This time of year may be filled with Christmas cheer and holiday goodwill, but there are other seasonal factors that can have a less-than-pleasant impact on your brain. How can you keep your brain happy and healthy through the holidays? Here are five seasonal dangers and how you can avoid them:
1. Not Enough Sunlight. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects about 11 million people each year. Despite the colder weather, getting outside and into natural sunlight can help your mood. Taking vitamin D—known as “the sunshine vitamin”—and other supplements can also help beat those blues.
2. Too much food. Let’s be honest, over-eating is a time-honored tradition at Christmas time. And while our holiday favorites are delicious, no one likes that groggy, full feeling hours after. To enjoy the holidays and be kind to your body and brain at the same time, treat your sweet tooth in moderation, choose beverages wisely to limit sugar and alcohol, if you eat out consider splitting a meal with someone, and try to manage your overall stress level so you’re not as drawn to the comfort food. Remembering these tips can help keep your energy high (and that top button on your jeans comfortably fastened).
3.Too much alcohol. Alcohol wreaks havoc with your brain in countless ways. If your holiday parties and gatherings include alcohol, make a plan. Set a drink limit for yourself and stick to it. If you find that difficult to do, think about creating new traditions by hosting or attending parties where alcohol isn’t served. By avoiding binge drinking during the holidays (and throughout the year), you’ll stay safer, and your brain will be happier and healthier.
4.Too much time in front of the tube. Watching television during the holidays is enjoyable, but watching TV puts your brain waves into an autopilot mode that is highly suggestible (gee, do you think TV advertisers have figured that one out?). Some studies have even linked watching a lot of TV with attention and concentration issues. Playing board games with the family, going for walks, or spending time at the park are good alternatives that will allow you to have fun, get some fresh air, and keep your brain sharp.
5.Holiday Stress. Christmas time usually means family time, which can be nice, but can also mean an increase in the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. What are some proven ways of managing stress? Exercise, meditation, laughter, and favorite music help, and don’t forget the common-sense practice of saying no to overcommitment.