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Happy Thanksgiving Family - How Thanksgiving Affects Our Happiness in 2023

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Halloween is over! While dozens of glittering Christmas items now line the shelves at nearly every major store in the U.S., there is still one more colossal holiday that comes first, Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a tumultuous time; relatives arrive in mass, the shopping list never seems to end, and there are only a few short days to get everything prepared and in order. However, as the literal holiday of gratitude, one would think it would be all sunshine and roses. In all reality, Thanksgiving can hit us with a variety of emotions while we foster social connections and practice our gratitude techniques. Today, I will share with you my theories behind Thanksgiving happiness, how to combat the more prickly emotions that could arise, and how to ensure a happy Thanksgiving family!

Happy Thanksgiving family dinner

Social Connections with Family & Friends

One of the biggest aspects of Thanksgiving is spending time with family and friends. On my Everyday Happiness podcast, I cannot even count how often I have spoken about the importance of social connection. Still, as a quick reminder, studies have shown that building, maintaining, and celebrating our bonds in life are crucial to our happiness.

Yes, building bonds and celebrating the little moments together is vital to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, but what about those whom you really just want to chuck some cranberry sauce at?

While it may seem unfortunate, Thanksgiving often leads to a family member or two whom you don’t particularly adore spending copious amounts of time in your personal space. It could be an overbearing mother-in-law, an uncle who has told the same war story every holiday for a decade, or a sibling who knows how to needle you just the right way. When this happens, it can be easy to let the stress build, along with your blood pressure, forcing you to think that this holiday may not be something worth being thankful for.

However, I challenge you to adjust your mindset. Rather than falling victim to annoyance or stress, try this instead. Before that person arrives, take a moment to think of a positive personality trait of theirs or a moment you were grateful to them. Then, whenever they push your buttons, bring that idea back up and hold it in your mind.

For example, for your overbearing mother-in-law, think of how she brought your beloved spouse into the world and raised them to be the person you love. For your chatty uncle telling the same war story again, think of how proud of them you are for serving their country. For that annoying sibling, think of your favorite childhood memory, like when you built a fort or shared a touching moment.

So, the next time you feel like hurling some cranberry sauce into their face, think of these precious moments and be grateful that they happened. However, if that still doesn’t work, maybe try a deep breath and exit the conversation.

Practicing & Sharing Gratitude

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, tangible or intangible. You may have thought it was cheesy when you were a kid to sit around the Thanksgiving table and share something you were grateful for, but the science behind this ritual is outstanding. An article from Harvard Medical School reported two different studies that the practice of gratitude resulted in greater happiness and optimism as well as improved physical and mental health.

Sometimes, it can be hard to be grateful during the holidays. Your house is packed with people, the dishes are piling up, and the TV is blaring. It can be loud, stressful, annoying, and simply too much at times.

However you slice that metaphorical pie, practicing gratitude is bound to improve your Thanksgiving. Let’s take a moment to alter our mindset to a more grateful framework. For example, yes, your house is packed with people, but you are blessed with many people whom you love and who love you. Yes, the dishes are piling up, but you were able to provide yummy food that fills the bellies of those you care about. Yes, the TV is blaring 24/7, but those watching it are creating beautiful memories and fostering stronger bonds with one another.

While the chaos can be a lot, a simple shift in perception framing will make you much happier and make it easy to practice those gratitude traditions.

"Count your blessings" written on a tag on a pumpkin stem.

How to Make a Happy Thanksgiving Family

There are hundreds, likely thousands, of articles written on gratitude and its benefits for your family. They all have a bunch of different theories on how to bring the most out of the day, but one shining moment should shine through because it is what the holiday is all about, GRATITUDE! But how does one practice it? Here are a few quick ideas:

- Everyone can say one thing they are thankful for before dinner.

- You can write a thank you note to someone

- You can keep a gratitude journal for the week of Thanksgiving (and beyond)

- You can take just five minutes and think of all the things you are grateful for.

This one is my favorite because I can do it at any time, and it can be literally anything! Here are a few examples of the things I am grateful for at Thanksgiving:

- Getting to sleep an extra hour

- Being able to take the time to make a yummy dinner for my family

- A warm house filled with my favorite things

- A healthy, working body that allows me to celebrate the holiday

- Even just some pumpkin pie!

Whatever it is you are thankful for, bring it to the forefront of your mind, let it marinate, and maybe even share it with others.

Happy Thanksgiving from Everyday Happiness

For all my readers who enjoy Thanksgiving, I wish you a joyous day filled with gratitude. My little family of four will be celebrating together with turkey and all the sides - my favorite part is playing board games, watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV, and hopefully, staying in our jammies all day.

For us, today is a day to reflect on what we have and where we’ve come and to be present with one another without a lot of the typical distractions. Wherever you are today, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or today is just a regular day. I wish you gratitude and appreciation because the science is clear, it’s the gateway to happiness.

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Katie's family playing a card game.

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