The winter holidays are here, a time that can be joyful and filled with warm family gatherings. But as we know, it actually turns out to be stressful, sad or lonely for many people.

Best-selling author Deepak Chopra sat down with The Washington Post for a one-on-one interview to talk about how to keep an emotional balance during the holidays, especially when dealing with the loss of a loved one or other sadness.

He said turning inward is a mistake. Focusing on the needs of others, Chopra said, is the key.

“The most important thing is to make other people happy by giving them attention, listening to them, showing affection, appreciation, acceptance,” Chopra said. “It doesn’t take rocket science to know that your happiness depends on the happiness of others.”

He advises nurturing the memories of someone who has passed away or is far away, but instead of getting lost in those thoughts, think about how to turn outward and help others who can use your help. That means giving, but not material goods. As an example, he said he feeds the homeless and has even slept with them in New York City.

Chopra also spoke about finding peace in these divided and charged political times by seeking common ground and purpose. He talked about the idea of fear creating divisions such as “me” vs. “the other.”

“You can’t exist without others. It’s impossible,” Chopra said. “Everything that you are is a web of relationships. Once you understand that, then you don’t always think of ‘me’ and ‘mine.’”

Chopra, a vegetarian and advocate for alternative medicine, says our mental health is connected to our physical health, so we should take care not to gorge on food and drink at the holiday table. Gulping eggnog is not going to help our waistlines or our relationships. He talked about eating organic, natural foods and steering away when possible from refined, processed food with unwanted hormones and antibiotics.

And he offered some historical context for a topic that’s sure to come up at family gatherings: sexual misconduct and the #MeToo movement.

“The history of human evolution has been male dominance, patriarchal societies, hunter gatherers. Going out, killing, which led to everything from slavery to colonialism,” he said. “But if we are to survive right now, we don’t need that so-called survival of the fittest in terms of masculine testosterone or strength. We need survival of the wisest. Wisdom will become, if we survive, the criterion for evolution.”

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