The Thanksgiving holiday is a symbolic day for many Americans, one during which most wish to show gratitude for the blessings they’ve received all year. However, more and more, the holiday has become commercialized and overshadowed by Black Friday shopping with retailers pushing Christmas merchandise on shoppers as soon as possible. It has become increasingly difficult for consumers to hold on to the true meaning of the holiday.
What can consumers do to take their minds off all the distractions surrounding Thanksgiving and get back to focusing on being grateful? Here are some practical and some contemplative ways to keep your mind on giving thanks rather than getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
1. Plan ahead
Don’t wait until the last minute to finalize your plans. By thinking and planning, you can ward off the stress and anxiety that comes with the frenzy of trying to pull off a major holiday while flying by the seat of your pants. Spend some time finalizing your guest list and getting your RSVPs settled. Knowing how many you will host for a sit-down dinner is an important part of your planning.
Think carefully about your menu and settle on your recipes well ahead of time. This will help you take advantage of the sales that go on in the weeks before Thanksgiving. Many dry goods and non-perishables are available at good discounts if you know what you need. Plan seating for your guests, especially if you’ll need to add capacity to what you can normally accommodate. If you’ll need to add additional seating, start talking to your friends and neighbors about borrowing chairs or a card table ahead of time.
Also, consider what dinnerware, silverware, and linens you may need. If you need additional items, again, talk to friends who may be attending and ask if they can bring extras. If you’re using linens, consider cleaning and pressing whatever is necessary ahead of time. Start thinking about decor and what you already have that you can use. In addition, it’s helpful to start putting together a schedule for the day, which will help you with the timing of dishes going into and coming out of the oven.
Planning ahead will help you get some of the more mundane tasks out of the way early so you can relax and enjoy your day and stay in a thankful frame of mind.
2. Keep it simple
Resist the urge to go overboard with food, drink, and decorations. Most guests are happy and satisfied with a simple but classy affair, so don’t make things hard by trying to do too much. A classic Thanksgiving menu is very easy to execute and affordable, so don’t be tempted to serve exotic dishes. Most of your guests are going to be craving the classics anyway. One thing you can do that will bring a special touch to the day is start the gathering with a simple cocktail hour. A few light and easy hors d’oeuvres and drinks will start the day off in a festive mood, serve as an icebreaker for your guests, and keep people from hovering around your kitchen. Look for appetizer recipes that are easy to execute or can be made ahead. In addition, don’t hesitate to take up offers to help. If your guests want to bring a dish or dessert, let them. Nothing says you can’t share the work with others, and everyone wants to feel like they’ve contributed to the day.
3. Decorate simply
When it comes to decorations, less is more. Going overboard with decorations not only takes up a lot of time, it also puts you in position to spend too much money. Clean and simple decorations create an elegant look and keep things from looking cluttered.
Consider using natural decorations as opposed to store-bought ones. Sometimes, a simple walk in the woods can yield some beautiful materials for decoration. Not to mention, a leisurely walk in the woods will help elevate your mood and refocus your mind on gratefulness.
4. Stay organized
Organization is the key to executing a fun and stress-free holiday. Pull all your recipes together and break them down to put together your shopping list well ahead of time. Go shopping for all your dry goods and non-perishables well in advance of the day. This will not only save you time, but also save you money as you can take advantage of the grocery specials in the weeks before Thanksgiving. Making lists and checking things off as you go will help keep you focused and on track. As you are shopping, keep in mind that Christmas is only a few weeks away, so keep an eye out for sale items that you can pick up now and use later.
Anything you can do now to make things easier will pay off down the road. Remember that the goal is to keep your mind clear of stress and distraction so you can get the most enjoyment out of the holidays.
5. Plan some family fun
One of the best things about the holidays is the time you get to spend with family. Make sure you slow down and enjoy the time you have together. Plan some fun events to unite the group and bring everyone together. Card games, board games, and outside events such as badminton and croquet will get everyone involved.
