Five Ways To Thrive During The Holidays

Yes it’s that time of year again, the season to be jolly.  So why might you be starting to feel a creeping sense of anxiety and even a little bit of dread? The truth is this time of year often finds most of us scrambling around trying to get everything done.  Buying presents, wrapping up our work and making travel arrangements.  By the time the holidays finally arrive, we’re usually so tired in our rush to relax we forgo all the small habits that make it possible to flourish during the year.  Then before we know it the holidays are almost over and we’re starting to wonder just how we’ll get through the year ahead. To be honest, it can be exhausting just thinking about it. You see as our expectations rise and our routines are disrupted around this time of year, it’s easy to start spiraling down towards a place of overwhelm, tiredness and even a sense of helplessness. So what are the small changes you can make to help you flourish during this holiday season? Try these wellbeing steps to to stay consistently jolly from now through the New Year:

1. Making time to feel good

Try to create moments of heartfelt positivity each day.  Get out into nature, maintain your exercise (even if you’re slowing it down from your usual pace), make time to meditate (even five minutes of slow breathing before Christmas lunch can help), find reasons to laugh and listen to music you love.

2. Getting engaged each day

This is a great time of year to exercise your strengths – those things you’re good at and enjoy doing.  Spend at least 11 minutes each day over the holidays developing one of your strengths – like creativity, curiosity, kindness, hope or humor – to feel immersed in life and improve your sense of confidence, energy and wellbeing.

3. Letting yourself truly be connected with others

Be it family, friends or strangers this is a time of year when we yearn to feel respected, valued and appreciated.  To know that we matter and are worthy of love.  Take the time to practice kindness and express your gratitude towards others.  It’s the best gift you can give.

4. Tuning into what gives you meaning and living purposefully

Don’t just tick the days off your calendar, make each day count by having a clear “want-to” goal about what you hope this holiday season will be.   It might be: “Making time to slow down and connect with the people you love”; “Reaching out to others less fortunate then yourself”; “Restoring your energy and renewing your focus so you can flourish in the year ahead”.  You won’t get these days again, so how can you live this time purposefully?

5. Keep growing so you can prepare yourself for the year ahead

The holidays are a wonderful time to challenge the mindsets that might be holding you back.  As you think about the new-year and all you want to achieve, try to focus on the efforts you want to be making and not just the outcomes you want to reach.  This way you’ll have the grit to be able to show up, shine and succeed.
By Michelle McQuaid To learn more, visit Michelle McQuaid at her website, www.MichelleMcQuaid.com, and follow her on: facebook_profile-1twitter_profiles-1

A Merry Manifesto: 9 Tips for a Happier Holidays

As strange as this sounds, when I was younger, I loved working during the holidays. There was something nice about making rounds in the hospital during Thanksgiving and Christmas, about being with patients and doing something that felt worthwhile. I knew I was making a difference in someone else’s life. The hospital was pretty quiet on those days so I had more time than usual to chat with patients or hang out with a fellow resident. It was both satisfying and fortifying. I noticed that many of the residents who had the holidays would return to work depleted and exhausted. They complained they had eaten too much, partied too hard or gotten in an argument with a loved one. Now that I have a family of my own, I treasure and protect my time off. But I approach the holidays thinking about how to also protect my family’s and my health and mood. Here are nine strategies to make the holidays happy and healthy:

1. No couch potatoes

Even though your inclination is to stay inside and binge on Westworld or Stranger Things, you will be happier if you do stuff. Like…

2. Take a hike

Spending 20 minutes outside boosts your mood, broadens thinking and improves memory. It also reduces stress and rumination—those nonstop negative thoughts—and puts things in perspective.

3. Overdose on time

Doing things for others boosts happiness and is linked with greater life satisfaction, decreased stress, a stronger immune system including a greater cardiovascular health and decreased physical pain. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, deliver meals for Citymeals-on-Wheels, write a note to a friend you haven’t seen in a while. A bonus side effect is when you do things for others, you feel less rushed and your sense of time expands.

4. To connect, disconnect

Try a no cellphone, computer and device policy for a certain period – the mere presence of these devices can ruin a conversation, negatively impact relationships and is, quite frankly, just rude. And no, flipping your phone face-down on the table does not count.

5. Mollify — it’s a must

If an argument does flare up, ask the other person to explain their perspective in detail. Better yet, make an obscure reference to neuroscience – it’s a surefire way to win any argument. Something about the seemingly impenetrable mysteries of the brain seems to cause people to decide they don’t need to bother with critical thinking,

6. Expect more

Your beliefs about someone can influence behavior. This is known as the Pygmalion Effect (think My Fair Lady). If you think your uncle is going to act up again, chances are he will. Hope for the best.

7. Nights of the round table

People seated at a round table – as opposed to a rectangular or square one – get along better and are less likely to bicker. Not having a head of the table minimizes confrontation. Also, a bouquet of flowers on the table is not only attractive, it is also a stress minimizer. But keep it low enough that people can easily see each other over it.

8. Know what you don’t know

If you find yourself stuck next to someone uninteresting, instead of dwelling on how dull he or she is, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this person?” Here are some easy icebreakers: I need some good book suggestions; what was the last book you couldn’t put down? I love hearing how couples first met — what was your first date like?

9. Do thanks, don’t just say it

Think of gratitude as an action. It’s a verb that works best when it is embodied, spoken aloud and when it connects you to someone else.

