Energy Express: Five Holiday Gifts You Give Yourself

It’s the holiday season. Still! I could swear I saw my first plastic reindeer the night I dressed up as the Black Swan and went trick-or-treating. No one feels like doing work these last few weeks of December, that’s for sure. The time between now and the dawn of 2011 is all about slacking off, spiking the eggnog and giving gifts.

So here are five end-of-the-year gifts, from me to you, except you have to do all the work. Granted, some of these treasured items will feel a bit recycled, since I’ve sung these songs many times throughout the year: exercise more, eat smarter, learn to cook, give up the sugary soft drinks, do unto others …

The truth is you can’t hear this stuff often enough. If it were easy as pie to adapt a healthier, happier lifestyle, Oprah would weigh 125 pounds. Repetition reaps awareness. That’s why, whatever level you’ve achieved in yoga, you start every class with the same basic poses. Every down dog brings a discovery — a fresh connection to your muscles and bones and breath. When your awareness is unleashed, the struggle is over, the spirit is engaged, and suddenly you’ve joined a gym, fallen in love with tango and given up fried chicken forever.

Five Holiday Gifts You Give Yourself

So unwrap these precious packages with care, knowing that they come along with a lifetime guarantee, they can always be returned to, and no one can give them to you but yourself:

No. 1: BE MORE ACTIVE. This gift rewards you with health, strength and energy. There is no substitute for moving your body, challenging your heart, juicing your joints. You can’t fake exercise. You can’t hire someone to do it for you. (Darn.) And you can’t avoid the nasty consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. The trick is to find physical activities you enjoy and do them often enough so that NOT doing them feels crummy. Then you’re hooked. When you’re hooked on exercise, life is very sweet.

No. 2. DAZZLE YOUR DENDRITES. Tie a red bow around your brain to remind yourself to use it. To keep your body vital (especially as you age), you must stimulate your brain with challenging activities that make you think inside and outside the box. Crossword puzzles and sudoku fit the bill. So does studying generic accutane ancient Greek. Play bridge. Join a book club. Take a course in bicycle repair. When you stop learning, your brain goes to sleep, and next thing you know, you’re dead.

No. 3. RELISH REAL FOOD. Aren’t you fed up with diets, pills and stupid supplements that promise quick weight loss and deliver nothing but disappointment? Here’s the gift in a nutshell: stop trying to fool Mother Nature. She hates fake foods, processed foods, foods with additives and pesticides and artificial sweeteners. Your job — call it a gift — is to read labels and resist buying anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. There is plenty of delicious, real food out there nowadays. Find it, cook it, eat appropriate amounts of it, and support the conscious people who grow it.

No. 4. THINK IT, DO IT, BE IT. This is a gift certificate for better mental health. Attention Walmart shoppers: Your thoughts influence your health to a remarkable degree. Negative thinking — I’m too fat, I can’t dance — depresses your system and gets in the way of positive change. So do anger and intolerance. You can learn to suspend judgment and live your life with kindness and compassion. That’s why yoga was invented. Meditate on that, not your flabby thighs, and awaken to your body’s natural desire to be alert, alive and Pepsi-free.

No. 5. EMBRACE FREEDOM. This may be your greatest gift of all. We fight for it, we die for it, but how do we define it? “You know you are free when you feel happy and at ease instead of fearful and anxious … when you are independent of the good and bad opinion of others … when you have relinquished the need to seek approval … when you believe that you are good enough as you are.”

You can write your thank you note to Deepok Chopra, from his book “Power, Freedom and Grace.”


“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” — Mark Twain


Marilynn Preston — fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to [email protected]{jcomments on}


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