Top 5 Tips for a Mindful Thanksgiving

Just like that, Thanksgiving weekend is upon us. And in case you haven’t heard, everyone is pranking their family members about microwaving a turkey. It’s absolutely hilarious. To be honest, we could all use a little comic relief this time of year.

Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, housing relatives, or traveling across the country, there’s no time like the present to be mindful. Yes — we’re talking mindfulness today. The busyness of the holidays is inevitable. We all know this. But the more you focus on your busyness, the less manageable (and more chaotic) Thanksgiving will be. For example, I bet you were recently staring at your rather long to-do list, wondering how everything is going to get done in time. Ultimately, what’s meant to get done will get done. No will notice your non-Pinterest-worthy decorations, imperfect charcuterie, and store-bought cranberry sauce. No one will notice that you didn’t have time to hand paint name cards. At the end of the day, only two things matter this weekend: gathering with loved ones and being thankful.

On that note, worrying about how many carbs you’re going to eat and the number of pounds you’re going to gain is not part of the agenda. Unfortunately, the concept of overindulgence is nearly unavoidable this time of year. People get all wrapped up in it. You probably have a friend, colleague, or family member who is on a pre-Thanksgiving diet. Or you know someone anxiously awaiting juice cleanse season. And I can guarantee you’ve already come across diet-related messages on social media Come November, diet culture has a field day. The media is able capitalize on the busyness of the holidays, while reminding you that your aunt’s buttery mashed potatoes are the antithesis of health.

Here’s the thing — it’s not your aunt’s buttery mashed potatoes that are the antithesis of health. Rather, it’s the stress. Anticipating how many calories you’re going to eat is stressful. Planning how you’re going to burn off those calories is stressful. Convincing yourself that stuffing has too many carbs is stressful. Restricting your meals before Thanksgiving is stressful. You see? This unwarranted stress is STRESSFUL. There’s no need for it. But, I used to be that person. I used to let diet culture rule my world. I ignored my cravings and stuck with what I deemed “healthy” and “safe” at Thanksgiving dinner. I made sure to exercise, despite my exhaustion. I hardly touched the pies, for fear of sugar. As you can imagine, these are not my fondest holiday memories. But you live and you learn. And that’s why I’m writing this post today.

Without further ado, I’m here to offer a few tips to help you enjoy a mindful, less stressful, and nourishing Thanksgiving. Deep breaths and hugs, friends.

  1. Fill up your cup, first. This may seem counterintuitive, but I firmly believe that you must take care of yourself before taking care of others. This is what I call mindful self-care. Think of it like the oxygen mask situation on an airplane — put on your mask before helping your seat mate. It sounds simple, but many of us neglect our ‘me’ time. So, set aside 30 minutes for a solo walk, a morning meditation, or something that puts dollars in your endorphin bank. Brew yourself a cup of coffee before everyone else wakes up. Ultimately, set aside non-negotiable time for what makes you feel good.

  2. Reframe your thoughts. You will probably experience less-than-ideal circumstances this season. There are things that will happen (and things that will be said) that will be out of your control. Simply having this awareness is key. Delayed flights, dreary weather, slow Lyft drivers, and political rants will test your mindfulness. However, remember that you are in control of your actions. You can control how you react. Staying even-keeled requires you to take a few deep breaths, know that nothing is perfect, and that life will go on. Laugh about it, if necessary. Lastly, instead of complaining about the person you’re forced to sit next to at dinner, just be thankful you have people to be with.

  3. Engage in positive body talk. This is a very important one. First and foremost, there is no shame in excusing yourself from conversations that are trigging. If your cousins are talking about wanting to try the keto diet, or that they feel fat in their jeans, walk away. If a convo doesn’t benefit you, you don’t need to be a part of it. However, if you’re feeling gutsy, plant some helpful seeds: “Hey, I’ve started this new thing where I don’t talk negatively about my body, and it’s actually helped me feel better about myself.” Right off the bat, you may illicit some awkward silence. That’s expected. But at least you’re temporary putting the kibosh on diet chatter. And who knows, maybe your cousins will want to know more. Tell them who has inspired you to view your body in a more accepting and forgiving light. Secondly, give yourself the gift of a social media detox. No need to follow people who make you feel insecure (especially about your body). Be mindful of the messages you’re reading around the holidays — these messages can 100% impact how you feel in your skin.

  4. Eat a well-balanced, satisfying breakfast. Don’t skip breakfast. Mindfulness starts the moment you wake up, and ignoring your hunger cues can lead to blood sugar imbalances and mood swings. Not to mention, you need energy to do everything from sit on the couch to cook dinner with your mom. Be kind to your body by honoring your hunger.

  5. Do what you can, with what you have. In other words, make the most of whatever your situation may be. You might not love (nor see eye-to-eye with) every person you’re with. That’s normal. However, instead of putting your mental energy toward disliking a family member because of his or her political views, channel that energy into something more constructive. Part of being mindful means allocating your energy wisely.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got. We’re headed to Dallas to spend time with my in-laws, and I can’t wait. Whatever you’re doing — and wherever you’re going — I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

P.S. If Thanksgiving is an emotionally taxing time of year for you, I’m sending love, light, and good juju your way. Life certainly has its hardships, and sometimes those hardships show up during the holiday season. You are not alone in your sadness. Seek human connection and focus your thoughts on the things you are grateful for.

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