The holidays can represent the best time of year for healthy living, as it is a time when many people can focus on a mind-body-soul connection. However, stress, heavy traffic, sold-out store items and bad weather can interrupt that healthy and wholesome way of life for many. How can you maintain that holiday season joy and love for both yourself and those around you?
The following ten easy, healthy living tips may help you keep your focus during the upcoming holiday season. These tips are divided into categories for mind (as in stress management), body and soul, and each link leads to more information about each topic.
Mind (stress management)
- Spend some time alone: Use this time to meditate, read or relax. Regain your equilibrium and remember that this time of year is a special time for friends and family.
- Avoid unnecessary travel: One way to keep your peace of mind is to stay home. But, if you need to travel, plan your trips to combine errands or — on longer trips — plan to drive at night and to avoid large cities during rush hours. If you’re caught in rush hour, make sure you have some music or a book on tape with you to help pass time.
- Watch the anger: Stress can lead to anger, which can often lead to more stress (and may be linked to heart problems). Help yourself during bouts of anger by counting to ten and visualizing a relaxing experience. Additionally, if you can refuse to buy into another person’s anger, that moment may diffuse.
- Don’t overspend: Your daughter/son/husband/wife or friends may prefer spending more time with a cheerful you than with whatever you got on sale during Black Friday. Avoid the temptation to overspend, and you can avoid stress as well.
- Allow someone to help you: Why do you want to do everything yourself? Clone yourself by allowing a friend to help you with chores, managing kids or cooking (try a potluck for the holidays, rather than take on all the cooking yourself). You might enjoy the company and you can avoid stress at the same time. You might want to offer some fruit (or a gift card) for their efforts.
- Balance work, play and family life: What better time to learn how to balance your life than during the holidays? Parties, family events and other social activities basically demand that you stop working for at least a few hours. You can continue this practice long after the holiday season.
- Be creative: Think outside the box when problems arise. Use humor, rather than anger, to find resolutions. Open your mind to the new and unusual and think about how you might incorporate those new ideas into your life.
- Smile: Smiling can make you feel relaxed and happy, even when you don’t mean it. You can tilt your neurochemical balance toward calm by smiling, as smiling transmits nerve impulses from the facial muscles to the limbic system, a key emotional center in the brain.
- Watch your weight: Sure, those candies are tempting and you don’t want to hurt Aunt Cookie’s feelings by passing them up. But, eat one item instead of two to help maintain your weight and to keep the peace. Eat before you attend parties so you’re not so hungry when you arrive.
- Drop caffeine and soda: Get a jump start on a possible New Year’s resolution by weaning yourself off caffeine and sodas. Wean yourself away from caffeine slowly, otherwise you might end up with a caffeine-withdrawal headache that could last for a few days. Substitute herbal teas for hot and cold drinks. After a few days without sodas, you might wonder why you thought they tasted so good…
- Use locally-grown ingredients: While you may stick with traditional recipes, try to use locally-grown ingredients as much as possible. Perhaps a farm up the road sells chickens, or maybe you can buy some fresh eggs or herbs to supplement your meals. Using local ingredients is environmentally sound as well as healthy.
- Drink plenty of water: Water can help to keep hunger at bay as well as to help hydrate you when you are subjected to dry air in heated environments. Water also helps your body eliminate toxins, such as those martinis you had the night before.
- Keep your body moving: It’s a given that most people eat more during the holidays. If you move more as well, you can keep your metabolism running and help burn those extra calories. Take stairs when possible, stand rather than sit, and offer to clean the table after dinner — not really exercise, but it all counts.
- Wash your hands often: Washing your hands often is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer if you can’t get to a sink and soap.
- Stay warm: If it’s cold, then dress warmly in layers of loose-fitting tightly-woven clothing. This way you can shed some layers if the day warms up or if you spend some time visiting indoors. Be sure that infants and older adults, especially, are dressed warmly.
- Travel safely: Don’t drink and drive (and don’t allow others to drink and drive), wear a seat belt and don’t speed. You also can put an kit in the trunk for emergencies that includes blankets, band-aids, aspirin and other first-aid items.
- Treat yourself to a massage: Not only can a massage help release toxins physically, it can help you release negative and stressful energy. Think of the massage as a gift to yourself for the holiday season; but, you might think about doing this several times per year. You, after all, deserve it.
- Volunteer: You might gain a grasp on your own fortune when you offer to help others. Work in a soup kitchen, take a meal to an elderly neighbor or look for local events that need volunteers.
- Count your blessings: What better time to be grateful than when you’re stuck in a traffic jam? You can begin by understanding that you’re not alone in that traffic jam and then work up from there. You can end by understanding that you are the only person in this universe who is exactly like you – a unique and amazing creation.
- Forget comparisons: One way to spoil your holiday is to compare yourself to who you see as the most beautiful/talented/charming, etc. person in the room. Stop those comparisons and you may begin to feel the love — from yourself and from others.
- Let go of expectations: The holidays often provide a time for expectations, especially in the gift-giving department. If you can let go of the material and remember the spirit of the season (better to give than receive), then you might enjoy whatever you do receive with a bigger heart.
- Make your heart bigger: This is an exercise in appreciating beauty in all forms and the elimination of a need to nit pick and point out flaws. Everyone is a unique soul, different than you. This does not make them better than you, nor does it make them less than you. Insults and judgments, even if they are not voiced, might only serve to increase your own insecurities. This process may begin with self acceptance.
- Let go of the need to control: While you can continue to make that dinner for friends and family, you can stop worrying about whether the gravy is just right or if the meat is overcooked. Relax, enjoy, and understand that the world will go on despite small flaws and even despite the huge mistakes. Go with the flow.
- Think of others first: This does not mean that you need to neglect your own needs; however, when you think about others and their needs you might be able to crowd out all those negative thoughts that might creep in over the holidays. Think altruism.
- Forgive and forget: Why not start out a new year with a clean slate? If you can forgive someone and forget the slight (real or imagined), perhaps you can enter 2010 with a real smile on your face.