Full Bellies, Full Hearts - Let's Enjoy the Holidays

November is now in full swing, meaning the holidays are upon us. If you watch enough movies or enough media, holidays are a time when we are full of gratitude, joy, generosity, love, forgiveness, and all things peppermint or pumpkin-flavored. Our only care in the world is whether or not Starbucks should put reindeer and snowflakes back on their red cups, right?

In reality, though, what I notice most at this time of year is that we are all busy. The holidays are beautiful and inspirational in so many ways, yet many of us end up anxious and scattered. And worse, we end up spending a good part our holidays guilty and ashamed. We enjoy spending time with friends and family members, shopping, decorating, and cooking, only to be hijacked by thoughts of “Is it enough?” Is the house clean enough, the decorations nice enough, the food tasty enough, our gifts personal enough? And to top it all off, we’re already being inundated with messages encouraging us to collect a lot of stuff, eat a lot of food, and then repent for our excess by vowing to feel guilt sufficient enough to force unusual amounts of dieting and exercise upon ourselves come the new year.

Fortunately, I am also noticing a surprising number of social media comments and articles calling out this annual practice for what it is – unhealthy, unhelpful, and complete hogwash that is likely to kill more holiday spirit than Scrooge himself. Honestly, if we are too busy worrying about imperfections in decor or how much sugar is in that pecan pie (a lot; that’s why it’s so freaking delicious!) and how many miles we might have to run to make up for eating it (none – we’ve done nothing wrong!), we have no bandwidth left for love, joy, gratitude, generosity, and forgiveness.

People who love us want to enjoy our presence, not judge our decorations. Each individual has the opportunity to choose for him or herself what is important and what leads to their happiness, and we cannot control this for other people no matter how juicy the turkey is or how much we spend on the perfect gift. We can, however, make sure the holidays are magical and joyful for ourselves. Instead of worrying over the things we didn’t finish or perfect, may we take in a moment of beauty or laughter each day. Rather than punishing ourselves for the foods we eat, may we instead show delight in another’s cooking (or our own), taking pleasure in the experience of savoring the flavor and the smell. We can choose to allow our holiday food encounters to reflect the gratitude we feel for one another by infusing each dish we make with love, and receiving love from each dish we consume. In this way, our meals become less about counting calories and nutrients, or about overeating and ending up despondent with regret, and more about embracing the abundance we share with one another while respecting our personal needs, both physical and emotional.

Let us run far and fast from those promising to “detox” us, “burn off” our Thanksgiving meal, get us ready for bikini season (What?! Why?!), or give us a head start on our New Years weight-loss resolution (please don’t make one of those). These are all things that promote shame, and we don’t have time for shame because we are too busy being loving, grateful, generous, joyous, fun-loving, holiday hopefuls. Our yoga practice is a wonderful opportunity for us to refuse wasting precious time and energy wondering how many calories we burned or if we did enough ab work. Instead, let’s intend to ground ourselves, let go of things we don’t need, open our hearts, remember how grateful we are for people in our lives, and love everything about ourselves so that we have the bandwidth to be truly generous, kind, and joyful, and to bask in the hope and optimism of the holidays. Personally, I’m looking forward to warm pumpkin soup, warm apple pie, warm smiles, and warm hugs.

Happy Thanksgiving!