*** The UK is starting to catch up and saunas are rapidly becoming a social activity
Perhaps more than any other time of year, December resembles a runaway rollercoaster of a month, a chunk of the calendar that blindly imposes its will upon us and we are powerless to stop. Sentimental Christmas adverts, pressure from friends and family, the inevitable work stress as the holidays approach and good old social conditioning have made us hard-wired to view December as the month of unfettered excess.
At this time of year, we’re told it’s normal for our healthy habits to fade to a distant memory, as early morning gym sessions and yoga classes step aside for red wine hangovers. Calories and alcohol units slip past uncounted, and every unwise health decision we make – to finish that bottle of cheap prosecco, to miss the last train home, to skip our beloved mindfulness meditation that morning – only makes the next poor decision more natural. Then, come the first of January, a switch is flicked, and we join the masses in selfflagellation, deprivation and guilt-ridden angst. We embark upon punitive dietary regimes, refuse all social invitations, go entirely booze-free, and are then surprised when we find ourselves feeling blue by mid-january. Obviously, this binge/purge mentality is far from ideal, and such an unbalanced winter inevitably takes its toll on our health and happiness.
“Everything about Christmas anchors us to a state of excess, when spending, feasting, splurging and bingeing is expected,” says hypnotherapist Jessica Boston ( jessicaboston. com). “But it can also be an excellent time to begin taking steps to build up your willpower so it’s not so all-ornothing for January, a cold, hard and pretty broke month. Giving up on everything at once in the new year (sugar, booze, cigarettes) can be overwhelming for your unconscious. So who not tackle it in parts instead?” Perverse as it may sound, December is now the month in which I work hardest at self-care. By taking the right steps now, it’s still entirely possible to enjoy all the many delights of the season – catching up with friends, celebrating with co-workers, eating lots of delicious food and letting our hair down over a few glasses of mulled wine – without getting trapped in a vicious cycle of excess and guilt. I call it my pre-christmas pre-tox, and by shoring up sensible habits now, I can enter the holidays feeling positive. And best of all, I can sidestep all that January guilt at the end of it.