12 Days of Holiday Health

The end of year is a beautiful time for friends, family and food. However, amongst the joy there can also be feelings of stress and loneliness. That’s why it is the perfect time to focus on your whole health and carve out some rest and relaxation to avoid holiday burnout. For 12 days in December, try one of the simple gestures below designed to help you stay healthy or feel healthier this holiday season.

1.  Spend time tree gazing

Have you ever caught yourself staring out at a nearby frangipani, the blooming jacaranda, a palm tree or a gum tree, and feeling a sense of calm?

Exposure to green plants, flowers, and wooden materials, can have an immediate positive effect on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and autonomic nervous activities (like heart rate, pulse rate, and blood pressure).1 Viewing natural scenery induces a physiologically relaxing state, and may be a useful preventative and restorative health strategy.

Furthermore, spending roughly two hours a week in nature has been associated with better health and wellbeing.2

So, thinking of what to do this summer season? Time to gaze at those glorious gum trees and feel the sand between your toes. It will do wonders!

2. Take a tea break

Whatever your day looks like, it is likely that a caffeine-related break is part of it. After all, it’s the perfect time to stretch your legs, reset and refuel, or catch-up with co-workers. The power of a tea break has some great health benefits too. In a recent British study looking at self-reported tea and coffee consumption,3 it was found that the combination of <1–2 cups/day of coffee and 2–4 cups/day of tea was associated with a 22% lower risk of death, including 24% lower risk of heart-related conditions, and 31% lower risk of lung-related conditions.

Perhaps time for a tea break? Enjoy! 

3. Do a little dance

Are you a music lover?  Does this holiday season involve some sort of singing or dancing for you and/or your family and friends?

Research suggests that active music participation promotes the maintenance and improvement of wellbeing and health.4 This extends to the impact on our cognitive health, our quality of life, and our sense of life satisfaction. It also assists with positive physical exercise behaviours, management of stress, and reducing social isolation.

Time to turn on your favourite music and dance!

4. Stay calm and breathe  

Yogic breathing, otherwise known as Pranayama, has been practiced for thousands of years. It involves a very deliberate, deep breathing process, and is a crucial element of the process known as Yoga. This type of breathing is associated with stress relief, as well as having a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health, improving lung function and enhancing concentration. It has numerous physiological and psychological effects, potentially helping to reduce fatigue, anxiety, and other emotional responses in those who may be experiencing ill health.5

If you are feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, remember to concentrate on your breathing technique. It is quick, efficient, and free! And you can do it from anywhere.

Inhale -------------- Exhale --------------

5. Experience the gift of giving

The holiday season can be an extremely difficult time for many people in our community. Considering the current global climate, natural disasters, and increased pressure on everyday living expenses, many families will be in need this time of year.

If you happen to have spare time this holiday season, an amazing opportunity awaits. Volunteering, a spectacular way of giving back to your community, can have a positive effect on someone’s health.6

However, if time is limited, a donation to your charity of choice, a cause you are passionate about, would also provide similar health benefits. Giving to others, and being generous, has real-time effects on our brain, and can increase our levels of happiness.7

Good for you and the community? What could be better!

6. Celebrate sustainably

The holiday season may be associated with parties, festivities, meals, gifting, catch-ups, and with it, the need for…wrapping, food wastage, unwanted presents, and lots (and lots) of landfill rubbish.  

Rubbish and food waste are huge contributors to climate change. We could all help the planet, save money and lead healthier lives through reduced carbon emissions if we simply reduce our waste. So, try to commit to even one change. This might involve using electronic festive cards, considering recyclable wrapping, eating leftovers if there is any food uneaten at a festive meal, or avoiding using disposable kitchenware for your party.8 Remember, a healthy planet leads to healthy communities where healthy people can live and flourish.  

Why not make this holiday season your most eco-friendly yet!

7. Be sun smart

The summer season is the perfect time to get some safe sun exposure. Ultraviolet B (UVB radiation) from the sun provides the best source of vitamin D, and most people can get an adequate level through regular incidental exposure to the sun.9 It is important for keeping our bones healthy, as well as providing benefits for sleep, stress, and mood. However, don’t forget sun protection is recommended when the UV Index is 3 or above, or when spending long periods of time outdoors.

So, always remember to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide10 when getting your safe sun exposure this summertime!

8. Find your joy

Do you have a hobby? Do you have something you really like to do? Chess, reading, playing with your dog?

