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HEALTH MATTERS: Focussing on what really matters for a happier Christmas

By Dr Tim Allison

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Things do not have to be perfect to have a good festive season.
Things do not have to be perfect to have a good festive season.

I am not a great fan of Black Friday. It seems to be a rather artificial exercise in advertising and commercialism.

I am sure that in the USA it means more where it is the day after Thanksgiving and before the weekend, when people have more opportunity for shopping.

Here on the other hand, it seems to be a rather artificial exercise in advertising and commercialism.

I do see one small benefit though.

It seems to me that the emphasis on Black Friday has delayed or perhaps moderated the start of the focus on the commercial aspects of the run-up to Christmas.

Christmas and Hogmanay are great times to have a break from a focus on the cold and dark, to celebrate together and to meet with friends and family.

We have the chance to boost our physical and mental health through spending time with others, while we can also improve other people’s health by being with them.

There are risks to our health too.

Public health and environmental health teams have often run campaigns to help ensure that Christmas turkeys are adequately defrosted and cooked to prevent food poisoning.

High calorie intake and increased alcohol consumption can cause problems too.

Mental health can improve, but it can also be adversely affected.

People who are on their own may have a greater sense of loneliness while all of us may be nagged by an expectation that we should have a great time and should have the best possible festive season.

However, there may be tensions created by being together with others for a longer time than usual and we are never going to have as good a Christmas as those portrayed on the television advertisements.

This can result in disappointment and stress.

I want us all to have a great festive season and to feel happier and healthier as a result.

But it is also right to be a bit cautious about the hype and that’s why I prefer a shorter commercial run-up to Christmas.

Perhaps we can look to maximise the happiness and minimise the stress.

I am not wishing to decry all advertisements and I was struck by one advertisement that has gone viral on the internet.

It is for a pub in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland and was produced with little money.

The story line is about being kind and hospitable to someone lonely at Christmas.

If we can focus on that theme, it is likely to be the best way to improve the health of ourselves and others.

Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.

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