By Karen Janzen
I love it and I feel love, joy and peace when I eat it (because it’s a fast & easy way to release dopamine in my brain).
Approaching the holiday season, advent calendars have always been part of my family’s traditions. When the chocolate ones came out in the 80’s, advent calendars became my chocolate ritual, increasing with more sugar, fat and chocolate each day until Christmas Day (or Christmas Week, really) exploded in a dopamine blizzard in my mind, leaving me sluggish and sicker, and dependent on sugar to maintain daily functioning.
So when unpacking my Christmas things this year, I found a quilted advent calendar I received as a gift and I began wondering what I should put in each of the tiny squares.
But as I began pondering the price of my favorite chocolate, I began calculating the negative effects that 24 days of chocolate could have on my health, and how quickly I careen off from one chocolate a day into glycemic oblivion. I began to wonder if there was something different I could put into the advent squares that would feel good AND improve my health.
And that’s when I realized that advent calendars are a fantastic tool to begin experimenting with the 3E Components of Health in small ways that FEEL GOOD every day. They can be used to achieve improved social, emotional, and physical health by individuals, families, classrooms, or like-minded groups.
If the 24 days of advent seem too onerous, the activities below could also be adapted into “12 Days of Christmas” or a “New Year-New You” January activity. Or you could stick with the advent calendar platform, but take out the holiday theme and insert a spring theme, etc. If using this tool with younger students it might be wise to have one advent calendar for the whole class to work on together. If using with older students, they can create their own advent calendar, possibly in collaboration with an art, textiles, or woodworking class.
Here is MY list of 24 Fun/Feel Good ways to experiment with improving health. You can start with these today by printing them off and cutting them up into strips, or make up your own! On my list I decided to sample from at least 1 of each of the Components of Health, which you can see a full list of under the “3E Health Model” tab in 3ehealth.org .