How to Have the Best Thanksgiving Ever

I am happy to be back in our home in Massachusetts for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, joined here by dear friends who are like family to us. We have broken from our usual routine of heading up north to my hometown in Upstate New York this year. It feels a bit unusual not accompanying my 81-year-old mother to our community Thanksgiving celebration at the fire hall in our incredibly small town. I enjoy the gathering every year — people bring in loads of home cooked food and volunteers serve the meal to dozens of local people who come out to socialize. Everyone leaves well fed and, most importantly, connected to their friends and neighbors.

But this year, with our move to Washington, DC, my heart yearned for the familiarity of the place I called home for the past 30 years. As I was thinking about my decision to come here instead of traversing the long trek to my hometown, I thought about how blessed I feel to have so many places that I love and want to be. I could focus on the sadness of missing time with my mother and the community in Upstate New York or regret not staying in DC where new friends invited us to spend the holiday, or I could decide to make this Thanksgiving the Best Thanksgiving Ever — and so can you!

While the holiday season can sometimes be stressful for some, here are a few ways I believe you can make this Thanksgiving and holiday season the best one ever.

Be Grateful For Who You Are

Focus not just on what you have to be grateful but also for who you are! Yes, it is lovely to be thankful for your family, friends, a comfortable home, reliable car, good food, healthy body and meaningful work. But spend a few minutes taking stock and being grateful for your qualities. For example, “I am grateful for being strong, clear, inspired, motivated, engaged, happy, content, supported, loved, loving, appreciated, appreciative, curious, fulfilled and blessed.” Those are just some off the top of my head. What about you? What do you appreciate about yourself? Where can you take stock of all of the wonder of YOU and be grateful?

Be Grateful for What You Give

I talk to people about their lives for a living. I was a therapist for 30 years and have been a professional coach just about that long. One thing I see over and over again is how people significantly undervalue their contributions to others, their workplace, and to life. Where and how do you give to others? Do you ever step back and see the difference you are making? I think about all of the many students of my Life Design Program and the Curriculum for Conscious Living students. I am in awe of the ways their lives have transformed inside of my coaching and the curriculum I designed. They are generous in their love and appreciation, and it fulfills me at a profoundly deep level. I think about the many leaders I have coached to communicate more kindly with their teams, the organizations I have helped function better by leading from the inside out based on their highest sense of values and mission. I love doing this work, and from time to time, I hear from these people and am reminded of the way my efforts have made an impact. Yours have too. Be grateful for what you give, for the kind and caring person you are, and for the difference you make.

Accept People and Circumstances As They Are

We often visit people that we don’t see as often such as family and friends from the past over the holiday season. If you have anyone in your life that you find challenging, how can you find a way to be grateful for even that? If you harbor judgments and opinions about the way other people are, you are likely causing your suffering. One of my favorite coaching phrases is to let people be the way that they are because they are going to be that way anyway! The only thing that causes disturbance for you is how you are receiving and relating to those around you. Yes, that is true, even if you like to point the finger outward and say that “they are the cause” of your feelings. They are not. Perhaps your most significant opportunity over the holidays is to enhance your ability to notice your reactions to things, and then just let go of your judgments and reactivity. What an excellent opportunity to grow!

Similarly, your ability to accept circumstances as they are and find the beauty in anything is your ticket to a happy holiday — and life! I have a friend who is in the hospital for this Thanksgiving time. What she is focusing on is her health improving, having great people care for her needs and how amazing it is to have the technology to keep in touch with people who are hours away. She is not complaining about her situation or lamenting about missing the holiday with her young children. She is truly embodying the spirit of Thanksgiving — finding the blessing in everything.

Where is your attention right now? Can you focus on preparing your meal with love and joy rather than stress? Can you spend time appreciating your home and family for the comfort they bring? Find ways to focus on the blessings and express those to everyone around you. Your willingness to do so will make this a better holiday for everyone you meet!

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