Being with family and/or extended family can be challenging for some of us due to divorce, death, past trauma, emotional abuse, arrogance, manipulation, negativity or other issues. Our personal history can make us vulnerable to reactions and old relationship wounds. We end up with feelings of dread. Is it any wonder that some of us would rather sit for hours watching football games? Or feed the homeless? Or do the Turkey Run?
Here are six ways you can lighten the mood if you find yourself among those you share both pleasant and unpleasant history with.
- Be open and curious about the stories of others. Without awareness, we bring internal stories and judgments into our heads about others and ourselves. We all desire to be heard, understood, and validated. Be willing to hold the viewpoint and experiences of another even though they are different from your own.
- Take deep breaths. When someone does or says something that instantly stirs your insides, take 3 deep long breathes – easier said than done. When we get triggered over an embarrassing comment or an unintentional put down, a part of our brain tells us “get out . . . stand your ground . . . I can’t believe they said that . . . don’t let them get by . . . I’m not safe.” Then automatically, our fight, flight, or freeze response takes over. Deep breaths for 90 seconds helps your neuropathways connect with the rational part of your mind. Our rational thoughts about the same offense may sound like, “that was impulsive of them . . . they weren’t aware of how they came across . . . I’ve said impulsive things before . . . this reminds me of . . .my reaction over this indicates I need more closure . . .”
- Make a list of things you are thankful for. For healthy relating, think of needing eight positive thoughts in your head to every one negative thought. You’ll be surprised how your mood changes. Your mood affects everyone you relate to.
- Be willing to turn negatives into positives. This is a bit challenging when your brain patterns are mostly negative. In general, hang out with positive people. Watch, observe and take in how they think. If you can’t find positive people in your circle of friends, acquaintances, or co-workers, read motivational or inspirational books. Look for ways to compliment another rather than ways to criticize them.
- Have an expectation of divine encounters. Be willing to look for God in the midst of relationship. My favorite way of doing this is being with my little grandchildren and seeing the world through their eyes. I believe divine encounters happen in the present moment and among relationships with others. Imagine allowing conflict with another to be an invitation from the Holy Spirit to grow and heal. Honor another with the viewpoint of meeting God in the interaction. You open yourself up to transformation!
- Be willing to say “no thank you.” In some cases, Thanksgiving gathering can be poisonous to your emotional and mental health. If you struggle with overwhelming anxiety or are fearful of toxic exposure, it’s necessary and appropriate to say “no thank-you.” For some, that football game, or Turkey Run, or feeding the homeless is the safest way to spend the day of Thanks. For lasting help beyond the day, invest in good therapy or participate in a support group such as Celebrate Recovery.
Please leave a comment and let us know how these six ways can lighten the mood for your Thanksgiving Day.
Happy Thanksgiving to you!