Holiday planning tips to have more joy and less stress from BELONG Purpose Partner Life Reimagined.

With Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa—even Festivus—right around the corner, you might be experiencing those twitchy holiday feelings again. To-do lists dance in your head (often as said head is hitting the pillow) and spiral into infinity. Menu-planning madness ensues as you wonder who’s allergic to what and who’s on which new diet this year. And when will you ever find the time for the shopping, the decorating and the cooking?

Deep breath, people. Let’s focus on what’s at the heart of the healthy holidays, which is simple: sharing good tidings with those who are dear to you. Just throw in a little advance mindful planning, and you can manage it all by eating, exercising, sleeping and even spending wisely. We spoke to leading experts to get their advice on how to navigate the holidays like the happy, sane person you are—or hope to become. Here goes with the holiday tips:


And leave what you don’t, suggests Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Be mindful of the season when you choose your indulgences, she suggests, and by that she means enjoy only those holiday meals that celebrate the holiday. Pass on the chips and cheese, but save room for the potato latkes or bûche de Noël. On the other hand, don’t overindulge in extravagant calorie bombs just because it’s the holidays—no one needs more than a few sips of rich eggnog or more than a couple of iced gingerbread cookies. Enjoying  your holidays is easier than you think if you’re mindful.


You’d think that as a dieter, you’d be more likely to overindulge at the holidays, since willpower can melt in the face of tempting, rich food. Not so much. According to new research, successful dieters actually find it easier than non-dieters to pass up holiday treats because they’ve learned to make better food choices for holiday meals during their weight-loss journey, says Chrissy M. Martins, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marketing at Iona College’s Hagan School of Business in New Rochelle, New York. Martins recently published her findings about holiday food cues in the journal Psychology & Health. “During the holidays, dieters need to reinforce all that hard work they’ve put in by planning what they’ll eat ahead of time. A great way to do that is to visualize the calorie counts of foods, and the exercise needed to work them off, before you arrive at the party,” she says.


Visualize the calorie counts of foods, and the exercise needed to work them off, before you arrive at the party.
—Chrissy M. Martins, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Iona College


The older you get, the faster the consequences of inactivity accelerate — called “deconditioning,” or the loss of fitness and vitality, says Jonathan Ross, ACE certified personal trainer and senior consultant on personal training for the American Council on Exercise. To manage your holiday schedule without wrecking your routine, trade frequency for duration, suggests Ross. You can squeeze in all your chores by slashing your holiday workout time in half, as long as you add an additional one to three short sessions each week. Find fun ways to build activity into your day—offer to walk a neighbor’s dog, kick a ball around with your grandkids or challenge yourself to race walking around the local mall, suggests Ross.


Conventional wisdom suggests that remembering past holiday finance mistakes will help you make better decisions in the present. But as far as shopping decisions are concerned, the opposite is true, says Hristina Nikolova, Ph.D., the Coughlin sesquicentennial assistant professor of marketing at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. “When it comes to self-control, shoppers should think about a few of their past successes at controlling their impulse to splurge, rather than their past mistakes,” says Nikolova. In her new study, forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Nikolova examined how shoppers’ recollections affect their decisions about budgeting.


Shoppers should think about a few of their past successes at controlling their impulse to splurge, rather than their past mistakes.
—Hristina Nikolova, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marketing at Boston College


You can improve your self-control by practicing a technique called “implementation intention,” according to advice from the American Psychological Association. This involves making an “if-then” statement to yourself to help you plan for, say, wallet-tempting situations. For example, set a specific spending limit per person before you go out to shop. Tell yourself that if a potential gift exceeds your limit, you’ll keep shopping until you find something that’s within your budget. Research shows that implementation intentions improve self-control, even for people whose willpower has been depleted.


Your need for adequate sleep to maintain alertness and other normal functions remains constant— no matter what the season.
Dr. Karl Doghramji, Director of The Sleep Disorders Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals


Focus on what experts call “sleep hygiene,” the habits that allow you to get the restorative sleep you need. Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed, cut out napping during the day, and try a relaxing exercise, like yoga, before bed. And don’t think you can give yourself a pass for sleep skimping this time of year. “Your need for adequate sleep to maintain alertness and other normal functions remains constant—no matter what the season,” says Dr. Karl Doghramji, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia.

Try these bonus sleep tips from Dr. Doghramji:   

  • Wake up at the same time every morning, even on your days off.
  • Get as much exposure to bright light during the day as possible.
  • Relegate “worry time” to a set period, well before bedtime.
  • If you’re stuck in an unfamiliar bed over the holidays, try to make it mimic the feel and comfort of your own bed. Bring your own linens or at least your own pillow, suggests Doghramji.

Let this be the year you eat healthy and delicious, find fun opportunities for fitness, get enough sleep, and shop wisely to enjoy your holidays. With the help of these holiday planning tips you can make it through December without regrets, and start 2017 with a strong resolve to make your good habits last all year long. Imagine that!