A Guide to Improve Your Holistic Well-Being This Christmas
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By Trina Basaysay
While many of us love the holidays, we all know they can also be stressful. You might feel the pressure of buying the perfect gifts and organising the best parties in town, or perhaps you’re concerned about interacting with people in social settings. The holidays can be challenging for those who are feeling down during this Christmas.
The holiday period affects the different facets of your well-being, not just your physical wellness. This Christmas and before 2022 ends, aim to care for yourself holistically as the best gift you can give yourself this year and the right way to prepare for the new year! Ahead are easy habits to help you holistically improve your health and wellness this holiday season.
Why Holistic Well-Being Matters
Holistic well-being takes into account that you’re a whole, multi-dimensional person. Counselling Psychologist Dr. Carrie Steckl believes that looking into the different dimensions of your well-being is necessary to achieve overall behavioural health and wellness.
But before we dive deeper, let’s take a quick look at the five major dimensions of your wellness:
1. Physical Well-Being
Physical well-being is the sum of your lifestyle habits that lead to a “balanced state of body, mind, and spirit” as defined by the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology. Alone, physical activities, including working out, are not enough. Your exercise should be complemented by healthy lifestyle habits such as eating properly and sleeping adequately to reduce your risk of disease and achieve cardio health, mobility, stronger muscles, healthy weight, and many more.
2. Mental Well-Being
According to Mind, mental well-being can be about how you feel, your ability to cope, and the possibilities of the present moment. It is something that affects your actions, moods, physical health, and relationships. Amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, your mental well-being is an important aspect of your self-care because it helps you to face stress better, make healthier choices, and connect with others well.
3. Emotional Well-Being
Psychologist Dr. Mark Lerner, Chairman of the National Center for Emotional Wellness, Inc., defines emotional wellness as the “understanding and acceptance of our feelings, and our ability to effectively manage through challenges and change.”
You can get swept up by the Christmas frenzy, leaving you overwhelmed, anxious, and frustrated. Taking care of your emotional well-being allows you to handle stress-inducing holiday events.
4. Spiritual Well-Being
Spiritual well-being pertains to that part of yourself that connects you to the higher power or something bigger than yourself. It focuses on your activities that oversee the soul. With strong spiritual health, you are more grounded and gentler to yourself and others, which is vital to building strong relationships and solving holiday stressors.
5. Social Well-Being
Mindfulness Expert Jenna Sinclair defines social well-being as “the sharing, developing, and sustaining of meaningful relationships with others.” Social well-being is good for your emotional and mental health because it’s all about connecting with others and giving us a feeling of sense of belonging. You don’t have to do life alone.
How the 5 Dimensions Are Connected
When talking about holistic well-being, each of the above 5 dimensions plays an important role. The emphasis on the term “holistic” comes from the fact that all parts that make up who you are do not operate in isolation but are very much connected. If one of the five dimensions is out of balance, the rest will inevitably get affected.
Stress, for instance, is linked to a host of physical health issues such as tension headaches, high blood pressure, neck and shoulder pain, and many more. It may also trigger worry, anxiety, depression, and other emotional concerns. Knowing what is causing your stress will help get to the bottom of your health concerns.
A 2020 research also established the link between strong spirituality and healthy behavior and psychological health. The secret is to actively work to balance all 5 dimensions for optimum health and wellness.
Improved Holistic Well-Being: 5 Tips
Living your best self entails caring for the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of yourself. Here are some simple habits to help you look after your wellness holistically over the holidays.
1. Practise Mindful Eating
Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment. When mindfully eating, a study made by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public health explains you pay more attention not only to your food choices but also to your responses to internal and external physical cues.
Doing so, it notes, results in selecting food that both satisfies and nourishes the body while letting you savour the taste, texture, and smell of your food. Additionally, mindful eating gives your stomach enough time (at least 20 minutes) to send signals to your brain that it is full. This is great for your weight management efforts.
Here are tips for some mindful and enjoyable eating experiences during the holidays:
• Take time to be aware as you chew your food thoroughly
• Look out for your physical hunger cues and stop once you feel full
• Put away all distractions such as your phones and television
• As you eat, express appreciation for your food and its role in your wellness
2. Do Meditation and Breathwork
Is the Christmas rush starting to bother you? That’s your body’s cue for you to take a break. Meditation and breathing exercises can help melt the stress away, boost your mood, and improve your sleep, according to research.
They work by slowing your heart rate, relaxing your muscles, and decreasing your blood pressure, thus calming both your body and mind. Meditation and breathing exercises work wonders for your physical and emotional well-being.
When meditating, try to:
• Find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed
• Close your eyes and focus on your breathing
• Breathe slowly and deeply. Inhale through your nose and then exhale through your mouth
• Do not worry if your mind starts to wander. Just gently return your attention to your breathing
• You may also try scanning your body to pinpoint and relax tension and pain points
• Be kind and gentle to yourself. Express gratitude, forgiveness, and love
• Incorporate other relaxation techniques apart from deep breathing such as nature therapy and massage
3. Plan a Post-Christmas Holistic Detox
During this season, we might overindulge in alcoholic drinks and usual holiday staples such as turkey, roast potatoes, and Christmas pudding– often leaving you feeling bloated. No need to feel guilty though. Instead, kickstart a holistic detox plan after Christmas to cleanse your body and restart your wellness journey right away.
Fern Olivia, Speaker and Influencer on integrative medicine, yoga, and holistic lifestyle practices, gives the following tips to detox quickly:
• Drink warm water with lemon for hydration and improved digestion at the start of your day
• Resolve to eat vegetables, fruits, and nourishing meals
• Practise intermittent fasting by eating no later than 7 p.m.
• Do yoga to help bring your life balance back
• Practise mindful eating
4. Start a Gratitude Journal
Being grateful impacts your well-being by making you happier. What better period to practise gratitude than this holiday season. After all, the main reason for celebration is to look back at all the blessings and good things that have happened in our lives for the past year.
According to Harvard Medical School, gratitude puts you in a place where you experience “more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve your health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Make gratitude a habit by starting a journal. Here are some tips to keep this habit going:
• Dedicate 15 minutes of your time to writing in your journal
• Be specific - write what exactly makes you feel grateful. For example, “I’m grateful that my spouse helped me with the cooking for last night’s holiday dinner” as opposed to “I’m grateful for my spouse”
• List down everything, especially the small things
• Appreciate even the not-so-good events and the lessons they bring
• Commit to this routine. If possible, never miss a day to write in your journal
5. Learn To Say No
If your holiday invitations and obligations are getting too much for you to handle, learn to say no. Saying no has its power and is great for your mental well-being, according to Mind Matters. By creating healthy boundaries, you are:
• Caring for yourself better
• More confident, relaxed, and at peace
• Able to interact well with others
Counselling Psychologist Shaina Vasundhara Bhatia says not having a healthy boundary is not good for you in the long run because you prioritise the wants of others over yours. This can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health.
The holistic approach to wellness is unique to every individual. As you celebrate Christmas and gear up for the New Year, care for yourself holistically so you can look after others as well. Remember what this holiday is all about: be grateful, rest, and build stronger relationships with your families and friends.
Welcome 2023 with healthier and better physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being!
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