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Holiday Traditions

The Martha Stewart Show, December 2007

Believe it or not, having -- and maintaining -- traditions can actually help us achieve greater mental well-being. During the holidays, we tend to get quite caught up in gift buying, wrapping, and food shopping. But instead of expending all of your energy in the hustle and bustle, put that energy into what matters most -- time with the people you love. Don't forget to celebrate, because festivity is healing.

It's important to find ways to get together, either to bring old traditions back to life or start new ones, because family traditions aren't just about what we do -- it's about who we are. How we celebrate is what defines us as a family, whether we're blood relatives or not. Traditions help you establish a unique connection to loved ones. No two families are exactly alike and no two traditions are either; they grow out of our particular idiosyncrasies.

Several studies even prove how beneficial traditions actually are to our mental health. The American Psychological Association's Journal of Family Psych finds that family routines and rituals offer stability during times of stress and transition -- they are powerful organizers of family life. According to a review of research conducted over the past 50 years, traditions are associated with marital satisfaction, an adolescent's sense of personal identity, children's health, academic achievement, and stronger family relationships. And, as well-known political essayist, social critic, and author Barbara Ehrenreich says, "Festivity plays a critical role in our lives; it's mood-lifting and community building. Without them, it's easy to slide toward depression and isolation."

Resources
Special thanks to Terri Trespicio, a senior editor of Body+Soul magazine, for sharing this information about the importance of tradition, and giving copies of the magazine to our studio audience.

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