A happy and healthy family: We look at how to achieve balance

From nutrition to sleeping patterns, we look at how to achieve balance for a happy and healthy family.

In our fast-paced modern world, stress levels are high and family relationships feel the strain. As Andrew Ketteringham, chairman of Relate, explains, “Our personal relationships are even more important to us in this age of austerity, as we turn to them for support.”

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In a recent survey conducted by Relate, 38% of people admitted financial worries had led to more family arguments and tension, with 93% of subjects expressing that, in tough times, their family ties were crucial to them. Work and home–life pressures are certainly causing divisions within the valuable family unit. So what can be done to reduce this stress, and boost our scores in the happiness stakes?

Nutrition plays a key part in increasing and stabilising moods, as well as lessening fatigue. The secret is a healthy, balanced diet. When exhaustion hits, give your body the tools it needs to fix itself. High-protein foods such as meat, fish and eggs, are essential for repair, as protein awards the body 10-15% of its dietary energy.

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Avoid foods that are high in sugar. Although offering an instant lift, these foods quickly wear off, leading to sharp dips in mood and energy. Experts recommend choosing foods with a low GI (glycaemic index), as they have lower sugar levels and provide slow burning, longer lasting energy.
Monounsaturated fats, such as the fatty acid omega-3 (commonly found in fish) are suggested to be a great eliminator of the blues, whilst keeping the brain healthy.

Exercise is also hugely beneficial in maintaining a happy home, as it keeps the body in shape, as well as relieving mental tension through the release of endorphins. However, busy lives and tight schedules make exercising difficult for many, with research demonstrating that three-fifths of Brits avoid exercise altogether.
The government’s recommended level of exercise is three times per week and as little as 20-30 minutes of activity each day can have substantial benefits.

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Exercising as a family is also a great means of bonding and strengthening relationships. Long walks, bike rides, and swimming are but a few examples of group exercises which provide enjoyment, strengthen bonds and ensure copious health benefits for the individual – both physically and mentally.

Sleep is a crucial factor in increasing happiness levels. Research carried out at Surrey University confirmed that lack of sleep disrupts the productivity of hundreds of genes, including those linked to the immune system, the metabolism and the body’s response to stress.

Experts advise to stick to a daily routine and to limit naps in order to train your circadian clock. Naps, if essential, should be no longer than 30 minutes to evade long-term sleep disruption.

Avoid caffeine before bedtime and choose a calming nighttime routine. Reading, listening to soft music and having a tranquil bath all aid in relaxation. Try herbal teas infused with chamomile (Matricaria recutita), catnip (Nepeta cataria), or passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), which are all shown to assist in winding down.

Recent surveys suggest that one third of individuals do not put time aside in the evening to detach from the day’s activities. But, when it comes to reducing stress and regaining mental equilibrium, this truly is key. Prioritise bonding time, leisure activities and methods of relaxation to successfully restore a harmonious balance to your family life.

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