This holiday season, why not take some time out of your day to focus on doing something you really enjoy. You might pick one thing – it might be a TV show, a book, a podcast, a song, a place, a film, a yoga pose, seeing a friend, anything! If you can take time each day to do one thing you enjoy, this can help to improve your mental and physical health.11

So go on, find your joy this holiday season!

9. Connect with others

Spending time with people you care about or reaching out to people who might be on their own this holiday season, can all help to boost your mood and improve your mental health. So, it’s time to pencil in some sessions of quality social time with the people who bring you joy and energy. Social connection is paramount to human nature and is a powerful antidote to loneliness. It can have a positive impact on almost every aspect of your health.12

If you’re up for it, it’s time to get a dose of that social connectivity!

10. Stay road safe

Over the holiday break, we are often driving our cars more than usual. Whether it is a road trip or driving to share the season with family and friends, it’s worthwhile checking your car is safe for the journey. Simple checks such as tyre pressure and brake lights can make a big difference. Here is a Holiday Driving Check List to keep your car in the best shape. Remember, to keep within speed limits and don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking and/or are feeling tired. Fatigue has been attributed to 20-30% of car crashes in Australia,13 so ensuring that you’ve had enough sleep before taking a long drive is essential.

11. Make a list
(and check it twice!)

Financial worries can directly affect your health, with a possible effect on mental health, as well as compounding other existing life stressors. In the current financial climate, you may be feeling the pinch this time of year – but, it could be the perfect time to check over your budget and make strong plans for the new year.

You might want to make a list of your potential holiday spending, so that you can keep track of expenses and avoid debt and impulse-buying where possible.

Time to make your list and check it twice! 

12. Check your health

As the year winds down, the calendar can become extraordinarily packed with festivities, outings, family gatherings, travel plans, catch-ups, or some much-needed R&R. This holiday season, remember to set aside a little slice of time - to reflect on the year that has been, and to consider what might be to come for the year ahead.

Now is the perfect opportunity to put a couple of health checks in the diary for the new year. Depending on your age, and your health needs, there may be one or more screening checks due in the coming months.

It might also be a good time to ensure you have a plan in place in the event of a bushfire or flood. It always pays to be prepared.

Go on, put health checks in place for a healthy you and a healthy home. 


1.       Jo, H., Song, C. & Miyazaki, Y. (2019). Physiological Benefits of Viewing Nature: A Systematic Review of Indoor Experiments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(23):4739. 

2.       White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. (2019) Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports, 9, 7730.

3.       Chen, Y., Zhang, Y., Zhang, M. et al. (2022). Consumption of coffee and tea with all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a prospective cohort study. BMC Medicine, 20, 449.

4.       Sheppard, A., & Broughton, M.C. (2020). Promoting wellbeing and health through active participation in music and dance: a systematic review. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 15:1.

5.       Jayawardena, R., Ranasinghe, P., Ranawaka, H., Gamage, N., Dissanayake, D., & Misra, A. (2020). Exploring the Therapeutic Benefits of Pranayama (Yogic Breathing): A Systematic Review. International Journal of Yoga, 13(2):99-110.

6.       Yeung, J.W.K., Zhang, Z., & Kim, T.Y. (2018). Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms. BMC Public Health, 18, 8.

7.       Park, S., Kahnt, T., Dogan, A. et al. (2017). A neural link between generosity and happiness. Nature Communications, 8, 15964.

8.       Sustainability Victoria 2022, How to be sustainable this Christmas, Victorian Government, accessed 28 November 2022, <https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/recycling-and-reducing-waste/at-home/avoid-waste/shop-sustainably/christmas>

9.       Cancer Council 2022, Vitamin D, Cancer Council, accessed 28 November 2022, <https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/sun-safety/vitamin-d>

10.   Cancer Council 2022, Sun Safety, Cancer Council, accessed 28 November 2022, <https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/sun-safety>

11.   Fancourt, D., Aughterson, H., Finn, S., Walker, E., & Steptoe, A. (2021). How leisure activities affect health: a narrative review and multi-level theoretical framework of mechanisms of action. The Lancet Psychiatry, 8(4), 329-339.

12.   Cacioppo, J.T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. WW Norton & Company.

13.   Australian Automobile Association 2022, Fatigued Driving, Australian Automobile Association, accessed 29 November 2022, <https://www.aaa.asn.au/research/fatigued-driving/>