A group of friends ice skating at an outdoor rink, smiling for a selfie

7 Holiday Activities That Are Also Well-Being Boosters

By Kaitlin Vogel
December 08, 2022

The holiday season is meant to raise our spirits, but as the days get longer and darker, and obligations start to stack up, it can also bring its share of challenges. The same social whirl that brings joy can also make it more challenging to prioritize your wellness. No matter what holiday you celebrate or how chaotic your schedule, it’s more essential now than ever to carve out time to find joy and savor the season.

But you don't have to rack your brain trying to figure out how to fit a self-care session into all your other holiday activities. Turns out, many of our favorite winter traditions come with equal doses of nostalgia and wellness.

As you’re planning out your holiday schedule, keep these activities in mind that not only are festive but also may boost your well‑being.

1. Ice Skate with Friends

What's more 'tis the season than getting a group of friends together for an evening at a rink? Lace up your skates, get out on the ice, and before you know it, you may find your holiday spirit and mood reach new heights.

Research suggests that physical activity may benefit your well‑being. If you pair those exercise endorphins from doing laps around the rink with the positive effects of social connection, you have a two-for-one holiday event that is just as jovial as it is beneficial for your well‑being.

2. Cook a Holiday Meal

Whipping up a multicourse dinner or serving a holiday brunch for a small group of friends can be a great way to get into the spirit of the season while also reaping some wellness benefits for mind, body, and taste buds.

One systematic review suggests that cooking may come with some psychosocial perks, including increased self-esteem and social interaction, and lower levels of anxiety. Tapping loved ones to serve as your sous-chefs may also be a great strategy to take some of the stress off your shoulders. And working together toward a shared goal—a delicious meal, with leftovers to last for days—may help strengthen your connections.

3. Give a Meaningful Gift

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with knocking out your entire holiday gift list in one whirlwind afternoon of shopping. But often, we leave ourselves little time to think about the gift, or the recipient, when we enter into a frenzied buying spree and end up spending lots of money when we should have been spending more time. Taking a moment to carefully choose a special gift for a loved one—something that speaks to their values or interests, or shows that you took a lot of care and consideration—may be even more satisfying.

That's because we may actually be happier spending money on others than on ourselves. Plus, when it comes to gift-giving, studies suggest that we tend to overestimate how much the recipient values the cost of the gift and underestimate how much they care about the thoughtfulness behind it. So, when you’re in the midst of holiday shopping, let your heart, not your wallet, lead your decisions.

4. Create a Cozy Lighting Environment

As the shorter days and the cooler temperatures push many of us indoors, creating a home environment that’s both bright and welcoming may help us bring in wintertime with joy rather than gloom.

Research suggests that greeting winter with a more positive mindset may actually lead to greater happiness and satisfaction with the season, and help you avoid a case of the blues.

One such way to tap into a mindset of coziness and comfort—also known as koselig to Norwegians—is to create a warm, festive lighting environment at home. Hang some string lights or set up a lighted winter village display. If you have smart lightbulbs, choosing the yellow and orange tones option may help reduce anxiety.

5. Take a Tea Break

Nothing is quite as soothing as curling up with a good book and a cup of tea. A popular morning and evening ritual, tea time can act as a form of self-care and entice us to slow down and savor the present moment.

As it turns out, there are health benefits to sipping tea. For example, green and black tea may help prevent heart disease, and other herbal teas may help reduce stress. You can also lean into scents of the season by brewing a cup of peppermint, cinnamon, or cranberry tea.

6. Put on a Festive Playlist

If you’re tight on time but still want to fill your days with holiday cheer, try turning on a festive playlist while working out or running errands. Music is known to enhance mood, lower stress, support cognitive health, and bring other benefits for physical and mental well‑being.

7. Rewatch Your Favorite Holiday Movie

With seemingly endless movie and show options on countless streaming services, you might be tempted to make your way through a long list of new holiday flicks. Instead, turn on your go-to movie—the one you watched growing up, or the one that you can essentially recite by heart.

One study suggests that we get quite a bit of enjoyment out of repeat experiences. So, go ahead and rewatch Home Alone, A Christmas Carol, or Elf for the hundredth time—it'll do you good.

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