Easy Tips for a Stress-Less Holiday

3 ways to reduce anxiety during this hectic season

For many people, the holiday season means gift buying, traveling, cooking and party going, but it doesn’t have to mean stress-induced madness as a result. Follow these easy tips for more joy and less bah-humbug in your holidays:
 
Give yourself a break—You’ll be tempted, but don’t skip your exercise, yoga, meditation, or any other mental or physical break in favor of shopping or getting your house ready for friends. Even relaxing with a cup of hot tea for a moment or taking a warm bath will help prevent stress from building up. The point: taking a healthy break from holiday madness will help you stay grounded. Research by Harvard psychologists published in Science found that most of us spend about 47 percent of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re currently doing. The problem? All of this time spent day dreaming about stuff that’s not happening in the moment is very often the source of our stress and unhappiness.
 
Practice generosity with people who expect nothing— Yep, we know you’re already buying a gift for that aunt you don’t particularly like, and you’re getting something for each of your daughter’s teachers, your spouse’s boss, and (of course) special gifts for your own children. It’s a long list filled with expectant gift getters, but what about gifting something to someone who expects absolutely nothing from you? Drop off an ornament to your favorite vet or bake a banana bread for your elderly neighbor (check out this recipe). Anytime you contribute to the happiness or well being of someone who expects nothing from you, you benefit as well. Neuroscientists say these random acts of altruism light up the same pleasure centers in the brain as sex and food. Enough said!
 
Set your intention— Intentions are powerful. Psychiatrist Dan Siegel says that by setting your intention, you prime your brain for positive experiences. Other researchers have shown that when we notice a positive experience, we become more sensitive and aware of additional positive experiences. You even may start noticing so much positivity this year that you’ll never again associate holidays with stress. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Practicing the Art of Gratitude

It’s Not As Difficult as You May Think

A slew of gratitude studies say that finding ways to be grateful is the next best thing to a health and happiness miracle: gratitude can decrease physical pain, improve marriages and simply make your life happier and more successful. The benefits sound so good that it must be complicated, right? Wrong!

The world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons, PH.D. (a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis) says that gratitude really boils down to two simple components:

First, gratitude starts with affirmation of the good. We simply acknowledge that there are good things in our worlds – gifts, perks and benefits that we’ve received. Note: this doesn’t mean that we have to believe everything is perfect in our worlds – simply that there are good things.

Second, we recognize that the source of this good comes from outside ourselves. That is, we admit that other people (or perhaps higher powers for spiritual people) helped us achieve or attain the goodness in our lives. Emmons and other researchers point out that this second aspect of gratefulness – the social dimension – is particularly important. Why? Because acknowledging the help others have given us in our lives requires us to see how we’ve been supported, encouraged and assisted by other people. With this awareness, we tend to not only appreciate the benefits and support gained, but also repay them (or pay them forward).

Need some handy ways to bolster your gratitude? Try these tricks:
  1. Each day, jot down three things you are thankful for – whether tiny or huge – in a notebook or using an app (try the Gratitude Journal 365 Pro app). Alternately, right before you doze off at night, think of at least three things you’re grateful for. Seemingly basic things count – even clean sheets or a comfortable bed.
  2. Tell a coworker, spouse, child or friend something you sincerely appreciate about them. Aim to do this at least once a day.
  3. Try a gratitude meditation. Meditation teacher Sarah McClean offers a great gratitude meditation. If it’s not a fit for you, there are many more online.
Of course, it could be that you’re already extremely grateful! Check your gratitude level with this this Gratitude Quiz from Greater Good.

Sleeping Beauty

It’s Not Just a Fairy Tale

Perhaps the most important beauty tool that we all have at our fingertips is… sleep! Having sufficient sleep on a regular basis can help us not only feel healthy and energetic, but it can make us look younger too. While we sleep, our skin heals, restores vital nutrients and eliminates toxins. Here are some ways that sleep, and a lack of sleep, can affect our skin:

Complexion
While we sleep the body boosts blood flow to our skin; that is why we wake up with a healthy glow. So not enough zzz’s means not enough blood flow, which leads to dull and sallow looking skin. During sleep the body also rebalances hydration; so no sleep further dehydrates our skin, causing more fine lines and wrinkles.

Tired Eyes
Probably the first area to show exhaustion are our eyes. Since insufficient sleep reduces blood flow, circles under our eyes can look darker and our eyes look red. Extra fluid can build up as well, causing the appearance of “bags” under our eyes. Finally, because of skin dryness, crow’s feet and under-eye wrinkles can look more prominent.

Product performance
When you get enough sleep, you are allowing your skin care products to work efficiently. Since this is the time the skin renews, your skin can focus on repairing itself, thus maximizing your skin care routine. With that said, sleep truly is the best beauty tool we have… and best of all it’s free!

Maximize your sleep
You can boost your beauty sleep with a few simple add-ons. Try sleeping with two pillows to elevate your head, this can reduce the amount of fluid under your eyes. Satin pillowcases can reduce scratching or pulling on your skin. Finally, try using an overnight sleep mask to plump, firm and moisturize your skin, so you wake up looking like you had a facial

How to Cheat Without Breaking Your Diet

6 Ways to Treat Yourself Safely

The temptation to cheat on a healthy eating plan looms large towards the end of the year, when there are so many reasons to celebrate with food and drink.

Instead of getting depressed or dumping your whole diet because you’ve succumbed to moments of weakness, plan for the inevitable by allowing yourself some wiggle room. Control cheating by preparing for splurges to maintain your weight and enjoy every bite while you’re at it.

Stay Accountable

Even if you don’t keep a food diary, jot down every small or large splurge you’ve indulged in on your calendar.

Don’t Be Scale-Obsessed

Allow for some leeway on your scale. If you go over the three to five pound variance you’ve set, then it’s time to scale back the treats and amp up the exercise.

Plan Ahead…

…for cheat meals. Think about how you can savor a turkey dinner without overdoing the calories. Forego the gravy and biscuits for a tablespoon of stuffing and a sliver of pumpkin pie instead. If you’ve been served a plated meal, visually cut the portion in half and ask the host for a doggie bag. Instead of drinking wine or a mixed cocktail, which adds calories and can help you forget to eat mindfully, go for a spritzer or a sparkling water with a lime wedge. Have in your purse, flavored tea bags like cinnamon apple, ginger spice or peppermint as a tasty zero-calorie finish to a wonderful meal. Bring extras as your friends may love the idea.

Eat Mindfully

Be sure the food you’re cheating with is truly worth it. Why allow yourself a cocktail at a boring corporate gathering, when you can save the calories and the pleasure of the drink for an evening in front of the fireplace with your honey. If the dessert you’ve saved yourself for isn’t all that yummy, don’t eat it.  

Have a Mantra

Mantra’s help you avoid unplanned treats. “My body is a temple, not a trashcan.” “I’ve worked hard to get into my amazing red dress.”

Exercise

Get in a walk or a quick workout first thing in the morning on cheat days to avoid shining it on as the day gets busy. Remember weight loss is calories in, calories out.
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