Life can be full of disappointments, and sometimes it’s hard to turn on the “I’m grateful” switch for Thanksgiving. Making lists, getting fresh air, and finding a “GB” are some of the ways you can navigate these feelings.
Thanksgiving is all about great food, lots of laughs, and no expectations in terms of gift-giving. If you show up at a friend or family member’s house with a plate of cookies and a hug, you’re winning. But it’s not always all Tofurky and pumpkin pie when your relatives begin their inevitable questions, eager to get caught up on every aspect of your life.
“Any update on when you guys might be trying for a baby?” Or if you bring a significant other as your guest: “So you’re living together? I hear wedding bells!”
Of course, let’s not forget about the career updates: “Your mom mentioned you were being considered for a part in a new TV show.” Now you get to relive the rejection by explaining you didn’t book it.
Suddenly, you’ve gone from feeling thankful for being alive and surrounded by those you love, to sprinting to the kids’ table to help decorate cookies. Your younger cousin discusses her latest junior high crush while you hold back tears, disappointed that you still aren’t where you want to be in life.
While inhaling the plate of sugar cookies in front of you might seem like the next logical step, here’s a list of things that I’ve done to help manage these moments.
As a writer and actor, rejection is rampant in my life. I can’t even begin to tell you how close I’ve gotten to getting a gig or job to eventually be told they have gone another way. To combat this, I keep a list of things I’m thankful for in the Notes app on my phone. When times get really tough and I feel totally defeated I refer to that list, taking deep breaths as I read it over to myself.
I get really specific with the list. Rather than simply, “I am grateful to be alive,” it’s “I am grateful that I overcame breast cancer and am tolerating my hormone therapy well.” I find that the more specific I am with myself, the easier it is to quickly draw inspiration from the moments.
Everyone is usually quick to suggest going for a walk and getting outside in nature, but sometimes you don’t have the time. Also, going for a long stroll alone if you’re at a relative’s house can seem inappropriate or awkward. What has worked for me is grabbing my coat and saying I have to get something from the car.
The second I’m outside and the cool air hits my face, I feel better. It doesn’t take long, I might even pretend to rummage in my car for something, perhaps reviewing the gratitude list I mentioned above. Little moments outside by yourself can be very powerful.
I would be lost without my best friend. Without much prompting, we consistently remind each other of all the great things we have going on in our lives. When I’m disappointed that the book I’ve been working on isn’t done, she’ll remark, “but you are writing so much more than you ever have. And making a living doing it!”
Likewise, if she didn’t get a fellowship she applied for, I’m quick to recall all the ones she did win and how amazing she still is. It’s easy to get bogged down in a recent failure or disappointment, but it’s all part of the bigger picture and that’s where your GB can be key. It can be helpful to find someone who will always remind you of your successes, and you can remind them in return.
Feel stuck with where you are in your life? Maybe send a bouquet of flowers to a friend just because. Buy a coffee for the person in line in front of you. Do a favor for someone you love.
Disappointed that you didn’t get the job you were up for? Send a handwritten card to someone. Everyone loves to receive mail. You might be amazed at how good it can feel to bring positivity to other people.
Perhaps also explore volunteer opportunities in your community. According to a 2020 study, volunteering is also critical to helping improve your mental health.
I have young kids so the idea of having no phone is just irresponsible on my part. But when I go home for the holidays in December, I’m instructing my husband to hide my smartphone and replacing it with a classic flip phone for our time away.
I’m always checking my social media, scrolling through news websites, or researching story ideas for articles, preventing me from being fully present with my family during downtime. Always searching for the next lead on a story to pitch keeps me from being grateful for where I am.
And I am not the only one. In a Healthline article from 2019, the writer reverted back to his flip phone and found freedom, enjoying and appreciating his life so much more.
If swapping your smartphone for a flip phone is not realistic, just taking intentional breaks from your device can do wonders for feeling more present and appreciative of your surroundings.
Unfortunately, there is no cure-all for feeling thankful (if only!). But there are things we can all do to get the most out of life.
For me, I’m most excited about my flip phone experiment, and who knows, maybe this will become a regular reset routine to keep me present and thankful for all the positive aspects of my life.
Medically reviewed on November 16, 2022
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