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Have a Mindful Christmas

During the holiday season, there is a tendency for the pressure of life to drain away the joy, magic, and meaning of the season.  When our opportunity to enjoy the season is replaced by an overload of stress, then something is amiss.

As a reminder that we have a choice about how we respond to stress during the holiday season, our friends Leila and Beth at the Alabama Institute for Mindfulness offer a few suggestions that can help bring back the joy.  They hope these tips will be supportive and restorative as you spend time with family and friends during the wondrous and busy season. Here are their suggestions.

First, acknowledging the holidays are stressful doesn’t make you Scrooge; actually it’s the first step toward savoring the season. Before you can help anyone else, you have to, as the flight attendant says, “put the oxygen mask on yourself first.”  Good self care is actually a selfless act that allows you to engage fully with your family, friends, work and community during this special time of year. So here are some simple holiday stress reduction tips:

Stick with your daily routine. Often the first thing to go when we get busy is the daily workout,   meditation, prayer time, dog walk or leisurely cup of tea. As tempting as it might be to get a jump on a busy day by skipping your routine, don’t do it. These are important activities that ground, energize, and help get the creative juices flowing.

Pause periodically. Try taking a long slow breath before you answer the phone or put your hand on the door to enter a room. In the elevator, in the car or sitting at your desk, notice where you feel tension in your body and imagine breathing into those places, then as you exhale, see if you can “soften” those places of tension. Traffic lights and stop signs are the perfect places for a long, slow, calming breath. These periodic pauses provide more oxygen to the brain and give you a moment to collect your thoughts before the next activity. 

Eat with awareness. Holiday parties and events often center around food. Notice the fragrance, color, and texture of the food you are eating. You don’t have to count your chews, just slow down and bring awareness to the taste and feel of the food in your mouth. Try putting your eating utensils down between bites. If you are dieting and “slip up,” be kind to yourself and acknowledge that the holidays are a difficult time to diet and just begin again.

Let the sun shine. Get outside for a bit each day. Even if you are not an outdoor person, your brain and body benefit from the sunlight. Research indicates that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be caused by a lack of light. Sunlight plays an important role in mood regulation. So walk or sit on a bench and read a book or watch the birds. A little bit of sunshine can go a long way toward brightening your holiday season.

Change your attitude with gratitude. When you notice you are a bit grumpy or cranky from the holiday frenzy, pause, take a breath, and think of something for which you are grateful. It can be a person, relationship, the sun on your face, or the fragrances of Christmas or Hanukkah. Acknowledging things that you are grateful for may be just the thing to push the mood reset button.

There is no research indicating that self-criticism is helpful in accomplishing goals. So when the inner critic begins the litany of shortcomings, treat yourself as tenderly as you would your best friend. Letting go of the perfect holiday myth may allow you to be fully present with family and friends as you celebrate this season of love and light.

With Warmth, Leila Nabors and Beth Cook,

Alabama Institute for Mindfulness


More about Mindfulness

            The Alabama Institute for Mindfulness will be offering an 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction class.  Click here for more information.

How to Avoid Weight

Gain at Holiday Functions

For many, upwards of 75% of their weight gain happens during holidays.  While Thanksgiving and Christmas may be the most troublesome, there are plenty of other candy holidays that can contribute to weight gain.  Here are more strategies that can help when confronted by tempting foods served at social occasions.

  • Eat healthy food before you go. That way, if tempted, you will likely eat far less.
  • Take healthy food with you. If asked, it’s safe to say, “My doctor has me on a special diet.”
  • When left with no other choice, choose healthier options like vegetables, fruits, and salads even if they aren’t prepared in the healthiest way.

Is Healthy Eggnog an Oxymoron?

            You may wonder if it’s possible to create creamy, guilt-free eggnog for the holiday season.  Well, Chef AJ claims it’s possible and has a recipe to share.

            In a short video, Chef AJ demonstrates how to create her guilt-free eggnog with the flavor and creaminess you love with no eggs, no sugar, no dairy, no alcohol, no nuts, and no sugar.

            Now, enjoy the holidays with Chef AJ’s Weight Loss Compliant Eggnog. If you can’t find all of the ingredients, try AJ’s Vegan Heaven With a Sip Of Creamy Nog as an alternate eggnog recipe.

More About Finding Joy

and Good Health During the Holidays

            The web links below are to articles from the past that offer more tips for making the holiday season joyful and healthy. 

From Forks Over Knives

A Plant-Based Winter Dinner

            The menu serves 6 to 8 and includes Polenta Crostini with Chickpea Pesto, Winter White Bean Minestrone, Kale and Sweet Potato Salad with Dried Cranberries, Festive Vegetable Pot Pie, and  Holiday Jam Dot Cookies.  Click here for the recipe.

By Nancy Neighbors, MD

... Dr. Neighbors provides a blend of traditional family medicine and evidence-based lifestyle medicine in Huntsville, Alabama. When indicated, lifestyle change is recommended as the first line of therapy.

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