WORDS BY SIMON E. SMITH

Christmas can be a punishing period on the body. There's the constant over-eating, the cold weather and the relentless boozing, not to mention the stress of presents, decorations and parties. You wonder will you ever return to the healthier you once it's all over.

Yes. You will. And to help you speed things along we've scoured the medical journals and found the top tips to keep your immune system strong during your winter binge.

SOME LIKE IT COLD

The only time you think of the words "take a cold shower" is when you're in desperate need to make an erection or thoughts of Santa's little elves disappear. Yet there are additional benefits to an icy blast other than taking down a pitched tent. After being stunned by that freezing water your body tries to heat itself. Your body's metabolic rate increases causing more white blood cells to be produced and thus your body is more able to fight off bugs. Cold showers have also shown to increase alertness and mood. 

Don't think. Just get in and turn the tap to blue.

GETTING IN TOUCH WITH YOUR ANIMAL

No. No. No. We don't mean channel your inner stag. We mean take the time out to give your pet (or someone else's) a hug or a cuddle. Petting a dog might actually boost your immune system. Your heartrate slows down and your body's natural fight or flight chemicals - cortisol and adrenaline - are switched off.

Bare in mind, however, that showing a dog or a cat to a mate or loved with a raised blood pressure who doesn't like animals can make them far more anxious than before. So if nan doesn't like dogs then don't run in her living room on Boxing Day shouting, "Here's Rover!"

I'M ON A DIET THANKS

While the words "fasting" and "Christmas" may not feel connected, you should consider this...evidence suggests that shoving heaps of superfoods down your gob may not be as effective as you think. In fact, according to a study carried out at the University of South Carolina fasting for just (lol, "just") three days flips a switch in your body giving it the go-head to regenerate and repair.

Three days without food and your immune system will have rebuilt itself from the bottom up. Rather than hit a stodgy English breakfast or go hair of the dog to fight a Christmas hangover try skipping food for several days...it may just save you.

CRACK ON SOME TUNES

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know..." What a lovely song. So relaxing. So healthy. Research has shown that listening to peaceful music can lower levels of that influential stress hormone cortisol. In addition, listening to music you enjoy will release dopamine in your brain making you feel bloody brilliant. When you wake up feeling a little worse for wear crack on some feel-good music for 15 minutes, that's as long as it takes for the positive effects to kick in. 

 

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