Make this holiday season healthy, happy and nearly stress-free

If the prospect of gift shopping, decorating, entertaining and facing a growing list of to-dos this holiday season has you contemplating a super-saver fare from an on-line travel site, don't despair. Frankly, we're all in it together, and there are a few ways to combat this harried season in good health and great spirits.


Create an environment for enjoyment. Trick yourself and your senses into a healthy and peaceful frame of mind.

Start with scent. The winter season offers new smells that we can't enjoy in other months. Take pine, for example. Pine oil has been shown to have a variety of health benefits that include increased energy and stress reduction.

But if the smell of pine boughs doesn't relax you, try a delicious blend of classic holiday scents. Create a custom combination of essential oils. Try cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and orange, or combine all four to your specific taste.

Consider this as a gift item for holiday hosts or stocking stuffers. Essential oils and vessels can be found locally at such places as Whole Foods Market in Roosevelt Square.

Healthful and peaceful

The Seattle Marathon is now a memory, but you don't need to be in training to enjoy the benefits of hydration.

The standard six-to-eight glasses of water should be pumped up during our cold, winter months when heaters keep us toasty and cool air dry. Try adding some seasonal pomegranate or sliced Satsuma oranges to your water pitcher. Drink up!

While you're sipping your citrus-infused water, breathe deeply through your nose. Experts in the sciences from body to mind have known for years about the strong connection between breath and our mental health. Shallow breathing can make us tense and limit oxygen supply to the body; mindful breathing can calm us and lead to better health.

On your next breath, breathe in through your nose for a count of four and out your nose for a count of six. Breathe into your abdomen, relax your shoulders and think peace.

And now that you're feeling so peaceful and ready to take on your holiday list, stretch your body to energize your system. Take time to comfort your body in movement each morning so you have the balance and flexibility to move from each activity and commitment while enjoying your day.

Joyful turns

Now, get moving. This festive time of year is truly an excuse to pull out the dance shoes and take a few turns around the hardwood (or wall-to-wall carpet). Replace the trip to the gym with 30 minutes of dancing, and enjoy the added benefit of the auditory and brain stimulation that dance provides.

Dance is a universal art that combines full-body aerobic exercise with low-impact movement that helps circulate the blood while taking it easy on the joints. Right now, turn on the radio or grab your mini-music player and boogie to the beat.

And now that your body is ready, turn inward as you make some memories or honor distant ones. The holiday season can hold a lot of meaning and memories: good, bad, sad and joyful. Work to capture the happy memories and recreate an element of delight this year.

Did your family spend holiday weekends around the game table? Did Grandma serve pecan pie at every feast?

Whatever conjures up joyful memories for you, make a small effort to recreate in your own style and tradition. Carrying the good from the past can have lasting, positive benefits.

Bridget Thompson is a dancer and director of m'illumino Movement Arts Center (

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