November~ Giving Thanks… on Thanksgiving and Every Day

 Giving Thanks… on Thanksgiving and Every Day 

Thanksgiving is upon us this month, and many of us will be working hard in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal of turkey and its supporting cast of delicious side dishes. Our focus may be on that fantastic meal and getting it all done just right, but sometimes the inner meaning of the holiday becomes a footnote. It’s important to remember the true meaning of this holiday- Giving Thanks. But what does that really mean? Let’s explore some of this and also consider creating a new family tradition to do so.

History books portrayed the first Thanksgiving as a time when the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Native Americans of Wampanoag came together in 1621 to celebrate with a feast to give thanks for the first harvest since the drought. Many have since debunked this, calling it pure fiction and propaganda. Others, like myself, choose to see the symbolism in this holiday of giving thanks and reflect upon our lives what we truly are grateful for.

For years, our family had a tradition of going around the table on Thanksgiving and saying what we all were grateful for. One year, I wrote the word ‘gratitude’ on a rock and brought it to the host of our family holiday, my sister. We each held the rock in our hands and thought about the past year and what things we truly were grateful for and passed this rock around the table. Some proclamations were funny such as my one younger niece saying ‘ice cream’ nearly every year, and some were tear-provoking, such as the gratitude we all felt having a family member present at the table after a major health scare.

Moving to another state and having family scattered around the country has changed our Thanksgiving, and for the past few years, I have celebrated ‘Friendsgiving’- a modern twist combining friends and Thanksgiving, with the premise that friends can also come together to celebrate this meaningful holiday. I brought a new rock to my host the first year and will continue to write ‘gratitude’ on rocks wherever I may land for the holiday and further this meaningful tradition.

I encourage each of you to look beyond the turkey and the ‘fixins’ this year and add some meaning into your own family holiday tradition. You don’t have to go online to Amazon and search for your own gratitude rock; simply pick one up that you like, grab a sharpie marker, and write gratitude on it. As you hold it in your hands, take a moment to truly reflect and think about what you are grateful for and blessed with in your life. Speaking these words to those around you and listening to theirs as well has a tremendous impact on our lives- this act of appreciating all the blessings and gifts we all share. Not to mention, this gratitude practice is healthy for our minds and our bodies. A daily gratitude practice improves our sleep, our heart health, stress-coping skills, and even our inflammation markers in our body, not to mention leads to a more positive and optimistic lifestyle.

Have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ EVERY day, not just on Thanksgiving. I have a rock by my bedside and start each and every day giving thanks to the gifts I am blessed with in my life. You may even want to purchase a notebook and keep a gratitude journal, writing down 2 or 3 things each day that you are grateful for. I encourage you to consider starting your day in this way and also incorporating a gratitude rock-passing into your own family (or friends!) Thanksgiving meal.

~S&B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January~ 10 Tips to a Stress-Free New Year!

I am excited to begin the new year with a monthly blog for my readers and website visitors! I look forward to sharing my tips each month with you to help you lead a more balanced, stress-free (or at least stress-managed!) life. With the holidays behind us and the new year ahead a blank slate, now is the time to learn new techniques to keep stress at bay and adapt a healthier lifestyle. Since it is impossible to avoid stress, these tips will help you cope with the stressors you face and live a more peaceful life.

1. Check Your Breath

  • Check in with your breathing and take note.
  • Are you holding your breath? Is your breath shallow? Where do you feel the breath traveling within your body?
  • Start by simply developing an awareness of how your breath feels.

2. Balloon Belly

  • Inflate the belly slowly as if you were expanding a balloon inside of it.
  • SLOW down your exhalation as you deflate this ‘balloon’. This is the key to getting more deeply relaxed and immediately calming the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • After a few deep, even belly breaths, you should begin to feel more relaxed.

3. Tense/Relax

  • Hold tension in your fists and all the way up your arms for a few moments.
  • Slowly release the tension gradually until there is no tightness being held.
  • Do the same thing with your feet, legs, and then your buttocks. Feel the muscles contract and then release.
  • Scrunch all of the facial muscles inward and hold. Then release.

4. Lavender Up!

  • The essential oil lavender is one of the most calming scents and several studies demonstrate how our sense of smell can have an effect on our moods.
  • Dab a few drops of this relaxing scent to your pulse points on your wrist and on the sides and back of your neck. Rub it between your hands and inhale this calming, soothing scent. Or place on the bottoms of your feet if you are having trouble falling asleep.

5. Make a Statement

  • Inwardly state what you want to achieve whenever you feel stressed, tense, or overwhelmed. In a sense, you are replacing a negative thought with a positive one.
  • For example, if a defeating, overwhelming thought creeps up, replace it with ‘I am calm, relaxed, and my life is in balance.’ Remember, what we think becomes our reality so state what you want positively and work towards that goal.

6. Visualize Your Outcome

  • Like an athlete who visualizes the perfect golf shot, free throw, or home run before they even approach the ball, visualize a positive outcome of what you want in to occur when faced with an immediate stressor.
  • See the obstacle being overcome and how it would look and feel in your life when that happens.

7. Have an Attitude of Gratitude

  • Research has been shown demonstrating the positive effects of having gratitude and thankfulness in one’s life. Even in the face of the most difficult moments, there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.
  • Experience the healing, de-stressing benefits of gratitude as you practice this technique. Gratitude doesn’t only have to be practiced once a year at Thanksgiving anymore! Families can also benefit by individually expressing gratitude at every shared meal together.

8. Get Moving!

  • Walk, dance, swim, run, bike ride, do yoga… just MOVE! Exercise is a proven way to increase the endorphins in our brain and people who exercise regularly benefit from a more positive mood and a lower rate of depression.

9. Laughter Therapy

  • Read a funny book, watch a funny TV show or movie, or even engage in spontaneous laughter. Seek a Laughter Yoga class for this type of laughter. Not only is it enjoyable, but it also has aerobic benefits.
  • When we laugh, we release stress-relieving hormones and bring balance to the immune system, as well.

10. Pocket Journal

  • Keep a small notepad with you and pull it out if your thoughts are overwhelming you and you are experiencing tension.
  • Without deciding in advance what you will write, write whatever comes to you at the moment in a freestyle way.

All of these tips and techniques can be a healthy arsenal of tools to use when we face challenging moments in our lives and experience stress, tension, worry, anxiety. Use the ones that work best for you. The breath, however, is on one of the most immediate ways to calm us down in the face of immediate stress. It has been said that it is virtually impossible to have an anxiety/panic attack when one breathes in this way. Learning to breathe in an optimal way can help us cope with stress and facilitate greater health and well-being within our lives.

–S&B