What’s not to love about Christmas, Christmas is about love, joy, forgiveness, a saviour, food, fun and good company, but somehow, even with the best intensions, it can become a chore to get through until we wake on Christmas Day and wish we hadn’t made all the fuss.
There is always a lot to fit into the month of December, school graduations and end of year awards, office parties, invitations, shopping, preparing and expecting great things for the end of a busy year. While you prepare for Christmas try to remember your health and happiness is dependent on rest as much as on the rush to get it all done. Here are some tips to keep you happy and healthy this festive season.
1. Create your own joy
Often in life we allow ourselves to be limited by our current circumstances or by the attitudes of the people who surround us, but happiness is defined as “the state of being happy”. If joy or happiness is a state, then there are many ways we can enter that place despite what surrounds us. Christmas is a time of year that is supposed to bring great joy, happiness and delight, but all too often is marked by high expectations, desperate let downs, rush, rush, rush and a feeling like we are losing control. It might also surprise you to know that creating your own joy does not have to be about expensive get-a ways or lavish self-indulgence, in fact it is actually quite the opposite.
So, this Christmas season, be the creator of your own joy with these few tips.
Volunteer your time/expertise/gifts
What? how is giving my precious time away, especially at the busiest time of year going to help me find happiness? Well research shows that the benefits of volunteering are as much for the giver as for the receiver; volunteering connects you with other people, it grows your mind and can be an activity for your body, in some cases it may even advance your career and it brings fun and fulfillment to your life. There are many research papers written on the benefits of volunteering, in my search alone I found evidence to show that being a volunteer can help you live longer, lower blood pressure, improve chronic pain, create happiness and belonging and give a sense of purpose and deep satisfaction. Here is an excellent site to give you ideas and help you decide what is the right volunteer opportunity for you. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm#:~:targetText=Volunteering%20helps%20you%20stay%20physically%20healthy.&targetText=Older%20volunteers%20tend%20to%20walk,the%20risk%20of%20heart%20disease.
Also try your local council for specific needs or volunteer jobs in your local area. This is a great idea for teenage children who have plenty of time on their hands in the long summer break. Imagine the life skills you are giving them and what’s more I bet they will love it too.
There is plenty of scientific research supporting the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful. Generosity is not just about having a lot of money to give away, sharing ourselves, our time and our resources can be both affordable and fun. Here are a few ideas that anyone could do. Be creative and have fun.
Buy a meal for a homeless person.
- Make up a hamper for someone.
- Organise a meal out with your friends, decided on an amount you will all contribute that is over and above the cost, then give the remaining tip away to the waitress/waiter.
- Write a handwritten note to a loved one.
- Leave a gift for the delivery person.
- Carry a $20 note in your wallet and find someone to give it to.
- Pay for someone else’s dinner or groceries.
- Buy a coffee for the bus driver.
- Visit a retirement home and spend time listening to people’s stories – they will amaze you.
- Offer a foot rub or a hand rub to someone who may be tired.
- Do someone else’s chores for the day.
The list is endless.
Adopt a family this Christmas
Christmas is usually a time of delight, giving and receiving gifts and spending time with loved ones, but there are many families in our community who experience financial hardship or difficulty.
The Adopt a Family for Christmas Appeal works with local charities and welfare agencies to identify families in need that you can ‘adopt’ by donating gifts, hampers or food. This is a fabulous project you can do as a business or organisation, that way each person is able to contribute what they can, but the accumulative effect can be extraordinary. Find your local Adopt a Family Christmas Appeal site and make someone’s Christmas magical this year, it’s just so easy.
2. Reflect on what you already have
We are a generation of must haves; it is human nature to want what you don’t have, and it can lead to an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy and hopelessness. Dr Benjamin Hardy a well-known entrepreneur and speaker talks about living in the Gain rather than in the Gap. If you measure your current self against your ideals, you’ll never be happy because there will always be a gap. But if you measure your current self against your previous self, before you achieved a goal you set, you will experience happiness, contentment and satisfaction, because you are living in the gain. The same is true when you start to reflect on what you already have.
So how can you focus on what you have? The most profound way I have found to do this is by journaling. Journaling can be done in many ways;
I used to journal 5 things I was grateful for in the day, each night before bed. This is a great way to start but can eventually become a bit static and stale.
So, I started a Gratitude Album, it’s a scrapbooking album that is filled with photographs, drawings, letters, saying that remind me about times we have had that I can be truly grateful for. This has and continues to be a fun activity for the whole family; anyone in the family can make an entry and each entry has a little quote that starts with “grateful for …………”. This album sits on the coffee table and I cannot tell you how many times we pick it up and talk about, smile over, cry over and remember the entries we have made. It has been a real delight, but it also requires a bit of work, getting photos developed and finding time to stick them in.
So more recently I have gone back to journaling but doing it a little differently. I have a daily journal notebook, nothing fancy, just a lined notebook that I journal in each day. It’s in dot point form, it’s quick and it documents the main events of my day, good and not so good. I also note ideas I have for my business and wish list items. Then at the end of each month I scan through what I have journaled, and an amazing thing has started to happen. When I look back at the account, I begin to notice so much more that I have missed before in the day to day mundane activity of life. I have started to see connections, a testimony develops, I see the thread of God’s hand on my life and how much I can be grateful for. It inspires me to do more, be more and even expect more and my gratitude is more authentic than it has ever been. I really want to encourage you to try this method of journaling, I can guarantee you will start to see how much you actually do have.
