December is one of my favourite seasons, all that jovial helloing, singing for no discernable reason, gift-giving et al. But, it can be a taxing one - there always seems to be more things to do, more people to see (people you wouldn’t normally spend time with), and places to go. Even though I’m buoyed by the movement towards a more conscious and mindful Christmas - every little helps. So, I pulled some of our Heights experts together to share some tips for a happy, healthy, #brainfirst season.
1. Even if your schedule is haphazard during December, Sleep Evangelist Sophie Bostock suggests sticking to the same wake time, at least five days a week to keep your body clock ticking along with your circadian rhythm.
(Tough night? A cheeky 10-minute nap can do wonders for your mood and memory.)
2. When spending time with family or loved-ones during times when things may get a bit fraught, take philosopher Alain de Botton’s advice, and treat them like a friend instead.
(In friendships), “we are patient, encouraging, tolerant, funny and – most of all – kind. We expect a little less and therefore, by extension, forgive an infinite amount more.”
3. December is, traditionally, a time for face time. Yet, the average UK adult checks their phone every 12 minutes So, to commit to more IRL connection, ease out of your phone habits with this advice from WeTransfer’s Damian Bradfield:
4. Feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Try Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s scheduling technique to free up more time for yourself. It might sound counterintuitive, but it totes works.
Make a detailed daily schedule that accounts for every minute. ‘Wake up: 6.30, Get ready: 6.45–7.05, Breakfast: 7.05–7.25,’ all the way through until bedtime. All the niggly bits, travel time, showers, everything.
Finishing each day with a satisfyingly ticked off to-do list means you are able to schedule and enjoy time to yourself, guilt free.
5. Finding time for yourself can be tricky in December, but this sneaky little mindfulness hack from meditation expert Natalia Bojanic can be completed in less than 5 minutes. Even if you’re on the bus.
- Breathe IN and silently say to yourself: I
- Breathe OUT and silently say to yourself: AM
- Breathe IN and silently say to yourself: HERE
- Breathe OUT and silently say to yourself: NOW
- Repeat for four rounds.
6. If your regular work-outs have taken a back seat, don’t worry. Movement specialist, Shane O’Mara suggests some simple ways to build some movement into your day to benefit your physical and mental health, no weights required.
- Get off your train or bus a stop or two early to add up to 3,000 steps to your day
- Schedule “stand up and move” reminders in your calendar
- Before a tough meeting, work Christmas do, or creatively challenging piece of work - take a twenty-minute stroll to generate twice as many ideas
7. Boozy evenings, and a seemingly endless supply of mince pies can take their toll on digestive health during the festive period. And, due to the gut-brain axis, that in turn can impact your brain.
To combat any imbalances to your normal diet, gut health doctor, Megan Rossi suggests the rule of variety to ensure a healthy microbiome.
“Good gut health is all about inclusivity and moderation. Aim for at least 30 different plant-based foods a week (including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds). I promise it’s easier to hit your 30 than you think!”
8. High stress levels, like those associated with living in a fast-paced city, or the festive season can be nutritionally costly. According to Dietitian Sophie Medlin, constantly high levels of stress use up our vitamin stores more quickly than usual. So, during hectic times, it’s a good idea to use a high quality supplement to top up any areas that you may have fallen short to prevent symptoms like lethargy, low mood, and brain fog.