The Mental Health Benefits of Thanksgiving + My 7 Days of Gratitude Recap

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

I think we sometimes have this idea that one indulgent (or as some might refer to it, “bad”) day of eating means we royally blew it and should abandon all semblance of healthy habits. Or at least start fresh on Monday. Especially timely with Thanksgiving last week, I want to shout from the roof tops that it just doesn't have to be this way.

Have you ever considered the mental health benefits that come with holidays? I feel like it can be way too easy to get caught up in the "eat this, not that" messages or immediately feel food guilt after eating past fullness and lose track of the positive impact that days like Thanksgiving have on our health. 

Think about these benefits for a minute:

  • Quality time with family
  • Bonding (aka building community) over favorite traditional, sometimes once-per-year foods
  • Reminiscing about family or cultural staples
  • Exploring new flavors, exchanging sips of wine, and getting creative in the kitchen 
  • Working together on all of the meal components 
  • Showing gratitude through our words and the food that we share with others 

Health and well-being are about so much more than including vegetables or avoiding cream. In fact I'd argue that getting stuck in that mindset hinders progress towards your health-related goals instead of advancing you towards them. BTW, if you want to explore a new approach, I think we should chat

Remember that every eating decision is an opportunity, but it doesn't always have to be about nutrient density. 

Sometimes eating is about nostalgia, being social or just pure satisfaction and I think all can be equally important. 

So eat with intention, remember to appreciate that health is multifaceted, and don't overthink things too much. I hope you all had a beautiful holiday - I sure did!

Gratitude Challenge Recap:

On a related note and in case you missed it, I hosted a 7-day gratitude challenge in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and I have to say, it was pretty darn fun. I sent out a daily e-mail to participants with an action item that served as a reminder to slow down and show some gratitude in the most basic ways. I thought it would be fun to recap my experience so here are the seven messages:

Day 1: Go through the photos on your phone and pick one that makes you laugh out loud or smile really big. Make it your new wallpaper, then think about how grateful you are for the people (or emotions) that the picture portrays.

I chose a photo of my nephew eating a cupcake (aka shoving it in his face) at my Mom's retirement party this summer and it really did brighten up my days to see it. To me it represented family as a whole and how much I appreciate every experience I get to share with them! 

Day 2: Do a good deed.

I sent my best friend a book and travel cocktail kit for her travels to India. This wasn't technically meant to be part of the challenge but it worked out timing wise so I thought this was a good one!

Day 3: Compliment a friend, colleague, family member, or even a stranger today.

I had been meaning to give kudos to a fellow dietitian for a while since I really admire her work. Today I sent her a message of encouragement.

Day 4: Call someone you haven't talked to in a while for the sole purpose of saying "hi". 

Done! 

Day 5: Create something delicious (food) and share it with others. 

I made lunch for my hubs. It was a very sad lunch since our fridge was bare right before going out of town, but no one said this had to be fancy! He appreciated it any way.

Day 6: Buy a small but thoughtful gift for someone special.

Jacob and I bought some little things for my nieces who we visited over Thanksgiving (stickers and finger tattoos which were a hit!). 

Day 7: List three people that make your life better, along with reasons why. To take it a step further, tell them!

I didn't do the second part but I did make the list and that alone was a really great exercise. 

Interested in future challenges like this? Be sure to join my email list to stay in the loop!