Healthy for the holidays gift guide

By Addy Hatch, WSU News

If you’re looking for a gift to sustain mind and body wellness, why not consult an expert?

Healthcare professionals at Washington State University Health Sciences tell us some of the gifts they’ve given their friends and family—and themselves—that can help encourage exercise, sleep, relaxation or self‑care.

Here are their suggestions:

Marian Wilson

Assistant professor, WSU College of Nursing:

Health starts with a healthy planet! This year I intend to give gifts that will help reduce plastic waste like bamboo utensils, reusable bags for fruits and vegetables, and stainless-steel straws. I also try to give gifts that can be consumed or used: dark chocolate, wine, coffee, teas, seasonal fruits or plants. That helps reduce household clutter, which can create stress.

Dawn DeWitt

Professor and senior associate dean, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine:

I have bought several meditation headbands that give biofeedback for meditation via an app. There is so much research and information now about the benefits of meditation and this is highly motivating and fun to use. You can set it to one of several ‘soundscapes’ (beach, rainforest, etc.) and you hear birds when you are ‘calm.’  It has made a huge difference for me and others I have either bought it for or suggested it to.

Shobhan Gaddameedhi

Assistant professor, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences:

As a circadian researcher, I suggest two health-related gifts. During nighttime, to protect from circadian clock disruption, I suggest my friends use yellow nightlights, which cause less disruption to one’s circadian clock compared with white or blue lights. During daytime, especially in the morning, I suggest using bright white light to boost one’s circadian rhythm and to relieve sunlight deprivation, especially during the winter.

Danial Baker

Professor, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences:

Danial Baker, professor, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, recommends a Discover Pass as a great gift for the holidays. The pass provides access to millions of acres of state recreation lands in Washington.
  • While I use the Health app on my phone to keep track of most of my daily walking (since I gave up on pedometers a long time ago), some of the smartphone apps are also very useful. My preference is an app that’s made for track running, because it’s also useful for walking, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and cycling records.
  • A headlamp of any brand, but it depends on how much light you want. The best units are those that offer a bright white light of various intensities and the option for a red light when you don’t want it to interfere with your dark vision. I use them most of the time for walking in the very early morning and evening in the late fall and winter months (plus a flashing red light, like those sold for the back of a bicycle, to place on my back pocket or backpack). I also use it for riding the Trail of the Hiawatha and for snowshoeing before or after a day at work or alpine skiing during the winter.
  • Alpine skis, snowboards, cross‑country skis, or snowshoes are all ways to get you outside in the daylight hours or at night during the winter months. It is amazing how clear it is in the mountains on those gray and dreary days of winter at the lower elevations. I spend most weekends at an alpine ski resort and/or snowshoeing.
  • A backpack is always a great idea. Small ones are useful for short trips where you might need some water, snack, a clothing layer, or a place to store your keys and wallet. Larger day packs are very useful for longer trips where more clothing, food, water, binoculars, maps, and a first aid kit might be a good idea. A hydration unit or water bottles are both good options. Shorter hikes I tend to use a refillable water bottle and on longer hikes or rides a hydration unit. During the winter I tend to use a water bottle because the hose on the hydration pack can freeze up, unless you buy one with an insulation cover that surrounds the hose and mouthpiece.
  • A Discover Pass (for Washington state recreation lands) is always a great idea and if you use it with any frequency it will pay for itself quickly. There are an amazing number of locations in our region to explore during any season that require a Discover Pass for parking and to help offset the maintenance of these great assets.
  • A kayak or canoe can be purchased or rented. The Little Spokane River is not that far away from downtown Spokane and is a great escape from the urban environment and to see wildlife. Just remember to purchase a Discover Pass or use the commercial shuttle service that’s available during the summer months.
  • One of the many books about hiking in the Spokane area.
  • If you need a friend to do something with in the outdoors, consider a membership in the Spokane Mountaineers.
  • If you own a bicycle, inline skates, or walking/running shoes, find a parking spot anywhere along the Spokane Centennial Trail and enjoy! While this is a free trail, a donation to the Friends of the Centennial Trail is a great idea to help support this important community resource.
  • If your friend or family own a bike give them a day pass to the Route of the Hiawatha.
  • Bear spray is a must if you choose to hike anywhere outside of the urban area. Make sure you know how and when to use it before venturing out on your adventure. A great way to learn about this product is to go to the Bear Spray Introductory Video on the Yellowstone National Park website.
  • Donate to the Dishman Hills Conservancy and go explore all the hiking just outside of Spokane. You would be amazed how many trails are in this location. You might see some wildlife and if you go in the spring or summer you will see lots of wildflowers.

