The holidays are our favorite time of year — they’re a time to relax, connect with our loved ones, and enjoy the fun and food of the season. And ideally, it’s a time slow down and feel gratitude for the people and things that made your year merry and bright.
But while it has a nice ring to it, having a “healthy and balanced holiday” can sometimes be a challenging task. It may seem like your to-do list is longer than Santa Clause’s “nice” list (which you’ll be checking more than twice!).
Between work and school, cooking, shopping, and more, it’s no surprise you may find yourself putting off your physical and mental health routines during this time of the year. But don’t stress — there are a few things you can do to feel present and balanced throughout the holiday rush.
From healthy holiday recipes to getting outside, follow these simple winter health tips to have a relaxing and restorative holiday season.
Squeeze in Some Time Outside
Fresh air, sun, the smell of snow — nature is magical no matter the time of year. Spending time outdoors for even a small amount of time has been shown to lower stress, anxiety and depression, blood pressure, and more.
It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of spending time in the sun. According to a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, you only have to spend up to 20 minutes outside to feel the positive effects.
Thanks to the Vitamin D you can get from brief sun exposure, you can feel more relaxed and happier overall. So find a few moments in between decorating the house, wrapping presents, and putting up lights to get outside and get grounded.
Grab your ear buds, put on your favorite podcast or playlist, and go for a stroll with friends, family, or your pup. Your body and mind will thank you!
Find Moments to Stretch
Few things feel more grounding than stretching — especially first thing in the morning. Taking time to stretch helps prepare your body for the day ahead, which can be especially helpful during the busy holiday season.
Not only does stretching help your posture or prevent injury, it also increases blood flow to muscles and joints, and decreases tension and stress.
Not everyone has time for a yoga or Pilates class — especially with family in town and holiday parties to prep for. You can still reap the benefits by taking a few moments after you wake up to do a few easy stretches before jumping into your to-do list.
If you really want to make an impact, do a few stretches before you go to bed, too. You’ll keep your body relaxed and your mind at ease, so you can enjoy a full night’s sleep.
We all know health isn’t just about physical activity. Taking time to slow down and consider all the incredible things you’ve accomplished this year, the memories you’ve created, and the people you love puts you in a state of gratitude.
When you practice gratitude, you experience positive emotions, express more compassion and kindness towards others, and can better celebrate what’s happening in the moment. Doing something as simple as keeping a gratitude journal — regularly writing down the moments you’re thankful for — can significantly increase your sense of well-being and self-worth.
To take your gratitude practice a step further this holiday season, you and your family can write down a few things you’re each thankful for on strips of paper and put them into a bowl or jar. Take turns pulling out each piece of paper and reading them to one another. It’s a great way to get closer and celebrate with one another.
Another way you can show your gratitude towards someone you love is by writing them a letter or email to express your appreciation. In our tech-centered, fast-paced world, a personalized note can go a long way to spread holiday cheer.
Make a Few Healthy Winter Recipes
Just because it’s the holidays it doesn’t mean you have to fully give up on eating healthy. While you should enjoy all your favorite foods of the season, you can also find balance by adding in some healthy holiday recipes, too.
A first way to approach your diet routine this season is by not letting yourself get too hungry before meals, and making sure you stay hydrated. Here are a few other healthy eating tips for the holidays:
- Eat a high-protein breakfast (like Greek yogurt or eggs)
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day and before eating
- Load up on high fiber foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains
- Curb afternoon cravings with a handful of nuts
- Limit sugary foods like candies, desserts, and refined grains
For a festive breakfast fix, try out this fun Christmas layered smoothie recipe. All you need is almond milk, strawberries, spinach, frozen banana, and vanilla protein powder.
Just remember to be kind to yourself as you enjoy the foods of the season. Let yourself enjoy the things you love — the holidays only come once a year, after all!
Make Meaningful Memories
The holiday season may often feel like a month-long marathon of parties, eating and drinking, and spending. There’s always one last gift to buy, a batch of cookies to bake, or a loved one to visit with.
While this time of year can start to feel like an energy-drain, it doesn’t have to be. The winter solstice is also meant for slowing down and focusing on what matters most: making memories with those you love.
Take a drive to see the holiday lights, host a game night with friends or family, or have a cookie baking and decorating competition. Or try starting a fun new tradition this year, like setting up karaoke or a dance party in the living room, going snowshoeing or tubing, or volunteering for a cause you care about.
And don’t forget about your furry friends, too. They’ll love you even more after you make them some delicious healthy holiday dog treats!
Revamp Your Holiday Routine
While the holidays can bring a fair share of festive fun, they can also be a little hectic. But being prepared with a game plan to bring in more balance to your routine will help you sleigh (get it?) this season.
With a little prep and planning, you can enjoy all the revelry, make meaningful memories with those you love, and still take care of yourself.
And if you’re craving a whole new holiday experience this year, consider planning a trip to shake up the routine.
Add a new twist to the season by exploring a lesser-known holiday destination around the globe. Take in the winter wonderland of the Berkshires, or dazzle yourself with Iceland’s Northern Lights!