Using Thanksgiving as a gratitude practice

“Cheers to health, happiness and not hating each other!”

The question: How can my family enjoy Thanksgiving without everyone getting at each other’s throats?

Your question recalls the famous line from Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” For family members in the latter category, and those somewhere in between, the most thankful aspect of Thanksgiving can be the moment they leave the table.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. While you can’t control your family, you can change your attitude. My suggestion: redeem the “thanks” in Thanksgiving by turning the holiday into a gratitude practice.
As touted by Oprah, a gratitude practice is akin to counting one’s blessings. While passing the turkey, observe all the things you might otherwise take for granted: an abundance of food, a heated home, a day off from work and relatives who care enough to invite you, or come, to dinner. If anything, Hurricane Sandy teaches us to appreciate loved ones and home comforts.

And here’s a trick for those particular family members who push your buttons. Consider why they get your goose, and practice being grateful for an opportunity to grow as a person. Families can be fertile ground for cultivating such virtues as compassion, tolerance and coping skills. For example:

For relatives who pick on you:
Practice confidence. Considering all the reasons why you should feel good about yourself will toughen your skin to insults. When necessary, stand up for yourself in a firm manner by owning your feelings and asking for what you want. You can say, “Please don’t insult me. It hurts my feelings, and I’d really like a peaceful meal.”

For relatives who irritate you: Practice patience, tolerance and compassion. Remember, you may irritate them just as easily, so think about how you’d like to be treated. If you can be patient with family, you can be patient will almost anyone.

For relatives who boss you around: Practice standing your ground in a kind, respectful way. For example: “Dad, while I appreciate your wanting to help, there are many ways to carve a turkey and I prefer to do it my way.”

By assuming an attitude of gratitude, you improve your chances of walking out the door will both a stuffed belly and a full heart.


— Kim Schneiderman, MSW, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and former journalist with a private
practice in New York City. This column is not intended to be used as a substitute for a private consultation with a mental health professional, nor is this therapist to be held liable for any actions taken as a result of this column. If you have any concerns related to the content of this column, please make an appointment with a licensed mental health professional. E-mail Kim your questions at askkim@metro.us.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

VIDEO: Police seek suspect in molotov cocktail attack…

Police released surveillance video on Wednesday in hopes of tracking down a man who threw a molotov cocktail inside a Brooklyn corner store.

Local

City Council budget asks for 1,000 additional NYPD…

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled the City Council's budget priorities on Wednesday, including the extra cops for the NYPD at a cost of $94.3 million.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

Books

A debut novel about fate, love and moving…

Pia Padukone talks about her debut novel, "Where Earth Meets Water."

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

NFL

Giants 2014 regular season schedule

The Giants will play five prime-time games — against the Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Cowboys.

MLB

Jets 2014 regular season schedule

The Jets will play three prime-time games — against the Bears, Patriots and Dolphins — as well as a CBS national game in Week 2 at Green Bay.

NBA

Phil Jackson talked to Steve Kerr, pushes for…

Knicks president Phil Jackson spoke to the media for the first time since firing head coach Mike Woodson on Monday.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."