This Thanksgiving is going to look and feel much different as public health experts strongly advise against multi-household gatherings this holiday season. Understandably, most Americans are craving the comfort of family and friends after enduring ten months of a pandemic. Keeping your distance from those you love most is incredibly hard during the holidays. Our connections with family and friends this time of year are precious. This year has been challenging for everyone; it is seemingly impossible to wrap our heads around all of these necessary sacrifices.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are going to give you the secret ingredient to cooking up the most delightful socially distanced holiday. The good news is you don’t have to mask up and venture out to the grocery store to find it, because it's already in your mind. The secret ingredient is gratitude. Giving thanks and expressing gratitude for the good and the bad. The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by noticing and reflecting upon the things they're thankful for experience a range of positive emotions. They feel more alive, sleep better, express, and receive, more compassion, empathy, and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.
This year, instead of feeling sad you will not be greeting your family members on Thanksgiving with giant hugs, feel grateful for the hugs you have shared with your family in the past and will share again in the future. Instead of focusing on not being able to bake cookies with your family, think about the fun times you have had baking with them in the past and will continue to have baking with them in the future. Express gratitude for those memories or even the opportunity to make those memories. You can even express gratitude for the bad times of past holidays. Do you remember that time you (or a loved one) removed the holiday turkey from the oven only to find that it was dry and overcooked? At the time, it probably felt like everything was ruined. But now, think back on that time and express gratitude for the humor that came along with that experience.
Gratitude doesn't need to be reserved only for momentous memories and occasions: Sure, you can express gratitude for the engagement or baby announcement made at Thanksgiving last year. But you can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of pie or watching a football game with a loved one. Whatever that memory is, take a moment, and relish it. Think about how it made you feel, the smells, every aspect of that moment, memory, or thing you are grateful for. Then write it down. You can even make a list of the people, places, things, and memories you are thankful for. You can put it in a journal just for you, or in letter form to be shared with family and friends. Everyone can use some joy this holiday season, so we encourage you to share this exercise of gratitude with family and friends.
To close, as we approach Thanksgiving, try to remember the importance of gratitude. Be thankful for the good and the bad. Appreciate the good and recognize your blessings while also finding time to reconsider how you choose to approach the bad. Try to be grateful for the experience gained from successfully navigating challenging encounters and remember those unfortunate events are often blessings in disguise. Consciously appreciate the fortune that is difficult to discern. Know that there will always be obstacles scattered along your path. Commit to your goals, despite these challenges, and know that we will all get through this, together.