Thanksgiving for Body, Mind, and Soul

I did something shocking, unthinkable.

I put up our Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

It’s shameful, I know. The day after Thanksgiving has always been a sacred day, The Day We Deck The Halls And Put Up the Christmas Decorations. But it was out of necessity this year, as we are traveling for Thanksgiving and won’t be home until it’s nearly December. It would be shortening our celebration season, and I just wasn’t having that.

However, although I was eagerly looking forward to getting out the tree and hanging the stockings, something felt off. It was just weird, diving head-first into Christmas without Thanksgiving first. Which made me realize just how much I actually love the holiday itself, not just as a gateway to pass through before we kick off the most wonderful time of year. I fervently believe in the immense power of gratitude, in its ability to lift us out of darkness and give us the strength to walk a better path. Having a holiday that reminds us to reflect and be grateful is a blessing we too often pass over.

I’ll share more of my love of the power of gratitude at the end of this post, but fist, in honor of Thanksgiving I bring you a roundup of tips and inspiration to help you celebrate this oft-neglected holiday in full presence of body and mind.

Thanksgiving Tips for a Healthy Body

First up: “Giving Thanks Without Overdoing It,” a list of nutrition tips for Thanksgiving — or really any holiday get-together. This post comes from Lily Nichols, the Pilates Nutritionist, who says:  “Oh, Thanksgiving. You are the holiday that leaves us bloated on the couch, top button undone on our jeans, in a semi-conscious food coma every year. You know the feeling, and it’s not a good one. If you’re keen to avoid the whole ‘I can’t get up from the table because it hurts too much’ saga, this post is for you.” Lily also offers this sentiment I fully endorse: “There’s nothing wrong with a little overindulgence here and there; however, I know Thanksgiving often triggers unhealthy habits that continue all winter long. If you’re prone to pack on the holiday pounds or get stuck in I-need-dessert-with-every-meal mode during this season — and you want this year to be different — this post is for you!”

Kris Carr of the Crazy Sexy Wellness Revolution offers her tips on “How to Avoid Overeating During the Holidays.” She offers wisdom similar to that of Lily’s, but expanded. It’s definitely worth the read.

And if you’re hoping to stick to a plant-based, turkey-free Thanksgiving, have no fear: Minimalist Baker has compiled a monster list of 65 vegan Thanksgiving recipes. My mouth is watering just looking at them! I’m also drooling over this naturally sweetened cranberry sauce recipe from Cookie & Kate. I’m not assigned to make cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, but I may just call the host and ask if I can bring it. It looks amazing. And finally, this one in particular from One-Ingredient Chef — butternut squash with cranberry quinoa stuffing — is calling my name. Is it time to eat yet??? (By the way, I ate an entire spaghetti squash for lunch yesterday. By myself. And it was AWESOME. Yay for seasonal fall vegetables!)

Being Thankful All Year Long

And now, here’s something for the mind and spirit: Have you ever considered keeping a gratitude journal? It’s a simple daily practice that can be immensely transformative. (TinyBuddha.com offers these “11 Tips for a Powerful Gratitude Journal” if you’re curious about getting started.)

I am a believer, because it’s a practice that lifted me out of the darkest time in my life.

Eleven years ago I was friendless, jobless, hopeless, and suicidal. I had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder after nearly a decade of struggling with depression, anxiety, and intense mood swings. Each time I thought I had hit rock bottom, I kept falling further until at least I lost hope that I’d ever stop falling, that life could be more than a series of devastating lows one right after the other.

And yet something inside — some teeny, tiny, miraculously undistinguished spark — kept me going. I had just the faintest, smallest hope that one day things would be different. That I’d be able to manage my illness somehow and join the living. I had no hope of ever becoming happy again and having it stay; I had been so thoroughly and severely beaten emotionally that I could not even conceive of joy being part of my life ever again.

And yet somehow, I moved forward, just the tiniest bit at a time. And when I say tiny, I mean tiny. Barely moving at all. But I managed to find trust in my new doctor at the time and took his advice to start a gratitude journal. I figured it was the least — the very least — that I could do, the only thing I had the energy for.

At first, and for a long while, I was pathetic at finding things to be thankful for. But little by little, that changed. And after a while, not only did it become easy, it became the norm. I stopped seeing every cloud, every burden, every sorrow. I was able to see the good and completely bypass the bad. And my entire life bloomed.

Now I see that more than the therapy or medication or anything else, the ability to find light in the dark saved my life. If I could impart one lesson to you, it is this: Though you may feel powerless in whatever difficult situation you find yourself in, you always, ALWAYS have the ability to change your mind and your heart. It all starts with a desire to look beyond the bad and seek out the good, to believe that your life will not always be full of heartache, that beautiful things not only lie ahead, but lie all around you. Seek them and be thankful for them, and you will see your entire life blossom.

To end this Thanksgiving roundup, something for the soul: This video features beautiful insight and powerful of wisdom on the “diving principle” of gratitude. The words are from Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but they apply to all of us, religious or not. Take a few minutes to watch and feel uplifted today. Just click on the image below to visit the video.

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, and a warm and lovely holiday season to you all!

 

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