Holiday Practices

During holiday gatherings, we’re often exposed to other people’s issues, the dynamics of various relationships, and our own issues. Now that can be a lot of ISSUES in one room. It’s hardly surprising that people experience so much stress, anxiety and depression during the holidays. With positive, appreciative thoughts and good feelings, we can play a huge role in helping our bodies stay healthy.

For many, spending time with certain family members can reopen old emotional wounds. The holidays seem to be a particularly vulnerable time for old scars and delicate hearts. According to clinical hypnotherapist and mindfulness practitioner, Sherly Sulaiman, it is during these times of joy and giving, that one needs also to be generous when it comes to forgiving.

“Everyone has at least one person they still need to truly forgive. It’s possible to know, intellectually, that forgiving is ultimately better for us; but we don’t always practice what we know to be better,” says Sulaiman. “While we’re constantly letting go when we excuse friends, colleagues or strangers for irritating or even offensive behaviors, when it comes to certain family members or loved ones, letting go may not come so easily.”

Thanksgiving really is a time to celebrate our relationships with family and friends — no matter how dysfunctional they may be. Even the craziest family members bring opportunities to our lives. Our thoughts and emotions—as well as foods, chemicals, and many other factors—affect our body’s trillions of cells. Dr. Shannon McRae calls these influences epigenetic factors because they act to turn carious genes on or off, leading to either greater or lesser health and well-being.

Forgiveness is a powerful epigenetic factor. Forgiveness clears emotional blocks, which stop resistance to the full natural flow of well-being that can lead to healing. This viewpoint is supported by new scientific findings. Biologist Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., explains that signals from our environment constantly affect our cells. “In the last decade,” he writes, “epigenetic research has established that DNA blueprints passed down through genes are not set in concrete at birth. Genes are not destiny! Environmental influences, including nutrition, stress, and emotions, can modify those genes without their basic blueprint.”

Another great practice to try this holiday season is that of gratitude. Practicing gratitude for as little as 15–20 seconds, can lower stress hormones, increase the flow of oxygen to every cell of your body, and harmonize your heart’s rhythms with your body’s other systems.

If all of this happens when you focus for just 15–20 seconds on something that brings you pleasure, joy, or a feeling of gratitude, imagine what would happen to your health—and our world—if you were able to cultivate and express gratitude and appreciation on a regular basis.