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18 Tips for a Healthier Holiday Season

Natalie
Stein
December 12, 2023
18 Tips for a Healthier Holiday Season
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In this article:

  • The holiday season can be stressful and challenging. Here are 18 tips for a healthier holiday season.
  • Setting realistic goals, establishing healthy traditions, staying in touch with how you feel, managing expectations, and living in the moment can help reduce stress associated with holidays.
  • Lark offers a friendly and encouraging program that can help you establish healthy habits to reach your goals 24/7 when you use the app.

The holidays are here. Office parties, gift giving, social events, and family gatherings are all common nowadays. While this can be the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be overwhelming, busy, and stressful. Here are 18 tips for a healthier holiday season.

1. Pace yourself

There may be only a few holidays, but this time of year feels more like a season than a couple of special days. It lasts from Thanksgiving through New Year’s (or beyond), and 5-6 weeks of being in holiday mode can take its toll. Keep this in mind as you plan special events; it’s okay to start slowly instead of going to everything as soon as possible.

2. Set realistic goals

Seasonal challenges can make it harder to hit your weight loss and health goals, and falling short can be discouraging. It may be time to reevaluate your goals. If you’ve been losing weight for the last few months, or you normally gain weight over the holidays, a more realistic goal may be to maintain your weight until the New Year starts.

3. Be active

Along with all of its other benefits, such as improving blood sugar, heart health, and brain health, being physically active can have the following effects.

Reducing stress

  • Maintaining motivation to eat better
  • Improving productivity and efficiency
  • Even if you’re busier than usual at this time of the year, it’s worth the while to be active. It can help to get in a few minutes at a time or to multi-task, such as power walking between stores at the mall.

    4. Be in the moment

    Here are a few examples of special experiences that are common at this time of year.

    • Seasonal flavors
    • Visits with out-of-town relatives or friends
    • Holiday concerts or parades
    • Beautiful decorations

    Notice when these special experiences are happening, and focus on enjoying them in the moment without worrying about the past or future.

    5. Mind your space

    A happy space can keep you energized and also calm you when needed. Organize your office, living room, bedroom, yard, or anywhere else you spend time in a way you love. Put up holiday decorations as you like without feeling pressure to decorate more than you want.

    6. Sleep

    You need more sleep when you’re busy, but that often doesn’t happen. Make sleep a priority so you can stay energized, maintain a good mood, and accomplish what you set out to do each day. Sleeping enough also helps reduce cravings and hunger so you can make better choices for your waistline and health.

    7. Strengthen ties with loved ones

    Many people find themselves at home with family more at this time of the year, or there may be out-of-town visitors. It’s a great time to strengthen your ties with them. Some low-pressure, healthy choices can include taking nature walks, volunteering together, making holiday cards for each other or others, and baking healthy recipes to share with neighbors.

    8. Take advantage of seasonal activities

    There’s so much going on over the holiday season! Here are some seasonal activities to enjoy.

    • Go ice skating or try other winter sports in nature (when safe) or on artificial rinks or ski resorts
    • Check local libraries or community centers for events for people of all ages, such as crafts, sing-alongs, and story hours
    • Go to professional, college, or local grade school holiday concerts or recitals
    • Check for holiday boutiques at local churches

    Check local listings for events such as a night on the town where select stores stay open late for holiday shopping

    9. Plan ahead

    Planning ahead is always a good idea for healthy living. Over the holidays, it can help you:

    • Accomplish what’s important to you
    • Not overcommit to yourself or other people
    • Save time for important health behaviors, such as exercise and food prep
    • Finish gift shopping with less stress

    Putting things on a calendar, making a shopping list, and checking ads are all steps you can take to plan ahead.

    10. Establish traditions

    When you’re trying to get rid of an unhealthy habit, replace it with a healthier one so you’re not leaving a hole. It’s the same with holiday traditions, and it’s a great opportunity to start new traditions. For example, start a family cookbook where family members can contribute healthier recipes each year. Over time, those nutritious recipes can replace less healthy ones.

    11. Stay hydrated

    The weather may not be hot, but it’s still important to drink water. Staying hydrated helps prevent energy drops and headaches due to dehydration. Water, sparkling water, decaf unsweetened tea, and black coffee are low-calorie choices.

    12. Take time off work

    The end of the year is often a good time to take time off of work. Different employers have different policies, but some employers offer paid time off that renews on January 1, and disappears on December 31. If that’s the case for you, it may be a good time to take a break. However, check carefully with your employer or human resources (HR) department. Sometimes, you can roll over your unused vacation time to the next year, or get cash for unused vacation days.

    13. Give meaningful gifts.

    Cliches can be true, and when it comes to gift-giving, there are two that are.

    1. It’s better to give than to receive. People who volunteer tend to be healthier and happier.
    2. It’s the thought that counts. Instead of choosing the most expensive gift, give the most thoughtful gift. It may even be free, such as giving someone some coupons that they can use later in exchange for favors from you.

    14. Practice gratitude.

    Being grateful for what you have can make you happier and less stressed. If you’re not already used to being thankful, you can develop the skill with practice. Try setting aside time each

    evening to think about what you’re grateful for from the day, or practice gratitude by pausing a few times a day to think about what you’re grateful for at that moment.

    15. Have open discussions about expectations.

    It’s okay to be open and honest about what you want from the holiday season. You can discuss budgets around gifts for loved ones, or talk with your significant other about how many parties you feel up to attending or hosting. Set boundaries that you’re comfortable with so that you can fulfill your promises without feeling overwhelmed.

    16. Monitor yourself

    Keep checking in with yourself to see how you feel. Note if you’re stressed, overly busy, or ready for more holiday action. Then react accordingly. For example, if you’re stressed, you might want to consider purchasing a fruit plate to bring to a party instead of cooking a fancy dish.

    17. Have a plan to cope

    If you notice that you’re feeling stressed, tired, or harried, how will you manage those feelings? Eating mashed potatoes or fudge won’t help in the long run. Instead, make a healthier plan.

    Here are some ideas for coping.

    • Go by yourself to a quiet place
    • Phone a friend or relative
    • Take a walk
    • Cancel an event that you’d planned to attend
    • Take a shortcut, such as sending a gift card via text or email instead of going to the mall to search for a physical gift

    18. Relax

    What is a “successful” holiday season? If it’s perfection, the season will probably not be a success. If it’s health and happiness, you can make it a success. Focus on enjoying people and events, making good decisions one at a time, and getting into the holiday spirit with appreciation for yourself and others.


    How Lark Can Help

    The holidays should be filled with joy, and you can stay on track by setting realistic expectations and planning ahead to manage stress. Lark can help as you make choices to enjoy the holidays in healthy ways. Lark can be there 24/7 to remind you, cheer you on, and support you as you make healthy choices that can help you reach your goals this holiday season.

    Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

    About Lark

    Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.

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