It’s that time of year—when the length of your to-do list meets the width of the holiday treat table in the break room, and the only gift you end up giving yourself falls somewhere under the category “stress” (which isn’t, of course, a gift at all).
Thinking about your health can just add to the stress, but that’s because we tend to raise the bar too high, adopting an all-or-nothing mentality that’s tough to conquer. But take heart—giving yourself the gift of wellness doesn’t have to look like a six-mile daily run or cutting every last sweet treat out of your diet. There are many ways to insert small, good-for-you actions into your day, and there are many reasons it’s worth making it happen, from increasing productivity and creativity to decreasing aches and pains and irritability.
Consider these ideas a holiday gift from us, which will help you give a gift to yourself. Try several of them or just pick one or two that seem especially manageable.
1. Check your posture
No, your mother didn’t tell us to say this—our friend Barbara Hoogenboom did. Barbara, a physical therapy professor at Grand Valley State University who specializes in movement and posture, says our sitting and standing postures are key to our overall wellness. While sitting, aim for 90 degree angles at the hips, knees and elbows, and keep your shoulders at ease. Your head and torso should be in line with one another, and balanced over your center of gravity. Good posture doesn’t just make your mother proud, Barbara says it helps relieve back and neck tension and improves circulatory, respiratory, and digestive function (which can improve the workings of everything else—even your brain!). Read more about basic posture principles.
2. Keep moving
You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking. You may have also heard that we make chairs, but we’ve always been big fans of movement—both moving while sitting and getting up to move about your workspace. While sitting, a correctly balanced seating posture (see above) allows for maximum healthy movement, according to Barbara Hoogenboom, EdD, PT, SCS, ATC. When it comes to getting up and moving around, research shows that getting away from your usual location (like your desk) is critical to effective thinking—it not only gets the blood flowing, but it opens up neuropathways in the brain, allowing us to look at problems and projects from a fresh perspective. Read more about how “getting away” affects your brain.
3. Sleep well
Everyone knows that getting a good night’s sleep helps our immune system fight off viruses (and helps us fight off the grumpies). But research shows that adequate sleep can also boost creativity, by increasing levels of serotonin. To achieve the deep sleep required to reduce cortisol levels and boost serotonin, start winding down an hour before bed by putting away your electronic devices and reading a book or a magazine rather than Facebook or your email. A hot bath or shower also helps, as does limiting food and alcohol for two hours before bed. Sweet dreams!
4. Stretch yourself
You don’t have to go to the gym to do something good for your health. Simple stretches can be done right at your desk, boosting energy, releasing and lengthening tight muscles, and moving more oxygen through your system. Try a couple of these work-friendly stretches every hour or so. (And if you’re taking time off work for the holidays, these yoga poses can be practiced without leaving your bed!)
5. Laugh a little
Of all the gifts of wellness we’ve offered, laughter is probably our favorite at izzy+—especially during a holiday season focused on joyful times spent doing your favorite things with your favorite people. Not only does approaching life with a sense of humor bring many personal benefits, laughing with others creates and sustains interpersonal bonds (something we care a lot about at izzy+—being Better Together). Laughter also results in multiple health benefits, from decreasing stress and managing pain to energizing organs, boosting the immune system, and improving blood pressure and flow. Read more about the benefits of laughter—and be sure to practice laughter as much as possible this holiday season!