Let Us Give Thanks – Best practices for the Holiday Season

By November 18, 2021 General health

Believe it or not the year has passed, and the holidays are quickly approaching.  With all the turbulence that this year has brought this is a perfect time to get back to what is truly important.  Even though many of us, when asked “How are you doing?”, would say that we are busy, tired, or stressed, it is really an ideal time to be saying thankful or grateful.

The holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, is a time for reflection and appreciating all that we have in our lives. The seasons of Fall and Winter are historically times to store up and enjoy the bounty of the seasons while preparing for the new growth come next year.  For many today though it is also a time centered on parades, family, football, and food. Many of us find ourselves eating a few too many helpings of sweet potato pie and hitting the couch for a nap.  If that sounds like you, and your holiday routine leaves you feeling tired and sluggish, we suggest making a few small changes to your routine for a healthier holiday.  

1.   Do at least one act of kindness each day. Maybe it’s donating food for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, dropping money in the Salvation Army kettle (or better yet volunteer to ring the bell), adopting a family in need or raking your neighbor’s leaves. Be fully present as we go through our busy days and truly experience the joy that this time of year should bring. We encourage you to find happiness in something you do every day by reminding yourself of what is truly important for you this time of year and try not to get too caught up in the chaos of the moment. In our family we share with everyone what we are thankful for in this past year and even the small kids participate.

2.  Move some every day and Avoid the Table-to-Couch Move! We know it can be tough to follow your typical exercise routine when you’re out of town or have more evening obligations, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your days sitting, watching TV and eating holiday sweets. 

Rather than shuffle from the dinner table straight to the couch, set yourself up to feel good and go for a walk after dinner and bring those family members along. Even on busy days you can get outside on a brisk power walk (especially after a big meal) or do a 10-minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout without any exercise equipment.

3.  Sleep! Especially during the busier and often stressful holiday season it’s important to get plenty of rest – your brain cleans house (detoxifies) while you sleep. We find that during the colder months our body needs and even craves more sleep (think about animals who hibernate in the winter). This might mean prioritizing sleep over your early morning exercise workout after a fun night out with friends. Sleep impacts so much of your health that you’ll be more likely to eat healthier and make healthy choices when you’re well rested.

4. Have Healthy Alternatives at hand. Many of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes are not necessarily the healthiest. Some bits of decadence are for the pleasure but in many instances, there are a few substitutions you can make for a healthier plate. Instead of mashed potatoes, give mashed cauliflower a try. Or, by making your dishes from scratch and using fresh fruits and vegetables, you will eliminate the need for processed goods. 

5.  Holidays are for family and community.  It’s not uncommon to be busy and feel the “end of the year” crunch as we roll into the holidays.  Too often this pressure makes us feel like there is never enough time and so we rush through our activities hurrying on to the next event.  What we have forgotten is that we have choices.  We can try to do it all on our own or, we can accomplish things with and enjoy the strong bonds of community. 

Let’s not forget the real meaning and purpose of the holiday which is to bring together family, friends and community to share in the bounty of the harvest and to warm each other’s spirit during the cold winter months.  During the year we strive individually towards our goals and then during the holidays enjoy the comfort of family and community to carry us into the following year.  Do enjoy yourself with family and friends and when you do overindulge remember tomorrow is another day to continue your health journey.

6.   Practice mindful eating. Chew your food! We know this sounds simple, and maybe even silly, but many of us inhale our meal rather than actually chew our food. Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva mixing with our food. If we eat too quickly, our body works harder to digest that food. Try to chew each bite 15 times before swallowing. 

This will also have the effects of letting our brains catch up to the filling of our stomachs, so we don’t overeat, and being mindful during eating will also increase the enjoyment of it. If you take a minute to stop and breathe or better yet meditate, you will often realize that you don’t really want the sugary treat but something else (like friendship, movement, water or silence).

We are thankful for our kids and all of our extended family, friends and, clients, community members, and you.  We are believers in the power of community and know that together we are stronger.  All of the conversations, interactions, and emotional moments make our lives richer, fuller, and very enjoyable.  We are thankful for this life with all of its ups and downs.

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