Tomorrow, November 27, families all across the United States will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day. Did you know that it is also National Family Health History Day? The Surgeon General, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has established this day to highlight the importance of family history in regards to our nations’ health. Both common and rare diseases can run in a family including diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis. Arming families with the knowledge of these conditions is an important first step toward ensuring that everyone stays as healthy and happy as possible throughout their lives.

On Thanksgiving Day, families will gather around a dinner table enjoying turkey and all of the fixings. Many families have traditions that they have passed down through generations. Thanksgiving in ethnically Italian households looks very different than the tables of families living in the Deep South. These inherent cultural traditions are as important to family identity as their healthy history. National Family Health History Day was first established in 2004 to give families an opportunity to talk about health.

This Thanksgiving why not start a new tradition? It doesn’t need to be anything that interferes with the current plans for your day but simply augments the conversation. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, research suggests that 96% of people in the United States believe that knowledge about their family health history is important, but only a third have taken any steps to explore it. The Surgeon General has created an online tool to catalog and track family health history that you can find at their website.

In addition to talking about family health history, there are a few other fun traditions to incorporate into your Thanksgiving.

You can:

  • Host a pot-luck: Far too often the burden of Thanksgiving dinner is felt by just one person. Instead, encourage each member of your family or other guests of the dinner to bring part of the meal. You can leave it to chance and risk five different sweet potato casseroles or you can assign dishes ahead of time. This is a fun way to try new things, explore multiple traditions, and keep the work of one person to a minimum.
  • Play games: Sure, you can watch the Detroit Lions play the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day or you can choose to engage your family with fun and games. Choose a board game or card game for smaller groups. For larger groups, organize a family trivia game. This may be a fun way to incorporate your family health history into the afternoon. Award small prizes to the winners.
  • Volunteer: If you don’t need to stay at home this year consider volunteering with a local mission or soup kitchen to provide a Thanksgiving meal to homeless men and women in your community. This is a fantastic way to demonstrate charity to your children and the actual act of volunteering is great for your health. Even if you can’t participate on Thanksgiving Day, show your community involvement by donating to a local food drive or helping in another way.
  • Host dinner for friends: Maybe you don’t live close to your family and you know others in your neighborhood who are also unable to travel for the holidays. Thanksgiving Day doesn’t have to be reserved for biological family. If you find yourself away from your relatives, invite all of the local strays who don’t have a place to go over to your house for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. You may not be able to discuss your family health history in this case, but you can start conversations that can help everyone explore this aspect of their own lives.
  • Celebrate holistically: Thanksgiving almost always revolves around the food, but what if you took the focus off the meal and spread it equally among the other aspects of the day? Holistic health is the art of viewing the mind, body, and spirit as connected. This means diet, exercise, mental health, and spiritual health are all equally as important. Encourage your family to be grateful not only this day but every day of the year.

From everyone here at Holistic Pain we want to wish you and your family a safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving Day.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘Thank You,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart

How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

Image by NealeA via Flickr

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