Thank Goodness indeed! That pretty much sums up the powerful effects of gratitude. Thankfulness brings goodness. It is a good time to think about gratitude as we head into Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend. The turkey, the stuffing and cranberries, the smell of pumpkin pie cooling on the counter, and the gathering together of family and friends. Why? Because we want to celebrate the practice of a key virtue — to remind ourselves of how grateful we are for all that we have. Thanksgiving celebrations in Canada have involved an acknowledge of our harvest bounty, especially in the farm and rural communities. The first frost. Indian Summer. An array of colourful leaves. The fattened up turkey who is waddling through the farm yard looking for escape from his own pilgrimage.
But what if you are alone? What if Thanksgiving is a hard time for you? What if it rips open the wounds and reminds you of loss, and grief, of lost dreams? Not everybody has a family celebration to bound off to. Some wish they could find any legitimate reason not to go! Holidays are often fun and wonderful but they also point to a time of heightened grief and loneliness for some people.
If you are someone who is alone this Thanksgiving, I would encourage you to do a couple of things to change the trajectory of your weekend. It would be easy to isolate and pull away. Pity parties can pop up during holiday times. It’s okay to go to one but don’t sleepover! Here’s some ideas to ease the distress —
- Don’t isolate. Withdrawal and isolation will only increase the detached feelings when one checks out. It may feel self-protective but is more often self-destructive. If you want some down time or alone time, work that into your weekend but don’t wall off and keep others from having the chance to be with you.
- Reach out. Loneliness is the feeling that prompts us to reach out. We all need connection. Perhaps you know someone who is also alone for Thanksgiving — have them over for a visit or go out for dinner together. Get a group together and play board games. Reach out. Go serve meals at a homeless shelter, and remember that there are always people less fortunate.
- Do something special for yourself that you wouldn’t normally do. Be kind to yourself. Pick up a special cut of meat to roast. Buy a nice dessert. Get a specialty coffee or confection. Take yourself out to a movie. Go to a bookstore and thumb through some books and magazines. Visit a museum. Treat yourself to lunch.
- Choose to be grateful for one thing each day over the weekend. Gratitude is an extremely powerful force. It actually has the power to shift our brain chemistry! The neurotransmitters in our brain actually change when we practice a thankful attitude.
- Get outdoors, even if it’s just to sit on the step or go for a short walk. Staying ‘holed up’ in the house and sleeping or hiding the weekend away has a negative impact on one’s mood, and it tends to trigger addictive behaviours. Find a comfy spot and just sit and be present — notice all that you see, smell and hear.
- Repeat a breathe prayer/mantra. As you breathe in, simply say, ‘thank you’ or ‘grateful’ and repeat them as you breathe in and breathe out. With each breath, allow your mind to stop on the words, ‘thank you’ or ‘grateful.’
If you know someone in your life is struggling, do something kind for them. There are so many easy ways to bring a smile to someone’s face. Be grateful and act like you really are. You’ll be surprised at how good it actually feels.