Looking For the Perfect Gift? Read On…

The materialism associated with the holidays can leave us feeling empty and anything but full of good cheer. Conspicuous consumption leaves a mark on our budgets and worse, our psyches and souls. And yet, we’re urged to give-give-give! Arthur Brooks calls it the “Christmas Conundrum.” He writes:
We are supposed to revel in gift-giving and generosity, yet the season’s lavishness and commercialization leave many people cold. The underlying contradiction runs throughout modern life. On one hand, we naturally seek and rejoice in prosperity. On the other hand, success in this endeavor is often marred by a materialism we find repellent and alienating.
To avoid the "Christmas Conundrum," consider the following ways to make this holiday season more meaningful:

1. Give An Experience

A dance class, a night at the theater, a membership to a museum like the The Metropolitan Museum of Art – all last longer than the short-lived excitement from something bought from a store.

2. By Hand & Heart

Bake something, draw something, create something. Personalized gifts that take time and effort mean more. You don’t need to be a superstar artist to reap the benefits of getting your hands dirty and creating something.  Regardless of experience or talent, making art of any kind is a great stress reducer.    

3. Give To Others

Studies show that kindness breeds kindness. It’s contagious, so pass it on. Kindness is the gift that keeps on giving. Make a donation in a loved one’s name. Two of my favorites are Citymeals-on-Wheels and Heifer International. 

4. The Gift Of Time

There is nothing more valuable than time. A wonderful gift is the promise of quality time with someone you love. Ideas: Plan an evening with a friend or group of friends or make coupons for your children, like “This entitles you to 20 extra minutes at bedtime…”

5. Of-The-Month Gifts

Love times 12 and depending on whom it’s for, there’s a gift of the month for every kind: Limited Tory Burch Foundation Seed BoxFabFitFun Beauty Box, Bloomsy Box flower club, Boxwalla small batch snack box, Dry Farm low sugar organic wine subscriptionBark Box for your furry friend and Bespoke Post Box for the man in your life. It will be something they look forward to for an entire year.

6. Give Them What They Want

Christmas lists have power. People report more satisfaction and appreciation when they receive a gift they actually asked for rather than a surprise. Above all, remember the wise words of the Grinch:

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more! - Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Need a Cure for Party Anxiety? Pass the Cocktail Weenies

Does the idea of making small talk at cocktail parties — no matter how strong the drinks — make you nervous? If your answer is “yes,” then I have a simple solution that doesn’t require avoiding social situations: At your next party, try actively doing something nice for someone else. Socially, this could mean anything from offering to arrange all the flowers guests bring as gifts or getting drinks for guests to replenishing the platter of pigs in a blanket. As we start another season of holiday cocktail parties and dinners, it’s worth revisiting this study out of the University of British Columbia. It showed that when people with social anxiety do something nice for someone else, they feel more comfortable in a social situation and can actually mingle more easily. As the study outlines:
“Acts of kindness may help counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person’s social environment. It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”
These aren’t grand gestures. They’re small acts of kindness – like grabbing a fresh cup of coffee for your co-worker, doing your roommate’s dishes, donating to a charity or, in the case of the cocktail party, replenishing glasses with champagne – experienced less social anxiety than those who didn’t. They were more outgoing and less worried about rejection. It all lead to less anxiety and better relationships. (Just think, the hostess will be grateful, too.) And that’s something worth toasting to.
Holiday Weight Gain

Holiday Weight Gain is Real: 12 Ways to Combat the Pounds

The average American gains between 4 and 7 pounds over the winter holidays. Here are 12 secrets to maintaining your weight — and sanity — this holiday season (and still enjoying yourself):

1. Use the 80% rule

Stop eating when you are 80% full. Longevity expert Dan Buettner says this can be the difference between a pound lost versus a pound gained.

2. Don't eat your feelings

If Aunt Mary keeps probing for the tenth time about when you are planning to have children, it's time to break up the stress and bring out Cards of Humanity. Stress combined with calorie-packed treats can lead to overeating. Be aware of those situations and your choices. Bring a game that the whole family can partake in to help avoid uncomfortable conversations.

3. Avoid the collective holiday mindset

Life isn’t on hold until January 1st. Do not use the holidays as an excuse to put health on the back burner. Don’t stop going to the gym.

4. Knowledge is power

Weigh yourself every day. As painful as this sounds, it really works.

5. You are not Pac-Man

Survey the entire buffet before you serve yourself. People eat less when they know what to expect. Plus you won't end up with food on your plate that you didn't really want.

6. Snooze

Fatigue leads to overeating. Make sleep a priority.

7. Make it not about you

Volunteers weigh less, feel healthier and have less of a chance of suffering from a heart attack than the Scrooges of the world. When you are offering a helping hand, you are less likely to be dreaming about that second (or even first) slice of cake.

8. Use a small plate

I promise it will limit how much you can pile on your plate and you will end up eating less.

9. Use your teeth

Slow down and chew more. The food will taste better and plus you won't look like a human vacuum cleaner.

10. Be vain

Too much sugar reduces effectiveness of elastin and collagen, proteins in the skin that help maintain its youthful appearance. It also causes acne.

11. Take a hike

Or a brisk walk. The more you move the less likely you will pack on the pounds. Walking also reduces stress and rumination. Do it with a friend for an added boost.

12. Make it worth it

If you are going to indulge, make it worth it. Skip the store-bought Christmas cookies so you can really dive into Grandma’s homemade pecan pie.

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Ana Flores


A passionate leader, and advocate for portraying Latina women in a positive light, Ana Flores is both founder and CEO of #WeAllGrow Latina Network, the first and largest community of Latina digital influencers.

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