The Psychology Behind Coming Home for the Holidays

It is said that home is a feeling, not a place. But for many of us, the house we grew up in occupies sacred ground in our hearts. No matter how old we are or how many miles away we live, it still feels like home. We may feel “at home” in a number of different places but only a handful have the distinction of being home.   Whenever I visit my parent’s old house in the city, where my father now lives with my stepmother, the instinctive feeling of being truly home washes over me. Before I walk through the doorway, I know I have arrived. Even if I were blindfolded, I could identify the distinctive sound of the gravel as the car rolls into the driveway. From basement to attic, I know every nook and cranny. In an ever-changing world, the familiar smell, the unique creak of the cupboards, and the eternal cracks in the wooden floor have all reassuringly remained the same. The house is a psychological haven for me — where the stress of adult life melts away and I am inspired by a feeling of being a kid again. Nostalgia? Sure, but it’s more than that. It provides a sense of identity and also reminds me of far how far I have come. We have a powerful connection to the places that shaped us, and research is beginning to gain a deeper understanding of the visceral and intangible feeling that these special places evoke. Using fMRI brain technology, researchers found that key areas of emotional processing in the brain are activated by places that participants had strong emotional ties to. Related research supported that meaningful places induce a sense of calmness and belonging. Fond memories and shared experiences with family and friends contribute significantly to why these places make us feel complete. These findings shed light on the magnetic pull our childhood homes have on so many of us and why we love going home for the holidays. There is a flipside. While some love the idea of being with family during the holidays, not everyone feels warm and fuzzy about it. Past grievances, painful memories and diverging political opinions are among the many reasons this time of year can be stressful. To minimize friction, spend as much time as you can gathered around the fireplace. Research by anthropologist Polly Wiessner shows that once our ancestors learned to control fire, in addition to using it for cooking, they began to use it for storytelling as well. By extending the day, fire allowed people to unleash their imaginations and engage others with stories which, in turn, fostered deeper social connections. According to Wiessner, “Stories told by firelight put listeners on the same emotional wavelength and elicited understanding, trust, and sympathy.”A place full of understanding, trust, and sympathy… Sounds like home to me.This post originally appeared on Tory Burch.
Holiday Weight Gain

Holiday Weight Gain is Real: 14 Ways to Combat the Pounds

The average American gains between 4 and 7 pounds over the winter holidays. Here are 14 secrets to maintaining your weight — and sanity — this holiday season (and still enjoying yourself):

1. Know your triggers

Stress combined with an increased abundance of calorie-packed treats can lead to unnecessary eating. Be aware of those situations and your choices.

2. Avoid the collective holiday mindset

Life isn’t on hold until January 1st. Do not use the holidays as an excuse to put health on the back burner. Don’t stop going to the gym.

3. Keep a log

Weigh yourself every day. Self-monitoring is an effective tool.

4. Survey the entire buffet before serving yourself

People eat less when they know what to expect.

5. Snooze

Fatigue leads to overeating. Make sleep a priority.

6. Do something for someone else

Volunteers weigh less, feel healthier and have less of a chance of suffering from a heart attack than the Scrooges of the world. If you’re taking care of someone else, you’re not going to be thinking about that second (or even first) slice of fruitcake.

7. Use small plates

You will eat less. This limits how much you can pile on your plate.

8. Savor it

Slow down and chew more. You’ll enjoy yourself and the food more.

9. It’s ok to be vain

Too much sugar reduces effectiveness of elastin and collagen, proteins in the skin that help maintain its youthful appearance. It also causes acne.

10. Pre-Game checklists:

Going to the grocery store on an empty stomach is a bad idea and the same holds true for holiday parties. Don’t arrive starving and have a list in hand.

11. Bring snacks

Resist temptation by heading it off. Keep a bag of almonds or an apple close by.

12. Take a hike

Or a brisk walk. The more you move the less likely you will pack on the pounds. Walking also reduces stress and rumination. Do it with a friend for an added boost.

13. Use the 80% rule

Stop eating when you are 80% full. Longevity expert Dan Buettner says this can be the difference between a pound lost versus a pound gained.

14. Don’t deprive yourself

If you are going to indulge, make it worth it. Skip the store-bought Christmas cookies so you can really enjoy Grandma’s homemade pecan pie.

5 Ways To Dial Down Holiday Stress and Actually Have Fun

Q. Holidays can be downers (busyness, dysfunctional relatives), especially when I think about how this time of year is supposed to be festive and fun. How can I enjoy the season more?

The holidays can be draining and downright stressful. To avoid burning out, avoid burning the candle at both ends. Here are a few strategies to help you stay merry.

1. Give Your Time Away

Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Deliver meals to the homebound. Write a note to a friend or relative expressing how much that person means to you. Doing things for others will make you feel less rushed and serves as a great reminder of what really counts.

2. Get Fresh Air

As tempting as it might be to curl up by the fireplace, spend at least 20 minutes a day outside. It will boost your mood and clear your mind of negative thoughts.

