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For Your Health – For the Busy Holidays, 18 Easy Ways to Give Your Health a Boost

Washington University School of Medicine

For Your Health Graphic

Dr. Colditz
Dr. Graham A. Colditz





December can be a good time for some reflection, so I thought I’d take a look back at my health columns from the past year.

With the help of my colleagues, we were able to cover a wide range of topics – from sun-safety, healthy sleep and greenspaces to macular degeneration, cancer and mental health.

Notably, for such a diverse set of columns, there was one key theme that ran throughout: Small changes in our behaviors can be powerful tools for improving our mental and physical health.

That’s an important message for any time of year, but maybe even more so right now as we head into the busy winter holidays.

So, keeping with that theme, here are 18 quick, healthy wins you can pick from to work into your days between now and the new year.  While it’s great if they’re part of a plan to slowly build up to bigger health and fitness goals, they don’t have to be. They can just be stand-alone victories that help keep our health and wellness in mind as we navigate our way through the end of this year and beginning of the next.

For healthier eating – and drinking

  1. Say “no, thank you” to whipped cream – at least sometimes.
  2. Pick a day to go meatless and cheese-less. Bonus: Go even healthier with a lot of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  3. Choose the small size when ordering a sweet, holiday-flavored coffee drink. Bonus: Try unsweetened coffee or tea instead, with just a dash of milk.
  4. Switch up the order of foods in your cupboards and fridge. Move healthier choices (fruits, vegetables, nuts) to where they’re easier to see and grab.
  5. Instead of alcohol, choose fizzy water or an alcohol-free beer or spirit at your next holiday gathering.

For keeping moving

  1. Pick a day where you take a five-minute standing and easy stretching break every hour.
  2. Try walking for some of your close-by errands instead of taking a car or transit (if you can do it safely).
  3. Take your kids to the indoor playground at your local rec center.
  4. Pick a morning and commit to fitting in an exercise class or some other physical activity before your day gets busy.

For better sleep

  1. Say “no, thank you” to that afternoon tea or coffee, or choose decaf instead.
  2. Pick a night to get to bed 30 – 60 minutes earlier than you would normally.
  3. Pick a night to go without any screens once you get in bed. Bonus: Silence your phone or leave it in another room (if you’re able to be out of contact).

For mental health

  1. Pick an hour (or even an afternoon) to fully unplug – from social media, news, podcasts or just screens in general.
  2. Try to take some time for yourself, especially when things get stressful. Visit with friends, take a yoga or stretching class or go for a walk (if you can do it safely).
  3. If you’re in a mental health crisis, call 988 – Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. 

For overall health

  1. If you haven’t yet, pick a day to get your flu vaccine and COVID booster. Bonus: Make plans for your family to keep up to date on vaccines.
  2. Call your doctor or clinic about scheduling any missed or upcoming cancer screenings.
  3. If you smoke, spend five minutes checking out Bonus: Text QUIT to 47848 to receive daily text messages to help you stop smoking, from

As we make our way through the month’s celebrations, family visits, colder weather and, yes, sometimes stresses, it can be more important than ever to look after our health and wellness.  These simple behaviors may be just what we need to do that – and head toward a happy and healthy 2023.

It’s your health.  Take control.


Dr. Graham A. Colditz, associate director of prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is an internationally recognized leader in cancer prevention and the creator of the free prevention tool