Here we are: 2008. Each year, many of us make resolutions and then quickly forget them. For our children’s health and wellness, let’s resolve to make this year something special.
New Year’s is in part about resolutions: wishes for the year to come. On everyone’s list is usually something about eating healthier, exercising more and being less stressed. These are often cited as personal goals, but more importantly, they are core integrative principles that we can use to chart a course towards a healthier future for our children.
I happily noted that in yesterday’s New York Times Science section, there were a few articles along these lines. Jane Brody’s “Personal Health” piece (No Gimmicks) mentions the growing recognition of obesity’s contribution to developing cancer. Certainly a commitment to better nutrition will help stem the rising tide of obesity, diabetes and other associated ills plaguing our youth. The “Vital Signs” column discusses the timely concept of video games and exercise. Turns out Nintendo’s Wii is better than other games re: caloric burn (as expected) but far inferior to good, old-fashioned physical activity (which costs a lot less). Having spent part of my New Year’s Eve watching my kids and our friends’ children play the Wii game “Boogie” – dance fever meets karaoke – I have to say, if you’re going to let your kids play video games (which we don’t own… yet, by the way), it’s pretty cool to see them jitterbugging around while doing it. And for those about to chastise me, we did go skiing that morning, too, for what it’s worth.
The less stress part is always tougher. Not sure if we can make the world less stressful, but all of us can probably do a better job coping with the stress in our lives. Children need to learn these skills early in life, and they are wonderful at using their imaginations to do so. I am a big believer in the concept of mindfulness. Simply defined, mindfulness is just paying attention to the moment you’re in. Noticing it, valuing it for what it is. Mindfulness should be part of parenting and educational initiatives everywhere. There are many ways to cultivate mindfulness. MBSR, or mindfulness-based stress reduction, is probably the most popular and widely studied. Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting,” is a terrific model for parents new and old. My good friend and colleague Pamela Miles has developed another terrific tool – a meditation CD with Indian bansuri flute master Steve Gorn, from which the listener can arrange tracks to suit her preferences. The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society has a great image, the Tree of Contemplative Practices, which beautifully illustrates the various ways to be more mindful – under the heading of whatever works for you. I think this concept has great repercussions for children’s health, as well as the world at large. How we treat each other, how we care for the less fortunate and for those who can’t help themselves – well, it all depends on how we take stock of our own lots in life.
Our children are desperately in need of our support, and they are our future. Here’s hoping 2008 is the year we, as a society, finally get that.