Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Maybe you just aren’t feeling thankful this year. Maybe you haven’t felt thankful for a long, long time. Let’s face it, in a lot of ways, we live in some dark times. I’m with you. There is a reason that suicides go up during the holidays. There is a reason that this is the season for infidelity and divorce. So, what do you do if, honestly, you just don’t feel very thankful on Thanksgiving?
Don’t beat yourself up for not “feeling it” this year. It won’t help. You already know that you don’t live in a Third World country without clean drinking water and basic infrastructure. I’m not hitting you with all that stuff. Things can be hard no matter what tax bracket you’re in. Sometimes being more affluent makes it harder to be thankful. Mo’ money, mo’ problems. You don’t have to feel bad for feeling bad. You don’t have to feel bad for not feeling thankful, either.
It might be time to take a hard look at your Thanksgiving Game Plan. Does it involve a lot of family and travel? Tons of cooking or hosting? Seeing people that might be family, but are difficult to be around? Traditions that come with all kinds of expectations?
This might be the year to start some new Thanksgiving traditions. This might be the year that parents, in-laws, and extended family are all informed that your family will be doing something different this Thanksgiving. (Translation: We won’t be piling kids into a car, fighting traffic for hours, and showing up stressed out with a casserole.)
Try this: “This year, we are taking advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday to stay at home and rest and focus on our family. We wish all of you a wonderful, Happy Thanksgiving!”
There is nothing wrong with that! Your family should get it. Hey, they might be relieved.
Be honest. Is what you’re referring to as “not feeling thankful” really masking a deeper issue? Is it more accurate to say that you are “unhappy?” Maybe even depressed? Anxious? Lonely? Angry? Bitter? Think of your feelings as an iceberg. Not feeling thankful might be what is showing above the surface, but the deeper issues that need to be dealt with are below the surface.
Sometimes we slap a bandaid on a superficial issue, put on our brave face, go through the motions, and never address what’s really wrong. (We might even be able to fool those close to us for a while.) This isn’t a long-term solution. What we think we are hiding below the surface eventually will “bubble up” in ways that hurt us and even cause pain to those we care about. It’s probably already happening…
Take care of yourself. Hear that? Go get the help you need. This might be the Thanksgiving that you will always be thankful for because you took your mental and emotional health seriously and made self-care a priority in your life.
Okay, you aren’t feeling thankful this Thanksgiving. Often, we look at thankfulness as a feeling and it totally can be something you feel. But sometimes thankfulness is a practice or a discipline or a habit. Thankfulness can be something we do or something we cultivate, not just something we feel. (We get into this habit of letting our feelings drive our actions– I mean we’ve all tried to explain our choices by saying, “Because I felt like it,” right?)
Catch this last thing. This is really cool and it isn’t some Yoda or Mr. Miyagi stuff, but sometimes the actions come first and then the feelings follow. Read that again.
Cultivate thankfulness even though you don’t feel it. Yet.
1. Sit down and list everything you are (or should be) thankful for. Think of different areas of your life, include all the big and all the little things. Start really basic: “I’m alive.”
2. Write a “thank you” card to someone who impacted your life and explain how they influenced you. Try to avoid electronic communication if at all possible. A handwritten note gives you more time to ponder as you write and will mean so much to whoever receives it. Write a few cards if you can. They still make stamps, right?
3. Find a way to make someone else happy this Thanksgiving. It doesn’t have to be big or showy. Often, the smaller the act of kindness, the better. It can be totally anonymous.
Listen, this might sound heartless, but you’re not thankful this year. So what? How can you make someone else thankful? Make it your mission. Get creative. Get a little crazy. What is a need someone has that you can meet?
Hold on, hold on. Wait a second! What is that you’re feeling? Thankful…
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