Ka’imi Sinclair

Assistant professor, College of Nursing:

Last Christmas I sent my mother a monthly fruit box subscription. It’s kind of expensive, but a less expensive (though more time-consuming) option could be to put a healthy-food box or basket together for someone.

Kay Olson

Senior instructor, College of Nursing:

For me it would be a cookbook on a plant-based diet with tips and recipes. There are a lot of good ones out there.

Kim McKeirnan

Clinical associate professor, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences:

A DNA genetic testing kit. In addition to your genetic history, it also has information about your health and things that could be related to future health problems. Also, now you can get a pharmacogenetics report to see if you are more likely to have a medication that doesn’t work or will give you a bad reaction.

Sue Perkins

Senior instructor, College of Nursing:

Reputable parenting books, children’s books to encourage mental and physical health, healthy cookbooks, a first aid kit for children, or electronic toothbrushes.

Matt Layton

Interim associate dean of clinical education Spokane and clinical education director, College of Medicine:

  • A gift certificate for a 60‑ to 90‑minute massage. Many people know the benefit of being on the receiving end of a relaxing or deep‑tissue therapeutic sports massage but won’t buy one for themselves because they see it as splurging on themselves.
  • Another idea is a smoothie maker. It’s impressive how many people will buy healthy smoothies and pay way more for one bought through a drive‑through window at a coffee shop. With the unbelievable number of healthy options, having an easily-used-and-cleaned machine at home may help develop a healthy habit of making and consuming smoothies.
  • Finally, a gift certificate to attend one yoga class on a trial basis. Many people know yoga has health benefits, but they don’t think of themselves as being able to turn into a pretzel. Yoga is a spiritual practice with physical and psychological benefits, even if one can’t maintain difficult yoga poses.

Laura Wintersteen‑Arleth

Senior instructor, College of Nursing:

A friend and I have been going to a fitness club for water exercises as a way to help us get healthy. So, for Christmas, I bought her a set of Styrofoam weights (in pink, her favorite color) to use in the water.

John White

Professor, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences:

A chest strap heart rate monitor. I always thought that these things were too nerdy until I tried one. You can use it running, swimming, cycling, spinning, or essentially any form of exercise. The app is easy to use, and if you’re not carrying your phone or device while exercising the monitor will store the data for later download. It also “tells” you what percent of your max heart rate you’re achieving. Many active people are targeting the so called “orange zone” (80–90% of your max heart rate) and this device provides you constant verification of what zone you are in. It helps motivate me to push for a harder workout and does not let you slack!

Valerie Hennessy

Senior instructor, College of Nursing (Yakima):

I give lots of essential oils that are pure and high quality, including some that are FDA food grade-approved for ingestion. There are oils that help with metabolism, overall health, decreased pain and inflammation. The oils are great for treating bothersome symptoms and there are even ones that help with mood, not to mention some of the blends made for the holidays smell great! Make sure to get a brand that’s third‑party tested for purity, quality, and does not include alcohol and other substances.

Sue Rossetti

Senior instructor, College of Nursing:

A multicooker. It makes for healthier eating and helps to decrease stress by cooking even frozen meats quickly.

Mary Paine

Professor, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences:

My only suggestion to the now comprehensive list is something healthy to eat, e.g., a fruit basket.