Family, Self

Thanksgiving For One: Eating Alone For The Holidays?

Thanksgiving for One: Eating Alone for the Holidays

To:         Letter to Me
From:     Myself
Re:         Thanksgiving Alone
Date:      November 22

Hi there,
Yea, I’m here. I know. It’s Thanksgiving,  and I’m……well, I could say I’m just checking my email here for a minute before the family gets here….or I had to jump online to check on the tweaks for that special cranberry recipe.  Or, believably, I could be sending a couple of emails before getting together for the traditional Thanksgiving meal with the family tonight.

Actually……I’m alone.  It’s Thanksgiving Day, when almost everyone I know, almost everyone in the world is raising a glass with their loved ones or together in an intimate gathering with their friends.  And here I am, all by myself, alone.

Yea, what’s up with That...being ALONE for Thanksgiving??  I’ve spent a few Christmases alone, because I was traveling or doing a consulting job and couldn’t get back.  I even spent one New Year’s Eve, snuggled up by the fire with a small bottle of bubbly (probably NA cider) by myself.

Eating alone.  Hey, eating alone any other day is no big deal.  I eat alone all the time.  Most of us now do.  In fact, a new Hartman Group study  just revealed that almost half (46%) of all adult eating occasions are now solitary. And it’s not just snacking alone that’s driving the trend, 40% of all adult meals are now also eaten alone.

There are lots of reasons for this, of course, including more working women, shorter lunch breaks, eating at your desk, snacks as meals, more single-parent households, fewer sit down family meals and meals, in general, less likely to be seen as traditional social occasions. 

But Thanksgiving dining alone, that’s a completely different matter, right?  
Well, it depends.  It’s not just about being and/or eating alone, it really boils down to our attitudes around it. “Enjoying the holidays on your own is all about intention,” says  Author Sasha Cagen, sharing insights from her book, Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. “Spending time alone during a holiday, if you’re intentional about it, can be really meaningful and a beautiful experience,”she told the Huffington Post.

Holiday depression peaks.   According to a national Mental Health America survey, depression peaks over the Halloween to New Year’s stretch, with holiday stress affecting over half of the population..

There are lots of reasons, of course, including too much activity, limited finances, fatigue, family tensions and unrealistic expectations. Depression can also be created and amped by all those carbs, sugars and starches, in those sparkly punchbowls and platters of holiday goodies.

Being alone and feeling lonely is certainly in the list, but does it have to be? 
“We tend to view loneliness as a negative thing, a very unpleasant experience,” says clinical social worker Marguerite Manteau-Rao.  Yet there are ways to transform loneliness into something more positive. Remember: being alone doesn't have to mean being lonely.

Loneliness or solitude?    Pain and holiday depression only have a chance to creep in when you’re focused on yourself and start bringing comparison and expectation into the picture.  For example, comparing yourself to someone else or how it was with Thanksgiving meals in the past can really strain the heart.  So,  how to cope? 

I like some of Sasha  Cagen’s ideas from her Quirkyalone book. She says you can help yourself feel whole by finding an activity you truly enjoy. "Creating your own rituals -- with no one else to accomodate -- can be satisfying and uplifting. What’s most important is celebrating your solitude -- and owning it -- rather than thinking about it and comparing your experiences to others.” 

Remember, being alone doesn’t mean being by yourself, either. Think about it. You can be married or in relationship and still feel lonely.  One of our biggest illusions is that we are separated from others.  In reality, we are all connected and one.   To get more in tune with this, try actively practicing some “elemental gratitude,” an ancient practice found in many Native American, Taoist and Buddhist teachings of expressing appreciation for simple, basic elements of life.  Watch for more about this in my upcoming Gratitude Intensive article this week on YourTango.

Try finding a beautiful spot and just sitting and drinking in the sounds, smells and beauty that surround you.  Getting quiet inside, meditating, contemplating or just reflecting on the true meaning of “giving thanks” and appreciating what is, can help you open your heart and start feeling more gratitude for what you do have, for just being alive. 

What would feed and nurture you this holiday?  And I’m not talking about food here.... 

For some specific suggestions on how to manage the “eat alone” thing on Turkey Day, check out my list of coping options in Thanksgiving for One: 12 Ways to Cope with "Eat Alone" Holidays.