Q: I cannot travel this year to be with family for Thanksgiving, so I am spending the holiday alone. How can I make it feel still feel special?

A: The holidays may not always look the same, but there are many ways you can make them feel as special as years passed. The key is to really consider what it is about Thanksgiving that brought you the most joy and try to find new and different ways to bring that feeling into your day.

Think about what you have enjoyed the most about Thanksgiving over the years. Take some time to reminisce and identify which years were your favorite. Perhaps it is certain food dishes that bring back memories of loved ones that cooked for you, or visiting with family who all live far apart. Maybe your favorite memories are watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV or participating in a Turkey Trot race.

Even alone you can enjoy some of these pastimes. Many restaurants offer Thanksgiving meals to go. You may want to make a special side dish or dessert for that home cooked feeling and get the main meal from a restaurant.

Consider scheduling a family Zoom or conference phone call to share the day with far away family. You can use that time to catch up or enjoy talking about holidays from past years.

Spend some of the day outdoors enjoying a nice walk, or even cheering on a local Turkey Trot race event. Ask your local friends or neighbors if they have plans and consider a small meet up with other people who are not able to join their families this year.

You may also decide not to do anything Thanksgiving related. The fun of spending the day on your own means that you can do exactly what you chose. Perhaps ignoring the traditional holiday and watching old movies or catching up on a hobby at home will make the day special to you.

One way to make any day feel special is to give to others. Considering volunteering your time or doing something nice for a local friend. Bake some treats to share or write kind notes to cheer up other people’s days. Often the holidays can bring up mixed feelings, especially for people who have experienced loss in their life. Think about what friends may be struggling and make a point to reach out and call or write to them.

No matter how you plan to spend the day try and resist comparing this year to other years, or comparing your day to how other people are spending their day. You get to do what makes you happy and every year that may look different. Reframe your own language from thinking you have to be alone this year to thinking you get to be alone this year and make the holiday your own.

No matter what you decide, use it as a day to give thanks. To think of all you are grateful for both near and far. Take some to write down what you are grateful for and remember them for this next year. Focusing on what we are grateful for can change our mood and help make the day feel meaningful.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org

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