5 Ways To Stay Happy And Healthy During The Holidays
It’s ironic that a holiday should require mental and physical resilience. The whole idea of a break is to, well, take a break. However, the build-up to—and actual Christmas and New Year season—can be stressful, often causing us to fall out of healthy eating and exercise habits.
Wouldn’t the holiday season be easier if we approached wellness as something that was innate in us? Healthy eating habits, for example, would be considered for life, not just for office days. Exercise would be something we did daily in some form or other, and taking care of our mental state—learning how to better deal with conflict, switch off, or sleep more—would be a permanent priority.
Of course, this approach doesn’t mean we can’t indulge. But it does mean finding balance so you don’t fall back into old ways, and instead always prioritise our physical and mental health. Here are five tips to emerge from the most frantic holiday season looking and feeling great:
1/5 Get moving
Walk, run, walk some more. Get up from the sofa regularly, even just to clean up a bit, walk the dog or fly a kite with the kids. You not only clear your head, but burn calories as well. Take a family member or friend with you on a stroll—people tend to open up on walks, so who knows, it may be the best conversation you have all holiday.
I also recommend taking an exercise travel mat if you’re heading out of town. A mat laid out every day will motivate you to do basic stretches or simple exercises. That way, when you get home and get back into your workout schedule, you won’t feel so out of whack. Check out our Summer Series for Flex videos that guide you safely through simple workouts. Regularly moving also means you will sleep better and boost your immunity.
2/5 Mindful eating
It’s the holidays, so eat whatever you want. I mean it. But ensure the majority is fresh food; vegetables, fruits, seafood, protein (ideally lean) and nuts for snacks. Go easy on oily sauces and take smaller portions of desserts. Also, take your time—it's easy to get excited and rush through your meal, but you are much less likely to gorge if you slow down.
Mindful eating means paying attention to the smells, colours, taste and feel of our food. It helps us digest it more easily and become more aware of when we are full. Of course, good common sense is always key. If you overeat one day, cut back a bit the next. Like most things in life, it’s a balancing act.
Sleep is the holy grail of sanity, yet good quality sleep is not as easy to get as most of us would like. Still, no one likes a grump, and if you’re overtired, you won’t like yourself either. Work out how much sleep you need per night to function well. Everyone is different, so you can download apps such as Sleep Cycle and Sleep Time, which will guide you to your perfect number. Then, aim to get that every night.
Late night? Take a nap (set an alarm, sleep apps can advise on the perfect nap time frame as well, so you don’t oversleep) to recharge.
4/5 Drink up
Hydration is vital, and there are so many benefits to drinking lots of water—to list a few, regular water intake boosts circulation, lubricates the joints, cushions the brain and spinal cord, helps minerals and nutrients become more accessible, assists with weight loss, boosts exercise performance and best of all, reduces the chance of a hangover. The best way to make sure you're drinking enough is to keep a jug handy and refill it regularly.
Stick to one or two cups of caffeine per day at most, as four or more cups of coffee a day can result in it becoming a diuretic, causing the loss of sodium and water. And for every glass of wine you have, drink a glass of water (the bulk of a hangover is dehydration). For the record, studies say men’s bodies need around 2.6 litres of water a day and women's, 2.1 litres.
5/5 Listen and focus
Reports have shown that social media is resulting in humans losing our ability to focus. Traditionally, it reports, the average listener requires a shift in stimulation after about 20 minutes. However, with rapid-fire messages becoming the norm, we’re getting to about 20 seconds before we want to check our phones.
Holidays are a time to reconnect, so when you do have the time, remind yourself to focus on what someone is really saying. It will show you care and ensure familial relationships stay on track, no matter who burnt the cauliflower gratin.
Heather Thomas Shalabi is the co-founder and Director of Flex Studio Hong Kong, with locations in Central and One Island South.