If football is what everyone enjoys, there’s hardly a better time to enjoy it than the Thanksgiving holiday. After all, some of the best rivalries in college football play out over Thanksgiving weekend. During halftime, take it outside and have a family game in the front yard. Relaxing with family and having fun will help keep your mind focused on being grateful for the family you have and the great times you’re able to share together.
6. Be kind to others
Being kind to others and being empathetic can help us connect with other people’s lives and promote positive relationships with those we associate with daily. Aside from promoting good will, kindness can actually promote better health in those who practice it.
The feel-good sensation you have when you help others isn’t just a superficial thing. Being kind and helping others actually activates the pleasure centers in your brain by boosting serotonin levels. Elevated serotonin levels promote feelings of contentment and well-being. Therefore, kindness is also a form of self-help that will enhance your holiday experience. By helping, you feel more useful, connected, and purposeful.
Additionally, kindness eases stress and anxiety. Best of all, it’s free. Acts of kindness don’t necessarily need to be extravagant. Just smiling at a stranger or helping others in small ways will help produce good feelings that could last the entire holiday season.
7. Count your blessings
The holidays are a great time to reflect on life and take stock in all the great blessings you received throughout the year. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget the things you should be thankful for. Taking the time to look back and be thankful is good for the soul and can make the holiday season more meaningful. Focusing on the blessings of health and family will elevate your mood and can help inspire others to focus on gratitude as well.
One fun and productive family activity is to go around the table and have everyone talk about what they’re most thankful for. You will be pleasantly surprised and inspired by what you hear.
8. Believe in the power of positivity
Emotions are contagious. Whether they’re negative or positive, they tend to infect all those around us. You’ve surely seen this principle at work.
Unfortunately, stress has the ability to affect our emotions, turning the positive into negative in short order. That’s why it’s important that you focus on positive thoughts throughout the holiday season. Here are a couple of strategies you can employ to harness the power of positivity:
- Ask your loved ones what wonderful thing has happened to them recently. This might be a great way to start your holiday dinner.
- Make your own collection of personal experiences by keeping a journal of the positive things and interactions that you experience every day, especially during the holiday season.
- Take in the niceties and compliments that come your way and acknowledge them with a simple “thank you.”
- Compliment yourself on your own accomplishments, and compliment others as well.
9. Give to the less fortunate
Few things in life will fill your soul with gratitude more than helping those that are less fortunate. Sometimes, you just need a little perspective to realize just how fortunate you really are.
Giving your time and energy helps those around you, while helping your state of mind as well. Scientific studies have proven that giving to others increases your level of happiness, improves your health, and elevates your sense of well-being. Additionally, these studies have indicated that service to others may extend your lifespan.
Being generous to those less fortunate is also contagious. Your good deeds have the potential to become viral and spur others on to follow your example. Imagine being the genesis of a community movement that’s dedicated to helping others. What a difference you could make!
Aside from the impact you could make within your community, helping others also has very personal benefits. For one, helping others inspires feelings of true happiness. Those who volunteer regularly report higher degrees of happiness in social surveys.
From another perspective, service to others may help those volunteers who have medical issues such as chronic pain or high blood pressure. Studies show that by engaging in the service of others, they were able to reduce their own symptoms.
10. Show your gratitude for and to others
There’s no better time than the holidays to express your appreciation and gratitude for those special people in your life. Use some of these methods to let them know how much you value their presence in your life.
- Tell them, face to face, how happy you are that they’re in your life and how much they mean to you.
- Send handwritten notes to those who are special to you letting them know how much you admire them.
- Smile at everyone you encounter.
- Be a good friend to those who are going through a hard time. Just listen.
- Donate anonymously to a worthy charity.
- Open doors for strangers.
- Be kind and complimentary to those who serve you, such as restaurant servers.
- Pay all acts of kindness forward.
No doubt, the holidays can be a hectic and stressful time. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and miss the best part of the holidays, which is coming together to share a great meal and fellowship with family and friends.
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Don’t let the fast pace and the stress of the holidays get the best of you. Slow down and enjoy the best the holidays have to offer you and your loved ones. Be grateful for your family and all the blessings you’ve received, and do your best to pay these blessings forward throughout the coming year.