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7 Gifts that Get You Healthier, Happier, and Cost You Nothing




It's easy to get sucked into the holiday madness of rushing out to buy gifts for every person in your life—but it's the smallest (and sometimes most inexpensive) things that matter most. Here are gifts that show a loved one you truly care; the best part: you can give these to yourself, too. After all, the gift of health is truly one gift that keeps on giving.

The gift of friendship

1) The gift of friendship:

In the midst of our crazy busy lives, our friendships are the things that often suffer. We simply don't spend enough quality time with the people who truly matter in our lives. Take time out this season to call a friend or family member just to say hi and catch up. (Texting doesn't count!) Or sit down to write a handwritten note with your holiday card. Or better yet, sit down with them in person to talk. It's more than just companionship you're celebrating; studies consistently show that friends motivate us, make us happy—and may even help us live longer, according to one study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.?

The gift of a silent night

2) The gift of a silent night:

Put down the phone and shut off the TV. Instead, pick up that book you've been wanting to read or draw a bath and soak away the stresses of your day. Too often, we're bombarded by noise and information and are living in a kind of digital and noise "smog". And in fact, too much sound may even elevate our blood pressure and our heart rate, as well as our stress levels. Being quiet and being in the moment often helps to clarify our thinking—about problems, about our relationships, and about what direction we should be headed in. Think of it as meditating without the need to actually meditate. It was author William Penn who said "True silence is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment." How true!

The gift of movement

3) The gift of movement:

We all struggle to find time to exercise, yet the simplest ways to move (e.g. a simple morning stretch or a walk around the block) are so easily accessible and cost us nothing. But sometimes others need a little help to make it happen. This season, allow someone to revel in the joy of movement: call a friend and ask her to join you for a morning (or evening) walk, or offer to watch a neighbor's (or grandchild's) kids while she takes a yoga class or heads to the gym for a much-needed break.

The gift of health

4) The gift of health:

It's so true that we don't really appreciate our health until it's taken away from us. (As one British writer—Thomas Fuller—said, "Health is not valued until sickness comes"). This month, revel in the fact that you are healthy—and celebrate that by continuing to take good care of your one and only body: eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy—and take your multivitamin every day. Then share the gift of health with a loved one by cooking something healthy and delicious for them or taking time to walk with them or making sure they take their multivitamin every day, too.

The gift of laughter

5) The gift of laughter:

That old saying that "Laughter is the best medicine" may have some truth to it after all. Research from the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore found that regular laughter may help prevent heart disease.?? Researchers believe that laughter may alleviate mental stress, which in turn may prevent a series of inflammatory reactions in the body that can lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the arteries. So this month, encourage a friend to watch a comedy with you, or simply share some jokes or funny stories with a friend or loved one. Your heart will thank you for it. For other ways you can protect the health of your heart, read: What all Women Should Do for a Healthier Heart.

The gift of a good night's sleep

6) The gift of a good night's sleep:

Think about it. When was the last time you got a truly great night's sleep? For many of us, this simple joy is elusive. Make it a point this month to get a good night's sleep by putting in place some basic sleep essentials: make sure your room is not too hot (a good temperature is 69°F), too dry (run a humidifier in your bedroom so humidity levels are between 40% and 50%), too light (a completely dark room is best as it stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin), too stimulated (keep your cell phone off—and out of your room), or too loud (shut the phone off and ask family members to give you the gift of quiet while you get some shut-eye). And lastly, be sure to not exercise or use the computer at least two hours before you head to bed as both are stimulating and could prevent you from falling asleep. And when you do finally get some quality shut-eye—and wake up feeling energized—you'll realize just how amazing a gift sleep really is.

The gift of time

7) The gift of time:

It's way too common a statement these days: "I don't have time...", "I'm crazy busy...", "Maybe next month I'll..." ... the no-time-to-do-what-I-love syndrome is reaching epic proportions in our society. This month, spend quality time with someone you love: eat a meal together, sit down and catch up on the day (without a smartphone in your hand), do a fun activity together... the possibilities are endless. This gift is so much more important than anything you could ever buy. As one wise quote states: "Your children, friends, and family know you love them by your presence, not your presents".???

Be well—and have a happy, healthy holiday season!

? "Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian longitudinal study of aging,"
Lynne C Giles, Gary F V Glonek, Mary A Luszcz, et al., J Epidemiol Community Health 2005; 59: 574-579,

?? "Laughter is Good for Your Heart," University of Maryland Medical Center News Release, Nov. 15, 2000,
??? Unknown writer

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