Thanksgiving: Finding Joy Beyond the Turkey and Stuffing

Grandama with her Grand DaughterWith a chill in the air and fewer hours of daylight, the holidays bring about a reminder that we are to turn inward, slow down, and come together. Thanksgiving is a day to appreciate all the things that we have. While it is easy to enjoy the seemingly endless feast, there is more to the day than eating until your buttons pop. Make the most of your holidays with a few simple changes that can help you and others savor the day and find a new sense of joy.

  • Include – if your elder relatives are physically impaired, it may seem difficult if not impossible to have them over for dinner. However, there are a number of simple ways that you can help accommodate them: offer transportation since many older individuals have difficulty driving, especially at night, provide safe access by renting a ramp if grandma or grandpa uses a wheelchair or walker and has trouble getting in and out of the house, and remove any loose area rugs or cords that can create a tripping hazard. For grandparents and relatives who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, be sure to engage them in conversation, but be patient – they may not remember recent events, names, or other seemingly obvious details. Avoid any triggers that may cause them stress, and simply enjoy spending the time with your loved ones.
  • Include Everyone – nobody wants to be alone, especially on the holidays. Whether it be a neighbor, coworker, acquaintance, or anybody else who does not have anyone to spend the holidays with, invite them to join you. This simple gesture can make a world of difference to someone who may have lost their spouse, or lives far from their family members. Most people prepare more food than they need on Thanksgiving, so what’s one more plate? Relieve the burden on the chef by asking that each guest contributes to the meal, whether it be by bringing a side or dessert, or helping clean up when the meal is finished.
  • Focus on Family – rather than collapsing into a “food coma” in front of the TV or rushing off for Black Friday deals (unless that is your family tradition), make a point to focus on family. Relish in a family tradition, like sitting around the table talking for hours after the food has cleared, or going for a walkabout together after dinner. If you don’t have any traditions, now is a great time to start one! For some unique and simple ideas, check out this page.
  • Say Thanks – it doesn’t have to be a prayer. Even if you are not religious, Thanksgiving is a day to focus on gratitude – take turns sharing something that everybody is thankful for. Or, try this twist: start by selecting a family member (perhaps the eldest or youngest), and take turns going around the table and stating one thing that you like about that person. Then move on to the next person, until everybody at the table has had a chance to enjoy the spotlight. Showing direct appreciation for one another, and receiving that appreciation, helps bring through the true feelings of thanks that this day is all about.
  • Give Back – hopefully, you are fortunate enough to have all of the basics that you need. In fact, many of us enjoy the excess that comes along with Thanksgiving, where we have an abundance of food and eat until we couldn’t possibly stand another bite. If that is the case, share the joy by donating or volunteering with a charity, like Feeding America, that provides food and resources to those who do not have enough. While you enjoy your meal, you can also enjoy knowing that you are helping to make the day memorable for somebody else.
  • Get Up and Move – Thanksgiving is often thought of as a day of gluttony. Instead of spending the day lounging (or cooking) all day until it’s time to eat, then lounging again afterward, get up and move. Go for a walk before or after dinner, play a game, or participate in an organized run for charity like a “Turkey Trot“. Breaking a sweat will not only help you earn or work off all that pumpkin pie, but it will also help you appreciate what your body can do for you.

Get more great holiday tips from our other blogs: Holiday Hostess with the Mostess: How to Accommodate Visitors with Disabilities and Accommodate Everyone This Holiday Season