3. Avoid Hot-Button Topics At Family Gatherings

Steering clear of heated subjects doesn’t mean you have to talk about the weather. Ask relatives questions about family history or other topics of genuine interest to all of you. You might learn something.

4. Know Your Triggers

Holiday stress combined with the increased abundance of calorie-packed treats can lead to unnecessary eating and drinking. Be aware of those situations and your choices. Life isn’t on hold until January 1. Do not use the holidays as an excuse to put health on the back burner.

5. Embody gratitude

Take giving thanks to heart. In addition to counting your blessings, think of gratitude as an action. Contribute to something. Add value.This article originally appeared in Marie Claire
Minnie Muse

Colby Jordan

Colby Jordan is the founder of Minnie Muse, a website devoted to celebrating connections across creative fields and transcending the typical silos that limit imagination. Her perspective is insightful, inspiring, and mind-expanding.

Looking For the Perfect Gift? Read On…

The materialism associated with the holidays can leave us feeling empty and anything but full of good cheer. Conspicuous consumption leaves a mark on our budgets and worse, our psyches and souls. And yet, we’re urged to give-give-give! Arthur Brooks calls it the “Christmas Conundrum.” He writes:
We are supposed to revel in gift-giving and generosity, yet the season’s lavishness and commercialization leave many people cold. The underlying contradiction runs throughout modern life. On one hand, we naturally seek and rejoice in prosperity. On the other hand, success in this endeavor is often marred by a materialism we find repellent and alienating.
To avoid the "Christmas Conundrum," consider the following ways to make this holiday season more meaningful:

1. Give An Experience

A dance class, a night at the theater, a membership to a museum like the The Metropolitan Museum of Art – all last longer than the short-lived excitement from something bought from a store.

2. By Hand & Heart

Bake something, draw something, create something. Personalized gifts that take time and effort mean more. You don’t need to be a superstar artist to reap the benefits of getting your hands dirty and creating something.  Regardless of experience or talent, making art of any kind is a great stress reducer.    

3. Give To Others

Studies show that kindness breeds kindness. It’s contagious, so pass it on. Kindness is the gift that keeps on giving. Make a donation in a loved one’s name. Two of my favorites are Citymeals-on-Wheels and Heifer International. 

4. The Gift Of Time

There is nothing more valuable than time. A wonderful gift is the promise of quality time with someone you love. Ideas: Plan an evening with a friend or group of friends or make coupons for your children, like “This entitles you to 20 extra minutes at bedtime…”

5. Of-The-Month Gifts

Love times 12 and depending on whom it’s for, there’s a gift of the month for every kind: Limited Tory Burch Foundation Seed BoxFabFitFun Beauty Box, Bloomsy Box flower club, Boxwalla small batch snack box, Dry Farm low sugar organic wine subscriptionBark Box for your furry friend and Bespoke Post Box for the man in your life. It will be something they look forward to for an entire year.

6. Give Them What They Want

Christmas lists have power. People report more satisfaction and appreciation when they receive a gift they actually asked for rather than a surprise.Above all, remember the wise words of the Grinch:

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more! - Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Need a Cure for Party Anxiety? Pass the Cocktail Weenies

Does the idea of making small talk at cocktail parties — no matter how strong the drinks — make you nervous? If your answer is “yes,” then I have a simple solution that doesn’t require avoiding social situations: At your next party, try actively doing something nice for someone else. Socially, this could mean anything from offering to arrange all the flowers guests bring as gifts or getting drinks for guests to replenishing the platter of pigs in a blanket.As we start another season of holiday cocktail parties and dinners, it’s worth revisiting this study out of the University of British Columbia. It showed that when people with social anxiety do something nice for someone else, they feel more comfortable in a social situation and can actually mingle more easily. As the study outlines:
“Acts of kindness may help counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person’s social environment. It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”
These aren’t grand gestures. They’re small acts of kindness – like grabbing a fresh cup of coffee for your co-worker, doing your roommate’s dishes, donating to a charity or, in the case of the cocktail party, replenishing glasses with champagne – experienced less social anxiety than those who didn’t. They were more outgoing and less worried about rejection. It all lead to less anxiety and better relationships. (Just think, the hostess will be grateful, too.) And that’s something worth toasting to.

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Minnie Muse

Colby Jordan


Colby Jordan is the founder of Minnie Muse, a website devoted to celebrating connections across creative fields and transcending the typical silos that limit imagination. Her perspective is insightful, inspiring, and mind-expanding.

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The Psychology Behind Coming Home for the Holidays

It is said that home is a feeling, not a place. But for many of us, the house we grew up in occupies sacred...
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Holiday Weight Gain is Real: 14 Ways to Combat the Pounds

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Q. Holidays can be downers (busyness, dysfunctional relatives), especially when I think about how this time of year is supposed to be festive and...

Looking For the Perfect Gift? Read On…

The materialism associated with the holidays can leave us feeling empty and anything but full of good cheer. Conspicuous consumption leaves a mark on...

Need a Cure for Party Anxiety? Pass the Cocktail Weenies

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