For most of us, it's safe to say that this year has pushed and challenged us in new ways that we never anticipated. In just the past few months alone, we have faced countless challenges and fears in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, from lockdowns to financial hardship, illness, homeschooling, and more.
Needless to say, our resilience and strength are still being pushed to new limits as this new "normal" continues into November and probably the entirety of 2020. From a holistic perspective, the global pandemic has impacted all pillars of our overall wellness, including our physical, mental, emotional, and social health in countless ways.
Despite the ongoing uncertainty of this year, we know many of you were looking forward to the holidays, with a glimmer of hope that things might return to normal in time for your favorite festive traditions and gatherings with friends and family.
That was of course until The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced their recent recommendation that all Americans celebrate Thanksgiving “at home with the people you live with.” And just like that, we've had to face the hard realization that for the first time, this means that many of us will have to spend Thanksgiving alone.
If the realization of a solo Thanksgiving has set off feelings of panic and anxiety, don't worry... Your feelings are completely justified and you're not alone! At least 36 million adults live alone in the United States today.
That's why many psychologists have been focused on sharing the best advice on how to avoid dwelling on the idea of a "ruined" Thanksgiving dinner without friends and family, and instead, finding positive ways to actually enjoy celebrating this virtual holiday alone. Yes, it IS really possible!
According to top psychologists, differentiating between solitude and loneliness may just be the key to embracing a Turkey Day alone. Psychologically, our brain is programmed to feel worse about a situation when we are forced into an arrangement that is out of our control (like in the case of most Covid-19 restrictions).
The key, psychologists say, is to use the right tools to reframe your mind to create more intentional and mindful thoughts around the situation. In other words, by taking back control over this year's Thanksgiving by choosing to spend time alone (rather than being the victim to a situation you cannot control), your mind will automatically shift to see new opportunities where before there were only obstacles.
Psychologists also note that social seclusion and solo holidays have likely been harder on Americans than most other societies at times, because we still carry a certain cultural stigma against solitude. In reality, we can break this cultural bias by celebrating the creativity, introspection, freedom, and gratitude that make embracing time alone so important in 2020.
There are many ways to do this safely and effectively, but it might look slightly different for each of us. The bottom line is that we don't have to write off this Thanksgiving and wait until next year. We can still enjoy a memorable day at home filled with so much to be thankful for. Let's explore some psychologist-approved ideas for a virtual Turkey Day celebration you can still appreciate!
Studies show that taking the focus off of yourself can help boost your mood, ease feelings of loneliness, and provide a greater sense of gratitude. And just because it's recommended to stay indoors and socially distant this Thanksgiving holiday, it doesn't mean that you can't find creative ways to help those less fortunate.
Simply calling elderly family members and talking to them can brighten their day and provide a much needed reminder that our blessings are always far greater than we realize. Try to take some time before or after your Thanksgiving dinner to offer a virtual helping hand or offer your virtual volunteering services to a person you think might be feeling lonely, or an organization that needs extra help.
As much as we all love Thanksgiving Day, large family gatherings can also result in a rather busy, loud, and sometimes drama-filled occasion. Why not spend this Thanksgiving looking within and counting your blessings in a mindful and serene introspective setting? You'll be surprised to see much you can get done on your own in solitude, from old projects to new hobbies.
Spending a holiday in complete solitude can allow you time to sit back and ponder the true meaning behind the holiday, as well as what it truly means to give thanks. There is no right or wrong way to do this and it may not be suited for everyone, but some productive ideas include journaling, meditating, and any other self care activity. You can also write personalized letters to loved ones, taking your time to write down exactly why you are grateful to have them in your life.
If introspection isn't really your thing, don't worry! You can also find plenty of activities to plan on your own, or you can make virtual plans with family and friends. Engaging in something that excites you and that you find genuinely interesting can keep your mind active throughout the day and also boost endorphins (especially if it's physical activity).
The activities available to you will vary slightly based on countless factors and your risk of contracting illness, therefore it's important to put safety first. If you are able to spend the weekend away, maybe you can take a solo road trip and safely enjoy new scenery and sights at a local charming town you haven't had a chance to visit before.
If weather allows, you can also get outdoors and boost your mood naturally with a hike, walk down the beach, or jog around the neighborhood or local park. You may even bump into others who are also going at it alone this holiday weekend!
With the rise of social video platforms like Zoom, we can now feel less alone with group video calling to anyone who would usually be around your table. Why not schedule some interactive Zoom games, a virtual trivia night, virtual recipe contest, and virtual Thanksgiving dinner? You'll be surprised how quickly you begin to feel less alone and more connected to your normal holiday traditions this year. All it takes is a little creativity to make 2020 worthwhile!
This is the one year you need to break from normal traditions and step out of your comfort zone! If you've never been a big sports fan before, maybe this is the year you give it a go and make watching the game a tradition you can carry on into next year.
Spending some time planning for next year's Thanksgiving can give your morale a boost, but make sure it's done in a positive and constructive way. Try making a list of new traditions that you and your loved ones can do virtually together, and carry on into the future. This is bound to bring everyone together and feeling optimistic for the future!
When it comes to big family gatherings, we often feel like we need to make plenty of sacrifices to account for guest preferences, food allergies, and special food requests. If you enjoy cooking, a Thanksgiving with no guests can be a chef's dream come true!
What could be better than a relaxing day cooking a delicious dinner all for you, with only your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? No matter how outlandish or untraditional, make your meal centered around YOU! You can turn on your go-to cooking show, take your time with no schedule restraints or rush, and serve yourself at any time you like.
If you're not much into cooking, why not embrace breaking from tradition and ordering your favorite foods right to your door? Who knows...you might be surprised to find out that it ends up being your best Thanksgiving yet!
IT'S ABOUT YOU. IT'S ABOUT YOUR HEALTH. IT'S ABOUT RECONNECTING.