We are now officially into December and the Season of Advent! It can be a beautiful time of year, with fairy lights and candles adding a glow to darker evenings, and an opportunity to revisit holiday traditions such as Christmas baking and cosying up for movies like White Christmas (one of my favourites!). It can also be a very difficult time of year, and I’m probably not alone in feeling like the longer nights and darker days can intensify feelings of sadness at this time of year.
I’d love to share some of the things that help to boost my mood in December, with the hope that you may find 1-2 tips to try out this month. I believe it’s so important to spend time savouring the yummy treats and traditions of the holidays so this is not a list of foods to reduce or recommendations to work out every day – it’s simply not possible to do everything in this busy month!
Instead, these are gentle ways to feel a little healthier this season and increase the feel-good chemicals that we especially need in the winter.
Try to increase the amount of fluids you drink each day, especially water and healthy teas. If you don’t enjoy drinking cold water in the winter, try hot water with lemon. Teas are also a great way to increase the amount of water you are consuming, with extra benefits like a more peaceful mood (black tea), healthier skin (green & white tea) and increased immunity to colds & flus (many teas!)
Foods like chia seeds, cucumbers, and oranges (in season during the colder months) can help to increase hydration levels too.
On a personal note, black tea is an essential part of my daily routine. I have a cup of Earl Grey tea every morning and usually another cup of tea in the afternoon. I discovered a gorgeous tea blend made by a local woman that includes black tea, rose petals, dried strawberries and lavender….it was originally made for a Niagara winery, using their estate grown lavender. It’s pretty and tastes amazing:
Years ago, I did the Portion Fix containers from Beachbody. Originally, the system had appealed to me as a way to slim down, but it ended up having a much bigger impact on the way I thought about balanced nutrition. As part of the plan, I needed to eat 4 ‘red containers’ of protein each day. The red container could be 2 eggs, 2/3 cup of chicken or other meats, 2/3 cup of greek yogurt, etc.
It was SO difficult for me to eat that much protein because I was so used to eating cereal, pasta, and other carbohydrates. My entire balance of foods was skewed towards carbs at the expense of protein.
Once I got accustomed to eating more protein, I quickly realized that I wasn’t as hungry and my health improved in a lot of ways. How much and what types of protein to eat can be a controversial topic, but many researchers are rethinking the current recommended amounts with an eye to raising them.
Give yourself permission to Slow Down
In the rush to shop, cook, bake, and visit with as many people as possible, it can be difficult to carve out time to relax. One great quote I heard recently (thank you Fitnessista!) is: “Just because you skip something this year, doesn’t mean it still isn’t a tradition.” So if you don’t have the energy to cook a turkey, it is fine to order one with all the fixings. If you can’t bear to decorate from top to bottom this year, give yourself permission to let it go.
The holidays can be fraught with all kinds of “gosh, I should…” or “the kids need 18 dozen homemade cookies/ daily Elf on the Shelf shenanigans/ piles of gifts to be happy”. It’s all too much. Give yourself permission to slow life down a bit….skip the holiday party you just don’t have the energy for or even (gasp!) skip the workout when you’re already tired.
Being stressed out does nothing to help you, physically or emotionally. When we are stressed, we don’t sleep well and we usually don’t eat well. Take time to relax, pare back your commitments, and remember that we all need a lot less STUFF than we think.
Get more sleep
Along a similar vein as slowing down, prioritize good sleep this month. Sleep is the best (free!) beauty tool and has many more benefits for our health. Dr. Michael Breus is one of the best and most accessible sleep experts out there, and he has great resources on how to get a good night’s sleep. His website and his book (one of my favourite reads!) also details a lot of the cosmetic benefits of sleep, from a rosier complexion to clear eyes.
I’m not a great sleeper but one trick that has helped me recently is magnesium powder, in a cup of water right before bed. It puts me into a pretty deep sleep without feeling tired in the morning. I like the children’s version of the powder from Orange Naturals – it has a sweeter orange-drink like taste (if you remember the Dixie cups of orange drink from school in the 1980s!).
Move your Body
It doesn’t need to be a full workout at the gym, but finding ways to move your body this month can help to boost your energy and your mood. You can try my “bedtime stretches” video on YouTube or my Back Care Flow (filmed very early in the pandemic…) for some ideas or bundle up and take a walk outside! We underestimate how much a walk in the woods or even just in the fresh air can boost spirits.
I hope that these tips can help you feel like you get to enjoy ALL the great things about the holidays while still feeling healthy and energized. I’d love to hear your own tips for feeling good through the holidays…comment below or send me a quick note! 💗