Most people don’t consider Thanksgiving to be the healthiest of holidays. Between the ladles of gravy and the piles of pecan pie, the holiday is more closely associated with gluttony than wellness. But Thanksgiving can be downright salubrious.
The very notion of giving thanks, of being mindful of where we are in our lives and who we are lucky enough to have with us, can be powerful, meaningful and revitalizing.
Yes, there are hectic schedules to manage, family issues to navigate, travel, sleep and dietary challenges. But Thanksgiving also brings togetherness, joy, tradition and focus. To glean the most out of this holiday, I advise my patients to keep these five things in mind:
Unplug. Use the holiday as an opportunity to unplug from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Several studies have found that social media exacerbates mental health issues, and the blue light emitted by most devices disrupts sleep cycles.
Put down the phone and pick up a football. Connect with your niece over a cup of tea or help your host chop vegetables. Whether it’s putting your phone on silent, taking a break from social media, or not watching television, unplugging from your device and reconnecting to another person can be a big relief for many of us.
Take time for you. Exercise, read, lounge or do whatever makes you happy. Time off can mean time for the simple pleasures that fill life with joy. Sleep is also vital during this time of year, especially if you’ve been crossing time zones.
Eat in moderation. We know the food is tempting, and you should enjoy it. The key is to maintain reasonable portion sizes and avoid overindulging. One way to ensure healthy eating is to load up two-thirds of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, the greener the better. And, yes, you can have dessert, but do you need more than a forkful to get the full effect?
Start a new tradition. Traditions center us, help us to shape our identities and strengthen the bonds between family members. The holidays are a great time to gather those closest to you and start a new tradition.
Maybe it’s a walk around the block after dinner, or a pre-dinner football game. Maybe you spend the day volunteering at a soup kitchen with friends, or you work on a family photo album together. Whatever it is, make it meaningful and make it yours.
Be thankful. It’s right there in the name. Thanksgiving is a time of reflecting on what is good in the world and in our lives. There are problems to fix, relationships to repair. But there is goodness to focus on as well. Positive psychology research has found that gratitude is consistently linked to greater happiness and even improved health. That means that giving thanks is good for us. And what better time to give thanks than Thanksgiving?
So, enjoy the holiday that strengthen family bonds, grants stolen moments of “me time” and delivers lifelong memories, all with a helping of pie. Have a happy – and healthy – Thanksgiving.