This can take a toll on your health and happiness. In fact, studies have concluded that:
- December is the most stressful time of the year for workers;
- People put on an average of 7lbs over the holidays;
- We tend to consume alcohol 5 times a week; and
- Most of us will exercise less.
It’s no wonder that January arrives and people feel like that have to give themselves strict new routines to follow (that only end up lasting a few days) so they can get back on track.
We've put together 7 ways you can stay healthy and happy these holidays.
1. Stick To Your Existing Healthy Habits
A 2009 study by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at UCL, found that on average it takes 66 days for a habit to become ingrained. The harder work the habit is, the longer it takes – with some taking up to 254 days for a new habit to become second nature.⠀
Your habits are key to your health and happiness. If you allow yourself to put aside your healthy habits in December, you may have to work twice as hard to get them back in January than if you were to maintain them.⠀
Make your healthy habits your priority over the holidays.⠀
For example, you can still enjoy holiday parties, but if you normally get up on Saturdays and exercise, drink and eat a little less the night before, and get to bed early enough that you get a good night of sleep.⠀
Even if you do wake up a little sluggish, make the effort to get that workout in.⠀
Another time habits can go out the window is when spending time with family. ⠀
It can be easy to fall back into old patterns when you are around your family. Watch out for when those childhood eating habits and relationship dynamics start creeping up.⠀
Choose to stay true to your health and happiness and set appropriate boundaries with yourself, and others. You can still enjoy your time with family without sacrificing the things that are important to you. Find the balance.⠀
What habits are you going to stick to no matter what these holidays?⠀
2. Slow Down
Allowing yourself to be stressed can not only impact your overall enjoyment (and potentially that of those around you), it can also impact your health by lowering your immune system.
Make a conscious effort to slow down. Here are some great ways to do this:
- Do one thing at a time.
- Double how long you estimate projects will take to give yourself more time.
- Stop and take some deep breaths.
- Empty your schedule. Prioritize what is important to you and then drop everything else.
- Eat meals without distractions of devices and TVs. Take the time to savour your food.
- Block out time to do nothing. Then keep that commitment to yourself.
- Turn your phone and email off and only check it periodically during the day.
- Look for the pleasure in everything.
- Go for a walk in nature.
- Have a bath.
- Look at the mountains or the sky.
- Meditate or do yoga.
- Say no!
- Take the scenic route.
- Be present with friends and family.
- Drive slower.
- Appreciate your surroundings.
How will you slow down today?
3. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is the quickest way to change a negative state into a positive one because you are focusing on the good in your life, rather than the bad.
There have been many studies about the impact of gratitude practice that have found that even practicing once a week can have long term benefits by:
- Making you feel happier and more optimistic
- Improving relationships
- Strengthening emotions and helps you to bounce back quicker
- Reducing materialism
- Increasing self esteem
- Improving your sleep
- Boosting your immune system
- Increasing your energy levels
- Helping you to relax
Challenge yourself this holidays to practice gratitude each day. This could be as simple as writing a list in a journal, sharing a picture on social media, or telling someone how much you appreciate them.
What will you do to practice gratitude?
4. Focus on Presence, not Presents
A recent study by Pennsylvania State University found that small acts of kindness, make people feel most loved and supported.
Which reminds me of the saying:
“Friendship isn’t a big thing. It’s a million little things.” ~Unknown
- Giving them genuine compliments or appreciation, especially about things no one else might have noticed.
- Spending time cuddling or playing with children.
- Practicing active listening instead of thinking about what you might say next.
- Turning off your devices when you are with people
- Ask them to tell you more about themselves or share their favourite stories
- Do something fun together, like taking silly photos or playing outside
Who is someone that you can give the gift of presence to?
5. Eat Slow And Savour Your Food
When you rush through meals, it can leave you feeling like you didn't get enough of the foods you enjoy.
By eating slowly and savouring every bite, you'll enjoy your food more while being able to eat in moderation.
Eating slowly helps your body to give you the signals that you are full since it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to register the food.
Some tips to help you eat slower include:
- Putting your fork down between bites or taking 2 full breaths.
- Eating without distractions from devices or tv
- Eat more high-fiber foods that take more time to chew
- Chew your food for longer
- Download the Eat Slow app from iTunes.
By eating slowly, you'll get to enjoy your favourite foods more and help keep your body healthier.
6. Spend Your Time With Positive People
Don't get me wrong family can be one of the very best things in a person's life but for some, it doesn't always feel that way. Especially at Xmas time.
If family has a special way of pushing YOUR buttons, here are a few strategies you can use to reduce the stress but still participate in family functions/celebrations:
- Limit time with those particularly toxic family members. Arrive a little late, and leave a little earlier than usual. Choose to spend more time with the relatives who are more positive and uplifting.
- Let go of expectations. If one of your relatives has always been difficult, don't expect him/her to be different this year. Expect them to show up the same, but instead of reacting negatively to the same old thing, change YOUR response give a little chuckle, and move on to the next person.
- Practice not taking things personally. When you're tempted to take the blame when someone points their finger at you, ask yourself, "Did I really do anything wrong?". If you did, apologize and make amends. If you didn't, just nod your head and change the subject.
- Avoid complaining. You may want things to be a certain way but you can’t change or control others. There's always positive and negative in every situation. Look for the positive, and make an effort to comment on that, instead of its opposite. Everyone will appreciate it.
- Be OK with saying no. You don’t have to do everything that others want you to do. If you're planning to always say yes this holiday season, then prepare to be exhausted, stretched in a million different directions, and probably still feel like you're letting people down.
What if you planned for the best holiday season this year? Balancing your schedule, preserving some of your energy, and spending time with the ones you love what about having some fun!?
What will YOU do to lower your stress with family these holidays?
7. Serve Others
Studies have found that people who volunteer have:
- Lower stress levels
- Feel more purpose and satisfaction in life
- Have improved mood and self-esteem
- Are healthier
- Are more able to manage chronic health
- Keep their mind off their own problems
- Lower levels of depression
- Connects you to others
- And better overall wellbeing
Not sure where to volunteer?
Check out this resource or contact your nearest homeless shelter, church, community centre, hospital, seniors home, or favourite charity.
What will you do today to give back?