Person to Person: How Wellness Improves Relationships

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

Have you ever wanted to lose weight, quit smoking or conquer depression? It’s tough to scale these health issues that challenge us. After all, it takes a lot of determination to become healthier.

If you’re trying to actively motivate yourself to get healthier, think about your relationships. When you take good care of yourself, it will affect everyone around you.

For example, if you smoke outside your home to keep smoke away from your children, don’t fool yourself. While your children aren’t breathing your smoke, they are under the influence of your habits. Don’t be surprised if they take up smoking one day as well.

If you’re overweight, keep in mind that your kids and spouse will likely feel the impact. If you eat two helpings of dessert, your family members will likely follow you.

“It was hard to quit smoking for myself,” says a grandfather we’ll call Jonathan. “But, I have 10 grandchildren. What a bad example I was setting!”

Jonathan decided to ask his grandchildren to hold him accountable. He promised to take some of the grandkids hiking every Sunday, once he kicked the cigarettes. He took him two months, and he didn’t cheat. He actually had been free of smoking for 10 days when the first hike began.

“My wife and two of the grandchildren started getting motivated to lose weight,” says Jonathan. “The hiking helped, but I think my overall aim to make our family healthier influenced everyone.”

A friend of ours we’ll call Sally joined a Fifties dance class. Sally is 70 and she’s now 25 pounds lighter. The dancing helped, and she cut back on eating carbohydrates.

Sally’s wellness program gave her a brand new relationship, too. She just got engaged! She met her finance at the dance class.

Another one of our friends has significant health issues. Diabetes runs in her family, and four of her siblings have heart problems due to the diabetes. We’ll call her Karen.

“My siblings and I talk via Skype every night after dinner now,” Karen told us. “We are holding each other accountable for sticking with a healthy eating plan. Collectively, we’ve lost 80 pounds!”

Karen says their goal is to have a nice family photo made near Christmas time this year. They want to look healthy and vibrant in the picture.

An accountant we’ll call Robert says he and his wife both had knee problems. “Our knees were touchy and tender, so we had to sit down every 15 minutes,” he told us. We both lost a lot of weight, and now, we walk briskly in the park with no knee issues whatsoever.”

Robert says the physical exercise and feeling fit has improved their marriage. “My wife actually looks 15 years younger to me, now that she’s in good shape,” says Robert. “If you love someone, you want them to be at their very best. Half of feeling good is that you know you look pretty darned good. This affects your attitude, choices in life, and how you feel about being alive.”

Robert strongly believes that getting healthy is one of the best things we all could do to cut healthcare costs and help the economy. “Strong, healthy citizens would improve quality of life in this country,” says Robert.

We’re sure he’s right. Feeling healthy and strong makes any of us think more clearly, have patience with other people, and pay attention to doing more for those around us.
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe at Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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