Thanksgiving Holiday: Avoiding the Stressful Trap

As I provide my talks on brain health and lifestyle across the nation I spend some time talking about the importance of socialization to brain health. This includes remaining integrated in society, defining a role and purpose to your time, and building strong family and friendship networks. The latter point is the one that is perhaps most difficult for us as we all have tension in one or more relationships and these relationships are often within the family.

I often offer audience members the idea of teaching the next psychopathology class at the local university with me. I let them know that Thanksgiving is a wonderful real world laboratory to observe and experience plenty of family/friend based tension to talk about during the class!

On a more serious note, Thanksgiving Holiday is a wonderful time to be with family and friends, reflect on all we have, and pray for those who are hurting or alone. This is only true, however, if we permit our experience of this holiday to be positive and to avoid the many traps of stress and tension that exist on this wonderful Thursday each November.

One key to achieving the positive outcome with Thanksgiving is to keep your focus on the larger picture and refrain from the small stuff. Enjoy the time with your family and pay attention to the effort made to provide a nice meal. Listen to the stories and simply look at those around you. What if this was your last Thanksgiving? Go overboard with the praise and thanks to those who provide the meal and open their home to you. Have the courage to tell everyone there something positive, especially to those where the tension exists. Think about those who may not be able to be there with you and let everyone know you are thinking of them. Praise our veterans who are many miles away from home on this day. Above all, give thanks for the opportunity to enjoy this great day.

Some research indicates our brains’ electrical activity is generated in the front left region when we have positive and hopeful thoughts. Similar activity is generated in the right front region when we are nervous or anxious, stressed, and perhaps negative in our thinking. The key to Thanksgiving is to focus on the positive, get the left front region of your brain busy, and enjoy the good feelings that will emerge.

Stay with the big picture of the day and do not focus on the small stuff!

Happy Thanksgiving.