Holiday Makeover:

6 Ways to Spread Your Wings

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In the run-up to Christmas, I want to remind you that a holiday celebration is what you make it. If you lard it with stress and the need for perfection, you’ll wind up with heartburn even worse than what you get from too much of Aunt Ethel’s fabulous chestnut-and-chicken-sausage stuffing.

You have a choice. You can do the same-old get-together and be happy with the same-old results. Or you can tweak the trimmings a bit so it’s really a celebration of gratitude and grace instead of gluttony and gas pain.

Here are a few suggestions:

SHOES OFF. This one sounds easy, and it is easy, but some people may consider it a radical act. As your guests arrive, ask them to please leave their shoes at the front door. Their phones, too.

Say what? Be brave. This is what a makeover looks like. When certain guests refuse—$200 over-the-knee boots? Holey socks?—don’t make a fuss. Just let it go. If anyone asks, you might tell them that taking your shoes off as you go from the outside space to the inside space is an ancient custom that involves shifting your focus, coming home, leaving the dust of the outside world behind and entering a space of peace and harmony.

If you’d rather be pelted with sweet potatoes than repeat such a soppy explanation, just nod and smile. You won’t have to explain about the phones. Again, if a guest can’t go without, ah, well­—at least you’ve made the effort.

GRATITUDE ON. Hand your guests a blank piece of paper and a writing implement, and ask them to list three things they are thankful for. Let them know they can do it anonymously. Be sure to include the thoughts of every child, even if the adults have to do the writing.

Place the papers in a jar, and sometime during the meal, stop the chewing and go around the table, reading aloud whatever’s been written. Again, this may feel a little awkward at the start, but once it gets going, it will shift the emotions in the room by creating real conversation, real listening. What more can you ask for?

START FRESH. If you want your holidays to feel fresh and original, start your day in a fresh way. Light a candle and remember. Sit in silence. Or treat yourself to an early-morning walk. The idea is to awaken to the deeper meanings of the day: gratitude, love, acceptance and appreciation of family and friends.

When negative emotions arise during the day—and they will—set your intention to be nonreactive. No anger, no blame. Accept the day as it unfolds. Whenever you hear a glass break, or your uncle growl, breathe deeply and bring your awareness back to your early-morning insights into what really matters.


GO REAL. Buy the best bird you can find. And replace processed foods with real food: fresh vegetables, wholesome grains, awesome side dishes of every sort. Go organic. Buy local. Chew slowly. Be satisfied with just a few bites of your favorite splurge dessert.

BEGIN A CONVERSATION. Find a quote about gratitude. Read it aloud to your guests, and invite discussion. The one I found is by Naomi Williams: “It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.” True or false?  

DIG DEEP. Do something charitable this holiday season. I’m giving you a lot of leeway here. You can be kind to your most annoying guest, visit a sick friend, write a check to a favorite nonprofit, or open your table to a stranger who has nowhere else to go. You can also be extra kind to yourself this day. No matter how busy you are, take a bit of time to do something physical and fun. Take a bike ride. Dance to your favorite music. Find a yoga class. Get the endorphins flowing early, and you’ll ride the wave of well-being all day.

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed
them and took their land.”
— Jon Stewart  —

Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America’s longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new book All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit © 2017 ENERGY EXPRESS LTD

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