5 Tips for a Mindful Thanksgiving


Well, it’s happening! The holidays are officially here. I don’t know about you, but they really snuck up on me this year.

California has had a pretty devastating couple of weeks. We’ve been ravaged by forest fires from top to bottom, and the horrific shooting in Thousand Oaks is yet another reminder of the importance of mental health awareness. With these events hovering in our psyches, combined with travel stress, family dynamics, and an abundance of food, it can be the perfect storm of overwhelm and emotional triggers. This year, let’s try to temper the anxiety, stress, and overeating with gratitude, self-care, and presence.

I’d like to share a few ideas to help you practice mindfulness amidst the chaos.

1.    Practice gratitude. Starting your day by writing down three things you’re grateful for can actually change your brain. Actively expressing gratitude (through writing or conversation) can increase happiness and decrease depression. Scientists say that practicing this technique shifts our thought patterns from negative outcomes to positive ones, which creates a surge of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. So, get writing!


2.   Release expectations. This year, try to stay in “real time” instead of “psychological time”. Real time is being HERE, NOW. While psychological time is living in the future (anxiety over something that doesn’t yet exist), or in the past (regrets and overanalyzing outcomes). We all have that aunt/uncle/parent/sibling who knows exactly how to get under our skin. Maybe this Thanksgiving, we don’t assume or anticipate their behavior. Instead, try being present in each moment, and react to what’s actually happening, not what we think is going to happen.


3.   Exercise is your friend! Starting your day with an endorphin rush is a setup for success. Whether you opt for a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sweat sesh, or a brisk walk in nature, exercise is a great way to clear your mind and have some “me time” before starting in on holiday festivities. Plus, you’re getting that calorie burn in early so you can have an extra helping of your favorite Thanksgiving dish.

4.   Take a minute to BREATHE! Whether you’re packed like a sardine on a plane, or entering a raucous family affair, taking a few minutes of quite time will help settle your nerves. You can try this breathing exercise to calm your mind:

·      Breathe deeply through your nose for a count of 6, pause and hold your full breath for a count of 2.

·      Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 6, pause and hold your empty breath for a count of 2.

·      Repeat until the mental chatter quiets, and all you can hear is your breath and your heart beat.


5.    Taste your food. While it’s fun to think about all the yummy dishes served at Thanksgiving, it can also create anxiety around holiday weight gain and stress eating. Don’t worry, you can’t derail all your progress in one meal, BUT it’s important to be conscious about WHAT you’re eating, WHY you’re eating it (helloooo emotional eating!), and WHEN it’s time to put down the fork. Take time to actually chew and taste each bite. You might find that you’re more satiated if you slow down and enjoy all the textures and flavors.

I like to do an intermittent fast the day of and the day after Thanksgiving. This allows me to be more aware of my calorie intake by decreasing the window of time I’m eating. It also really aids digestion, and decreases inflammation (which tends to increase when the body is stressed). Here’s an example of my intermittent fast:

·      Fast between dinner on Wednesday night through Thursday mid-morning (12-16 hour fast, coffee and tea are ok).

·      Eat a small meal around 11am, then enjoy your Thanksgiving meal.

·      Repeat the next day with a 12-16 hour fast between Thanksgiving dinner and your first meal on Friday.

Whether it’s your family, your health, the food on your plate, or the sun shining outside, try to keep your attention on what you DO have in your life. Sometimes, the simplest things are the biggest blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving from Allison Wellness & a massive helping of gratitude for all the firefighters protecting our communities!