Is Thanksgiving Good, or Bad, for Your Mental Health?

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Happy Wednesday, readers!

We’re heading into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. And I know, the focus this time of year is usually around how many calories you’re packing away during the holiday feasts, or how much money you’re spending to feed your extended family.

But what about the mental health paradox of the holidays? Thanksgiving anxiety is a pretty well-established phenomenon. After all, it can be stressful to prepare a large meal, congregate with people you haven’t seen for the rest of the year (or longer), and potentially have to field awkward debates about anything from politics to the arts to religion (especially if the wine is flowing).

And yet, social bonding has a pretty strong track record of being good for your mental health. That, in turn, can also be good for your physical health—even reducing stress and the risk of heart-related conditions, according to the NIH.

So what gives? The answer is a bit of a hodgepodge, much like a Thanksgiving potluck. For instance, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) notes that 64% of people with a mental illness say that the holidays can actually exacerbate their conditions, a phenomenon known as the “Holiday Blues.” The pressure of putting on a happy face is a big part of the reason.

At the same time, basic human connections and feelings of gratitude to one another can prove a boon to emotional well-being, as suggested by Dr. Robert Emmons, a University of California, Davis researcher who has done extensive research on the science of gratitude.

It’s a give and take. Life can be rough. Family can be rough. Organizing big events are almost inevitably rough. And the holidays can blend all that roughness together.

What’s clear is that treating friends and family with kindness and empathy is a win-win for all involved.

Read on for the day’s news. And have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sy Mukherjee


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