by Jacquelyn J. Core JD PhD
Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday. From crisp autumn mornings with my hands wrapped around a steaming cup of coffee, wool scarf around my neck, fighting off the frost with a good sweater, to the aroma of pumpkin pie and the moment the cork comes out of the Gaja Barbaresco… the quintessential Thanksgiving wine for an Italian girl… I LOVE this holiday. More than all these things, however, I love the concept of eucharisteo generally. From the Greek, it is translated as “to be thankful.” So as the turkey graces the table, I am often reflecting on the year and the blessings we have.
As November races past us, leading us headlong into the joyful Christmas season, I challenge you to hold Christmas at bay long enough to focus on thankfulness and to cultivate as much gratitude as you possibly can, even if at first thought your situation might seem bleak. We all often focus on the negative. When describing our nation we start with geopolitical unrest. When describing our communities we start with crime. When describing ourselves we start with scarcity, focusing on what we don’t have or what we wish we had. This week, and all Thanksgiving season, I challenge you to focus on the positive. As the month begins, give thanks for our Veterans and our US service men and women and for our freedom rather than engaging in the geopolitical debate. Focus on the positive in your community. Recognize the strengths of your circle of family and friends and neighbors, and maybe take the risk of meeting someone new. And focus on your blessings: health, friends, your job or education or training, what you enjoy doing, or the food on your table… be thankful for whatever you have. Be mindful of these things… after all, it’s “Planksgiving.”
“Planksgiving,” you ask? What can I say? I am a Pilates teacher. We plank. So, as an exercise in gratitude, today try seeing if you can plank for 20 seconds. Focus on making a mental list of things for which you are thankful while you plank. After you master 20 seconds, you can increase by ten seconds every second or third day… even more time for thankfulness. And, if you keep after it until Thanksgiving Day you will also be able to give thanks for more core strength. New to planking and think even 20 seconds sounds like an eternity? Start with ten seconds or try shortening your plank to your knees rather than your feet. If your wrists are weak or planking causes you pain, feel free to plank on your forearms. You will get the same core workout so long as you try to position your body in a straight line. If you look in a mirror your hips should not be above (or below) the rest of your body.
Mixing your physical activity with mindfulness is a great way to pursue holistic wellness. The practice of mindfulness allows us to access the parasympathetic nervous system where we can lower cortisol levels and increase our fat burn. When we are stressed we move around all day in what is called the sympathetic nervous system. We are constantly in a rush… constantly in a state of fight or flight. When we slow down and cultivate mindful practices we can access the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce the cortisol that tells our bodies to hold onto belly fat… Planking to a leaner, more thankful you. One more reason to be planking and thanking all month.
Here’s to your good health!