As it turns out, Thanksgiving can actually benefit your health. Often the focus of Thanksgiving is on overeating, stressful travel plans and family tension — the unhealthy side of Thanksgiving. So how can we bring out the healthy side of this holiday?
Although we should be grateful all year long, we tend to bring gratitude to the forefront of our minds around Thanksgiving. Many studies show that gratitude is correlated to happiness. One such study found that people who wrote about things that made them grateful were happier, more optimistic about their lives and had fewer doctor visits over the 10-week study period. Robert Emmons, a leading researcher on gratitude, found that people who practice gratitude consistently also have stronger immune systems, are less bothered by aches and pains, sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking. From this perspective, we should be celebrating some form of giving thanks on a daily basis.
In order to be grateful, we need to be aware of the wonderful blessings we already have. Let’s take the delicious Thanksgiving meal often quickly gobbled up. When we eat quickly, we don’t taste our food and we don’t know when we are full. Think about when you were mindlessly eating a cookie, you go to take another bite only to realize that it is all gone. Rather than going for seconds, really enjoy your firsts. Chew your food. Our mothers always told us to chew our food, but I’m talking about really chewing your food. Chew until your food is a paste with no more lumps and all your taste buds have been coated with goodness. Then and only then can you truly appreciate each and every bite. This form of gratitude is also a way to help with portion control without feeling deprived. You’ll surprise yourself and find that you’re full before you finish your meal.
Thanksgiving also teaches us a lesson on balance. This time of year we’re not necessarily eating the most balanced meals, and stress is often much higher than is healthy. We need to find balance for our mind and body. Allow yourself some time to relax and be present, either with family and friends or on your own. The idea of balance is the principle theory of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture allows your body to move from the sympathetic fight-or-flight mode into the parasympathetic rest-digest-and-restore mode. This will allow both your mind and body to fully de-stress. How can our body heal itself if we don’t give it time to heal? Have you ever noticed how mild issues that you normally can live with seem to get worse around the holidays? This is because your body can’t keep up with the stress. If stress is preventing you from being truly thankful this holiday season, take some time to receive an acupuncture treatment. Wellness is more than just the absence of disease; wellness allows us to flourish in all aspects of life.
This Thanksgiving bring out the healthy side of the holiday by:
- Keeping a gratitude journal. Each day, write down five things you are grateful for.
- Enjoying every bite of food by chewing thoroughly.
- Showing your gratitude by adding value and becoming an active participant in your life and health.
- Trying acupuncture to boost your energy, mood and sleep, and decrease stress.
- Looking for ways to balance the day’s stresses and joys.
This article was originally published in Nature's Pathways.