Ah the holidays are here. For many us, the holidays not only bring on family fun and good food, but they can also bring on increased stress, which can lead to pain and inflammation throughout the body. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out that gravy-laden turkey stuffing can also pack on the pounds. As a naturopathic doctor, yoga instructor, and general wellness enthusiasts, I have my own way of spreading Christmas cheer—by inspiring others to take better care of themselves, so they can truly enjoy the holidays and life more!

As you kick off the holidays, here are virtually effortless ways to maintain optimal health during the busiest (and oftentimes the least healthy) time of year:

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Smile, and decrease stress: Did you know that smiling actually affects our ability to recover from stress? Research shows that holding a smile on one’s face when you’re feeling stressed may not only help the heart, but also make us feel better. So smile and think positively! Sleeping and moving also help you further increase stress resilience—very important during this season!

Eat, but eat smart: Certain foods like sweet potatoes, wild salmon and any dark green leafy vegetables contain antioxidants which are proven to fight inflammation, which plays a role in many chronic diseases. Include some of these super foods in your holiday meals! Here’s a surprising fact: Americans consume more calories during the 6 weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years than any other 6 week period the rest of the year. To cut some of those calories, consider dancing while you do all of those dishes after dinner or take a walk or run to help get your metabolic mo-jo off to a powerful start before you recline and dine.

SitSmart_Dynamic Comfort_Work (17)Burn calories and feel better, by just maintaining proper posture: Bet you didn’t know you can burn up to 350 more calories daily just by maintaining proper and positive posture. But for those of us who sit long hours in front of a computer or spend hours traveling, it can be a challenge to ensure proper posture, if we don’t have core strength. To keep my posture in shape, I rely on yoga, I apply ergonomic principles to reduce the risk of back injury and I use science-validated sitting supports—like BackJoy—when I’m sitting. Bonus: Maintaining proper posture not only helps us fight back pain, it also helps us manage stress chemicals!

With a proactive and positive plan, make the Holiday season your healthiest and most balanced ever! From there you can raise the bar in 2014 to be the healthiest year with these new empowering lifestyle habits!

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IMG_7034e-5About: Dr. James Rouse is a naturopathic doctor and expert in functional and lifestyle medicine. An author of nine books, host and founder of Optimum Wellness Media, and Ironman triathlete, James has coached Fortune 50 and 500 companies, MLB and NFL teams, several branches of US Government and consults for companies including BackJoy, SKOOP and Kroger Grocery. He has shared his message to audiences in the US, Europe and Asia.