5 Healthy Holiday Activities to Connect with Family
When you think of the holiday season, what comes to mind? Hot cocoa and eggnog? Holiday cards? Time off work? The Grinch?
The holidays are a time for families to connect, take a break, and celebrate together. But research shows that they’re also a significant source of stress, leading families to feel less healthy. Even children, who typically don’t experience the same stressors as their parents, are more sedentary and have more screen time during the holidays.
In the flurry of the many holiday celebrations and stresses, healthy activities are often forgotten. In this article, we’re sharing healthy holiday family activities to help you connect with family and stay healthy this holiday season.
“Green Exercise,” Including Hiking, Snowshoeing, or Hitting the Hills
Spending time outside has real and big physical and mental health benefits, including lowered levels of cortisol (aka the stress hormone), lowered blood pressure, increased Vitamin D, and even higher levels of activity throughout the day.
The benefits of physical activity outdoors are best documented by the University of Essex exercise research team, which dubbed the term “green exercise.” One of their studies found that even just 5 minutes of time outside has serious health benefits.
How you spend time outside together will depend on your family and where you live. Still, whether you're hiking, snowshoeing, sledding, or even just going for a walk around the block, any outside holiday activity will have noticeable health benefits.
Holiday Themed Gratitude Activities
Healthy holiday activities aren’t just about exercise and diet. According to a recent article published by Harvard Health, showing gratitude is “strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” One study cited in the article showed that just saying thanks to someone else significantly increased happiness.
Aside from the research, showing gratitude is a great opportunity for families to connect and reflect on the past year. It also takes the attention off of the stressful and consumer-driven aspects of the holidays and places it on friends and family.
If you’re thinking of celebrating the holidays with a gratitude activity here are some popular options:
- Thank You Cards or Letters. Thank you letters can be sent to family members, friends, or other special people in your family members’ lives. If you celebrate Christmas, you can use this opportunity to write letters to Santa with a grateful twist.
- Family Round Robin. A round robin is when you allow every person in the room some time to speak. For a gratitude round robin, every family member will be given the opportunity to say what they’re grateful for.
- “30 Days of Gratitude” Board. To create a gratitude board, all you need is a poster and a pen. Every day, have your family members get together to add one new thing that they’re grateful for. If you celebrate a Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, or another end-of-year holiday, you can start your 30 days so that it lands on the last day of your celebration, on Christmas eve, or on New Year's Eve.
- Gratitude Jar. With a gratitude jar, family members can add small things they’re grateful for every day. To get one started, get a large jar and any fun decorations you or your families might want to use.
- Meditation. Meditation might not be the first thing you think of when you think of gratefulness activities. Still, meditation is a great way to have your family practice gratitude and mindfulness while celebrating the holidays.
Family Yoga at Home
Yoga is a relaxing and healthy exercise that can be done with very little equipment. All you’ll need is a yoga mat or some other softer surface that’s safe and comfortable and someone to lead you through your yoga practice.
Yoga can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be, making it a great option for families looking for kid-friendly activities. And now, you can find free family-friendly yoga videos online created by YouTube instructors. One instructor has even created My Little Pony-themed yoga for kids.
If you need some help finding a good YouTube yoga, here are a few popular channels to check out:
Active Multiplayer Video Games
Active video game consoles like Wii, and now Nintendo Switch, turn what would usually be sedentary activities for kids into opportunities for physical activity. Most games on these consoles are also multiplayer so that families can play together.
Check out these Nintendo Switch games that the whole family can take part in:
Healthy Holidays Also Means Less Screen Time
As fun as video games are, screen time has led to a whole new set of health problems for children and teens, including insomnia, depression, and anxiety. In February 2021, the Sleep Foundation reported that 96% of children between 15 and 17 years old brought some sort of technology into their rooms before bed. Other studies show that screen time generally increases when kids are out of school, including over the holidays.
Of course, studies aren’t suggesting that families can’t enjoy their favorite holiday movie or play some games together. But, families can help each other manage screen time over the holidays by creating technology-free zones in the house. This might include no technology at dinner or during family time in the living room.
Farmer’s Market Fun and Cooking
From loaded mashed potatoes and casseroles to cake and hot chocolate, holiday food has always been known for its comfort, but not really its health. If you’re looking to break up the usual fare with a healthy holiday meal, consider making it a family event!
Depending on where you live, you might have access to a winter farmer’s market. Farmer’s markets have great produce, meats, dry products, and of course, local products. Farmer’s markets are also a good place to shop for gifts from local artisans and to spend time outside.
Once you’ve done your shopping, you can take your new local products home to cook a meal together. If you’re looking for some great healthy family-friendly meals to cook this year, check out Food Network’s 31 Best Healthy Holiday Recipes.
Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday!
Whether you’re looking to make these holidays healthier or you want to connect with your family in a better and meaningful way, trying these activities can help you accomplish both. Most importantly, these healthy holiday activities will bring your family a more than healthy dose of holiday cheer.
Happy holidays from our families to yours!