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6 Guilt-Free Ways to Indulge During the Holidays

The holidays can be stressful and tiring. But, these six ways to indulge during the holidays will help you look and feel your best!

A delicious dessert deepens sleep.

Stress triples the risk of restless sleep. No wonder surveys suggest two in three of us these days are feeling weary when we wake. Thankfully, indulging in your favorite sweet dessert as a bedtime snack can help you drift off 20 minutes sooner, plus prevent two middle-of-the-night awakenings. That’s the word from UCLA researchers, who say an evening dose of simple carbs signals your brain to shut down production of an alertness-triggering neurotransmitter called orexin.

Sipping on eggnog outsmarts illness.

Cheers! Sipping 12 oz. of creamy, rum-laced eggnog three times weekly could cut your risk of colds by 33 percent — even if you’re in contact with sniffling, sneezing loved ones during the holidays, Spanish researchers say. Credit the choline in eggs and the amino acids in milk, which energize white blood cells to boost their production of germ-fighting antibodies. The perks of that yummy splash of rum? Every time you take a sip, it destroys pesky rhinoviruses trying to sneak in through the mucous membranes lining your mouth and throat.

Holiday crafting erases anxiety.

Dried flower arranging, cake decorating, painting, or crocheting — we all have creative hobbies that we love to do but feel like there isn’t enough time for. The good news: Researchers at England’s University of Plymouth say carving out as little as 10 minutes daily for crafts can cut your holiday tension, edginess, and anxiety by 45 percent. Turns out the repetitive motions and hand-eye coordination involved in crafting calm the amygdala— the anxiety center of the brain — to usher in serenity.

Online shopping boosts happiness.

You’ve been shopping for perfect gifts for your loved ones, but University of Michigan researchers suggest you should treat yourself! They found spending as little as 30 minutes online choosing a just-for-you gift heightens happiness for 80 percent of women studied — and cuts the risk of blahs in half if you indulge a few times during the holidays. Psychiatrist Bernard Granger, MD, says the pleasure of picking out something you want — and the anticipation of waiting for it to arrive — increases the production of mood-boosting dopamine.

Lazy mornings nix pain.

Enjoy a few minutes in the morning cozying up under the covers, perhaps reading a few pages of a book, before launching into your day. Doing so can cut aches and pains by as much as 40 percent, plus bring relief in just 8 minutes, suggests research in the journal Pain. Explains study coauthor Julian Borgmann, MD, starting the day gently tamps down adrenal glands’ release of the pain-triggering hormone cortisol.

A crackling fire lowers blood pressure.

Relaxing in front of a crackling fire for 20 minutes can trim six points off your blood pressure, say scientists at the University of Alabama. Thanks goes to the mesmerizing sight and sound of cozy fires, which instantly calm the central nervous system, relaxing and opening arteries and reducing blood pressure as effectively as meditation does. No fireplace? You’ll find plenty of free fireplace videos on YouTube.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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