I love celebrating the season and the idea of giving but the pressure and hype of the winter holiday just doesn’t feel right to me.
So how can we take the good intention of giving, make it health promoting, slow things down, sprinkle on some cozy, and minimize the pressure?
First of all, feel free to make the holiday what you want it to be. What brings you joy? Do more of that. What brings you stress? Do less of that. You get to decide what you want your holiday to feel like.
Here are 14 unconventional but health promoting gifts that you can give yourself and others this holiday season to slow things down and bring back the warm and tender feelings of the winter holiday season.
- Quiet. This is number one because I think it is the most important and wonderful gift you can give yourself this holiday. I know there is not a lot of extra time in the day, I am realistic with 4 kids and two working parents. But even just 4 minutes in the morning or anytime can be magic. Pick a time of day. Light a candle, take a bath, take 5 rounds of breath or do a body scan. Whatever way you choose, choose to add some moments of quiet in your day this holiday starting today. Do you hear that? Me neither. Ahhhhhh.
- Tea. I really believe in the healing qualities of tea physically, emotionally and spiritually. Tea can bring so much to your life. Share a pot of tea with your family or friends or enjoy a cup by the fire by yourself. The nutrients in tea are wonderfully bioavailable or easy to absorb, and tea can bring ease and calm to a crazy day. Some favorites of mine to help relax include lemon balm, catnip, nettles, chamomile and motherwort.
- Dark. Bring it in. The pace of the holiday can be loud, bright, and busy. I invite you to welcome in the dark where you can. The winter is meant to be darker and a time of turning more inward and restoring. Truth is we need dark to help our circadian rhythm which is responsible for so much including metabolism and sleep. Try leaning into the dark by using more candles this time of year, keep the mornings a bit darker and the evenings darker too. Try keeping off the overhead lights a bit and see how that feels. If you need to be on electronics at night get a blue light filter for your computer or glasses to block out the blue light. The Circadian Code by Satchin Panda is a great read about how important our circadian rhythm is.
- Processing our stress is so important for overall health. This holiday explore a new way to process stress better. Try guided imagery, or meditation, or a body scan, tapping, or breath practice. There are classes, books, and apps to help. I love the simplicity of the Calm app, or the wonderful options at Sounds True but there are thousands of good ones out there including lovely community groups that meet regularly. Don’t overthink it, just try something.
- Get outside. Take a walk outside every single day this month. Yes, that is a gift to yourself. Even just 10 minutes is good. Listen to the sounds, notice the trees, the birds, the air, the sun, the smell, the ground underfoot. Or, if you want to connect with a friend ask them to meet you for walk but only if it brings you joy and peace. However you do it, alone or with a loved one, bundle up and get out there.
- Learn a new hobby. This can be so fun so think outside of the box. Maybe it is wood work, pottery, painting, parkour, dance, guitar, a new language, tai chi, etc. What have you always wanted to learn? Sign up! Buy yourself or loved ones some classes this holiday.
- Bring some art into your life. Maybe you can check out a new art exhibit with a friend, or a concert, or visit local art studios, or get tickets to the theatre, or get a good coffee table book of pictures of people around the world, or pick up some colored pencils and paper and color or draw or paint.
- Spend some time cooking this holiday. Either learn a new recipe, ask your friends or children to cook with you, or prepare some healing foods for yourself or loved ones. Ideas include sauerkraut, granola, juices, broths, elixirs, soups, energy balls, or sprouts. These foods make wonderful gifts too. Drop a juice off at a friends or package up some granola. Want support? Get yourself or a loved one a lifelong membership to the Healing Foods Club. Loads of videos, recipes, nutrient info and more. Check it out and use coupon HOLIDAYBLISS for 25% off this December.
- Consider a charity to donate to and donate whatever you can, big or small. I like to think in terms of one local charity, one national charity and one international charity. What matters to you? Find a charity that makes a difference in that area and go for it. Ideas include women’s health, environmental issues, children, local shelters, protecting the wilderness, refugees.
- Explore your gut. If you have a bit more money to spend this holiday on yourself it might be fun to do a functional test to see what the condition of your gut is like. Since our current and longterm health is rooted in our gut it is fun to see what microbes are there, how they might be impacting our hormones, how we are digesting food, the integrity of our gut wall, if we have gut inflammation, etc.
- Clean products. The holiday is a great time to get yourself or loved ones some clean lotions or oils or soaps or scrubs, etc. The Environmental Working Group is a fabulous resource to find the cleanest products that will also support healthy hormone balance and cellular health in your body.
- Journal. Again, it often seems like we don’t have time to journal but it can be an incredibly helpful and rewarding ritual to journal each day. You don’t need to overthink it. Just sit down for 5 minutes and write whatever comes to your mind. Cozy up by the fire if you can or just at the kitchen table works too. The more you do it the easier it will become. The first step is getting yourself a journal. Wrap it up for yourself or just jump right in. The winter months bring a quieter and more reflective energy than the summer months. The winter is the perfect time to start or reignite your journaling practice.
- Be playful. So often as adults the holiday brings us stress and we forget to play. Play board games with loved ones, have snowball fights, go ice skating, make your own wreath, go sledding, make a snowman, have a bonfire outside and invite friends over to roast marshmallows, dress up and ski with your friends, etc. Whatever play looks like to you. Bring in some lighthearted joy this holiday.
- Sleep. Sleep is critical for our health and is often under valued during the busy holiday. Gift yourself a bedtime this year and stick to it. Create a lovely ritual around your sleep. Add a relaxing bath of lavender and sea salts before bed or start a worry journey to release any worries from the day before you go to bed. Make sure your room is cool and dark to get the best sleep and leave your phone far away from your bed, better yet in another room. If you want a great book on sleep check out Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker.
Happy holidays. I hope you enjoy some quiet, dark, cozy, and meaningful times this holiday with your loved ones. Spend some time thinking about how you want this holiday to feel. Set an intention. I would love to hear how you do this. Please share with us here or on instagram at @mountainrebalance
Janel Ferrin Anderson. NC FNLP DNM. Lover of the mountains, the seasons, all things wild, and also helping people understand the physiology of their body and how food and lifestyle impact their health. Janel works one on one and in group settings both online and in person out of her Tahoe/Truckee office to help people optimize how their bodies function.