This time of the year has a reputation for dishing out some “bah-humbug” moments with added stress, more demands than time can manage, deadline pressures, budget considerations, relationship dynamics, long lines and slow check-outs at stores, crowded places and even more temptations of tables full of sugary, unhealthy treats.
But actually, the holidays present some great opportunities to nourish your body, mind and spirit — even in the face of added demands. And while the dose of what makes you happy and content may look different from others — here are some ways you can indulge during the season and reap huge health benefits.
• Catch up with old friends or enjoy a special holiday event. Humans are social creatures and research shows that people with good social support generally live longer and healthier than those who are isolated. Social engagement improves feelings of well-being while combating those of depression. And it is key to improving your memory, cognitive skills and overall brain health — decreasing the risk of developing dementia. And, too, it strengthens your immune system (which during flu season is critical). LOADING…
• Combine your holiday shopping with physical activity at the store or mall. Walking is linked to a myriad of health benefits including a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and diabetes. And it helps you to maintain an optimal weight. The weather is climate-controlled and you can walk comfortably, without suffering from the cold, rain, sleet, hail or snow. And, there are some beautiful sights, sounds and holiday smells, as well as security and bathrooms — all can be beneficial while getting your shopping done.
• Listen to seasonal music, or any type of music that you love and inspires you . Music treats your senses, your emotions and connection with your body in a very healthy manner. Listening to tunes you like have been shown to help lower stress levels (which in itself has a ton of health benefits), pain, and anxiety and improve mood, memory, learning, concentration and physical performance.
• Be active in your self-care and mindful that you don’t deprive yourself time to refuel. Experts agree that self-care needs to be something you actively plan, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such for your mental, physical and emotional well-being. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others to increase your commitment, and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care. You must plan to indulge in things that truly feed you in a healthy way. Instead of lamenting all the holiday foods you shouldn’t eat, focusing on the delicacies you can enjoy that are truly nutritive.
• Avoid “Holiday Perfectionism.” It’s natural to want the best for your loved ones. However, imposing impossible standards when it comes to decorating, attending or throwing too many holiday parties, cooking of meals, gift giving (or receiving), or traveling — that can seldomly be achieved by normal human beings — often results in greater stress and disappointment. This is a time of sharing and celebrating, and the goals should be to create memories and have fun in the process. Create a “to-do” list and calendar. Help decrease circuit overload by setting realistic goals, maintaining balance and creating boundaries. Be discriminating and rank to-do’s as “need to do” or “nice to do.” You can eliminate some “nice to do’s output.” Remember, “a must” is to set some time to enjoy relaxing to “take in” this holiday.
• Don’t cheat yourself — enjoy an occasional treat. They are called treats for a reason. Save “that favorite treat” for a “once-in-a-while” reward. Try to remain organic and fresh, but if it is Auntie’s cake you have longed for — have one slice. As long as you eat a nutritious diet most of the time, that’s what matters. Or, maybe for you it’s going out by yourself to shop, alone. Or, to buy that little something special you know, no one else knows you want. Maybe it’s a slower morning or having coffee in bed instead of racing off to accomplish all your “to do’s.” Or, maybe even someone else makes the coffee and serves it. Figure out what that treat is for you and those you love — and treat yourself (and them) every once in a while!
Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions for Dr. Nina to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Dr. Nina” in the subject line. This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional. Dr. Nina Radcliff