A Happiness Expert's Guide To Keep Your Holidays Drama-Free

Get into a positive mindset this Thanksgiving

This is going to be a Thanksgiving for the books. With so much uncertainty, many of us will not be gathering the way we would normally and with the high volume of stress being served up right now, we need all the support we can get.

On any day but especially as we approach Thanksgiving deep breaths, long slow inhales and exhales are a must. I keep a sign in my kitchen to remind me because when we’re stressed our breath gets shallow and that isn’t going to help us remain calm.  Also, let’s recognize that our minds are great trouble shooters, we love a problem so we can find a fix or an answer and right now we can’t really be effective because there’s so much we don’t know. We feel stressed even irritated, frustrated and on edge because we can’t solve the many layers of problems or challenges going on in the world.

Let’s remember that Thanksgiving is about celebrating the harvest, acknowledging our ancestors who never gave up and who paved the way for us to live in the world today. Thanksgiving is about family, love and respect. So, let’s put our focus on those areas and what we have to be grateful for. This year I’m doing a special project; it’s a gratitude tree. I have some twigs in a vase and I’ve written what I’m grateful for on little leaves, which I’ve attached to the twigs. It’s a visual reminder and a great family exercise to shift focus off of what we can’t control and on to all the things we have to appreciate.

We are managing a lot and it’s no surprise that people are frustrated and irritated. There’s a lot of fear and negativity that we can easily buy into and make our own and much of it has nothing to do with us. I love Dr. Daniel Amen’s idea. He’s an American psychiatrist who talks about ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts), those gloomy or complaining thoughts that seem so predominant right now; we all have them. Dr. Amen puts ANTS into categories, so we can recognize them. Here are a few examples:

  • Always thinking: when we think in terms of always, everyone, never, no one, everything and every time
  • Focusing on the negative: only seeing the bad in a situation
  • Fortune telling: predicting the worst possible outcome

Left unchecked, these automatic negative thoughts multiply and it’s up to us to stop them by asking ourselves a few questions. First: is this thought true? Is it really true? If it’s not true, what is true? Then we have the opportunity to flip the ANT to a PAT (Positive Affirming Thought).

Example…ANT we’re never going to get out of this pandemic. Is this true? I don’t know. Then what is true? I don’t know if we’re ever going to get out of this pandemic. PAT positive affirming thought: I don’t know if we’re going to get out of this pandemic but I’m going to enjoy something every day until we do or I’m going to do an act of kindness for someone every day until we do. It takes practice to recognize the ANTS and to shift the focus of our thought to chase them away but trust me, it is work worth doing.

I don’t think we need to add to each other’s stress. So before the gathering or the Zoom call make sure you set your boundary and ensure that you don’t engage. Smile, listen…whatever you need to do to conserve your goodness for what’s important to you. I mean getting children off to school is a herculean task these days. My point is not to let other people distract you from what’s important to you by engaging in their drama. Remember boundaries are respectful and loving and that’s where we want to be coming from, especially at Thanksgiving.

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