family? Here are three simple steps:
Keep it fun. The idea of having fun isn’t one that just appeals to kids. We all want and need fun in our lives. When we take life too seriously, we certainly find ourselves out of balance.
As such, it’s important to keep any aspect of holistic fitness fun for the whole family. Physical exercise should involve activities that appeal to everyone’s sense of play. Family sports, group walks, races and so on offer opportunities to enjoy the exercise experience, rather than seeing it as a task.
When developing mental fitness, family game time involving board games, puzzles, reading and story times, etc., give everyone an opportunity to exercise their minds while enjoying the laughter that typically accompanies these activities.
For emotional fitness, focus on daily and weekly family gatherings such as walks, dinners and family meetings during which opinions and experiences from each family member are shared, heard and addressed by others within the family. Employing the “High-Low” game, an activity that involves each member of the family expressing one high and one low from the day, during each evening’s family dinner is a great way to spark this practice.
With regard to spiritual fitness, remember, force is never fun. Finding ways to incorporate stories, reading, games, interactive ceremony, leadership opportunities for the kids, etc., is a great way to keep family members invested in their own spiritual health and that of the family.
Stay together. Togetherness is key to step No. 1. Without it, the family doesn’t function as a whole and, instead, becomes divided.
If there is extreme dysfunction within the family due to abuse, chemical dependency or untreated mental illness, measures to address this will likely involve physical separation and possibly divorce. Though the latter is never a first resort, it can certainly happen. When and if that is the case, togetherness for the family that remains in the new normal is vital to restore healthy functioning. As such, employing opportunities to be together and reassure young children of their newfound emotional and physical safety and sense of belonging is even more important.
Maintain mental wellness. Certainly, if the aforementioned scenario rings true, mental wellness for the family is a top priority on the list. In that particular situation, outside professional help is required to assess any emotional/psychological damage and address any unresolved issues.
However, regardless of the existence or lack of extreme dysfunction, every family needs to make efforts to maintain mental wellness. Whether that comes in the form of addressing current thoughts, feelings and experiences via weekly family meetings or those resulting from the past via family counseling sessions, families need to focus on mental health of each individual member and the family system, as a whole.
Remember, as an individual, your holistic health is the key to achieving personal potential and quality of life. The same goes for your family, the family’s ability to reach its potential and enjoy quality of life as a whole. However you define family, let the focus for your family be on holistic fitness in the New Year.
By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.