It’s no secret that the holiday season can – despite what the commercials depict – be a season of sadness for many. (Fourteen percent of Americans suffer from some form of depression during the holidays.) Contrary to the glad tidings that the holidays bring, they can also be a time of stress and anxiety over financial pressures, unrealistic expectations, and fun commitments that turn into dreaded obligations. To top it all off, those already feeling socially isolated may feel even more so as they see and hear (or at least think they see and hear) colleagues and neighbors making plans with one another.
If you find yourself falling into a bit of a seasonally-induced depression, I highly recommend taking up a form of exercise that won’t add to your woes. There’s no need to join a gym, commit to exercise classes, or attempt to squeeze in a team-based activity. A low-impact walk around your neighborhood or through the local park (or wherever you happen to be traveling during the holidays) will serve just as well. Plus, getting out and about will give you an opportunity to see what’s going on in your neighborhood and hopefully meet neighbors that you can eventually develop further relationships with.
To top it all off, exercise has also been shown to be an effective tool in alleviating depression. Studies have shown that brisk walks raise heart rates and release mood-elevating endorphins. Plus, exercise will also help compel your body to fall asleep more easily at night. A good night’s rest is also key to overcoming blues of any kind. Finally, getting into a walking routine now will negate any need to commit to some sort of New Year’s resolution that will inevitably fall by the wayside.
I began walking regularly just after returning from an early Thanksgiving road trip to visit family. A trip that left me feeling lethargic after eating a ton of great food and getting very little exercise. And while I can’t say the walks have become routine yet (I’ve only been doing them for a while), I can say they are a proactive stress-buster as Christmas – and its many commitments – fast approaches. I’ve used them as an excuse to listen to my favorite podcasts, or to catch up with my husband or daughter – both of whom I’ve dragged along a time or two. To me, my walks serve as a convenient way to get some fresh air, burn a few calories, reflect on the day – and holidays – ahead, and clear the cobwebs lurking in my mind.
I hope you’ll get out and about, too. There’s no better way to get a head start on holiday cheer than by putting yourself in a physically-fit frame of mind. Happy holidays!