“It’s funny, this time of year can be stressful, because there’s so much to get done in such a short period of time,” says popular IntenSati instructor Natalia Petrzela. “But the last few years, I’ve tried to recast my thinking about holiday ‘obligations’ to focus on how many amazing people I have in my life to be thankful for.” For example, you could see holiday cards that need to be filled out as a chore, or as a reminder of the long list of people who care about you.
And how to take that mindset shift even one step further? Share it with others, by giving back. Helping others less fortunate than you isn’t just the right thing to do, it’ll help you continue to cultivate that feeling of gratitude and contribute to your overall wellness.
To help you get started, we asked Petrzela and six other inspiring New York wellness gurus how they show gratitude and give back during the holiday season. Prepare to be inspired. —Lisa Elaine Held
(Photo: Camille Tokerud for Natalia Petrzela)
Meditation guru, Author
The way I practice gratitude during the holidays is through celebrating life to the fullest. I choose to find joy in all experiences and share that joy with others. Being joyful elevates everyone around you, and it’s the most generous gift you can give.
This holiday season I’m building a Miracle School in Ghana with my friends at Pencils of Promise. In addition, I am a huge supporter of the organization Gods Love We Deliver. I will be speaking at their annual Big Love fundraiser on December 4th to raise money for their efforts.
(Photo: Gabrielle Bernstein)
Vegan chef, founder, Suite ThreeOhSix
The way I express love and gratitude is always through food and cooking. In the past, I’ve hosted fundraising family-style dinners for up to 100 guests, but this time I’ll be volunteering at a soup kitchen to help feed the homeless.
Every year, I look forward to adopting a turkey at Farm Sanctuary and love reading about each turkey’s fun, unique personality before choosing mine. I adopted Elsa this year!
(Photo: Daphne Cheng)
Owner, Bikram Yoga Lower East Side
At Bikram Lower East Side, we pride ourselves in maintaining a strong soul and spirit all year. On such cold winter days, everyone is grateful for the warm studio and the friendships that grow as we practice over the holidays together. Our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s classes are packed and full of love. The holidays can be stressful and hectic so we try to create an environment that reminds everyone that when you stop looking and stop listening and start feeling, amazing things will happen.
One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude and generosity both over the holidays and year-round is through our special monthly NiteSweats fundraising class. We just ask for a $10 donation at the door and all of the money raised during this class/dance party is donated to the Lower Eastside Girls Club. Over the past four years we’ve raised nearly $100,000! That money has helped the Girls Club build a beautiful new 30,000 square foot facility on Avenue D. At NiteSweats, we challenge everyone to ask for what they want, take what they need, give what they can, and always look for new ways to breed compassion.
(Photo: Tricia Donegan)
Trainer, founder of EMpowered
Taking time to be still each day (no technology) is so essential, especially during the busy holiday season. We can get caught up in the shopping madness and forget just how fortunate we already are. I find that as little as 10 minutes a day to meditate or journal allows me to focus on the good in my world and be grateful for all the wonderful people in it. And from that place of gratitude, I can’t help but want to pass on the love to others!
As a business that has philanthropy built into the model, I love supporting fellow businesses or products that also have a charitable emphasis. This year, I’ll be purchasing these adorable totes. 100 percent of profits will support She’s the First scholars and help change girls’ lives around the world through the power of education. How cool that I can purchase a great gift for someone and do something good at the same time?
(Photo: Emily Cook Harris)
IntenSati master instructor, Equinox, co-founder Health Class 2.0
It can be easy to lose sight of the beauty of the holidays, because the world can seem like an onslaught of parties, cocktails, and cookies determined to derail us from our fitness goals. The tone in gyms and fitness media during these weeks can actually be a little depressing—either urging people to call up an incredible amount of discipline to resist these temptations or declaring inevitable defeat and focusing on the New Year as the light at the end of a tunnel of calories. In my IntenSati classes, I emphasize staying on track and being your best self in the holidays, but I also spend a lot of time talking about letting go, gratitude, and not being so hard on yourself.
I am so inspired by Giving Tuesday, the now three-year-old day of giving intended as a counterweight to the consumerist orgy that is Black Friday! It is so awesome to see (and support) the many charitable initiatives running special events on this day and to have a break from the shopping mania of this season. Specifically, my wellness education organization is running an all-star intenSati workout that day, and I hope others will be similarly inspired!
(Photo: Camille Tokerud for Natalia Petrzela)
Co-owner, teacher, ISHTA Yoga
One thing that keeps me in a state of gratitude this time of year and all year round is a practice that I learned from financial coach, Claire Kinsella-Holtje. Every time I receive payment for something I visualize pure energy around the money, add a “zero” to the total, and then direct that amount back to the person who gave it to me. This keeps me in a state of empowerment and generosity and in alignment with the universal law that giving is receiving.
This year I partnered my studio with an organization called Green Tree Textile Recycling, which supports the environment, the disadvantaged, and the homeless by collecting unwanted clothes and textiles and repurposing them by environmentally minded manufacturers. We filled three large bins with clothes. It is an awesome organization that covers so many needs, I am sure I will be partnering with them again!
(Photo: Sarah Platt-Finger)
Founder, The People’s Bootcamp, author of the forthcoming The 30-Second Body
I start every day, before I even get out of bed, by thinking of three things I have to be grateful for. It puts my mind in a state of pure joy, and I find I operate from a place of generosity all day long.
Every December, I throw a big holiday party at a women’s domestic violence shelter. We decorate gingerbread cookies and the women and kids write letters to Santa. At the end of the night, Santa shows up and every kid gets the chance to sit on his lap and share their wishlist. Every list gets fulfilled, and every child gets to wake up Christmas morning with presents under the tree. It’s probably the best part of my year!
I’ll also pay for a stranger’s groceries at the checkout. Who couldn’t use a few extra bucks in their pocket, especially during the holidays? Try it sometime!
(Photo: Adam Rosante)
(Photo: We Heart It)
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