Creating connection around the Thanksgiving table: It starts with you.
Thanksgiving. A wonderful day of delicious food, holiday cheer, and connecting with loved ones around the dinner table … or at least that’s what we’d like. If you’re craving more meaningful connections with friends & family this year, keep reading for three simple ways you can boost connection and leave the festivities feeling full of love (and pie!).
Hallmark holiday specials would have us believe that Thanksgiving should feel easy breezy. But honestly, if you’re anything like me, I always go into the holiday with a little anxiety.
This year feels particularly nerve-wracking, as it’s the largest Thanksgiving my family has had in a long time. There will be two new babies in attendance, cousins I haven’t seen in at least two years, and all of my siblings will be home - which I don’t think has happened in over a decade.
With these types of family gatherings, it’s easy for everyone to go into “performance mode” (myself included). Everyone’s answering the standard “How are you?” with “Good!” and “What’s new with you?” with “Oh, I’m just so busy.” We’re all afraid of being honest and vulnerable and it’s easy for our lives to become a competition.
This year though, I want to change this. I want to interact authentically with my family and create opportunities for meaningful connections.
Care to join me? If so, I need to tell you a little secret...
To foster deep and meaningful connections with others, you first must be connected to yourself.
With that in mind, today I’m sharing three tools that you can use on Thanksgiving day to boost connection with yourself. These, in turn, will allow you to connect more deeply with others come dinner time.
Pro-tip: Go through these now and pick one or two favorites. Even if you don’t use all of them on Thanksgiving, having a couple “go-to" tips in your back pocket will make all the difference on the day!
Three tips for deeper connections around the Thanksgiving table:
1. Ground yourself in gratitude
2. Check-in with yourself
3. Have an affirmation
4. Bonus: cultivate conversation with the group
Ground yourself in gratitude
If I’ve learned anything in my years of keeping a journal, it’s this: focusing on gratitude WORKS. As humans, it’s so easy for us to hone in on what’s wrong. When we shift our focus to gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin - two “feel good” hormones that contribute to feelings of happiness and well-being.
On Thanksgiving morning, before the hullabaloo begins and guests start arriving, take a few moments to ground yourself in gratitude. If you can, I recommend doing this in writing. Use a notebook, a spare sheet of paper, or - if you have it - Vertellis Chapters.
All you need to ask yourself is: “What am I grateful for?”
This can be anything: a cozy blanket, a yummy smelling candle, the smile of your baby nephew - literally anything!
You can write for 30 seconds or for five minutes. List three things or thirty things. I personally like to do a “stream of consciousness” writing exercise where I set a timer for five minutes and list everything I’m grateful for (without stopping!). You’ll be surprised by what you discover!
Check-in with yourself during the day
Grounding yourself in gratitude at the top of Thanksgiving day is wonderful, but as the day goes on, you can also do brief “check-ins”. Do this when you head to the restroom or grab something from the kitchen...essentially whenever you have a few seconds alone.
To check-in: Put one hand on your heart and the other on your “belly” (below your belly button). Breath deeply into the belly and check-in with how you’re feeling - and be honest!
When you check-in with how you’re feeling, two powerful pathways open up to you:
If you’re feeling something like joy, contentment, or happiness - you can soften even further into these emotions. Allow them to wash over you before you head back to the table.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling anything like anger, sadness, or rejection - acknowledge that. Trying to stay at a gathering while shoving down how you’re feeling doesn’t lead to genuine connection. By acknowledging the feeling, you’re allowing it to pass.
P.S. If you’re feeling less than fabulous, this is another great time to ask yourself what you’re grateful for. This is not to dismiss or deny your emotions, but to help bring in a fresh perspective by reminding you that there is always some good in the world.
Have an affirmation.
Affirmations are powerful statements that help us rewire the subconscious mind with positive messaging. Affirmations can buffer stress, help us feel good about ourselves, and can actually change how we behave in situations.
I know for myself, when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed by a social situation (like big holiday dinners!), repeating a positive affirmation helps me feel more confident and likely to engage from an authentic place.
Here are a few of my favorite affirmations:
- I am enough.
- I am worthy of love and belonging.
- I am surrounded by things to be grateful for.
- I accept and love those around me with an open heart.
Feel free to use one (or more) of these or come up with your own! Say them in the morning and during the day whenever you need a little boost.
Bonus tip: Cultivate conversation with the group
Most conversations at Thanksgiving tend to be 1-on-1. Usually, you talk to the person sitting next to you and find out how their year has been. You might get into a deep conversation with them, but that’s the only person you really connect with the entire night.
What if you want to connect more deeply with everyone? How can you become closer as a group?
Our answer: By asking everyone thoughtful, inspiring questions. We do that with the Vertellis Holiday Edition - a question card game designed to spark meaningful conversations and more togetherness during the holidays, BUT - if you don’t have the Holiday Edition for Thanksgiving, use the 5 questions outlined here:
Which tip is your favorite?
Leave us a comment and let us know! Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with connection, conversation, and (of course) pie!