The body and soul benefits of a holiday meal

What many people find special about the holidays, aside from all the things that immediately come to mind, is the ritual of preparation. The rituals may vary from family to family, but they generally include selecting the best roast or turkey, making the dishes everyone loves and eagerly awaits, gathering at the table, and nourishing ourselves (and each other) through food and communion.

Research suggests that feasting has incredible benefits for the body and the soul. In an article for The New York Times, “Dread the holidays? Feasting together might actually help,” Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, says, “Our social connections to others have powerful influences on health and longevity.” She describes how eating together releases the feel-good neurotransmitters that boost feelings of well-being and our bonds with others.

On the flip side, Holt-Lunstad notes that a lack of human connection puts us at risk of premature mortality. The health risks are similar to those with obesity in the long run. 

Additionally, Nina Radcliff, MD, explains the impact of gathering around the table so beautifully in her  article “Health: benefits of eating together.” She explains the time we spend together at the table, the act of gathering and sharing a meal with one another, helps build the foundation for our wellbeing.

She writes: “This time benefits every aspect of your wellbeing — emotionally, physically, socially, occupationally, spiritually, intellectually and mentally – which all acts and interacts in a way that adds to our overall quality of life.”

No matter your religion, nationality, or background, think about your community and the bonds you have with each other. Make a point to gather at a table and share a meal. Allow your feelings of well-being to be front and center as you celebrate the important people in your life – regardless of your sister’s disapproving eye or your cousin’s new girlfriend. Let the buzz of togetherness and the nourishment of the meal work their neurotransmitter magic on your body and soul.