With Thanksgiving right around the corner you might want to consider these three tips to make it a better holiday for you and yours.

First, they don’t call it "Thanksgiving" for nothing! Other than watching football, stuffing yourself with food, and starting your holiday shopping early, do yourself a big favor and spend some time reflecting on what you are thankful for right now. In fact, research on gratitude clearly finds that when you spend time reminding yourself of what you are thankful for your physical and mental health improves! Of course many people struggle and suffer. For example, I currently have several patients in my clinical practice struggling with life threatening and potential fatal illnesses. When you are suffering it is very easy and perhaps natural to see the glass as half empty. But this strategy doesn’t help you and will make you feel worse over time. Finding something... anything... to be grateful for is critical and can help you feel and cope better. I use this strategy with my patients and with myself too.  So, regardless of what is or isn’t going on in your life this Thanksgiving, find something to be grateful for and celebrate it.

Second, Thanksgiving isn’t about binge eating. Too often Thanksgiving has been an excuse to eat until you explode. As someone who teaches health psychology and has worked with behavioral medicine patients with eating related disorders I’ve concluded that binge eating really isn’t such a good idea during the holidays. I know I'm not the only one to come to this conclusion. So many people struggle with this issue. Try to focus on celebrating the day with food that will make you feel comfortable and not stuffed. Being mindful and thoughtful about what you eat is challenging but important to do on this food focused holiday. Pause between bites, eat nothing larger than your head (always good advice in my book), plan out what you will and won't eat, watch the alcohol consumption, and so forth. There are lots of strategies to eat better…use them!

Finally, having reasonable expectations about your relationships with family and friends around the Thanksgiving dinner table is important in having a good holiday experience. Somehow, even when we have plenty of data to prove otherwise, we often expect, hope, and perhaps strongly desire a Norman Rockwell style seemingly perfect holiday. This image inclds being surrounded by loving family and friends. Good luck with that idea. For most people relationships with family and friends are rather complicated and we typically have pretty ambivalent feelings about many of those with whom we'll share the dinner table with during the holidays. Maintaining reasonable expectations about others and being mindful that relationships, often by definition, are pretty darn complicated, might help you to survive Thanksgiving without being overly disappointed or upset. Set reasonable expectations and boundaries with others, go with the flow when folks drive you wacky, and you’ll likely thank me for it later!

So, enjoy Thanksgiving! But keep these three tips in mind to have a better holiday experience: (1) be grateful regardless of what you might struggle with now, (2) don’t eat until you explode, and (3) have reasonable expectations of those with whom you'll share the dinner table with for a better holiday experience. Three tips to keep in mind this Thanksgiving time. 

So what do you think? What are your tips for a better Thanksgiving?

Please check out my website at www.scu.edu/tplante and follow me on Twitter @ThomasPlante.

Copyright 2013 Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP 

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