This month, Americans will observe Thanksgiving, a holiday that focuses on being thankful, and eating yummy food. What could be better? It’s also a day that for many of us involves sitting at a table with family members we only see on this one day each year. Or, it might be a gathering of your most beloved relatives and significant other, close loving friends and precious, well-behaved children. Or, perhaps you’ll be sharing a meal with friends whose families live in distant places, or have passed away.
Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, I would like to offer a few choices of behavior you might consider which will up your happiness quotient.
Be Prepared to Increase Meaningful Connections
If you find yourself seated across from your cousin Irma whose beliefs are the opposite of yours on just about everything, and who loves to chatter endlessly about her plan for world peace which involves cross-breeding llamas with cats, pause a moment, and take a few deep breaths. Look at Irma and say quietly to yourself while she praters on:
- “We both desire a life filled with joy and happiness.” Slowly exhale.
- Inhale. “We both suffered sadness, anger, and have lived with fear.” Slowly exhale.
- Inhale. “We both desire respect and love.” Slowly exhale.
- Inhale. “We are both doing the best we can.” Slowly exhale.
- Inhale. “We are both equally parts of Spirit/God/Source (You choose what feels best.) In truth, you and I and Spirit/God/Source are one energy body. We are one.” Slowly exhale.
If you practice this mantra the day before on your best friend over coffee, or your sleeping spouse on the sofa, you will be prepared to handle THE DAY… and cousin Irma.
You can use this exercise anywhere, anytime you want to strengthen and increase meaningful connection during the holidays, be it with a loved one or a stranger. (It works on pets, too. Just ask George Eliot!)
Making a Heart Connection
My second recommendation for making a heart connection this Thanksgiving Day and during this holiday season has several parts.
Part One: seek out an older person in the room. Go and sit by her. Most likely you are related to her, or know her—even better if you don’t, as you can make a new friend.
Ask her what she loves about this holiday, what are some of her best memories. Ask open-ended questions that require answers longer than yes or no. You will be amazed at what you will learn from this wise, older gal, and she will feel great having the attention and getting to talk about her life.
Then listen, really listen. When the conversation is over, notice how you feel.
Part Two: Get on the floor with the wee ones and play!
Now, I don’t mean just hold the dolly while Lily works the story with her doll and the other members of the doll family. No, I mean get in there and contribute to the story line with your doll and have real make-believe conversations. This may include building a small housing development for them from books and towels. Go for it.
Part Three: Once everyone has eaten and the pie plates are empty, go around the table and ask each person to say three things they are grateful for today. This is the best way I know to end a holiday meal, and it makes doing the dishes so easy 😉
My heartfelt wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving to you!
Until next time…. Be Vibrant!
Share Your Thoughts…
Do you have personal holiday traditions that help you connect with others?
Share yours below in the comments—together we can all benefit from your knowledge!
L.J. Rohan is a Gerontologist (University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology), Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), and Vibrant Aging Coach. L.J. is dedicated to redefining the aging process. With a focus on holistic well-being, she combines scientific research and practical insights to guide women age 55+ towards a vibrant, fulfilling life. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and she frequently speaks at institutions such as Yale University and Southern Methodis University. Be Vibrant!