Soar Through the Holidays with 5 Tips for Healthy Living

Winter is a Magical Time for Kids

In the magical world of children, the winter holidays are a joyous time.   Families and friends gather.  Good food is prepared.  School lets out. Even the cool air brings a feeling of exhilaration.

Growing up in New Mexico, I spent my holidays lighting candles on the Advent Wreath and hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus.  Some might think it a mixed message to combine the sacred history of the Nativity and the convoluted myth of a man with flying reindeer that Saint Nicholas evolved into.  But as a child, we didn’t think about these things.   The birth of Christ and the fat man sliding down the chimney were just part of the winter magic.  Oh, sure.  My parents taught us that Santa Claus was make believe.  But that didn’t stop any of us from imagining the sound of reindeer’s hooves on the rooftop.

In the politically correct modern world, it is clear that not all of us share these beliefs, and not all of us have happy childhood memories.  But the sale of Santa Suits and other Christmas paraphernalia assures me that the majority of those who are influenced by the Western world still go to bed on Christmas Eve with visions of sugar plums and hopes of hearing tiny feet on the rooftop around midnight.  More importantly, a majority still takes this time of year to connect with friends, family, and the God they believe in.

Winter Holidays May be Stressful For Adults

Despite expectations of holiday peace and good will, working adults often find holidays to be a time of stress.   The short days mess with our circadian rhythms.  Chronic pain and inflammation can flare.  Colds and other health problems are more common. Seasonal affective disorder can make us feel depressed.   The endless pressure to buy, buy, buy can make us wonder if we are doing enough for our friends and family members.  And since businesses are working hard to capture end-of-year sales, many of us are working overtime while trying to prepare our homes for guests and good cheer.

No wonder the Grinch who Stole Christmas is almost as popular as Santa himself!

But knowing that Christmas is coming does not need to throw you into a holiday doldrum. A proactive stance of embracing healthy habits and taking time for what matters can get you through the holidays with as much joy as that 5 year old who has been blessed with a happy, loving family.  The 5 tips below will help get you there.

1.  Decide to be Joyful and Triumphant.

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln

Happiness comes easily when life is good.  But when we are faced with hardship, stress, and too much to do, happiness may require a conscious decision. People who struggle with holiday blues can reduce their despair by consciously choosing to be happy.  In the wintertime, conscious efforts to overlook the problems you can’t change while embracing the blessings around you can make a big difference.   Do something you enjoyed as a child.  Hug someone you love… Find something to laugh about.

If you are working on overdrive, these efforts to “be happy”  may feel like a phony bunch of hogwash.   Ironically, the part of your brain that releases “feel good” hormones like dopamine can’t really tell the difference between fake stuff and the real thing.  So even if you are giving off a frozen smile and hugging that obnoxious Aunt Sally who thinks your career is a waste, you may find that you and the people around you start giving off better vibes.

Experts are recognizing such a significant link between health and happiness that the decision to be happy, even in difficult times may be the cheapest thing you can do to add years to your life.  Blogger Rocio Ramos lists eight skills that researchers have used to foster feelings of happiness.

2.  Surround Yourself With People Who are Fun to be Around

Happiness by will may not be enough.  Particularly if everyone around you is like Aunt Sally.   So boost your conscious effort to be happy with a similar  effort to surround yourself with fun people. Try calling up two or three of your best friends and arrange a day together.  Call someone who inspires you, and ask how they are spending their holidays.   Look for ways to minimize the time you spend with those who bring you down.

Sometimes, the emotional connection we feel with  family members can make them the most challenging to be around.  If you have a few days planned with depressing in-laws for your spouses (or your children’s) sake, look for ways to change the game.   Introduce a new activity.  Bring a good book to read. Do something to get through the event with as much fun and as little friction as possible.

3.  Eat Well

This is the time of year that tries even the best of dieters.  Those among us who need to restrict simple carbs, gluten, alcohol, and other pleasures that are often tied to holiday festivities may feel challenged by the potlucks, holiday baking, and Christmas cookies that seem to define the entire holiday season. This is not surprising.  There is evidence  that carb cravings may intensify in the winter.  Unfortunately, there is also evidence that the sugars found in so many popular holiday dishes may contribute to the holiday blues, a suppressed immune system, and systemic inflammation.

While giving in to those sugar cravings is not going to make your holiday less stressful, white-fisted will power  is rarely successful.   Instead, focus on ensuring an abundance of lean proteins, fresh fruits, and vegetables (choose varieties with a low glycemic index) available at gatherings.  Make these your potluck ingredients.  Chances are you won’t be able to eliminate junk food from the many gatherings you attend.  But if you bring in some better choices, you will be able to fill up on healthy foods.  Then, if you slip a little with social dining,  the effects won’t be as devastating to your mood and your health.

Creative twists on favorite comfort food recipes, like this zuchini lasagna recipe from Saveur Natural Foods can make interesting additions to holiday potlucks.  This protein rich baked ham will keep you feeling full for a long evening of socializing.

4.  Stay Hydrated and Get All of Your Essential Nutrients

It goes without saying that when the cold, dry air outdoors gets heated in our homes, any moisture remaining is minimal.  Our skin, our nasal passages, and our bodies need to be well hydrated to function.  But thinking of water only in terms of hydration is a mistake.   Most public and residential water systems have been treated to remove to remove unwanted contaminants.

Overall, water treatment is a good thing.  Nonetheless, the treatment process can include chlorine and other chemicals that taste bad and threaten your microbiome.  Filtered water may taste better.  Filtered water may also lack the right osmotic balance for your cells.

The good news is, treated, filtered water can be easily remediated.  The simple act of preparing  a tea or infusion can add nutrients and restore osmotic balance.  Drinking warm herb teas (without added sugar or artificial sweeteners) is a great way to stay hydrated on a cold winter day.  If you prefer something cooler, try fruit infused water.  Include a teaspoon of Plant Derived Minerals per half gallon of fruit or herb infused water to enhance flavor and boost mineral content.  Coffee and hot cocoa are classic favorites.  In moderation, these can be enjoyed too.  Just avoid consuming too much caffeine.

Stress can increase our bodily demand for nutrients.  Furthermore, foods available in wintertime are less nutrient dense than a rich summer harvest.  Taking supplements is the best way to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need.  The 90 for Life packs available in our affililate store provide essential nutrients that are easy to absorb.

5.  Get Outdoors-But Do So Wisely

Time outside on sunny days helps your body establish good sleep cycles.  This is important for mood and health.   It is important to get a little outdoor time several times a week.  Even shoveling snow or chopping firewood can expose you to a little sunlight and fresh air.

Obviously, cold, stormy weather brings problems of its own.  Be sure to plan your outdoor time when the wind is not blowing.  Wear proper clothing to protect you from the cold.

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