By Dr. Anthony Policastro

As we celebrate Christmas, we tend to focus on the various good things that happen at this time of year. Those things all impact our physical and mental well-being. Sometimes we do not even realize that.

For example, studies have shown that putting up a Christmas tree increases the levels of dopamine in the brain. This is a chemical that gives us a feeling of happiness. Some of that is by allowing us to recall happy memories of putting up past trees as far back as childhood.

We already know that spending time with nature is beneficial to our health. Thus, getting a real Christmas tree is healthy. Getting Christmas plants like poinsettias, holly and mistletoe are also healthy moves.

A study done in 2017 showed that buying presents for others actually reduces blood pressure. Think about that. Giving gifts to others lowers your blood pressure. You may be the one who actually benefits.

Enjoying Christmas songs with your family is beneficial. They create a sense of belonging. They help create a family togetherness.

In a related vein singing Christmas carols with others also affects vital signs. It helps lower pulse rate. This is related to the warm feelings that singing carols brings.

We already know that receiving Christmas gifts provides happiness. Of interest is that there are different kinds of gifts. Some are those that you wrap up and hand out. Others are experiences that you have with friends and family. That is why it is important to spend Christmas with others.

Sometimes we think of the holidays as a time for overeating. However, that is usually done over a big meal with family. The time spent with family doing that outweighs any of the downside of the calories eaten. So the more time you spend at the table with everyone, the healthier it is.

Christmas is a season for holiday movies. They all seem to have the same plot. They all seem to end the same way. However, we watch them anyway. That is related to the positive emotions that we feel in doing so. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our Christmas with family could be as happy as the ones on television.

There are always certain family traditions that occur around the holidays. My children always knew it wouldn’t be Christmas without antipasto. So they have continued that tradition.

Santa is the usual source of “Ho Ho Ho” during the holidays. However, we have long known about the benefits of laughter. Bringing that laughter into the family Christmas festivities will provide those health benefits to all involved.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of things about Christmas that are healthy. We do not often realize that. However, we should be thankful that they are there.