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Optimizing Health This Holiday Season

As we approach the holiday season, with its hectic schedules, stressful last-minute shopping, and family expectations, finding ways to slow down, be present, and optimize wellness can often become another addition to an increasingly long “To Do” list. We’ve asked School Counselor Sophie Speidel to discuss how to stay healthy in the midst of such festivity. Her first tip? Creating a routine of daily healthy habits doesn’t have to wait until New Year’s resolutions; in fact, there is no better time than just before the holiday rush to start developing habits that can lead to healthier and happier parents and kids!

Robert Emmons, a leading expert on the benefits of gratitude, has found that regularly finding time to express gratitude contributes to a host of physical, emotional, and social benefits, including enjoying better sleep, more optimism and happiness, and feeling less lonely and isolated. My colleague, Lily Gumz, shared in a recent blog post a few easy gratitude practices that families can do together throughout the year.

It may be dark and cold outside, but the winter holidays are a perfect time to get off screens and enjoy the unobstructed views from atop Spy Rock, Humpback Rocks, or Old Rag, local mountains that are accessible family hiking favorites. In addition to our traditional New Year’s Eve afternoon hike, our family always takes a long walk in the woods after the midday holiday meal — spending just a little time in nature each day has proven mental health benefits

Much has been written about the importance of self-compassion as a mental and physical health practice, particularly for adolescents and caregivers. Self-compassion is treating yourself the way you might treat a friend, with positive self-talk and support instead of being hard on yourself with criticism and judgment. Taking time each day to read a good book, write in a journal, listen to music, or practice yoga are small habits that can have big health consequences. 

Service to Others
What better way to celebrate the holidays than to model and instill in our children the lifelong habit of giving to others? Taking a few hours to volunteer together as a family at Loaves and Fishes, Meals On Wheels, or the Blue Ridge Food Bank creates powerful opportunities for family discussions about the needs of our local community, and demonstrates empathy and concern for others while simultaneously optimizing our own health and wellness. Beyond the holiday season, practicing a regular routine of giving — the kids helping a neighbor with lawn or pet care, a parent serving as a mentor to a young adult in the workplace or in the greater community — can boost self-confidence, create social connections, and benefit everyone.

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