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Lifestyle

Christmas’ 8 surprising health benefits

The festive season often has a bad reputation when it comes to our health, yet Christmas could actually be good for you!

Here are eight reasons why…

1. We sing more 

Whether it’s a carol service or a festive karaoke session, a singalong at Christmas is great for our health. “Singing exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, including the lungs and heart,” explains Professor Graham Welch, chair of music education at the University of London. “Psychological benefits are also evident when people sing together. Because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour.”

2. We get together with family and friends 

Catching up with loved ones is a big wellbeing perk of the season, says Eve Menezes Cunningham, self-care coach and author of 365 Ways to Feel Better. “Strong social connections are considered to be a better indicator of longevity and health than being a non-smoker,” she says. “Christmas is an excuse to prioritise family and friends, helping us strengthen those bonds.”

3. We exchange gifts

Giving and receiving presents makes us feel good. Our brains release oxytocin and dopamine as a result of this interaction. “Even the act of making a list for our present ideas is a way of becoming more mindful about the people who matter most to us,” says Eve. “As we choose the gifts, we think about our loved ones. Even when we’re buying or making small gifts, that thoughtfulness can boost our wellbeing.”

4. We're on our feet more

Although we commonly associate Christmas with lethargy and being slumped on the sofa for hours, we actually spend a lot of time on our feet. This often includes hours shopping for festive gifts (if you’re a high street shopper). Research by Udozi and YouGov found the average Brit walks 20 miles during Xmas shopping trips and will burn around 1,572 calories.

Don’t forget, walks are fantastic at this time of year and will help to keep all the family active.

5. We eat more fruit and veg 

As a nation, one in four of us are failing to meet our recommended 5-a-day, so the festive season is a great time to start eating more. Try having fruit for breakfast and shake up your go-to snacks by opting for satsumas. No Christmas dinner is complete without carrots and other veg, so you’ll have your 5-a-day (and more) ticked off in no time!

6. We catch up on sleep  

The Sleep Council advises sticking to your regular sleep pattern over the holidays, but if yours has gone out of the window over the party season, don’t despair. Research published by the Endocrine Society found that taking a nap could reverse the negative effects of a poor night’s sleep. A post festive lunch snooze could be just the ticket.

7. We play games 

We love playing games together at Christmas. Playing board games can also help to keep your mind sharp, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Games help us connect, as we often face each other and make eye contact. Choose one that suits everyone instead of allowing the loudest voice to dictate what everyone does.

8. We make family traditions 

Whether it’s always buying a new tree decoration, wearing a festive jumper or watching It’s a Wonderful Life, family traditions are a great way to unite young and old. “These traditions become important,” says Eve. “As we lose loved ones and others join the festivities, there will be traditions to honour memories and welcome the new.”

Further information: 

The Christmas season isn’t always easy. If you’re a Benenden Health member, you can access our Mental Health Helpline 24/7. Whether you're suffering from anxiety, depression, bereavement or relationship problems, we can make sure you don’t have to handle it alone by providing access to an experienced therapist.

If you’re affected by the winter blues, read our article on SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), for 8 helpful tips on how to boost your mood.