Cincinnati Children's Blog

Resolve in 2011: spend more time with kids and adults

It seems the older we get, the years go by faster and faster. Thank goodness we work with kids, they keep us young. Good-bye 2010, hello 2011.

This time of year has us looking both backward and forward. For many people, it’s a time for New Year’s resolutions. It’s interesting that when you look at all the many different resolutions people make, almost all of them have to do with making healthier choices.

We’re glad to see that health plays such an important part in people’s lives, at least when they are looking for areas to make improvements in the coming year. We have to wonder, though, how long they keep up that focus. Being healthy needs to be a priority 365 days a year, not just during the holidays and a few weeks in the new year.

One of the keys to keeping new year’s resolutions, the “experts” say, is to make the goals realistic and measureable. That’s how we set goals at Cincinnati Children’s … as any regular reader of this blog knows, we measure everything. If you don’t, it’s impossible to know if you’re making progress. And if you don’t make the goals realistic, you’re bound to fail: that can be discouraging and cause you to give up.

And your health – and the health of our children — is too important to give up on.

Among the most popular resolutions are to lose weight, quit smoking, quit (or cut down on) alcohol consumption, get more (or enough) sleep and reduce stress in your life. All admirable and all things we recommend.

One that only rarely makes the lists though, is a resolution to spend more time socializing. That’s right: spend more time in the company of others. A recent study showed that for children, there’s a new R to add to the reading, ’riting and ‘rithmatic: relationships. Children do better when they have friends and spend time with them.

In the book “Bowling Alone,” author Robert Putnam makes the case that increasing our “social capital” makes us healthier, happier and stronger, both as people and a society. Social capital is a sociological concept to define connections within and between people and social networks. While the rise of Facebook and other forms of social media may bring us somewhat closer together, they are no substitute for real, in-person connections.

According to Putnam and Saguaro Seminar, we are much less connected than we were 25 years ago: there has been a 58 percent decrease in attending club meetings; we have friends over to our homes 35 percent less often; and we have 43 percent fewer family dinners. All this contributes to less trust among people and less ability to get things done on a broad, social scale. (Gridlock in Washington, anyone?)

And is it just a coincidence that with the decline in social capital we’re also a lot less healthy than we were two and half decades ago?

Socializing is not the cure all, we know that. But it obviously can’t hurt. (Putnam says that participating in just one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year.) So, call up a friend. Invite some folks over for dinner. Turn off the TV and talk to your kids.

And get 2011 off to a great start!

Happy New Year.


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