I’m recalling an exercise that was shared with a group of health care workers in a local nursing center last year. We were asked to write down 10 things that were very important to us and that would be difficult to live without. After completing our list, we were asked to remove 2 things from the list. This process continued until we were down to the last 2 items and we were asked to remove one. This was an exercise in empathy, helping us understand how difficult it must be for residents of a nursing home to give up so many things that are meaningful to them. I was a bit surprised by what was left on my list of one – “health.” I realized that all those other things, including my beloved furry companion, were not as important as maintaining the gift of health, without which I would be unable to care for her. With that in mind, I’ve decided to suggest some “last minute gifts” that you may want to give yourself to benefit your own health:
- Benevolence – Is there a particular charity that might benefit from your services or a monetary contribution? Is there a neighbor who might need some help at this time of year, perhaps with you cleaning up their yard leaves or gifting a casserole? Giving to others provides the giver with health benefits, including that warm feeling around your heart.
- Forgiveness – Who do you need to forgive? Don’t forget to include yourself here, knowing that the immune system “hears” everything. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior, it simply means letting go of the resentments for the sake of your health. After all, holding a grudge doesn’t hurt the other person, only the one holding it.
- Play – This time of year can be unusually stressful as we place high expectations on ourselves and others to produce the perfect holidays. We need to counter the stress with exercise, healthy foods, social support, and a liberal dose of fun! Schedule in some play time doing what you most enjoy – sports, a movie, visiting grandchildren, or even dressing up in Santa-wear at the office.
- Nutrition – Much has been said on this topic but many don’t realize that a typical American diet actually promotes more stress and compromises the immune system, leaving us vulnerable to a host of illnesses. Plan ahead so you’re not left victim to the many processed and sugary foods served at holiday parties. It’s “ok” to bring your own snacks!
You may be motivated to gift yourself in other ways – there are many “free” gifts available. Choose gifts that bring you joy – a surefire way to promote wellness. Happy gifting!