As we move into the winter holidays, celebrated in so many ways around the world, I wanted to offer some tips from the American Heart Association to keep your holidays healthier. The holidays are often a time of high stress, over indulgence, increased intake of processed sugar and alcohol. These holiday “habits” lead to extra pounds and New Year’s resolutions that are often abandoned within several weeks of the change of the year.
Here are some Lifestyle Medicine themed ways to bring mindfulness and healthy holiday cheer:
1) Eat more plants – load up your plate with healthier options like fresh or roasted veggies, salads or slaws. You can eat a healthy snack ahead of a holiday gathering or offer to bring a lighter side dish so you have a healthy option to lean on. Choose brightly colored seasonal fruits and veggies for an antioxidant and immunity boost. Watch out for processed sugar and high sodium items. If you plan to indulge, take a small serving and SAVOR IT! You don’t want to feel bad about enjoying your holiday favorites, just watch portions and do so in moderation.
2) Move more – Plan some winter activities for the whole family – snowshoeing, winter walks, skiing or ice skating are all great ways to get moving. Plan some activity every day, even if it is just a walk after a heavy meal or doing some extra laps at the shopping mall or parking farther away in a parking lot.
3) Sleep well – the holidays are hectic times, making sure you make time for healthy sleep is important! Consider picking a bedtime during the holidays and sticking to it throughout the week, with a goal of 7-9 hours per night.
4) Drink less – alcohol or high sugar drinks don’t have to be a focus of your holidays. Making your favorite winter drinks at home lets you choose the ingredients, limit added sugar. Even alternating a glass of water or “mocktail” between alcoholic beverages can help you stay hydrated and reduce overindulging.
5) Stay Calm/Be Present – Focus on the events you really want to participate in and say no to the rest. You will have a more enjoyable season and feel less frazzled. Spending time alone each day in meditation, quiet walks or journaling are other ways to stay grounded and calm during the holidays.
6) Love People – Make time to focus on the people who nurture and support you during the holidays. Taking a moment to really feel your emotions of love and gratitude for your family and friends will bring you more joy and presence. Often this season can be a sad time for people as well – find one person who you can lean on and check in often to keep your spirits light.