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Ditch the guilt and have a Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. And if it wasn’t for the fact that stores start promoting major deals on or before Thanksgiving, I’d call it non-commercial. Which is part of its charm. I truly enjoy shutting out the rest of the world and just enjoying being with the people I care about the most. No gifts, no shopping, just being.

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My yearly contribution to Thanksgiving dinner

My sister hosts Thanksgiving at her house, so all the family goes over there. The food is delicious. And outside of eating good food, there are no expectations. That’s the best part. This year, we’re simplifying the Thanksgiving menu. There won’t be as many options but the options that are there will be better – both in taste and in nutritional value. No, we’re not cutting out apple or pumpkin pie. Yes, there will still be potatoes and stuffing and turkey. But all the extras, all the variety, is not necessary. I am really looking forward to it.

Thanksgiving also marks the start of the holiday feasting and activities. So much gets crammed into the next month that it can be downright stressful. Not my cup of tea. Being busy all the time puts me in a bad mood. Ask anyone who really knows me and they’ll confirm this.

I’ve learned that saying “no” to busyness is important and even necessary, no matter the expectations others place on you to be involved in everything. Since Thanksgiving is the kick-off of all of this, I feel justified in saying that the choices you make on Thanksgiving will set the tone for the rest of the holiday season.

So here are a few tips to help you get through the holidays without the guilt that comes from partying and overindulging at every opportunity.

Say “Yes!” this holiday season

Between church activities, friends, and family, life won’t give us the chance to breathe during the holidays unless we make it. Someone is always scheduling something. (I guess for some people, this is actually enjoyable. I know. I don’t understand it either.)

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But only you can set your priorities. So be sure to say yes to the things that have the most value.

Giving

Family and friends bring so much meaning to life. Often, we take their presence for granted. Or at the very least, we don’t let them know how much we appreciate them. There is no time like the holidays to fix that. Make sure to spend time loving on the people in your life. Your time and attention are more important than anything you can buy.

Mark and I are trying to transition from giving gifts to sharing experiences. It’s another way to shift the focus away from stuff and onto relationships. Plus, it takes away a lot of stress!

I truly believe the holidays are uniquely special in that many people take the time to give to those less fortunate than themselves. Whether it’s through a church or a charity, there are many ways to bless someone who would otherwise have nothing. I love what Operation Christmas Child does. Maybe you could fill your own shoebox. If that seems overwhelming, you can actually pay $25 to have a shoebox filled for you.

Holiday Challenge:

Instead of exchanging gifts with your family, have everyone take the money they would spend on each other and put it towards filling or purchases some shoeboxes – or donating to another charity of choice. It would be a fun experiment! I bet you would enjoy the holidays more and not less.

Exercise

With the holidays come a lot of excuses. Some people don’t even bother trying to make healthy choices because they “know they’ll fail.” I guess that’s a more socially acceptable way of saying “I plan to indulgence myself at every opportunity.” Which is really the same thing.

This is where you have the opportunity to make a choice. To make your health, your body, a priority.

And it doesn’t mean you have to spend an hour exercising every day. You don’t even have to exercise every day. What I hope you’ll do is keep to a consistent routine that will help your body stay strong and fit.

Holiday Challenge:

Exercise for 30 minutes at least three days a week every week between now and the new year. There are 168 hours in a week. If you complete this challenge, you’re only using up 1.5 hours each week. That leaves 166.5 hours for all the other stuff. This is not a sacrifice but another opportunity to give – and be – the best of yourself.

Mindful eating

Ah. Food, especially the sweet and rich food most often served during the holidays, is what some people live for. Then they try to shed the evidence of it in the new year. But, it is possible to have your cake and eat it to. The trick is to not eat the whole cake.

I realize that food addiction is a real thing, and for those who truly can’t resist those treats, it’s a real problem. If you try to say no to every sweet that is passed in front of you, you will fail and probably over indulge in the process. So don’t say no to everything. But only say yes to your favorite and leave it at that.

And when it comes to the main meal, try sticking to one serving of each item. I know, when there’s a table full of food it’s tempting to load up over and over again. But your body will tell you when it’s had enough. Tune into what it’s saying by slowing down and savoring each bite.

Holiday Challenge:

When you’re at a social gathering, pick one treat to enjoy. By setting your mind on that little indulgence and thinking about it, you will actually crave that treat more and the rest of the treats less. This makes it easier to say no to all the extras. Eat slowly and appreciate all the textures and flavors that you love so much.

This goes for drinks too. Liquid calories pack a big punch. Instead of keeping your glass full of soda, cider, or wine, don’t let your water glass run dry. If you want to have a different beverage to celebrate the occasion, keep it to one. Sip it slowly and truly enjoy it.

Rest

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with activity and social engagements over the holidays. Not to mention all the expectations to prepare the perfect meal, have the perfectly decorated house, be the perfect host or guest, and enchant everyone with your wit and charm. OK. So maybe not that last part.

But the truth is, many of these expectations can be tossed aside. It’s OK to keep it simple and it’s OK to say “no” to an invitation when what you really need is a day of rest.

I know it can be hard to say no when it means disappointing someone you care about. Believe me, I’ve been on the guilt-receiving side many times, whether the guilt was placed on me by someone else or myself. But stress does terrible things to your health. If you want to get through the holiday season joyfully, then give yourself adequate time to rest.

Holiday Challenge:

Sleep! Get to bed at a reasonable time each night so you can get a full night’s sleep. And if you’re attending a party only because you’re afraid someone will be mad at you if you don’t, then say no. Give yourself the downtime you need to feel rested and refreshed.

To sum it up…

There really can be too much of a good thing. Over the holiday season, you’ll be tempted to eat too much, drink too much, and party too much. Focus more on staying healthy and being in the moment than on trying to do everything. Slow down, stick to what really matters, and enjoy yourself!

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