These days ‘wellbeing’ is a bit of a buzz word, but it’s not one that should be taken lightly. Endeavouring to improve your own wellbeing and that of your family is a worthwhile pursuit, as positive wellbeing can affect every aspect of your life.
Wellbeing is a slippery concept, in that a sense of wellbeing for one person may look completely different for another. So from a general stand point, wellbeing is not black and white: it’s not just an absence of illness or disease. It is a combination of all aspects of health; physical health, mental, social and emotional health. It is also strongly linked to overall satisfaction with life.
There are numerous factors that influence feelings of wellbeing and there are things that you can do, both on an individual level and in an effort to improve your family’s wellbeing. One of the key factors in increased feelings of wellbeing is rest; getting enough good quality sleep is essential to all aspects of health and it can positively impact physical and mental health in profound ways[i]:
While we sleep a growth hormone is released – so for children, this is when they grow. For adults, this growth hormone is what’s behind your body’s repair work – it heals the day-to-day damage of cells and tissue. Enough sleep will also improve your overall health by strengthening your immune system, so you’ll be less likely to catch a cold, or other virus that’s in the air[ii].
Quality sleep also improves learning and memory. Research has shown that this is the case for both children and adults. If you’re spending time driving your family around it’s worth remembering that having enough sleep improves driver safety, as sleep deprivation can impact driving ability in similar ways to alcohol[iii] [iv].
Enough sleep will also help regulate your hormones, which in turn contributes to weight-management and appetite control. Moods are also positively affected by getting enough sleep. You and your family are less likely to have problems with depression, anxiety, migraine and other headaches if you are well rested[v].
Parents of babies or young children know that getting a decent night’s sleep is essential for family life to function smoothly and happily, but sometimes it can be difficult. Particularly in the summer months, when the hot weather settles in and the heat makes it uncomfortable to sleep well.
Sleep experts from Flinders University in South Australia found that a low core body temperature is most conducive to sound sleep. The ideal room temperature is said to be between 15 and 19ºC. If you have air conditioning, setting your night time temperature to reflect this is an easy way to increase your chances of achieving sound sleep in your household.
Research in the UK[i] has found six other key themes that influence family wellbeing. These key areas are detailed below; along with ways you can focus on these to help improve your family’s wellbeing.
- Food and eating: this covers the nutritional value of food, and the social connection that meal times provide. Eating a whole foods diet is especially important if you have young children. Whole foods provide all the nutrients children need, without the sugar and other additives that can impact energy and mood.
- Social and familial connection: high levels of social and familial support and connection can influence physical, mental and emotional health. Research has shown that not having close personal connections is a major health risk. Sitting down to at least one meal a day, making time for a cuddle and creating a home that is a ‘haven’ goes a long way to fostering these connections.
- Physical activity: moving your body has a major impact on overall health and wellbeing. Research in the UK found that adults that are physically active reduced their risk of premature death by 20 to 30 percent, and a 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing major chronic diseases. Children love to be outdoors so a walk to the park, or a bike ride with your little one will tick the wellbeing boxes for both the kids and the grownups.
- Play: particularly play that promotes awareness and curiosity, (which is related to mindfulness) has been shown to deepen feelings of positive wellbeing. A game of hide and seek, a run around the park or a nature walk are examples of play that promote awareness and curiosity. Combining the physical activity with the play aspects of wellbeing will benefit everyone.
- Learning: continuous learning has been shown to improve wellbeing as both standard education and adult learning (studying by choice) can equip the individual with important life skills which form an important part of wellbeing. Babies and children are like sponges and are curious and eager to learn. Simple fun activities that include an aspect of exploration will feed their little brains.
- Giving: not just financial giving, but giving of time and energy, particularly to community projects or organisations has also shown to have a significant impact on wellbeing. Getting involved in a community play group has great benefits for the whole family. Volunteering for a role within these child-focused community groups brings great satisfaction for both parents and children. If you have older children, getting involved in their school community is another meaningful way to make a contribution[i].
These key areas can significantly affect overall wellbeing. Endeavouring to improve on all these aspects is a great start; good quality sleep underpins these aspects. As a society we undervalue sleep and the significant impact that it can have on our health and wellbeing.
You can work on eating, connection, physical activity, play, learning and giving, but if you are not getting enough sleep it is unlikely you will see any long-lasting improvements in wellbeing. With summer on the way, planning ahead so that you don’t need to compromise sleep is a good idea. The best way to do this is to sleep in a temperature controlled environment. A reverse cycle ducted air-conditioning system is a good way to control the temperature in the home, so you can all enjoy the benefits of sleeping well[vi].
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