2021-08-01

‘Tis the season for Expert Curmudgeons again

In previous years we’ve had warnings about Santa’s fatness setting a bad example and how we should all abjure cookies and eggnog and subsist on carrot sticks and water at holiday parties. This year it’s eating leftovers and Santa’s sleep (or lack thereof) habits that are under fire:

Surely Santa will feel jet-lagged at the end of his trip! To deliver presents at exactly mid-night all around the world he will have to spend 24h in trans-meridian travel with rapid changes in time zones and little time for his body clock to adapt. He will travel in darkness all the time, so he will be more likely to fall asleep. Catch-up sleep helps to recover from the short-term tiredness and fatigue, but will not help avoid the long-term consequences of sleep deprivation. If he were to do this all year round, he would definitely run the risk of dying prematurely.

How cheerful!

The thing the Expert Curmudgeons always overlook, and I think this is a real issue, is that health is about more than sleep hygiene and carrot sticks. Health is also about having a good time with friends and family, relaxing, enjoying yourself and enjoying eating and drinking yummy seasonal treats.

Western concepts of health and medicine should take a page or two (or, hell, the whole book) from the Aboriginal Medicine Wheel concept, in which health comprises physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health all together. Eggnog, cookies, gravy, friends and family may not be absolutely helpful to our physical wellbeing, but they’re a very important part of the total picture of what makes us happy, content and — therefore — healthy in a more inclusive, absolute sense. You can go to a party and eat carrot sticks and drink water and feel all virtuous and abstemious, or you can go to the same party and actually enjoy yourself: which is better for you as a whole? I’d argue a certain amount of seasonal indulgence is good for the soul. It’s a long, cold, dark winter and we’re in the darkest bit: eggnog and cookies are perfectly reasonable coping mechanisms.

At this point I will link back to a post from four years ago with much better holiday tips.

This biologist says drink the damn eggnog, eat the damn cookies, sleep in (or get up early, whatever floats your boat) and enjoy yourself. So you might gain a pound or two or suffer the odd hangover. So what. Your emotional, mental, spiritual self will probably thank you. Your physical self can correct any lingering issues in January.