The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it definitely isn’t always the healthiest. During this season steeped in indulgence, many of our favorite traditions make choosing healthy options difficult. You can’t pass up Grandma’s apple pie or your sister’s homemade eggnog, after all, or neglect to sit through A Christmas Story for the umpteenth time. So although there’s nothing wrong with digging into your favorite dessert or lounging through a holiday movie marathon, why not add some healthier traditions into the mix too? You’ll counterbalance some of the season’s excesses — and make it a bit easier to get back to regular life come January. Not sure what it would look like to start a healthy holiday habit? Don’t worry, we’re not talking about replacing your cookie exchange with a kale salad competition! Here are seven easy ideas to shake it up this season.
1. Try a fun run
Holiday fun runs go by many names — turkey trot, jingle jog, Hannukah hot chocolate run — but no matter the title, the concept remains the same. On a day when you’re likely to feast, it’s a good idea to start with some activity. Even if a fun run doesn’t take place on an actual holiday, training to participate in a 5K, 10K, or other distance race can keep you working out regularly. Choose a run that supports a cause you care about and make it an annual affair!
2. Start a family fitness tradition
Baby, it’s cold outside — but that doesn’t mean you can’t work in some heart-pounding exercise. Depending on where you live, you might establish a yearly post-present hike, a sledding stint on New Year’s Eve, or just a neighborhood walk after Christmas dinner (caroling not required). Alternatively, stay the fitness course all season long by challenging a friend or family member to a steps competition throughout December.
3. Add a healthy recipe to your repertoire
Have you perfected the art of the sugar cookie or nailed the greatest pot roast? Maybe it’s time to let your cooking prowess shine in other areas too. Especially if you’re headed to a gathering you know won’t have many healthy offerings, be the one to bring a tasty, good-for-you dish. Revel in your new reputation as the Salad Master or Quinoa Queen.
4. Give back
For many of us, the struggle for holiday well-being is as much about mental health as physical health. One proven means of boosting good vibes is to give of your time to others. Why not make volunteering an annual commitment? Serve at a food pantry, donate to a women’s shelter, or visit older folks at a nursing home. You may find yourself looking forward to this activity even more than the usual cookie baking and light display viewing. Plus, you might even make some new friends in the process.
5. Keep a holiday gratitude journal
Thanksgiving may have come and gone, but that’s no reason to cease counting your blessings. Grab a blank journal and jot down a handful of things you’re thankful for every few days. You’ll experience the health benefits of gratitude— and finish the year with a record of all the great memories you made throughout the season.
6. Take a social media break
What, take a social media break when you could be posting your cutest Christmas party photos on Instagram? Yep. Overwhelming research reveals that our favorite online platforms actually do more harm than good for our mental health. Comparing ourselves to others leads to feelings of inadequacy, while FOMO (fear of missing out) makes us high-strung and anxious. Saying a temporary sayonara to social media can allow you to focus on your own experience of the holidays, instead of feeling envious of someone else’s.
7. Host a healthy New Year’s brunch
Whether or not you hit your health goals during the holidays, you can still ring in the new year right. A healthy New Year’s brunch with friends may be just the thing to start fresh in January. Invite attendees to bring their favorite dishes for a healthy potluck meal and to share resolutions. You might even make a commitment to follow up with each other every month. It’s one tradition that could help you (and your besties) stay healthy all year long.