Thriving Through the Holidays: Reaping a Field of Gratitude

In light of the upcoming holiday season, this blog post is a continuation of the series Thriving Through the Holidays.


Quick: What do you think of when you hear/read the word Thanksgiving?

Turkey, and being too stuffed to move?

Aunt Linda’s crazy stories when she’s had too much wine?

The stress of hosting, grocery shopping, menu planning and all that goes with it?

The same old argument you and your spouse always have about who’s family tradition is right or who’s family member is going to ruin the day?

Any number of things might pop into your head. I’ll be honest. One word that did not immediately spring up for me was the idea of gratitude or thankfulness. Sure, it’s in there somewhere, but unfortunately it falls down the line a little bit after the seasonal foods, family dynamics, and overall stressfulness attached to this holiday. And yet, the whole meaning and purpose behind this day is giving thanks.

If we are all honest, though, we would probably have to admit that much more of our time and energy surrounding the preparation for Thanksgiving is centered around the meal planning, navigating of family relationships and preferences, and the craziness of our schedules and itineraries than the activity of gratitude. 

The truth is that wherever we invest our time, energy and resources is where we will have an abundance of growth. Let’s think of our thoughts, feelings, and actions towards the holidays as seeds we are planting into the field of our family. If we speak out (ie: plant) words of worry, stress, and negativity, we will be quick to find a harvest of these things growing in the events around us. It’s the same idea that whatever we put our focus on is what will dominate our perspective. So, one simple way to begin shifting this is to change the seeds you are planting surrounding this holiday into ones that promote thankfulness and positivity.

You might do this in a number of different ways. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

1. Month of Gratitude

I’ve been enjoying seeing so many people on facebook engaging in the activity of posting one thing they are thankful for every day in November. Think of how much they are changing the perspective of their holiday. Instead of spending more time menu planning and finding new gluten free recipes to accommodate cousin Ben’s new paleo diet, they are investing a significant amount of their time on remaining positive and thankful. I wonder when they look back at this year’s Thanksgiving, what will be the first thing that comes to their mind?

2. Reciting a Thankful Phrase

If you are someone prone to anxiety and worry, and have a number of anxious thoughts concerning the upcoming holiday, consider coming up with a sentence or phrase you can recite to yourself whenever negative thoughts about Thanksgiving pop up in your mind. Keep it simple, so you can remember it. It might be something like, “This year I choose gratitude,” or “No matter what happens, I have so much to be thankful for.” Practice saying this thought to yourself several times throughout the day and especially when you catch yourself becoming anxious about the holiday. Get creative with forming a thought that will pull your focus back to something worth thinking about.

3. Plan a Holiday Craft or Activity that Centers Around Thankfulness

Maybe you’ve been putting off making that family scrapbook, or you’ve been dying to create one of the fall crafts you’ve seen floating around on Pinterest. Find a way to put a gratitude spin on your craft and work on it throughout the month, or plan a special activity focused on gratefulness you can do with your family on Thanksgiving Day. The time you put in preparing will help keep your mind and heart focused on the meaning behind the holiday.

About Liz Fava, LPC

Liz provides individual and couples therapy for adults, including counseling for dating, engaged, and married couples. She also conducts couples workshops, and training and supervision for therapists.