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Marshmallow Stuffing

Why Creating A New Ritual Could Be Beneficial For You And Your Brain.

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In my September blog, “This Fall Won’t Look Like Any Other,” I indicated how the upcoming changes to our normal routines would be unsettling. The loss of predictable customs that comfort us would create more stress.

Well, yes, most of that happened.

Yesterday, the C.D.C. (Center for Disease Control in the United States) strongly recommended putting Thanksgiving on a further lockdown for the health and safety of all by recommending no travel over the holiday.

While some will continue to carry on with their regular routine, here is some advice for the rest of us to make the best of a difficult situation.

When faced with change, our brain, in its desire to protect us, has us pull back, resist, and “fall into a victim mentality.” This brings about stress, pressure, imaginary drama, and (for those of us who fall into this trap) maybe doomsday thinking.

Then likely resentment and possibly even anger.

If you find yourself saying or thinking things like “Why is this happening to me?” or “Thanksgiving is ruined. It won’t be the same,” don’t worry, you are not alone.

But you can do something about it, for you and your loved ones.

First of all, don’t think about a scaled-back Thanksgiving as “giving up” something. This way of thinking tends to frame everything negatively, putting our brains further into an “away” state. This mindset makes it more difficult to truly celebrate today and be hopeful for tomorrow.

Instead, think of Thanksgiving 2020 as a “celebration of good health,” and the sacrifices you may be making as acts of kindness to protect the health of loved ones.

Secondly, don’t focus on the comforts and rituals you may either have to give up or significantly modify. (No “Turkey Bowl” football game,” a different “Thanksgiving Day Parade” watching experience, no large extended family and friends gathering, no gearing up for the long lines at the “Black Friday” sales.)

Instead, think about CREATING a NEW RITUAL or two.

When we create a new pleasurable experience or learn something new, we put our brain in a forward, growing mindset. Positive chemicals are released. Wiring, which may have been dormant for a while, fires. And you may be lucky enough to create a new, pleasurable memory.

This kind of approach is fundamental for adults, but it is critical for families with small children. You see, children do not process that they are missing out on a ritual. They only notice that mom or dad is “sad.” So, putting yourself into a positive mindset for this holiday helps you and will have a real impact on others.

Here are a few “new ritual” ideas to try or to get you thinking. (I am sure you can come up with the perfect one for you and your loved ones.)

Replace the Turkey Bowl with a “Turkey Walk.” If you can make the walk an excursion to a new place, all the better for you. If you can’t go someplace new, walk around your neighborhood while noticing some new things along the way. Seeing something new or previously taken for granted will have a positive impact on your brain. And it can be a great family bonding experience.

Create a “Gratitude Gift Exchange.” Yes, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, but how many times is this swept up in the flurry of the day’s activity? This idea is simple to execute, whether you are forced to be alone or in a small group. We admire many qualities in others or behaviors that we appreciate that often get “assumed,” unsaid, or taken for granted.

Identify at least one of these traits and/ or behaviors and express them to another person. As specifically and as generously as you can.

Then the recipient needs to acknowledge that “gift of appreciation.”

Our brains react very strongly to gratitude. All three kinds of gratitude (1. Being thankful for what we have, 2. Expressing gratitude to others, and 3. Accepting gratitude)

This is a powerful gift exchange for our mindset and motivation. It is FREE, and yes, it can be done virtually!

Create a “New Family Recipe.” You may have that family recipe that has been passed on for generations. You know the Jell-O & pretzel dish that feeds 40 people.

I am not saying to give up on those.

But think about starting something new. Stretch your creative kitchen skills.

One idea is to ask your kids what favorite ingredient they would like to see put into the stuffing. Maybe it is marshmallows, perhaps it is chocolate chips, or who knows? (My grandson offered up “lemon pepper”)

You don’t have to stuff the whole bird with this new recipe. A simple side dish option would do. It will create some fun, and you just might be on to something big!

Here are three possible new rituals. But I am asking you to send me what you come up with and the story behind them. There are more holidays to come in December, and others may benefit from your creativity. You can leave a comment below or email them to me at [email protected]

I am sending my best wishes to all of you for a holiday of smiles, positivity, gratitude, and maybe a new ritual or two.

Your brain and your family will be thankful for it.

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