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5 Fun Thanksgiving Activities To Help You Feel Happier and Healthier

Boost joy while celebrating turkey day.


One of our favorite holidays (a.k.a. Thanksgiving) is right around the corner. In preparation for turkey day, you’re probably creating a tablescape and arranging for out-of-town guests to visit. These fun to-dos help you get into holiday spirit. Plus, research shows how these tasks can also have a positive effect on your overall health. Here are the five Thanksgiving activities that help you feel happier and healthier.

To erase achiness: Thanksgiving movies

Enjoying a seasonal favorite, such as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, can quash pain and limber you up more quickly and effectively than painkillers can, say researchers at North Carolina’s Wake Forest University. That’s because the relaxation and contentment that you feel when you’re enjoying a familiar, feel-good movie prompts your brain to release powerful pain-killing hormones called endogenous opioids.

To soothe stress: Seasonal touches

Hanging a colorful fall wreath, setting pumpkins on the porch, or arranging your favorite Thanksgiving centerpiece on the table instantly cuts tension, edginess, and anxiety in half. So say researchers at North Dakota State University, who found that cheering up your surroundings with objects that bring back happy memories and remind you of the fun times to come can make mental stamina and optimism soar.

To restore stamina: RSVPs

Whether friends and family are coming into town to celebrate Thanksgiving or you’re heading to their neck of the woods for the festivities, now is the perfect time to reach out and get those upcoming visits arranged. Surprisingly, doing so reduces your risk of tiredness and energy slumps, say University of Michigan investigators. They explain that just feeling connected with loved ones and anticipating seeing them spurs the release of energizing endorphins and dopamine.

To sleep soundly: ‘Practice pie’

Pumpkin, apple, pecan…whatever pie you can’t wait to enjoy on the big day, making (or buying!) one right now — and savoring a little slice as your evening treat — could help you drift off faster and reduce your risk of middle-of-the-night awakenings, researchers based out of Australia say. Credit goes to the brief blood sugar spike from snacking on simple carbs, which encourages your brain to release the calming, sleep-deepening hormone serotonin. 

To banish brain fog: Sticky notes

Once you’ve planned a Thanksgiving trip or activity, put a cheery note on your refrigerator to remind you of the upcoming event. A study in the journal Behavioral Sciences suggests regularly seeing happy reminders energizes a brain region that helps you stay clearheaded, and it can heighten your focus.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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