American Thanksgiving is coming up very soon and the first thought many people have isn’t joy. A holiday designed for gratitude and spending time with loved ones has, for many reasons, turned into a stressful whirlwind focused on managing relatives, dealing with stress, and planning shopping the next day (or even on Thanksgiving Day!).
Sadly, Thanksgiving doesn’t even seem like much of a holiday anymore. As far as the stores and many shoppers are concerned, it’s just another day leading to Christmas, or the “day before Black Friday.”
Fortunately, many men and women still recognize (or try to) the traditional value of Thanksgiving as a time to spend time with those you love and reflect on your blessings from the previous year. However, the stress of the holidays frequently overtakes the spirit of gratitude. Many people start Thanksgiving on the right foot, only to struggle as the day goes on. And, who can blame them?
This article will explain how to be grateful on Thanksgiving, even if the turkey burns, your uncle insists on arguing about politics, and your mom is only focused on the Black Friday sale at WalMart.
Create Relaxation Time
David (the site co-founder and my twin brother) and I have a Thanksgiving tradition where we go for a morning run before any family festivities. It’s always relaxing and enjoyable to get out in nature, take in beautiful surroundings, and breathe in the crisp air. We just talk and relax and laugh as we get exercise.
What matters is that our run is an important escape from the inevitable stress and headaches that Thanksgiving will bring. You can’t focus on gratitude if you’re so frazzled from stress that you can barely contain your rage or urge to have a nervous breakdown.
So, find a place that represents solitude to you and spend some time there on Thanksgiving. It could mean taking a short walk outside after dinner, retreating to your bedroom for ten minutes to relax, or having a cup of coffee on the back porch before your guests arrive. The important thing is to find something that brings you peace so that you have the time and mental capacity to reflect on and embrace what you’re grateful for.
Write It Down
I know it’s cliche, but keeping a gratitude journal definitely has benefits. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida found that writing down things we’re thankful for lowers stress levels and leads to more relaxation at night.
So, in the midst of a stressful day like Thanksgiving, simply taking a few minutes to write down what you’re thankful for can be a good centering activity to take you back to the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can just pull out a piece of paper and write down a few things you are happy for. Maybe set up a doc on Google Drive. Or, you can make it more elaborate, such as doing some kind of project with your kids or even having everyone around the table recite a few things.
And, don’t stop at one day! If you create a list, add to it other days of the year too.
Volunteer At A Charity
Thanksgiving has largely become a day to pig out, watch football, hang out with family and friends, and shop. I’m not bashing any of these things, but typically, they are activities most people do on a regular basis. And, if you do them often, it’s hard to do them with gratitude.
So, one way to instantly feel better about your own life and count your blessings is to spend time among those who are less fortunate. It’s not that you need to compare yourself to others. But, when you live a comfortable lifestyle, it’s easy to take it for granted.
So, if you’re wondering how to be grateful on Thanksgiving, look into volunteering your time. If you can do it on Thanksgiving, there are many shelters that will definitely welcome your contribution. But, even if you do it around Thanksgiving, it will help you be more grateful on Thanksgiving Day.
But, don’t just do it to feel gratitude on one day. Volunteering on a regular basis is good for your community, the less fortunate, and even your own happiness.
When stress levels increase and life gets busy, it’s very easy to not even see the basic blessings of life. Many people are so overworked, over-stressed, and under-loved that they can’t see the good in their lives.
The solution to this is mindfulness, which, essentially is paying attention to the present moment without judgment. So, for that time you focus on your present, not getting angry about the past or worrying about the future.
When you practice mindfulness, it allows you to “see” what you normally wouldn’t see. It’s because when you’re stressed and worked up, you miss out on so much. Look at eating. How many times have you savored the food you eat, really taking in the sights, smells, and taste?
Most people wolf down their food, then rush back to whatever they’re doing. However, when you don’t mindfully experience life, whether in eating or otherwise, it flies by in a passionless, meaningless blur. And, it’s hard to be grateful for such an existence.
So, work on being mindful on Thanksgiving Day. Really pay attention and savor the moments. Focus on the smell and taste of the food, the beauty of the decorations, and the enjoyment of the conversation.
If you find yourself getting stressed, one way is to mindfully reorient yourself by becoming aware of your breathing. Block out the distractions, the stresses, and the worries and just focus on the sound and movement of your breath in your lungs. Here is a primer on mindful breathing.
At that point, as you’re focused on your breaths, expand your attention to everything else around you. Take it in, non-judgmentally, and enjoy it. As you begin to experience fully the people, sights, sounds, and tastes of Thanksgiving, you’ll develop a greater degree of gratitude.
These tips should help you do a better job of being more grateful at Thanksgiving. You’ll feel so much better and the day will go much more smoothy.