The Truest Gift: Cultivating Wellness During the Holiday Season

The holiday season should be a time of peace and joy, but for some, the many stressors and commitments of the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day often make this time of year seem like a chore rather than something to be enjoyed. Give yourself the gift of health and well-being this season by learning how to re-frame your attitude, incorporate mindfulness, and cultivate joy as you move through this busy time of year.

As a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, it falls to me to encourage my patients to put their own well-being on the holiday to-do list. After all, it’s all too easy to neglect your needs when there are parties to attend, gifts to be purchased, and decorations to be hung! We always think of the holidays as a time for selfless giving, but when this attitude becomes pervasive throughout our daily lives, we place ourselves at risk for mental burn-out and physical illness. Everyone will still have a happy holiday even if you take an hour for yourself each day to meditate, go for a walk, enjoy a chat with friends, or read by the fireside. Keep up your normal healthy habits- it’s easy to over-do it with decadent holiday food and drink, but constant indulgence leaves many feel sluggish, irritable, and bloated by the end of the season. You can certainly have a special holiday treat from time to time but for most days, it’s important to follow a normal, healthful diet and exercise routine. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if you have to in order to preserve your energy. Holiday gatherings should be fun and enjoyable, not a burden or a punishment. If you just don’t have it in you to make it to one more party or outing, politely refuse without giving it a second thought. Rather than feeling guilty for tending to your own needs, remind yourself that you are ultimately giving your family and friends the gift of a more present, less stressed, and more enjoyable you by making those needs a priority

Practicing mindfulness during the holidays is a lifesaver as well. The frantic pace and crass commercial nature of many aspects of the season mean that we forget the true meaning of why we gather together to celebrate at this time of year. Take time each day to renew your focus on what truly makes the season special. This can be your family, your friends, your community, or whatever else truly brings you joy and comfort. Take time to recognize the blessings in your life and to practice gratitude for those things. Make a list of two or three items each day that bring you happiness, and I can almost guarantee that “stuff” won’t be on that list. The true meaning of the season isn’t found in the toy aisle or in a perfectly prepared tray of cookies. Meditate on the real gifts you have in your life, and by doing so, you can find a deeper and more authentic celebration of this time of year.

It’s also important to recognize that, for some people, the holidays aren’t a time of joy. Some may be mourning the loss of loved ones, missing their home or family, or worried about their finances. We can’t necessarily fix these problems for others, but we can lend a helping hand. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Visit someone who may be lonely, help a struggling friend with their shopping, or just hold a loving space for those for whom the holidays are a reminder of those they’ve lost. These acts are the truest gifts that we can give each other. Helping others by shining a light into the darkness spreads happiness and love more effectively than just about anything else.

By changing your attitude, re-directing your energies, and incorporating self-care into your life, this can finally be the year where peace, kindness, and joy replace the frenzied hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Sarah Poulin, DACM, L.Ac., Dipl.OM is a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She has a private practice in Middlebury, CT, where she provides comprehensive, thoughtful, and patient-centered care to people of all ages.Connect at 203-577-2095, or visit SarahPoulinlac.com.