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We’ve all heard the complaints - that it’s expensive, stressful, with too much food and booze - but the festive season can also have hidden health benefits. The festive season gets bad press when it comes to health, but the reality is that Christmas can boost your health and well-being.  Here’s why:

YOU SING

Whether it’s a candlelit carol service or a raucous rendition of I Will Survive at the pub karaoke, most people enjoy a good old singsong at Christmas. And it doesn’t just lift the spirits. According to Swedish researchers, singing helps to control our breathing and regulate our heartbeat and pulse. Warbling alone is good, but singing in a choir is even better.

We’ve all heard the complaints - that it’s expensive, stressful, with too much food and booze - but the festive season can also have hidden health benefits. The festive season gets bad press when it comes to health, but the reality is that Christmas can boost your health and well-being.  Here’s why:

YOU GIVE – AND RECEIVE

Studies show that when we give and receive gifts, the brain releases the feel-good chemical dopamine. Giving also releases the “cuddle” hormone oxytocin.

And while writing and posting cards might seem like a chore, it’s a chance to boost charity coffers. The Institute of Fundraising suggests buying cards directly from the charity you want to benefit or checking the back of packs first to see how much is donated as it can be as little as 7%.

YOU GET TOGETHER WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS

The average family manages just 36 minutes of quality time together a day, according to recent research, with hectic work schedules and domestic chores leaving little time for family fun. Yet a separate poll reveals 95% of parents believe the key to happiness lies in spending quality family time together.

Suzie Hayman, trustee of the charity Family Lives, says: “We all need connection and attachment, and sharing time together strengthens relationships. But remember that friends can be equally important, so don’t set rules – particularly with teenagers. We all need some time out as well!”

YOU EAT MORE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

It may be loads of preparation and stress, but your Christmas dinner makes clocking up your five-a-day a cinch – and that’s without the melon starter and post-dinner dates!

YOU EAT TOGETHER

 Less than half of families sit down at the dinner table together at mealtimes, research has found. A total of 14% never do, opting instead to eat in front of the TV.  Yet, thankfully, sitting down to Christmas dinner is one tradition 88% of families are holding on to.

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey, US, found families who regularly eat dinner together at home benefit in many different ways, from less obesity, as you pay more attention to what you’re eating, to happier mental states.

The study found that it’s not just the time and eating together that matters, but the nature of the interactions. Families who spent time watching TV together or eating fast food outside the home had poorer dietary intake.

YOU CATCH UP ON SLEEP

Who has time to snatch 40 winks in the afternoon, apart from  Christmas time?

Yet a short nap after lunch can reduce stress, help cardiovascular function and improve alertness and memory, according to a report from the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians. They advise taking a siesta on a sofa or comfy armchair rather going to bed, where you’re more likely to fall into a deep sleep.

A Nasa study showed that when pilots were allowed to take a nap for just 26 minutes during their working hours, their efficiency increased by 34%. So, no need to feel guilty about nodding off after lunch.

The benefits are similar to yogic breathing, which has a beneficial effect on blood pressure. A study for the annual Sing for your Heart campaign by Heart Research UK found that singing is a “great aerobic exercise, giving your heart and lungs a fantastic workout”.

YOU’RE ON YOUR FEET MORE

Although our perception of Christmas is slumped on the sofa, watching James Bond, we actually spend more time on our feet. Parties, Christmas shopping and slaving away in the kitchen mean we’re far less sedentary than usual. And that post-Christmas-dinner walk or Boxing Day stroll will give your heart and lungs a good workout and boost circulation, leaving you glowing.

In fact, make it a daily routine, as a study has found that walking for two-and-a-half hours a week, or 20 minutes a day, could save 37,000 lives a year. YOU MAKE – AND RELIVE – FAMILY TRADITIONS Whether it’s buying a new tree bauble every year, leaving a mince pie out for Santa or watching It’s A Wonderful Life, family traditions unite all generations, says Suzie Hayman.

“You’re creating memories together, reinforcing the family unit. Even for step-families or those who have lost a loved one, reminiscing about past traditions – and creating new ones – offers an opportunity to talk things through.”

To recapture the magic of Christmas, take in a pantomime, attend a carol service, visit a Christmas market or just wear a festive jumper.

YOU PLAY GAMES

 It’s not just children who enjoy games at Christmas. Everyone’s spirits can be lifted by the light-hearted competitiveness that family games invoke.

Suzie says: “Christmas board games provide the ideal opportunity to create some genuine family socializing.

“Unlike watching TV or playing on the Wii or Xbox, it’s an interactive experience where you’re facing each other and making eye contact.”

And getting out the Monopoly or Cluedo also keeps your mind pinsharp, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found. YOU MAKE RESOLUTIONS Yes, we know many resolutions bite the dust before the end of January, but at least we start thinking about possible health improvements after Christmas.

According to a survey last year, the most popular New Year pledges were to “do more exercise” followed by “lose weight” and to “eat more healthily”.

And there are a few tips to increase your chances of success, says Richard Wiseman, professor of psychology at Hertfordshire University, who tracked more than 3,000 resolution makers.

Men were 22% more likely to succeed when they set goals for themselves, such as losing a pound a week rather than just saying they wanted to lose weight. And telling others their resolutions increased women’s chances of keeping them by 10%.

Source: mirror.co.uk