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Is Christmas ever good for your health?

23rd Dec 2014

Most people are not expecting to get healthier over the festive period, with Christmas parties, Christmas lunch and New Years’ parties serving to prepare us for an inevitable January of diets and new gym memberships. New research, however, suggests that Christmas may be better for your physical health than you think.

Previous research by Elizabeth Dunn, Michael Norton and colleagues, has found that spending money on others makes us happier than spending it on ourselves. New research, however, presented by Ashley Whillans at November’s Science of Philanthropy Initiative in Chicago, found that people randomly assigned to spend money on others are not only happier but also experience lower blood pressure than those assigned to spend the same money on themselves.

At this time of reflection, here are a few other things that you can do that have been shown to improve your health:

1. Writing about your life goals (perhaps ahead of your New Year’s resolutions) has been shown to lead to lower levels of illness six months later.

2. Whilst taking stock of your goals, think about which ones you can achieve, but be realistic and drop those that are unattainable. Wrocsh et al (2007), conducted three studies and found that people who are encouraged to give up unattainable goals are happier and healthier afterwards.

3. Support others – as well as giving gifts, give your time and attention to friends and loved ones this Christmas. Brown et al (2012), found that when people offer emotional support to another, both givers and receivers show significantly reduced mortality rates.

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