I know it’s time to talk about Thanksgiving, but I’ve had some really good conversations with people about our recent “Wellness Wednesday” articles on loneliness and isolation, and it absolutely ties in.
It seems we all go through times of loneliness, but lately, people are either more isolated or the feelings are more intense, especially as we roll into the holiday season. I’m guessing that each of us is somewhere on a spectrum between feeling a sense of community and feeling alone.
That’s why I’m really excited about the December Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner. Loneliness is not just an emotion; your body has a complex biochemical response to feelings of loneliness that can have a profound impact on your health. We’re bringing in a very special guest, Kathy Feinstein, MS, who will be dealing with the physical wellness side of loneliness. I hope you’ll join us. We positioned it in the middle of the holiday season on purpose, because loneliness seems to spike during the holidays.
Loneliness Spikes At The Holidays
The problem is that our proximity to other people has little to do with how we feel. We’ve all experienced times of feeling alone in a crowded room. There’s also the matter of expectations versus reality: if I go into an environment expecting to feel welcomed and accepted, and instead, I feel ignored, then the feeling of isolation is made more intense by the disappointment. That’s a bad combination of emotions.
I believe this is why the holidays are so hard for so many people. If you grew up in a family where Thanksgiving and Christmas were major times of joy and fellowship, and your adult experience has been different, either due to a death, a divorce, or distance from loved ones, then the disruption can break your heart.
Then add holiday movies to the mix, and it’s enough to send you right over the edge. I remember the holidays after my divorce, when every holiday movie seemed to know right where to poke my emotions. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s NOT a wonderful life when you’re sad and the TV tells you that you shouldn’t be.
Steps To A Totally Healthy Thanksgiving
Well, now that I’ve completely ruined your Thanksgiving joy, let’s turn this around; because Thanksgiving can really be the healthiest thing you do all year, regardless of what you eat.
The first key to defeating the feelings of isolation is to acknowledge that they are real. Brushing them under the rug is not the answer.
The second is to realize that…well…you’re not alone in feeling alone. Everyone goes through it at times. In fact, feeling alone might be the one thing all people have in common. You might be surprised at the people who are struggling with loneliness. Some of King David’s most moving Psalms deal with his feelings of loneliness and despair.
So, now that we know that feelings of loneliness are real and legitimate–and that everyone goes through them–we can do something about it.
Last week, we asked some hard questions to get to the root of why we are alone in the first place. If you haven’t read that yet, I encourage you to read it now. Go ahead…we’ll wait here for you to come back.
It Starts In The Heart
If you are isolating yourself because you refuse to forgive someone for some way they have hurt you, it’s time to let the past go and forgive. If you are uncomfortable being alone, you might have a judgment against yourself that you need to forgive. Yes, it’s entirely possible that you need to forgive yourself. You will never be able to enjoy solitude if you don’t, nor will you ever really be able to forgive anyone else. And without forgiveness, you will spend the rest of your life in a prison of your own making. It’s time to let it go.
If you will take the time to forgive yourself, you will feel a weight lift off your soul that may have been there so long, you didn’t even notice how weighed down you were. In some cases, you may actually feel a physical sensation of weight lifting away from your body. I’ve had it happen. There is a spiritual dynamic to unforgiveness, and your spirit, soul, and body are all interwoven, so it’s not unusual for emotional and spiritual events to have an effect on your physical body.
It’s a simple process…so simple that you might think nothing real took place…but in the mental and spiritual realm, enormous things are happening. Just say something like this: “(YOUR NAME)…I forgive you for…(name the offenses). I release you, and you owe me nothing. I bless you. Go in peace.”
Extending The Healing
Once you do that for yourself, take a minute to go through that process with anyone else on your list that you have something against — any hurt feelings, past abuse, lies, manipulation, theft, or anything else they may have done against you. You are not condoning what they did. but you are denying them the power to hurt you anymore. It might be over and done with right then and there when you forgive them, or it might take time to get over the pain. You might have to go through this process several times for some people, but it’s worth it. You will know you have forgiven them completely when, as my Pastor says, you can remember the situation with peace in your heart. You don’t have to spend time with them or trust them, but you can live your life without the anger and bitterness controlling you anymore.
You might never get a chance to forgive them in person. They might not ever know that you even forgave them. But then, it was never about them. It was about getting that chain off your own heart.
Not your typical Thanksgiving article (nor your typical chiropractor blog), I know. But I want you to be free, and it starts here.
Once you get the unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness out of your system, you can start building new connections with people — make new friends and rebuild ties with old friends.
If you’ve always seen yourself as a shy, introverted person, it’s OK. What I’m suggesting might be uncomfortable at first, but I’m also not suggesting that you jump out on a stage at Germain Arena. If you attend a local church, introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. You might be shocked at what they do. I’ll bet you anything you want that they will be kind, friendly, and gracious. They might even say hello back and give you their name. If you are willing to push through the discomfort, you will be pleased with the results. It’s the same thing I tell my Move Right classes.
If you don’t attend a local church, I encourage you to find a local group that does something that interests you. Common interests are an easy ice-breaker. The first time I attend a business networking group or a meeting of local doctors, I’m always a little awkward at first, but I get over it pretty quickly, because it doesn’t take long to find something in common with the people I meet.
How To Start A Conversation
If you are really uncomfortable starting a conversation, here’s a trick I’ve always used: don’t talk about yourself but ask questions to get them to talk about themselves. People would always rather talk about themselves, anyway. Once they sense that you are taking a genuine interest in them, they will naturally be drawn to you. You don’t have to know anything about any topic; if you know how to ask questions, you can keep a person talking as long as you want. It makes a stuffy company party go by so much faster.
That’s a free tip to anyone who is spending the holiday with family, too. You might be surprised at how much you don’t know about your family and friends, just because you never took the time to ask.
Humans were created to live in fellowship with other humans. You’ve heard the old expression, “no man is an island.” You will find life most fulfilling when you engage in healthy connections with yourself and others. During the holiday season, we see this truth in its fullest exhibition. So, this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to:
- Get your conscience clean of unforgiveness.
- Connect with local family and friends.
- Reach out to new people, especially if your friends and family are far away.
- Be fully present wherever you are and really engage in conversation.
- Count your many blessings. Say them out loud.
- Oh…and eat something you love.
I suppose you’re waiting for some sort of healthy Thanksgiving nutrition advice, like “substitute tofu for turkey,” or “only eat raw vegetables for Thanksgiving.”
If you read what I ate on my birthday, you know better than that.
Live life. They call it “comfort food” for a reason.
Enjoy your favorite holiday memory foods. Now, take into consideration that there may be consequences on Friday, like a “potato, stuffing, and bread hangover,” but if you’re OK with living with those consequences, then enjoy your meal. Wellness is more than eating rice cakes and celery. It’s body, soul, and spirit.
Choose to have a Happy Thanksgiving, regardless of your feelings. I will be praying for you. I will see you at the Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner on December 7. RSVP now to save your seat.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas