Thanksgiving will be especially meaningful this year. After 18 months of experiencing a barrage of negativity from both sides during the election, it will be particularly important to pivot toward the positive that we have in our lives. We must prevent the pervasive fear, divisiveness and frustration of the political process from dampening our mood by making a conscious effort to give ourselves an extraordinary Thanksgiving this year.
The stressful nature of this contentious election can make you feel vulnerable, which triggers your fight or flight reactions. Are you worried about what’s going to happen next? Do you find yourself disengaging from talking to people for fear of setting off a firestorm? When you do talk about the election, does it foster a mindset of finding fault with people? Have you noticed yourself feeling more irritable or experiencing more conflict in your relationships?
It’s easy to become caught up in the uncivil discourse we’ve been exposed to from all sides. Negative emotions are contagious, and especially corrosive to our relationships. But it’s over now, and we can choose to refocus our attention on the good that we find in other people. Thanksgiving is the perfect time for us all to reflect on the many positive aspects of our lives.
You have the power to manage your emotional state. One proven method is the ACT Formula: Accept that your current situation is causing you stress. Choose a positive outcome you want to create. Take action to make it a reality.
Accepting reality requires that you stop ruminating about what has happened over the past few months. It’s over. It can’t be changed. Dwelling on what others might do in the future only arouses uncertainty and fuels more stress if you imagine worst case scenarios.
Creating a vision involves delving into your own personal values. What’s most important to you? How can you protect the parts of your life that you value most? What would it look like if things turned out well in your life? What behaviors do you see yourself doing that make you feel good?
Taking action empowers you. You’re not solely at the mercy of outside forces. You’re taking steps to work toward your picture of the positive outcome you envision for your life.
It’s essential to make a special effort to be happy right now. First of all, limit the amount of negativity you expose yourself to in the media and social media. Instead, take care of yourself. Listen to music rather than talk radio. Look at the beauty you’ll find taking a walk in nature rather than looking at all the bad things you see on in news. Take care of your health – hydrate, eat healthy foods, get at least 7 hours of sleep, and exercise.
Look inside the walls of your home and savor the safe harbor that you’ve created. Think about your workplace, and how you could express appreciation to the people who support you there. Check in on your neighbors to see how they’re doing.
The most powerful positive emotion is love. Right now is the time of the year that presents many opportunities to strengthen your connections with family, friends, coworkers and community. Checking in to see how the people you care about are doing will give you a chance to figure out how you might be able to help them, offsetting any feelings of helplessness. Hosting social gatherings to garner support for a positive cause can redirect the dialogue to actions that will strengthen our community.
Volunteering to help a local charity will give you the sense that you can make a positive difference in the world. For many years I’ve supported the wonderful work that Food Link (www.foodlinkmaryland.org) does for people in our local area. Helping a family have food at the holidays will lift your spirits.
To enhance your Thanksgiving experience this year, create a gratitude grab bag. Procure an attractive box or bag. Put a pen and a notepad next to it and place it somewhere that everyone will see it over the next few days. Ask the people who’ll be with you on Thanksgiving to write whatever they’re grateful for on pieces of paper and then put them in the box or bag.
Before consuming your holiday feast, gather your friends and family around before dinner to pass the container around. Take turns pulling a note from the bag and reading it aloud. Guess who wrote each gratitude note. Happiness will abound as appreciation fills everyone’s heart.