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How to indulge this Christmas

Spot of sherry, anyone?

Indulging. Pampering. Relaxing. A quick glance at most magazines under ‘10 ways to indulge’ will nearly always come up with a lot of suggestions around hot baths, white wine and scented candles. Here at Radio 4 in Four we say yah boo to that.

There are many more interesting ways to indulge yourself. In fact, indulging ourselves is healthy in itself – we’re bombarded with information on how to be productive and achieve, but precious little on how to fit in the small things that make life worth living. So here’s our guide to Christmas indulgence...

1. Keep your brain occupied

Sometimes downtime can lead your brain to go into list mode. Everyone else is lolling about in front of the television, a pile of Quality Street wrappers rising and falling on their chests, while you’re making lists about ‘ways in which I can be a better person’. This is because your brain has actually had so little stimulation it’s looking around for ways to beat itself up. Give it something to do by learning a magic trick. They’re hard to learn so occupy the brain splendidly, hugely impressive to other people (particularly impressionable small children who will think you are David Blaine and Harry Houdini rolled into one, however simple the trick) and you never know when it’ll come in useful. If magic isn't your cup of mulled wine, how about diving headfirst into this year's Christmas craft trend. In 2015 it was adult colouring books, in 2016 it was origami. How about this year trying a giant jigsaw?

2. Binge to your heart's content

It's not like the old days when you used to circle items in the Radio Times to work out what you were going to watch. No longer will you regret it forever when you nip to the loo and come back to find everybody talking about what you just missed in Eastenders. Nowadays you can make up your own Christmas viewing and watch an entire series back-to-back pausing only once to microwave some more popcorn. Or what about listening to the radio? Well we would say that, wouldn’t we. But really listen. Don’t half-listen while you’re making mince pies or clearing up the mess the cat made when it got in the cracker box, sit down and just listen. Whether it’s The Archers omnibus or The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, stretch your ears. It’s like a mini brain holiday.

3. Board game tournament

If you’re trying to avoid getting embroiled in the one huge game of Monopoly that begins on the 23 December, takes up half the dining room table and ends on New Year’s Eve with tears and death threats, then try a timed tournament. Line up every short game you can think of - Connect 4, draughts, Articulate, Pictionary etc. - and give everyone ten minutes to play. Then swap games. Keep track of everyone’s scores on a board or the back of the Radio Times, whatever's closest, then the two most highly scoring players have a play-off in a game chosen by everyone else. You can even bet on the winners if you want to introduce a slightly more fevered atmosphere. It will get noisy and rowdy but a lot more fun than plodding around the Old Kent Road as a boot.

4. Murder in the dark / Sardines in the dark

You’d be amazed by how excitingly scary your own house is in the complete dark. And adults who may be in an advanced state of refreshment will scream the place down when they discover someone unexpected in the airing cupboard. Go on. Indulge your inner child.

5. Technopolis

For the extreme opposite of the previous point, how about getting all your freshly unwrapped whizz bang brand spanking new tech and lining it up in a row and spending an entire day pretending you've beamed in from the future. Virtual reality headsets, shiny (as yet) unbroken phone, new computer, scary looking drone, latest games console and that thing that came out of your cracker which requires batteries (you discovered shortly after you wrestled it back from the cat).

6. More please

You've spent 42 hours in the kitchen and emerged with a plate of lightly massaged Brussel sprouts. Don't panic. Providing everybody else found the takeaway menu, the festive holidays are the one time when you can get in that kitchen and use that lesser-spotted apple corer hiding at the back of that drawer. You've watched Nigella - now it's your turn to shine! You can even lay everything out in individual neat little bowls before starting.

7. Give up guilt

Take that calorie counting app off your phone, try and stop the phrase: “no it’s alright, I’ll do it” leaving your mouth, ignore how many steps you’ve taken, and cheat as much as you can. Buy ready-made mince pies, if you like them, get shops to wrap your presents, post your Christmas cards unless you want to trek around in the drizzle...a week off guilt is probably the most indulgent thing you can give yourself. It’s the best sort of break there is. Enjoy just being you, and have a fabulous Christmas, from all of us.

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