One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is having no Thanksgiving traditions. My family has some pretty established must-do items for other holidays, but Thanksgiving has always been a wild card for us. Sometimes turkey day finds us at the beach, we’ve spent Thanksgiving on the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, and for the past couple of years we have gone camping.
It’s liberating to not be tied down to certain things needing to happen in order for the day to feel “right.” Whether Thanksgiving dinner is cheeseburgers and a pint of beer at a diner or a pot of gumbo over a campfire, it’s all good to us.
It makes me think about other ways we challenge convention, and how rebelling against what is expected can be a liberating breath of fresh air. Are you feeling stifled by your holiday food traditions?
I’ve spoken to plenty over the past couple of weeks who feel it is next to impossible to not eat everything that is presented to them on Thanksgiving. Some folks tuck their napkin into their collar, open their arms, and say, “bring it on!” Others wring their hands because they don’t want that I-can’t-believe-I-ate-the-whole-thing feeling but also don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or don’t want to miss out on the tasty food they love.
Either way, let it go. Thanksgiving is one day. Yeah, I know, everyone says that healthy living is a lifestyle, but it’s not really. It’s a series of small decisions that take place over the course of a long time. But you don’t actually have to commit to a healthy lifestyle to reap the rewards of good health.
I know this sounds like the opposite of what everyone has told you! Weight loss success stories are full of testimonials about how you have to toss the quick fix to the curb and adopt a healthy approach for your whole life! Well I am here to tell you that is simply not true.
You just have to do it now.
You don’t need to commit to being healthy for the rest of your life. You just have to commit to doing it today. Or at this meal. Right now. You deserve to feel great all the time, but if that’s more than you want to think about, just feel great now.
Then, if you liked it, do it again. You can make healthy choices - the ones that keep your body feeling light, energetic, and mentally clear - all day long if you want to. Or, you could stop and go back to the old way. It’s your choice!
Now, I might be playing a bit of a trick on you. In a perfect world, you would start doing those healthy things, and then do another one, and another one, and keep doing them until, if you looked behind yourself, you would realize that you are smack dab in the middle of a healthy lifestyle.
But let’s not think about that right now.
Right now, it’s Thanksgiving week. You’ve got old family recipes to make, family coming into town, travel to pack for, and who knows what else. It might feel overwhelming to add exercising and watching what you eat on top of all that. So don’t. Just do it for today.
You don’t have to stay tied to those old holiday traditions of eating too much and regretting it later. You can go to the beach, or get on the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. You can go camping. You can get a hotel room by yourself and watch TV all day. Whatever. You do you.
Thanksgiving is about reflecting on that for which we are thankful, and it is also about a bit of rebellion. After all, if people couldn’t see a better future for themselves, they wouldn’t have sailed across the ocean to get it. This year, rebel against convention. Throw that healthy lifestyle out the window. Toss your holiday traditions to the side. Live healthy one moment at a time, and be thankful for the right to do it.
A few years ago, folks in Tallahassee decided that October was a really nice month. So, every organization in town began to schedule their events on October weekends. There were craft fairs. There were fall festivals at every pumpkin patch in town. There were birthday parties, tailgates, concerts in the park...and my kids were invited to all of it. Before long, what had started out as a really nice month had turned into something else we felt like we needed to survive. Does that happen to you sometimes, too?
If you’ve been having the physical signs of stress - rapid heartbeat, sweating, confusion, fatigue, a feeling of overwhelm, etc. - then your answer is probably a weak and weary yes.
Well, I have some good news. You can relieve those symptoms with one simple step: do more stuff.
Yes, you read that right! A 2015 study published in the Clinical Psychological Justice journal found that the physical signs of stress can be alleviated through the act of helping others, and that people who practiced random acts of kindness throughout the day reported feeling less stressed and more positive.
The even better news is that kindness and service to others doesn’t need to be time-consuming or costly. Small gestures like making eye contact and sharing a smile with fellow shoppers at the store, allowing someone to go ahead of you in line, holding the door for someone who needs help, and paying someone a compliment can turn the tide of stress on your health.
Need a few more ideas? Try some of these quick ways to bring some sunshine into someone else’s life:
When we feel connected to another person, our bodies release a hormone called dopamine, which is sometimes called the “hug hormone,” because it makes us feel so good. A study in the medical journal Cancer showed that breast cancer patients who perceived their doctor as compassionate, warm, and caring during their appointments were less stressed during treatment.. You can provide the same benefit to others by showing compassion and empathy to them when they express concerns to you.
The pace of life is about to crank up big-time. So, in the next week, I invite you to slow your roll and pay attention to those signs of overwhelm. The next time you feel stressed,, stop and ask yourself, “how can I help?” The solution to stress could very well be in our hands, when they reach out to someone else.
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!