Thanksgiving as we know it today has undergone many permutations. Over the centuries, the holiday has ballooned in meaning to include all manner of traditions – family visits, long and lazy weekends, football games, parades, travel conundrums, holiday movies, turkey trots, festive decorations, and, of course, the feast.
Though many people look forward to these Thanksgiving traditions, others don’t hold the same positive regard for the holiday. For many indigenous people, the sanitized version of the holiday’s history is far from celebratory. And for many others, we anticipate the holiday feeling anxious, overwhelmed, sad, or harboring a sense of dread.
Especially for those navigating eating disorder recovery, or substance abuse recovery, Thanksgiving can stir up a lot of emotions and challenges. Food, drink, family and friends can encompass welcome aspects of the holiday or can feel like an obstacle course. When the dynamics of the festivities feel overwhelming, consider taking a step back to reflect on the true meaning of this day.
Despite the modern trappings of the holiday, one aspect of Thanksgiving remains ever present. At its core, the holiday is a celebration of gratitude. To celebrate gratitude, you don’t need a feast, much less a broadcasted parade, a football game or goofy sweaters. All you have to do is give thanks. Nothing more, nothing less.
Take a few moments to step away from the hubbub of the holiday and find a quiet place to reflect. What are you grateful for this year? What, or who, can you give thanks for?
Admittedly, when you’re feeling overwhelmed or down-and-out, expressing gratitude can be challenging. But, gratitude has an amazing way of shining light in the dark corners of our minds, and helps us approach life with renewed perspective. No matter how tough a given day might be, there is always something to be grateful for – even if it amounts to a passing moment, a kind gesture, or an unexpected smile.
Thanksgiving comes only once a year. But, gratitude can be ever-present. Whether you love the Thanksgiving holiday, or await its swift departure, you can practice gratitude any day of the week, any day of the year. A holiday dedicated to gratitude is quite sweet; but a grateful outlook each day is even sweeter.