Holiday Habits To Keep Year-Round

The holiday decorations have been put away, the remainder of the leftovers have been tossed out and we've all wished one another a Happy New Year. And now that the holiday hoopla is over, most of us will wait until next year to start spreading cheer once again. But experts say there's no need to wait that long. In fact, they suggest that many holiday habits are worth keeping year-round, because they're proven to help boost our health and happiness. So, I've rounded up a few ideas on how you can keep up the good cheer until the next holiday season:

  • Gathering for family dinners. Most families spend half their food budget eating out today. But studies show that home-cooked meals, like the ones we have during the holidays, not only cost less, they also encourage healthier eating habits! Because kids who eat frequently with their families tend to eat more fruits and vegetables than kids who eat out or alone. Studies have also shown that children who sit down for a family dinner are less likely to get depressed or develop an eating disorder.
  • Reminiscing. Another holiday tradition people love is getting together with family and remembering the “good old days.” A recent study found that reminiscing about the past boosts self-esteem, increases empathy, and strengthens our relationships. Psychologists say it’s because nostalgia triggers feelings of belonging, which gives us a deeper sense of who we are.
  • Putting cinnamon in our hot chocolate. This is an easy one to do throughout the year. And according to new research in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, we should be adding cinnamon to our warm drinks no matter the season. Why? Because adding a spoonful of cinnamon to hot chocolate, a latté, or our morning oatmeal, is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure, and help keep our cholesterol and blood sugar in check. Plus, it's tasty!
  • Volunteer in soup kitchens. I’ve read several studies showing that people who volunteer tend to live longer than people who don’t. The key is to do it for the benefit of others, rather than just to feel better about yourself. Researchers say it’s because doing something to help others helps enhance our feelings of empathy, which a Stanford study says is linked to being more optimistic. And optimism is a key to longer life.
  • Expressing gratitude. It's important to give thanks, out loud, much like we do during Thanksgiving dinner. Psychologist Dr. Robert Emmons says 1-in-3 people report feeling better about their lives after making a list of things they were grateful for, as opposed to things that annoyed them. That reduces stress and, as a result, people have fewer health problems!
  • Going to church. A recent study found that people who go to church every week tend to have much lower blood pressure than people who never go, or who only go during the holidays! Researchers say it’s because spirituality makes us feel connected with the world. And there’s a direct link between how “connected” we feel, and having better mental health.

So, whether you're in the mood for a dash of cinnamon, or a good, old-fashioned meal with the family, give yourself permission to keep those holiday traditions going throughout the year - your mind, body and spirit will thank you for it.

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