With Thanksgiving upon us here in the United States, I’ve been thinking about the mixed feelings I often have about this great holiday. Of course, it can be a wonderful celebration of gratitude, appreciation, and family connection. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving also tends to be about feeling obligated to spend time with the people we’re “supposed” to, eating too much food and feeling guilty about it, and pretending to be grateful when we’re actually annoyed and stressed out.
What if we could make this Thanksgiving less stressful, more fun, and actually be able to enjoy ourselves, appreciate our family and friends (even the ones who drive us nuts), and focus on what we’re thankful for in a genuine way?
Regardless of the circumstances of our lives, there is always so much we can be thankful for. As I talked about in my recent TEDx talk on “The Power of Appreciation,” we almost always find what we look for in others and in life – why not choose to celebrate the great fullness of life?
Here are some important tips to make this year’s Thanksgiving one you truly enjoy and remember (in a good way):
1) Be you
Instead of trying to be who you think you “should” be with your family, friends, in-laws, or guests – just relax and be yourself! So often we put undue pressure on ourselves to be a certain way, impress people (even those we know well), or do or say the things we think others want us to. When we let go of trying to please everyone and we’re able to be true to ourselves, we create a genuine sense of freedom and peace. This also means that we think about what would be fun for us and our immediate family to do for Thanksgiving and communicate this to everyone else (in-laws, extended family, etc.), even if it may upset or disappoint some of the people involved.
2) Look for the good
Make a commitment to focus on the things you like and appreciate about your friends and family members, instead of obsessing about the things that annoy or upset you about them. We almost always find what we look for in others and in situations. When we let go of past resentments, we’re able to see people with new eyes. As the saying goes, “holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Whatever we choose to do on Thanksgiving and whomever we choose to spend our holiday with, if we make a conscious decision to enjoy ourselves and to look for the good stuff in an authentic way, we dramatically increase our chances of having a positive and pleasurable experience.
3) Make it fun and easy
Do whatever you can for yourself and those around you to make the planning, food preparation, clean up, and the whole Thanksgiving experience as easy, fun, and stress-free as possible. This means we keep it light, share the responsibilities, ask others for help, and do the things that we enjoy doing – instead of burdening ourselves and feeling like a victim about it all. Too often we spend and waste our time and energy being uptight, doing things we don’t truly want to do, feeling resentful towards others, and creating a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration. Thanksgiving can be lots of fun, if we’re willing to go with the flow and make it easy on ourselves and for others.
4) Express your appreciation for others
One of best things we can do for other people (on Thanksgiving or at any time) is to let them know what we appreciate about them in a genuine way. Acknowledging others is a true “win-win,” as we always get to keep what we give away to others when we appreciate them (i.e. the good feelings are shared by us and those we acknowledge). There are many ways we can appreciate people on Thanksgiving:
- Write “I’m thankful for you” cards and give them out on Thanksgiving (or mail them beforehand)
- Pick someone at the dinner table to acknowledge, and then ask them to “pay it forward” and appreciate someone else in the group – go around until everyone has been appreciated
- Pull people aside on Thanksgiving (or give them a call) and let them know what you appreciate about them specifically and genuinely
5) Count your blessings
Remember that in the midst of all the commotion, stress, and activity of the holiday season, Thanksgiving really is a time for us to reflect on what we’re grateful for – in life, about others, and especially about ourselves. Take some time on Thanksgiving to focus on what you’re grateful for, the many blessings in your life, and the things you appreciate about yourself. A great way for us to remember and to celebrate the many blessings in our life, especially on Thanksgiving, is to take some time during our meal and allow each person at the table to talk about what they’re grateful for in a genuine, specific, and personal way.
This year let’s challenge ourselves to make Thanksgiving more than just something we get through or even simply a nice holiday; let’s have it be a time of reflection, connection, and a celebration of the great fullness of life.
What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year? Are you willing to do what it takes to make it a fun, meaningful, and positive experience? Share your ideas, commitments, thoughts, dreams, and more here on my blog.