From October when the Halloween candy starts to show up through December when we show love with large and dense meals, a healthy relationship with food during the holidays can sometimes be challenging. The stressful holiday season is possibly the worst time for our diets to go uncontrolled. 64% of those of us with mental illness say it gets worse during the holidays. We are all well aware of the health risks of gaining weight, but more importantly thinking we are heavier can lead to an emotional load that makes it hard to lose weight. So instead let’s take a look at a few ways combining food and mental health during the holidays can make us feel our best.
Fill up on plants first
The link between the health of our guts and our mental health is well-studied, and our dietary health has been linked to depression, anxiety, and how well we deal with stress. Filling up on fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber and high in complex carbohydrates not only reduces the amount of unhealthy foods you will want, they’re also directly linked to helping with depression, anxiety, and stress.
Eat a lot on purpose
Some experts say that deprivation can lead to overindulgence. The food offered to us during the holidays is often delicious and given with love, so there are benefits to eating more of one or more things that we usually do. Planning the best and purest time to indulge in these meals can help to reduce seeking them out when they aren’t worth it. You can choose to eat all of your favorite relative’s pies at the big family meal and maybe skip the mass produced store-bought offerings at the office or friendly parties.
Keep the air clear
When visiting for the holidays, meals are often being prepared, and most cooking activities impact indoor air quality. Cooking a large Thanksgiving-level meal can make your air the same quality as the most polluted outdoor urban environments, but any cooking should be well-ventilated to reduce particles, chemicals, and gasses like nitrogen dioxide in the air.
Then in the spaces where we gather and eat, carbon dioxide (CO2) will inevitably build up, which can cause exhaustion and confusion even at low levels. Higher levels increase anxiety, and people with anxiety disorders can be more sensitive to CO2. Opening windows and doors, even for a few minutes at a time, helps to reduce CO2. To reduce other particles and chemicals in the air, you can also get a purifier like our Air Pro. It also has a sensor suite to let you know when it’s time to bring in outside air to dilute CO2.
Take a walk or just a moment
Individuals who are more mindful find it easier to abstain from overeating. These moderate eaters scored higher when asked how often they were observant, aware, or not reacting to their inner experiences. Approaching your food world with a little more mindfulness is simple and can be practiced almost anywhere. Taking a walk outside and just watching the world without judgment can be enough If you’re fortunate to be spending the holidays where the weather and neighborhood are safe enough to take a walk outside. Otherwise just finding a quiet corner to practice observing your thoughts can be centering.
Be thankful all year ‘round
Thanksgiving isn’t just about the last Thursday in November, being thankful about our meals can have a lasting effect on your mood at any time of the year. December in particular can be a good time not to dwell on what healthy choices should have been made this year but rather what we are thankful we did accomplish. At least one study has found that showing gratitude for what you have can be more effective in improving mood even than self-kindness. When it’s not clear what parts of our lives to be thankful for, look into gratitude exercises like the ones at this link or even listen to this short children’s book about gratitude that helps us see a few things to be thankful for. You can be thankful for what you have received from people and the world or what you have been fortunate enough to share.
The holidays make our lives a little more difficult, but they can also make our lives better if we are wise about how we approach food and socializing. We will be posting more information on how to best keep healthy on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on the Molekule blog.