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

  1. Be grateful. Start each day with a list of everything for which you are thankful.
  • 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.
  • 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 truly wanted gift within your budget.
  • Maintain regular physical activity. The holiday season is often 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 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 jumping rope.
  • Get others involved by inviting family and friends to walk, hike, or sign up for a local 5K event.
  • 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 exceptionally liberating. While you may be tempted to say yes to every invitation, you will enjoy the events more if you choose the ones closest to your heart and with people who lift your spirit.
  • 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 to 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, stand around a large table since this expends more energy than sitting.
  • Cooking and cleaning are great ways to increase activity.
  • 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.
  • Limit sugar consumption. While this is the season for cookies, pies, candy, and other high-sugar treats, remember that excess sugar can negatively affect your immune system. Consider healthy food items for small gifts to work treats into the holiday season. 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 research, but that shows your commitment to health. Here are a few ideas:
  • Organic dark chocolate bar with a note about the benefits of chocolate
  • Homemade fruit preserves loaded with antioxidants
  • Coconut macaroons (see recipe below)
  • Homemade dehydrated apple chips with cinnamon as a healthy snack

Did You Know? Research shows that the weight gain during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is about one pound. Since this gain is not reversed during spring or summer, the weight gained in fall and winter can accumulate yearly and is a major contributing factor to weight gain in adulthood. Follow these tips to help you maintain health and body weight during the holiday season.