I admit to needing a little distraction right now, in the aftermath of the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. At the same time, I admit to feeling somewhat guilty about entertaining that need. There are people out there who are suffering through a living nightmare, and I’m looking to soothe my own nerves? How self-absorbed. How trivial. Right?

But, the truth is, we all need to move forward. We all need to stay functional, for our own mental health, and for the health of our families.

It’s not a healthy thing to lock onto continuous news feeds. It’s not healthy to focus exclusively on one topic, no matter how consuming and important that topic may be.

It is healthy to take time for yourself, to be with your family, and yes, to choose a few healthy distractions.

Here are some suggestions:

Read a book

Lose yourself—for a little while, anyway—in something lovely. Something absorbing. Something delightful. Try The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Emma by Jane Austen. On The Island by Tracy Garvis Graves (this one's next up on my personal TBR list).

Cuddle up for movie night

Make a big bowl popcorn. (Yes, I said popcorn. With butter. Your health can stand indulgences now and then. It's not all-quinoa-all-the-time with me.) Snuggle on the couch for family movie night, maybe for a holiday favourite, or maybe something completely off season (why not? There are no rules). Or, get out of the house and go to the theatre. But I would suggest, perhaps, that you go see something happy, something funny, or something inspiring. Maybe steer clear of the violent or the harrowing for the time being.

Connect with friends

And I mean in real life, if possible. Meet a girlfriend for coffee, go to your book club meeting (I went to mine last night, and it was wonderfully therapeutic), invite a good friend over for a glass of wine.

Enjoy some family time

The holidays are, of course, a perfect time for that. Instead of packing all kinds of festive activities into your schedule, clear the calendar and keep it simple. Make some Christmas crafts. Play outside. Build a snowman. Pull out your rolling pin and bake some cookies together. (Yes, I said cookies. See above comment re: quinoa.)

Exercise

Okay, here’s where I put the 'health' back in 'healthy distractions,' I suppose. Work up a good old-fashioned sweat. Breathe through a yoga flow. Go for a run. Go skating. Or, if you’re here on the west coast, go for a family bike ride. (Er, sorry about that one. But, hey, if I have to miss all the fun award galas and movie premieres and Winterlude and everything by being out on the Pacific fringe, I'm going to take a few perks.)

Do something charitable

There is a lot of good to be gained by doing good things for others. Volunteering, helping, and giving--these acts are well-documented to improve happiness. And I’m talking about the happiness of the giver, even more so than the receiver. At this time of year there are plenty of ways to give and help. Here's one.

So how about you? Do you have any ideas for healthy distractions?

Happy holidays, everyone.