One-Minute Fixes for Happier Holidays

by Greg Presto

Try these quick fixes for happier, healthier holidays!Try these quick fixes for happier, healthier holidays!All of the gift buying, wrapping, and party hopping can be overwhelming. Don't let your magical memories get lost in a fog of exhaustion. Recharge and reinvigorate your holidays with these one-minute tips so you're at your festive finest all winter long. (Bonus benefit: They'll help you slip a little fat-fighting exercise into this season of gym-skipping indulgence.)

1. Step away from the shopping to walk taller:
If a day of holiday shopping makes you feel slumped over, it's not just because all those bags are filled with goodies that aren't for you. Lugging sacks of gifts around can roll your shoulders forward, making your chest tighten and close, says Chrissy Carter, a yoga teacher and trainer at YogaWorks in New York. Instead of looking and feeling defeated-and not getting optimal breath while you stride around-take a break from the card-swiping grind and try this shoulder and heart opener.

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To do it, stand straight and interlace your fingers behind your back. Roll your upper arms and pull your shoulders down away from your ears. Lift and spread your chest, and hold the position for five breaths.
"For a more calming effect, fold forward over your legs," Carter says. "Let your head hang as you lift your shoulders away from the floor. Slowly come up to stand."

2. Overwhelmed at work? Snap (and stretch) out of it: Year-end social obligations can make the 2 p.m. at-work slump even tougher to power through. Undo the damage all that sitting does to your posture and reset your mind with the Alexander technique, says Jessica Cassity, author of Better Each Day: 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You.

To do the technique, close your door (if you have one) and lie on the floor with your calves on your chair seat. Try to lengthen your spine. As you breathe, let the front of the rib cage go down, and the back of your rib cage sink into the ground. "This releases shoulder tension, and relaxes you because you're lying down and concentrating on your breath," Cassity says. When you get back in your chair, "your head's going to feel a lot lighter on your shoulders, and you'll be in better alignment."

3. Before guests arrive, step up your game: When animals feel stress-from an oncoming predator or car-they move, escaping danger while releasing tension. If you can't escape when faced with your own predators, like visiting in-laws, take one cue from the forest and get moving, says Jeremy Frisch, owner and director of Achieve Performance Training in Clinton, Mass.

"Attack the stress. Take 5 to 10 minutes on the stairs from the basement to the main floor," he says. Run up the stairs, then walk back down, repeating 10 times. You won't just get extra exercise: "Your heart rate's going to be up, you'll wake up your mind, and you'll really feel better."

4. Strengthen your sides while the oven warms up: Whether you're cooking Christmas turkey for a crowd, baking cookies with relatives, or just zapping a Lean Cuisine on a Tuesday, use the downtime to de-stress and strengthen and lengthen your oft-neglected side body with this counter stretch from Carter.
To do it, lift your right leg out to the side and place it on the counter, with your heel on the counter and toes pointing towards the ceiling. Draw your right hip towards the floor so your pelvis is level, side-to-side. With your right hand on the counter for support, lift your left arm straight up, then reach over your body towards your right foot.

"Don't make a desperate attempt to touch your toe [on the right side]," Carter says. Instead, concentrate on lifting up so that your left side muscles stretch and strengthen. Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 breaths. "This will stretch the side body and work the abdominal obliques and the quadratus lumborum, [a muscle in your lower back]."

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5. Take a wrapping break to wake up your mind: Covering gifts in paper and tape can be mind-numbing… and that numb mind can make the whole process take longer. Stay sharp and finish faster with a little exercise, Frisch says.

Get up and move with Frisch's 5-minute wrapping break: Bodyweight squats, push ups (or elevated push ups), bodyweight lunges, and a core exercise of your choice (we like planks). Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. When you've finished all four exercises, rest for one minute, and repeat the moves again.
"It's not even about the exercise, necessarily," he says. "A little movement can enhance cognitive function, and wake you up."

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