The holidays are intended as a joyous time of celebration and positive emotions such as happiness, gratitude, and high spirits. However, for those who lack time, and money, or become caught up in the excesses of the season, this time of year may be quite stressful. It can also be difficult for those faced with a chronic illness or recent loss. Here are some tips for staying happy and having a healthy holiday season:

Tip #1: Be Grateful to have a Healthy Holiday

Be grateful. Start each day with a list of everything for which you are grateful. Many people choose this practice as soon as they open their eyes in the morning.

Tip #2: Breathe Through Stressful Situations

Breathe your way through stressful situations. Try this 1-minute breathing exercise daily 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.

Tip #3: Start Holiday Shopping Early

Start holiday shopping early and stick to a budget. 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 giving by providing a gift that is truly wanted and within your budget.

Tip #4: A Healthy Holiday Includes Regular Physical Activity

Maintain regular physical activity. The holiday season is often a time when workouts suffer and most people think “I’ll start fresh after New Year’s.” If you would rather maintain health momentum during the holidays and be ahead of the rest, then consider the following tips:

  • Plan your workouts and schedule them with consideration of busy holiday events.
  • Exercise early in the morning to avoid interference with holiday obligations that occur later in the day.
  • Find a holiday training partner – someone else who wants to stay on track.
  • 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.
  • Get others involved by inviting family and friends to walk, hike, or sign up for a local 5K event.

Tip#5 Practice the Power of Saying “No.”

Practice the power of saying “no.” Participate in activities or events that you enjoy and decline others so they will not interfere with your healthy lifestyle choices. The word no is extremely liberating. While you may be tempted to say yes to every invitation, you will enjoy the events more if you choose the ones that are closest to your heart and with people who lift your spirit.

Tip #6: Seek Out All Opportunities to Increase Activity

Take advantage of all opportunities to increase activity. The holiday season offers many opportunities to increase activity from shopping and walking through malls to dancing at a holiday party. Take advantage of every chance to move a bit more during the holidays.

  • Park further from the mall entrance and you will increase your daily steps and avoid crowded parking lots.
  • Visit shopping malls at off-peak times and before store openings and take a power walk 15 minutes before stores open.
  • At holiday parties, be sure to dance whenever possible.
  • When wrapping gifts, do it standing around a large table as this expends more energy than sitting.
  • Cooking and cleaning are great ways to increase activity.

Tip #7: Limit Alcohol Intake

Limit alcohol intake during the holidays. Moderate amounts of alcohol may temporarily relieve stress and increase enjoyment, but research shows that alcohol consumption can trigger overeating.

Tip #8: Limit Sugar for a Healthy Holiday

Limit sugar consumption. While this is the season for cookies, pies, candy, and other high-sugar treats, keep in mind that excess sugar can negatively affect your immune system. To work treats into the holiday season, consider healthy food items for small gifts. Show that you are health conscious by giving a food item with a note about why it is healthy. Wrap the item with decorative paper, bows, and 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 a few ideas:

  • Organic dark chocolate bar
  • Homemade fruit preserves loaded with antioxidants
  • Homemade dehydrated apple chips with cinnamon as a healthy snack

Did You Know? Research shows that the amount of weight gain during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is about one pound.1 Since this gain is not usually reversed during spring or summer months, the weight gained in fall and winter can accumulate year after year and is a major contributing factor to weight gain in adulthood. Following the above tips can help you maintain body weight and have a healthy holiday season.

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