Thanksgiving is a holiday that can be beautiful simultaneous to being hectic, it can be filled with connection or contain feelings of loneliness, it might inspire gratitude or spark social critique on the origins of American holidays. Even the "ideal" Thanksgiving is filled with a day of work preparing dinner, making sure everything is cooked right and completed at a decent time of night. The stress of a busy kitchen can cause tension in families or personal stress in introverted individuals wanting a day to be gracious by themselves. Since the foundation of Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the gifts the world shares with us, focusing on this during the holiday can bring some more joy into anyone's day. Practicing gratitude is something that takes very little time, but can provide so much fulfillment and mindfully celebrating can come in many ways. I've compiled some ideas about how to manage Thanksgiving to bring you and other's the most joy.
If you are having Thanksgiving with family:
- Stay present in social interactions. Take a second to step back from simply reacting and acting and, instead, feel the completeness of each moment when interacting with others. It will become so much more beautiful and you will begin to see the soul in each person you speak with.
- Collaborate on making dinner. Offer to help a little extra--serving others is both humbling and fulfilling. I'm sure the chef will be glad for the help! Or the host for the additional aid setting the table.
- Spend a little time encouraging slower eating and more conversation over dinner. Allow the food to really be tasted and the company to be enjoyed.
- Inspire others to go around the table and say one thing about themselves they are grateful for and one thing about the day they were grateful for.
- Throughout the day, go around to your family or friends you are with and tell each of them something you are grateful for about them. Be specific, not general. What do you really love and treasure about them?
- If there is a confrontation or stressful situation, practice using active listening so the other person feels heard, then pause before responding compassionately and with "I" statements. Be mindful when you talk, to show the other that you are simply feeling and not blaming. Of course, only act in a way that ensures your safety!
- Say a prayer or statement of gratitude before eating. 'Saying grace' doesn't have to be religious, it can simply be recognizing aloud how fortunate you are for any food that is on your table. Even if finances are tight, you can express gratitude for the things you do have, even if that is just the company of your family or friends.
- Connect with another generation if you have extended family over. Acquaint yourself with the little kids and get your own inner child out, or learn from the wise demeanor of an elder member.
- Compliment others around you. Did someone set the table neatly? Let them know! Wow, that turkey is delicious...the chef definitely wants to hear it! Maybe a child behaved really exceptionally--make them aware of this. Speak from the heart and with sincerity.
- Create an environment of collaboration: help to guide others to see the beauty of working together by explaining incentives behind doing so, then demonstrate how to collaborate by acting as part of a team.
- Read this article on how to deal with a dysfunctional family, if this will be a holiday struggle for you. Do your best to take time to provide yourself with self-care throughout the day, like maybe taking a bit longer in the bathroom to decompress. Also, at the close of the day, thank yourself for your strength of surviving the difficulties dysfunction can bring.
For your solo Thanksgiving:
- Invest time in cooking for yourself with something that you have really enjoyed in the past and would like to make again.
- Cook in a state of presence. Focusing on the movement of your whole body as your connect with the process of preparing food, take extra time to smell complex aromas, and eat your food without any distractions like television or computers. Tasting the flurry of flavors can be a mindful activity itself and your food deserves your full attention.
- Take the time to reach out to a friend or loved one and tell them how grateful you are for the gifts they bring into your life just with their presence.
- Do some gratitude journaling: whether or not you habitually journal, take a few minutes (even just 10 is amazing) to write down a list of things you are grateful for. Maybe make two lists--one of things you love about yourself and one of things you are grateful for in the world.
- Say thanks before eating throughout the day. Since Thanksgiving, in its purest sense, is about giving thanks to the earth, you can do exactly this. Imagine the plants giving their fruit to you, imagine the life of a beautiful turkey and how its sacrifice has allowed you to feel full and content. Treasure the transference of energy from the sun, to plants, to animals, and to you--all through your food.
- Practice seeing your self-worth. Perhaps this means recognizing that you made it through another day, perhaps this means smiling at your accomplishment of cooking dinner, or maybe this is seeing your whole beingness. You accomplished something today, so recognize what those things are. Even if they seem small, they are not insignificant.
- Write some notes of gratitude and encouragement and leave them around the house, room, or apartment for yourself. Pause when you see one and really read it to yourself with meaning.
Although not everyone will necessarily have situations where all of these are possible, taking at least a moment to send gratitude towards yourself or another can be immensely fulfilling. Even if Thanksgiving day is rough for you, there is infinite joy and love from the Universe shining onto you. It is grateful for you living your life and hopes that you see both your worth and the worth of the world as well. Make it your aim to open up to the Universe's grace.
Also, feel free to add comments to this blog post with further ideas of how to spread joy and gratitude during Thanksgiving!