Hidden health benefits of celebrations

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The festive season gets bad press when it comes to health — all that booze, fattening food and slumping in front of the gogglebox. But the reality is that celebrations can boost your wellbeing, especially if you were to follow a festive occasion’s must-dos a regular days.

You are around loved ones
The average family manages just 36 minutes of quality time together a day. Yet most parents believe the key to happiness lies in spending quality family time together. We all need connection and attachment and sharing time together strengthens relationships. But remember that friends can be equally important, so don’t set rules — particularly with teenagers. We all need some time out as well.

You’re on your feet
Although our perception of holidays is slumping on the sofa, we actually spend more time on our feet. Parties and slaving away in the kitchen mean we’re far less sedentary than usual. And shopping means you walk. A good stroll, especially with bags in hand, can give your heart and lungs a good workout and boost circulation, leaving you glowing. In fact, make it a daily routine, as a study has found that walking for two-and-ahalf hours a week, or 20 minutes a day, could save 37,000 lives a year.

You make and relieve family tradition
Whether it’s buying a new star or lantern every year or cooking up a family dessert recipe, traditions unite all generations. You are creating memories together, reinforcing the family unit.

You eat more fruits and veggies
It may be loads of preparation and stress, but your Christmas dinner makes clocking up your five-aday a cinch.

You make resolutions
Yes, we know many resolutions bite the dust before the end of January, but at least we start thinking about possible health improvements, whether it’s ‘do more exercise’, ‘lose weight’ or ‘eat more healthily’. And there are a few tips to increase your chances of success, says Richard Wiseman, professor of psychology at Hertfordshire University, who tracked more than 3,000 resolution makers. Men were 22% more likely to succeed when they set goals for themselves, such as losing a set amount a week rather than just saying they wanted to lose weight. And telling others their resolutions increased women’s chances of keeping them by 10 per cent.

— Daily Mirror

You give, and receive
Studies show that when we give and receive gifts, the brain releases the feelgood chemical, dopamine. Giving also releases the ‘cuddle’ hormone oxytocin. And while writing and posting cards might seem like a chore, it’s a chance to boost charity coffers. We suggest you buy cards directly from the charity you want to benefit or checking the back of packs first to see how much is donated as it can be as little as 7 per cent.

You eat together
Less than half of families sit down at the dinner table together at mealtimes. Yet, thankfully, sitting down for a festive meal is one tradition most people are holding on to.

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey, US, found families who regularly eat dinner together at home benefit in many different ways, from less obesity, as you pay more attention to what you’re eating, to happier mental states.

The study found that it’s not just the time and eating together that matters, but the nature of the interactions. Families who spent time watching TV together or eating fast food outside the home had poorer dietary intake.

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