Thanksgiving: a unique American holiday that is universal, unlimited by religion, race, or any category. It’s a special time to come together with family and friends to feel gratitude on this day of  the celebration of abundance (oh yeah, and feasting!).

But for some of us, this isn’t an entirely pleasant holiday. We may be faced with “going home” to tension, crazy family dynamics, feeling ignored or attacked, possibly being the black sheep of the family. Perhaps you are hosting a large gathering, and stressed about pleasing everyone’s palates – or having everyone in your house! There may be a recent loss in the family that makes holidays, especially the most family-oriented one of the year, somewhat painful. Or we may be apart from our family, or feel that we don’t have one, and are faced with spending this holiday alone.

I have found myself in most of these scenarios at some point in my life. It’s difficult, and you’re not alone if you feel this way. But I have found, over the years, some ways to make Thanksgiving easier, more meaningful, and more fulfilling, no matter if you have a wonderful, warm family to spend it with or you find yourself feeling stressed and left out of the loop.

  • Let go of expectations – Expectations increase the risk of disappointment. If you’re going home, set the intention to flow with whatever arises. You have what you need within you to respond appropriately. Having everyone over? Relax and accept that you’ve done your best: you don’t have any control beyond that. If you’ll be on your own, allow yourself to appreciate whatever you have.
  • Take time for yourself – I tend to feel overwhelmed when surrounded by a lot of people, even (and sometimes especially!) my own relatives. I always plan for some alone time away from the pack, where I can rest, process, and re-center myself. Even if that is in the bathroom!
  • Be present – When you’re with your family or friends, really be there in the moment. Notice when past situations, conflicts, or resentments arise in your mind; acknowledge them, and do your best to return to simply being there with what is right now. Listen, smell, taste, touch, and see. Feel your breath, chew slowly, notice what is happening within you and around you.
  • Make other plans – If you’re alone for Thanksgiving, see if there are neighbors or friends in a similar boat you can share a meal with. Or create your own ideal day by yourself.  You could take a hike, sit by the ocean, go to a movie, do a craft, etc.: whatever brings you joy and fulfillment. And if you are with family and you feel you need a break, make plans to go out for a while with whomever you feel most comfortable or meet up with some old friends in the area (and take some alone time, as mentioned above).
  • Create a gratitude collage – It helps to find what you’re thankful for in your life, and focus on it. One way to do that is to create a collage, either with images (the traditional way) or words. Cut out pictures from magazines to represent what you feel grateful for in your life and in the world, and paste them on a board. Or use colorful markers to write the words of what and who you are grateful for. Get playful and creative!
  • See the Divine in you and in everyone – Practice looking into other people’s eyes and envisioning their spirit, the Divine within them. It’s there if you are willing to see it. While you are at it, look in the mirror into your own eyes, and see it in yourself. This is the single most powerful practice I have found to connect myself to others, even people that I don’t particularly care for. It helps me overlook their (and my own) personality flaws and see a glimpse of our Oneness.

Remember that Thanksgiving is a once-a-year holiday; no matter how uncomfortable the circumstance of that day is, you’ll survive it. But to truly thrive in your life, use it as a jumping-off point to focus on gratitude every day. With that consistent practice, you can fill yourself with the abundance that life offers in every moment, overflowing.

Copyright © 2017 by Rev. Connie L. Habash


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