While the holidays are a celebratory time of year to gather with friends and family, they can also be full of overindulgence and unwanted stress. I created this holiday challenge to add some healthy lifestyle boosters and de-stressors into your festive season. Plus, if you continue to include these healthy habits in your everyday routine, you will be setting yourself up for success in the New Year.

Day 1: 1 serving of greens

Greens (spinach, kale, romaine, chard, arugula) are amazing for youthful skin, weight management, immunity, and natural detoxification. Leafy greens also contain folate, which produces dopamine. This pleasure-inducing brain chemical helps you keep calm during the hectic season. Add some into your diet every day. You can sneak greens into your morning smoothie, have a salad for lunch, a side salad for dinner, or sauté a serving with olive oil and garlic for a delicious side dish.

Day 2: 2 servings of fruit

Fruits contain wonderful vitamins and minerals for your body, but they are also higher in natural sugar.

Thus, you only want to consume about 2 servings per day. Including some low-glycemic berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) in your diet is a wonderful addition. They work great in smoothies and contain loads of fiber and immune-boosting antioxidants. Apples, oranges, and bananas also make great snacks paired with a handful of nuts or nut butter.

Day 3: 3 teaspoons of healthy fats

Healthy fats are pivotal to achieving optimal wellness and should be included in your diet. Monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts) and polyunsaturated fats (Omega-6 and Omega-3) have a positive effect on your health when eaten in moderation. These fats are extremely beneficial in reducing cardiovascular disease, inflammation, diabetes, depression, ADHD, and cancer. Specifically, Omega-3s (salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts) are known to help improve brain health. Include at least 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) of healthy fat in your diet daily (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, macadamia nut oil, ghee). In the alternative, enjoy a serving of nuts (1/4 cup) or nut butters (1-2 tablespoons).

Day 4: 4 servings of non-starchy vegetables

Colorful non-starchy vegetables contain powerful antioxidants, vitamins, and properties that protect against cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. They are also nutrient-dense and contain loads of healthy fiber, so they keep you satiated until your next meal. Fill up on at least four servings daily (1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw).

Day 5: 5 minutes of mindfulness

Mindfulness is a tool to navigate your busy world. Taking even a few minutes to pause each day can have a profound effect on your emotional and physical health. You can meditate, do breathwork, journal, or pray.

Day 6: 6 things I’m grateful for

Every morning or before you go to bed, write down 6 things that you are grateful for this holiday season. Revisit your journal any time throughout the day that you need a mental or emotional boost.

Day 7: 7 hours of sleep

On average, you need 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. This is crucial for maintaining your body’s immunity, metabolism, and productivity. When you get a good night’s sleep, mood-regulating serotonin levels stabilize. But when you miss out on sleep, your brain cannot rebalance, and studies suggest, may even shut down your mind’s logic center. A lack of sleep also creates hormonal imbalances, which may lead to illness and weight gain.

Day 8: 8 glasses of water

We do not function at full capacity when we are dehydrated. Upping your water intake will also help with any unwanted holiday bloat. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Flavor your water with your favorite fruit and herb combinations. You can also drink herbal tea. I love anti-inflammatory cinnamon around the holiday season.

Day 9: 9 acts of kindness to self and others

During the holiday season, nothing warms your heart more than giving to others in need. Perform 9 acts of kindness before the New Year, whether it is volunteering, donating toys/food, holding the door for a stranger, just to name a few. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Sometimes we can be our harshest critics so treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.

Day 10: 10 minutes of movement

Exercise is your best defense against coping with life’s daily stressors. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from your daily worries. Further, exercise helps you build bone, gain muscle, and lose or maintain weight. Make a commitment to move for at least 10 minutes every day. For instance: take a walk over your lunch hour or with your dog, do cardio on your favorite exercise machine, stretch, do Pilates, or play sports with your friends.

Day 11: 11 minutes of self-care

If you are overworked, overstressed, and not taking care of your needs, you will not be at your best for your clients, colleagues, family, and friends. Therefore, devout at least 11 minutes a day for me time. For instance: read a book, take a nap, cook a healthy meal, do yoga, get a massage, take a bath, play the piano, work on a puzzle or art project, listen to a podcast or music – whatever relaxes you and puts a smile to your face.

Day 12: 12 reps of your favorite strength training exercise

Resistance Training is ideal at least 2-3 times a week because bone and muscle deteriorate as we age. Begin incorporating it into your lifestyle routine by doing at least one exercise to cap off your holiday challenge. You can use weights, soup cans, exercise bands, or your own body weight.

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