5 Ways the Holidays Are Good for Your Health

4 min read  |  December 22, 2023  | 
Disponible en Español |

We’ve all heard (and experienced) how the holiday season can be emotionally, mentally and physically draining. But, have you noticed that this time of year can also be comforting, rejuvenating and productive?

Enjoy your time off.

Hopefully you get a holiday break from work for a few days. If you’re lucky, you may be able to squeeze in a vacation before the new year kicks into gear.

This break can give you extra time to:

  • Tackle some fun projects with your partner or kids.
  • Socialize and connect with friends and family.
  • Catch up on sleep.
  • Practice a hobby you enjoy.
  • Go outside with your dog.

While this may seem like a frivolous use of your time, there’s no denying that recreation and relaxation are essential to your work-life balance and mental health. Get enough quality sleep to support your brain function, memory and immune system; and promote a positive mood.

Get out of your routine.

Novel experiences are not only fun and exciting, they also make learning easier and help create new neural pathways that support brain health and a positive mood.

Use this break from your daily routine to:

  • Explore a new part of your neighborhood or city.
  • Go camping or hiking when you’re typically at work.
  • Test-drive a new morning or bedtime routine to see how it makes you feel.
  • Try a new form of exercise.
  • Add 10 minutes of meditation to your day.
  • Go out for pizza with the family instead of eating delivery in front of the TV.
  • Walk somewhere instead of driving.

Embrace or start a holiday tradition.

Participating in annual traditions with family and friends helps solidify social bonds and gives you something to look forward to throughout the year. Traditions don’t have to be religious or even holiday-themed, if that doesn’t interest you.

When starting a new tradition, consider what you, your friends and family wish you had more time for. You probably can’t please everyone at every age with a single tradition, but doing it together can make them feel included, valued and loved.

Consider incorporating these traditions into your holidays:

  • Go on a run, walk or hike together.
  • Perform an at-home talent show for everyone to show off their skills/creations.
  • Create a slideshow or scrapbook of photos taken this year.
  • Play games everyone can participate in.
  • Plant a tree you can visit year after year.
  • Volunteer or donate together or pick a nonprofit organization you can all support.
  • Create something together (a work of art, an original song or poem, a game).
  • Write anonymous letters to each other.
  • Each year, one of you (including any children) gets to decide within reason what you do as a group for a couple hours.

Revaluate your priorities.

Use your free time, the change in the weather and this shift in your daily routine to take inventory of your life. Give some thought to how you have generally felt this year. What did you spend most of your time doing? What did you neglect, ignore or forget? What do you want to make more time for next year and for years to come? What makes you feel fulfilled?

You don’t necessarily need to make big changes to have a major impact on your overall wellness. Determine what matters to you and make a plan to go after it.

You may find it helpful to:

  • Write it down. Find the words to express what you want and how you hope it will make you feel.
  • Identify small, achievable steps you can take toward making your priorities a reality.
  • Share these ideas with someone you trust, which can help you hold yourself accountable.
  • Cut yourself some slack if you can’t reprioritize your life as quickly as you’d like.
  • Spend less time on social media so you can use that time to your advantage.

Be a little indulgent.

When done with intention and mindfulness, being indulgent can be comforting and fulfilling. This holiday season, allow yourself to thoroughly enjoy something (for a limited time and in a safe way) without feeling guilty.

Indulgence can look like whatever pleasurable activity you prefer:

  • decadent comfort food
  • relaxing in a bubble bath
  • binging your favorite show
  • gift-giving to special people in your life
  • doting on your loved ones
  • splurging on yourself for a change
  • decorating your house
  • cooking/baking something you love to make but rarely have time for
  • spending all afternoon reading for pleasure

Dana Kantrowitz is a contributing writer for UHealth’s news service. Medically reviewed by E. Robert Schwartz, M.D., a family medicine physician at UHealth.

Tags: Dr. E Robert Schwartz, holidays, time off

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