3. Slow down
It is no secret that today’s lifestyle is most often the cause for chronic health problems. From the minute our eyes open, we are Go! Go! Go! And the Christmas season is ‘Rush’ on steroids. I get it, I am a Mum too and I have a full-time career. We squeeze in as much as we can and then just a little more. There seems to be no time in the day to just rest or even to be alone, our time is filled with doing something for everyone other than ourselves. However, you need to give yourself permission to relax, it is not just a luxury it is a necessity, your health and happiness quite literally depends on it.
Breathing exercises can be a quick and easy way to slow down and enjoy your day. It will melt away anxiety, improve your focus and even improve your sleep. Just find 2 minutes in your day (we all have 2 minutes) and make it a priority. You will want to gradually increase the time because if you stick with this simple stress technique, you will notice the benefits, it couldn’t be easier. I recommend Dr Chatterjee’s 3-4-5 method; breath in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 sec and breath out for 5 sec.
Quiet time can be many things but finding 10-15 minutes in your day to be still and be present is unbelievably rewarding. This might be a form of meditation for some, for me it is time with my God; prayer, gratitude and worship. It takes me away from my worries and concerns and helps me focus on what is beyond me. I feel relaxed and calm, I lay down my concerns and for a moment just find stillness in the knowledge that my life is part of a larger tapestry and I can let go of that control I hold onto so hard all day. Find time to be quite in your day, doing your breathing exercises at the same time if you like.
Stretching so so good for your body, it increases flexibility, brings blood flow to your muscles, improves your posture, is a major stress reliever and helps calm your mind. You can do stretching anywhere even at your desk, but if you can, find a quiet place to really let go, become aware of your surroundings, the sounds, the breeze, the birds. What a beautiful way to create “me time” and just slow down.
I cannot over emphasize the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, during sleep your body recovers, cleans up the cellular damage that accumulates through a busy day. Sleep is important for your immune system, for your energy reserves for your over all mental and physical health. Sleep is the one thing you should not compromise on in your life. Start by illuminating caffeine and screen time a few hours before bedtime, listen to relaxing music or read beside a dim light. It’s important to go to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning, your body needs this routine to function properly. Try your breathing technique as you lie in the dark and think about everything that was good in your day. And voila you ticked a whole lot of boxes.
4. Don’t neglect your body.
Amidst the holiday food which lets face it is sooooo good at Christmas times, make sure you don’t forget to feed your body with good nutrition. Make it easy for yourself and just ‘eat a rainbow’; eating a variety of colours ensures you get many different phytonutrients which are known to improve your heart health, reduces inflammation, help fight cancer and even reverse brain aging. Berries are a great addition for the high-quality phytonutrients they contain, and Christmas is not complete without bright, fresh, juicy berries.
Drink plenty of water; water helps digest food and process alcohol. Drinking more water can stop that typical mid-afternoon sluggishness and stop tummy aches. It will also help you manage your sugar cravings, which can be a real challenge with all the temptations hanging around this time of year. Always have a bottle of water handy and try drink 2 before the end of your day.
Move your body every day; interrupting sitting with low intensity activity, can control your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity better than a structured gym session once a day. Of course, resistance training is important, and research has shown that strength training is important for anti-inflammatory signals in the body – inflammation being the most prominent cause of chronic illness today. So get moving this holiday, take an early morning brisk walk; break up your sitting with a few squats, wall press-ups and calf raises and even chase your kids around the Christmas tree for a super HIIT training session – everyone will love it, not least of all, your body.
5. Treat yourself.
It’s Christmas, it’s crazy, it’s the end of a long year, you probably have some time off, so treat yourself. Discovering “me time” is not selfish, it is a part of living well, keeping on track, refuelling and finding traction again, to be the best you, you can be for all the hats you wear in your busy life. Get into the habit of taking a little time out for yourself to rest and recuperate. We all have different ways to relax, so pick something that fits for you and don’t worry about what others are doing to finds that desperately needed Me Time. Here are just a few ideas:
- Relax on the sofa and read your book for 30 minutes.
- Give your-self a home-made foot spa with warm water, essential oils and marbles to roll under your feet.
- Do you have a spa bath at home that you never have time to use; run it, light some candles and listen to relaxing music.
- Take a long walk along the beach or find a park to discover. Your local botanical gardens are probably just around the corner and I bet you’ve never been there.
- Meet up with your friends for coffee and make sure you have a little nibble to really feel special.
- Buy a bottle of Champaign just because, and surprise your partner when they come home.
- Have a massage – it feels so extravagant, but you can get a beautiful relaxing massage without breaking the bank.
- Watch a movie on Netflix in the middle of the day; draw the blinds, grab your pillow and a bowl of grapes.
- Attend to an injury you have been ignoring. Stop putting it off, call your physio and make it a priority, there is no good reason to live with pain you can treat.
- Listen to an inspirational podcast or watch a TED talk out-doors where you are away from clutter and chaos.
- Get out your yoga mat and spend 20 minutes performing some long, slow stretches, your body will love you for it.
- Get lost for an hour scrapbooking or creating a photo book; revisiting memories is soothing for the soul.
Really the list is endless.