A few days ago in Marketplace’s meat section, I overheard one woman say to another,
“It won’t be Thanksgiving for my family unless we have our usual gorge fest with all the traditional foods!”
Not 15 min. later after turning my car radio on and starting for home, the newscaster reported the latest COVID-19 death count in the US, the highest uncontrollable surge since this pandemic began last Spring; and with no end in sight.
While the presidential election may be resolving, the coronavirus definitely is not. As we brace for the holidays and ponder how our beloved traditions with family and friends will need to be scaled down to prevent further infection and death, many of us will head into an already challenging time of year with additional anxiety and depression…
Even midst the predictable darkness, these upcoming winter holidays herald a season of light for a few religions. Though Thanksgiving 2020 will be necessarily different, we can greet this holiday with a mind reset that preserves--even deepens--its positive impact on our lives. It’s a simple formula: Split up the single word, then create a practice reflecting each new word:
“THANKS” & “GIVING”
Besides enjoying a traditional feast (& perhaps football) with loved ones, we all associate Thanksgiving with focusing on gratitude for our abundant blessings. For some this year, thanks might be peppered with difficult emotions—resentment, loneliness, depression, grief. During hard, uncertain times, one way of easing the struggle to summon gratitude is by focusing on what we can control and influence rather than lingering on what we can’t. Please understand: It’s important to honor whichever emotions are swirling within; it’s absolutely crucial that any pain—mental, emotional, physical or spiritual—be acknowledged and given time to reveal its meaning. Alongside the creating of compassionate space for suffering, we also have the rest of our life to embrace; and a commitment to seeing our “glass half FULL” is the most therapeutic and empowering practice we can cultivate.
In my coaching work as well as my own personal reflection over the years, I’ve noticed that gratitude can be a fleeting, intellectual phenomenon rather than a pleasurable “felt” experience. The next time you’re aware of being grateful for something or someone, I encourage you to pause and feel the gratitude in your body. While each person will experience this sensation differently, it’s wonderful to “feel into” the physical lightness and expansion that often accompanies gratitude; another common response is increased calm. Whatever the sensation(s), the goal is to allow ourselves to really soak up that positive experience as “wholistically” as possible, not just “in our head.”
Then after absorbing the gratitude and embodying the first part of our simple formula (THANKS), we can include the second part: GIVING…
Couples and those exploring relationship issues have taught me how awkward many of us are about expressing gratitude for someone else in specific ways or even out loud. Maybe some of that shouldn’t be so surprising, given our increasingly accelerated and distracted pace. A quick “Thanks” or “Luv ya” while carrying on with other matters is often as good as our verbal affirmation gets. But a partner’s decision to finally take out the trash or stop to share an extended hug shouldn’t be taken for granted. In order to truly feel seen, heard and appreciated (and motivated to repeat what we finally got right!), most of us need consistent and deliberate acknowledgment. How do you typically express gratitude toward those you love? Maybe this Thanksgiving, your appreciation can be offered as a direct and specific gift that touches hearts.
How else can we practice that second part of our formula, the GIVING? There are numerous ways, all mentioned within the context of maintaining a protective bubble during this pandemic:
Handwritten messages and ecards can be an option or complement to verbal communication. Jacquie Lawson ecards always help make my day!
Physical touch: This form of safe, comforting communication, offered mindfully, is always therapeutic.
Quality time: Time free of distractions and multi-tasking allows for full presence, an invaluable gift that can soften hearts and encourage healing on numerous levels.
Material gifts: Whether purchased, handmade or handed down, keepsakes chosen with tastes and desires in mind can be especially satisfying; monetary gifts can also benefit so many others in need.
Gifts of service: Chores, errands and other helpful activities performed by someone else can feel like a mini vacation for the receiver!
We B4 Me: Another way we can honor the “GIVING” part of our formula throughout this entire holiday season is by allowing the good news of a vaccine on the horizon to temper our COVID fatigue and sharpen our vigilance. We know which choices prevent infection. What a potentially life-saving gift we can give by placing others first.
There’s a silver lining to all this giving: Focus outward not only helps reinforce the truth of our connection with all beings; it reflects what current research repeatedly shows: When we deliberately cultivate greater kindness and compassion toward others, we increase our own happiness. That’s a guaranteed win-win scenario for both receiver and giver!
As we wait for “the vaccine” to deliver the decisive victory over COVID-19, we can create our own vaccine of sorts, trustworthy protection that’s always accessible as we encounter life’s tribulations. The THANKS and GIVING we offer this Thanksgiving and throughout this holiday season can represent a wonderful affirmation of that commitment.
May I, we & all beings focus on gratitude & giving during these times of blessing, impermanence & suffering.
Deb Langhans has worked in the wellness field as a coach/counselor, writer & speaker for over 25 years. She currently owns & operates Journeys to Healing on San Juan Island where she offers "wholistic" life coaching, mindfulness & grief recovery coaching, reflexology, Inner Journey Collage© & a developing line of products designed to encourage healthy habits.
Most services are available in Deb's studio or via phone or Zoom. For more information or scheduling, please go to www.journeystohealing.com (website). email@example.com (email), or 360.317.4526 (texts preferred).