We’re entering the season of indulgence, family visits and celebrations, so how to enjoy it all and not ditch your healthy habits completely? 

Let’s face it, for many of us, it’s impossible to maintain our routine over the holidays – but it’s not necessarily a bad thing! Just as it’s important to build and cultivate healthy habits, it’s important to be able to relax. If we become slaves to our routine, unable to enjoy holiday time because it interferes with our plan, that’s not healthy. A few days off won’t ruin your hard work, you’ll lose those few extra pounds in no time, and your mental health might get a boost too!

In fact, a proper rest is critical for effective physical recovery – the body has time to repair all the tissues and replenish energy stores. Continuous training can actually undermine your efforts as your body doesn’t have time to recover, and this may eventually make you weaker. Rest periods are also important for your psychological health, and can help you achieve a better work-life-training balance. By taking time off, you give yourself a permission to take a break which is something many of us struggle with. 

Also read: Yoga for Athletic Recovery 

Relaxing your routine, however, doesn’t mean that you have to give up and just sit on the sofa all day. To enjoy the holidays but still feel good about keeping some healthy habits, here are a few tips:

  1. Go out every day – it may be tempting to stay indoors when it’s cold outside but nothing can make up for fresh air and getting your blood pumping with something so simple like a walk. Go out with your family, kids, dog, alone, drag a friend out for a walk, or plan ahead to watch the sunrise that happens conveniently late in winter! Lockdown rules might make it impossible to spend lots of time outdoors but even a walk to the shop counts.
  • Try walking meditation: Find a quiet place (it doesn’t have to be remote, just not too noisy), and walk slowly, focusing on the physical sensation of how your feet touch the ground, listen to the sounds around you, feel how your breath cools your nose on the inbreath and warms it on the outbreath. Your mind will inevitably wander but always draw it back to the present moment and to the physical sensations. You can also pause, take a few slow, deep breaths, and then continue. You can walk somewhere but you can also just find a place where you’re able to walk there and back several times – a garden or even a quiet street.
  1. Move about – if you’re on your own, simply choose one of our Yoga practices and we’ll guide you, but if you’re with family and friends, you may not have the privacy to practice. The solution? Suggest a physical game – sure, it can be Twister, but it can also be a scavenger hunt around the house, or something as simple as using masking tape to make a line on the floor, then walking, hopping on one foot, or walking backwards on it. If you feel adventurous, why not try some acro yoga with children? Or you can do a family challenge – try practicing a handstand at the wall each day, or do five sun salutations before breakfast each morning. There are many physical activities to do indoors, the only thing that matters is to choose according to who your company is!
  1. Breathe – you probably don’t need a reminder to do that but what we mean is to remember that you can do breathwork even when you’re sitting on the toilet and it’s your only moment of calm. Or first thing in the morning, or as the very last thing in the day! A few moments of breathwork can help clear your mind, reset your emotions, and lower your blood pressure. Try box/square breathing: Inhale for the count of 4, hold your breath for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4, and hold your breath for the count of 4. Your breathing should be smooth and deep with no sudden expulsion of breath on the exhale. As you get more comfortable in the rhythm, increase the count to 5 or 6. Perform this for a few minutes and see how you feel afterwards.

Also read: Yogic breathing techniques made simple

  1. Eat fruit – a simple but powerful healthy habit. It offers a double benefit – you get vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy sugars, while also leaving less room in your stomach for less healthy foods. Don’t forget to buy fresh and frozen fruit so you always have something at hand. You can also get some unsweetened dried fruit to accompany Christmas sweets for a healthier balance.
  1. Go for savory snacks – when you’re at a get-together choose nuts, breadsticks, savory popcorn, olives, or pretzel bites over cookies, candy and sugar-iced gingerbread. Chips may be tempting but try not to eat more than a handful. Choosing your snacks wisely can help you avoid a ton of sugar and fat. That’s not to say you can’t eat any sweets but switching things up can make you feel better, lighter, and you may avoid sugar-overload headaches.
  1. Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach – not only it makes you drunk fast because there’s nothing in your stomach to slow down alcohol absorption, but alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat, so you might end up seriously stuffed. Not to mention that it affects your balance and coordination not just when you’re drunk but the next day too. Eat before you drink and know your limits!
  1. When cooking, don’t drown your meal in fat and always add some veggies – we can still indulge without using gallons of oil and deep-frying. It’ll save you lots of calories, money, and some drain-cleaning too! And when you’re cooking, make it a rule that you always have two types of vegetables with every meal – one cooked and one raw so you have different textures. Of course, you can have more if you please but with many people skipping veggies altogether at mealtimes, two is an achievable goal!
  1. Be mindful – whatever you’re doing over Christmas, be really there, present at any given moment. Put your phone down, listen, talk, observe, relax, enjoy!

It’s really not that hard to maintain healthy habits over holidays! Remember, holidays are not the time for perfection – they should be about enjoyment, being grateful and appreciating those close to you. Savor the moments and it will recharge you like nothing else. Savoring is the capacity to notice, appreciate and intensify the positive aspects of our lives. Far too often, we tend to focus more on the negative and take all the good things for granted. Savoring the good moments and appreciating all that we have helps us to redress the balance but also makes us feel better, makes us more resilient and creative, and improves our relationships with others.

Try to squeeze healthy habits, and some Yoga, into your festive time but don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned. You’ll jump into your routine again soon, and we’ll be here to help you along the way with new Yoga practices, app features and guidance!