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This article originally published on GetOld.com
It’s one thing when the kids are little. You can feel those big eyes looking up to you, watching, imitating, and learning.
You know — between the occasional curse word and outburst — that the pressure is on to behave and treat others as you want your children to behave and treat others. You understand how important it is to be a good – and healthy – role model.
It may be harder to remember when the kids are grown and out of the house, but today, it’s just as important — especially for your children and grandchildren. Here are some tips on how to be a healthy role model:
Be kind. It’s easy to get caught up in our own busy lives. Make an effort to be empathetic to everyone you meet and understand that we’re all dealing with our own challenges. Be nice to others, whether it’s your mail carrier, your restaurant server, your neighbors, grocery store clerk and anyone else. Kindness can be contagious, and it all starts with you.
Choose healthy foods. We’ve all gone out to eat with friends with the best intentions in mind — like ordering a salad. Then, one person at the table orders a hamburger and fries and that willpower melts away. It happens to the best of us. Remember, next time you go out to eat, that you could be the person to sway the table towards making healthy decisions. Raise your hand and order first. Order a salad and your friends may just follow suit. Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also treat yourself to a little dessert once in a while!
Expand your mind. We all tend to fall heavily into our own comfort zones and habits. We shop at one particular store, read a certain type of magazine or newspaper, attend the same church we’ve always gone to. Make an effort to leave that comfort zone and embrace other points of view. Visit a place of worship you’ve never been. Shop in a new part of town. Read books and articles you wouldn’t usually pick up. It might feel a little awkward at first, but when you share your experiences with others, you could inspire them to push their own boundaries, too.
Take care of yourself. Many of us get so caught up in taking care of others that we forget we also need to take care of No. 1. It’s the little things that can make a difference. For example, download a health tracker app to remind you to exercise regularly. Find healthy ways of relieving stress and make time to do things you love, whether it’s cooking, dancing, taking long walks with friends or other endeavors.
Do good things for other people. “Doing” is the best way to set an example, especially when those actions make a difference in another person’s life. By volunteering with a non-profit, you can make a regular commitment to a community in need. Or you could take a less regimented approach, and buy a stranger's groceries, coffee, or meal; lend a hand to friends and family in need; foster or adopt a pet from an animal shelter. By taking any of these approaches, you’re declaring that other lives are important to you, and worth dedicating your time and energy to.
Find a role model of your own. It’s one thing to set an example for others. But who’s setting an example for you? Look for a mentor or role model who inspires you, so that you have a role model for being, well, a role model. As any good role model knows, there’s always something new to learn, and great examples to follow.