One Thanks-a-Giving.
Practicing gratitude is one of the simplest and easiest ways to access happiness. Think about an individual for whom you’re grateful, then call that special someone.

Two Legs Walking.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of daily exercise to kick-start a healthier heart, but finding time to fit it in can be a challenge. Make movement a priority by beginning with just 15 to 20 minutes of walking per day. Then, map out your days and weeks to dig up a half-hour or so of free time, wherever you can, gradually working your way up to five days a week.

Three Guilt-Free “No’s”.
If the only reason you’re attending a party, making a dish or giving a gift is because you feel you should, think again. Aim to say at least three guilt-free no’s this holiday season.

Four Friends-a-Calling.
Don’t forget everyday buddies can boost happiness, especially when your calendar gets hectic. According to a 2012 study, a sizable network of friends significantly influences your psychological well-being — in some cases, even more so than your family. Connect with people important to you, not just people you’re obligated to spend time with.

Five Minutes of Meditation.
It only takes five minutes a day to realize the benefits of meditation. A 2012 study showed that those who practice meditation have lower stress while multitasking, an increasingly necessary skill during the holidays.

Six Hours of Shopping.
One of the most self-nurturing things you can do is to take a vacation day and go shopping. Avoiding lines and parking lot frustrations, finding plentiful choices and receiving good customer service keeps your stress in check as you check items off your list, she says. Plan for a midweek shopping trip and arrive at the mall when the doors swing open.

Seven Dishes for Dining.
Making your holiday party a potluck means you don’t have to do everything yourself. You can assign every part of the meal: beverage, appetizer, main dish, salad, dessert, and a couple of sides. Make things as easy as you can, even if that means putting out paper plates and napkins rather than the good china and silverware. Of all the traditions, keep ones most important for you. You don’t have to follow them all.

Eight Hours-a-Sleeping.
Not enough sleep increases stress hormones. Sleep debt may also put you at risk for obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders. Gift yourself with eight hours of rest. Start your bedtime ritual a half-hour before you’d like to be asleep — turn off all electronics, put on cozy PJs and get ready for dreamland.

Nine-ty Minutes Dancing.
A little rockin’ around the Christmas tree counts as cardiovascular exercise, and it may even help your gait and balance later in life. In a 2014 study at St. Louis University, older adults walked faster and reported less pain when they danced for 45 minutes two times a week. Replace family movie night with a Wii family dance party or make your next date night a dancing one!

Ten Plans for Laughing.
Laughing is as good for your abs as it is for your soul. Oh and your heart, too! Heart disease research shows that watching funny films has a positive effect on vascular function. Make time for your favorite holiday comedies or play games with the family.

Eleven Areas Organizing.
Before the holidays, take a few minutes to put that pile of mail in order or clean out the closet. Donate items you don’t wear anymore. Break up tasks by focusing on one section of one room at a time. You will feel less overwhelmed and feel a sense of accomplishment after each task is complete.

Twelve Songs-a-Singing.
Singing improves both mood and immunity. Join your church choir, or ask neighbors if they’d like to join you on a caroling adventure. If your more of a “shower singer” and prefer to sing in private, fire up a playlist of your favorite seasonal songs, and sing along!

Holiday Stress: Loneliness Revealed (SCI)

In a recent survey, 33% of people reported that their primary cause of holiday stress was loneliness. Unfortunately, the holidays can intensify feelings of loneliness and despair, particularly for those who will be spending the holidays, well, ALONE.

Put your day on hold for a moment and think about your coworkers, family, friends, and neighbors. Even if you don’t know them personally, try to think about them individually and answer these questions: Has anyone struggled through a major life change? Has anyone lost a loved one? Has anyone ended a relationship? Has anyone seemed sad or withdrawn?

Most of us can think of someone, especially when we pause and actually think about others in our community. Perhaps this awareness will turn into an opportunity for you to reach out or lend support in some way. Although small to you, a simple gesture or genuine acknowledgement might just mean the world to someone else.

Many of us think of gift giving in the material sense. But we have the opportunity to give a gift that money can’t buy. This year, consider giving the gift of emotional support to someone in need.

And if you find yourself lonely or struggling during the holidays, don’t suffer in silence. Ask for help, confide in a friend, or seek out support. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255.