Five Thanksgiving Reminders for Older Adults
Oh please, not another blog about how wonderful Thanksgiving is! No, it’s not. I know Thanksgiving blogs come a dime a dozen, as we say, and you have better things to do right now than read a sentimental blog. So, here goes: just keep five things in mind this Thanksgiving if you want to have a pleasant, memorable time.
- Remember why you eat: for a strong body, sharp mind, and the energy to lead an active lifestyle.
Do not allow the Thanksgiving dinner to be an excuse to eat dishes that do not support your health goals. A recent online poll revealed that the majority of Americans don’t like the classic Thanksgiving dishes but eat them, anyway. What are the most hated dishes?
- canned cranberry sauce
- green bean casserole / sweet potato casserole
- pumpkin pie (Can you believe it!)
- turkey (Who would have thought!)
So, why do people continue to eat these foods at Thanksgiving? Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents said they eat them because of tradition.
Eat mindfully this Thanksgiving. Remind yourself why it is that you eat. Consider whether the dishes you choose and the size of the servings will help you attain or maintain your health goals.
- Share your story. Yes, share your personal history especially with young members of your family who might not have heard them. Tell how you felt about events you have lived through—events that they’ve probably only read about online—and the lessons you learned along the way and the reasons you are appreciative. Our stories can enhance our value to others and can also restore balance to our life. For joy shared is joy doubled; sadness shared is sadness halved. “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with” (Mark Twain).
- Remind yourself of the reason for the feast: to express gratitude. Thanksgiving gatherings can be stressful, especially for hosts. But expressing appreciation to God, higher power, or the universe as well as to the people in our life is the reason for the feast, and by doing just that we can remove the unhealthy elements of this stress. “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well” (Voltaire).
- You have the right to mourn or celebrate. For those who have lost a loved one, Thanksgiving can be a difficult time. Like most holidays or special events, Thanksgiving can be a reminder of the absence of a loved one. But always remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no time span for grieving. You have a right to grieve for as long as you want. Just like you have the right to have fun if you choose. You have a right to be alone or to socialize when you are ready. Since being around family and friends is a big deal around this time of year, keep in mind that they may mean well by expecting you to participate if you choose not to. Therefore, communication is vital. “Communicate feelings, wishes, desires, hopes, dreams and disappointments with family and friends. This needs to be done with some selectivity and mature self-censorship,” write Zamore and Leutenberg, authors of The Griefwork Companion: Activities for Healing.
- Organize for help. Many hands make work light. I realize there are some people who want to do all the work, but it may not be the wisest way to work, especially in the long run. Eventually, emotional burned out can occur but also the opportunity to bond is lost. Then, there are some who do not know how to ask for help and so feel overwhelmed with preparing a Thanksgiving meal.
Relationships can flourish when we are both givers and receivers. Sharing the table with others is a form of kindness. If you are the guest, you can show appreciation of this kindness by helping before or after the event. Many times, the host is left not only to prepare the meal but also to cleanup while others enjoy a full stomach or the leisure of sitting back to watch a football game, for example. Ask the host how you can contribute. How can you show gratitude?
If you are the host, create opportunities for family and friends to help. This often can create a festive and healing atmosphere. How can you bring people together to help?
Revel in appreciation this Thanksgiving! Appreciation is also one of the properties of love. And it is, perhaps, the easiest, most cost-efficient way to show love. So, as you give thanks for the food, consider that being grateful is more than uttering the words: it’s also how we treat the food that we and others have prepared. Let’s not put more food on our plates than we can eat. Let moderation and not waste be a part of our thanksgiving.
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