It’s official. The holiday season is here and there is no doubt it is likely to feel very different this year. However, it is a time we should fully enjoy so how do we manage to have healthy holidays after such a difficult year?
Having Healthy Holidays is Possible
The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time of celebration and positive emotions such as happiness, gratitude, and high spirits. However, for those who lack time, money, or become caught up in the excesses of the season, this time of year may be quite stressful, especially after all the events of 2020. It can also be difficult for those faced with a chronic illness or recent loss. Here are my top 7 tips for having happy and healthy holidays.
1 When Shopping, Commit to a Spending Plan
First, create a spending plan for your holiday shopping. Next, instead of buying a gift for each person in the family, consider drawing names, with each person listing a few desired items within a specific price range. This can simplify gift exchange by providing a gift that is truly wanted and within your budget. Healthy food items can provide excellent gifts (see next tip).
2 Consider Giving Healthy Food Items
Show that you are health conscious by giving a food item with a short note about why it’s healthy. Wrap the item with decorative paper, bows, or use food tins. These are great gifts to have handy, especially when you need to give an “unexpected” gift. You may have to do some research, but that shows your commitment to health. Here are some ideas:
- Organic dark chocolate bar with a note about the benefits of chocolate
- Homemade fruit preserves loaded with antioxidants, not sugar
- Homemade dehydrated apple chips with cinnamon as a healthy snack
- Organic coffee beans with a note about coffee’s nutritional benefits
- Holiday cookies (oatmeal or coconut macaroons) made with half the sugar and more fiber
- Homemade salsa and a bag of organic corn chips
3 Limit Alcohol and Sugar-filled Beverage Intake
Moderate amounts of alcohol may temporarily relieve stress and increase enjoyment, but research shows that alcohol consumption can trigger overeating. The holidays can also be a time for high-sugar beverages such as eggnog, hot chocolate, and apple cider. Create some “mocktails” with seltzer water and fresh fruit for a low calorie, tasty, and antioxidant-filled alternative. Make hot chocolate with unsweetened almond milk and raw cacao.
Instead of starting every day with a coffee, try a glass of warm water and add the juice from half of a lemon before your coffee. This is a great way to jump-start your metabolism and rehydrate after a night of sleep. Staying well-hydrated is key to staying healthy through the holidays.
4 Healthy Holidays Include Gratitude
For the rest of December, start each day listing three things for which you are grateful and write it down. This may be different every day. Refer to this list during some of the more stressful times. Although 2020 had many challenges, the year also offered opportunities for new growth. I am grateful for being able to learn the technology involved with virtual meetings.
5 Be More Physically Active
Take advantage of every chance to move more during the holidays. This is a time when workouts often suffer and most people think “I’ll start fresh after New Year’s.” The pandemic brought many challenges for regular workouts, especially with fitness centers being closed. Take advantage of virtual workouts in your home.
If you want to maintain health momentum during the holidays and be ahead of the rest, then consider the following:
- Exercise early in the morning to avoid interference with holiday obligations that may occur later in the day.
- Maintain regular exercise, even if you have to decrease your regular workout schedule by one workout per week.
- When wrapping gifts, do it standing around a large table as this expends more energy than sitting.
- Put on some holiday music and dance whenever possible.
- Cooking and cleaning are great ways to increase activity.
- Take a 10-minute power walk around your neighborhood after a meal.
- If you cannot avoid missing a workout, do some exercises at home that use your body weight such as push-ups, jumping jacks, marching in place, or jump rope.
6 Breathe Through Stressful Situations
Try this 1-minute breathing exercise daily (or whenever you are experiencing stress) to help you slow down, boost energy, and oxygenate your blood:
- Inhale to a count of two; exhale to a count of two,
- Inhale to a count of two; exhale to a count of three,
- Inhale to a count of two; exhale to a count of four,
- Inhale to a count of two; exhale to a count of five
- Return to normal breathing and repeat as often as needed.
7 Set Realistic Goals for the New Year
What is it that you want to accomplish in the new year? Saving money, creating an exercise plan, reading or listening to a certain number of books, making your bed every morning, walking the dog regularly, improving your wardrobe, working with a charity, engaging in regular self-care, cooking healthy, taking an art class, learning a new skill – whatever is it, be sure to set a realistic goal and pick just one or two things. Make it stick and commit to your goals. Small changes over time can lead to more permanent results.
Make Immune Health a Priority
This is a time when all the excesses of the season and pandemic news can take a toll on our immune system. This includes stress; lack of sleep, sunshine, and activity; too much sugar, wheat, and alcohol; and a decrease in vegetable intake. Laugh often since daily laughter is related to a boost in immune function.
Lastly, remember that the holidays should be joyous. Don’t sweat the small stuff and strive for progress, not perfection. Be grateful. Be kind. Be patient. Help others. Be an example and inspire others. Happy holidays!