Holidays got you stressed? Bury your inner Scrooge with these delightful to-dos of fun, food, friendship, and more. Trying even a few of them throughout the holiday season will ensure your December is filled with happiness, health, joy, and inspiration. Consider them a gift from us to you.
December 1: Seek icy thrills
Winter activities such as skiing, ice-skating, sledding, and tubing aren't just great calorie burners, they're exhilarating. "The speed and fresh air give you a sense of elation that you just don't get with many other workouts," says Robyn McKay, PhD, a positive psychology researcher at Arizona State University.
Belt out "Santa Baby" Singing is linked to stress reduction. Even better, join a choir. One study revealed that on average, choral singers rate their satisfaction with life higher than the general public does--even when the actual problems the singers face are more substantial than those of the rest of us.
Enjoy a candy cane Studies show that just the menthol smell alone will pep you up to enjoy the holiday festivities. It's also yummy for your tummy, helping to calm an upset stomach.
Munch meringues These holiday cookies have fewer than 20 calories a pop--and zero fat--so you can eat a handful without breaking the calorie bank. (Check out 20+ guilt-free holiday cookies.)
December 5: Add 27 Dresses to your Netflix queue
Even the expectation of watching a favorite comedy ups mood-boosting endorphins by 27%, shows new research.
December 6: Skip the baubles
Instead of requesting jewelry, ask your husband to take you dancing. People are happier when they have life experiences instead of receiving material items, experts say.
December 7: Tap into the power of flowers
People feel better and perkier when they see a bouquet first thing in the morning, and the energy boost lasts throughout the day, reports Harvard researcher Nancy Etcoff, PhD.
December 8: Get a helper's high
A recent study shows that people who were asked to perform a different kind act every day--small courtesies such as helping a neighbor shovel her walk--reported a marked increase in happiness after 10 days. Whether you do it with money or time, giving is good for you. "Helping others increases your own level of gratefulness and positive emotions," says Sheela Raja, PhD, a psychologist and stress researcher at the University of Illinois.
December 9: Send your old pillow packing
To wake up feeling your best, you need a comfy headrest. If your pillow doesn't quickly spring back after you fold it in half, it's time for a new one.
December 10: Hold hands with your sweetie
When couples were more affectionate for a month, researchers saw a dip in their stress hormones and blood pressure and an increase in a hormone thought to calm and counter stress.
December 11: Cut down your own tree
Being in the great outdoors reduces stress, improves mood, and boosts happiness, reports Eeva Karjalainen, PhD, of the Finnish Forest Research Institute. It may also strengthen your immune system by increasing the number and activity of cancer-destroying cells. For a feel-good feeling to the season, be sure to "treecycle."
December 12: Stargaze
"Concentrating is very meditative," says Boston-based psychologist Alice Domar, PhD. "And you really have to focus to see things in the sky--the Milky Way doesn't have a sign on it!"
December 13: Become a softie
Dry, flaky skin is a downer. Keep your skin baby soft by switching to a superhydrating body cleanser. Two that leave you silky smooth: Dove Winter Care Beauty Bar ($7 for six bars; drugstores) and Melvita Extra-Rich Shower Cream ($17; melvita.com). (Protect your skin with our ultimate cold weather skin guide.)
December 14: Window-shop
The same brain chemicals that make sex so pleasurable rise sharply when you're window-shopping. To avoid overspending, peek through the glass when stores are closed or you've left your wallet at home.
December 15: Bask in a Nutcracker ballet performance
Haven't seen Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy twirl and leap since you were a little girl yourself? Get tickets to a local community performance. New research shows that people who regularly attend cultural events feel healthier and more vital than those who don't participate.
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